Thursday, July 30, 2009


You never see the mourners at your grave.
You will not know who wept or was a rock,
Who broke to smithereens, who acted brave,
Who took it calmly or went into shock.
Where will you be? Between the moment when
You fall asleep and when you’re chanticleered.
It’s only once you do wake up again
That you come back from where you disappeared.
So if there is no retroactive waking,
Just a drift off with no hope of recall,
There will not even be a trip you’re taking.
There will not even be a you at all.
Just thought unthinking with a breath unpuffed
To light where light goes when a candle’s snuffed.
copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More evidence that no one is editing the New York Times

From the 7/24/09 article The Tucker That Time Forgot:

Surviving Tuckers are worth amounts approaching, and in some cases, exceeding $1 million.

Now the way I was taught punctuation, the subordinate clause between two sets of commas was always thought of as an island –- a completely separate phrase which could be lifted out of the sentence without leaving any damage behind. But when you remove the subordinate clause from the sentence above, you’re left with this:

Surviving Tuckers are worth amounts approaching exceeding $1 million.

Which means the correct punctuation should be this:

Surviving Tuckers are worth amounts approaching, and in some cases exceeding, $1 million.

And what's even more annoying? Somebody got PAID to write that. Don't get me started. Especially since I just saw In The Loop, and have all these new curses I want to try out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weekend Update: Birthday Edition

My moll. I think I'll keep her.

My Out Of Office e-mail. I am off celebrating my birthday by waking up late, turning around twice, watching the sun set, and saying "Where did the fracking time go?" Something that never happens when I'm stuck in the office. Matthew (young at heart) Wells

My Alcohol Total. Twelve pints of Guinness. Three shots of Jameson's. One Irish car bomb. Starting time: 5:30PM. Finish time: 3:30 AM. Woke up next morning: 8:30. Saw 11:25 showing of In The Loop.

My review. Five minutes into In The Loop, the main character reacts to a woman saying the word "purview" by asking her if she's in a fucking Jane Austen Regency fucking novel with her fucking purviews, so why doesn't she just take her fucking lacy pinafores into a fucking coach and four to Bingley Fucking Hall for fuck's sake? And that's pretty much the movie right there, folks, so if you didn't fucking laugh at that, then you're not going to laugh at the next 90 minutes of profane invective, political doubletalk, or the best-ever explanation of the horrors of war that is at one and the same time totally hilarious and totally British ("It's like France." I'm still laughing.) The plot is a clever excuse upon which to hang a ton of dirty verbal laundry; it's like a cross between Ben Jonson and Peter Barnes, where the worst of human venality, mendacity and profanity are all on display in a modern Bartholomew Fair of fucking stupidity in action. Towards the end the writers seem to be ticking off scenes they haven't done yet ("Hey--Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini haven't cursed at each other at all yet--let's have them do it here!") but like I say, if you love insult humor, this is your movie. It is the filmic embodiment of Warren Ellis' observation in Crecy that, to the British, the C-word isn't profanity. It's punctuation.

My double-take at the New York Times.

I mean what else would they honor him as: an ABC cameraman? An NBC intern? An FBI informer? Jesus, Times -- get an editor.

My bowling score. Let's just say it was less than my age. Unlike my waist size after all those beers.

My God, what's the world coming to? Hey kids -- comics!!!!

But not just any comics. Oh no--this is a website totally devoted to comic book characters getting kicked in the crotch.

And you'd know that because . . . ?

But as Ava reminds me (and speaking of Warren Ellis): when it comes to crotch-kicks? This one takes the cock cake:

Friday, July 24, 2009

The All-Purpose 26-And-Over Birthday Poem

Another evening brings the dawn,
Another year has come and gone,
And once again, it must be said:
When Keats was your age, he was dead.

Another birthday cake appears –
The sugared tombstone of your years;
If you have tears, let them be shed:
When Keats was your age, he was dead.

When candle flickers that you see
Remind you of mortality,
Let this thought comfort you instead:
When Keats was your age, he was dead.

Youth is a punishable crime
For which we’re sentenced to serve time.
All clocks run down, all lights turn red:
When Keats was your age, he was dead.

What does the future hold in store?
A lot of loss, and not much more.
You can’t escape your destiny:
Like Keats, your fate is RIP.

