Monday, February 27, 2006
Miracle Of Miracles

Dude... that's not Jesus-- that's Bill!!




Bill's face is plainly visible on that piece of sheet metal. He's in mid-puff -- there's smoking in heaven! -- or maybe he's giving us all the finger. And he seems to have finally gotten a better haircut in the hereafter. But it's so obviously Bill!

Or wait... maybe that's the young Brando. Can't they improve the resolution on these fucking sacred manifestations? Why do dead people always have to be so coy?

(Oh shit... maybe it's "Bob".)
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Sunday, February 26, 2006
Hicks Day

I just finished reading the most recent, "definitive" biography of Bill Hicks. It was mostly quite good -- much more personal than the previous biography, much more about Hicks as a living person than Hicks as an increasingly-mythic performer. It wasn't completely without hints of some quiet agenda (although I can't quite put my finger on what that agenda might be), but by and large it was measured and thoughtful. And it was based primarily on the first-hand reminiscences of people from his life, and therefore full of respect and affection for the man (as well as a few realistic assessments of his weaknesses.)

But I also found myself feeling guilty for reading it -- it felt like an act of voyeurism, of nosing into a life that didn't have anything to do with me. The drugs, the booze, the obsessive and volatile romances, the nights when he fell down drunk onstage and railed against his audience, regardless of whether they were with him or against him; and most of all, the humiliations of his sickness and death. He didn't even want his closest friends to see his fear and deterioration during his last days, so how presumptuous am I to want to read about it? I don't mean to suggest that the biography isn't valuable, and obviously any account of his life would also have to account for his unusual and cruelly-timed death. But then again, what value does it add to his memory?

The one thing you always read in these private homages to Bill is a variation on the statement, "we wish he was still here; we need him now more than ever." Putting aside the wish that he hadn't died -- who would ever express anything but regret over the death of someone you so admire? -- I beg to differ. As truncated as his life and career were, the one mission Hicks did manage to fully accomplish during his lifetime was to get his message out. Everything he needed to say, he said. Everything we need to hear from him is available for us. We might miss him, and we might wish he could still be here (getting filthy stinking rich, banging porn stars and living in London), but we have all that we need from him.

What's more, there's some relief in knowing that he didn't have to see what an incredible mess we've made of things. I have doubts as to whether even Hicks could've found words to describe the America we live in now -- I mean, shit, he'd already blown "child of Satan sent here to destroy the planet Earth" on George H.W. Bush; what the fuck was he going to say about Dubya? "Sucker of Satan's cock" and "genocidal maniac" had already been applied in response to measurably lesser evils than the Iraq war... where do you go from there? Bill's act might've ultimately been reduced to him standing on stage and vomiting for an hour before retiring to a cave in the Texas Hill Country.

And anyway, we all already know -- in essence if not in exact language -- what he'd have said. He'd have said exactly what we should be saying ourselves, what many of us are already saying: that our actions in the world are wrong to the point of evil, that we have betrayed ourselves as a society, that our collective apathy is unworthy of us and denies our highest nature, and that we must struggle to evolve beyond brutality. That, really, was all he ever said; he just managed to make it funny.

It's a lesson we can apply to every aspect of our lives, and even to one brilliant man's death: we already have everything we need. Death can't deprive us of it, oppression can't destroy it, and injustice can't invalidate it. All we have to do is squeegee our third fuckin' eye so we can finally see it.

It really is that simple.


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Saturday, February 25, 2006
So, Just Hypothetically...

If I were to say something like this:

But right now I'm thinking that the next time I've got $30 in my pocket with no claim upon it, I'll be sending it to the ACLU or Moms for "Bob" instead. And then the $30 after that, I'll send to "Bob".

...and then, the very next day, I received a check for almost exactly $30 (actually $30.10) that I had no idea was coming and that I had no plans for...

If that were to happen, I'd be pretty much karmically obligated, huh?
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Friday, February 24, 2006
Friday Creepy Gross-Out Blogging

According to police, Patton said he's been drinking urine for years.

"He told us he's been doing it over 40 years, since he was 7 years old," Fithen said.

Police said Patton goes to family restaurants and movie theaters and waits for boys in a bathroom stall. Investigators said he shuts off the water to the child-level urinal and puts a cup in the bottom.

Patton allegedly told police that he leaves the stall after the child leaves.

"He goes back and retrieves the cup and drinks the urine," Fithen said.

Police said Patton told them it makes him sick, but that it's almost spiritual to him. He allegedly added, "I like it because it makes me closer to them -- like I'm drinking their youth."

(link)

Happy Friday!

(I've got better stuff coming this weekend, I swear.)
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Thursday, February 23, 2006
Question of the Day

(This is where I encourage y'all to make this blog thing slightly less of a one-way street.)

If you could be any member of the Beat Generation, who would you be?

I think I'd probably be Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2006
And Now, The Atheist Joke

15,000 atheists in London rioted after a blank sheet of paper was found on a cartoonist's desk.

Heh.

And it came from someone named Father Dan so you know he meant it mockingly.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Things Fall Apart

A friend said to me quite recently, "you seem more intense than usual lately." And I knew what he meant: I've been more persistent about talking to people, about doing things, about getting things happening. I'm not one of those who can create activity seemingly effortlessly; I've got to work at it. I came back here with a full head of steam, but since then it's been harder to maintain my momentum.

Entropy is a fundamental -- maybe the fundamental -- force of nature. You can't fight it forever; sooner or later the very atoms that make up your cells will break their bonds and go their separate ways. If you think about it, it's amazing that we hold together for as long as we do. And the whole time that we live, it seems that we're in a constant state of holding things, tangible and intangible, together. All things come to an end, but we clutch at them for as long as we can.

It took me a year, for example, to come to terms with the fact that the London phase of my life was over. (Honestly, I still can't quite believe it some days.) After an idealistic but misguided attempt to re-create it, it took me another year to understand that not only was it over, but that even the relationships I'd forged there were coming to their natural end. A year seems to be the normal length of time these things take -- back when I was continually moving around with my mother, it was always the last place I'd been that felt unreal. Once it was a year in the past, it ceased to be the thing that was absent and instead became a part of my history. Right now it's Vermont that feels slippery in my mind; ten months from now it'll just be another one of those things.

