Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Drawin' People Right's Hard. Here's a Case In Point.

I drew this two nights ago. It benefits from reduction, believe me. After I'd drawn it, I could tell there was something very wrong with it: the girl in the drawing and the girl in the photo were obviously two different people. So, last night, I returned to the drawing, erased her eyes (because that was the problem area) and redrew them. By doing so, other things got screwed up. Nothing so drastic as to make me think I'd drawn some new, only vaguely humanoid species, but enough to make me think I was never going to get the woman's face right. Anyway, I cleaned it up, changed her jawline, moved her nose a little to the left, lifted her smile, reshaded in places -- generally got it as close as I could to the photo, and this is the result. I know -- still two different people. Oh well. Practice makes perfect I guess. Just needs a serious tweaking, but I can't figure out where or how. Waah.
I could go on, but even I know this drawing isn't worth all of this deconstruction. So let's move on.

In other news: School of Filmmaking alumni Jody Hill (1999), who graduated, as I did, with a concentration in screenwriting, will have a film premiering at the Sundance film festival this year. It will be non-competition entry featured as a midnight screening -- a lot of big films have gotten their start as midnight screenings at Sundance (Blair Witch Project, Super Troopers, Hard 8, Haute Tension, etc.) and then gone on to either big business, or their filmmakers to important careers. So way to go, Jody. There is hope for all of us.

That's it for today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This Barely-Begun (And Likely Never-Finished) Graphic Novel Concerns A Young Woman Who Kills Her Company's Competitors For A Living

Briefly I'm posting this unfinished comic book page up. This is the first (and probably last) page of a graphic adaptation of my second novel -- I started the novel a few years back and then abandoned it because I still had my first novel to write. I started this graphic adaptation sometime in August or September and all I've done is this one page, which should tell you something about my overall pace of work. I can't include the entire page here because I drew it on that BlueLine regulation-size comic book paper and it won't fit on my 8"X 11"-centric scanner. I got most of it here though. I sketched out the next few pages last week, but it'll be a while before I get anything drawn up. Anyway, let me know what you think -- is it even clear what's going on in this page?

[Ed. note: the last frame that was cut off at the bottom is another drawing of the woman, this time with her eyes closed.]

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Viewing of Walk the Line Prompts A New and Probably Fleeting Interest in the Man in Black -- This Post is Both Scintillating and Explosive. Really.

Hello everybody. Hope everyone had an awesome Thanskgiving. I'm back after the longest hiatus in the long, long history of the Inanities. Yeah, I know. I'm as disappointed as you are.

Anyway, over the long weekend, I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as well as Walk the Line. Harry Potter was very good, though, while watching this movie, I was more aware of the storylines and moments the filmmakers cut out of Rowling's book than I had been during the previous three. Don't know if that's a good or bad thing, or if I just remembered this book better. I read an interview with Steve Cloves today. Cloves is the screenwriter who adapted the four books so far but opted out of adapting the next book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He apparently began to feel Potter-withdrawal symptoms because his life, suddenly, no longer revolved around a bunch of British kids named Harry, Ron and Hermione. So when he read the most recent book, Half-Blood Prince, he got excited about the story all over again and called Warner Bros. to ask if he could do the next one, and they said sure -- apparently they were happy to have two screenwriters working simultaneously on adapting Potter books because the studio and the whole production team are very aware that time is running out for the cast they have. They're trying to film the next two as close to back to back as possible so they don't have to recast, because if they do, Klove says -- well, take a look at the article. Blogger doesn't let me copy and paste right into the blog for whatever reason, so, you know.

Anyway, Walk the Line was very good. James Mangold did a great job -- he was smart enough to get out of the way of the story and let the actors do their thing and not clutter the film with showy camera angles and stylized editing. Joaquin Phoenix does a great job as Johnny Cash but he doesn't go exactly the way that Jamie Foxx did with Ray Charles -- Phoenix does more of a version of Cash -- sometimes he throws in certain Cashism's, like the sneer and the winks, but it never really feels like Phoenix is trying to channel Cash, and it works just fine for the movie, which is all that really matters. Though when it comes award time, the Academy may not give the Best Actor award to Joaquin -- they tend to like their depictions of real-life people to be as close to dead-on impersonations as the actors can get. Thus, the win for Jamie Foxx for Ray, the win for Ben Kingsley for Gandhi, and the nomination for Anthony Hopkins for Nixon (but surprisingly, no nomination for Jim Carrey's dead-on impersonation of Andy Kauffman -- maybe their apparent hatred of Jim Carrey trumps their love for impersonations. Hmmm) We'll see. Maybe the other dead-on impersonation will take Best Actor -- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote. I liked both performances in both movies.

Comparisons to Ray are inevitable but also in this case, entirely warranted. James Mangold doesn't seem particularly eager to distance his movie from that one, in either style or tone, and why should he? Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, like a lot of super-famous musicians, had similar trajectories. Walk the Line is very much like a white version of Ray. It had everything Ray had: dirt-poor rural upbringings, the death of a family member that scars them for the rest of their lives, womanizing, and drug abuse, but one thing Walk the Line does not have, is the long shadow of racism that pervaded almost every frame of Ray. That Walk doesn't have that pervasive tension isn't necessarily a detractor, I think. Is Walk the Line better than Ray? It's tighter than Ray structurally, but Walk doesn't feel as rich or as lively as Ray, and that may be in part because of the personalities involved -- Ray Charles was an exuberant on-stage personality, whereas Johnny Cash seemed to be more of a shy, reserved performer, but that's just from my own 28-year old perspective -- he was definitely not a musician of my generation. I wasn't really aware of Johnny Cash as anything more than a peripheral country musician who'd been famous since the time of the dinosaurs until he started to get some acclaim in the late nineties from "hip" modern music critics (like the guys at Rolling Stone) for his body of work. I guess everyone was starting to realize that Johnny Cash was getting old and so some reevaluation was in order -- to understand his place in music history and the Rock and Roll firmament. According to the mainstream rock critics, Johnny Cash was either becoming a crossover artist in his later years, or he already was and they were finally recognizing that fact, I don't remember. And then, a few years ago, there was the "Hurt" video, where Johnny Cash covered the song originally written and performed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. I don't know if Marc Romanek will make a better film in his life, but I kind of doubt it. Filmed after Cash had become gravely ill and before his wife, June Carter Cash, died, it's shocking and painfully honest. I think it probably helped get Walk the Line made.
The movie's kind of imbedded itself in my head since I saw it and I wanted to talk about it some. I downloaded some Cash songs in the past couple of days: "Walk the Line", "Folsom Prison Blues", "Ring of Fire". They're definitely in that country tradition of songs primarily interested in telling stories. His songs, at least those few songs I listed, aren't really to my taste, but they're good, I think -- I guess my interest in Johnny Cash isn't really fueled by a great love for his music, but rather because I admire him for appearing in Romanek's video in his condition (I believe he was then recovering from a debilitating stroke -- he looks markedly worse in the video than he does in the included photo of the elder Cash), and for recording "Hurt". Though the lyrics weren't his, he infused Reznor's rock-dirge with a gravitas Reznor never got close to. It's rare to find that musician who has something musically worthwhile to say all the way to the bitter end of their careers, but Cash appears to be one of them. I wished they'd touched on the video in some way in Walk the Line, but I'm guessing Mangold didn't want to let Romanek's work infringe on his own, no matter how apt it might have been. Anyway. If you haven't already, I would reccomend both Harry Potter and Walk the Line. More inanities tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Readers of the Inanities Say: "How Can We Miss You If You Never Leave?"

