Right off I’ll confess my complete and total abject hatred for this movie. I mean—if I’d been in a theater when watching it, there’s a high likelihood I would have walked out on it. I’ve walked out on a total of two movies in my life: The first was David Cronenberg’s Crash (not the other piece of shit with the same title that won the 2005 Oscar for best picture, the cloying, ham-fisted shit-stain that it was, I never saw that one in a theater, I’m proud to say), the second was Quentin Tarentino’s Death Proof, which, if you remember, was the second half of the double-feature released as part of Grind House with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, which was awesome, and made walking out of Death Proof a virtual requirement, so as to allow the glories of PT to remain intact without having Tarantino’s normally effective and poignant dialogue—which in Death Proof come across as cloying and ham-fisted—ruin the entire experience. Death Proof was a director trying too hard to be himself-esque, Crash just had a shitty premise. Yes, I knew the premise before I paid to see it, I just didn’t realize until I was actually seeing it just how retarded the premise was. So yeah, I walked out on both. Continue reading
Category Archives: Uncategorized
We took in the Decatur Book Festival a few Saturdays ago. It was smoking Atlanta hot, and therefore pretty much misery-inducing, ‘specially when you factor in that we were ferrying around 3 kids under 8. But the day started off nice enough (before the heat). Somehow we’ve lucked out, found a way to live on a beautiful shade-covered street just outside the ATLanta city limits, but still only a minutes-walk away from public transportation and all that lies on the other side of a $2 bus fare.
By the time we arrived at the Downtown Decatur location, the kids were already pissy, what with it being smoking hot and whatnot. It was too hot for anything other than icecream and maybe swimming, neither of which was at our immediate disposal. But I had my copy of Severance, and was determined to follow through on my hours-old dream of having it signed by the singular talent that is Robert Olen Butler.
So we got to the high school where he was reading, and I went in to the auditorium where Butler was already reading. Kara hung back in the hall, bless her heart, so that the aforementioned 3 under-8 kids could be attended to without disrupting Mr. Butler. He was reading from his latest novel. It was way, way different from Severance. I was kind of lost. But the prose seemed good, for what that’s worth. And, as I do anytime I find myself in the presence of other writers, I began to compare myself to him. And, of course, found myself lacking in most every way. Especially when he finished reading and it was time for the Q & A. He was so self-assured, so convinced of his very RIGHT to be on that stage, admired by the 1 or 2 hundred people in fawning attendance. And he actually mentioned how, just as it says on his wikipedia page, he considers himself a “literary chameleon”, who never wants to write the same sort of book twice. But surely he hadn’t been responsible for writing his own Wiki page, right? I mean, Big Time authors (or Big Time Anythings, for that matter) don’t have to spend time on such banal things as Wikipedia entries. They have biographers and rabid fans to do that for them, no?
Well, screw it, I thought afterward, while we waited in line for ROB to sign my copy of his book about 60+ people who have been decapitated and what must have been going through each of these severed heads as its last moments of consciousness slipped away. For every Spielberg there’s an Ed Wood or maybe, if we’re being slightly more generous, McG. Hell, even millionaire, omni-present author Steven King has gone on record calling himself something like “The burger and fries of American literature.” But I can’t be that either as long as I’m writing about truly fucked up family shit and not killer clowns terrorizing generations of children. So here I am, these few years into my pro writing life, still not knowing where I fit in. But I do know this, dear readers: both Robert Olen Butler and myself like the smell of ink on paper, of musty books found in the back of old book shops (imagine that–an old book shop–a relic of pre-internet times, endangered as hell if anything ever was). He even wrote as much for me in the front of Severance. And while that won’t do shit for my as-yet non-existent Wikipedia page, at least I can go to sleep a little easier knowing that both the great Robert Olen Butler and myself both like taking a good whiff of a book every now and then. (Immortality, here we come!)
Yes, it is up for argument, of course. But I know what i hate, and for these albums, there was nothing to hate on, save a stray throw-away track here or there. That’s pretty much how I determined which albums to include and which to leave off: did the WHOLE product deliver? I didn’t limit myself to numbers, as in only 2 for each year, but instead just went with albums I could not leave off unless some Strokes hater held a gun to my head. It’s complete coincidence that I ended up with the nice, sort-of-round number of 25.
This list is not exhaustive, I’m sure people will mention a few that I’ll kick myself for forgetting while I was making this. Others will mention albums I wish I could forget, such as anything by TV On the Radio, a band that I cannot for the life of me understand why it is so well-regarded. One last heads up: don’t bother offering any Dave Matthews or John Mayer suggestions. They have, at best, 3 or 4 good songs between them, definitely not enough for placement on such hallowed ground.