I got an email today from an unlikely friend in a not-too-distant town where I've done seasonal work at a film festival for the last few years except this most recent year. I didn't go last year because I was in Vermont; afterwards, there had been some very small talk that there might be Big Opportunities there, although I was deeply reluctant to take them for various personal reasons. On the other hand, it seemed like a natural fit in other ways, so I kept my options open. But this message today seems to nail the lid shut on that particular coffin. Things have changed there. A mass exodus of everyone I worked with has left only one regular staff member of the half dozen I knew. Prior to today it seemed like a coincidence or perhaps a natural falling-apart. One moved on to better things; one finally took her retirement and began sculpting full-time; one decided to devote herself to other options. But today I found out that the oldest-standing staffer had left, and while all the others might be a coincidence, when I heard about this departure I knew something was up.

They got a new director last year. She was, it's probably safe to say, singularly unqualified -- knew nothing about film, nothing about festivals, had never done anything remotely similar before. But apparently the Head of the Board liked her look, there were some other nefarious goings-on happening beneath the surface, and suddenly she was installed as the head of the festival. Since then, everyone has either jumped or been pushed except for this unlikely friend of mine -- and she only stays because she has little choice. I haven't gotten the complete story yet, admittedly. But I trust my instincts, and I trust my sources, and I feel fairly confident suggesting that my beloved old festival has just been sold down the river. There were so many possibilities for that place, it was potentially a singular opportunity. In the right hands, it could've been a force for good; now it's just going to turn into one more half-assed Sundance-wannabe. Such a waste.

As far as I'm concerned, every good thing about going there is gone now. So I guess that's really, truly over now, too. The sad thing, though, is that while we're always painfully aware when a thing ends, we never seem to recognize when a good thing begins.

Anyway, I've spent like twelve hours today fiddling with a website -- see, when I say something like "I want a new website," I really mean it. It's been a fucking pain in the ass, too; the webhost I'm hooked up with is weird about site administration and nothing ever seems to work the way it's supposed to. As of last night, I had absolutely no idea how to transfer my files to my server so that they'd appear on the web; as of this morning, I had a somewhat better idea but still hadn't succeeded. By now, I've got that licked, I've installed a complicated-looking content management system on the server, and it's working. Now I just have to figure out how to make it do what I want it to do. It seems to be getting harder as I go along, but maybe that's just because after twelve hours, I'm getting a little tired.

It's always harder to put things together than to tear them down.
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First They Came For The Wiccans

So now, apparently, it's evil to be a SubGenius.

Yes, being involved in the telling of the most transcendent Jesus joke ever is now adequate reason to strip you of your rights. Ask poor Rachel Bevilacqua, who had her son taken from her -- "no contact... not even writing" -- because she attended an X-Day devival.

Obviously, it was a wild party -- I'm kinda sorry I missed it. I've been to a devival or two, but never one as off-the-hook as this rip-snorter. And obviously this is merely one element in a much larger issue -- something was clearly up well before Rachel flogged a god. But it was still the devival -- or, to be more accurate, the American Taliban judge who'd never heard of a devival before -- that finished the job.

And as the General points out, apparently it wasn't so much that she pretended to flog the Christ, is was that she did it naked wearing a goat's head. No accounting for taste, I guess. (That's why you should always go with the Evil Jew costume for these events... that, no doubt, would've been fine.)

Y'know, every teenager is "saved" by something -- some by music, some by books, some even by Jesus. I was saved by J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. "Bob" brought me to so many things that helped me define my nascent identity during those difficult years, I would be a far more tepid soul without him. I read Burroughs (and later Sartre, Jung, Ginsberg, and the rest) because of "Bob". I listened to better music because of "Bob". I questioned and doubted the world around me because of "Bob". I learned about tolerance and self-esteem through "Bob". And "Bob" taught me that the best thing in the world I could ever possibly be -- better than Beautiful, better than Powerful, better than Rich -- was to be Interesting. "Bob" told me I was weird but that that was way better than being normal -- and how much groovier would the world be if every adolescent spent a few years hearing that? I might be an awkward, ungainly, social misfit. I might be an eternal outsider, rejected by the cool kids and daily tortured by cheerleaders. I might be too clever for my own good and sitting by myself in the cafetorium... but by god, at least I'm not Pink.

I might not be here if it weren't for that.

I no longer have my card -- the one that gets me in the raffle to win a place in line to get on the spaceships on X-Day -- and returning to the sweet arms of the Church has long been on my To-Do list. But right now I'm thinking that the next time I've got $30 in my pocket with no claim upon it, I'll be sending it to the ACLU or Moms for "Bob" instead. And then the $30 after that, I'll send to "Bob".

PS: The Rev. Ivan Stang himself explains some back-story and underlines the unforgiveable awfulness of what's happened.


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Monday, February 20, 2006
The Jared Fogle Of Web Design

My old buddy Shaw has gone all Web 2.0 on us. He's moved his blog, and gone from this to this. It's like one of those miracle-pill ads you see in Parade magazine right next to the two-page spread on how Jeebus saved the drummer from Styx from the clutches of his decongestant nasal spray addiction.

Anyway, now I want one. (A new website, not an addiction.)

No, seriously... I've been pondering for months whether I should set up new digs for the non-ostensibly-anonymous parts of my life. It wouldn't entail moving this blog -- I'm quite comfortable on my little soapbox here, it's gone all squishy in just the right places -- but having something else for those times when the blog's not appropriate. The problem (as with most other aspects of my life at the moment) is that I just don't have the content to fill the space. And there's nothing more annoying than a website with nothing on it.

But that doesn't stop Shaw, oh no, for Shaw is unstoppable. He's an inspiration to the life-less. I'll get that website up yet.

Update: Whoops! Maybe Shaw's stoppable after all.

