Saturday, October 13, 2012

Breaking dawn + reflection part 2

The supposed big "triumph" of the series for Bella occurs when she is able to use her power to shield everybody on their side, not that she even needed to, but she does. Ok, so the volturi gathered an army to take out the Cullen's because they made a new vampire baby. For hundreds of years, it was presumed impossible for a vampire and a human to reproduce, the reason given is that when you become a vampire, your body stops changing, so women stop getting their periods. Yet somehow, Edward is still able to produce viable sperm. I'm going to assume stephenie Meyer failed 7th grade health class. So I guess it's ok to make new vampires but not if they are children. The lover of one of the vampires they killed in the last boom gets a look at Bella and renesmee and zips off to snitch on them. As usual, people act on assumptions in this story and no one ever gets a chance to explain, which is just bad plotting and stupid motivation.

At last, Alice, Bella's sister in law who had left without explanation earlier in the book, returns with the members of a Brazilian family who Bella and Edward encountered on their honeymoon, as living proof that other vampire-human hybrids exist. This defuses the entire conflict and everybody goes home without suffering any casualties. Anticlimactic, sure, but at this point you'd be foolish to expect any kind of satisfying resolution. Predictably, Jacob imprints on renesmee, thereby resolving the love triangle that wasn't. With a hint of furthering the story somewhere in the future, this heinous shit is over. Here are some notes about the series as a whole:

- getting back to what I started complaining about earlier: the biggest problem with this series is that none of the characters have any sort of existence that doesn't revolve around serving the protagonist. Alice is a perfect example -- when the plot is not requiring her to use her iffy psychic powers, all she ever does is go on shopping sprees for Bella and execute elaborate plans for her prom and wedding. Are we ever given a real reason why she should care so much? Of course not. Even the characters that dislike Bella are given only the defining character trait of "doesn't like Bella." One way or another, she's the center of the universe at all times. This ties right into my theory that these books are pitched directly at girls who hate themselves.

- how much do I regret reading these books? There were a few moments that didn't absolutely make me curse my own literacy. The sections from Jacobs pov are at least not from Bella's, though still not good. The parts dealing with sex were hilarious in a bad way. Any part where Bella was in physical pain felt sweetly cathartic. But other than that, I'm hard-pressed to come up with anything positive to say about any of these books. They are empty stories full of bad prose and nothing else.

- I remain solidly on Team Jacob, not just because he has the coolest name ever. Edward is just way too much of a doormat to Bella and a boring person with no interests other than his girlfriend. In real life, girls hate guys like that. At least Jacob has a life outside of inexplicably crushing on the least desirable protagonist ever put on paper. Plus, I bet he could kick Edwards ass.

- why did I read this again? Obviously, so I could blog about it. But really, I just run low on interests sometimes and give in to ill-conceived impulses. Hopefully it doesn't happen again.

- overall, my biggest complain about these books is the lack of a scene where Jacob attempts to seduce Bella by singing a rendition of "hungry like the wolf". What the hell, stephenie Meyer?

- stephenie Meyer is a Mormon, and a strange, strange woman if her writing is any indication. Se is terrified of sex but wallows in romance to a sickening degree. She demonstrates no understanding of pacing or plotting or character development. She cribs ideas liberally from Marvel comics. And she is the best-selling author of all time, in spite of it all. My hat is off.

Now, who wants to see me read Fifty Shades of Grey?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Breaking dawn + reflection

This will be a multi-part post because im writing it on an ipad, which is a stupid machine that limits how long your posts can be.
The asinine final chapter of twilight concerns the birth of Edward and Bella's child, an ultimate showdown of vampires that amounts to nothing, and way too much stupid description about Bella becoming a vampire. I'm gonna blow through the plot here so's I can commence to bitching about the book sooner.
There's a wedding, blah blah blah, they go to brazil for their honeymoon and Bella gets knocked up right away. The way this book deals with sex is one of the most laughable things about it. The morning after their wedding night, Bella wakes up and finds herself covered in feathers because Edward had to bite the pillow to keep from totally destroying Bella's vagina. First of all, wow, real subtle there. Second, it is obvious to me that stephenie meyer is not at all familiar with the term "pillow biter" or it's attendant connotations. If you are unfamiliar, go watch waiting for Guffman, or just think about it logically for two seconds. It's hilarious, that you would spend three books building this man up as the most amazing specimen of masculinity, then as soon as he hits the sheets you unintentionally tag him with the derisive term for a gay bottom. And yes, i have now taken to referring to stephenie meyer in the second person. That is how damaging these books have been to my world.
As far as I can tell, Edward and Bella manage to have sex exactly twice before her pregnancy starts causing such horrific complications she needs to be bedridden. See, after the first time, Edward has all the pangs of guilt over it because... She had bruises on her thighs afterward. Yeah. Apparently during his 150 years on earth, nobody ever told him there are other positions than just pounding away at some chicks open legs. Also, bruises means you got off easy, sweetheart. So anyway, the pregnancy absolutely rips Bella a new one. She can't keep anything down, the baby kicks her so hard it breaks her ribs, etc. this part of the book is actually kinda fun, seeing Bella finally, finally suffer as bad as she has deserved to all this time. Unfortunately, we are cheated out of experiencing it through her pov because the narration abruptly shifts to Jacob at this point, for no reason. Hey, I'll take any respite from the tortured prose of Bellas pov, but you'd think the one time it'd be important to be in the characters head is during the most horrendously painful experience of her life. But that's stephenie Meyer for you, the woman who has deomnstrated over and over that she doesn't understand how literature works.
So after something like 2 months of pregnancy, the baby comes, snaps her spine in half, and Edward has no choice but to turn her into a vampire. Obviously he'd wanted to all this time because everyone was afraid the baby would kill her, but she refused. Ok, we all know it's good to respect your wife's wishes, but this is a person who openly acknowledges she doesn't know what's good for her. Sometimes you have to grow a pair and do what somebody doesn't want you to do. This gets at the heart of what is most fundamentally wrong with this whole series, which I'll return to later. She miraculously survives through some combination of vampire venom and morphine, but not before experiencing the most incredible pain imaginable. Then boom, she's a vampire.
A whole lot of nothing happens between the baby's birth and the ostensible climax of the series. But before I get to that, let me just point out that she names the baby reneesme. Bellas mom is Renee, Edwards adoptive vampire mom is esme. If you had a friend who did that, you would never stop making fun of them. But since this is Bella, everyone acts like its no big deal. So during the early stages of her vampirism, everybody is totally interested in what her vampire power would. And Bella is so pathetic that when no extraordinary power is apparent, people start assuming her power is that she's ale to control herself from not biting humans... Better? Than other newborn vampires. I'll just skip to the end and tell you her power turns out to be creating a psychic "shield" that can protect herself and others from other vampire powers, kind of like Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four, or the daughter from the Incredibles if youre too young to know what that is.