This album is full of jangly guitars and soaring vocals bellowing beautiful lyrics–it always makes me remember the ocean and the beginning of my marriage. All good memories.
Fave tracks: One, Tearing in My Heart
Damn, gotta say, when this came out it seemed like Chris Martin and company actually had a chance of giving Radiohead a run for the money in the art-rock circuit (that is a circuit, right?). But then all their albums sounded exactly the same. Not saying they didn’t have good songs on other albums, but come on: most of it sounds exactly the same–for example, one single song on Viva la Vida, their latest, has been the subject of upwards of 5 different plagiarism lawsuits by artists ranging from Cat Stevens to Steve Vai. Regardless, Parachutes was a beauty when it came out, and when you factor in the sweet memories that go along with it for me, it’s only gold.
Fave Tracks: Trouble, We Never Change
It could be argued that this album signaled the death knell of what many hip hop purists (such as yours truly) consider to be “true” hip hop. Yes, we are elitist bastards. But without getting into arguments about the greatness (or lack of greatness) of Lil Wayne and Chamillionaire, anyone can at least appreciate the cementing of Ghostface’s status as the best rapper to emerge from Wutang Clan. I mean, have you heard Iron Man? And then he follows up with this a few years later. BEASTLY! Listen up. This was as good as it was going to get for many, many years (one could argue).
Fave Tracks: Buck 50, Wu Banga 101
The first of two Radiohead albums on this list, Amnesiac constantly ended up in my regular rotation during the glorious “Aughts.” It is possibly one of the most accessible ‘Head albums, surpassed perhaps by only 2008′s In Rainbows in terms of listenability.
Fave tracks: Pyramid Song, Knives Out
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard this introduction to The White Stripes, and how many albums can you say that about? It blew my freaking mind. Jack White entered the realm of genius for me with his fusion of old blues and modern rock. There is still no better stimulant on the market for getting a day started off than this banger.
Fave Tracks: Hotel Yorba, The Union Forever
Here we have the controversial British version of the cover for this first Strokes album, which was of course not available in the more prudish U.S. But with or without that art, it was still a revelation, and came out the gate with more buzz than a thousand beehives. Backlash followed, of course, but regardless of whether Julian Casablancas can actually sing or that his voice was doctored with various studio trappings to make him sound better (a charge I don’t buy after hearing their later efforts), this album along with White Blood Cells is a killer on every level.
Fave Tracks: Someday, Hard To Explain
There are some incredibly beautiful tracks on this album. Bjork is from another planet. Her voice itself is poetry. I love her.
Fave Tracks: Hidden Place, Pagan Poetry
The first of three albums by Neko Case, this album showcases her voice in a way that makes the term alt-country not sound completely stupid. For whatever reason, I am reminded of the Michael Scott quote in the TV show “The Office,” when he says, “ You don’t call retarded people retards. It’s bad taste. You call your friends retards when they’re acting retarded.”
Fave Tracks: Tightly, Pretty Girls
From crazed punk beginnings to the masterpiece that was ’99′s The Soft Bulletin, this follow-up to that revelation of Wayne Coyne’s song-writing ability was a true window into this incredibly sensitive soul. And after meeting him in person (and basically forcing him to take a copy of my book), I can say that he is about as genuine a rock star who also happens to be a real person as any rock star has ever been. If that makes any sense.
Fave Tracks: Ego Trippin’ At the Gates of Hell, Do You Realize??
I first heard this Beck album while “working” as a DJ at UNC Greensboro’s 10 watt student-run radio station. It’s the first full-length Beck album that I know of that has him actually writing lyrics some sense can be made of—a real (wait for it…) sea change in his style. It is also heartbreaking, about his breakup from some model, I hear.
Fave Tracks: Little One, Lost Cause
This 3-piece, Karen O-fronted band is garage rock at its finest as far as I’m concerned. She’s so weird and rock-starry. I’d be afraid of her in real life. Which is just how she likes it, I’m sure. Just listen how she whispers “I’m rich, rich, rich rich rich. I’ll take you out boy.” F-ing hardcore, regardless of the tear sliding down her cheek in the “Maps” video.
Fave Tracks: Rich, Y Control
For me Ben Gibbard is sort of the poor man’s Thom Yorke, and a total bastard (he married my imaginary girlfriend, Zooey Deschanel). But with this album and his other project, The Postal Service, he pretty much cemented his place in the starry night of my soul or whatever. He writes some catchy shit. But I think an Amazon reviewer said it best: “If you’re an overblown emokid with a yen for the melodramatic, you should buy this CD. You may now stop reading.”