Update 2/22: Okay, he's up again. Un-fucking-stoppable!
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Friday, February 17, 2006
Friday Catwhoring

(Well, some people do friday cat-blogging, and other people do friday blog-whoring, so it was either this or friday blog-blogging... and that would just be stupid.)



come fuck me


Echo, 7, is a voluptuous Maine Coon with the skills to satisfy. Her well-honed claws and teeth aren't unaccustomed to the succulent flesh of dainty prey; her services are best suited to those with a penchant for rough trade. Weighing in at over ten firm, seductive pounds, even the veteran client will find her an intimidating date. Her merciless teasing -- arching her back and purring one minute, striking with petulant claws the next -- will drive you wild with lust. No blanket will protect your pulsing manhood from this huge, hairy pussy*.

Rates negotiable; call for an appointment.

Meanwhile, back at the Bunny Ranch...

Cheney nails a quail

Some old dude un-nails himself

And Billy Joel gives Stephen Hawking a filthy Sanchez.



* You didn't actually expect me to get through this without one gratuitous pussy joke, did you?
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Blah-de-Blah-de-Birthday

Happy birthday to my old college chum Stefan... if indeed today is his birthday. It's possible that it's not. How would I know? But I'm certain that I've missed a few over the last ten years, so even if today's not really his birthday, here's one to make up for one I missed.

And happy birthday to Doug. He's a fantastic musician and a great guy, but a lousy blogger. (It's not that he can't, he just won't.) Anyway, make him happy by supporting his band, Chess Club. They seem to have redesigned their website, and now it's... err... kinda girly. Just pretend you didn't notice.

Also happy birthday to: Billie Joe Armstrong, Lou Diamond Phillips, Wish Bone, Jerry O'Connell, and Huey P. Newton (except not really because he's dead.) Yay!
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Thursday, February 16, 2006
Random Statement

So, I was just thumbing through my blogroll, and I came across this post, which references this post, which is about this column in the Washington Post. And nobody's asked my opinion, but it's my blog, and I feel compelled, so here you go.

Before I begin, though, I should preface by saying this: I have cultivated a very intentional habit of often being emphatic purely for the sake of it. Women particularly have a reputation for being (and indeed, a real tendency to be) wishy-washy on opinions. This is as true for me as for anyone else, but it's something I've decided to try to combat in my own intellectual life. The problem, of course, is that nothing is that black-and-white for me; whatever I say, when throwing out ideas like "always" and "never," "I believe this" and "I reject that," "I hate it" or "I love it," you can generally rest assured that whatever I say is true, the opposite is also sometimes true. I am not bothered by contradiction; exceptions are also my friends.

That said, some things simply are what they are. This is one of those things. Believe and take to heart what I'm about to say:

I hate hate hate this song.

I don't think I have to name it here; checking any of the links above will reveal its identity readily enough. It's unquestionably on my top ten list of songs that will instantly turn my heart into cruel, jagged ice. My soul dies a little every time I hear it. This song kills love.

I didn't always hate it... before the age of 26, I'd never even heard it. I have no real opinion on its musical or lyrical quality. And it's nothing against any of Gabriel's other songs. This is a matter of context, of personal experience. I've also never actually seen Say Anything; by now, I plan not to. John Cusack was adorable in High Fidelity, and I don't want that to be ruined by introducing into my mind the image of him standing with that fucking boombox, playing that fucking song.

Yeah, it's down to a guy. Not one who hurt me... the one who hurt me made me viscerally hate Shania Twain forever and ever; but nobody ever argues with that. This guy I'm talking about now was the one to whom I played the asshole. He was a nice guy, never anything but sweet and generous; I won't say a word against him. This was his song -- he was the first person who ever played it for me, and so the way I feel about it is inexorably linked to the way I felt about him -- which is to say, it makes my skin crawl, but for reasons I can't really explain. He was good to me, and I was good to him until I was done with him, and then I cut him loose. I meant to do it gently, but circumstances spun out of control and the whole thing turned harsh. I felt bad about it afterwards, but my guilt still paled in comparison to my relief at being rid of him -- I considered it a net gain. My distaste is one of those irrational things, it can't be logically explained -- I can only say that it was fun for a few months, but it was never, never going to last. One of us would've ended up crushing the soul of the other, and I think it's safe to say that I was considerably stronger than him. I didn't want a crushed soul on my karmic rap sheet.

But like many nice, sweet guys, he thought if he just laid it on a bit thicker I would cease to resist. He actually threatened to do a Dobler -- standing outside my window playing this fucking song.(Because obviously mimicking something you saw in a movie is the best possible way to demonstrate how genuine you are.) Had he gone through with it, I'd have been burying the body by sunrise.
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Shame

Like you, I've seen the new photos from Abu Ghraib. I've been sitting here trying to think of something useful or insightful to say about them... but I just can't. What do you say to something like that? What could you possibly say?

What do you say about walls and floors covered in blood? About gruesome burns and grinning prison guards? What does smearing a human being in shit and covering their heads with filthy underwear do to protect us here in the United States? How is this "war on terror" served by restraining prisoners and jamming bananas up their asses? How do they explain the corpses? Are we arresting dead people, or are we killing them in prison? What have they done -- what have they actually done -- to deserve this? Why aren't we even allowed to ask?

This isn't justice, it's just wrong. It's shameful. And I don't understand how anyone can look at this and not feel sickened by what we're doing.

What can you possibly say?
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At Least We Haven't Started Burning Them Yet

I often whinge to anyone who'll listen that down here where I currently live, in nothern Mississippi, in spite of the tremendous commercial growth over the last five or six years, we have yet to see a single mainstream bookstore open within ten miles.

There was a brief flash of hope a couple of years ago when I drove past one of those strip-mall complexes and saw a sign on the back of a store that said "...BOOKS." Flushed with optimism, I made a side-trip to buzz past the front of the store; imagine my disappointment when it turned out the sign actually said "SCRAPBOOKS". It was a scrapbooking store: a store full of stuff to make ugly books with no words in them. But I digress.

