Thursday, December 27, 2007

What I've Been Up To

So, I thought I'd start listing the books, movies and albums I've been enjoying so I can look back after a year and see whatever it was that took up all of my time. I may say something about the listings or maybe rate it (four-stars rating system) or just post a picture without comment.

Here is what I've been watching, reading or listening to over the past week:

Actually Using My Brain

I received an interesting e-mail yesterday from someone looking for help in settling a bet. She wanted to know if Raymond Carver could be considered a noir writer. My answer is below:

Wow. Thanks for thinking of me. As for classifying Carver as noir, it would take a very loose interpretation of the genre to do so. However, I believe noir at times goes beyond its traditional crime fiction roots. Books like "Mildred Pierce" and "Day of the Locust" would fall into this loose definition. (One has to remember that despite the murder in the film version, James M. Cain's "Pierce" doesn't contain a crime at all.) Another novel that qualifies is "They Shoot Horses Don't They?", while it does have a murder trial at the center of the book, the focus is more on the desperate lives of its main characters.

I'm more inclined to classify any dark and tragic story (at least with a modern - or dystopic - setting) as noir or at least containing shades of noir. And I think that's where Carver's stories are, in the shadows of genre.

You will have to forgive me, but my knowledge of Carver is limited to about 15 or so of his stories and Robert Altman's film. I really don't remember the titles of the stories, but hopefully you'll know which stories I'm talking about.

My favorite definition of noir was given to me by a mentor who said that noir fiction is working class tragedy, which could describe Carver's stories. They are very solemn indeed. My favorite of his is the one with the yard sale and record player and the woman who dances - sorry I can't remember the title - but that story is very tragic.

Another story that could be considered noir is "The Train" (I think that's the title), which was a continuation of John Cheever's "Five Forty-Eight", which I consider to be a crime story. The extension of that story that examines a woman who nearly kills her ex-lover is a portrayal of a wouldbe killer; however not the immoral monster that often populate crime fiction, just an ordinary woman brought to the edge.

Many people mistake the hardboiled prose of Raymond Chandler as a necessity for noir fiction, which it is not. Dashiell Hammett's language was very sparse, employing the technique of simple language to express complex subtext - which Carver famously came to perfect and he is best known for. A recent example of using minimalism in noir fiction is the work of Irish crime writer Ken Bruen who is simply a master of sparse language and an appropriate successor to Carver. I've used the techinque myself with satisfying results. Bleak situations that expose emotions so raw and naked cry out for prose that doesn't hide beneath ornate language and description - sometimes it requires writing that lays it bare. So, again, the hardboiled language of Chandler and Mikey Spillaine is not a requirement.

Carver may not find a solid footing among Ross MacDonald or Lawrence Block on the crime fiction shelf, but I don't believe he is far away. Classifications of literature is a funny thing that many people see as absolutes; they think stories must fit in one category only, which is a foolsih notion- however one that is endorsed by booksellers in this country (European bookstores tend to shelf crime fiction with literary fiction. I'm not sure about other genres like sci-fi and romance.)

So, to answer your question, I would tend to say that Carver's writing leans toward noir with the only thing stopping the majority of people from embracing the idea is the presence of crime. Carver could easily incorporate criminals and criminality without loosing an ounce of his power.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Does Santa Dream of Electric Sheep?

I got a glimpse of what Santa's bringing me this year. And it even comes with a toy!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Man, Kanye Has Really Let Himself Go

Dear Noirfuck,

Just want to get people up to speed with your ignorant temper tantrums aimed toward my friend Lyman before I repeat my advice to you. You first sent hate mail to him after his incredible story The Switch was published in Thuglit accusing him of stealing a sacred spot that you for some reason thought was reserved for you. You blamed him for your shortcomings. I responded to your asinine suggestions then.

Flash forward a couple of months: Lyman gets nominated for a Spinetingler Award for the same story you deem inferior, and you poke your ignorant face out again to criticize not only Lyman but the whole crime publishing world. Lyman responded, as is his custom to not back down from a fight and defend himself. However this time you draw more attention to your dimwit ideas, along with exposing more people to Lyman's story; a great boost for Lyman since the awards are done by popular vote. Real smart move, dickwad. I think that's called the Bill O'Reilly bump, which drove Al Fraken to the #1 spot on the NYTimes Bestseller list.