Fave Tracks: Lightness, Passenger Seat
This album is on here because I like it more OVERALL than their previous Aughts effort, 10,000 hz Legend. But to be fair, there are a couple of songs on that generally disliked album that are some of my favorite Air tracks, such as “How Does It Make You Feel” and “Vagabond.” But this record is definitely more cohesive and sets a great mood for being drunk/high/tired, so we’re going with this one. And for the record, it is WAY beter than 2007′s Pocket Symphony.
Fave Tracks: Run, Another Day
While this is not officially an album you can buy, since Danger Mouse never got the rights to any of the Beatles or Jay-Z tracks he used to make this groundbreaking album (which, for anyone living in a musical cave for the past ten years, is a mash-up of The Beatles’ “White Album” and Jay-Z’s “Black Album”), I would be remiss not to include it on this list. For better or worse, DM started the massive wave of mash-ups with this effort, and also got himself a pretty good paying gig as half of Gnarls Barkley. Plus, this shit just kicks. Whoda thunk it?
Fave Tracks: Encore, 99 Problems
I believe that, along with Death Cab, Dashboard Confessional, Bright Eyes and My Chemical Romance, My Morning Jacket helped create and nurture the wimpy mid-Aughts juggernaut that was known as Emo. But unlike Dashboard and Bright Eyes, they don’t totally suck. This is one of my favorite albums of all time. So, cheer up, Emo kid.
Fave Tracks: It Beats 4 U, Knot Comes Loose
Mark Everett is the frontman of EELS (or eels), and is probably, when I really consider it, the person I most relate to as far as “getting” exactly what he is talking about with the majority of his songs. This double album has songs on it that I absolutely hate (such as the co-penned with one of the guys from R.E.M. “Hey Man”), but since there are over 20 songs on offer here, there is definitely at least a full album’s worth of incredible compositions. My favorite memory associated with this record is painting my daughter’s bedroom in preparation for us to move into our first owned home. Tears me up just thinking about it.
Fave Tracks: In the Yard Behind the Church, I’m Going To Stop Pretending That I Didn’t Break Your Heart
Second Neko album on the list, and arguably her best ever. Her voice reminds me so much of Patsy Cline’s. She is a true artist, with seemingly little care about her “image” as far as whether or not she fits into the sterotypical chanteuse mold. She’s all about the voice. Example: her album “Blacklisted” was supposedly named that because while performing at Nasvhille’s famous Grand Ole Opry, she took off her shirt (I never heard if she was completely topless or just offended the genteel southern sensibility with her bra alone) and was banned for life. Totally punk, and what puts the “alt” in her country stylings, I can only suppose.
Fave Tracks: Star Witness, Dirty Knife
Along the Flaming Lips album that follows, this was the last album that my wife and I shared. Every time I hear the 3-part Crane Wife song the album is named after, it destroys me. In a good way. I’ll leave it there. Don’t want to make a complete fool out of myself, after all. Not drunk enough for that anyway. Give me a few hours. Perhaps that dragon will rear its head in the comments.
This album is the epitome of cool. And one of about 45 albums that Beck released in the Aughts. I’m still not sure if I’m being impartial enough regarding choosing this album over, say, Guero or Modern Guilt, but whatever. These year/decade-end lists are always subjective and come down to much more about what effected the listener personally more than something like whether the songs held complexity in their structures. This album came with a DVD of every song being lip-synched by Beck and his friends, and I would often put it in the DVD player and hit repeat on it over and over again. It was like having a bunch of tripping acid-freaks to keep me company through surely some of the strangest times in a lifetime of strange times.
Fave Tracks: Cellphone’s Dead, No Complaints
They played a free show in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park on May 21, 2006 in support of this album. It was amazing.
Fave Tracks: My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion/ Vein of Stars
As I said earlier in this post, this is probably the most easily listened to Radiohead album (which is most likely why it won or was nominated for more Grammys than any other from their amazing catalog, most notably OK Computer, which is (not so) arguably one of the greatest albums ever recorded). But this one is definitely right up there, and if nothing else serves to cement Radiohead’s place among the greatest bands to ever record together.Plus, they gave it away for free on the internet, and that’s totally kickass.
Fave Tracks: Nude, All I Need
Fuck this album. I can’t even remember why I have it on here, and it was easier to write this sentence than to screw up the formatting on this post by erasing it.
