Friday, December 31, 2004

Year In Review

So was 2004 a good year? Well... I suppose personally it was fair to middling. It ends like it began (sickness) so in some way it's no different than any of the last few years. However, the best part for me was seeing my Irish buddies again in Chicago, and the happy news that a few of them are getting married.

I'm going to do a little year-end review of my own on the arts, just for fun.

The Boston Hearld does a little bit on the best comics of 2004. I agree wholeheartedly that Joss Whedon and his run on X-Men was the best thing to happen, though they left a lot out. Thanks to Whedonesque for the link, one of the best sources of all things Joss out there.

The best CD of the year was U2. 'Nuff said.

Movies... the thing about movies is that here in Waterloo, we get to see very few of the 'smaller' pictures. Of course we can have Spider Man 2 on four screens, but... they do try, I guess. So without having seen everything, here are my picks, in no particular order:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Before Sunset, Kill Bill Vol.2, Hero, The Incredibles, Finding Neverland, Ray, Garden State, and stretching the rules a bit, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Extended Edition.

On second thought: Spider-Man 2 wasn't all that, The Village was better than most people said (I think the horrific dialogue is what does it) and I need to see The Life Aquatic again to see how I feel about it.

Best TV: The Wire, Lost, Newsnight with Aaron Brown.

Best Books: I didn't get Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I wanted to, after all the hype. Jennifer Howard offers a good explanation as to why (thanks to the ever loving Bookslut for the link). So my favorite books this year: Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, Light, by M. John Harrison, Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, and Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson. Plus some others still in my stack.

So that about does it. Happy new year everybody.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Disaster

I don't know if there's much else to say about the tsunami disaster - disaster suddenly a very inadequate word - that hasn't been said. The impossibility of it only increases day by day and sometimes hour by hour (in the very early morning, 3-6 AM US time, as the revised figures come in). Here is a link to a variety of organizations to which you can contribute online, such as the Red Cross and many, many others. They are providing food and medicine and water and many of the endless things this part of the world desperately needs.

Hope everyone's holidays are going well. I am terribly sick. The schizoid weather again, I think. It's fifty some degrees here today and raining, for example. So I'm trying not to be rattled too much, and telling myself a cold is just a cold, not the prelude to horror it has been before. So I'm catching up on my reading and watching some DVD's and blogging. The sure fire cure to illness.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Humbug Bah

I don't really enjoy the holidays anymore. It's nothing to do with what some Christians call the attack on Christmas; the celebration and the mystery of Jesus, if anything I enjoy more. I don't enjoy the ridiculous need to buy things people don't need with money you don't have, especially when they don't like you anyway. Give something to Toys for Tots or the Salvation Army, or send books or food (or armor!) to our troops overseas.

Also, because it's winter, and I can't afford to get sick, it means I retreat into Howard Hughes mode for the duration and that makes me... cranky. But anyways. It can't all be bad, can it? What with Bush being named Man of the Year by Time Magazine, and HBO considering cancelling 'The Wire,' the best television show ever? Nah. It's all fine and dandy.

But since I'm supposed to talk about writing, I should do that (because the bitching is so popular). I am doing a lot lately. I finished some much needed revisions to the last bit of what will henceforth be known as 'The Angel Book.' I've been tinkering with this in one form or another for a long time, five years or so now. I don't really do drafts, I've found, more like generations of revisions.

I'm writing a short story for an anthology about a great 'what if?' that has me all excited, mostly because it will give me 5,000 words or so to let my liberal blue state the sky is falling mentality run around. And work continues on the screenplay Sugu and I are brewing in the dungeon.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Conspiracy Theory

It wasn't 19 screw-ups from Saudi Arabia who couldn't pass flight school who defeated the United States with a set of box cutters," he said. He dismissed the official Sept. 11 commission report, saying, "I don't trust any of these 'facts."'

Millionaire activist Jimmy Walter has spent 30 percent of his net worth trying to prove his statement above. Now he's offering $100,000 to whoever can prove him wrong. This is more sad than funny. I'm as distrustful of the current administration as he probably is, but Mr. Walter is wasting his money. Why would the terrorists or the government or whoever he claims was behind it fly planes into buildings they knew they could knock down with planted explosives?

This isn't much different from "Oswald couldn't have acted alone" or "that moon landing sure was a hoax." Sometimes people simply cannot accept that something so extraordinary - many times awful - could have been performed by somehow ordinary people. But they are. I know it's hard to believe we're that vulnerable, that so few could take so many innocent lives. We want to invent conspiracies and boogey men to give more credit to those 19 bastards than they deserve. They don't need it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Return of the Queen

My brother Aaron is probably flipping his lid right now with the news that the legendary rock group Queen is reforming for a new tour.

