Thursday, December 29, 2005

If anyone reading this is in Olympia and it is not yet January fifth, could you pick up and hold onto my mail? Mostly I'm worried about the new issue of McSweeney's, which I imagine is swaddled in cardboard and sitting not in my mailbox, but in front of my door. That's the McSweeney's that comes with a DVD- you could even open it up if you wanted, as long as I knew you were doing it and you returned it. You would be breaking a federal law, and I wouldn't even care. Other federal laws you could break and I wouldn't even care include drug trafficking and sedition.

I saw King Kong. I enjoyed a lot of it, but pretty much anytime someone talks about something that could be cut from it, I agree- The subplot with the one kid on the boat, those handheld strobe shots, a few shots of Naomi Watts climbing a ladder, if the bits with the natives could be made not-racist, that'd be sweet. Jack Black actually being funny also would've been cool.

But there are parts where a giant ape is punching dinosaurs. Those are sweet.

Oh, and this is bullshit- Bank Of America has a different computer system for California, Washington, and Idaho than the rest of the country, so I can't use an ATM. When I talked to people at the bank today, they were really confused- I need to deposit money so this check I sent my landlord, post-dated for the first of January for that month's rent, can go through and not be overdrawing. I don't know if I'd be able to withdraw money. But yeah, that's something to know in case I ever visit Portland.

For Christmas I got some like fifty-five dollars worth of Barnes And Noble gift cards, maybe forty bucks cash, and a digital video camera.

I continue, I think, to alienate myself from my extended family. Or at least- I don't know, I like cash, but it's not really enough to let me live, and if anyone were to ask if I wanted something that wasn't cash I could say Thomas Pynchon's V or Home Movies DVDs or a laundry list of CDs without even really thinking about it. I don't know if when you read that list of stuff I got, you got the impression of how not fun it was to open presents. My eyes were mostly dead-eyed, because I knew about the DV camera in advance.

I go out to meals with my mom a lot, which gets annoying, just on a "holy fuck you eat out a lot" level. I start to think things like "If you ate out like only three or four times a week, and sent the money you saved to me, I would have an infinitely easier life." Maybe it's not actually that frequent, and it just feels like it to me because I never eat out anymore and I'm just like the Jewiest kid ever?

I have so little to actually complain about, I guess, in the grand scheme of things. I hope something fun (perhaps debaucherous, maybe just maniacal) happens on New Year's Eve. So frequently I am only entertaining myself and just annoying/alienating other people, and that would be a fine way to ring in the new year but I can't do it alone.

You know what would be fun? Having some kind of audio playback device on your person that just yelled shit that either you or someone else recorded at random intervals, as you were somewhere in public. By fun I maybe mean nightmarish. I would love to record one of these tapes for someone- the Brian Nicholson as Horrible Party Guest Disassociated From All Things Going On Around Him Cassette.

Maybe there'd be songs on it, too, but again: Only at random intervals. Songs like "The Classical" by The Fall, or "Gareth Brown Says" by McLusky maybe, but maybe just normal mixtape stuff like Animal Collective or Girl Talk. Imagine that braying from the inside pocket of your jacket. At the end of the tape there would maybe be a sad song, as you leave the party alone and unloved but until then it'd be all "Hey there fuck-face!"

Hey there fuck-face.

Friday, December 23, 2005

So I finally came up with a title for this novel-thing I've been working on, which has had some tentative titles, all of which were terrible. And I was happy, and I wrote it down, and I went down to brush my teeth.

The title I came up with was "Do You Remember When The World Ended?" which I think has a certain charm and appropriateness, it's actually really on-the-nose but that's better than some bullshit abstraction, right?

Anyway, yeah, I was happy with it. Until I said it aloud, and realized the uncomfortable similarity to the opportunistic post-9/11 country song "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?"

And I smile-laughed outwardly while inside I cursed myself.

The new title is "Have You Forgotten (That Time The World Ended)." Which has none of those problems.

That was a joke, by the way, for those who didn't keep up with every new fuck-the-a-rabs song that comes down the pike.