I'm going to take a brief, Thanksgiving-related hiatus from the Inanities. I'll be posting up on here again on Monday the 28th. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving. If you're driving, do it carefully. I know that no one who reads this blog is a bad driver, but that doesn't mean that there aren't bad drivers on the roads with you, going to and from grandma's house, so be vigilant. See ya'll in about a week.

Einstein, Time-Traveller, At the Moment of His Death

Here's something fun I found during my travels online. In order to make an image like the one you see here, click on the link and fill in your own stuff. They have other images you can use, like the Uncle Sam poster. Beneath "Wants You" you can write any brief thing you want. Goofy fun, and definitely a good time waster.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Monday's Inanity: Mamet, Blinky, and Napoleon Dynamite.

Ugh, it's Monday and it's been rainy and cold all day; the weatherpeople say it's supposed to keep up until tomorrow, so today turned out to be a great day to stay indoors and do laundry and vacuum all day, which is what I did. While I was folding laundry I watched David Mamet's House of Games for the first time. One of Peggy's fellow MBAs lent it to me after we got to talking about a Ricky Jay performance he'd seen in New York. Ricky Jay's pretty amazing -- he's probably the most accomplished sleight-of-hand man in the world, and he's steeped in all things related to confidence games. Scams. He's not a brilliant actor or anything, but he fits pretty good into a Mamet movie, which is probably why he's frequently featured in them. Anyway, House of Games (which is Mamet's directorial debut, which helps explains the film school thesis look to the thing) is a pretty good movie but it brings up all of those same "How in the hell can he get away with this stuff?" feelings I always have when I watch a Mamet movie. And by that I mean how is it people buy the crazy lines that come out of Mamet's character's mouths? The main character in House of Games actually says to another character, unironically, "Let's talk turkey." Totally straight face and she zips past it and starts saying her other lines like it's not actually worth stopping in the middle of the scene, turning to the guy behind the camera and asking, "You reallywant me to say that?" Any other movie you hear a clunker like that, you get walk outs (or Stop Button Pushes on the DVD Players in this case), but because it's Mamet, you're just supposed to go with the flow, and so you do. Good for him, I guess. He's carved out a niche for himself as the guy who's allowed to string any series of words together he wants, and have people like it. I'm one of those people. But still. I have these feelings of resentment.

Anyway, the image above is page one of a two-page comic I drew up in the last year or so. I don't much like the layout of the page, or the top three drawings very much, but I do like the bottom two drawings. I think they came out pretty good -- not too much inking, not too little. If I were so inclined, I would have liked to localize just the two bottom-most drawings and post only those, but I might as well give you the whole thing. Overall, though, page-wise, not so much. The horse looks retarded, for one, and it's a lot of page real estate to devote to a suspenseful stroll. This is what happens when you just start drawing comics without having anything written out beforehand. Comes out like this.

Also, before I sign off for the day, I wanted to mention this. If you hit the 'Next Blog' button at the top of this blog, usually you get seriously crappy blogs, but every now and again you get something pretty good, as I did with benerdwalkin's blog. He's a recent art school grad and does some really great stuff which he posts up on his blog. He also has links to a bunch of other art school grads who do great work. The image to the left is by an artist named Jeffrey Thompson. Here's the link. I thought this was a pretty great caricature of Jon Heder as Napoleon. A lot of the blogs linked to on Benerd Walkin's site feature good stuff -- I reccomend some browsin' if you get the chance. Anyway, that's all for now. More tomorrow.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Superman Returns Teaser Has Been Unleashed!

We've been getting some good teasers of late for next year's releases and today brings what may be the best of the lot. The teaser for Superman Returns. This thing is fantastic. I watched it four times -- the not what you'd expect John Williams score and the narration by Marlon Brando as Ja-Rel, really good, stirring stuff. I'm excited to see it. Click on 'full-screen' for the full effect, it doesn't take that long to download. If Warner Bros. keeps this up, not only will they have two renewed DC Comics franchises up and running with Batman and Superman, they'll have set the stage for that Batman Vs. Superman movie Wolfgang Petersen was once all set to direct. Allah knows there's plenty of material from the comics to draw from for that movie. Yeah, I know, I'm a dork. Anyway, check it out and post your responses in the comments. Have a good weekend, ya'll.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What Began As A Heads Up on the Recipient of the National Book Award for Fiction Becomes a Weird Rant About How Author Photos are No Good

The National Book Awards were handed out last night and William T. Vollmann won the fiction award for an 800+ page tome entitled Europe Central. I had never heard of this guy until the interview Bookslut did with him this month. It's an interesting interview -- in it he says he wrote not one, but two adaptations of his own books in 10-12 hours. He got 50K for his trouble from some movie studio. Not a bad day's work. Bastard. But what he says about his intentions behind writing Europe Central make his novel, now National Book Award-winning novel, sound well worth reading.

Until, that is, I read a few sample pages of the book on Amazon. To me, it reads like a very clever, very well-researched writing savant wrote them. Like a slightly less reader-friendly Neal Stephenson. Another writer who produces fiction of this type is David Foster Wallace. Also a genius, his stuff is, for me, very hard to get through, not because the writing is too dense or hard to comprehend, but because he, like Vollmann, seems to be showing off that genius-level writing ability, and maybe doing it without
meaning to. These guys toss off phrases and brilliant metaphors that would be the literary highlight of another writer's whole novel. I'm sure that readers of serious fiction out there who have no ambitions of writing themselves (all 28 of them) can consume fiction like Vollmann's and Wallace's, happily and without envy -- just not sure that I can. I think Europe Central is probably one of those books that I would like to have read, but one I'm hesitant to actually do the work of slogging through. It's me, not them.

