My review of Subterranean Press’s reprint of Baal, Robert McCammon’s first horror novel, is up on fanlit.
Archive for November, 2011
Well, they aren’t great words, they aren’t deep words, they aren’t insightful words necessarily; they aren’t exciting words, they aren’t action words, they aren’t magic words; but there are 50,000 of them. Is the book done? No. It will probably finish up at about 75,000. Once that’s done, I can go back and outline (in other words, decide what the heck’s going on) and start on the real work of writing,revision.
My review of Robert Bloch’s reprint anthology from Subterranean Press is up at fanlit.
1–I’m thankful for my wonderful spouse, my step-family and my friends. You keep me honest, you keep me sane and you make the world a fairer place.
2–I’m thankful for glorious autumn sunrises.
3–I’m thankful for Goodwill. This week I took three boxes (stuff) and four bags (books) to the local store.
4–I’m thankful for Arrogant Bastard Ale. I love the name and the brilliant back label. It’s a tasty ale and, when you use it as a key ingredient in a Rachel Ray Welsh rarebit-style mac-and-cheese, it creates an awesome dish.
5–I’m thankful that I live where I do. America, of course; specifically, that I live within walking distance of two good bookstores and a library; walking distance of a local farmers’ market and two excellent grocery stores who sell local products, and a great park; within driving distance of six more bookstores, two live theaters, numerous live music venues; thirty-one parks (okay, some of them would be quite a drive); a food bank; and a place where I can go for a walk in my neighborhood and see this tree.
6–I’m thankful for people like Ginger, Lisa and David; three people who live every day with a devastating life-threatening disease, and who chose not to sink into passivity or bitterness but to fight to make sure that things are better for others with that disease—and that it stops spreading.
7–I’m thankful for Joan, Marcia and all the staff at my dentist’s office. They are so cheerful and friendly that they make a less-than-favorite chore much more pleasant.
8–I’m thankful for Doug, my mechanic, for keeping my car safe and reliable. I’m thankful for R’s Automotive and Darryl, who will always fit me in.
9–I’m thankful for video streaming that means I can watch Hell on Wheels at a decent hour on my netbook. Thanks, video-streaming!
11-I’m thankful for veterans everywhere; and for firefighters, police, and teachers.
12–I’m thankful for the Republican primary candidates, particularly Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman. Yes, I know the time is soon coming when I will have to be worried about one of them (probably none of those three). For right now though, I want to acknowledge their unflagging public service. Free standup comedy, everybody! Right here!
13—I’m thankful for farmers’ markets.
It doesn’t get a number but I remain thankful for chocolate.
The sign says, “This privately, LOCALLY OWNED store will be open during our regular business hours on 11/25 and cannot support the below-cost giveaways advertized by Corp Radio Shack. However, we will have our own bargains!”
It’s nice to see Main Street taking a stand against the greed-fest that follows our one designated day of gratitude. I shop at this store occassionally–I think I’ll start going there more frequently.
The Hilton’s motto is, “Travel Should Take You Places.”
My colleague Nick commented yesterday that, as mottos go, this is a pretty stupid one. As a statement of fact, it’s pretty right-on. Dictionary.com defines “travel” as a verb meaning “to go from one place to another.” So, yes, it should take you places, or to a place, at least.
As a sentence expressed ironically, this one has some power. If you are stuck in your plane, on the tarmac, going into your second hour, and your seatmate turns to you and says, “travel should take you places,” you would probably huff exasperated agreement. As a hotel motto, though?
What doe Hilton mean? “Travel should take you places, and when you get to those places, Hilton will be there?” Or do they mean something more about the hotel chain itself? Are they implying that each Hilton is site-specific and unique? “Travel should take you places, not just to a hotel that looks exactly like the one you were in last night?” This might be the case. The Hilton up the road from my office, where we saw this logo at our strategic plannning meeting, is themed around wine tasting and has detailed maps and information about more than 300 local wineries–so it probably isn’t just like the Aspen Hilton. So it could mean that.
If I have to do this much analysis of the motto, it might not be working as a motto.
The facilitator for our meeting also does some sales work and he’s very big on “messaging” and “brands” and slogans, etc. We told him to leave his card with the front desk on the way out. Hilton could use his help.
As a review or a critique or anything, this is completely unfair, because:
1) I haven’t read the book(s); and
2) I’m not going to; and
3) I haven’t seen the movie all the way through; and
4) I’m not going to do that either.
There, that’s out of the way.
FX is showing the movie Twilight in continuous loop, obviously a marketing tie-in to the release of most recent Twilight movie, Book Three Part One or Book One Part Three or something. (I shouldn’t make fun. They did that with the last Harry Potter book-to-movie transition and it worked there.)
Because FX is showing it virtually nonstop, any time I surf and click onto FX, I’m at a different part of the movie. This means I have never seen the entire thing, and I’ve never seen it in sequence. My sense is that this random-shuffle version of viewing only improves the film. You would think that watching snips of a movie here and there would limit your ability to follow the story, and my response in this case would be, “What story?”