Try not to dwell on what will come –
How tooth gives way to empty gum –
How Life’s a tease who takes, in scores,
From boys like Keats a life like yours.

They say that Beauty and not Youth
Is all ye need to know of Truth.
Keats said as much in words of thunder –
But hell, his ass is six feet under.

These days, his couplet gets a laugh –
We’ve grown more cynical by half,
And everything we used to prize,
Like Keats, is less than meets the eyes.

Beauty, like hair, is gone or gray;
Youth but a fire that’s blown away;
And Truth? It’s now Deception’s slave,
And speaks, like Keats does, from the grave,

Declaring life is here and now,
The prelude to an awkward bow –
A curtain call we all must make
Like Shelley, Byron, Keats and Blake.

So if, with all we do or know,
Our names are writ on H2O,
Then why not laugh and celebrate
Until (like Keats) we end up Late?

Let each year add rings to our trunks.
Let moderation be for monks.
Let’s go to bed at crack of dawn
And nevermore be fortune’s pawn

And fall in love with hearts of flame
And brand each morning with our name
And rise above our life’s defeats
And live past death, just like John Keats.

Copyright 2009 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, July 23, 2009

War Movies 2: The Children of Pinter and PlayStation

Today’s extra-credit essay question: describe a movie to someone who’s never seen it in such a way that you do not undermine the experience of watching it, an experience which is designed to make the viewer discover what the movie is really about. This is tough. We’re not talking about revealing the kicker at the end, like the Zardoz Reveal or the Soylent Green Solution; we’re talking about the steps in the middle, where you follow a story from a perfectly reasonable opening and slowly realize that what you have just been told is completely different from what is really going on. The only equivalent I can think of is the novel The Remains Of The Day, and the reason the novel works (and the film doesn't) is because the eminently reliable narrator is totally blind to one specific thing which, when it gets revealed, hits the reader with just as much force as it does the character. Revealing that moment to anyone who has not read the book is like saying “They all did it” before handing someone a copy of Murder On The Orient Express. But like I say, it’s not about revealing the solution –- it’s about depriving the passenger in the car from realizing that he’s not in a Jaguar in the Back Bay during morning rush hour, he’s in a Jeep in Baghdad during a mortar attack. And yes, I’m talking around the point because (a) the more I describe The Sky Crawlers, the less you’ll experience what I did when watching it cold; and (b) you always use as many words as possible in an extra-credit essay answer, it’s the law.

Basics first. Sky Crawlers is a sometimes jarring mix of computer-generated animation and traditional line drawing, which appears to be about a bunch of children who fly modified propeller-driven fighters in battle for a corporation called Rostock, which is (perpetually?) at war with another corporation called Lautern. There are mysteries right from the beginning: why are they speaking English when they fight? Why do their helmets have English call names? Why are they all like 12? The first two you have to figure out for yourself, but the third question actually has an answer: they’re 12 because they’re Kildren. And what are Kildren? The first time you hear the word it’s 20 minutes into the movie, and you don’t find out what it means till 90 minutes in, but since it doesn’t spoil what’s really going on, it doesn’t hurt to know that Kildren are an artificially bred race of children who will do two things: never grow old, and fight in the Rostock/Lautern War till they’re shot down.

So on one level it’s a gorgeously animated sci-fi version of Dawn Patrol, with its own Red Baron in the form of The Teacher, Lautern’s deadly ace flyer who also happens to be the only adult in the air. But don’t expect dogfights and bombing sorties every five minutes; this is one war movie that is more Antonioni than it is Aldrich, with a lot of close-ups and silences, and a deliberate focus on down time rather than flying time. And yes, there were three times as many scenes on the ground as there were in the air in Dawn Patrol, but in Sky Crawlers there’s a detachment and an unhurried pacing that reminded me stylistically of L’Avventura and L’Eclisse.

There’s also a mystery, a mystery which is the central plot, the thing around which the propellers of incident and action spin. It's a simple question, really. The main character, Yuichi Konnami, asks it almost immediately: what happened to the kid I’m replacing? I’m flying his plane, so he couldn’t have been shot down. So what happened to him? His questions are either evaded or ignored, but he keeps at it, and one of the great things about the film is that, just about the same time Konnami figures out what's going on, you do as well.