Now, noirfuck, in the middle of all of this discussion, I offered you some advice, which you didn't respond to. Maybe because it hit a little too close to home. But I want you to think about it, so I'm reposting it here. I hope you'll take my advice, noirfuck.

OK, fuckhead. The sheer fact that you're talking about strict guidelines within genres only proves that you have no clue. Let's talk about these idiot polluters who mess with the genre lines, I mean real assholes, like Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Charlie Huston, Duane Swierczynski, Walter Mosley, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Jorge Luis Borges, Caleb Carr, Scott Phillips, Sara Gran, Richard Russo - I mean, the world is full of ignorant people that you're going to need to educate. How will you ever find the time?

Now Mr. BFA, oh, I'm sorry, Mr. sophmore year BFA, you don't know what the hell you are talking about. You seemed to find it OK to mess around with a guy who knows more about genre theory than you do about that small stump between your thighs that you like to call a dick. Yeah, I'm thinking a couple of MFA's trump your three semesters as a "writer."

I'm having a real bad week and guess what, you've just become my whipping boy. What I want you to think about tonight when you crawl into bed and grab hold of your tiny prick, before you start jerking off to pictures from the Sears Wishbook, I want you to think about all those stories that are crowding your desk drawer, or your computer's hard drive; you know the ones, those stories that aren't being published; think about all the rejections. They aren't worth it, are they? You know deep inside that the tap tap tap that your fingers type out only lead to third-rate material that wouldn't entertain the world's most ignorant Seventh grader. Then think about whatever pathetic writing group that would have you as a member, imagine all those people reading your shitty manuscripts, giving you "constructive" criticism. You've sat there and compared yourself to them, rating each one as better or worse than you, trying to figure out who the best writer of the group is; I'm thinking that you're not at the top. Now, I'm going to tell you something: these peers don't like your writing. They hate your stuff. They force themselves to skim over your material and scrawl half-ass, benign comments in the margins. You know those notes that don't make any sense, that make it so obvious that the reader didn't even read the manuscript. These peers sit in bed and read certain sentences aloud to their wives, boyfriends, dogs and then laugh; their wives, boyfriends and dogs laughing right with them. If anything, you've made a couple of people feel better about their own talent because they see what the "competition" is like.

I mean, come on, if someone whose work you absolutely hate can get published in places that you've only been rejected, what kind of self comment is that? You don't think your writing is that good. Every time you turn a corner, there's a brick wall; you can't find a way out of this maze. And guess what? There isn't one for you. That little voice that tells you that you're no good and should give up is right. Abandon that pathetic dream of ever becoming a writer. Hurry up and switch your major before you waste another three-and-a-half years.

Oh, and do you know what else you can do? You can lick my hairy ball sack, you ignorant douche bag. Go fuck yourself.

Now go on now and leave the adults alone, you fucking dickwad.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Can't Sleep

I'm in one of the saddest places on Earth: a pediatric ICU. Almost all of the doors have signs asking for no visitors, or that masks be worn. You can hear the kids crying and screaming, including my own little girl. I don't want to be here.

It breaks your heart to catch a glimpse of a child, bald from chemo, sitting Indian-style on their bed, staring at some cartoon while their parent or grandparent look off into some dimension of sorrow, confusion and loss that only they can see. I don't mean to look into these rooms, but I do. The hospital staff try to make this place friendly and inviting. There is a Christmas tree behind me and the play area is filled with numerous toys, including a life-size Spider-Man. There are many comforts here, but it cannot mask what this place ultimately is.

What is it like to be conforted with such horrid illnesses at such a young age. I faced the uncertainty of seizures and a brain tumor at 17, much older than most of the kids here, so I don't think I can really relate.

My little girl is doing better. Her situation is no where near as dire as a lot of these children. We're still monitoring her and will be over the next few days, which means we'll be here until at least Wednesday. Hopefully the scare is worse than the ultimate cause.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

All Work and No Play Makes Stevie...

a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. Paul is dead. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

He Always Knows Just What to Say

"At the State of the Union I addressed the issue of steroids. The reason I did so, is I because I understand the impact that professional athletes can have on our nation's youth. I just urge those in the public spotlight, particularly athletes, to understand that when they violate their bodies they sending a terrible message to America's young".