The author himself, his appearance I mean, is also problematic. In this photo, he looks like the uber-nerd everyone went to high school with. But not the nerd who wishes he was popular, but the nerd who marched to the beat of their own drum because every other drum he'd ever heard was way too dumb for him to march to. Judging by this photo alone, I doubt I'd have a good time reading 850 pages by this guy. But that's just from this author's photo.

There's been talk from people who talk about such things, that author photos should be abolished. I'm beginning to agree with them. People who pick up a writer's book are able to make too many wrongheaded assumptions about the story based solely on the author's appearance.

Vollmann (to the left, pictured with the writer of The House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubois III. This is a photo of Vollmann getting his National Book Award last night) looks much less like a hardcase, nerd-asshole in this photo. Partly because he's older and partly because he's attempting a smile, I think. He doesn't even look like the same guy, really. It's just that if a photo of a person is truly opaque and very little of worth can be gleaned from them (or any photo really), what's the point of printing one up on the back flap of a book's dust jacket?

I don't know what I'm really arguing about. I think I went so far down this tangent just because that photo of Vollmann as a younger man was so offensive to me. Of course, if I ever had the opportunity, I would demand an author's photo on my book. But that's because, deep down, I'm super vain. All right. I'm done.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Has It Been a Hundred Years Already? The Return of Unproduced Horror Classic, Centenary (in Storyboard Form)

Briefly, I thought I'd post up some storyboards. I got a lot of them and it's fun to post drawings. These aren't just ANY storyboards, mind you, but the very first storyboards I did after graduating from film school. Pictured to the left are a series of nine storyboards taken from my own original screenplay, Centenary. My goal in drawing these was to have something to send to my contact at the storyboard agency in Los Angeles. I used the spiffy format I learned from the art director on the first X-Men (he visited the school and did a talk for the production design students) to show I was savvy to the ins and out of the "Biz" and totally worth representing.

Anyway. Some of you are well-acquainted with ol' Centenary, many better acquainted than you'd like, so the following scene MAY seem familiar, albeit in a remote, deja-vu kind of way rather than an "Oh yeah! I remember this! This was AWESOME!" kind of way. Anyway, onto a needless play-by-play of the boards themselves.

So, first page, board 1: We have a very Brolin-esque John Fisher holding onto the giant-est cell phone on the market with Go Go Gadget Fingers. Second board: Kathy Powell looking distressed. Third board: totally awesome. We see the monster (who shows up every 100 years, thus the title) frickin' galloping after John.

Second page, first board: a sweet OTS of the monster (which I ripped off from Spawn for the purposes of these boards) chasing after John Fisher who is, coincidentally, driving my old Chevy S10. Second frame: giant-eyed John finally sees. Third frame: monster bearing down Jurassic Park-style.

Third page, first board: John, terrified out of his mind, cranks the wheel hard right into his driveway. Second board: Chevy S10 glamour-shot with monster incidentally in frame. I was happy to put some camera movement in this sequence to show that I could do that, too. Last frame: the monster (or Wolverine, whichever) stabs the bed of the truck with his scythe claws.

Even after doing all the boards I did eventually do in LA, these nine are still my favorite. (Some of the boards I did for Brian Mandle and BOC's feature-pitch are probably my second favorite). Maybe the reason I like these storyboards so much is that they're from something I imagined and were not created in service to some hackneyed, done-to-death music video, or creatively bankrupt, poorly-imagined feature or short film. I don't know. Anyway, there they are, my Centenary storyboards. Some other time, maybe I'll post up the boards I did from my Mr. Blinky script that I also submitted to Stacy at Storyboards, Inc. They're not as fun as these, but they're not bad either. All right, I'm out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Warning: Post May Cause Extreme Drowsiness. Marginally Interesting Insults Aimed at a Bad Book Contained Herein. Read At Your Own Risk

I'm up in Lawrenceville again today. My mom's at a quilt guild meeting and I'm here to take the dogs out should any prospective buyers drop by to look at their house. No one yet. I finished watching the third season of The West Wing this morning and when mom called to ask me to house and dogsit, I decided that to do at least ONE productive thing with this day, I would bring a book I ordered used off of Amazon called Blind Vengeance: The Roy Moody Mail Bomb Murders (pictured to the left -- I'll bet you'll never guess where I got the image from), and I would start reading it. The reason I bought it in the first place is because there's a pipe-bomb explosion in my still-in-progress-novel, and I wanted to see how the pipe-bomb murder was investigated in real life. It's written by a Pulitzer-prize winning jounalist so I thought, at the very least, it would be well-written.

Not so. The author, Ray Jenkins, is indeed a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, but he won the award in 1954 while working for a very small Georgia newspaper. He wrote the book almost forty years later in 1992. Judging by Jenkins's level of writing ability exhibited in this book, he was either too old to write in '92 having lost his writing-mojo from when he was a younger man, or, and I think this may be the case, they gave them the Pulitzer not because Jenkins' story was well-written, but because a conservative, bigoted newspaper in the conservative, bigoted Southern state of Georgia had published a series of stories about an injustice perpetrated against a black person by a white person. Because this was unusual and progressive, the award was political. This was my conclusion after slogging through a 25-page introduction that had nothing to do with Roy Moody, the mail bomb murders, or any of the victims, but everything to do with Ray Jenkins himself. Jenkins doesn't actually get to the bombing until 3/4 of the way through the book. The investigation itself is largely ancillary. Jenkins's point in writing this book seems to be to tell the story absolutely no one was even slightly curious to hear: how the stories of the bomber and his two victims neatly describe the opposing sides on the race issue in the South during the Civil Rights era. Yawn. I guess I should have known better. Judging by title, which people should obviously never do with a non-fiction work, I thought the book might have had something to do with Roy Moody and his mail bomb murders. Oh well. I'm the dummy.

The dogs are now growling for me to take them out, so I'm gonna.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The WenDonald's King: The Virgil to Your Dante For a Nightmarish Journey Through the 9th Circle of Fast Food Hell

I just wanted to throw something up here that I drew tonight. Peggy asked me to draw up a mascot for a McDonald's/Wendy's/Burger King mega burger chain. Some business school thing. I think it's kind of funny, but not so much for the whole premise of the drawing (though it is sort of funny), but because of how sad/pleading the mascot-hybrid's eyes are. It's as if he's saying, "Please. Make the hurting stop." I was going for the very elusive jovial/terrifying look of the Burger King guy, but this is what I got. Anyway. For your amusement/derision.

Stick a Fork In Him. No, Seriously. Stick a Fork In Him.