I don't know what the title should be. "Do You Remember When The World Ended?" is probably too fucking long. And punctuation- probably a bad idea. But seriously, my other working titles, that I never really stood by for a second- much much worse. Or, if they're good, they were better for the things I originally came up with them for that I will probably never get around to doing.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

So it's December 22nd, ten days until 2006, but I was laying in bed reviewing my year, and so the year-in-review post can be made. Perhaps this is jumping the gun: When I made my 2005 mix CD, I had yet to hear that Why album which I'm now calling one of my favorites.

But tomorrow I go for an eye exam, and new glasses will be found. We could call this post, 2005 - The Year My Glasses Broke, a reference to that movie, The Year My Voice Broke, that I haven't seen and don't even have in the Netflix queue.

Basically a bad year. I had pinned some hope for redemption onto it- The plan was to return to the East coast, then go up to New York City, see Evie Nelson, and maybe this would magically improve everything. I got to New York, made a call, found out she was in Brooklyn, I went to Brooklyn, made a call, found out she was specifically in the part of Brooklyn known as Greenpoint, went to Greenpoint, the corner of Greenpoint and Manhattan Avenue, made a call, and before I could find out specifically where we stood in relation to one another, her phone died, and I returned to New Jersey with my nose running like it had been all day.

In the days between then and now, my nose has stopped running. It started running just shortly before I left Olympia, so it's not like that was the defining aspect of my year.

The defining aspect of my year, basically, was that it sucked, economically. Jobs fell through or were horrible scams, loans and offers of money also fell through. Class stuff fell apart and I was left with nothing much to do except for write fiction, listen to music, and watch movies.

I saw a lot of movies this year- Alex got a Netflix queue, I took a film class, went to a film festival, and started learning how to be a projectionist at the Capitol Theatre.

The best movie of the year was 3-Iron. I kept on calling it transcendent, kept on thinking about how transcendence is the best thing a film can aspire to. But really- any film that's entertaining is transcendent, since it allows you to think of something else for awhile. It takes you somewhere outside of your own problems. This is true for any good piece of art, essentially. Entertainment is distraction, and distraction is basically all we want.

3-Iron was transcendent, the movie of the year, and truly great art, it how it lingered. Pretty much as soon as I saw it, I knew it was the movie of the year, so I kept it with me, in the back of my mind, and it served as something to think about even when I wasn't watching it.

Comicswise- The stuff I read and enjoyed was more on the arty end than the entertainment end. Like, Anders Nilsen's Big Questions and Kevin Huizenga's Or Else comics- those were good. But for, like, inner calm, more than what I want out of comics, which I mostly didn't get- Michael Kupperman was funny, and Scott Pilgrim volume 2 was awesome and some fistpumping adrenalizing grin-inducing fun but most of what I read, I regretted not going through with that whole "stop reading comics" idea I had.

But whatever, my argument about transcendence and entertainment is basically a supporting argument to my long-held thesis about the distinction between high and low art being bullshit so I guess I shouldn't be too bothered.

But as for this year in review focusing on art- that was the good part of the year. That and the people, my friends, I can't sell them short. But so much of the bonding happened over music and film that I find it hard to oversell that stuff.

Most movies I saw and liked I either made my friends see or we watched them together. So when I talk about how I saw two bad-ass movies Orson Welles made, know that Alex Tripp was in the room both times, and liked them just as much, if not more, than I did. (The Trial and F For Fake- amazing)

Dude was also there for hours of Twin Peaks on video cassette, Little Murders, and a great deal of other things. I saw Mind Game with him, along with Loren and Evan. And I argued for The Wicker Man so more people saw it, and I talked up 3-Iron to people as well.

Music was pretty much the same deal- Loren Thor came through with the new Deerhoof album when I was internet-free, and then we went to Seattle to see them, the day after we saw the Go! Team. I already posted a best music of the year list, and now you can see what webzines are running and how wrong they are.

There was no music and no movies when I was living with Atlanta and Mikako, those few weeks, but they kept me alive. There was no transcendence then, just the feeling of being in the shit and feeling it. I don't want to downplay that either- The sun on my neck and walking back and forth.