They're doing it without Freddie Mercury of course, who passed away back in 1991. Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company) apparently is taking over vocal duties. It also remains to be seen whether bassist John Deacon participates. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet. I think I come from the school of rock where you let things lie. Queen isn't Queen without Mercury. If they wanted to get together and play Queen songs and call it something else, that's fine, but this I don't know. Of course I'll change my mind when they announce U.S. dates.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Prevailing Winds

The arctic air has found its way down here. And the winds. Forty miles an hour yesterday. Gutters and siding and those inflatable santas and snowmen, all of them airborne. The holidays always stress me out, so the wind storm was actually something of a fun release. I went out in it and walked around for an hour or so. Every once in a while you need a vacation from monotony.

Sugu and I are going to write a screenplay. It will be lots of fun, as well as my first ever trans-Pacific artistic collaboration.

For all you LOTR fans wanting to keep your Extended Editions all in one tidy place, click here.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Blue Books

This is the complete Irish crew by the way, at Trinity, Dublin, 2000. We referred to ourselves as Blue Books after the pamphlet that detailed our program. Red Books were the 'other' kids. We were such snobs. Turns out Oscar Wilde kept a blue book about Dublin society back in his day. Just goes to show you.

If I'm feeling nostalgic, it's just to say happy holidays to everyone. Salinte.

The Public Work

This is the Loyd Tower (actually a lighthouse) in Kells, Ireland. I saw it only fleetingly during my stay there a few years back, but from the moment I did I was taken with it in some way I couldn't understand. The futility of building a lighthouse in a landlocked town deep inland fascinated me as much as what it stood for: futility and desperation. The government put many people to work during the Great Famine by building 'public works' all across Ireland, many of which like the tower served no real purpose beyond giving starving people work and pay.

I tried furiously - in fits and starts - to work the tower and what it represented into the novel I had begun working on before I went to Ireland. After 9/11, the tower became more to me, and I tried even harder to make it work, but it never did. I tend to do this a lot in life. I force things to fit an idea I have of them, because of an initial impression or feeling I get. I've learned to leave well enough alone. Art is an act of generoisty. You don't force generoisty on people, on art, or its grace.

The tower finally fits in the novel - in a fleeting moment - less than I intended, but more than I could say. Novels are not meant to be built so to give the idle mind something to do. Their is no greater fear for an artist in his or her time of greatest worry, than the fear that the work they have shed blood and sweat and tears for will serve only as a lonely monument to futility, isolated in a landscape it does not and cannot belong to.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Time To Cash Your Bonds In

I've been thinking for a few days about the baseball/steroid scandal. Baseball is my favorite sport (or my second passion, after writing) and this upsets me a great deal. I know some of the reaction has been ho hum. My feeling is pretty simple. Bonds, Giambi, anyone who did them, they cheated. That's no different than what the 'Black Sox' did. Cheating is cheating. They've made a mockery of their sport and chosen profession. Show them the door.

Deferring to my esteemed collegue Polly, I will revise my statement to say: when Bonds et al are proven to have taken steroids, then show them the door. Innocent until proven guilty and all.

Dodge This, Bitches

Geek goddess Alyson Hannigan (Willow) brings it. It's always the quiet ones. I promise no more 'bitches' in the titles.

Writing Into / Out Of Corners

I think my biggest weakness as a writer is that my reach often exceeds my grasp. On the other hand, it can be a good thing. Provided you actually grab onto something. In that way, I think writing is a lot like aerial acrobatics. There's no net, and sometimes you miss the bar.

I don't outline ("not that there's anything wrong with that") so I often discover obstructions in the road to writing the novel those who outline would altogether avoid. But then, they may miss that little side street that goes down some place you never expected. I think you just have to explore. That's the joy and passion of writing for me. Discovery. It often produces a lot of dead ends, but hey, what are you going to do. Basically this a long winded way of pepping myself up, because I was stuck, and now I'm not.

I was going to bust out a writing as building metaphor (never have too many 'writing as' metaphors) but then I realized if you build something without knowing what it's going to look like, it will probably fall down.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Use The Force, Bitch

Here's a special sneak peek of Star Wars: Episode III, due next May. Definitely not work safe.

Another Darby has finally figured out how to write a book that sells.

Sugu has hidden easter eggs on his site. Good luck finding it. I may do one, too, when I have a reason to.