Dick Cheney and Bush aren't so sweet on one another these days. Just when you think a guy like Bush is incapable of learning new things, here he goes and proves you wrong. I wonder if Bush sees the run-up to war differently now in retrospect, now that slowly, in a trickle-down fashion, the truth is coming to light? I wonder if he's starting to think Cheney and Rumsfeld were maybe a little too single-minded in their drive to war in Iraq. Maybe he thinks back to the meeting he had with his top advisors in the days after September 11th, and thinks, (only in looking back now), that maybe it was kind of weird that Rumsfeld suggested the US attack Iraq in response to 9/11, because, "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan". Maybe Bush is starting to think that Rummy's blurt may be evidence of a predisposition towards getting into Iraq. Maybe, he wasn't the only one with said predisposition. Perhaps, with all of this Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby stuff being unearthed, he suspects his Vice-President might have been involved in a little intelligence cherry-picking. To rational people, the answers to these questions are obvious -- but this is Bush. It takes him a minute. The link above is to an interesting article, but it's also interesting to see how all the insiders quoted in the story, and by extension the article's author himself, are trying to spin the story. According to a "conservative leader who is an ally of the Vice President's", this is "Cheney's war", not Bush's, even though soft-skulled Bush is the one who actually decides these things. Could this be the beginning of an effort to rehabilitate Bush's image for the history books? And also, according to the article, Cheney's not really a Machiavellian, twisting-his-moustache kind of guy; darn it, he just thinks "right is right." It's almost as if Mike Allen of Time magazine who wrote the article, wants to be sure that no one who reads his article comes away with a negative impression of the guy. Why would that be?

An interesting blog about how the so-called mainstream press spins news stories with a pro-Bush slant is Presstitutes. Worth a look-see.

Also, here's something I didn't know but found out the other day: Scooter Libby believed (and still believes) that whenever people refer to the group of men who guided the Executive into war with Iraq as NeoCons, that those people are being anti-semitic. Apparently, a lot of the guys in the so-called Iraq group are Jewish. Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby. It was reported that the news report that Libby originally called Tim Russert to complain about (the conversation where Libby alleged that Tim Russert told him that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA) was a broadcast of Chris Matthews' Hardball. Matthews was working the neocon angle pretty hard and Libby was calling up to complain that Matthews was being an anti-semite. I never even thought of that. I just thought it was a bunch of hawks who were trying to trick the country into a war of choice. I didn't even think about their racial/religious origins. Could Libby have a persecution complex, or is there something to it? I'm leaning towards the former. Anyway, I thought that was interesting.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Another Disneyland Photo, This One Featuring My Wife Kicking My Ass

This photo was taken by a computer on the same day as the photo from Wednesday's post -- this is from the Little Green Men ride (located right across from the old-and-busted Star Tours ride in the Futureland section of Disneyland). On this ride, Peggy and I rode around in a little Fantasyland-style car and shot laser tag-style guns at red-blinking targets for what felt like 15 minutes. For each target hit, we received a certain number of points. At the end you see how many points you've racked up. Looks like Peggy was winning this round. Like I said, it's kind of a long ride, and the gun seems to get heavier as the ride goes along, so you can see I was having to support it with my other hand. Though we may look bored and unimpressed, (we kind of were), we are actually determined to beat each other. In the end, I don't even remember who won, which must mean that Peggy won. At the end, in a little area with a bunch of monitors and keyboards, this photo came up and I emailed it to myself. These months later, I share it with all of you. And with that, I'm out. Have a good weekend er'rybody.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Here's a Movie That Has Some Real Promise: The Fountain

This image kind of sucks, I know, but it's the only good one that came up when I typed in "The Fountain" on Google image search. This is Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in some scene in Darren Aronofsky's newest and upcoming film, The Fountain. This is the movie Brad Pitt was supposed to be in for the longest time, but then dropped out for some reason I don't remember. Couldn't been that good a one. The teaser came out today and though I think its format is kind of goofy (1 Man, 1 Love, 1 Quest), the imagery is amazing -- right now it's looking like one of those movies that's going to make an honest attempt at being both powerful and original instead of going blatantly for either box office gold or Oscar gold (which amount to the same thing), something the studios go out of their way to never do. (I think Eternal Sunshine took the prize for originality last year). What's amazing to me is that, in this teaser, in just two shots edited together -- the horseman thundering down a path towards the castle with a torch in hand, quickly cutting to a car driving along a freeway towards a shining metropolis -- more was attempted with the, (yeah I'm going to say it), filmic medium than anything I've seen in a long time. I wonder if Aronofsky was thinking of Kubrick's edit in 2001: A Space Oddysey -- the one where he cuts from the bone to the space station -- when he wrote that series of shots. How cool is it to be excited about shots again? Aronofsky's resurfaced finally after years and years of trying to get this thing made, but where's Fincher? Where's PT Anderson? Quentin? Why do we always have to wait years and years for these guys to do a new movie but we get a new Michael Bay movie every year? This year we're getting two Kiminski/Spielberg movies! Two! Are the young artistic directors being lazy, resting on their laurels, or are the studios too skittish to give these guys money and a release date every year (or even every two years?) Methinks the latter. (But a little of the former in some cases.)

Anyway, been waiting to hear something about this movie and I'm pretty excited by this teaser.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Yeah? I like the rides meant for small children. What of it?

For a brief Wednesday post, I thought I'd post up this photo of me at California Adventures in Anaheim. California Adventures is the new Disney theme park adjacent to Disneyland. It's still pretty small, but it's that kind of place Disney excels in creating: acreage covered in colorful, appealing caricatures of buildings, steeped in nostalgia for a strange, quasi-time that sort of feels like it must have been better than it is now. It's a lot of fun. This is one of the least exciting rides in the whole park -- called the Golden Zephyr (listed on the website under "Family Adventures") and yet here I am on it, thrilled to death, looking like an overgrown recipient of a Day at Disneyland pass from the Make a Wish Foundation. There was no line so we rode this thing like three times. I'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Here's an Inanity You Can Safely Skip: Herein I Whine About Believer Magazine

For devotees of the Inanities, you may remember back to my very first post back at the end of August (I know, waaayyy back) when I said that, one day, in my new blog, I would address my displeasure with Dave Egger's magazine, The Believer. I used to subscribe to it. Then I stopped. Here, in what may end up being a somewhat lengthy (hopefully not) explanation, is why.

I went to a signing some years back featuring Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon, Glen David Gold, and Aimee Bender. It was at the Beverly Hills public library and the authors were gathered to promote their new collection of genre-oriented short stories called McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales. For the most part, the book's good stuff. In it I read maybe two of the best short stories I've ever read (one by Neil Gaiman and one by Glen David Gold) and in it I learned that Michael Crichton (who had a story published in the collection) is not a good short story writer, and that my first impression of Sherman Alexie was totally right -- he sucks. Outside the lecture hall, on a table filled with their books that, if you bought them, they would sign for you, was a stack of Believer magazines. Each issue features the same design as on the issue pictured: nine squares, and two rectangles, four of the squares filled with ultra-cool pen-and-ink drawings of people who are, in some way featured inside. The specific issue on the table was right up my alley. There was an essay on Dune in it. Some days later, at the Borders near my apartment in Glendale, I picked it up and read it. Great, intelligent stuff. In it, the writer discussed how the "spice" that is at the center of these inter-planetary conflicts in Dune is a metaphor for our thirst for oil on this planet. Not too long after that, I got hit by a car and suddenly I had more free time than usual, so I subscribed.