When I finally got up to NYC to meet my agent and publishing house handlers in January of this year, MGMT was still all the rage, and I therefore felt much less of a cultural disconnect than I had originally feared, ’cause I’d been on this bandwagon for a long time, based mainly on the fact that two hippie guys made up the band and had lyrics like, “I’ll move to Paris, shoot some heroin and fuck with the stars/ You’ll man the island and the cocaine and the elegant cars,” which totally runs contrary to their hippie guy image. Plus many of the songs on here an infinitely hummable, as my 9 yr. old daughter will happily testify.
Fave Tracks: Time To Pretend, Kids
I first heard Fleet Foxes when they appeared on SNL in January. They are from Seattle (how cliche…1991 called, it wants its premiere underground music scene back), but sound like they are Straight Outta Appalachia. Which is kind of disturbing to me, since this means that the two most well-known Appalachian-sounding artists are from the west coast (the other being Los Angeles’ Gillian Welch). But no matter. Listen to this record and know that what you are hearing is authentic bluegrass-tinged. Every time I hear it makes me yearn to go back to Kentucky, if Kentucky weren’t so littered with ignorant rednecks and memories of unbridled happiness that make everything now pale in comparison. And you just can’t live like that.
Fave Tracks: White Winter Hymnal, Blue Ridge Mountains
neko case—middle cyclone
I’ll be the first to admit that my exposure to much new music has been severely hampered this year, so it’s pretty anemic of me to only have one album listed for 2009, and to have the one album listed be by an artist that already has 2 other albums on this list. But this record is my favorite of Neko Case’s so far, and her insightful lyrics never cease to amaze me along with her incredible voice. Plus almost all the songs are about love (a first time for her), and the album ends with 28 minutes of frogs and crickets making night noises, which is a perfect way to fall asleep. So there’s that, too.
Fave Tracks: The Next Time You Say “Forever”, The Pharoahs
ARTIST OF THE DECADE:
I decided on this designation based solely on who had the most presence on the list. Radiohead, Flaming Lips and Beck came close, with two albums each on here, but in the end it wasn’t enough. Thanksfully I didn’t have to think much on it, since only one artist had three albums on my list, and that was, of course,
She’s incredible. Have I mentioned that yet? Watch this video, buy her albums, thank me later.
So here they are, in alphabetical order: my personal favorites that always inspire me to pick up the pen (the laptop) and get cracking again. It’s a subjective list, yes, so don’t be shy. Add your own picks to the comments, or just throw in your two cents on why this list is so complete and awesome. I tried to include videos of my favorite scenes from these films as opposed to just embedding the trailers, but often I was thwarted in this effort by the seemingly thousands of fan tributes made to certain films that almost always have scenes from the movies edited with overlapping songs by the likes of Nickelback and Lifehouse (I’m looking at you, Shakespeare In Love). Don’t be alarmed, I spared you that aggression, so don’t be afraid to watch the vids.
This film is, for me, a perfect representation of how difficult it is to try to make it (and fake it) in the writing industry. Celebrated screenwriter Charlie Kaufman took his plight—writing a screenplay adaptation of best-selling New Yorker columnist Susan Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief—and turned it into something all his own. In the process, he created not just a moving ‘adaptation’ of Orlean’s book, but also a moving tribute to the process of writing itself, complete with sell-out, pander-to-the-masses ending. I love this part of the film, where he decides that the only possible way to tackle the subject matter is to literally start at the beginning of time.
I really relate to this film, in that it is a biopic of sorts, focused on the higher aspirations of a seemingly run-of-the-mill ‘Joe Sixpack’ file clerk. By the time we meet Harvey Pekar, he has already found the fortune and fame he aspired to at the beginning of his unlikely comics writing career. That we know this in the beginning makes it easy to root for him as he is confronted with one setback after another. And this film made Letterman look douchey long before he announced to the world that he was an employee fucker. For whatever that’s worth.
Not to sound elitist or snobby, but I love *forcing* people to watch this film and see if they last past the first 20 minutes. Of all the great Coen Bros. movies, this stands out as the least accessible. And why not? It’s all about the process of writing to a market and trying to make your talents as a writer fit into a very limited, very specific mold. Who writing these days for any sort of significant scratch hasn’t felt these pressures? You are, after all, only as good as your last success. (See that old dude from Frazier portraying an F. Scott Fitzgerald clone to get the full effect of what ‘selling out’ truly entails).
