29 April 2007

Hey, Google (or Alec) managed to fix whatever was broken so I can log in to Blogger again! I thought I'd post to break up Alec's monopoly, though I don't really have anything to say other than Happy Birthday Noah. Also, check out Torrey's and my kittens.
Apologies for the recent lack of posts, but I've been traveling in Europe for the past ten days. Not a lot to report so far (no dead dogs, for example), but I will say that Venice exceeded my high expectations. It's Disneyland for grownups, as artificial and anachronistic as colonial Jamestown, but it's also the most beautiful city on earth.

15 April 2007

The box office failure of Grindhouse has broken my heart, by the way. This may be the greatest loss to movies since Peeping Tom destroyed Michael Powell's career. Why? No sequels. Darn it, but I was really looking forward to Tarantino's next kung fu epic...

11 April 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007. He was one of the best, and another person I thought would never die. So it goes.

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—'God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'"

09 April 2007

In the latest dispatch from the Twilight Zone, I've discovered what appears to be a complete Russian audiobook of one of my short stories on this site. After ninety seconds of dance music, the reading begins, and lasts for about two hours. The story is credited to "Алек Невада Ли." I'm not sure what else to say about this.

08 April 2007

Now that I've finished the final draft of my novel, I can read for my own pleasure for the first time in more than a year. I just finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which was recommended here by Nat a while back. I was annoyed by some of the material about classical philosophy, especially the stuff at the University of Chicago, but overall, it's one of the most beautifully structured books I've read in a long time. Along with the first two chapters of Walden, I have a feeling that it's going to be a useful guide and resource for the upcoming year.

Next up, I'm hoping to read The Dyer's Hand by W.H. Auden and The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly, which are two books of random notes and observations by a great poet and a great literary critic, and the novels Winter's Tale and The Gold-Bug Variations. That should take me to my upcoming trip to Europe, where I'm going to be visiting Dublin, Venice, Florence, Rome, Canterbury, and London, in that order. I'm planning to bring all of Montaigne, with Spinoza as a backup, along with the Italian original of Foucault's Pendulum, which I'm going to read cold.

My real discovery, however, has been John Updike. I'd been avoiding Updike for most of my life, and was less than impressed by the small amount I'd read (although his essays are excellent). Recently, though, during my stint on a Kings County jury, I decided to read through the Rabbit series, and my opinion of Updike has been rapidly revised upward. Rabbit, Run reads like a novella expanded to fill an entire book, with a few brilliant sequences and a lot of fussy writing, but Rabbit Redux is amazing, one of the best American novels I've read. (I even recommended it to Haiwen.) Many thanks are due to Nicholson Baker, whose book U and I (sort of a recasting of Pale Fire with Updike as Shade and Baker as Kinbote) got me back on Updike in the first place.

07 April 2007

At its best, Grindhouse is insanely wonderful, and even when it doesn't work, it has more good ideas than all of last summer's movies combined. Since it's a double feature, most viewers will come down on the side of one movie or the other, but the energy that they generate together exceeds what either could produce by itself. Planet Terror is the more fully realized of the two, and the presence of Rose McGowan (along with my discovery of Jessica Biel in The Illusionist) makes me realize that I should have spent more time watching the WB. It's my favorite of the recent run of zombie movies, even if Rodriguez's innocent appetite for gore is beginning to wear thin.

Death Proof, by contrast, doesn't feel like a whole movie, and it wouldn't play as well on its own, but the two-for-one format allows Tarantino to tell a long shaggy dog story, the cinematic equivalent of one of the extended, shapeless monologues from his other films. (He did something similar in Four Rooms.) This may not sound promising, but in its rambling abruptness, it does things structurally and emotionally that would be impossible in a more well-rounded movie. It also has the best fucking car chase I've seen in years, and its closing freeze frame, which I applauded, stands as a rebuke to the denouement of every horror movie ever made.

Oh, and please don't Netflix this one. It begs to be seen in a darkened theater, on its opening weekend, with a thousand rowdy strangers.