(continued in part 2)

Friday, July 27, 2012

My faults

This isn't a complete list. These are just the ones that reoccur most frequently, and with a vengeance.

I can't trust anyone.

If it came down to the choice between truly putting my trust in a person, and being left alone, I'd choose being alone every time. And it's not that I believe everyone is evil and out to get me with malicious intent. It's just my belief that anybody who truly knows me, who has had a glimpse into the core of who I am as a person, would simply choose not to be around me. I use pre-emptive rejection as a weapon against the possibility that I will be rejected. I would rather lose the connection with another person on my own terms than lose it because someone of their own free will decided it wasn't worth the effort. I list this first because it is at the root of almost everything else that's wrong with me. It's why I'm dishonest, it's why I can't make or keep friends, it's the reason I suspect everybody else's motives, it's what makes me afraid of losing the love of everyone who loves me, and on and on and on.

I have a bad temper.

When I was a child, my two older brothers used to try to get me mad. Then they would laugh at my anger and call me "temper boy, temper boy". That boy never fully went away. I just got better at suppressing him. I used to have these weird explosions of anger, usually resulting in self-directed (or property-directed) violence. I used to punch myself in the head as hard as I could, several times at a go. I've banged my head against more things than I can recall. My parents had a stairway at their old house that I used to throw myself down. One time I ran down my street and tackled a garbage can, linebacker-style. Another time my car ran out of gas and I punched the steering wheel so hard the horn got stuck and went "ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRHHHHHHHNNNNN" for several minutes until a nice guy (and total stranger) living on the block came out and cut it off for me, before driving me to the gas station and filling my tank up for me. I've gotten better over the years at not taking my anger out on things, but sometimes the boy comes back and whenever it does, it's still as powerful as ever. I feel totally out of control, even if I manage not to destroy or injure anything. I'm starting to realize it'll never go away, it's just this beast I carry inside me forever. Maybe this explains why the Hulk was my favorite superhero when I was a little kid.

I focus on the negative side of everything.

Which is obvious to everybody who knows me (see fault #1). On the one hand, this can be a useful analytical skill. But when applied to one's own life, it's nothing but a bludgeon.

This isn't all, but I don't really care about the others. These seem to be the most significant, the ones I can see causing serious problems down the line. I have to figure out a way to keep these tendencies in check, or they will mess with my life. Anyway I'm working on it. I know awareness isn't the same thing as improvement, but it's a start, right?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Goodbye ain't

From this day forward, effectively immediately (or whenever I start feeling like it), I am hereby removing the word "ain't" from my vocabulary. It's going to be difficult to let go of, since I love saying it so much, but my wife asked me nicely to stop saying it and so I had to acquiesce, mainly because I couldn't come up with a compelling reason why I should keep saying it. I don't know whether she's opposed to the word on principle or if she just doesn't like it when I say it. She said to me "You're not Huckleberry Finn", and I just can't argue with that point.

So goodbye, ain't. You were fun and ungrammatical. It's going to be hard singing along to every pop song that I love and having to correct the lyrics, but it is a necessary commitment.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I get it now. It took three entire volumes, but I finally understand the appeal of these books. It doesn't make me like them any better, but it does make the phenomenon a little less inexplicable. These books are porn for girls with low self-esteem. And not in the Arrested Development sense of "girls with low self-esteem". These books are meant to serve as living proof that you can be a big soggy sack of nothing and still receive undying, unconditional love from everyone around you. Not only do you not have to put any effort into being kind, or charismatic, or decent in any way, you can actually be actively unpleasant to everyone you know and all people will ever do is lavish constant affirmations of praise on you and indulge your every whim like the spoiled bitch princess you are. That's the real fantasy of this series, not the vampire/werewolf crap.

Eclipse is not the worst book of this series, but that's not a compliment. For a while, it seems like Stephenie Meyer is going out of her way not to repeat the mistakes of the first two books. Dream sequences are kept to a minimum. We get some backstory that has to be told from the point of view of characters other than Bella, for a change. Bella even does something useful for the first time in this series: she deduces that the vampire(s) who raided her room and stole her clothes earlier in the book are the same as the groups of vampires who are responsible for a slew of unsolved murders up in Seattle. The plot of this book is that the girl vampire who was soulmates with the evil vampire who tried to kill Bella in the first book has been building up an army of newborn vampires to stage an attack on Edward's family.