Even completely disregarding the genius that is Philip Seymour Hoffmann in his portrayal of the lispy, lilty Truman Capote, one must acknowledge the powerful message this film delivers. Capote was one of the most celebrated writers of his time, and his novelization of the murder of a typical (read: Norman Rockwell depiction of) heartland American family catapulted him to literary stardom and single-handedly created a new genre of literature—narrative non-fiction. But the toll of inserting himself into the broken lives of the murdered family and that family’s death-sentenced murderers literally tore Capote apart. He never published another novel.
Dead Poets Society
This film is quite possibly the most influential movie I was exposed to in my young life (I was 15 when it was released in 1989). Yes, long before my self-imposed Robin Williams backlash (mine began long BEFORE the Good Will Hunting, so fuck you, you trendy fucks, lol), I wanted nothing more than to have a teacher of John Keating’s caliber. Not because I was enamored of poetry, necessarily, but because Williams’ portrayal of Keating was a picture of an adult who cared not just about the specific subject he was teaching, but also about the lives and families and career trajectories of his students. In short, this film took the tiny grain of sand that had been implanted in me when I was first assigned to read Whitman’s Song of Myself, and brought that little bastard into full bloom; after witnessing this movie, poetry and writing were, to me, nothing short of an immediate ticket out of the reality that had for so long held complete control over every aspect of my existence. This movie gave me a key to the lock, a free pass to a life that awaited me if only I took the initiative to make it happen.
My old friend Brandon first exposed me to this quintessentially ‘Hal Hartley’ Hal Hartley film. “You have to watch this, dude. You’re Simon!” he said, handing me a video tape. This was what, 2004? Anyway, we popped the thing into his VCR (yes, this form of viewing entertainment was considered “old school” and not just “backwards” in those days), and after watching a fast-forwarded preview of some piece-of-shit David Schwimmer movie (who the fuck decides how to market this garbage???), the movie immediately struck a chord with me. Like Simon in the film, I too had found internet success that led to some form of literary acceptance. Unlike me, Simon was universally heralded by Pulitzer and Nobel committees, as well as the general reading public (again, there was still such a thing as a ‘general reading public’ way back in ’97, when this film was made) and was able to afford a swanky uptown Manhattan apartment that effectively shielded him from the rest of the ‘chattering masses’, but there was enough of a correlation there for me to really get where Hartley was coming from with this picture. Basically it is about substance over style… and how the best of us maybe don’t find universal recognition and eventually have to commit accidental—yet justifiable—murder in order to fulfill our destinies. Or something.
I’m putting this movie on the list mainly because I have a pretty amusing story to tell about it: when I was first trying to find authors to blurb my novel back in late 2007, I figured out a way to contact Jerry Stahl, who is one of my lit heroes, and the author of what I consider the best memoir ever written regarding drug addiction, Permanent Midnight. Stahl had been a writer for shows such as ALF and Moonlighting back in the mid-late 80s, so the book is also about how he struggled with drug addiction while writing hit TV scripts (his story about withdrawing from smack and coke while on the ALF set is hair-raising). Anyway, I contacted Jerry Stahl and he read my book and gave me an awesome blurb (which ended up making it onto the front cover of futureproof). He also gave me his phone number and told me to call him. So I did. And I fucked up the conversation almost immediately. I told Jerry that I loved Permanent Midnight but that I thought Ben Stiller just wasn’t gritty enough or something to pull off the proper Jerry Stahl impersonation, “I mean, I like Stiller, don’t get me wrong,” I said to Jerry, “but he sucked in that movie.” This is, after all, an incredibly dark book, with some very funny shit in it, granted, but it was chosen for whatever reason to be one of the first vehicles to star Stiller and Owen Wilson. Just doesn’t do the book justice. Anyway, there was a pause on the line and Jerry Stahl sort of laughed and then said, “Yeah, Frank, well—he’s a friend of mine.” Sigh. I guess I find the story amusing, the one about me sticking my foot in my mouth the very first time—the very first minute—I meet my lit hero. Yeah. It’s pretty f-ing funny. SIGH.
Shakespeare in Love
I don’t know, every time I think about this movie, I wonder if it still holds up since its release and subsequent Best Picture Academy Award back in 1998. I can’t say if it would hold up or not, though, because I haven’t seen it since then. When I remember it, though, I think of it as being a great fictionalized story of a young Will Shakespeare falling in love with Gwyneth Paltrow when she was at the very pinnacle of her hotness (yes, even when she was dressed like a man) and hadn’t yet been ruined by Chris Martin of Coldplay. I also remember it being a great depiction of love and inspiration, and how something as powerful as love can really make some amazing things happen, writing-wise. Made me really miss the days when being smeared in quill ink was sexy.