It started out fine -- lots of essays about books and writers, and lots of interviews with writers. That's why I signed up. I like reading about books and writers. But even then there were interviews with visual artists, modern dancers, actors, and a weird column about love and sex in Croatia called Seksopolis. I let all that slide; The Believer's indie and hip, so it has to have some completely random, useless crap in there that's just kinda weird and lets the editors say to their friends at parties, "Have you read Seksopolis? It's great! It's this Croatian woman who writes about dating and sex in Croatia every month. Just fascinating." Maybe they don't let the blank stares they get bother them. Who knows? Anyway, they finally axed it about seven months into my subscription. I guess the cool quotient had diminished over time. Then there was the Music issue. They included with it a free CD filled with music that they would mention in the issue. I listened to a few songs but, to me, they all sounded either terrible or completely boring. The issue itself was unreadable. Obsessed, really smart rock snobs writing about the new, indie-est music coming out that's still way way underground, and how much they like it, and how it ties in with the weirdest most indie-est rock music that USED TO be new and is still way way underground, and how they're all related. Of course, I've never heard of any of the people they're talking about, except, maybe, a rare reference to Iggy Pop or someone. But then again, I'm essentially the anti-rocksnob because I know little to nothing about music. In this music issue, Believer told its readers they'd be devoting an entire issue (note: they only publish ten issues a year) every year to new music (read: to rocksnob writing). Each subsequent issue that appeared in my mailbox seemed less concerned with books and writers and more concerned with whatever the hell eclectic thing interested the editors that month. It was like they were trying to shake me loose. So when it was time to renew, I didn't.

I don't know if The Believer will right its course. The magazine came into existence, I thought, because there isn't a lot of material out there that talks about writers like they're members of the artistic community and their books like they're (if done well) works of art. Most of what's out there is stuff that's supposed to help unpublished writers get their work in print. Very commerce-oriented, which is good and helpful, but not really inspiring. For a while, Believer filled that void. Maybe Believer's staff began to feel that most other artists, (painters, cartoonists, dancers, avant-garde singer-songwriters, philosophers, photographers, Pez dispenser collectors) were getting short shrift in our modern culture, too, and Schindler-like, the editors were, and are, forever trying to save "just one more" talented artist from the dimwit, television-obsessed American culture-enforced prison of obscurity all these poor bastards (and they are usually poor as in broke) molder in. The Believer's intentions are admirable, but I think they're killing their magazine. They're going to try so hard to please all of their niche artists readers that, in the end, they're going to please no one. As far as I can tell, the few scraps the Believer still throws at books and novelists still represent some of the best stuff being published on the subject, but at $8 a pop, it just ain't worth flipping through the third interview with David Byrne or the in-depth dissection of Tin-Tin. Anyway, here's hoping they get back to what I thought they were all about in the first place: books and their authors.

Monday, November 07, 2005

If You Didn't See The West Wing Last Night, You Missed Some Good Television

Rep. Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Sen. Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) debated live last night on a really fantastic episode of The West Wing (they got a 7.7 Nielsen rating), and it still wasn't enough to beat that saccharine, mindless, Ty Pennington's abs-obsessed show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (which got an 11.3 rating). How can you be a programming executive at any network and not be a raging cynic about the American viewing audience? Anyway.

For an hour, with only two commercial interruptions, the perfect liberal and the perfect conservative squared off on real issues, giving compelling arguments for both sides. At the beginning Alda's character says, essentially, let's get rid of all of this arbitrary debate-rule nonsense, and let's have a presidential debate like Lincoln used to have. No holds barred. Ostensibly this was done to show how wily and quick-on-his-feet Alda's character is, but it was really to allow the show's writers some free reign so they wouldn't have to chop their character's soliloquies down into 2 and 1-minute nuggets. This was meant, I think, to show the American public what a real, substantive debate might look like. I agree and disagree with the idea that only an "old-fashioned" debate can be substantive. Sure, a free-wheeling format would be fantastic, but I think the three debates we did have last year were pretty good too, and those had rules. I think after seeing last night's fictional presidential debate, some viewers may be pining for a similarly unstructured presidential debate in 2008, but I think most will be pining for actual candidates, liberal and conservative, who are as forthright, as principled, and as intellectually nimble as the fictional ones. But I guess presenting idealized presidents to act as counterpoints to the real deal has always been West Wing's stock-in-trade, so I shouldn't get too caught up. These shows are written by liberal Hollywood screenwriters, so of course their fictional politicians are going to appeal to me. Even the conservative ones. Oh well. What's kind of sad is that this show is as good as it's ever been, better I think, but fewer people are watching it than ever before. And that new Geena-Davis-is-President show on ABC is no substitute if NBC axes West Wing.

That's all I've got.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Dr. Peter Venkman Says No to Ghostbusters III -- Is He Rescuing America From an Even Worse Sequel, or Is He Just Too Damn Respectable Now?

A quick post for Friday. Looking at, I found a link to an interview with Harold Ramis, who, in addition to being the director of the classic Groundhog Day, is even more well-known as uber-nerd Egon Spengler in the overlord of all big-budget action-comedies, Ghostbusters. In the interview, Ramis talks a little about the plot of Dan Ackroyd's script for Ghostbusters III. It's a very short mention, but for Ghostbusters devotees like myself, even a brief mention of what is now a certainly-defunct sequel, is like manna from heaven. Not that it sounds like it would be an awesome movie, but just the notion of a continuation of the franchise, a chance to redeem the Ghostbusters after the lackluster first sequel, well, it's fun to read about. Apparently, the Ghostbusters go to Hell. Anyway, take a read, and have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Even Though his Latest Novel Is About a Sixties Revolutionary Running a Chimp Sanctuary in Liberia, When He Reads it Aloud, It Sounds Damn Interesting