This has potential for excitement because as soon as you hear about you think "Hey, the good vampires should team up with the werewolves and fight these guys!" But unfortunately, that potential is never realized. The Cullens and the werewolves are all raring to go kick some newb-vampire ass, but Bella, being a killjoy spoilsport, refuses to let Edward join in the battle, despite the fact that, you know, him being in the fight gives them a significant tactical advantage. Once again, she puts her own selfish needs above everyone else's, putting everyone else's life in danger in the process, and instead of being called out for it she gets treated like her requests are perfectly reasonable and is accommodated accordingly. So instead of being treated to a epic orgy of vampire-killing action, we as readers merely have to settle for a much smaller-scale showdown between Edward, the vengeful female vampire, one of Jacob's friends, and another bad guy vampire, while Edward experiences the actual big battle telepathically. At the risk of quoting Jay-Z's "Takeover", that's so LAAAAAAMMME.

What's lamer still is the book's treatment of sexual mores. OK, so Edward puts the condition of turning Bella into a vampire that she has to marry him first. That's pretty controlling, but somewhat understandable. But then Bella tries to get him to sleep with her before they go through with any of this stuff. Not that you could blame Edward for blanching at the idea of having sex with such a hateful person, but he's constantly been telling her how much he loves her and how "amazing" he thinks she is all this time. And his reasons for not doing it are flimsy. First he's like, "I'd kill you." Maybe he had been planning on doing her only after she became a vampire or something, but she wants to experience this as a human, which she is well within her rights to want. But I still don't buy that just because he's a vampire, he'd be unable to control his super-strength during sex. If anything, being a 117-year-old virgin just means that he wouldn't last long enough in the sack to put Bella in any danger at all (except the danger of an underwhelming sexual experience). Then, he claims he wants to preserve his virginity until marriage because he's committed every other sin in the book, and he wants to remain "virtuous" in the last remaining area. So, the guy who betrays no other religious inclination whatsoever in any of these books suddenly becomes all pious when it comes to chastity. I understand that Stephenie Meyer wants to impose her values on us, but there had to have been a more elegant way to do it. Near the end, Edward finally relents and decides to give her some, but then for no reason at all she declines and the only explanation we get from her is "I want to do this right." Well that sure cleared it up!

The love triangle is way overblown. Team Edward vs. Team Jacob is never presented as a legitimate choice. At the end of the book, Bella arbitrarily comes to the realization that she actually is in love with Jacob as well, but instead of putting her in the dilemma of who to spend her life with, all this does is wrack her with guilt over how to let Jacob down easy. Keep in mind that earlier in the book, she punched Jacob in the face for kissing her. (not that Jacob wasn't asking for it; he kind of rape-kissed her) How she went from punching a guy in the face for kissing her to claiming to be in love with him is anyone's guess; the text sure doesn't give us any clues. This is nothing but artificial conflict. Bella never for one moment even entertains the thought of leaving Edward, so how is this even a love triangle? Not wanting to hurt somebody's feelings is not the same thing as being in love with that person.

See, in addition to every other defect it is possible for a fictional character to have, Bella is a walking martyr complex. Stephenie Meyer even realizes this, to the extent that she inserts a didactic werewolf/Indian myth about a woman who saves the tribe by sacrificing herself to the vampires. Bella recognizes herself in the woman immediately, and longs to off herself just to give her friends some kind of upper hand in the battle against the bad vampires. Every event that takes place in the book, she never thinks about any of it in any terms other than how it directly impacts her and her happiness. Everybody else falls all over themselves to please her, she never shows any gratitude toward anyone, she even acknowledges that this world would be a better place for all concerned without her. What is this all for, if not to burnish the egos of all the women who identify with someone like Bella?

But this is Meyer's world. Love will happen to you, regardless of whether you seek it or want it or merit it in anyway. Have you heard of this werewolf thing she came up with called "imprinting?" For some reason, in her mythology every werewolf has a certain someone out there that they fall in love with on the spot, no matter what age they are. For the rest of their lives (and they live a long time, even if they're not immortal like the vampires), they remain bonded to this person no matter what happens. One of Jacob's friends falls in love with a baby here. To her credit, Bella is properly outraged by this, but then Jacob explains that when you imprint on a person, you become whatever they need at that point in time. So you'll be her favorite uncle until she's old enough to marry you or whatever. That's the ideal for love, in Stephenie Meyer's world. You see someone once, and it's over. You love them forever, and those feelings never have to be earned or maintained. They just happen, for no reason. It's all about as magical and believable as, well, werewolves and vampires.

Only one book left. Then our nightmare will be over. Unless I decide to start watching the movies.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Moon

Bella is a horrible person. In the first book, I thought the problem was that she was pathetic and dull as an old dish sponge. In this book, she's straight-up evil. She flat-out uses Jacob -- after Edward ditches her for reasons that are contrived and silly, his company is the only thing that makes her forget -- and she even admits this to herself and continues to do it. She also deliberately places herself in danger again and again, simply because she thinks she can "hear" Edward's voice whenever she's afraid. This behavior is not romantic, it is the actions of monstrous insecurity and crippling co-dependency. If a real person did any of this stuff, she'd be committed and diagnosed with psychotic egomania, or some other mental disease that doesn't even have a name yet. One of the (bluntly simplistic) themes of this book is "True love is irrational". It should be "Love is ax-crazy fucknuts".