Now, there are a few Christian bookstores... but those don't fucking count. That's like some cruel hillbilly joke on the 1% of the local population that uses its intellectual capacity for more than screeching "Git 'er done!" at awkward and inappropriate (not to mention unfunny) moments. In the last year, we've actually had an entire "mall" (read: glorified strip-mall) built in the vicinity, and there is whispered hope that, at some point, a Barnes and Noble might join the ranks alongside the six wholly-beef-oriented restaurants nearby. But as yet that hasn't been confirmed; until that day comes, Wal-Mart remains the closest merchant of literature. And you know how high Wal-Mart's intellectual standards are.

But it turns out, the situation may be far, far worse than we feared.

One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.

58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

42% of college graduates never read another book.

80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

57% of new books are not read to completion.

Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.

63% of adults report purchasing at least one book during the previous three-month period. (Most were probably exaggerating).

70% of Americans haven't visited a bookstore in five (5) years.

Only 32% of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore.

(source)

You've got to be fucking shitting me.

Let's just sit here for a moment and let the magnitude of our collective idiocy sink in, yeah? I think we may have just figured out what's wrong with our society.

As for me, I remember beautiful days in London when I couldn't walk more than a quarter mile without passing a bookstore -- Charing Cross, with its two branches of Waterstone's, Blackwell's, Foyle's (oh, Foyle's, that mother-of-all-bookstores that held any book you could ever want in its inventory) and a dozen smaller establishments; the six-storey Waterstone's flagship store near Piccadilly Circus, as big as an urban department store, where I rode the elevator with Salman Rushdie; and stores catering exclusively to specific genres: the store that only sold murder mysteries, the store that only sold cookbooks, the store that only sold design books, the store that only sold stage plays, and the three stores dedicated to film arts. I went to all of them.

I've currently got six books next to my bed, four of them completed within the last month (one within the last three days), and the other two in progress. In the last year, I'd estimate that I've read at least two dozen books. Certainly I have my share of unfinished volumes in my collection, but I have just as many that I've read more than once. I can't imagine living without books -- they're one of my incurable weaknesses. And I don't even consider myself that much of a bibliophile. I've known people who were a lot more book-hungry than me.

God. What have we become?



Later: more cheerfulness.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
But I Did Not Shoot The Deputy

Of course, it's always funny until someone gets hurt. The news of Dick Cheney's victim's heart attack certainly made us all feel a little bit guilty about being so deeply amused by the story, but, as has been helpfully pointed out by assorted pundits, Whittington's worsening condition doesn't change the basic facts of the incident.

And those basic facts couldn't be more obvious.

After a pleasant picnic that absolutely did not/maybe did/definitely did involve alcohol, Cheney and Whittington were hunting wild quail/shooting at farm-raised birds in an enclosure while their hostess, Karen Armstrong, sat within hearing range/in a car a football field's-length distant. Armstrong became aware that an accident had occured when she witnessed the shooting/saw Cheney's Secret Service detail running toward the scene of the accident. Dick Cheney had accidentally discharged his shotgun from a distance of 30 yards, which, as we know, will produce a spray pattern of approximately 18 inches in diameter, even on a windy day. Following the accident, Whittington was "peppered pretty good"/"more bruised than bloodied"/bleeding profusely/barely aware of what was happening. Whittington was attended to by the medical contingent that Cheney keeps on-hand at all times, and police were called/left to find out on their own/turned away at the gate.

Whittington was rushed to the hospital where he was demonstrated to be fine/admitted to the intensive care unit. Since the shot had been fired from a fairly distant range, his injuries were superficial/included one pellet embedded in his liver. His condition worsened after one pellet (weighing 1/345th of an ounce, fired from 90 feet away) migrated from surface tissues, through his heart, lungs, back through his heart, through his aorta, and back into his coronary arteries/penetrated his clothing, skin, several inches of skin, fat, muscle, and inner chest wall; and there induced a minor infarction. This is a completely plausible/highly unlikely scenario. The effects of that much lead in the body of a 78-year-old man are not a concern.

The accident was reported to the press and the White House on Saturday/Sunday as decided by Cheney/Armstrong.

You see? It's so simple.

/snark

Nobody thinks this was anything but an accident. Nobody thinks Cheney meant to shoot one of his donors, and nobody regards Cheney as being anything more than foolish and maybe irresponsible with his firearm. It was a regrettable incident, but even we most virulently anti-Bush/Cheney people aren't suggesting that anybody did anything worse than act stupidly. And it's not as if news that a Bush administration official had done something stupid would shock us at this point.

So why with the subterfuge? Is this administration simply pathological in its inability to tell a straightforward truth? Cheney fucked up and shot a hunting companion at close-ish range; it happens every day. The guy's hurt, but he's probably going to be okay. Yeah, it looks bad, but not as bad as the CONSTANT FUCKING LYING.

Too bad lying's not enough to get a guy impeached.

I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.
I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.
I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.
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QotD

What's yer middle name?

I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours.

Update 2:45: Okay, here's the version of events I heard...

At one point, my middle name was going to be "Lennan." Completely weird, but with some logic behind it -- my dad's name is Len and my mom's name is Nan, which when mooshed together make... yeah, you get the idea. I actually played with the idea of switching to this during my teens (who doesn't want to rename themselves as a teenager?) just because, I dunno, it sounded more interesting and less dorky than what I actually got. Later on, however, I decided that I really didn't want to memorialize that particular union with my name, and went back to my given middle name.

Which is Ilyse.

Again, the version I heard: my dad was in seminary when I was born, and was taking classical Greek. So the theory goes, "Ilyse" is the Greek spelling. As an aside, the only thing I ever, ever heard my father admit to being less than brilliant (and by implication better than you) at was foreign languages, and classical Greek in particular. The general idea being that he simply sucked at Greek, so there's an extremely good chance that the whole Greek-spelling thing is a steaming pile of bullshit. It is, however, interesting-looking in a sans-serif font.

The other part of the story -- Mom, feel free to correct any of this -- is that when it was time to have me christened (my father was in seminary, remember, and at a monastery, no less) there was some balking at doing the job on the basis that I had no Christian name. My first name, which is of traditional French derivation, isn't eligible. So my father convinced them that "Ilyse" was a variant of "Elizabeth" -- and I guess that worked for them.