Peggy and I went to the Margaret Mitchell House last night to hear Russell Banks give a reading and then have him sign a pile of novels. Right now he's on a kind of book tour that I've never heard of in my limited book-tour experience: he's promoting the trade paperback edition of his latest novel, The Darling. Usually the publisher will only shell out that ki8nd of cash for the initial hardcover book tour. So, you know, kind of unusual. Anyway. The accompanying picture is not one we took but one that came up on Google Image search that seemed most representative of Banks the way he appeared last night. In the picture, if you look closely, you can see a small earring. I don't know if he's always had that or if he's gone the way of Harrison Ford, Ed Bradley and others, as an example of a middle-aged man wanting to look as young outwardly as he feels inwardly. He wasn't there when we arrived, but came in shortly after us. He wore a suit, a close-cut beard, and held a worn, softcover edition of The Darling with the hardback cover art in his hand. He came in to the place off the street and said, grinning, ready to be witty and self-deprecating if needed, "I hope this is the right place. I'm Russell Banks." He shooks hands with an employee nearest the door. I, Captain Obvious, turned to Peggy and, as nonchalantly (and quietly) as I could, said, "Peggy, that's Russell Banks!" I was only being half-ironic with my enthusiasm. Though most contemporary, mid-list, literary novelists are hard to get all googly-eyed and breathy about when they become corporeal as they typically look exactly like completely ordinary people, there is something about seeing, in person, big as life, the person who's written so many stories you've spent time with, enjoyed, and been grateful for -- especially if the man is also responsible for maybe one of the best books written in the last 30 years, Affliction. So I wasn't awed exactly, but I did gape. Anyway.

The director of the Center for Southern Literature, a woman of short-stature, shoulder-length dyed-blonde hair, and possessed of a demeanor that seemed simultaneously distracted and forceful, accosted him and they started talking. After a while, Peggy and I were standing in the area where he would be speaking, looking at a wall covered with framed photos of so-called "Southern" authors in their work environments. Lots of no-names, but a lot of damn interesting photos, too, like Richard Ford, William Styron, Shelby Foote, and Anne Rice. One strange one: Mickey Spillane. Anyone know Spillane was a Southern writer? Not me. Anyway, on the whole, pretty interesting stuff. As we were looking, Banks and the woman step down and Russell starts to browse the photos, too. Peggy and I wait off a little to one side so as to let him look unobstructed, when he comes on the photo of Mickey Spillane. "Why is Mickey Spillane on here?" he asks the Director. "I didn't know he was a southern writer." Peggy chimed in with something to the effect that perhaps Spillane had more recently relocated, or only finished certain novels in the south. Then I said, "He certainly doesn't read southern." And Russell Banks turned to me, smiling in agreement, "No," he said. "He certainly doesn't." And then the woman was leading him out to the replica of the Margaret Mitchell House. Ha! I beamed at Peggy. I talked to Russell Banks! I don't know precisely what it says about me that I so enjoy having interactions of even the smallest kind with authors I enjoy, but I really do. So there it is. I think there's a word for it that's not entirely appropriate for a family-friendly blog.

I like Russell Banks. During his talk and his reading, and even during the signing, he comes across as a warm, kind, well-spoken, brilliant man. But his lecture was, sad to say, kind of on the dull side. During his lecture, I wondered what Russell would have to do to make his reading more interesting, more lively for his paying audience, (because you do have to pay $8 if you're a non-member). Dave Eggers told us he'd once hired a stripper to gyrate behind him at a reading because he doesn't like everyone paying such close attention to him while he reads. James Ellroy stalks up to the mic like a rock star, takes off his hat and spins it out against the wall before ripping into a weird kind of poem about himself, describing the neo-noir writer as the "demon dog of American letters", or something to that effect. Barbara Ehrenreich helped herself just by being really brief. But I thought myself an ingrate, over-immersed in a culture that demands from it's artists entertainment, and then some more entertainment, dammit! Here he was, a lauded author, reading to us beautiful, stripped-down prose, rife with meaning, but for some reason it wasn't enough. Why shouldn't that be enough? Had he a more sonorous voice, would that have helped? No. I heard him read a fantastic short story once in This American Life, and his voice is perfect for reading his own fiction. It's a good voice. I don't know. Maybe he'll just have to go the stripper route.

Afterwards, I had all six of the books I brought signed by the man himself. I asked him if there was any action on a possible Cloudsplitter movie. Cloudsplitter was the novel he wrote just before this one, and concerned the life and death of John Brown, the famous abolitionist who raided Harper's Ferry. He said, "I'm working on the screenplay right now. It's due before Thanksgiving. Martin Scorcese is executive-producing it with me and it's going to be a full, 3-hour deal for HBO." I asked him about the director and he told me about some newbie foreign director I'd never heard of, so I just nodded like I knew who he was talking about. "So, we got the whole package together," he said. Peggy and I told them it sounded great and we'd look forward to seeing it. And then he was done signing all our books, and so we left. Good times.

So that was my night with Russell Banks. Thought I'd share.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Congohead Goes to Washington

Well, I had a great time in DC over the weekend. To start, I'm going to tell you how this post is going to go. I'm going to write about my trip, and in bold parentheticals that will come in the middle of my overarching trip story, I'll describe the accompanying photos. The parentheticals won't always come with the picture (too hard to make them go together, sorry), so you'll have to follow along best you can. So, to start: a parenthetical description of the first photo. Yayyy!!

(The topmost photo was taken on Saturday morning on the streets of downtown DC. If I'd known how dorky I looked with my top button buttoned, I probably wouldn't have buttoned it -- nah, I guess I still would have -- it was damn cold that day, and especially that morning.)

After I arrived I was met at the airport by my sister Shannon, her roommate Staci, and their friend Beth -- I've known these girls back since we were all in high-school in Raleigh together, and now, in addition to my sister, they're both professional women working in our nation's Capitol, Beth as a sign-language interpreter (I'm sure there's a better way to put that), and Staci as a, well, I'm a still a little fuzzy on that -- something important having to do with the environment. Which is great.

(The second photo was taken at a "sandwich" place called Cosi. It's all the rage in DC. They serve flatbread sandwiches as far as I can tell, and since I prefer real bread, I wasn't that into it. But I took this picture and you would have sworn by the reaction I got from the sandwich artists that I was either taking pictures for a future, (and utterly ridiculous), terrorist attack, or I was trying to steal their souls.)

Anyway, so from National Airport (I will not call it Reagan National), I'm quickly whisked away to a bookstore attached to a restaurant called, and I may be remembering incorrectly, Kramer's. The resturant was very good, but the bookstore was even better. It was as if Barnes and Noble had to pick their best titles and jam them into a space about a sixth of their usual size. One has the feeling of being in a place surrounded by piles and piles of books they'd actually like to read. Not a Daniele Steele or a Nicholas Sparks in sight. I had the catfish at the restaurant, but I didn't buy any books at the bookstore. No discounts.
(The third photo was taken just moments after I stepped out onto the Washington Mall for the first time. It was fantastic to see at the end of one swath of trampled lawn the Capitol, and down the other the Washington Monument. Call me a rube if you will, but it was kind of exhilirating. I wanted to run up to the Capitol as fast as I could, and then back to the Monument. Of course, we did walk to both but even just walking, by the end of the day my knees were wanting to bend the other way, Arrival-style. Running, I would have gotten a hundred or so feet before my out-of-shape heart exploded.)