- George W. Bush on the Mitchell Report.

I hate watching players violating their bodies.

Watch the video.

I Feel the Tears Watering My Eyes

Roger Clemens and Andy Pittette were among the players mentioned yesterday in George Mitchell's steroids in baseball report. I can't tell you how sad I am for these mean American heroes.

It was like Mitchell as Oprah: You get an asterix. And you get an asterix. And you get an asterix.

Who Said Literary Criticism is Dead?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Let's Dissect the Golden Globes

Even though I haven't seen every movie or TV show nominated, I'm here to give my take on the Golden Globe nominations. Who will win and who should win. Are you ready?

Best Picture Drama: This is a tough year with quite a few good movies and no clear front runner, plus there are seven nominees rather than the traditional five, meaning the nomination process had to have been tight to begin with; but let's give it a shot.

Will win: Atonement
Should win: No Country for Old Men

Best Actress - Drama: Oh Jodie Foster, love of my life, I'm afraid there is no Globe for you this year. The question is whether they celebrate a vetern actor or a fresh(er) face.

Will win: Julie Christie
Should win: Jodie should always win.

Best Actor - Drama: The Hollywood Foreign Press is notorious for sucking up to the big stars, so it's a question of whether Denzel or Clooney wins this year.

Will win: Clooney
Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Picture - Comedy: Should Charlie Wilson's War be here? Anyway, there's no ignoring the Sweeney Todd buzz, and the HFP loves buzz.

Will: Sweeney Todd
Should: Juno

Best Actress - Comedy: Basically four (relatively) newcomers and Helena Bonham Carter. Unlike the Oscars, the Globe likes to reward newcomers in the best actress category rather than best supporting.

Will: Amy Adams
Should: Ellen Page

Best Actor - Comedy: It's between Johnny Depp and Johnny Depp. I wonder who it will be.

Will: Depp
Should: Depp

Best Animated Film: I love that it isn't best animated motion picture, but best feature film. Is there a difference?

Will: Ratatouille
Should: Ratatouille

Best Foreign Language Film: I guess Persepolis is too serious for the cartoon category.

Will: The Kite Runner
Should: Persepolis

Best Supporting Actress: Here is another big star versus talent category. Not that Julia Roberts isn't talented, but her star power is more important here.

Will: Julia Roberts
Should: Amy Ryan

Best Supporting Actror: I don't know if Travolta's star power is strong enough to pull off a win here, so it will have to be the most talented.

Will: Javier Bardem
Should: Bardem

Best Director: Atonement has received the most nominations, but is that any indication of how this category will go? I don't think so.

Will: Tim Burton
Should: The Coen Brothers (Love that they're both named)

Best Screenplay: The HFP doesn't bother splitting scripts between original and adapted. Is that good or bad?

Will: Diablo Cody (Juno)
Should Cody

Best Score: Now here's an interesting category. Clint Eastwood is nominated for scoring a movie he has no other connection to. Is this novelty enough for a win?

Will: Atonement
Should: Eastwood (Grace Is Gone)

Best Song: Usually the lamest category for the Globes and the Oscars, but the same novelty mentioned in the previous category applies here as well.

Will: Eddie Vedder for "Guaranteed" (Into the Wild
Should: "Walk Hard" (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) [Even if "Let's Duet" is a better song.]

Best TV Series - Drama: Where's The Sopranos? Was the HFP as disappointed with the finale as the rest of the world?

Will: House
Should: Mad Men

Best Actress - TV Series Drama: Seven nominations, which means a free-for-all. The snub of The Sopranos probably means Edie Falco is shit out of luck this year.

Will: Kyra Sedgwick
Should: Glenn Close

Best Actor - TV Series Drama: I love Hugh Laurie in just about everything, even that terrible remake of The Flight of the Phoenix, but does the HFP? I think so. However, I think he should be nominated for best comedy actor.

