Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fear of a White . . . You Know

OK, after another inexcusable absence, I finally came up something I wanted to talk about here. I've planned out a whole series on what drives me as a writer. Not my name-by-name influences, per se, but more of a general overview of the forces which feed my creativity, shaping it like wind and water erosion shape the land. (That there was one of them fancy metaphors.) This may bore you to tears, but writing these things helps me to define them for my own purposes. You're just along for the ride.

So . . . I had this whole thing worked out in my head about Movies, and how Movies influence me more than books, and I was all set to write it when The News broke. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. The only headline-worthy happening of the past week:

Britney Spears Doesn't Wear

I'm embarrassed to admit that this grabbed my attention, and even more embarrassed to admit that I clicked on over to check out the pix. (I won't bother supplying a link. If you're curious, just Google "Britney Panties" and you will get 6 million hits. The photos- and there are many- are all over the place.) Apparently, Britney has been hanging out with Paris Hilton and Lyndsey Lohan, and to be in their club you have to flash your naked genitals at the paparazzi every time you get out of a vehicle.

Personally, I've never found Britney Spears very interesting, either as a musician or as a sex symbol. Her music and her image have always been too obviously manufactured to be in any way exciting. Her recent multiple pregnancies, newfound let-it-all-hang-out-there trailer-trashiness and liberating divorce from that loser-boy HAVE allowed some humanity to peak through the cracks. (That was NOT a pun.) But still, she's not that fascinating of a person.

Furthermore, I have no particular prejudice against the whole "commando" issue. (Called "free ballin'" in men.) In fact, I've always thought it was kind of chic.

So why I am I bothering to mention this on my blog? What did strike me as interesting were some of the blogger comments prefacing the photos. Britney's vagina was described by one blogger as "not for the faint of heart." Another advised viewers of the pictures to "make sure to look at them on an empty stomach." Even the (relatively) high-brow news site said "be prepared to cringe." (Also, I believe that was the first time I ever read the phrase "panty-less crotch" in a mainstream news web-site.)

What gives? Why all the vag-hate? I mean, Britney's whole career is built on seduction and tease. Isn't this where the seduction leads? Isn't the vagina the ultimate pinnacle of female sexuality? Isn't it, in fact, the whole point? Why react with disgust? I mean, I LIKE vaginas. (In an entirely non-sexist, Eve Ensler, sacred feminine sort of way, of course.) It's where we all came from, after all. Brit's "area" is not in any way extraordinary. (Though I've never understood the appeal of the "bald" look.) So why cringe?

I don't know. Just struck me as weird. I promise I'll get to that movie discussion next time (in a more timely manner) and won't discuss genitals here until my upcoming 12-part series: "The Penis Monologues." Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Any Questions?

I can't talk long today (wife's day off!!!) but I wanted to let everybody know that my new Flash Fiction piece, "Six Questions," which is up over at Six Sentences. Check it out and leave a comment so I look cool. Also, if you want a nice little chill, my good friend Angie has a very short excerpt of her novel up over at the Lazy Artist's Lounge. Wicked good.

In case I'm a Lazy Artist myself and don't write anything else this week, Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Just Checkin' In . . .

Not much happening here. The Day of the Dead has come and gone yet again. It was a good show, if not as well attended as previous years. We usually do it in the first weekend of November, and now we know why: there are a lot of other things happening in Prescott over the Veteran's Day weekend. (Competition for the entertainment dollar.) If you couldn't make the show, there is a very nice write-up (with pix!) on the blog of a very satisfied audience member.

Another consequence of doing the show a week late: you get through it and realize "holy crap, Thanksgiving's a week away."

In other news, there is no other news. I finally submitted my sci-fi short story and also sent in a new piece of flash fiction. No word yet on "The Eternal Movie," but the flash piece will be up on Six Sentences on Nov. 19. Mark your calendars now. (That one turned out pretty well.) Right now I'm returning to an old project called "Killer's got the Blues Again," which some of you might remember. Heavy revisions on the front end, and writing new material from the last chapter backwards. Hopefully, I will eventually meet in the middle and have a (gasp!) completed novel. After that, Andrew and I are looking at another radio script contest. Just the first step towards our goal of radio theater world domination. (It's a small world, but it is a world nonetheless.)

The kids are doing well, with the exception of Lily's constantly running nose. I thought we'd left all this sniffly business behind when took them out of day care, but I guess not. Lea's got the same bug. Or at least I think she does. I don't really see my wife enough to keep up with her health concerns. She's still working those mad holiday hours. She'll get a break for Thanksgiving Day, but the day after that is known in the retail biz as "Black Friday." (I always thought that would make a great title for a "Die Hard"-in-a-mall action movie. Don't go stealing my idea, now.)

Anyway, the Dyl-man and I have so far proved immune to the cold virus. I credit sleep deprivation and excessive caffeine use. Dylan can thank judicious Halloween candy rationing. Your results may vary.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Revisions and Propositions

Well, I'm still hard at work editing "The Eternal Movie," (the title seems especially apt as it feels like I've been working on it for freakin' ever.) Props must be given to my good friend Angie for her insightful reading. She very properly castigated me for my unfortunate tendency towards excessive, bloated verbosity, including my misguidedly and madly heedless use of crazily proliferate adverbs, not to mention my redundant, repetitive, superfluous and unnecessary wordiness; a habit, as it were, of endlessly explaining with massive amounts of explication and exposition, with sentences that run on and on and on, never seeming to end.