(The fourth photo was taken about twenty minutes after the third one, the twenty minutes comprised wholly of walking. The Capitol is impressive and stately, just like the city planners wanted it to be, but boy does it seem desolate on a Saturday. Certainly not any Senators or Congressmen walking down the steps, talking to one another, gesturing importantly with one hand while the other rests casually in their pants pocket. I didn't see anyone near this thing except for bored guards with big guns.)

My sister lives on the 7th floor of an apartment building in the city. It's a nice place with a clear, panoramic view of another high-rise apartment building -- their view of hundreds of balcony windows sort of reminded me of an amped up version of Rear Window, except no one could be viewed as up-close and personally as they were in the movie. No buxom dancers practicing in view anywhere. Also, no dastardly deeds in evidence, even after hours and hours of looking. Hard looking. Shannon has two cats, one fat cat named Meena, and a little kitten named Baxter, named after Will Farrell's dog in Anchorman. Both are very cute but only Baxter was interested in playing. In fact, that was ALL Baxter was interested in doing. When you pick him up, he doesn't pay you any attention; you can see his little kitten-eyes scanning the room, looking for other, more interesting playing opportunities, butthe one thing in the whole room he's definitely not interested in, is you. Kittens are like that. My own domestic cat/cougar hybrid was also like that as a kitten, but has since calmed. Baxter will too.

The next day we set out to see the sights. Lots o' walking in DC. Next time I'm using a Segway. We went to the Capitol (already pictured), and then to the Smithsonian, where I got my hat.

(The fifth photo is me, sitting in the Smithsonian, in mid-yawn. This was not a comment on the museum, but maybe more a comment on my already-pronounced level of physical depletion. I had to sit on these benches to rest -- just around the corner was a full-scale model of Julia Child's kitchen, which was pretty cool.)

Smithsonian was cool. More on that in another post, or maybe not. Not sure. Anyhow, afterwards, we walked up to the Washington Monument (sixth photo). For me, seeing it for the first time in person was a little like seeing the St. Louis Arch for the first time. I was simultaneously surprised by how small it was, and by how huge it was, if that makes any sense. Small in that when you first come into its vicinity, it doesn't seem near as towering as you expect it to be -- something that looms so large in the imagination must be at least as large in real life, right? But the closer one gets to the structure itself, the larger it does seem, larger even than you thought it was. You start to think about the scale of the project and for how many years how many workmen toiled to build it. It's impressive. Shannon and I laid down next to it, resting our feet on one side of the great commemorative marble spike, (copying some college kids doing just that), and I did so hoping I might feel like I was on some kind of Silverstein-ian sidewalk to nowhere, and the sensation would be both strange and transportive, but self-consciousness and the feeling of the hard ground on my back, pulling me down, cancelled out the whole thing, so while I was struck by how blue the sky was against the stark whiteness of the monument, I mostly just felt like a 28-year old, laying down on dirty cement in front of a national landmark trying to be youthful. After that, we got up and headed towards the Lincoln Memorial because the sun was coming down.

(This seventh photo is of me on the phone with Peggy just outside the perimeter of the Washington Monument's lawn. She'd been skydiving that day and was telling me how it went. I was hugging myself in disbelief.)

Recently, some folks got together, Tom Hanks and Bob Dole among them, and built themselves a WWII Memorial. It sits at the opposite end of the reflecting pool from the Lincoln Memorial.

(This, the eighth photo, is a photo of me being maybe a little too jovial (I'm in mid-softshoe here) on the site of a memorial commemorating the deaths of countless American soliders. But then again, everything's a memorial around here, so unless they want everyone to associate DC with moping, cheerless people, they're going to have to get used to goofballs like this one yucking it up. And yeah, I just had an argument with myself.)

I didn't get much time to sit with the WWII Memorial and take it in, but my first impression of it is that they might have done better going back for just one more draft. The concept seemed a little muddled. Especially when compared with the far more iconic and affecting Vietnam War Memorial. You feel that one.

(This, the ninth photo, is of me in front of the Lincoln Memorial. This was my favorite one.)

After the WWII, we walked along the reflecting pool (which was pretty gross, by the way, as it has no filtration system -- they just drained it and dredged it and already it's disgusting again), and then up to the Lincoln Memorial. Going inside was like walking into the back of a penny, except without that gross coppery, finger-grease smell. The National Parks people were obviously doing some renovation inside as there was scaffolding up throughout, but the clutter couldn't take away from the hushed solemnity of the place. (Warning: what follows may be a little grandiose -- apologies in advance.) It may be that no person on the planet has ever been memorialized as perfectly as Abraham Lincoln. The sculpture of a sitting Lincoln suggests a kind of depthless reverence for the man. Lincoln sits on an un-presidential but King-ly throne, staring dispassionately out into the middle distance, thinking thoughts of Justice and Truth, unbowed by his unlimited Wisdom. Sitting there, calm but resolute, he is unassailable. The building and the sculpture, it seems, were designed less to pay tribute to Lincoln for keeping the country together during the Civil War, and more specifically to deify him. His words seem chiseled into the stone walls around him like Commandments. It is a shrine to the idea of Lincoln, as much as the man himself, and, for my money, is absolutely the most effective, most affecting memorial/monument in the city. So says me anyway. It seems almost the luck of the draw who gets what memorial. I shudder to think of what a Reagan Memorial might look like, let alone a George W Memorial.

(The tenth photo is of my sis, Shannon. I hope she doesn't mind my posting it up here.)

(The eleventh photo is of the sculpture itself. Shannon told me an interesting tidbit that everyone else I've told already knew, but I didn't. The sculptor of Lincoln's statue had a deaf daughter (correct me in the comments, Shannon, if I'm telling it wrong), and, as a kind of tribute to her, he formed in Lincoln's hands the two letters that make up her initials. I thought that was a great, and kind of moving bit of trivia.)

(The twelfth photo is the reflecting pool during "magic hour".)