Will: Laurie
Should: Laurie

Best TV Series - Comedy: Four of the five nominees have something to do with the entertainment industry, but that the HFPs bread and butter. However, will those four split the vote?

Will: 30 Rock
Should: Pushing Daisies

Best Actress - TV Series Comedy: Samanatha Who? No, really what is this? I assume it's a TV series? Why do I think most of the HFP sit around and make catty comments while watching Ugly Betty almost everyday?

Will: America Ferrera
Should: Tina Fey

Best Actor - TV Series Comedy: Will that whole "rude little pig" thing derail Alec Baldwin from a Globe? Ha! It's the Hollywood Foreign Press, they don't give a shit.

Will: Baldwin
Should Carell

Best Mini-Series or TV Movie: I know so little about all of these nominations that I'm going with the Indian one, because how many Indian (feather, not dot) movies are there?

Will: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Should: Same

Best Actress - TV miniseries or movie: What's with all the goddamn TV acting categories? Couldn't they have at least one TV writing category? Well, let's pick a straw.

Will: Debra Messing
Should: Bryce Dallas Howard

Best Actor - TV miniseries or movie: Again, isn't this like the thirtieth acting Gloden Globe category? WTF?

Will: Jim Broadbent
Should: Adam Beach

Best Supporting Actress - TV: See, at least in the Supporting Acting categories they bunch everything together. Mini-series versus regular series versus TV movie, and it doesn't matter if it's drama or comedy. It's like Thunderdome. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dying time's here.

Will: Katherine Heigl
Should: Jaime Pressley

Best Supporting Actor: Hasn't Shatner won every award three times for playing himself in every episode of Boston Legal? It's like awarding a Golden Retriever for chewing up the carpet and humping your leg. However, I think that's Jeremy Piven's complete performance in Entourage. Is that show still on?

Will: Shatner
Should: Ted Danson

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Perfect Holiday Gift

I Can't Believe I Missed This Anniversary

The Commodore 64 turned 25 on Monday. I feel like there should be some national holiday or something. I wrote my first stories on my Commodore - stories lost to history on some 5 1/4" floppies that are probably rotting away in some landfill. So, the world won't really suffer without such horrid pieces of fiction, and no, the dot matrix printouts didn't survive either. I guess there are some sites online where you can still play ZORK, of which I completed just about every game, and One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird.

Wow. Look at those awesome graphics.

World of Warcraft can never compete with the greatness of ZORK.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Tis the season for a bunch of lists, so let me add to the mess. Here are some of the things that I've enjoyed over the past year, or at least I think it was over the past year. I can't really remember and all of this is off the top of my head without looking up anything, which means there is a lot that's missing here, as well as some stuff that I probably enjoyed last Fall. But what the hell? Let's do this anyway.

Notes of a Scandal - Awesome, complex film with wonderful performances.

Little Children - Better than the book, which is saying something. Plus: Kate Winslet naked!

It's Always Sunny in Philadelpia - My gut always hurts after watching this show.

New England Sports: Red Sox Win World Series/Patriots Undefeated/ Celtics, the best in the NBA/ Bruins doing pretty good - Perhaps there is a god

Strangers in Paradise - The entire run of the independent comic is now available. It's probably one of the best series ever.

Slide - Funny, savage and funny again. I can't wait for the third book from Bruen and Starr.

The Killer Inside Me - A great book that I'm ashamed to say I hadn't read until about four months ago.

Transformers - Surprisingly entertaining. Michael Bay may not be the devil after all - at least not until Pearl Harbor 2.

Grindhouse - Best movie of the year, but some dumbass out there refuses to put it on DVD. Sure we get the two movies seperately, but that isn't what I want. I want the whole experience, you fucking bastards.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Futuristic, geeky goodness.

Flight of the Conchords - Best show of New Zealand's "fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo."

Pushing Daisies - Barry Sonnenfeld's beautifully imagined (and slightly skewered) sense of humor come to life.

The Colbert Report/The Daily Show/Real Time with Bill Maher - Sadly, the best and most insightful journalism on TV.

Fell - Warren Ellis's wonderfully realized crime comic. He must publish more.

Robot Chicken - You can pick almost any episode of this Adult Swim show and get a winner, but the Star Wars episode was brilliant.