I really don't know what she's talking about.

Seriously, though, it was great advice. Gave some "new eyes" to look at the thing during the editing process. She also had a lot to say about the structure, ways to turn it from a good story into a great one by removing the top-heavy set-up and starting with the action. Sadly, this would require me to tear the whole thing apart and start from scratch and I'm frankly sick of looking at the thing. So, it will go to the publishers with the structure intact, just about 500 words lighter.

It's a strange feeling paring down a story for submission to a five-cents-per-word publication. Sorta like throwing nickels in the trash. Oh, well. I'm feeling even more confident about the story than before. I just can't wait to be finished with it.

I saw a good movie recently. (That's a rare enough occurrence to warrant a blog entry.) I became interested in seeing "The Proposition" when I heard the screenplay was written by Nick Cave. Now, there are a lot of musical artists whose careers follow the familiar arc of early brilliance, peaking at around their third album or so, followed many years of "milking it." Then there are the elite few like Tom Waits, PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, who unbelievably just keep getting better.

I was curious to see if his brilliance extended into this other medium. (He's also published a couple novels, though I haven't read them.) I'm not sure what I was expecting. Maybe a typical rock star vanity project, like Perry Ferrel's "Gift" or Axl Rose's disastrous "Portrait of the Obnoxious Egotist as a Self-Absorbed Young Heroin Addict." What I got instead was a complex, literate and very bloody western.

The nineteenth-century Australian outback has many parallels to the mythical American West of the same period but, based on this movie at least, was an even bleaker, more desolate and violent landscape. Everything is coated with dust and flies. ("The Proposition" has to set some kind of record for most flies in a movie. The record for most flies ON a movie was of course set by "The Life of David Gale.") The sky is a bleached, baking white. The outlaws are violent men. So are the police. So are the aborigines.
The "Proposition" of the title comes when Capt. Stanley (Ray Winstone,) the man charged with imposing some semblance of civilization upon this hellhole, manages to capture two of the three outlaw Burns brothers. He makes a deal with with middle brother, Charlie (Guy Pearce.) Find and kill his eldest brother, Arthur (Danny Houston- son of John) to save the life of the younger brother Mikey, who is scheduled to hang (on Christmas day!) What follows is an unforgiving tale of loyalty and betrayal.

The violence is extreme, but completely appropriate and morally ambiguous. The scene where the young, simple-minded Mikey (a killer and a rapist) is flogged with a hundred lashes is as hard to watch as anything in "The Passion of the Christ" or Mel Gibson's arrest video. (Great close-up of blood being literally wrung from the leather whip.)

In the center of all this ugliness, though, is the surprisingly tender and respectful relationship between Captain Stanley and his wife Martha (Emily Watson.) Both characters are portrayed with depth and complexity. Cpt. Stanley is a man whose decency is being eroded by his position and the land he has come to. Martha's insistence upon English-ness and her notions of justice seem like naivite until they are eventually shattered.

Adding yet another layer of complexity is the theme of racism. The aborigines are of course victims of casual, institutionalized hatred. More surprisingly, the Irish (including the Burns brothers) are referred to "niggers turned inside out."

This was a really great movie, one that lingers in the mind for days after seeing it. If it were the type of movie that didn't scare Oscar voters shitless, it would be deserving of multiple honors. Nick Cave's script and the score which he contributed to are both poetic and minimalistic. The acting is great all around. Especially Ray Winstone and Emily Watson (for her bathtub monologue alone.) Danny Houston's Arthur Burns and John Hurt's bounty hunter Jellon Lamb compete for the title of most morally void and yet poetically well-spoken character in recent film history. The cinematography, too, is exceptional, for finding stark beauty among all the ugliness. The scene where the two older brothers sit on a rocky ledge and watch the sunset is nothing short of miraculous.

So- "The Proposition." I only get to see one or two movies a month nowadays (not counting kid-vid,) so I'm grateful for substantial fare like this. It might be hard to watch, but I guarantee it's worth it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm Back!!!

Yeah, I know. Kind of ironic, considering that my last entry here was about how long it's been between posts, but at least this time I have an excuse. I lost my internet connection for a little while there. It was a billing issue with those bastards over at NetScape. They had been electronically debiting our checking account, but then quite abruptly decided that they needed a credit card. Lea and I both attempted to iron out the problem with phone calls to the helpful customer service branch somewhere in New Delhi (where we were repeatedly asked to spell the admittedly exotic name "Smith,") but to no avail. We're on AOL now. Turns out those free trial discs you get in the mail every other day are good for something other than mini-Frisbees.

Tonight I'm going to motor on down to Prescott for the final rehearsal of the Day of the Dead Dinner Show. Road trips strain the gas budget, make for some creative arrangements of Lea's work schedule and push my sleep deprivation threshold, but I'm glad I can still be involved. Should be a pretty good show this year.

Kids are doing great. Dylan's finally getting the hang of the potty training and Lily took her first shaky steps yesterday! (I felt that warranted exclamation.) Lea's working mad holiday hours so I barely see her, but other than that we're all happy and healthy.

So here's where I promise that my blogging will be more substantial and less sporadic from here on out. (Boy it's hard to type with my fingers crossed.)