Again, there's hardly any plot. Edward leaves, she hangs out with Jacob, she hangs out with him some more, they fix some broken motorcycles, blah blah blah... When some conflict does come to the fore, it pretty much repeats the same formula as the first book. Guy she's spending time with suddenly starts acting all weird and she can't figure out why; it's revealed that he's part of an ancient order of supernatural beasts. There's no reason this should take 400+ pages to transpire, but it does. There's so much padding in this book it could double as protective gear for football players. See, in addition to making Bella a vapid, thoroughly selfish manipulator, Stephenie Meyer sees fit to make her protagonist the slowest, dumbest person who has ever existed. How many different ways can you make your main character loathsome? As readers we are mentally screaming at her "ARRGH, THEY'RE WEREWOLVES, YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT! THERE'S BEEN GIANT ANIMAL SIGHTINGS AND JACOB EVEN TOLD YOU ABOUT THEIR TRIBAL WOLF LEGEND IN THE LAST BOOK!!! DUHhhhhhhhHHHHHHH!!!" Even after she witnesses a goddamn pack of giant wolves chasing away the evil vampire from the first book, it still takes her forever to put two and two together.

And again (since I don't know where else to complain about this) enough with the lame-ass dream sequences already. This thing goes way overboard with them, to the point where it's less a vampires-and-werewolves romance novel and more of a dream journal broken up with intermittent sequences of vaguely-vampire-and-werewolf-related action. These sequences are used for nothing except the world's most obvious symbolism and reminding me that I hate Bella again.

Jacob was actually a pretty pleasant character up until he became a wolf. After that, he becomes just as sullen and angsty as everyone else in this crummy world. Bella says herself that she likes Jacob because he's a perpetually happy-go-lucky person. But I guess Meyer thinks we'd rather read yet another account of what a "burden" it is to have awesome powers, how much of a "freak" someone would feel like if they could do something that almost nobody else on earth can do. For all her faults, Bella seems to be the only person who sees clearly on this matter. She wants nothing more than to become a vampire (albeit just so she can stay with Edward forever) and doesn't care a whit about leading a normal life. At the end of this book, Edward promises to change her into one only after she marries him. His interest in marriage is arbitrary and seems to be there only so that Bella can have a reason to balk at being bitten.

I'll return to that later. The turning point of this book hinges on one of the most absurd, contrived, and ridiculously unbelievable misunderstandings I can think of. After Bella throws herself into the ocean in the middle of a hurricane (after Jacob comes to his senses and realizes he can't stand to be near her), Edward somehow gets wind of it and thinks that she killed herself. See, one of the elders in Jacob's tribe died of a heart attack earlier that day, so Edward places one phone call to Bella's house, asks to speak to Bella's dad and Jacob (who answered the phone for some reason) tells him "He's at the funeral." So of course, Edward does what NO PERSON WOULD EVER DO and jumps immediately to the conclusion that Bella is dead. He then jets immediately to Italy so he can commit suicide by exposing himself as a vampire in front of some kind of Reigning Vampire Elite, who are the only ones who can kill him. This is a classic example of what Roger Ebert used to call an "Idiot Plot" -- a simple misunderstanding that could be cleared up if the characters would only have a conversation that lasted longer than 5 seconds.

So let's review this sequence of events:
  • Bella throws herself into the ocean
  • On the same day, one of Jacob's relatives died
  • Edward hears about it or something
  • Edward calls Bella's house; Jacob answers
  • Jacob says that Bella's dad is "at the funeral"
  • Instead of saying "Gee, I'm a vampire who can move 1,000 miles an hour, maybe I should go pay my respects to the woman I supposedly love more than anything can possibly love any other thing or at least get a confirmed visual ID of the body", he decides "I HAVE TO GO KILL MYSELF RIGHT NOW IT'S A RACE AGAINST TIME AND EVEN THOUGH I'VE BEEN ALIVE OVER 100 YEARS THERE IS NO ROOM FOR PATIENCE OR SECOND THOUGHTS ON THIS MATTER ARRRRGH"
And ugh, the symbolism. This book strains so much to make a connection between itself and Romeo & Juliet, it's sickening. The bard rolled over in his grave so hard it actually woke him up and made him say "Damn you, Stephenie Meyer! I was enjoying being dead". It even goes so far as to compare Bella's plight with Juliet being forced to marry Paris. Now, it's been a while since 9th grade English, but I'm pretty sure Juliet didn't go running to Paris because Romeo abruptly decided to abandon her. Nor do I think that Bella was under any obligation, at any time, to marry Jacob. There is a bit of a parallel between the werewolves/vampires and the Montagues/Capulets (there's an ancient beef between them that's never fully explained), but it'd be more direct if the story were about Edward wanting to marry Jacob (now there's a story I'd enjoy).

Since we're back on marriage again, let's revisit the ending. Bella has weird hang-ups about marriage because she's a child of divorce. Some would call this a convenient plot device that's only there to prolong the story, but I think it's consistent. First of all, it's established that Bella hates absolutely everything. But it's also the only theme of the book that really works. In fact, I'd prefer to think of the Twilight Saga as less of a supernatural romance tale and more of an author's screed justifying her decision to marry and have children early. I don't know anything about Stephenie Meyer's biography, but I know she's Mormon and she's married and has kids. Therefore, I view these books as the work of an enormously insecure, egotistical and naturally defensive woman working through the following issues: 1) her parent's divorce and 2) the fear that she squandered her life by settling down early and devoting it to her family. These things are presented only as the subtlest subtext, but they're the only way these books even make sense to me. Bella takes one look at Edward and boom, from that moment, her life is over. But it's OK because it's "true love" and "love is irrational". Bella's fear of marriage is actually one of her few redeeming qualities for me. A person this young should be afraid to marry. It doesn't make up for all the shit she puts her so-called "friends" and "boyfriends" through, but I'm grasping here.