Much in the same way that I kept 3-Iron in my head, once I heard Feels, that enriched some shit- pretty much anytime I was around nature, I was whooping up those songs in my head.

And I did some writing this year- finishing up short stories (thanks to all who read them and liked them, once again, holy shit) and trying to start something larger. The year started with that independent contract, and yeah, that went well.

The film class that followed- There was that festival, which I dreaded, and very rarely saw anything good- aside from 3-Iron- but being in Seattle, you know, peers and friendships and whatnot- that was the feeling it, that was the thing I was in.

So much more in it, feeling it, when basically homeless and relying on a stranger's kindness, and walking around a landscape rather than inside.

Inside is, as ever, the goddamn internet, which aside from music stealing, is the bad kind of distraction.

But let me tell you a conversation I had. I argued on behalf of irony- not the "look at my mustache, it is one generally seen on one with less education than I possess," but the good kind. It's the kind of argument where- I don't want to be seen as one of the mustache kids, but I do want to be seen as one of the funny kids, and I don't want to be an over-earnest emo asshole. And there was talk about how irony was basically killing society, getting in the way of honest expression, and I made an argument which was mostly ignored.

Basically- the way I use irony/humor, it's not a distancing technique. It's basically- if conversation is an art, than humor is a metaphor, a lens. What Charlie Kaufman does in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, is dressing stuff up in this sci-fi clothing, to get at what he means, because it can't be done in a more direct way. And in conversation- there's no science fiction there. There's just jokes, but... If it's not quite the same thing, it's damn close.

And from a literary or creative perspective- the line between deadpan absurdism and magic realism is mostly one of intent, not so much a distinction of technique, a conclusion I came to watching that episode of Stella where they start a farm in the floorboards of their apartment. And deadpan absurdism is fucking hilarious, and magic realism is awesome. I could further make the argument that the personality equivalent of magic realism is basically being dedicated to awesomeness.

(Oh, you know what was great, this year- Getting into the Best Show On WFMU. I might have heard the Timmy Von Trimble bit before, and some other stuff, but this year I actually dove into the archives and the whole bit.)

(I feel the need to clarify that when I talk about magic realism so fucking much, I'm not talking particularly about Marquez- who I first read this year!- because I'm not the biggest fan of his and I wish he'd push the weirdness/magic further- but rather, other people who I associate with creating good art.)

And a dedication to awesomeness, you know, that's the thing to strive for. That's my aim.

I hope I ring in the new year something fierce. I've never done that, and that's probably not going to change this year. Being home for the holidays... Bleh. Fine for Christmas, but for New Years, I find it antithetical to what I want.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A brief flash of insight:

There are, at the core of my personality, maybe two warring impulses, two perhaps incompatible parts. Parts that, if isolated into other individuals, I would find insufferable due to the other part within myself.

There's some kind of sweetness, which I hate to attribute to myself, as it seems so simple, but I mean: I do try to be a good person. And I mostly succeed.

But then there's the fuck-it-all-anyway aspect, the cynicism, that manifests itself in stuff which is, I guess, perhaps innately destructive. Although as I write this now, I guess I doubt that part.

But anyway, warring impulses, same person.

What's weird is that I guess this can be found in children, albeit in a different form. The cynicism isn't there, and the destruction and malevolence comes out of the same innocence that I tend to associate with the whole trying to be a good person.

Maybe it's the self-awareness that leads to the isolation of these parts, but the nature of those human roots that make them impossible to get away from? I don't know, I didn't start writing with a thesis in mind.

But as I started typing this I started to think that maybe it this reason that makes noise pop the best music ever. Or, obviously, the best art is going to have to address both these aspects, but noise pop does it at a basic level of sound, rather than just lyrics? Or it gets back to childhood, by putting the sweetness of melody and the destruction of force right up against each other as something pure.

Contained here is basically the root of an essay I will probably never write about My Bloody Valentine- the sweetness of the melody of romance, combined with this content of sex and lust, reflected in a sound that, in all its powers, has the rhythms of fucking in it, the catharsis of orgasm, and sounds like the inside of the womb, with the sound of male/female harmonies as pure as children. This is a pretentious way of pointing it, but it'd work itself out, I think, as a longer essay.