I love this movie. It is, ostensibly, about wine appreciation and snobbishness, but there is so much more to it than that. If anything, it does have some great wine-snob smackdowns in it, but also relishes in alcoholism and the destruction of the soul at the hands of love, and of course the rebirth of the soul under better circumstances. It is about failure and acceptance and brilliant metaphors between wine aging and the way people get to a certain point in their lives before it all goes downhill from there. Also the second movie on this list to, perhaps coincidentally, star Paul Giamatti. Favorite quotes from the movie:
Miles: Well, the world doesnt give a shit what I have to
say. Im not necessary. I’m so insignificant I cant even kill
Jack: Miles, what the hell is that supposed to mean?
Miles: Come on, man. You know. Hemingway, Sexton, Plath,
Woolf. You cant kill yourself before youre even published.
Jack: What about the guy who wrote Confederacy of Dunces? He killed himself before he was published. Look how famous he is.
Stranger Than Fiction
For a Will Ferrell movie (his entry into the “top-dog comedian trying to stretch his acting chops by playing a ‘serious role’” genre), this movie sure has a lot of beautiful sentiments to it. Well—more serious than “I love lamp” anyway. The plot is fairly boilerplate: middle-aged guy is frittering away his life when he meets a beautiful rebel girl who changes the way he sees everything. The twist here though is that it turns out it’s too late for Ferrell’s IRS auditor to turn his life around and really try to suck the marrow out of it. He begins hearing his every action and thought narrated by a British woman’s voice, and during the course of this disconcerting narration he discovers he is going to die: “Little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death.” Also, it has Queen Latifah playing a publishing house stooge sent to keep the author working on her book so that she will make her submission deadline…which will also keep Ferrell on track to ….DIIIIIIIE!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Whole Wide World
Incidentally, the name of the song that Will Ferrell plays to Maggie Gyllenhall in the scene embedded above is by Wreckless Eric and is called…(wait for it…) “Whole Wide World”!!! How’s that for synchronicity??? Anyway, regardless, I cannot believe that one of my favorite films about writing is actually a movie starring Renee Zellweger because, as I have made pretty clear to anyone who has kept track, I cannot stand Renee Zellweger, especially after that whole Bridget Jones thing, when all the talking heads were all a-twitter (and this was pre-Twitter!) about how she had fatted up for the role, had actually weighed like 140!!!! I was just like, Jesus Christ, that’s the only time Renee Zellweger has even looked remotely attractive, with those giant teeth and half-closed eyes??? I mean, her teeth aren’t as big as Hillary Swank’s, granted, but they’re still….nevermind. Anyway, the guy from Full Metal Jacket who the drill Sergeant torments all the time, who then eventually kills the drill Sergeant before killing himself, portrays the creator of Conan the Barbarian back in the 1930s, Robert E. Howard. An overbearing mother and mental illness (possibly caused by the overbearing mother) pretty much chase the guy into a fantasy world where people like Arnold Schwarzennegger run the joint and people like Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket get to lose themselves in lusting, beautiful half-naked women. It’s a very touching story. I hope I don’t come across as making light of it. Renee Zellweger, despite having a smile that is about as fake-looking as the Jack Nicholson-era Joker, is actually really good in this movie. And when Pyle doesn’t stick with her in the end, instead opting to stay with his ailing mother, you start to wonder how many other genre-changing works of art have been created at the cost of their authors losing something significant and irreplaceable in their lives. Like love.
Starting now, I am getting back into blogging after a lengthy absense. This is my attempt to make sense of my life as it is now, and to hopefully create for both you, the reader, and myself, a logical, illustrative longview of my life so that I can effectively move forward with my writing career and my duties as a Humanist and a father to my remarkable children. Please take part if you have a minute. Feedback keeps me going. Let’s converse…..
I have been at a major crossroads concerning love and its place in life. I can safely say that I no longer “believe” in love. For as long as I can remember, I looked at love as this all-soothing salve, as though it could cure every last one of life’s ailments. And isn’t what we have been taught about love all growing up after all? Look at the movies and books and songs that we were not only exposed to, but encouraged to buy into when we were growing up. Love, to paraphrase (actually, directly quote) Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge, “is like oxygen, love is a many splendored thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love.” This clip from that film pretty much sums up what I now consider to be one of the biggest collective frauds in the history of mankind. (Yeah, I can’t believe I’m quoting this movie either, but it contributes to the larger point and is therefore necessary).
Lies! All lies!!!