Not to give anything away, but because of its focus on the past, there's a point where the film turns into a Pinter play, where it’s not about what’s happening now because what's happening now is incomprehensible unless you know what happened before, or what’s going on underneath the surface. In Pinter, the present is a moment in time stretched out between a dark past and a futile future. Same thing in Sky Crawlers. As one of the characters says, “Why bother growing old when you know you’re going to die?” Which means one thing when you see this movie the first time, and something totally different when you watch it again.

"I'll hold you to it."

And I do recommend watching it again, because it wasn’t until I saw The Sky Crawlers for the second time that I realized how subtle it is. Greetings that were straightforward were revealed to be ambiguous. Close-ups and reaction shots that were confusing became totally motivated. Remarks and turns of phrase that were random or casual open up like trap doors: “Oh – THAT’S why they said it that way.” And the concept itself – ageless kids fighting against each other as corporate employees – became a comment on the whole computer game experience. Because who else plays a first-person shooter fighter-pilot game but kids who can’t grow up?

It's one of the most haunting movies I've seen in a long time, something that's stayed with me a long time after I've watched and re-watched it. It's beautiful to look at. (Did I mention the gorgeous animation?) And if you do check it out, don't forget to watch through the credits for a bump at the end that will have you telling yourself "How cynical" and "How wonderful" at the same time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Baked Screenplay

Don’t get me wrong. This is an engrossing movie -- there’s an “Oh shit this is going to be bad” sense of dread and expectation that builds right from the beginning, like the tightness in the air just before a storm breaks. But when it does break (no spoilers), you get one victim (okay, yeah, a big one), a lot of architectural damage (Look! I’m evil! I’m kicking dinner plates!), and a moment of unity in the face of tragedy which would be a lot more moving if the tragedy felt more devastating. (Spoiler alert: boy, do I miss Richard Harris.) I mean, if I was Mordred and I got someone to sneak me into Camelot, I would not just go after King Arthur -- I’d make sure Lancelot, Gawain, Galahad, Tristram and, oh, Gareth (because I always wanted to be Gareth) took a long dirt nap. But then, the Hogwarts equivalent of Mordred doesn’t even have face time in this film; it’s just Agravain and Morgana and a Melligrance or two, which (along with a dead giant spider and some pretty glaring Gandalf and Gollum echoes) makes this series entry feel more like The Two Towers than The Harry Ultimatum. The mystery in the title feels like a throwaway, the jump from season to season is even more jarring than usual (it's always bad when on-screen characters mention the season as part of casual dialogue), and, I'm sorry, but all frakking hell broke loose at the end of the last movie. It's like Pearl Harbor happened, and then everybody goes back to Sunday dinner, instead of mobilizing the troops. Which, I know, get mobilized in the finale, but still.

To the film's (and the actors') credit, you don't feel like the movie is marking time while you're watching it. And it does have a lot of fun stuff. The young love subplots are just light enough, and serious enough, to complement the tension. The kid playing Agravain Malfoy looks and acts like a young Jonathan Pryce, Daniel Radcliffe does a delightful drunk bit when he’s high on liquid luck, and even though I saw the movie on Saturday morning, Alan Rickman is still pausing between a couple of words. And one cannot overstate the cumulative effect of following and continuing to see the three main actors (and a lot of minor actors) literally grow up before one's eyes. As a critic mentioned in a review, it's like watching 17-Up with wands and broomsticks. Plus, there’s the final two movies to look forward to, which will actually come out in the next two years. During which, hopefully, Harry gets to actually act like The Chosen One, instead of reminding everybody he is now and then, in case we forget.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Crap that would never have happened on a Walter Cronkite broadcast

From Alessandra Stanley's article on the death of Walter Cronkite:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to a news organization for which Walter Cronkite worked. At the time, it was called United Press, not United Press International. The earlier version also misstated the date of the first moon landing; it was July 20, 1969, not July 26. And it misspelled Telstar.

And she's lucky it didn't misspell Cronkite.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shocked, Shocked

The never-ending burden of living up to his first name. Old Dick Head thought he was above the law when he was Vice President? Why am I not surprised? And wait -- what movie is that from again? Oh, yeah; right:

In a related story, USA Today is running a contest that offers a $1,000,000 cash prize to anyone who can find a picture of Cheney when he isn’t fucking smirking.

"You lose."