Not far away from here, (to the left if you're looking at the photo of the reflecting pool), is the Vietnam War Memorial. I was most struck by how quiet the Memorial is. The Wall is situated like a deep cut in the ground, starting shallow at the edges and gouging deeper into the ground as you walk down into it. As one walks to the midpoint of the Wall, which is its highest point, the traffic noise and all ambient sound drops significantly until it's very still and very quiet. The whole thing seemed to have a power all its own -- I thought to myself, somewhat worriedly, "Am I going to cry now?", as if I'd have no say in the matter, as if the Wall had the power to extract manly (or womanly in this case) weeping against my will. As it was, I felt too self-aware and too respectful (it still seem like here, more than anywhere else, is where people come in this part of DC to have private "moments"), to say more than a few words to Shannon, much less take digital photos. I left there happily. What the Wall implies about war isn't comfortable, and I felt uneasy while I was in front of it, which is probably one of the reasons it's considered the gold standard of modern memorials; when it comes to creating a place designed to remember something horrible that needs remembering, they don't come much more powerful than the Wall. Hopefully, what they come up with for Ground Zero will be similarly affecting.

Anyway, that was the end of Saturday. I was hobbling by the time we finally got to the nearest Metro station. The next day, we went to the White House, to the Supreme Court, and to the Library of Congress. What I have to say about them is this: our government should be a lot more accessible. I think we're in a period of security-centric thinking, and it's so pervasive that it's starting to seem a little looney. I think we may look back on the security measures we've taken in the wake of 9/11, and wonder, "what the hell we were thinking? Were we really that scared?" Across the street from the Supreme Court is the front of the Capitol Building. It is inacessible to all visitors because of a massive construction project they're doing -- what they're building is an underground visitor-receiving area of sorts, designed to collect tourists, show them some Congressional memorabilia I guess, and then send them on their way thinking they've visited the Capitol. They are not. What our government is doing by building this thing, is taking our representative government that much farther from the people it's supposed to be BY, according to the Declaration of Independence anyway.

This feeling was reinforced when my sister and I were at the White House. Standing in front of the place, at the far end of the beautiful White House lawn, we were kept away from our president by a tall, black-iron fence. Looking up at the White House, what was most eye-catching to me was not the house itself, or the landscaping or the fountain, but rather the 6 or so men-with-guns milling about on the roof, sometimes congregating, sometimes not. I found myself looking for motion detectors hidden under the boughs of trees on the other side of the fence, wondering if I'd be shot if I climbed the fence and laid down next to it, only on the other side. And I wasn't the only one thinking about security measures. A couple came up to the fence from the side pointing up at a bird. I looked up and saw a brown hawk-looking thing flying on the White House side of the fence. "Is that a falcon?" the man asked. Then he smiled. "Or is it just some bird-robot with a camera in it?" It's almost all we can think about, and it isn't just because those 18 men flew those planes into those buildings 4 years ago. It's because fear absolutely works for this administration, and they for damn sure use it. Fear works for any president, true, but never before has it been used for such purposes (war, winning elections, changing the subject away from stories that give the Bush White House bad press, etc.) as with this president. Granted, the fear of attack isn't entirely baseless, but the intensity of it in this country, reflected in the projects the federal government's undertaken domestically since 9/11, gets pretty close to either unspeakable cynicism or straight up governmental hysteria. Maybe a bit of both. By contrast, at the beginning of the last century, Teddy Roosevelt used to stand outside the White House on the morning of each New Year's Day he was in office, and shake the hand of anyone who came out to wait in the cold to meet him. Now this wasn't some sepia-toned, more innocent time, like some might have you think (I imagine 'some' to be Republican hacks). Anarchists, men who didn't care about their own life and limb, much like today's bomb-wearing terrorists, had already assassinated TWO presidents in the twenty years prior to T. Roosevelt's own presidency, but still he insisted on the new tradition. Could anyone LESS embody this kind of openness and accessibility than Bush? Than our entire federal government? Is it even possible to envision a shift in the direction we're headed in, towards a total separation of our government from its people? And one last thing on this subject: White House tours and Capitol Building tours all require advanced planning and a group of so many people. These seem to me less like just persnicketty National Parks policy, and more like just two more obstacles keeping the citizenry the hell away from the places our government makes the decisions that effect us. That's it on that.

Anyway, after me and Shannon discovered that, in addition to being inaccessible generally, everything we wanted to see is totally shut down on Sunday. So we fled DC and drove through Georgetown, pulled into a gas station and then walked up and then back down, the Exorcist steps. Very steep, very creepy, wish I'd gotten a picture. Next time. Though seeing it in person, I got the sense that if you were to fall from the top, or even from midway, you'd have to be going at a really fast clip to get past one of two wide landings that interrupt the stairs. So you might still die from falling down these steps, but you probably wouldn't get all the way to the bottom.

(This, the thirteenth photo, is of Baxter, the Unstoppable Playing Machine. Here he is with his favorite toy: a long wire with bits of folded cardboard attached to either end.)

That night I Metro-ed it over to Peter's Metro station in White Flint, MD. He picked me up and we went to his and Daniele's fourth-floor apartment, which is very nice. Lots of stairs and no elevator, but the roomy interior makes up for all that horrible physical activity required to get there. Craig Moorhead and his wife, Keyeung (I'm butchering the spelling, I know) came over and we all played poker (which Peter won --bastard.) Craig hasn't changed a day since we graduated from NCSA, but he has in the intervening years gotten himself a lovely wife who is very charming and whom we all liked.

Afterwards I slept.

(This, the fourteenth and final photo, is one I took of myself waking up at Peter's on Monday morning. Yeah, I usually look this bewildered in the morning.)

The following day (I know, almost done), I hung out with Peter, visited his folks' house, his dad's office, ate at a pancake place, watched Bill Maher on the computer, flipped through Peter's old comic books, and ate chicken fingers at Dave and Buster's. Not a bad day. After dinner, Peter drove me back to Shannon's and the next morning I flew back to Atlanta.

I am spent. Before I sign off, I want to say thank you to mom for buying my plane ticket and sparing me an ugly, ugly drive back and forth; thanks to Shannon for putting me up, driving me around, and tromping all over DC with me seeing stuff you've already seen, all on very short notice (thanks also to Staci for putting up with a houseguest for a couple nights), and thanks to Peter and Daniele for letting me crash there for a night also on short notice. After all that flying and walking, I don't think I'll have a hankering to travel for some time. Anyway. Even though this is an hour and seven minutes late, I'm going to make the time read Wednesday. Yeah, I'm a cheater -- to all of those who slogged through this whole thing: I'm out.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"Trying my hand at no-look telekinesis, this was taken during the half-hour I spent trying to launch the Washington Monument with my mind. No dice."

Tomorrow's post will be an account of my few days spent in the nation's Capitol. Today's post will be, like my last two posts, not much of anything. Today (the actual first of November, not the fake first of November I alluded to in yesterday's post), I'm going to decompress, unpack and settle back in at home (yeah, I know, I was only gone a few days). But here's a taste of tomorrow's post. A photo for your consideration, taken at the Lincoln Memorial. Sadly, it's probably one of the few moderately okay photos taken, but hey, some are better than none. More tomorrow.