I hated my middle name throughout much of my life, like every other sensible youth, until I spent some time in the UK. People there pronounced it "Eh-leeez" in that languid way that they have, and ever since then I've decided that it's not so bad after all.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2006
IQD

"I am, perhaps, what you might call deeply single. Almost never ever in a relationship. Until recently, I wondered whether there might be something weird about me."

I didn't write any of that, but I could have. I only read it recently, although it's been around for a few years now. It was written by a woman named Sasha, in an essay in which she described her sudden insight into a hitherto-unidentified romantic type: she named it "quirkyalone."

I'm not 100% crazy about the term, and I'm not completely comfortable with applying any kind of label to myself. But I can say this much: when I read that word, I really didn't have to read any further. I knew exactly what she was talking about. And I was quietly thrilled that I'd found a word for what I am.

"Es mejor estar solo que mal acompañado." ("Better unattached than unsuitably matched.")  ~ Mexican proverb

I haven't always been alone -- I've had a few serious relationships (some quite long, some relatively short) and my share of flirtations and near-misses. I'm sure I'll have a few more before I'm done. I don't lack opportunities; I know how to get it if I want it. It's just that I'd rather be on my own and happy than stuck in a mediocre relationship because it's what I'm supposed to want.

And I am happy. I don't need to be "saved," I'm fine the way I am. I don't need anyone to "complete" me; I don't feel incomplete. Sometimes I get lonely, but no more often than I ever did when I was in a relationship (and actually a lot less often taken on the whole.) I enjoy solitude. I enjoy being able to do whatever I feel like doing at any given moment. I enjoy sleeping diagonally across my bed with my arms flung out. And I enjoy knowing that the potential is still there.

"Better to be untethered and open to possibility."

And let's be brutally honest: a woman who's got a gay best friend, forty bucks, and a Blowfish catalog has all the benefits of a romantic partner and none of the hassle. That's not to detract from the importance of close relationships; rather, it liberates them. When you empty your head of preconceptions, suddenly you're free to define your relationships according to what you want them to be. When you stop thinking of love and trust and intimacy as things that only properly exist between the members of a couple, you find that there's room for a lot more love and trust and intimacy in your life. Family, home, relationships built on years of trust and history -- I can have all of these things whether I'm alone or not. So why do we spend our lives worrying about being passed over?

"I have learned that to be with those I like is enough".   ~ Walt Whitman

My friends are the most important people in the world to me -- I love my friends, I adore them, I would do anything in the world to contribute to their happiness. To be honest, I can be a lot more ardent about my friends than I sometimes am about my romantic relationships. According to a mindset that only recognizes couples and not-couples, that kind of affection makes no sense; it's the mindset that produces phrases like "just friends." I can't even comprehend "just" friends -- you can't get any closer to me than friendship. Who needs a boyfriend when you've got half a dozen real friends? Now, if one comes along, that's great; I'm not against the idea. But if he doesn't, my sense of self-worth remains intact. I am whole the way I am.

"Quirkyalone is not an illness. But first hearing about it is akin to getting a diagnosis. Often when you find there is an explanation for how you feel (or at least a word that encapsulates it and confirms that others grapple with the same thing), the fears diminish and the pain goes away."

And that's exactly right. It's not the state of being or the characteristic itself that causes the rawness, it's the nagging self-doubt that tells you it means there's something wrong with you. It's an elusive distinction until somebody manages to articulate it. But upon hearing it named, I understood instantly that it very much applied to me, and suddenly I felt elated: I'm just fine. I'm perfect. I'm exactly the way I should be.

That's a pretty revolutionary concept when you think about it.

So even though, as a woman alone on February 14th, I'm supposed to be bitterly dismissive, I'm not. I'm really, genuinely happy. I don't want roses; I might buy myself daisies. I don't want a diamond; what a waste of money those things are. I'm not looking for anyone to buy me a house; I can buy my own house. I'm not afraid of being alone; I'm not alone. There are so many people around me whom I love, not the least of which is myself.

So, while I'm still not convinced about the word, I love the idea: happy International Quirkyalone Day.
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Monday, February 13, 2006
Banana Hammock

I don't really have anything to say about this...




... it just makes me happy.
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Sunday, February 12, 2006
A Curious Kind Of Synchronicity



so rich he hunts other rich people


So, this morning on Face the Nation, Howard Dean compared Dick Cheney to Aaron Burr.

(Aaron Burr, you'll recall, is mostly remembered for having shot and ultimately killed Alexander Hamilton, although that incident wasn't the basis for Dean's comparison. Burr was Vice President at the time of the shooting.)

And what does Dick Cheney do? Why, he shoots somebody. I mean, really, literally shoots somebody. Like, with a shotgun.

Curiouser and curiouser.


PS: And if it had been Al Gore who shot somebody back in '98... ?

PPS: Fun Quiz! Who's killed more people: Charles Manson, or Laura Bush?
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Happy Darwin Day

When I was younger and in public school, I had a secret relationship with science. In my everyday life I was very much a humanities-oriented student -- I excelled in English, foreign languages, history, and so on -- but I harbored a quiet fondness for biology, too. I was fortunate enough to run into a number of strongly pro-science teachers; I was unfortunate enough to also run into a few fundie fuckwits, though fortunately late enough in my school career that I was wise to them by then.

The one that always particularly disturbed me was the creationist life sciences teacher, at a particular high school in Arkansas. He was well known among the smart-ass punk kids for having a wife who looked too much like him for anyone's comfort. He would stand around in my 11th-grade anatomy and physiology class and expound on tornadoes in junkyards and all that drivel. I, meanwhile, was carrying on a heated debate in pencil on the edge of my desk. I would write, "Jesus thinks you're an asshole;" during the next 24 hours, someone else would reply, "Jesus loves you!" I would answer with "Jesus can kiss my ass;" they'd respond with "Jesus can save you! I'm praying for you!" "You can kiss my ass, too." It was uncharacteristically aggressive of me, but I was a fed-up 16-year-old. You know how it is.