I'd be biased about a show that got good reviews too. In an effort to devalue an awards ceremony that has already debased itself by French-kissing the ass of Hollywood, the theatre producers who make up the Tony Awards Committee have decided to disappear the so-called first night critics from the Tony voting pool, citing the fact that they are critically biased towards plays and musicals that might actually be good, instead of being financially biased toward plays and musicals that tourists are willing to shell out $200 a seat on. Like, for instance, theatre producers. The funniest "Duh" line in this article is the last one:

"I just don’t understand why they have changed the rules. It makes the Tony more like a marketing tool and less like an award for excellence.”

What makes this quote even more hilarious? It's from a press agent, a species of humanity which knows bullshit when it comes out of its mouth; so I'm guessing whoever got the quote from him forgot to include the sarcastic emoticon. Because the Tonys have always been about marketing, except for those odd awards that were actually given out based on quality. Like two people getting married after they've lived together for ten years, this just makes it official. So why am I not surprised? And wait -- what movie is that from again? Oh, yeah; right:

In a related story, the Broadway League has mandated that all current first-night critics will not be allowed to review a play or musical unless they agree to submit their reviews to the show's producers for approval.

Nobody can read what I write but me. Sarah Palin doesn't listen to anybody? And then blames everybody within earshot for misunderstanding what she says or putting words in her mouth? Why am I not surprised? And wait -- what movie is that from again? Oh, yeah; right:

In a related story, Palin has been hired as a commentator by Fox News. The network announced that, in accordance with current hiring policy, the fact that Pailin is a brunette and not a blonde makes her ineligible to report on the political news, and perfect to report financial news.

Monday, July 13, 2009

War Movies 1: My Fuse Is Cute

There's a famous quote by Robert E Lee about war, something he's supposed to have said at the Battle of Fredericksburg, on December 13, 1862. I've seen it in several forms, but the one that sticks in my mind is two sentences: "It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it." (The reason I like this version of the quote, as opposed to the single sentence versions out there, is because it needs the implied "otherwise" between the two sentences. Being who I am, I prefer it because it's the actor version, the one that needs to be interpreted, as opposed to the novel version, which spells out everything for you.) The quote itself, in all its versions, has always said something, not just about war, but about Lee's character -- that Lee was, like most professional soldiers, both horrified by and attracted to warfare. (I can understand. Given my day job, I am both horrified by and attracted to investment banking. And for pretty much the same reasons.)

There aren't many war movies out there that embody this quote. Mostly because they're movies about a particular war, and contain a layer of propaganda that is usually sandwiched somewhere between the plot and the characters, leaking into both of them like the fruit filling of a birthday cake. They answer the question Why We Fight by pointing to a particular enemy that deserves annihilation, or a set of values that need defending; and if there are characters who are born to the battlefield like gunslingers are born to the Wild West, then (just like those gunslingers) they are usually excluded from any post-war life, or treated as the exception, not the rule. Or the exceptional, like Lawrence of Arabia, which may not get all its facts right but certainly gets more truths right in its three hours than an entire shelf of war movies combined.

That's why it's such a pleasure to see The Hurt Locker, which confronts the Why We Fight issue head-on by saying "Because we fucking love it, okay?"

In case you haven't heard, Hurt Locker is the other movie with robots and explosions out in theatres right now, except that none of its robots talk and all of its explosions blow up real people instead of the Pyramids. (I can't wait for Transformers 3, where they destroy the moon. Without, of course, having it affect the tides. Because this is science fiction, remember.) It's about a team of soldiers tasked with disarming Improvised Explosive Devices in the streets of Iraq, and it's edge-of-your-seat stuff for three reasons: (1) the main characters are not played by stars, so all bets are off about who's going to make it to the end of the movie; (2) of the characters who are played by stars, 2 out of 3 of them don't even make it to the end of their scenes, never mind the film; and (3) the direction and camerawork get you so close to the action that there are times when you feel like you're just as much in danger as the soldiers are. One of whom, Jeremy Renner's Staff Sergeant William James, has definitely grown much too fond of the terrible.

Director Kathryn Bigelow has done the Howard Hawks thing with this film: it's not about the war, it's about guys doing a job, and how they rely on each other, what they expect from each other, and what they do for each other. There's an extended sniper sequence in the middle of nowhere in which our three main characters walk in with Label A on their helmets, and by the end of it we've seen B, C, D and E from all of them. And it's not trumpeted or glorified or underscored with anything (especially music, thank God); it's just shown. Which makes it real.