Nothing's shocking anymore. Except this. Did you know you can get AIDS from touching? Your government says so.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Shame, The Shame

As some of you may know, I'm a Star Wars baby. A couple years ago I even contributed to the cause by starting this petition for an action figure of one of the characters. I can hold my head up high, because the petition got a mention in Vogue magazine of all places, in an article about the actress in question, the lovely Rose Byrne. If only they had posted a link.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Guess They Won't Be Reading Me In Alabama

Pretty soon Cat On A Hot Tin Roof won't be able to performed in your United States. State Rep. Gerald Allen of Alabama is trying to pass a bill that bans books featuring homosexual characters. "I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.

Call Allen at (205) 556-5310 to let him know what you think.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Death of Story?

Owen Gleiberman writes a great article in this week's EW about how old fashioned storytelling is an endangered species in Hollywood, thanks to the blockbuster and the reality TV show craze. He hits the nail on the head, but this goes on in fiction as well, and has been for some time. Novelists in the early 20th century (Joyce, Woolf et al) deconstructed the novel, the story and ever since we've had something of a revolt against it in literature.

I think this is why Joseph Campbell (and consequently, Star Wars) became so popular. It wasn't just mythology he was talking about, it was storytelling. We don't do it anymore. Much fiction today favors style over substance, introspection over engagment. Part of the problem is the world we live in. Novels, like letters, used to be means of reporting the world beyond - now that world is at your fingertips, with blogs, email and CNN. And story isn't just plot, it's much more; it's character, it's reportage, it's necessary.

The Revolution Will Be Serialized

Comics make you a better writer. Spread the word.

Speaking of cool comics, Matt (pictured below) is a pretty good artist himself.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Round Up

'Gwen Stefani is a Willow/Betty type in Cordy/Veronica drag.'

As big as DVD has become for the movie industry (by some accounts, DVD sales make up more than 60% of all their profits) you'd think they would want to avoid shooting it in the foot. Today, they took the first step. I'm sure HD DVD will be popular, but you have to wonder if people who just replaced their VHS collection with DVD's of all their favorites will do it once again.

The First Fiction Tour is rolling through the USA. Someday when we're all published, us IWP kids will have to tour the land together. Hotels hide your furniture.

Ever wonder what's really going on with 'Lost?' Some think they're all dead, and in purgatory. Me, I think odds are it's MUCH worse off the island than it is on. Just wait for that first bit of off shore news.

And last but not least, there's only one day left, but I know you can do it.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Good 'Housekeeping'

I'm currently reading Marilynne Robinson's 'Housekeeping', and though I'm twenty years behind everyone else in realizing this is a great, great novel, I'll stand up and say so anyway. I found it after browsing her new novel, 'Gilead', which is also her first since 'Housekeeping.' It's kind of hard to put down a book that features lines like this one, describing the main character's grandfather: ''...a wild-haired, one-eyed, scrawny old fellow with a crooked beard, like a paintbrush left to dry with lacquer in it.''

'Housekeeping' is full of these lines, poetry that clings to everything with a kind of dampness after reading it. It feels like one of those novels the author spent their whole life writing to, almost too good to be true. I wonder too if the reason it's taken her so many years to follow with another is because she spent what 'writer's capital' she had writing it. Writing a book sometimes feels like being Dr. Frankenstein to me, stitching together parts from here and there, sewing together the best material from various sources to create one whole. You sort of mine yourself for all you have, making it harder and harder as you go to generate new insight. You have to live again first, and who knows how long that takes.

'I'm the Dude, Man.'

My buddy Ben located the Big Lebowski Random Quote Generator.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Girls' Turn

Members of the all girl rock band The Lizzie McClurg Situation, or really, five of the best girls in the world, all in one place. Most stars stay in the sky but sometimes you find them on the ground, too. From left to right: Erika, Lisa, Amy, Ilona, and Mandy. Posted by Hello

Not pictured here (but here ) are Polly, Kiki, Andrew, and Amitabh. Next time we'll have to get a big group photo before everyone leaves. And sometime soon I'll figure out how to do all these pics in one post.

Some Pics From Chicago

My friends Conan and Matt (two luckiest bastards in the world) and that's me on the left. Posted by Hello Back in 2000, I spent the summer studying in the Irish Writer's Program at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. It was the best experience of my life, not just because I'm Irish and it meant a lot to go there, but most of all because of the people I met.