The thing that ultimately knocked me out of science was mathematics. As long as I was staying in the realm of the easily-observed, I was fine in science class. But as soon as things became more abstract -- and thus most often expressed with numbers rather than words -- I began to lose my footing. I'm not innumerate, but I can't deny that the higher mathematics give me a great deal of trouble -- even when I can understand the core concepts, I never seem to be able to make the numbers do what they're supposed to do. Math and I officially parted ways during my trigonometry year -- I took trig at three different high schools, each class being at a different place in the subject when I joined. I fell behind and never caught up -- I still don't understand what the fuck "cosine" means. I only know those equations seemed to come so easily for everyone else, while I (theoretically a G&T student) just couldn't make them work. Six attempts would yield six different solutions, and none of them correct.

So as soon as I could -- basically, right after the SATs -- I quit math; and quitting math led inexorably to quitting science. Chemistry requires strong math skills; physics requires strong math skills. And you ain't getting past 9th-grade biology without either of them.

I found some respite in filmmaking -- I had to learn about silver halides and photosensitivity, but I didn't have to push beyond general concepts. I got to work with complicated, delicate equipment and precise formulas, but I never had to solve any equations. It was math and science for the right-brain-dominant. Since then I've frequently indulged in science as a source of fresh insight, and as time has passed I've become more and more engrossed in it. I'm no hardcore rationalist -- I have a soft spot for theology and all that wobbly "spiritual" stuff -- but I don't see any point in denying reality. The world is what it is, not what we'd like to believe it is; and confronting and accepting that world doesn't detract from its wonder. Just ask anyone who's tried to wrap their head around any aspect theoretical physics.

So I definitely count myself among those who are deeply disturbed by the resurgence of willful ignorance underway in this country. Just because you don't believe you were descended from apes doesn't mean it isn't true. And you're not just descended from apes, you are one. The Bible will never tell you the real story about the history of humanity; and the truth, it turns out, is a lot more awe-inspiring than anything our ancestors ever imagined. I can't understand why we can't collectively embrace our staggering collective history -- I understand that some feel threatened by the inherent de-emphasis on human importance, but we could probably do with being taken down a peg or two, to be honest. And if you can relax and open your mind to the implications of evolution, the spiritual payoff can be enormous. Reality can be harsh, but it offers so many opportunities; religion, on the other hand, will always be a closed loop at the end of the day. There's nowhere to go but in circles.

There are a few particularly good blogs dealing with science and its intersection with American society and culture. I highly recommend The Panda's Thumb, Pharyngula, and Dispatches from the Culture Wars.
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Friday, February 10, 2006
The Friday Hasselhoff


Dare for More... er... pleather.


There's something about a Hasselhoff straddling a giant, spurting soda bottle that makes me feel a little dirty. I think his two-fisted, open-mouthed grip on that microphone might have something to do with it, too.

Also: The Annagrammatic Underground. My film school was located in the vicinity of Contend Grave and Queerer Elastics; the flat I shared with the Swedes was near Way Arch Fan and Queasy Horn. I also lived, at various times, near Mind Eel, and just a block away from Rowboat Toadying. And I am very familiar with A Retard Cottonmouth, Anger Perk, Spicular Dicyclic, and Crux For Disco. I don't expect that to mean anything to any of you.

Also also: lamps made out of mutilated babydoll heads. There was a time in my life when I would've bled myself dry for one of these. To be honest, I'm still faintly drawn to them. The good news is, I expect a reasonably creative person could make one of their own with no significant difficulty. Tres goth.

Also also also: my friend Denny has moved his blog from here (Where We're Bound) to here (Our Tomorrow). If you think I'm out there, wait'll you get into it with Denny. That boy's in the mix.

And finally: it's snowing again. What's more, it's sticking. I'm hopeful that it'll glaze over into a sheet of ice; then I can go out in my snow boots and ice cleats and exalt in being the only person around who's actually prepared.
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Thursday, February 09, 2006
QotD

Do you ever struggle with the feeling that life is pointedly ignoring you?

Y'know, like you're a kid in class, and the teacher just asked a really hard question that nobody in the room knows the answer to, except you, because you did your science fair project on that last year, and you're sitting right there on the second row with your hand up, waving frantically... "Me me me me me! I know the answer! Call on me! Oh, pleeeeeze call on me...", practically wetting yourself with eagerness, and the mean old cow just looks past you, scowling, before giving up with a huff of disappointment and a condescending shake of her head?

You ever feel like that?

Just me?
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Audience Participation: The Reckoning

As a child, I was rather known for my precocity. I always got along better with the grown-ups than with other children, and assumed that they viewed me as an equal. For years, nobody ever attempted to dissuade me from that belief. By the time I hit adolescence, though, I had become aware that trying to talk to adults as an adult wasn't working anymore. It was around that time that my mother took me out for a long evening drive, and tried to explain to me one of the great truths of adult life:

"No matter how far we try to scurry away from that kid inside of us, that child will always be close by in my soul," she said. "So, stop trying to be an adult or a child, and just be who you are."

Of course, her casual dismissal of my "adulthood" only served to alienate us throughout my teen years. Our estragement was a foregone conclusion. Ultimately, by the time I came of age, my departure had been so well planned for so long that leaving home resembled nothing so much as a manned space mission in the final moments before launch. Heading off to film school, I even brought along some Tang (ironically, of course).

I was heading out into the world, all my plans smoothly clicking along, when I hit an unexpected snag: my one stab at open thread delivered the resounding silence I expected. That's right... I blame it ALL on Mother. See how it feels when no one listens to your ideas?

Mississippi Wallace, for example, used to sit on his porch with a guitar with a couple of strings (or with a couple of strings missing, depending on how you want to look at it), and every day as the girls passed on their way home from school, he'd taunt them with the same question: "Is this thread going to wind up soup or stew?" Then he'd smile salaciously and leer at them in their starched white dresses as he sang:

I put in the carrots and potatoes
I put in the carrots and potatoes
I put in the carrots and potatoes
Who's got some meat and spice?


A brazen little hussy named Jacosta always responded by sticking her tongue out at him. Sure, it was childish, but even 18 year olds are still getting their brain's neurophysiology remodelled. And her being an only child -- like a first born, as I am -- had her imprinting exposures to relating being relating with adults. But learning how to talk to [like] adults is not maturity.