So if you're looking for real? This movie has it: real people, real stakes, real thrills. Go see it. And then we'll talk about how the breakfast cereal scene is the scariest moment of them all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Guide To Guys:And they all wind up drinking at the Isobar

Last week I had the following e-mail exchange with a friend of mine who recently moved down to DC.

ME:So did you go to the mall on the 4th? Or did you watch it from the safety of a bar/your living room/Maryland?
SG: Hey! Hope you had a great 4th! Were you in MA? I was actually with my sister and brother in-law in AC, first time for me.
ME: Yes, I was in Massachusetts, at the family beach cottage. It rained so much that it qualified as an audition for the part of Aquaman. Of the six days I was there, only one had more than 90 minutes of sunshine -- the 4th. I spent it on the beach getting roasted.
SG: Sorry to hear about the has been very funny this summer. :(
ME: It really has. If I didn't know any better, I would say it had something to do with the climate. But that's just silly.
SG: Tough to say...funny thing about weather (which everyone tends to forget) is that it is predictably unpredictable.
ME: It's even more unreliable than boys.
SG: Let's not get crazy now. Boys are wayyyyyyyy more unreliable. Wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy wayyyyyyyyyyyyy more.
ME: [because I have to have the last word, always] You're right, of course. If the weather was boys? We'd be in the middle of an ice age.

That got me to thinking. Webster's defines "weather" as "the physical manifestation of the atmosphere at a particular time and place, with regard to temperature, moisture, cloudiness, etc." In the ideal dictionary, wouldn't Webster's define "boy" as "the physical manifestation of maleness at a particular time and place, with regard to emotional and intellectual activity"?

Makes sense to me. And if it ever did come to pass, then we'd be seeing things like this in our online newspapers:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Public Nuisance

Where's Warren Oates when you really need him? That's what kept going through my head as I watched Public Enemies, the Michael Mann-makes-a-Michael-Mann movie which is nowhere near "a grave and beautiful work of art," unless you're talking about the fact that you can see the individual ear hairs of various actors as Mann's digital camera shoots from behind them during the bank robberies. And why was I missing Warren Oates? Because nobody told Johnny Depp that doing an Elvis accent and looking thoughtful was the way to play a character who probably never had a second thought in his entire life, let alone sounded like Elvis. All of which I could accept if it actually played well as an interpretation of John Dillinger as The Last Fun Outlaw, but Depp doesn't look like he's having any fun at all. And God knows stiff-backed ass-clenched Christian Bale would probably shoot fun between the eyes for looking at him funny. So what do you have at the heart of this movie about two antagonists on opposite sides of the law? Two actors who are so busy internalizing the Mannic subtext that they've forgotten that real people, especially real people who shoot guns at each other, are a little nuts. Not Baby Face Nelson nuts; just Warren Oates nuts. Not once does Depp get that Dillinger never smiled -- he smirked. And guys who smirk? They're in on a joke you don't get. That's who Dillinger was. That's what Warren Oates could do in his sleep. The guy who smirks is always a little dangerous. The only danger in this movie is in mistaking the incredible cinematography for something that is deeper than surface level visuals.

I know too much to live. As actual history, the movie is the usual worthless piece of digitally gorgeous Hollywood crap, the kind where you can see all the wonderful details and say to yourself “Wow, crap looks really good in high-def, doesn’t it?” In the first ten minutes of the movie, Johnny Depp’s Dillinger fires more machine gun bullets than he ever did in his entire life. The first time we see Melvin Purvis, it’s 1933 and he’s killing Pretty Boy Floyd, who actually died in October 1934, which means Purvis’ entire reputation in the movie is based on something that happened three months after Dillinger died. Purvis wasn’t in charge of the Chicago field office -- Sam Cowley was; he was also older than Purvis, not the young kid in this flick, and while he did die in the shoot-out with Baby Face Nelson, it happened in November 1934, not during the Little Bohemia fiasco. Speaking of which: in the movie there is no trace of the shitstorm that came down on Hoover et al for shooting three innocent men and letting Dillinger and company get away scot free. In this movie, you’d hardly know it was a problem. Ditto for the scene where Dillinger companionably throws his arm around the county prosecutor at the Crown Point jail. When he saw pictures of this, Hoover went ballistic, and you’d think, in a film where J Edgar is deliberately being portrayed as a petty tyrant, there’d be a nice little scene for Billy Crudup to chew some period scenery, but no.

