it’s never too late (to celebrate your anniversary)

A few quick things.

1) Yes, it’s another year where I maintain my streak of forgetting my blog anniversary (three years in a row! ::fist pump::). And this time I forgot it clear into December (surpassing all previous records!), and even at that I had to be reminded by T.S. Bazelli commenting on her blog anniversary.

Hey, nine years. Memory-challenged, but still going strong. It all started here.

2) A few more thoughts about Inherent Vice

Why does Doc, a private detective, have an attorney who specializes in marine law? This is sort of explained in the book, but not at all in the movie, though in the movie more business is added to call attention to the discrepancy (there’s some added dialogue, and Sauncho, the attorney in question, wears a yachting cap in his first appearance).

You can see the scene here.

Also, why does Jade show up in a scene near the end (she’s not in the corresponding scene in the book) when the subplot which could explain her presence is not in the movie?

Who knows?

As I said last time, if something doesn’t make sense, don’t try to hide it.

There was a pretty good review of Inherent Vice in the New Yorker (not perfect, but pretty good), and I wanted to quote four specific points.

Nobody has ever turned a Pynchon book into a movie before, for the same reason that nobody has managed to cram the New York Philharmonic into a Ford Focus.

…one of the fables on which “Inherent Vice” ruminates is “The Long Goodbye,” and the loping, unflustered movie that Robert Altman made of it, in 1973, with Elliott Gould as Marlowe.

What Anderson does not do is stuff “Inherent Vice” with wads of period detail. It’s much quieter on the senses than “American Hustle,” … By and large, though, Anderson doesn’t treat the era as a funny foreign land. He wants it to drift toward our own time, hinting—and this is true to Pynchon—that the befuddlement of ordinary folk has hardly changed while “the ancient forces of greed and fear” have, if anything, tightened their clutch upon our lives.

“Inherent Vice” is not only the first Pynchon movie; it could also, I suspect, turn out to be the last. Either way, it is the best and the most exasperating that we’ll ever have. It reaches out to his ineffable sadness, and almost gets there.

Kudos to any reviewer who realizes that this is even the goal.

3) And, because this is a blog which knows which Paul Anderson is the main one, here’s a pretty good article about the Resident Evil series (which tends not to get a lot of good press):

Alice in wasteland: A play-through of the 5 Resident Evil movies

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inherent vice, initial thoughts

I saw the movie Inherent Vice today. I will write more about it (that’s a pretty safe prediction), but here are some initial thoughts.

I have no idea whether I should recommend it to anybody who is not obsessed with the book, but my hunch is is that it’s well worth seeing. I definitely enjoyed it. It passed the butt test (it’s around two and a half hours long and I had no idea while I was watching it that I was going to have a sore butt and an apparently pulled leg muscle when I stood 1up).

The best idea writer/director Paul Anderson had (as I knew the minute I heard about it) was when he figured out that: 1) the movie needed a narrator, 2) the narrator couldn’t be Doc (the protag) — for the same reason that the book is in third person limited, rather than first person, and 3) the narrator should be Sortilège, a minor character, an astrologer, Doc’s former secretary. #3 was the stroke of genius. There are a couple of times when Doc is driving somewhere and Sortilège is in the car with him, but when he arrives at his destination he’s alone. Was she astral traveling in his car? Was he just hallucinating her presence? Either would be possible.

Many things from the book are left out, which is good. That’s how you make a movie. So, I might miss the Vegas trip, or the songs, or most of the Gilligan’s Island references (or all of the Dark Shadows references), but that’s fine. My only complaint on that front is that, in several ways, the ending veers into sentimentality rather than romance and regret. The camera zooms in when it should be pulling back.

And, even with all the things which were left out, the story does zoom along a bit too fast in a few places, and Anderson turns this into a virtue, getting a laugh out of the day that a whole series of clients show up to hire Doc for cases which all, almost immediately, turn out to involve the same group of people.

That’s good storytelling — rather than try to conceal your story’s weaknesses (and all stories have them), turn them into positives.

More to come…

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great but not greatly known

I was really pleased to see this: “Altman’s Noir Suddenly Gets Plenty of Light” It’s always nice when you really like something and think, “Why doesn’t everybody else see what I see?” and then you find out that you’re not alone. Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye is indeed “great but not greatly known.”

I was so excited in the comic book Hawkeye when Hawkeye (Kate Bishop, the younger and more female “Hawkeye”) is in LA, trying to establish herself as a private detective, and one night in an all-night supermarket she encounters a certain unnamed, rumpled, curly-haired private eye who starts to serve as her mentor. He’s buying cat food, of course, because his cat only eats one specific brand.

I felt like grabbing strangers on the street and pointing at the panel, demanding, “Do you know who that is?”

But I didn’t.

Here’s my review of The Long Goodbye.

A couple of recent articles from The Guardian caught my attention.

Amazon Christmas boycott campaign gathers weight

There seem to be two movements against Amazon these days, one because they treat their workers badly and avoid paying taxes, the other because of the Hachette dispute, and their more general approach to the traditional publishing industry.