So do any of you still buy this take on love? Yes, by the end of the film we see that regardless of the fact that Christian was able to break into Satine’s once-cold heart, he still loses her (to TB, mind you, so although their love ends up doomed, it is through no fault of their own). But what about the reality so many of us live? What about the divorces, the broken homes? Do any of you still believe that love as we were brought up to believe in it can still actually be real? Because I’m thinking now that love is really nothing more than an excuse to exchange meaningless vows on a symbolic altar, vows that really aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. Because the reality is that marriage is something that is about as sacred as your latest cup of coffee these days. I have decided that the old way of doing marriage, the way that so many find despicable now, was the only logical reason to even indulge in such a thing as marriage: families had their children marry as a way of increasing both families’ economic standing. It was nothing more than a business transaction. This is scoffed at now, but why? Now that the hydra that is love has been jammed into the equation (thanks Romeo and Juliet), you have children growing up devastated that their parents have separated and looking at divorce (after years of therapy) as just another ‘normal’ step in childhood. We prime our kids to get ready for heartbreak. It’s fucking sick, as far as I’m concerned, and makes me sad that I ever could have believed in love or marriage in the first place.
It’s all down hill from here.
Last night I was watching one of those crime show documentaries about this guy who was a Wall Street trader who had a beautiful wife and two beautiful kids (aint that always the story?), but who decided to start robbing banks. Why did he do this? Because when the roof caved in on the economy the money dried up and suddenly he couldn’t afford to pay for the cars or the house or any of the other things his wife had long since taken for granted. His logical solution: rob banks to maintain the façade. By the time he was caught, he had robbed 10 banks. He got off relatively easy when they gave him a 9 year prison sentence, but what do you think happened to his marriage? Yep, she divorced him. Now, I’m not saying that she should have stayed in the marriage. Nine years is an awfully long time to wait for someone, especially when you aren’t getting any younger and you are for all intents and purposes in your prime. But think about the rationale: the guy said he did it because he couldn’t imagine having to lose his house, for his kids or wife to have to go through that loss. But surely he knew that the line of credit he was feloniously taking to maintain the illusion that everything was fine was only an incredibly short-termed stop-gap. I realized while watching this show that he knew his life was going to fall apart regardless of whether he robbed the banks or not. It was all about an excuse. If he stayed on the so-called ‘straight and narrow,’ and then he and his family lost everything material that they had come to expect, the pain of that rejection and yes, betrayal, would have been so much greater than the pain he has surely experienced since being incarcerated. With serial bank robbery under his belt, how can he feel betrayed by his wife leaving him? She deserves the right to leave right? And he can say he was only acting out of desperation to keep his family’s quality of life intact. But what is not said is that he handed his wife an excuse to leave on a silver platter. To quote another movie:
In Spike Jonze and Charlie Kauffman’s Adaptation, Meryl Streep’s character tells someone that if she had almost died because of her husband’s negligence she, too, would have gotten a divorce, “because I would have an excuse, a free pass.” So I ask you, dear reader, is this what the institution of marriage is now? Is this what so-called eternal love has been all along? Because I am now firmly in the admittedly jaded camp that pretty much lives on the belief that people just eat each other alive on a daily basis, all trying whatever it takes to get ahead. Yeah, it’s the stuff of great fiction and film and song, but at what cost?
Pain, destruction, betrayal: merely the stuff dreams are made of.
It has recently come to my attention that I have 35 so-called “author copies” of my novel, futureproof, just sitting in a box at my agent’s office. So I thought to myself, “Why don’t you sign all those copies and send them out to readers?” Fairly obvious thing to do, I guess.
But here’s the catch: I don’t want to send these books to just anyone. I want to send them to the people “pop” sociologist Malcolm Gladwell refers to as “mavens” and “connectors.” My novel is doing well three months out of the gate, but there is still a very large, untapped audience out there who don’t even know it exists. Alas, this is the plight of nearly every author. It is one thing to find a willing publisher, quite another to find the audience for your book once it’s actually unleashed upon the world. There are so many different choices for today’s entertainment consumer, it’s no surprise that there would be a struggle for any writer or musician or filmmaker to find all the people who would be truly interested in what he/she has to say. And artists cannot rely upon them to find us. There is just too much obliterating the senses to expect the miracle of overnight success.
So that’s where YOU come in, you mavens and connectors out there. I am looking for SEVEN (7) people to whom I will send five (5) copies of futureproof apiece. One copy will be for you to keep, the other four will be for you to give to other mavens and connectors. (For more in-depth description of just what, exactly, a maven and a connector are/do, you can look at Gladwell’s The Tipping Point wikipedia page, the next best thing to actually reading his incredible book). The overall hope for this futureproof give away is that 35 influential readers will get their hands on these books and spread an epidemic of futureproof fever. Every book has an audience, and this is my push to really find the audience who has been (unknowingly) waiting for a copy of this book to fall into their hands.