All of this would be negligible (even the scenes at the end where moments from Manhattan Melodrama are shown out of sequence) if the movie had actually been well-written or interesting or exciting enough to make me forget the source material. (I mean hell -- I could write you a 20-page dissertation on how Last of the Mohicans is nothing like Fenimore Cooper's novel, but not once in all the times I have watched that film did I think "Wait--that's not the way it happened in Chapter 12!" because I was caught up in the story on-screen. Which didn't happen once here.) But no. I spent the entire movie thinking "That's not right," for reasons both historical and artistic. I mean Jeez -- there's a scene where one character gets captured and never takes her eyes off another character when she's walked out to a car, AND NO ONE ELSE ON THE STREET LOOKS WHERE SHE'S LOOKING. And the fact that it's referenced in a later scene plays more like a post-production cry of "No, we didn't really fuck up--we did it for a reason!" than "See how true to life we actually were in that shot?"

Mano a Manno. It's official: Michael Mann has deliberately stopped making films and is now dedicating himself to making Michael Mann movies, where the plot means nothing unless it illustrates the troubling duality of likable criminal and haunted lawman. Which means it's been constructed not as a story but as a collection of beats, like a drum and bass remix of a real movie. Characters don't act because they're driven to act or compelled to act; they act because that's their function in the schematic outline. Nowhere is this more evident than in poor Marion Cotillard's performance. At a time in cultural history where the screwball comic heroine was flexing her Myrna Loy muscles and swishing her Barbara Stanwyck skirt, all Depp's Dillinger has to do to do to get Cotillard's Billie Frechette is to order her around, and she follows him like a dog for the rest of the film. Because, y'know, nothing is more attractive to a woman than being told "You're with me" and "You're going to be with me because I say so." Cotillard's entire part in the movie consists of saying "Okay" thirteen different ways. She could have phoned it in, except that not everybody had a phone back in 1934.

So don't bother. Not even if you need the air conditioning. (And I'm the guy who broke down and went to see Kevin Costner's Wyatt Earp for the air conditioning.) Go see Up again. Or rent the Warren Oates Dillinger. Or you can do like I did, and throw on Last of the Mohicans, and harken back to a time when Michael Mann actually made movies.

Monday, July 6, 2009

This Week in the Celebrity Death Pool

Why are they all SMILING?

Today's ex-parrot: Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense under Johnson and Kennedy. You could go crazy counting all the articles that called him the architect of the Vietnam War, and lose count after 200 or so. All I know is, if this guy was an architect? Our foreign policy would be a collapsed skyscraper. (Oh; wait.)

McNamara is survived by his spiritual son, Donald Rumsfeld, who also belongs to The Church Of Waging War Like You're Running The Ford Motor Company, Except Without Unions. In McNamara's honor, the Pentagon will be holding a traditional Vietnam War Body Count Funeral on Thursday, which will consist of one grave for McNamara and 500 for all the dead bodies of Viet Cong soldiers which somehow vanished in the night.

And because (a) you might have missed it with all the Jacko wackness last week and (b) I can't think of Vietnam without remembering THIS asshole --

-- here's the newest selection from The Nixon Tapes, aka, The Gift That Keeps On Giving:

The tapes also include a phone call from February 1973 between Nixon and the evangelist Billy Graham, during which Mr. Graham complained that Jewish-American leaders were opposing efforts to promote evangelical Christianity, like Campus Crusade. The two men agreed that the Jewish leaders risked setting off anti-Semitic sentiment.

“What I really think is deep down in this country, there is a lot of anti-Semitism, and all this is going to do is stir it up,” Nixon said.

At another point he said: “It may be they have a death wish. You know that’s been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.”

(Extended excerpts here and you can listen to an MP3 here.)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vacation Day 2: If Only My Work Days Went By As Quickly

7/1. I wake up at 5 (because, y'know, my stupid body is a well-trained overweight machine designed with one purpose and one purpose only: to get me into work by 6:30AM no matter in what damaged condition I am when I get to sleep). It takes me 15 minutes to go back to sleep, after which I groggily wake up once every 30 minutes till approximately 7:15, when I stagger out of bed, say "Good morning" to my sister, who has been working online since 5ish herself, pour myself a cup of coffee, and sit down at the computer. Three hours later I have uploaded yesterday's blog entry and finished the one-act I started writing over the weekend.