The story is this: Bella falls in love with a vampire. That’s the story. Hard to mess that one up by watching it out of sequence. Sure, there are some obligatory “bad” vampires who pop up to create fake tension by trying to bite Bella, but that really isn’t the plot. Sure, Bella has to figure out that her enigmatic new friend/crush is a vampire, but that really isn’t a plot either. There really isn’t a plot. It’s just that simple.
The Pacific Northwest never looked better than in this movie. The northwest epitomizes the word “twilight” so it works beautifully here; lush evergreens, snowcapped mountains, verdant meadows and moss-carpeted logs; twining shimmering waterways, twinkling lights on rain darkened pavements. All gorgeous stuff. Kristen Stewart stands out here as an actress who can make this implausible character seem like an authentic teenager (more on this in a bit). I believe that Robert Pattison is probably an excellent actor as well, but he is slathered in white-face makeup and completely imprisoned by this appalling screenplay. “Your blood is like my personal heroin,” he says to Bella, in an intense, smoldering way. (Believe me, I looked for a said-book verb to plug in there and couldn’t find one. “Your blood is like my own personal heroin,” he smoldered. You see?)
“Then say the word!” he commands Bella when they’re standing out in the forest in the fully-clothed, both-standing, no-touching scene that first substitutes for sex in this sexless romance. She is turned away from him, looking all intense and vulnerable. Say the word. Why did Allison Hannigan, from American Pie, shouting, “Say my name, bitch!” leap into my mind? Unintentionally hilarious.
The word, by the way, is “vampire.”
“Hold tight, spider money,” he says later as they leap through the trees a la Tarzan. I would give more examples of his dialogue, but really, this humiliation is unfair. It’s not like he wrote the stuff.
The vampires live in a really cool glass-and-sharp-angles house because the vampires are rich. Vampires sparkle in the sun. Vampires play baseball during thunderstorms. Apparently vampires are not worried about getting struck by lightning which is odd, because burning is the one sure way to kill them. Why, then, do they play baseball during thunderstorms? Because they hit the ball so hard it breaks the sound barrier. Really.
When the bad vampires show up and get a whiff of Bella, literally, the “good vampires” leap down into combat poses, looking exactly like they’re setting up for the jazz-dance number in West Side Story. I was waiting for Edward to start snapping his fingers. (“Got a rocket/in your pocket/ Turn off the juice, boy!”)
Bella is what fan-fiction writers and others call a “Mary Sue.” A Mary Sue is the fantasy-wish-fulfillment character of a beginning writer. She is beautiful, brilliant, clever, beloved by all; in short, perfect. Bella is a biology wizard, can identify any piece of classical music, is friendly with the one Native American kid in her small-town high school, is beautiful, and knows the square root of pi. She does have a fault, she does! She doesn’t dance.
Her other real fault is that she falls in love with a guy who wants to drain her body of blood. I’m sorry, I think that’s a failure of judgment on her part.
The smart girl who knows the square root of pi must behave stupidly at the end of the movie in order for the suspenseful scene to work—because if Bella used her brain for two seconds, she would think (yes, spoiler!) “Since my mother lives in another state right now, it is unlikely that the bad vampire ran there and kidnapped her in the past ten minutes, so I am not going to agree to meet him, alone, at the dance studio.”
The actor who plays Bella’s father does a good job, and their chemistry is good, but one clever bit about pepper spray is so good that it is used twice, with no changes. It’s clear why Edward would like her—hey, free heroin!—but not clear at all what Bella would see in this weird boy. Either she’s an adrenaline junkie (“Every time I’m with him I’m putting my life at genuine and immediate risk! Awesome!”) or worse, she’s a masochist. And from the bits I saw, I think masochism wins.
FX will probably be showing the movie twenty-six more times. If you want to see it, I’m thinking maybe watching it with the sound off would be the best way to go.
The Schulz Museum is one of Sonoma County’s hidden gems. It’s tucked away in a quiet, rather low-income neighborhood near a dying shopping mall on the west side of Santa Rosa. After our write-in on Veterans Day, Lillian and I drove up there to check out the Poppin’ From the Panel Exhibit.
Happiness is Warm Puppy
Inside the Schulz Ice Arena, the Warm Puppy Café serves standard café fare and lets you watch the skaters. Schulz himself frequently ended a productive day of drawing in his studio by walking over to the café and having a tuna sandwich and an iced tea. If you’re going to check out the museum you should have the complete experience. Have lunch, watch the skaters, then take the crosswalk that heads due west across Hardies Lane onto the museum property.
The arena was jumping. Veterans Day was a school holiday and it was gray, drippy day; the arena was a good outing for many kids and their parents.
The Muralist is In
Darryl Burson is a muralist commissioned by the museum to put a Peanuts panel on a wall in the gallery. It’s an older strip, with a mischievous Snoopy in the starring role.
At the end of the promenade is the impressive tile mural completed by Yoshiteru Otani. The mural is in black and white, composed entirely of Peanuts strips. To get the black lines the artist had to locate and correctly place the strips that had frames with a dark background.
The museum is quite liberal about photography, but none was allowed for the current exhibit because many pieces were on loan. The theme is pop art and how it related to commercial animation and cartooning. I thought some seemed familiar; they were from the diRosa Art Preserve, so if I hadn’t seen them before I may have seen other pieces by those artists. (You can take pictures everywhere else.)