Meanwhile, in Olympia, the music scene is so fucking backward-looking to this idea of childhood- faking a purity in both ways, and coming off naive or autistic. The eighties twee stuff, obviously, but the new avant-garde noise kids have this whole "bashing something expensive" aesthetic thing there- still so earnest but just... I find both annoying and dishonest and possessing a schtick. Neither side is as complex as actual childhood, and all the more annoying knowing that it's being made by people with all the horrible hang-ups of adulthood.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Let me write this down, mostly as a note for myself: There are similar themes at work within John Barth's The End Of The Road and Jules Feiffer's Little Murders. Little Murders is probably the better work, funnier and more complex, but The End Of The Road is a book that, at the time I finished it, I was ready to declare the best book I'd ever read. It's not, but it's still something.

Anyway, yes, if you haven't done so already, you should watch Little Murders. It's directed by Alan Arkin, came out in 1971, is based on a play, and stars Elliott Gould. Donald Sutherland shows up. It's a black comedy, one that is a predecessor in many ways to Larry David's stuff, but it has more to say about the human condition and how to live your life. It's my favorite movie of the seventies.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Man, I love reading reviews of Jesus Is Magic. For those who haven't, the general gist is "Sarah Silverman is funny, and I'd bang her. The fact that I'd bang her makes her even funnier. However: Is making jokes that I totally laughed at a good thing for my morality? And what about the morality of the nation?"

Also, I watched the documentary Devil's Playground, about the Amish practice of Rumspringa. It's every bit as good as you'd want it to be, completely fascinating. The main character looks like a Culkin, then gets addicted to crank. Amish girls don't change their manner of dress during their free years, although the boys do. Oh, and running around and sowing your wild oats basically takes the form of being a white-trash dumbass.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I finished reading Salvador Plascencia's The People Of Paper not too long ago. I started reading it not too long ago- Maybe three days before I finished. Oh, compulsively readable books. I love you so.

It was good- I was anticipating it quite a bit, having heard some hype, and the introduction of it's amazing, and after that it kicks in with typography tricks that looked fun.

It's a break-up book, in some ways- ways that are obvious when you read it. Not that it doesn't have other things going for it, but I mean- If that's the mood you're in, especially if you're male, (It's pretty specifically male- Again, not like it's not good or whatever, but for reading a book that shares some of the feelings you're going through at any specific time) feel free to give this one a go. Or, to be fatalistic about it, keep it in mind for the next time this mood strikes, along with that Why? album I'm so struck with.

Anyway- The title refers to two things: Fictional characters and actual origami people brought to life. The book splits the difference between magic realism and metafiction. The magic realist stuff has a heavier emphasis on the fantastic than Marquez, to the point where it's outright fantastical actually; the "magic realist" label is probably just coming from Plascencia's Mexican origins and his literary pedigree- the book was published by McSweeney's.

The fantastic elements and the magic realist elements are basically inextricable, which makes the question of where Plascencia's going next kind of interesting. I prefer the magic realist stuff- I'm pretty sure the making yourself a character in a fictional book is a trick that can only be used once, which I guess would mean that the only thing would be a straight-up memoir, which would be dull. The more... god, I want to say the more fantastical elements, but that's not quite what I want to say- The fictional character bits are very human, and even though the imaginative stuff is aces, I don't not want to talk about the character bits.

Yeah, it all works, it's all linked up. Nothing can be jettisoned really, from this book at least. It's imaginative and beautifully written and very human. It's clever, but the cleverness is necessary for what it's doing.

It's really great- not the best book I've ever read, but a great one.

Monday, December 05, 2005

All The Real Girls is the good kind of indie movie, not the bad kind. It actually works and is funny and moving and individual and not hip and condescending and... It's just so much a collection of individual scenes, and the scope of how it works, it comes off more like an album loosely based on a concept and a narrative like a more recent Mountain Goats album, or maybe a book of haikus based on a theme.