As much as it pains me to admit it, Meyer's ideas aren't horrible. I'd totally read an epic saga about a centuries-old feud between a vampire family and a mutant werewolf tribe (even without getting into the unfortunate racial implications -- all the wolves are American Indians and all the vampires are white, as far as I can tell). These books should JUST be about that. But again, the point-of-view character sabotages any shot it had at excitement. Imagine how boring the Spider-Man comics would be if they were entirely told from Mary Jane's perspective. Or Aunt May. No one would read that. This is rule #1 (or #2, at worst) of writing -- pick a good main character. Or at least, one who is relevant to the actual plot.

I'm not sure if I can continue with this series. It can't get any better. But can it possibly get any worse? Ah, there's the rub.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I hate this book. Let me preface this by saying that I'm clearly not the audience for it. I've never read a romance novel (but they can't all be this bad), and I'm not a girl and I prefer to read books that leave me feeling overwhelmed by the sheer level of detail in them and reminded of the infinite possibilities in life.

But I read all the Harry Potter books and mostly enjoyed them (the last 2 were pretty weak). I love The Hunger Games. Obviously, not being the target audience does not preclude me from enjoying something.

Most of the problems in Twilight stem from its protagonist. Bella just doesn't have anything going for her. She sees herself as a perfectly average, uninteresting person (which she is). So it remains a mystery to us why everybody she meets seems to fall in love with her. Strangers go out of their way to befriend her. Boys start fighting over her BEFORE she even starts hanging out with the vampires. Of course, all this attention does nothing but embarrass her, because she is a hateful person and probably incapable of relating to anyone else. The only person she shows any interest in is the one guy in school who openly acts hostile toward her. But then, oops, turns out that guy is just another lovestruck suitor who was immediately smitten with her all along. Why? We'll never know. Oh yeah, her blood smells good and he can't read her thoughts.

This last reason actually makes sense. If he could read Bella's thoughts, he'd realize that she's never had a remotely interesting thought in her entire life. Unfortunately, we as readers are not so lucky. The first-person narrative choice does nothing but underline how little happens in the story. Bella doesn't even find out that Edward is a vampire until roughly 100 pages in, after he's saved her life twice (TWICE). They both fall in love with each other on the spot, so there's no push-pull or romantic tension or anything. The only conflict seems to be that Bella wants to become a vampire right away and Edward basically gives no reason for why she can't except "Oh, silly Bella." Basically all their conversations are like this:

EDWARD: I can't be with you because it makes me want to bite you and drink all your blood.

BELLA: Maybe you should bite me, then I'll get to be with you and this story will mercifully be over.

EDWARD: But I won't be able to stop until you're dead, stupid.

BELLA: Fine then, don't be with me! I'll just be standing over there in case you ever get the urge to bite something.

Ugh. She's so passive-aggressive and lacking in personality that I'm just dying for the viewpoint to switch to somebody else for a spell. When she's not complaining about everything that happens to her, she's fawning over Edward, whether it's his perfect looks, his voice, or his his mannerisms, every one of which sends her into a tizzy. This isn't so bad, really (I like any confirmation that women are just as shallow as men when it comes to looks), but I wish Stephenie Meyer were better at writing descriptions. Pretty much all she does pile on the adjectives and cliches. I can only read about how "beautiful" and "perfect" someone is and how they resemble a "Greek God" or an "angel" so much until I start mentally skipping over those sections. When I know what you're going to write before I read it, there is no reason to continue.

I want to complain about another thing here: Bella spends way too much time narrating her dreams here. Why should we care about them? They're dreams, and unless it's revealed in later installments that her dreams can predict the future, there's no reason to include them because they have no bearing on anything that happens anywhere in the story. This is Creative Writing 101 stuff that Meyer sees fit to just blatantly violate over and over again. Oh, but it's consistent with the protagonist she's created, whose depths of self-absorption inspire her to narrate the mundane details of her banal daily routine, right down to what she cooked for dinner and what CD she is listening to. Isn't this book supposed to be about vampires? Why all the minutia about the boring life of a boring person?

Anyway, about 380-odd pages into the book, some semblance of conflict finally introduces itself in the form of an evil vampire coven that wants to hunt humans. Edward and the other Cullens scramble to protect Bella, but she's so dumb she falls for the old "I have your mother but I don't have to prove she's actually here" trick and basically walks right into the hunter's trap. It's not satisfactorily explained how she gets rescued anyway, or maybe it is, I don't remember. There's also the Blacks, Jacob and his family that we all know are werewolves but none of that stuff happens in this book. There's barely a hint of the love triangle that supposedly dominates this series. I've heard people complain that Gale gets the short shrift in THG, but here Jacob has literally no other personality traits than "yet another guy who is attracted to Bella, except this one somehow doesn't repulse her completely despite not being the embodiment of physical perfection". Maybe his character develops a little more in the next book, but right now it's looking like Team Jacob never stood a chance.

There's other problems with the book, but to enumerate them all would take far longer than to just say that Ms. Meyer badly needed an editor. The prose is easy to read (in the same way that a little girl's diary would be) but difficult to avoid rolling your eyes at, the concept of a family of vampires hopping from place to place every few years had potential, even the idea of them hunting animals so they don't have to bite humans wasn't a bad one. This book was fixable. But since we see the story unfold through the eyes of an unbelievably boring person who damn near doesn't do anything that's not "swooning at everything Edward does", it's doomed from the word go.