So…think you fit the bill? Can you help me find the readers who would really connect with my novel? If so, if you want to be one of the LUCKY SEVEN who has five copies of futureproof mailed directly to your door, email me at NFRANKDANIELS AT GMAIL DOT COM, or just leave a comment under this post. I’d like to have all 35 books mailed out by early next week, so contact me asap.
Oh, and for a good idea of what people are saying about futureproof, take a look at my Myspace page, right column. And thanks in advance for throwing your weight behind me.
Funny how connections are made. When I was in Nashville a few weeks ago, desperately trying to find a job, I, like many other job seekers in metropolitan areas, turned to craigslist.org for help. But instead I was greeted with a litany of scams. Frustrated, I Twittered something to the effect of “Is there one motherfucking real job offered on craigslist or is it all bullshit?” Thats when THE Craig (I’d say the most well-known Craig on earth aside from maybe Jenny Craig?) contacted me about rotting out these scammers trying to take hungry job-seekers for what little they have left.
I was impressed. I mean, this guy personally took it upon himself to try to make craigslist better for one single person. That, my friends, is customer service. So I asked Craig if he’d grant me a short interview. He agreed. And from thence forth N. Frank Daniels’ faith in mankind was at least temporarily restored. Here’s the interview:
Me: Craigslist is one of the most popular and well-known web-sites on the
planet. It is a place where people can buy and sell items, where one can
look for dates, but in these difficult economic times it is probably most
depended upon as a place where job-seekers turn to look for work. As with
any site as highly trafficked as craigslist, it is also seen as a mecca
for scammers and spammers. Can you give me a brief run-down as to what you do to try to cut down on these sorts of activities on the site?
Craig: I don’t think we’re seen as “mecca” for bad guys, since they learn that
we’re really good at helping cops locate bad guys. However, our first
line of defense is our use community, which flags away most of the bad
stuff. Over time, we’ll get even smarter about dealing with this.
Me: You’ve told me in previous emails that you put in 15 hour days personally trying to rid the site of as many of these scammers and spammers as you can. What is the process you use to try to rid the site of these manipulators? Do you find that this is an ever-increasing problem now that websites such as CNN and others are publishing stories of individuals looking for work on craigslist, thereby increasing the visibility even more?
Craig: Every day, I work around eight am to eleven pm irregularly, taking the hours off I need to get errands done, to relax, maybe see friends. for the
most part the bad stuff is brought to me attention using a variety of
tools including email and internal software tools. It’s not really
increasing; there are only so many bad guys out there.
Me: Any advice for us job-hunters as to how we can smell out these fraudulent job offers?
Craig: We have a lot of good advice at:
Me: Do you take pride in the fact that craigslist is playing such a major role in giving desperate job seekers a glimmer of hope in finding work? Does
this increased visibility on the help wanted section of craigslist change
the over-all vision you have for the site?
Craig: I feel really good about that for a moment, then it’s back to work, in
part, wondering how we can help more. No vision, just, how do we do
Thanks for taking the time, Craig. Again, I appreciate your help with this. Just the fact that you have taken the initiative to personally answer my emails says volumes about you as a buinessman and a person.
The woman above singing into an old hairbrush has completely changed the way I look at everything. Now, look, I know I am no stranger to hyperbole, but the performance this woman gave two days ago on the British show “Britain’s Got Talent” is nothing short of incredible.
Susan Boyle is her name. She lives alone with a cat, has never married, has never even been kissed, and be honest, she looks like the most easily ignorable person you’ve ever met.
But watch this fucking video. Watch the way the three judges, including Simon Cowell, completely disregard her, how the entire audience laughs at her, and then how she literally moves them to tears.
I don’t like showtunes. I HATE American Idol. I generally hate musicals. But she sings the song from Les Miserables “I Dreamed A Dream” and it FLOORED me. I was literally crying, so fucking enraptured. Read the lyrics:
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame
And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”
She tells Simon that she has not made it as a singer because “I’ve never been given the chance before.” The words to the song testify to what kind of life this 47 year old woman might have lived. Now, because of one chance, one MOMENT, she is inspiring millions.
I’m just…so thankful for every minute of this life. And the beauty and inspiration that can come from places you would have never thought to look.
P.S. Watch Simon Cowell’s look of bliss at 4:04 in the video. His chin is in his hands and he literally sighs. Just incredible.