The Marriage of Commerce and Art
Three pieces in a line seemed to set the boundaries of the pop-art conversation. On the viewer’s left, the first piece was presented like a painting, but was three-dimensional, augmented with clay or acrylic sculpture medium. Corporate Kiss, by Llyn Foulkes is a self-portrait, of a dismayed and anguished-looking man. He wears a faded blue plaid shirt with a pen in the pocket. The background is desolate, a wasteland—bare, riven ground, wasted trunks of uprooted trees. The cracks and gullies in the dry earth match the furrows on Foulkes’s brow. The only primary and vibrant colors in the piece belong to the tiny copyrighted mouse perched on his shoulder, kissing his cheek. Foulke’s expression balances between shame and yearning. Foulkes hates the “corporatism” of the Disney corporation but even he can’t resist its charming mascot.
On the viewer’s right is a dark painting that almost looks like photorealism. It’s grim and dated somehow, with a round-hooded truck in the background, a phallic sign saying Liquor, and a circular sign below that with a stylized bell and clapper; Bell Telephone, hanging above an old-fashioned phone booth, the kind with the folding door. Across the dark road, in the viewer’s right foreground, is a profiled Daffy Duck, standing as high as the Liquor sign, looking brave and out of place in a little sailor outfit. Is it a case of forced perspective? Perhaps the viewer is looking out a window, with a three-inch tall duck figurine on the sill. Perhaps there really is a statue of Daffy Duck on this street with its feelings of hopelessness. Or maybe this is a Godzilla-like duck come to life, a multi-story-tall superhero. In the artist’s statement for Heat of the Night, Gottfried Helwien talks about growing up in Soviet-occupied Vienna, a place he remembers as filled with “rust and dust.” Everything was gray, drab and stagnant until his father brought home some German-language Daffy Duck comics. For the artist, commercial comics were the only source of light, change and hope.
Between these two poles, one who sees Mickey Mouse as an alluring and devastating corporate drug and one who sees comic books as a source of hope and freedom, we have Cartoon for the Last Supper, by James Barness. Painted on antique comic strips like The Apache Kid, the piece features a group of characters in a pose not unlike daVinci’s painting. Some of the characters are funny, others are comic-book strange, and they have large eyes that stare out at the viewer with a gaze somewhere between human and canine.
At the end of this row there is a Superman portrait painted by Mel Ramos. At first glance it is a classic Man of Steel pose, until the viewer looks more closely. Superman’s fists are furled but not clenched, and he is frowning slightly, the frown depicted by a single downward slash of paint. He looks. . . lost, confused. More than that, abandoned, maybe. Lillian put his words to the painting. “ ‘Where did they go?’” she wondered. If we don’t need the Man of Steel anymore, what will he do?
Spidey No More, around the corner, by the same painter, is a poignant and whimsical painting of Charlie Brown assuming the role of Spiderman. Next to it is Thor Versus the Silver Surfer, with Snoopy as the surfer. It is a fun piece, but the Spiderman piece is more thought-provoking.
There is also a concept piece from Christo and Jean-Claude. Okay, I’ve never understood Christo and there is a not-so-secret part of me that thinks he is less artist than scam-artist. I will admit some of the big installations, like the poppies, and the panels of fabric in Central Park looked cool. Anyway, this was a doghouse covered in canvas and rope. I rolled my eyes. Snoopy’s house, yeah, I get it. I didn’t really get it, though, until I went upstairs to the Schulz gallery and found out about the Christo connection. In one strip, Snoopy ruminates about Cristos’ work (which he likes)—he talks about the running fence, the Colorado installation, and wonders what Christo will do next. The final frame is Snoopy’s house, covered in canvas and rope. The three-dimensional piece downstairs is homage, created twenty-five years later.
These are only a few of the images in the display, which runs through December 11.
Enter the Labyrinth
The museum features a labyrinth in the shape of Snoopy’s head. It is right off the road, but somehow the little labyrinth creates an atmosphere of peace and serenity. Behind the main gallery, a small sculpture garden holds Peanuts-themed works including a holographic birdbath, and a giant rendition of Charlie Brown’s sweater.
This time of year, the trees are showing shades of gold and crimson, flags of color against the cloudy backdrop.
The Schulz Center offers a lot more than just pop-art. They have a replica of Schulz’s studio and a video loop that describes his process and how he worked, a gallery that rotates Peanuts exhibits, and a large education center. They offer regular presentations and speakers, mostly about art and cartooning, but also about things like NASA. They were having some kind of hands-on workshop for young artists the day we were there.
I did manage to make a dent in my Nanowrimo word count. I do want to say a few words about the volunteers and docents at the museum. They are all friendly, helpful and well-versed in the exhibits—not only the standing Schulz exhibits but the on-loan displays as well. This is a great local trip, and a perfect outing for those out-of-town guests who may be coming in for the holidays.
My review of John Connolly’s The Burning Soul is up at Fanlit. Some pretty prose (mine, not his) and some awesome prose (his, not mine).