The play is called I Know What Alex Would Say, which is a line from The Big Chill (“I know what Alex would say; he’d say ‘What’s for dessert?’”) Alex is the character who slits his wrists before the movie starts, and he’s dead at the start of this play too, which started out as a title and a single line description: “dead guy talks back during funeral to priest, friend, wife, mistress.” So did I wrote it because I went to a funeral three weeks ago? Oh yes, but that was only one of several reasons, which include (a) that funeral, (b) the fact that the Grim Reaper has been cleaning up in the Celebrity Dead Pool Sweepstakes lately, (c) my growing awareness that very soon now (as the universe counts time) my consciousness is going to snap off like a light switch, which means (d) I will have no say in how I am remembered and (e) no way to either correct the record or express my regrets, which only makes me more and more angry at (f) the overwhelming is-this-any-way-to-run-an-airline stupidity of the whole Death Thing. So instead of writing what I know, I wrote what I know I’ll never get a chance to say. And then tried my best to make it not-about-Matthew as it poured out of me.

(Just to give you an idea of how long it took: the outline and the first two scenes were drafted between 8 and 9 AM on Saturday morning in a Dunkin Donuts; they were typed up and printed out from 1:30 to 2:30, and revised from 4-5; the next three scenes were drafted between 8 and 11 Sunday morning in the Wall Street Starbucks, then typed and printed from 12 to 1; and those five scenes were rewritten on the train from New York to Boston Tuesday morning between 6 and 10 AM. The last scene was rewritten four different ways on Tuesday afternoon, from about 2 PM to 6 PM, and then one final time between 7:30 and 10:30 this morning.)

And my reward? The sun actually started coming out 20 minutes after I finished proofing the final draft. So I took my pale-ass self to the beach, plunked a chair down on a patch of sand, oiled myself up, and actually got 90 minutes of haze and actual sunshine . . .

. . . before the fog rolled in off the water, . . .

. . . the clouds blanketed the coast again, the thunder started to echo from the north, and the rain started to fall.

Which it is still doing. So I am spending the rest of the day working on Scarlet Woman, and watching the first season of Wyatt Earp.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


No, I'm not pregnant, okay? It's a notebook.

Vacation Day 2: The Other Fun Thing About The Beach

Vacation Day 1: The War of Fog

6/30. Warm and muggy when I wake up at 4:30 to catch the 6ish Acela to Massachusetts. I lay out sweatshirt and sweatpants before I take my shower, and totally forget to pack them before I leave. (Big frakking mistake.) On the way up to Massachusetts the sun is shining in a cloudless sky all the way up through Connecticut. Maybe the weather reports are wrong? No such luck. The second we cross over into Rhode Island clouds like a comforter fill the sky. A really thick, Martha Stewart comforter, too, not one of those K-Mart jobs that the sun can shine holes through without even trying. This cloud cover could protect you from a meteor shower. Asteroids would skip off it like a flat stone on a lake. And the temperature drops 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so that by the time we hit South Station, I feel like Joel Fleischman wearing his weekend-at-the-Hamptons whites in Cicely Alaska.

First thing I do when I get to Ocean Bluff is walk up to the beach. It's about noon, and it's low tide. This is the good news. The bad news is that between the fog and the cloud cover, the best color camera in the world can only take pictures that make everything look like tinted black and white shots:

And because the beach changes with every storm, and there were a couple of beauties in June, the sand that last year went all the way up to the sea wall is completely gone this year. In its place are the kind of rocks that would give Sisyphus a heart attack:

You need a Sherpa just to get from the stairs to the sand.

What does no sand and 15 to 20 feet of nothing but rocks mean for the tides? Well, at low tide, with anything less than a totally cloudless sky, because there is no section of the beach that is ever free from getting hit by the ocean, you can't really lay down a blanket because the sand will be wet throughout the day. And at high tide? You are home taking a shower, because the "beach" looks like this:

This is why I spend the first day of my mini-vacation sitting on a beach chair in the back yard, reading Mistborn and working on my fogburn.