Anyway I'm reading New Moon now. Downward is the only way forward.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The 3 significant books

If you're lucky, you will read one book that will change your life. I have read three. They all occurred to me, not coincidentally, at important turning points in my life. Here are the 3 books, the stage of life I was at when I read them, and what I learned from them.
  • 1. The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 
  • Age at which I read it: Middle school  
  • What it taught me: That we are all slaves to history. Huck behaves the way he does because of his specific time and place, nothing more. Twain's great insight into American life is that it is actually a hotbed of lockstep conformity, not the birthplace of independent thought we flatter ourselves into thinking it is. Nowhere in this book is this point made more eloquently than in the speech that breaks up a lynch mob -- that was Twain grabbing the mic and letting us have it, right there. Also, it taught me that a flawed protagonist is always the best kind. And that Tom Sawyer really was an a-hole. 
  •  2. The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger  
  • Age at which I read it: 15  
  • What it taught me: If you're young, better hold on to something tight -- it only gets bumpier from here. Salinger perfectly captured that moment that occurs in every thinking person's life, where you arrive at the cusp of being a grown-up and all you think is "Wait, that can't be all there is to it." More specifically, he nailed the feeling that a certain type of person can have where the foreseeable future becomes all too clear, and it does nothing but fill you with dread. To be young is to be afraid, and this thing is the Rosetta stone for anybody may have (rightfully) forgotten. 
  •  3. The Trial by Franz Kafka  
  • Age at which I read it: 25  
  • What it taught me: Please. The meaning of Kafka's fiction has been puzzled over by literary scholars ever since Max Brod ignored his dead friend's wishes and published his three unfinished novels, of which this is the most complete and therefore the best. Most commonly, his work is interpreted as a critique of totalitarian government, or even an indictment of human society in general. I believe he was going for something far more basic, more primal. The true target of Kafka's satirical barbs was nothing less than the nature of life itself. When something cruel happens to us, there is no sufficient explanation we can come up with for it than "It was just my turn." This has been called "the logic of nightmares," but what's terrifying is that it's actually the logic of everyday life. Like Josef K. penetrating ever deeper into the implacable recesses of the Law, we all try to find meaning out of what is fundamentally chaos, if only because it seems absurd that there couldn't be any. Thus, the human mind is hopelessly ill-equipped to grapple with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Not only is the game fixed, but it's fixed in a way we couldn't begin to understand -- we're simply not built to. And even if we did somehow happen upon an explanation, all it would do is open an endless number of deeper questions, until at a certain point it's time to accept and embrace our fate. 
  •  Sorry for writing so much there, but it's not for nothing this guy is my favorite writer. I know I make him sound bleak, but his stuff is delivered with enough weirdness and ambiguity that it goes down like a cookie full of arsenic. His writing is full of incident that is ridiculous on its face, until you start reading parable into it. And he is no George Orwell, rubber-stamping a message into your brain until there can be no doubt what he's trying to communicate. His writing is strange and fanciful and even sometimes amusing. But it does lend itself to endless interpretation. And there you go. What are yours?

Monday, May 14, 2012

What would your entrance music be?

The entrance theme has been a long tradition in pro wrestling. Sometimes a wrestler uses pre-existing music (like "Macho Man" Randy Savage's use of "Pomp And Circumstance"), more often they will have a song written specifically for them (the best known is probably Hulk Hogan's "Real American"). Meant not only to introduce the wrestler (witness the crowd reaction as soon as the first strains of The Rock's song begins) but to embody their personality and send a message (usually, "A wrestling match is about to begin!), the entrance theme also works to get the audience fired up and strike fear into the heart of the opponent. So what would you use? Not just if you were a wrestler, but for any challenge in life that might require that extra boost of power? I have always been partial to "Bound For The Floor" by Local H as an entrance theme myself. Simple songs work the best, and if I had to pick one that represented me and my attitude, this would be it. What's yours?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Four Charlie Brown Movies

The first of the four full-length animated feature films based on the "Peanuts" comic strip was A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969). This thing was more padded than a 7th-grader's bra. Its paper-thin story concerns Charlie Brown's unlikely quest to win the national spelling bee, but the plot takes a bunch of detours with psychedelic musical tangents, sequences lifted verbatim from the comic strip, and an overlong episode where Linus and Snoopy go searching New York City for Linus's missing blanket (while a psychotic minor-key variation of "Linus And Lucy" plays on the soundtrack). The movie is probably the purest "Peanuts" adaptation of the four films, balancing humor and melancholy in its best moments just as effectively as the strip. However, it suffers from a lack of storytelling coherency and the songs (written by Rod McKuen) only serve to slow the pace down even more. Snoopy Come Home (1972) is the most depressing of the four. All you need to know about it is in the title (which, incidentally, is the only title for a Peanuts animated feature not to include Charlie Brown's name). This time the songs were written by Richard and Robert (recently deceased) Sherman of "Mary Poppins" fame, and the best-known number is probably "NO DOGS ALOWWWWWWWWWED." The main knock against this movie is that it's too maudlin. If it were anybody but Schulz, I'd be inclined to agree. The theme of the movie is coming to terms with losing a friend, and at times it reaches to make things more emotional than a children's cartoon has any right to be. Growing up, my favorite Peanuts cartoon was 1977's Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. This is the one where they go to summer camp and compete in a river-rafting race. The script is riddled with plot holes and the cast is a bit overstuffed this time around (as it's the first movie to feature Franklin, Peppermint Patty, and Marcie). And there's almost no emotional resonance to the whole thing. But it's got that old "Peanuts" charm to it just the same. There's a funny recurring bit about the girl characters constantly having to vote on everything that could be read as a critique of democracy. The best gag is the part where Snoopy gets stuck on Peppermint Patty's waterbed (still funny as an adult): The Peanuts gang goes international in Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back!) (1980). The plot concerns C.B., Linus, P.P. and Marcie traveling to France to live as foreign exchange students. It's pretty much the weirdest one, and that's saying something. There's a sequence where they're all trapped in a burning building, a scene of Snoopy playing tennis at Wimbledon, and a really funny gag were Charlie Brown keeps failing at buying a loaf of bread. It has its flaws (Lucy is barely in it), but like all the previous "Peanuts" movies it's warm, subtle, imaginative, strange, and hilarious. There have not been any "Peanuts" movies since 1980, which was 32 years ago. The latter two of these movies have never received an official DVD release, which is a travesty and a tragedy. Seek them out if you can. They are all worth your time.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My favorite Beastie Boys song

Adam Yauch AKA MCA died of cancer at the age of 47 yesterday. So this group is most likely done. Which gives me an excuse to post my favorite song by them as a tribute: MCA wasn't as showy as the other guys, but he is responsible for my favorite set of lines from the song (skip to 1:17):
A puppet on a string, I'm paid to sing or rhyme Or do my thing, I'm -- in -- a -- lava lamp!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Male singers

My favorites are Marvin Gaye, Nick Cave, Paul McCartney, and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd).