But some of it was on the part of the adults, reacting to visible if not verbal developments they perceived in her -- the social consequences of reaching puberty too early. The problem was no one wanted to go first.


(Let us never speak of this again. - S.N.)
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Tuesday, February 07, 2006
And Now, Audience Participation!

Okay, here's the deal: it's time for a blog post, but I got nothin'. I don't know if it's the phase of the moon or the alignment of the stars or a short in my synapses, but I'm just shrugging the world off today. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

So I'm leaving this post up to youse guys. I'll start it off with a prompt line or two, then whoever gets here first can continue the paragraph in the comments however they see fit. The next person so inspired can build from the preceding entry, and so on ad infinitum. We all know how this works. You have free reign to do anything you want -- reveal my most embarrassing secrets, illuminate the darkest corners of my psyche, underline the essential pointlessness of my existence... whatever. Whoever takes it in the most unexpected direction will win a special prize (tbd). Remember, though, you're writing from my perspective. I'll leave it open for, say, 24-36 hours, and whatever I've got after that, I'll post up in the blog. Geddit?



(Now, watch this crash and burn. None of you lazy bastards are going to lift a finger, and that comment counter is going to stick at zero two just to mock me. For attempting this, I probably deserve it, too.)

All right, here it comes...

As a child, I was rather known for my precocity. I always got along better with the grown-ups than with other children, and assumed that they viewed me as an equal. For years, nobody ever attempted to dissuade me from that belief. By the time I hit adolescence, though, I had become aware that trying to talk to adults as an adult wasn't working anymore. It was around that time that my mother took me out for a long evening drive, and tried to explain to me one of the great truths of adult life:
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Saturday, February 04, 2006
"I Can Feel The Poop!"

Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man has been playing on the Discovery Channel for the last couple of nights. I originally had no intention of watching it -- I dunno, it just doesn't sound that interesting on the face of it -- but, typically for a weekend evening, there was exactly fuck-all else to do or watch. I hadn't seen any of this year's crop of docs, and it's gotten good notices, so what the hell, right?

Jesus H., am I glad I watched this film. I've watched it twice now; I can't stop watching it. I am compelled to watch it. Not because of its pathos, its tragedy, or its "wild adventure" (as the Discovery Channel so misguidedly describes it), but rather because... it's the funniest fucking thing I've seen in months.

I do feel a bit guilty saying that -- and I'm not prone to feelings of guilt, so that's saying something. It's not my intention to make light of work that was clearly so important to one person, or of the death of someone who was obviously loved. It's not intended as disrespect. To be sure, the film has its harrowing aspects, Treadwell's heart was in the right place, conservation is important work, you almost buy the premise the first time around, etc. etc. But seriously... this is a goddamn funny film. Admittedly it's the kind of humor that will most appeal to pretentious high-brows with a strong taste for McSweeney's and The Office -- this is sweet, dark existential slapstick. But if that's your thing, get all your Derrida-quoting, sick-fuck friends together and enjoy.

The requisite synopsis (spoiler alert, you wuss): Timothy Treadwell -- drug addict, alcoholic, and demon-haunted runner-up for the role of Woody on Cheers -- finds salvation among the bears of the Katmai National Park in Alaska. He eventually takes up seasonal residence among them, inflicts gross anthropomorphistic projection upon them, and is ultimately eaten by them. Along the way he records 100 hours of video footage in the Jeff Corwin mold (minus the charisma). German New Wave director Werner Herzog attempts to make sense of it all, in a typically German, New Wave kind of way. Naturally, the result defies easy description.

The comedic value is partly the product of Treadwell's own personality and (shall we say) intriguing thought processes. The guy is amusing to watch, in exactly the way that your closeted, awkward, un-self-aware teenage cousin is amusing to watch. He wanted to be some kind of ursine Jane Goodall -- the obvious flaw in this plan being that, as large and dangerous as gorillas can be, at least they're not two-ton carnivores sporting eight-inch claws and brains the size of walnuts. I'm not saying Treadwell was asking for his pathetically predictable fate... I'm just sayin'. And the juxtaposition of his happy-happy "I wuv you" baby talk on the one hand, and his obscenity-filled, borderline paranoid-psychotic ranting on the other is definite Must See TV.

It's also partly because of Herzog's eccentric brand of documentary filmmaking. This isn't a mockumentary, but it sure as hell feels like one. Full of awkward pauses, over-laden statements, faux-beatific communion with nature, and hyperbolic gravitas (the earnest bequeathal of Treadwell's super-chunky digital nerd watch is comedy gold), Herzog's approach brings out a deep, rich layer of black humor that Treadwell could never have managed on his own. Every scene, from the most light-hearted to the most tragic, contains at least one fantastic gag. I can't even begin to count them all -- we're talking wall-to-wall funny. It's better than Spinal Tap, I swear to god. And it's funny because it's true -- not in the cliche sense, but in the really-real sense. This is documentary. And that's the best joke of all. (Were it not for all the corroborating evidence that Timothy Treadwell did indeed exist, I'd be seriously inclined to think the whole thing is a hoax -- that the Grizzly Man is the product of some unnamed comedic genius, that the whole thing was scripted and carefully produced, that this is all an elaborate set-up. Can Treadwell's story possibly be real? Are we actually supposed to take him seriously?)

It begs for parody. I've got half an outline already worked out, and it would be a lot of fun to make, but I know in my heart that it's a fool's errand. There's no joke I could write that would be half as sublime as this film. Timothy Treadwell lived and died for this joke, and that's further than even Andy Kaufman dared venture.

Hindu Floaty Thing bless you, Timothy Treadwell. Thanks to you, we all feel the poop.
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Ah, Crap

There are always too few genuinely groovy old guys in the world. Al Lewis was one of the oldest and grooviest, but now he's dead. Is it too much to hope that the vampire schtick was true?