I want to say it's the last indie movie I've seen to really work for me and affect me since Lovely And Amazing, but Me And You And Everyone We Know was more recent. I guess I'm thinking Nicole Holofcener because this feels smaller. Or because Lovely And Amazing is just closer to the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say an indie movie in reference.

As for the bad kind: Does anyone think that Brokeback Mountain will have scenes of pudding being eaten? And I mean that literally, as a South Park reference, than as pudding as meaning semen.

For better blogging, you should be reading that myspace thing. I bring the laughs something fierce.

But yeah, see All The Real Girls, if you get the chance. And by "if you get the chance," I mean pursue it, because it's not a hard movie to see- It's on DVD.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A conversation with Alex at the corner of Harrison and Division led to the creation of a myspace profile, which is not in my name as such a thing would be hopelessly lame. However: for all your internet phenomenon needs! If you are on that site (which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, by the way- that is the gag) or know someone that is, they should befriend me because that's how you become an internet phenomenon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A post like so many I feel I've written before: Took my short stories that I started writing upon coming to college and that I think I'm finished with and put them into one file, for a theoretical book, called Youth And How To Waste It. It was really satisfying to do this, and look over that stuff, this weird little overview of my mind for basically two years and the reflections I had, the veiled autobio, etc. I wish I could format it in Wordpad so the couple of stories that I saved doublespaced could be single-spaced like the rest, but mostly I've got something printable. Not really publishable by other people, but if I were to take a bookmaking class and make a chapbook or something, I'd have a fine little document- The stories are put into a particular order, and it starts off awkward and gets stronger, and I think by the end there's enough that's happened for an affecting payoff. It's weird and all over the place but it's a portrait of my head from a variety of angles.

Movies watched recently, a brief rundown: I saw Sideways, which I thought was overrated- my least favorite Alexander Payne movie yet. I'm thinking my favorite is About Schmidt, perhaps? That's got some moments that aren't so awesome, but it actually feels like a movie to me, and there's that strong (although weird and abrupt) ending. Sideways felt like TV to me, never as funny or as tragic as it should've been. The happy ending felt false.

Speaking of About Schmidt, I saw Broken Flowers, which felt like a companion piece to that film, coming at similar subject matter from a different angle. It seemed like most critics and everybody else was disappointed- to me it felt very Jim Jarmusch directing a late-period Bill Murray movie- deadpan and minimal but not annoyingly so. It wasn't as funny as such a thing could maybe be expected to be, but it was cool- The bits where Murray listens to music in his car are similar to bits in Ghost Dog, and yeah, a lot like About Schmidt- old people roadtrip movies, reconciling with their pasts.

Saw Kim Ki-Duk's Bad Guy, following my becoming obsessed with him after seeing 3-Iron at the festival. I was confused by the plot's movement, character motivations, etc. but I liked it- I had low expectations, or maybe just weird ones- I expected crazy violence and shock tactics. I also saw Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring, which I don't know if I talked about here- I liked the first segment, which raised my expectations a lot. Also I knew a lot of the plot beats ahead of time, so that kind of detracted.

Um, I saw The Warriors. Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Mirrormask. Belle De Jour. I watch a lot of movies. You all know how I live- Like Bruce Springsteen once sang, something something sitting here trying to write this book.

I bought my brother the R. Crumb Handbook for Christmas, and hope he'll like it. No idea what to get my mom but I am very poor, too poor even to really get something for my brother so maybe shit'll be excused.

I finished Libra- my DeLillo affair is kind of done, I think. Underworld is really well-written though. I'm reading this McSweeney's best-of, and I'll be finished that soon enough.

Mostly everything is the same as it ever was and is, soon this year will be over and maybe 2006 will be different. Mid-term elections to look forward to, and with such things come hope, I guess. Maybe jobs, financial aid, classes that don't suck, maybe making a movie, maybe making music, all those things I am always waiting to happen, maybe those will finally happen.

Sadly I'm pretty sure those Yo La Tengo Hanukkah shows I was looking forward to are 21-up. Seriously kids, 2006. Perhaps that will be our year.