Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lady Gaga

I don't know why I'm so fascinated by Lady Gaga. She seems to want to out drag queen even the most gonzo drag queens out there. She has a great sense of humor - which I think is very necessary, otherwise she might come off a little stiff if she wasn't in on the joke - but her music and style is very smart at the same time. And I think she's so different. So many new musicians out there are hell bent on emulating each other. She is a walking blender of everything she enjoys.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fictionaut

After a LONG time of not posting, and then posting somewhere else, and then not posting there, I've decided to come back to the ranch and try to get this thing to kick over. I think I've spent so much time pushing novels up hills I've completely forgotten the language of anything short. That changed a little in August, when I attended the Summer Writer's Conference at Northwestern. I took a class called Parasitic Writing and was exposed to a form of writing I had never heard of: erasure poetry. The class was an eye opener in so many ways. In three short, swift hours we discussed the idea of plagarisim in art; if there is such a thing; fan fiction; You Tube and the art people create from found materials like movie trailers; it was all fascinating to me, because I've been interested for a long time in ideas like genre, and the idea of 'rebooting' something, which is especially common now in genre works like comic books and movies.

The class inspired me to write some short new pieces, and I've posted one I wrote that same day over on a new, fantastic site called Fictionaut. It's sort of like Facebook, but for writers. Go over and check it out.

You'll find my poem, Conjecture over there.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More Troubles?

I remember very vividly the week I spent in Belfast. It changed my head. I knew my family came from Ireland, knew of the Troubles, but not until a few weeks before I left, I didn't know my family came specifically from the north, and until I got there, I had no real idea of the reality there. The division of Belfast - material, spiritual - splits my head still. One thing that stood out to me most was a tour we took of the Catholic/Protestant neighborhoods - streets like Shankhill divided like some contested border - and the tour guide putting the difficulty down primarily to the relative poverty of the area. Up the road near Queens, the realtive prosperity of that part of town saw a healthier, less hostile environment. Indeed, the Celtic Tiger gave all Ireland a reason to look forward and not behind; the economy exploded, and with each year, it seemed the Troubles were finally over.

Maybe not.

Ireland's economy, like the world's, has collapsed and just like that, the IRA - or some semblence of it - is back to killing. This time, though, it seems that neither Protestants nor Catholics are willing to let the madness of a few pull every one under. The news here in America sadly reads the same way - a man just killed ten people in Alabama, a student walked into a school in Germany and killed nine. Maybe it's not the global economic crisis; maybe it's just coincidence. Does money salve political wounds? Religious? When the pot is empty, do we fill it with anger? Hate?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Darby Watches The Watchmen