I'll be the first to admit that I don't necessarily listen to a singer's voice for their ability to sing. I also like a lot of bad singers.

Marvin Gaye had impeccable control over his voice -- never for one moment did it ever not sound exactly how he wanted it to. Nick Cave doesn't sing so much as he intones. He phrases his words with the conviction and gravitas of a preacher running through Sinners in the hands of an angry god. McCartney is a chameleon. "Martha My Dear", "Helter Skelter" and "Back In The U.S.S.R." have no business being sung by the same person, let alone residing on the same album. Gilmour just has the most beautiful male voice I've ever heard. I don't normally care for that style of singing, but his voice has a richness and fulness to it that I just have to respect.

Those are mine, what are yours?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pessimistic lines

I have always been saddled with the belief that negativity is smarter than positivity. Not just smarter, but truer and more mature. Anyone being honest with themselves about this life would have to concur with the "nasty, brutish and short" description.

But really, I don't care about smart, or truth, or maturity. What I do care about is fear. I fear looking stupid more than I enjoy appearing smart. I hate being wrong more than I like being right. Every decision I make seems to be a "lesser of two evils" situation. It's not that it's bad to begin with, but that's just the way I look at things -- in terms of which thing will hurt less rather than which thing will help more.

I'm not oblivious -- this is a huge problem for me and I need to figure out how to overcome it. Reverting back to my "glass half empty" philosophy every time something doesn't go my way is an act of cowardice and laziness. It takes courage to hope for things, and for me, it takes effort. Even if I turn out to be wrong, it's still important that I believe that I could have been right. I need to get so good at optimism that it becomes my default.

I don't know how to do this. But I'm gonna start by exercising gratitude. Everything that happens to me, I will be thankful for, no matter how little I understand it. It's something I need to practice so I can get good at. I don't need to get any better at complaining.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Something I don't want to share

I'm going to share a fact about myself that I don't want to share and that I don't want anybody to know. Here it is:

Not counting my parents, three different people have held me in their embrace while I was crying. All three of them were women.

Only one of them is someone that I still keep in regular contact with.

Monday, April 30, 2012


I'm not totally sure what linkedin is, but I'm on it:

If you're on there, send me a connection. And connect me with someone who will hire me on sight. And if I've sent you a connection request, stop acting like you don't know me. You totally do.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How important is someone's music taste?

If you had asked me, in my early twenties, what makes people "cool", I would have put "what music they listen to" somewhere near the top. In fact, if you had asked me to name one thing that was wrong in the relationship with my then-girlfriend, I would have said "musical incompatibility."

Now, eight years (or however long) into my current marriage, I can't believe I used to be so petty. Actually, I'm pretty sure that the difference between bad and good music is largely semantic. Wendy was game when we first started out, eagerly subjecting herself to the bands I foisted on her (and, I like to think, she had a few things to teach me as well), but if she hadn't even been willing to act interested, I wonder how long I would've bothered.

I guess the issue wasn't that I wanted someone who liked all the same music as me, I just wanted someone who was open to trying out new sounds, even having new experiences. That IS something important to find in a relationship, at least for me.

That's my thing that I used to judge people too harshly for, that I now know doesn't matter. What's yours?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Project Twilight: the intro

Sometimes I want to do something because it goes against my nature, sometimes because I want to punish myself, and sometimes for no reason at all. These are my motives for making the following announcement:

I have decided to read every single book in the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer and I hereby resolve to finish all of them cover-to-cover, no matter how averse it makes me feel.

I am not expecting it to be easy, but it is a challenge you will be sharing with me, as I plan to blog my reactions to these books as I'm reading them.

Whew. Wish me luck.

Favorite movie taglines

When I was a kid, I wanted to come up with movie taglines when I grew up. I just assumed it was something you could do for a living. Here are some of my favorites through the years:

When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth. (Dawn of the Dead, 1978)

In space, no one can hear you scream. (Alien, 1979)

Who will survive and what will be left of them? (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, 1974)

The Coast is toast. (Volcano, 1998)

Something has survived. (The Lost World, 1996)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My defenses

I want people to talk to me, so I stay quiet.
I want to keep my emotions to myself, so I wear a blank expression.
I want to be thought of as interesting, so I share only the thoughts that interest me.
I want people to think I'm happy, so I smile.
I want to make people feel comfortable around me, so I avoid direct eye contact.
I want to be easygoing, so I act bored.
I want to seem like I understand, so I laugh.
I want to be heard, so I speak too loudly.
I want to hide my nervousness, so I stay perfectly still.

These are my defenses. If they have offended you, I apologize. They have nothing to do with anybody but me.

An ideal husband

When it comes to love, we tend to place too much emphasis on "finding the right person" as opposed to "being the right person". This seems somewhat backwards to me. After all, what's the use of searching for a particular set of qualities if you're not willing to embody them yourself? And how do you expect someone to appreciate you for what you are if you don't learn to appreciate yourself the same way?