1923-2006
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Friday, February 03, 2006
Friday Miscellany

A long time ago, I did posts of assorted stuff that I didn't have any other use for. You know, all those little things that don't really merit a post of their own, but which still want some attention. Not a week goes by that I don't end up with at least half a dozen of these web-scraps, but somehow the plan fell by the wayside and none of them ever appeared here (which isn't to say you wouldn't have found them had you read any of a thousand other blogs.)

Anyway, I've been thinking that I should do that again. Except maybe with less effort this time -- hey, the six-word context link works for Atrios, so why not me?

Ahem...

Flying Spaghetti Monster erotica. Hey, it's more than we ever got out of Jehovah. (Not really SFW, unless your workplace is pretty laid-back.)

Iraqomo: I usually detest stuff like this, but this one ain't half bad. Some of the lyrics are even not-entirely-obvious. Good work!

The Simpsons tried to warn us way back in 1994. None of us caught it. But now that it's in my face, Mr. Burns is soooooo Dick Cheney. Vote Quimby!

Do you still seriously believe that faith-based doctorin' wouldn't end badly?

I don't know how I missed this connection.

We should have at least five copies of this at the Co-op. Don't feel like actually reading a book or doing your own research? Expect someone else to do all the hard parts for you? Yeah, well, no more excuses. (Now if only they'd do one addressing the question, "why won't you just make my film for me?")

That's enough for now. I might add more later on, though.

Whaddya think? Is this a format I should pursue, or just a waste of everyone's time?
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Damn

This CGI stuff is hard.

Seriously. It's not just that I'm learning the software and the processes involved -- this is a whole new way of thinking about things, one with which I have absolutely no previous experience. Compared to this, Final Cut Pro was a piece of piss (as the saying goes.)

No, I'm not giving up. Just sayin'.
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Thursday, February 02, 2006
Wanted: Ideas Man

One of the big steps, I think, in developing maturity as an artist is figuring out and coming to terms with one's creative style. Not artistic style -- not the shape and tone of one's expression -- but creative style: how you go about arriving at and achieving that expression. I have one friend here in Memphis whose modus operandi is all about improvisation -- he writes fast, revises only minimally, and makes up the rest as he goes. It seems to (mostly) work for him -- not that he hasn't done some less-successful pieces, but he's mostly avoided major failures. Another friend uses creative processes that I find almost impenetrable -- I don't know how he does what he does, but he gets some really interesting results. The former has the inherent originality of the moment on his side; the latter is just innately original -- or at least, not above doing things that most of us would be too embarrassed to do on screen. His self-effacement renders him original by dint of his willingness to go places we've all been but don't want to admit to.

I lack both of those strengths. In fact, when it comes to root ideas, I'm not very original at all -- I'm stuck with a very derivative creative style. And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It's not, y'know, the best thing ever... I wouldn't mind having the kind of (seemingly) easy creativity that I envy in others. And it's not that I don't occasionally bring forth an entirely new idea of my own; it's just that it happens only rarely for me. Even when it does, only a fraction of those ideas survive the years-long onslaught of self-doubt and hyper-criticism that I impose upon them once they're born.

But I'll you what I am good at: I can be a hell of a developer. I can't compose the melody, but once I've learned it I can write variations around it from dawn till dusk. I don't often devise a story, but I can take someone else's and slap on layer after layer of meaning. I can find angles and refine beats and add nuance till the whole thing is loaded -- even overloaded -- with narrative weight, then strip away everything but a chewy layer of subtext. I can cross your genres, turn your characters inside out, and flip a premise on its head. If you give me a solid story, I can give you back half a dozen variations on the theme, and all of them unrecognizeable (if I put my mind to it.)

Not that that's worth much in the real world.

You see, it leaves me a slave to pre-existing material. If I don't have original material upon which to work, then the work becomes difficult. And while I'm free to adapt short stories as much as I want, I can't really do much with them afterwards. It's not within my rights. The obvious solution would be to hook up with someone who's got a good head for ideas but no ability or desire to push them past the idea stage; but that's not easy, either. In my life thus far, I can count on one hand the number of potential collaborators with whom I've felt sufficiently in-sync to work on that level, and three of them I don't even know anymore. I pine more for a co-creator than I ever have for a lover; and collaborators are much harder to come by. Boyfriends come and go, but Really Good Art (someday, someday) is more personal than sex... especially during the creative process. It's not something to be treated lightly. I mean, at least during casual sex you have the benefit of protection. You can block out chlamydia, but they don't make condoms to stretch over your psyche.

Though maybe they should. Think of the problems we might have avoided.

Most of the people I know who've pursued any art form beyond their youth have eventually been surprised by the path they've ended up on. It's one of those funny truths you stumble across along the way: just because you love punk rock/magical realism/impressionism doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be any good at it yourself; or even if you can pull it off, you may find it doesn't serve you as well as you thought it would. I myself grew up with a fondness for huge set-pieces in film: I was about scope and scale and florid design. And I still love that stuff -- Jeunet remains one of the few directors who can successfully pull me in. But as much as I'd like to work that way myself -- even putting practical considerations aside -- I just don't. What I want as a viewer and what I do as a filmmaker are completely different things. When I'm writing, I don't write about grand settings and elaborate costumes, I write about single people and motivations. With, of course, a solid line in subtext. Since that's what I do and all. It's like a musician who fell in love with Shostakovich but ended up writing country songs; or a painter who went to Paris to learn to paint like Toulouse Lautrec but eventually became a children's book illustrator. You can choose art, and to some extent you can choose your medium, but your work has its own ideas about what it wants to be. And the really weird thing is that eventually your circuitous path will always tend to come back to where you started. But I'm not that far along yet.

(Y'know, thinking about it, this obsession with subtext might turn out to be a fatal flaw. Even among sophisticated viewers, how many people are actually patient and thoughtful enough to work out the subtext of a new film? Shit, I don't even understand my own subtext half the time. What good is it to add unspoken parallels to the Old Testament if nobody ever notices? And yet, what good is a subtext that's obvious?)

Anyway, my fervent hope is that one of these days I'll stumble across someone with more ideas than time, and from there the rest will work itself out.

Admittedly, it's not much of a business plan.

PS: Or maybe I should just give drugs a chance. Seems to work for lots of other folks.
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