It always strikes me as odd that these two groups haven’t come together more (or, as far as I can tell, at all).

(This may be because it’s possible that the second group doesn’t actually exist. On rereading the Time piece, I did notice a complete lack of evidence, and a heavy reliance on the words “may” and “could.” I’ve seen a lot of writers complain about how Amazon handles the book business, but is that really becoming a general movement?)

The Black Friday shopping scrums are so shaming

Okay, I don’t see how people in England, or anywhere other than the US, can really have Black Friday. Of course they can have days when they go shopping and go crazy, but Black Friday is, pretty much by definition, the day after Thanksgiving. When everybody (other than people who work in retail, of course, and me) are already off from work.

And, unless I’m very much mistaken, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK. Does that mean that everybody gets Black Friday off from work anyway, to go shopping? Or do they just go out and get crazy in the evening?

It seems odd to me.

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ello, pop, guardians, more mike and sharon

Here’s a few things.

1. I’ve joined Ello. Not much to report so far. I’m alternately pleased and frustrated by the fact that it seems designed to be as different from Facebook as possible. I Iike the intent, but I really have no idea how anything works. Either I’ll figure it out or I’ll quit, and I’m not taking any bets on which.

2. This being the first Thanksgiving without my mother, I’ve been thinking about my parents, and something occurred to me about my father.

To some other members of my generation, my parents, and especially my father, represented intelligence and sophistication. They lived in New York City, went to jazz clubs and chamber music concerts, read widely (both fiction and news), went to foreign movies, and so on.

When I was on vacation, I stayed with a friend who knew my parents when he and I were kids, and he remembered my father as rather rough-hewn, blunt of speech, a practical businessman who’d never been to college.

And both of those things were true. I guess that’s another lesson for writers — people have many different sides, and they don’t show the same things to everybody they meet (and sometimes people just see different things, for various reasons).

3. I just watched Guardians of the Galaxy again. The first time I was still somewhat in shock from having just seen Lucy, so now I think I’ve got a clearer picture. Guardians was generally praised for its humor and irreverence, and it definitely has those elements, but the snark is just a thin outer coating for a very gooey center.

The intergalactic badasses on this team bond almost immediately, talking about friendship and getting drunk so they can reveal all their griefs and insecurities. It was one thing when Gimli and Legolas realized they were friends after two and a half endlessly long Lord of the Rings movies, but the Guardians seem to get to that stage before the opening credits are over.

(By the way, it’s particularly silly to feel you have to speed through these sorts of character arcs when you know you’re going to get sequels!)

That being said, Gamora is one who disappoints the most. It’s several big steps down from her initial (and wonderful) rejection of Quill and his “pelvic sorcery” to her final, cooing acknowledgement of him as her “Star-Lord.” James T. Kirk would have cringed at that one.

I still like the movie, but I think it is a bit of a problem when you end up liking the CGI characters more than the ones played by human actors.

4. I saw a documentary where Norman Mailer said he always felt good about his novel Tough Guys Don’t Dance, mostly because it had been so quick and easy to write. He said it was like a woman who had had 12 kids, but was always especially fond of the last one, because the delivery had been so easy.

I’m sort of feeling that way about my current story. It’s funny how that goes. Stevie One came together pretty smoothly. One Night at the Quarter was a lot of work. I think you can sort of tell the difference. Which isn’t to say that one is better than the other — Inherent Vice and Mason & Dixon are both great books — but as a writer I think you do feel a special fondness for the ones which were smoother going.

Part Six is posted, by the way.

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part six

(This story started here.)

I had no idea what to do. I squeezed Sharon’s arm and told her I was going to get help. She didn’t react and I stood up on the cold wooden floor.

I wasn’t about to go out in the hall in my T-shirt and boxers, so I wrapped myself up in the blanket and hurried out, nearly tripping over the edge of the blanket in my haste.

I went down the hall to the main bedroom and knocked on the door. “Craig? Will? There seems to be something wrong with Sharon.”

There was no response, so I pushed open the door and looked in.

One brother was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, motionless. He was alone in the room. I felt my heart pounding. “Craig?” I said, and then I suddenly couldn’t remember which brother was the clean-shaven one. “Will?”

He slowly turned his head toward me, exactly as Sharon had, with the same dismal expression.

Okay, he wasn’t going to help. Where was Craig? Or Mr. Bostwick might know what to do — he lived with them, after all.

The other door in the upstairs hall was locked, so I went downstairs.

I found them in the living room.

Mr. Bostwick was on the floor, next to his wheelchair, and Craig was near him, also on the floor, also covered in blood.

I held the door jamb to keep from falling. I slowly sank to my knees, still holding on. I told myself that I needed to do something, since I was clearly the only person in the house capable of doing anything.

I tried to remember where the phone was, but instead I remembered that U-town didn’t have telephones. What did they do in emergencies?

Then it came to me, remembering something Sharon had said once. I got to my feet and stumbled to the front door. Next to the door, beside the coat rack, there were three nails, each holding a whistle on a string. I took one, opened the door, stepped out onto the stoop, and blew as hard as I could.