SPOILERS follow

“Watchmen” is really two movies: one for people like me, who remember the earthquake it was for comic books in 1987, when it first appeared, and one for people just looking for a good movie. In a lot of ways, it succeeds on both levels; in a lot of other ways, it doesn’t.
“Watchmen” arrived in 1987 as comic book that for the first time in the history of comics looked on the idea of superheroes as a real thing; what if in the real world these people actually existed, and what would happen? I first read it at 13, finding it on the bottom shelf of the comic stand in the back of the Cigar Store down on Sycamore – this when comics were still sold outside comic shops – and I didn’t understand it, but knew a comic – a funny book – with blood and murder and various other adult things was not normal. I found a lot of books there that were an absolute awakening to me, and make me feel very lucky to have been that age, at that time: “Swamp Thing,” “Sandman,” even “Cinder & Ashe” which no one remembers but made its own impression. I couldn’t afford any of them, only the Marvel ones that were still 75 cents, so I stood at the rack and read them in the store. I read the complete novel in college, appreciating it fully for the first time. It made a lasting impression on me, like it has so many others; I found the idea of the meta-textual here first rather than in the novels of M. John Harrison or David Foster Wallace. The book within a book idea appears in some of my own work, especially “The Book of Elizabeth,” which is to do entirely with a book inside a book.
That is nothing new, but in 1987, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons set off an earthquake. “Watchmen” is to comics what “Ulysses” is to the novel; after that, everything changed. For the movies, though, “Watchmen” the film is just a good movie that could have been better. The basic plot revolves around this: someone is killing masked superheroes. Except superheroes are retired, by government mandate. And it’s 1985. And Nixon is still President. And the Cold War is getting hot, really fast. It seems someone is trying to make sure superheroes are not going to be around to stop Armageddon. And so at first it is a detective story – the Sherlock here an anti-hero called Rorschach, after the ink blot test (his mask features a ever changing menagerie of patterns) – and it leads him to the now retired members of the Watchmen, who he fears may be in danger. As it progresses from character to character – the Batman clone Nite Owl, the Punisher-esque Comedian and then to the Superman like Dr. Manhattan, it becomes alternately a love story, a war movie, and a 1950’s sci-fi movie where the good scientist gets transformed into something horrible. It’s a lot of different movies, none of them ever really congealing into something whole, other than the strange, pleasant shock of seeing Batman – I mean, Nite Owl – overweight and lonely. Of Superman distant and removed from humanity because they can’t ever understand what it is to be a god. I always thought the book would be better served by the time and detail of say a 12 part mini-series on HBO, and the film only confirms that. Zach Snyder does achieve what was once thought impossible, putting the book on screen; he manages to transplant the thread of the book in its – mostly – entirety to film, salvaging a myriad of the book’s most treasured scenes.
That so much of Dan and Laurie survived surprised and thrilled me, because it was my favorite part of the book. Except for the sex scene. That was laugh out loud bad. Showgirls bad. I also loved Manhattan’s trip through time and space, which with Bill Crudup’s spooky, detached narration, exists in a small, poetic way in the film. The performances are exceptional in some cases – Jackie Lee Haley is hypnotic as Rorschach – and in some cases not so much. As lovely as Malin Ackerman is, she never really gets to the bottom of Laurie, who in the book is a lot more of a live wire.
The film clings to the original 80’s setting, and the Cold War fear; as someone who grew up then and remembers “The Day After,” it strikes a chord. I wonder though if it would for anyone who grew up in a world without the constant thread of nuclear annihilation. After the film, Ben and my uncle PJ spent some time discussing this. I wonder if the film would have been better served by a more modern setting. “The Dark Knight” proved last year that ‘comic book’ movies can and do speak to the moral complexities of the present. The Watchmen, as it is, proves only a love letter to a book and a moment that seems squarely in the past. The World Trade Center still exists there, and its presence in the film – gratuitous at times – only speaks volumes to the schism between the film’s setting and now. The towers cannot ever exist in film or any art now as merely themselves; that they do in this film, and that they survive the devastation of the ending only reinforces my feeling that Snyder missed an opportunity to not just produce a slavish, religious adaptation to the source material but to advance it.
What if the Cold War was replaced by the War on Terror? What if Dr. Manhattan single handedly won the Iraq War instead of Vietnam? What if the Keene Act came out of a government seeking to quash superheroes whose independence and resources may be interpreted as non-state actors? What if Ozymandias plot to bring peace to a world on the brink of nuclear holocaust instead sought to bring peace to a world locked in the gravity of endless war? Of course the book still speaks to us, despite its setting; the film speaks to many different things, and never in one voice. It is a big film that in so many ways demands to be a small film; a tiny, subversive meditation on the lives of people who cannot live outside of their masks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Get On Your Boots

The first single from U2's new album (finally!!!) is live. My first impressions: they are back to experimenting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

To Jump In The River And Drown

An absolutely essential and remarkable conversation with Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore and the writers of last night's season premiere. That he gives this much in an interview is a gift, and so is the show. It astounds, as always, and the sadness over its passing is only countered by the joy in knowing that it is getting the chance to end on its own terms. So many shocks last night. Earth. Dee. Ellen. Kara. I have my own theory of it all - the Grand Unifying Theory of BSG I guess - that I'm still formulating, but Ben had a theory a while back about Earth and Cylons that seems to have been dead on. Go read the article, and if you haven't seen it, or have never seen the show, go rent, buy or steal it on DVD. Enrich your life.