On Halloween some of us got back together in Chicago for a long overdue reunion. We went to an Irish pub called Lizzie McClurg's and made the managment nervous apparently with the bill (all was resolved, without any dishwashing) and held a big get together at Lisa's house. Lisa is getting married next year, and so is Conan and Amy (next post.) That sound you hear is the sound of hearts breaking everywhere. Conan and I went on an odyessy to the Sears Tower only to find it closed due to high winds. You'd think with it being the Windy City and all, they'd be prepared. Best of all I got to spend two or so days with good, good friends.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Surviving Turkey Day: Means & Methods

1) Listen to new U2 album. Repeat.

2) Play The Incredibles video game. Run Dash into a semi at 177 mph. Repeat.

3) Play hooky from family bullshit by strategically arranging long distance phone calls through out the day and evening.

4) Sit and down write even though you promised you'd give yourself the day off.

5) Blog.

6) Go for a walk downtown or to the video store that closes only in the event of a) thermonuclear war or b) a fire sale at the Gap. Wander the aisles in desperate search of mind numbing crap you've seen already, but nothing really gets you out of the fact that your man isn't in office, it's four more years but really a generation of self inflicted damage, your family is held together by bubble gum, and you've accoplished nothing in your life.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

At A Place Called Vertigo

Dizzy happy with the new U2 album. I don't know yet if it's better than All That You Can't Leave Behind, but it does feature some of their strongest material in years. My first impression is that it's a collision of the music they played in Dublin back in '79, some soul, and a louder, more vivid version of their "'80's sound."

I think the best thing about U2 is that the intangible feeling you get, the wordless experience they give you in song after song. I think you saw it in the tears of the cast and audience of SNL the other night, and the crowds they generated going up and down the streets of New York.

The last great rock n' roll band. The last band.

"Your head can't rule your heart."

"I've had enough of romantic love."

"I don't need to hear you say/ if we weren't so alike / you'd like me a whole lot more."

Monday, November 22, 2004

People of Interest

No, not the FBI kind. Just some links to other people around the web that might interest you.

My good buddy Sugu is presently teaching English in Japan. We were once locked inside the Kodak Theater the day before the war in Iraq started and thwarted the massive security to get out and back to the car. Really.

My cousin Kim is a senior in high school and really is the sweetest person I know. We were never locked in anywhere, except maybe the mall one time.

My good friend Polly is going to grad school in NYC and will be a great writer someday. She has that southern twang in her voice that turns all us midwest boys to jello. I was never locked in anywhere with Polly, either, although I was locked out of my room once, and she overheard the Wrath of Darby.

Bookslut is the best literary blog out there. Required reading.

Books For Soldiers Just what it says. Send used books to our men and women in Iraq as well as our wounded in VA hospitals. Hear it from the troops direct.

Mmm... that's all for now.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

No Respect

So I was watching "The Wire" tonight (the best show on TV) and after Omar nearly got killed coming out of church on Sunday with his grandma, I found what he said about the decline of common respect in society ("there ain't none") very apt.

Sunday isn't what it used to be. Used to be nothing was open. Sure, a few places still hold on(Hobby Lobby, for instance) but not much anymore. It's even gotten to the point that our holidays don't stop the Wal Marts and Targets from staying open all day. To me it doesn't matter if you believe in God or Santa Claus or not. This kind of trend in our culture (it extends to the tactics all businesses employ against their employees, from pay to benefits to schedules, etc.) disrespects families and tradition. Customer service is an extinct concept. Some people can't handle the loss of respect. Take for instance the Pistons-Pacers game. Ron Artest could not allow such a brazen act of disrespect, and thus set off one of the most humilating episodes in the history of sport.

When people talk about values, about family, whether they're 'red' or 'blue' state people, this is what they mean. Common courtesy doesn't exist in our culture. Neither does respect. Where did it go? How did we get like this? I want answers by tomorrow. Or else.

Hi ya'

I suppose I should start by introducing myself. My name is Darby, and I'm presently redefining the phrase 'long hard slog' by attempting to realize my lifelong instinct to become a published writer from my base of operations here in Waterloo, IA, codenamed: Hell. I think Lucifer said in Paradise Lost that the mind is its own place, and can make a heaven of hell, or a hell of heaven, and that certainly describes my relationship with good ol' Loo Town.

The goal is novels, of which I've written three. One is decent, the other an unmitigated disaster, and the last just so-so. I'm a published journalist and even snuck a poem out there but so far no dice. At the present I'm job hunting and contemplating means of escape. I'm 30 years old, single, one of two brothers, refreshingly Irish, and in another life, skinny.