A Storm of Swords - Book Three of George R. R. Martin's The Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series is simply wicked. Martin is so good at throwing readers for a loop that it borders on sadism. And with thousands of characters to keep track of, I'm so greatful for Wikipedia.

An Accidental American - Sybil's...ahem...I mean Alex Carr's intricately well-researched book reads like a guilty pleasure, but without the guilt.

Gone, Baby, Gone - Ben Affleck finally lives up to that Oscar. Dark, disturbing and gut-wrenching; but in a good way.

The Boys - There are other superhero parady comics out there, but none as filthy or as funny as Garth Ennis's series.

Live Free or Die Hard - Despite the awful title and bland villain, the fourth installment is way way way better than it should have been. Easily the best one since the original.

Veronica Mars - How can I not mention this show without thinking of Kristen Bell... naked, showering, soapy lather, Barry White playing in the background, witty banter, champaign and strawberries... the wedding ring on my finger - oh damn! Also, Piz sucks, Veronica belongs with Logan.

Anyway, that's just a taste of what I've enjoyed over the last year. Let me know if you agree or disagree.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's the Rush?

I've come to the realization that I'm not going to finish anything substantial for quite some time, but at the same time I've come to accept it. Why rush it? A part of me thinks I should continue to push my limits with the small amount of success I've achieved so far before the momentum ends, but that success is pretty miniscule compared to a lot of other people. I've published a few short stories and quite a few flash pieces, and picked up some (dare I say it?) fans, but in the scheme of things my writing career is in its infancy. Full-time employment on top of full-time parenting doesn't leave much in terms of time or energy for writing. I do a little here and there as I find the opportunity. It's December 10 and my short-range goal of finishing a full-length novel manuscript by the end of the year has become an impossible achievement. There's certainly no way I'm going to do it during the holiday season. It's time to get rid of my anxiety of reaching some illusionary deadline. Why take the stress? I'm relatively young - in writers' years I'm about 12 - so I have plenty of time. No more daily word counts. No more reading certain books in a certain amount of time. No more panicking when others seem to publish more often than I do. Perhaps allowing myself some relief I'll create a better creative environment. Jesus, I hope so.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Intelligent Intelligence

This pretty much sums up my opinion of the latest intelligent assessment about Iran. But why is Bush still rattling the sabers? He wants to know what they did in the past or else? WTF? Granted, the Iranian government isn't all roses and puppy dogs but why the push to extend the war? Hopefully this assessment becoming public will curb what seemed to be inevitible just a few weeks ago. I don't think I really believe the administration when they say this comes as a surprise to them and that they only read the assessment last week. Please.

How much longer?

So Cool

Amazon is streaming three prequels to The Wire.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Can I Take a Nap Now?

Very little sleep last night. I got caught up in the Patriots/Ravens game, which was incredibly awesome... for New England, not so much for Baltimore. Man, the Pats really didn't deserve that win last night; Baltimore basically won it for them with all their screw-ups in the last minute and a half. And then they were two yards away from a winning touchdown with an incredible Hail Mary pass with two seconds left in the game!

But I was so toked after watching that game (I woke everyone in the house up three or four times with all the yelling) that I wasn't able to fall asleep until I went out to the living room to watch episodes of GHOST IN THE SHELL STAND ALONE COMPLEX and then drifted off from the white noise at about 3:30. I even tried to write some, but I just stared at the keyboard for fifteen minutes without even a word being typed. Pathetic.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Snow Day - For or Against?

So, supposedly we're getting about a foot of snow starting in a few hours and lasting throughout the day and into tomorrow night. This is good and bad, depending on a few things. If the University cancels classes tomorrow morning, then I get to sleep in, at least a little bit; this also means I'll have some time to maybe, possibly do some actual writing this week. I would love to finish this damn book by the end of the month; it may be a tad ambitious, but it's doable. However, since I have to shovel the driveway (which always looks a hell of a lot longer in the winter), that's going to take some time out of my writing schedule. And even if the University doesn't cancel classes, I still have to shovel. Man, I hate winter.

Best quote of the week:

"I love being the goddamn Batman." - Issue 5, All-Star Batman and Robin by Frank Miller