I stood there for a moment, holding onto the doorknob for support, thinking about how the front door had not been locked, wondering if I was supposed to blow the whistle in a specific way, and wondering what time it was. After dawn, but still early, I thought.

There wasn’t anybody on the street, though a couple of people looked out their windows at me. At least they didn’t yell at me to stop making noise.

I guess they knew, or assumed, that something serious was going on. I considered blowing the whistle again, but then someone appeared at the corner and pedaled toward me on a bike.

She looked like she was about fifteen as she jammed on her brakes and skidded to a stop in front of me. She clearly saw how shaken I was because she said quietly, “What’s the problem, miss?”

“Sir,” I said, belatedly clutching the blanket more tightly around me. “I mean, you don’t have to call me…” I stuck out my hand. “I’m Mike. Michael.”

“Oh, uh, sorry.” She suddenly looked much younger as she tried to find some reason to look at something on the deserted street besides me.

She swallowed after a second, obviously still trying to figure out what to say. “I need help,” I said. I gestured inside the open door. “There’s been a murder… I mean–”

“Oh,” she said. She obviously had no idea what to do, and I wondered if I’d have to end up helping her rather than the other way around.

Then there was a short blast on a whistle from the corner, and a couple of teenagers ran up. “SVs,” one of them said, then he caught my expression and clarified, “Security Volunteers. What’s the problem?”

Once I said the word “murder” again, things started to move quickly. The girl on the bicycle, one of U-town’s “runners” that Sharon had told me about, was dispatched to the hospital, to get medical assistance and then to notify Jan Sleet. The two security volunteers came in and checked the bodies, and then they asked me to stay out of the living room. One remained in there, and the other waited out on the stoop.

They asked no questions, which surprised me until I figured out that it was because Jan Sleet, the great detective and U-town’s most famous citizen, was coming. She’d be asking the questions.

I sat on the stairs to the second floor for a moment. I was feeling woozy, but I took a deep breath and told myself firmly that I barely knew Craig or Mr. Bostwick, or even Will. My responsibility was to Sharon.

II climbed the stairs and went back into our room. Sharon hadn’t moved, as far as I could tell, and her eyes were still staring at nothing.

She didn’t react as I sat next to her on the narrow bed. I reached down, gently pulling her up so that I was holding her to me. “Sharon,” I said softly, “I’m sorry I took so long downstairs. I need to tell you something, though. It won’t take long.”

I was holding her close so that she was looking over my shoulder and I was looking over hers. Some things are easier to say when you can’t see somebody’s face.

“Back when I was in high school,” I began, “There was a period of time when I didn’t want to get out of bed. I just couldn’t face one more day of… things being the way they were. I didn’t know what the problem was — not then — but I just wanted to stay in bed.

“My mother came in one morning and she said, ‘Listen, you have to get up, every day, and face the day. Otherwise the day wins.’ She didn’t know what was wrong, and she didn’t… she wasn’t harsh about it or anything. She just…”

I felt Sharon shift in my arms, and I leaned back to look at her face. She looked a little more like herself — I could see the beginnings of a skeptical frown. I couldn’t help smiling for a second. “I know,” I said, “It doesn’t mean anything, but you have to do it anyway. Jan Sleet is coming, and there will be an investigation.”

She nodded slowly. “You’re right. It’s what we have to do.”

This had been my plan, to use the story about my mother to get her attention, and then to give her the argument that I knew would convince her — civic responsibility. She took that very seriously, and I knew from the conversation at dinner the night before that her brothers did also.

She started to sag down toward the bed again, and I could tell that this was physical rather than emotional weakness.

“I’ll help you,” I said. I looked at her clothes from the day before, which were folded on top of her suitcase on the floor. “Do you want me to…” I gestured towards the bedroom that she shared with her brothers.

She shook her head. “Yesterday’s clothes will be fine.”

This showed how distraught she was, since ordinarily she always put on fresh clothes in the morning.

It took some effort to get her dressed, and she helped as much as she could. She didn’t bother with a bra, and I lent her a pair of clean underwear, and eventually we were done. She was sitting down and I was standing, and she reached for me — I thought for an embrace — but she took the bottom of my T-shirt and started to pull it up.

I expected to feel panic. I’d never been naked in front of her, but there was no panic. We were apparently beyond that now. She took off my T-shirt and boxers, and then she helped me with the complicated process of getting me dressed for the day.

I had my arm around Sharon as I opened the door to the hall, and Will was there, leaning on the doorjamb.

“You were right,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder. “We have to do this. Thank you for reminding us of our responsibility.”

We moved toward the stairs together.

More to come…

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two things which don’t go together in any way


I saw this article: “The Case for Black With a Capital B” at the New York Times website, and I think it’s right. I wrote about this back in 2006: “A Reader Writes.”


Okay, I don’t usually react well to things which are described as adorable.

I don’t usually embed videos.

I’m not really a big Taylor Swift fan.

[[Insert several more disclaimers here.]]

But I thought this was a hoot:

Why exactly is this not the actual video, as opposed to that other stupid thing?

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