I have not been a perfect man all throughout this marriage, but it's never too late to start being what you want in a relationship. From this day forward, I am rededicating myself to the following principles:
  • AVAILABILITY. Always make the effort be there, never forget how easy it can be to slip away. Love dies in increments, not in waves.
  • DESIRABILITY. Look and act like you deserve this person. If there is any positive change to make, make it.
  • FLEXIBILITY. It's a give and take, and you must live without taking sometimes. Stay connected to what you are willing to give up and what you are not.
  • ADAPTABILITY. You are growing together. If you wanted to grow alone, you wouldn't have made the decision to do it with another person.
  • SPONTANEITY. Nothing is more dreary than having another person all figured out. Start by surprising yourself, then work on the other person.
  • PRIORITIZE. Sometimes things that seem urgent really aren't. Think about the order in which things should be done before you get caught up in something trivial.
This is a start, but I'm open to suggestions. Help me be a better man and I will find myself in an even better relationship.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Books I didn't finish

Ulysses by James Joyce
Why didn't I finish it?: Because it's Ulysses. Nah, but this thing was mostly over my head and trudging my way through it felt like an academic exercise.
Will I ever bother with it again: Sure, I'll give it another go someday. Because it's Ulysses.  
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Why didn't I finish it?: Good question. It's perfectly readable and stylistically impressive. The only problem was the complete and utter lack of plot or character development. That's not necessarily a deal-breaker for me (I've finished stuff that was way more aimless than this), but it does make it hard for me to care whether I ever get to the end or not.
Will I ever bother with it again: Nah. Truman Capote said, "That's not writing, that's typing." But that's not why I'll never finish this. It's just because I care that little.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Why didn't I finish it?: There's nothing wrong with this book. I just hate Levin. It's never a good thing when the most boring character in the whole book is intended as a stand-in for the author. You might as well just call the book "I Judge Everyone".
Will I ever bother with it again: Probably. I liked The Death of Ivan Ilyich, so I know Tolstoy is the man. I just have to ignore anything about this book that I dislike.
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol Why didn't I finish it?: It's too long.
Will I ever bother with it again: No.  
All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
Why didn't I finish it?: The first chapter to this book is 75 pages long. The equivalent scene in the movie takes takes like two minutes of screen time. Yeah, I found it slooooowwwww.
Will I ever bother with it again: Unlikely. Maybe it gets a hell of a lot better after that first chapter. But I just don't see why I should.
Anything by Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Herman Melville, etc. Why?: I've got a lot of gaps to fill in my literary knowledge. Some of them, I like to keep that way.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I love my country

When I was younger, I always wanted to memorize the names of every Capitol city in the United States. For some reason, this seemed important at the time. We had a song we used to listen to at school that went "The United States, the United States, I love my country the United States", but that just had the names of the states, not the capitols. Then there was this song from Animaniacs: But that one always seemed too long to memorize. Of course, now that I actually do know all the capitols by heart, I understand that it's all just trivia. I'm never gonna need the information. So I'm not sure why this was something I wanted to know. I think the point is that someone should've told me what was important to memorize and what wasn't so that I wouldn't waste all my time with this stuff.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to fail successfully

When things aren't going my way, I tend to attribute it to some personality flaw on my part. It's as if I believe that there's something innate in me that prevents me from getting what I want. This is a mistake. This is just my ego trying to soothe itself by absorbing all of the blame. I know this, but I still keep falling into the same pattern. So I'm making this post to remind myself. Like Barry Corbin says in No Country For Old Men: "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Who is the coolest superhero?

I: Pre-ramble
Let's make it simple. The coolest superhero has to be one of the Big Four: Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or Wolverine. Nobody else comes close in terms of popularity, and if you're not the most popular, you can't lay claim to being the coolest (this may seem unfair, but superheroes are geared to young people, and young people decide what is cool by virtue of what is popular). This way, we eliminate also-rans like Iron Man, Hulk, The Green Lantern, Captain America, Thor, Ghost Rider, The Flash, and The Punisher (as cool as any of them may be on their own merits, they're just not iconic enough).

II: Define this
I don't know of any better way to define coolness than "The ability to make me want to re-make myself in your image". There are a lot of factors that go into this feeling of inspired envy, but that's the definition in a nutshell.
SHORT VERSION -- If you're cool, I SHOULD want to be you. If I don't, then what's the point of being cool?

III: How they stack up
SUPERMAN -- Most powerful being in the universe. Flying is cool, going by my established criteria. Some of his powers seem redundant or unnecessary (X-ray vision? WHY?). His origin story is cool (everybody wants to be the last of an extinct race). He chooses to pretend to be a huge dork and weakling as his alter-ego, for reasons that are mysterious to me. He has a day job as a newspaper reporter, which is certainly not cool. Hangs out with his co-workers, which could be cooler, but isn't too pathetic by normal standards. His main enemy is a genius who's bald, so whatever. Oh, and his weakness is a green rock. LAME.

BATMAN -- Rich kid with fascist streak. His weapons and vehicles are cool. He's an orphan, and who hasn't wished that their parents were dead? Unfortunately, he mainly only hangs out with a teenager and an old butler, and loses major cool points as a result. His arch-enemy is a psychotic clown, and anybody who beats up clowns is cool. For his alter-ego he pretends to be a hedonistic playboy, which would be cool if it wasn't so divorced from reality. Doesn't really have a weakness, unless you consider "dressing up like a bat and fighting bad guys" to be a weak move in itself.

SPIDER-MAN -- Does whatever a spider can. Often cracks wise while cracking jaws. Started life as a nerd and crawled his way up to public enemy. His personal life has too many problems, and unfortunately those parts of the story often overtake the superhero/fighting evil stuff. His arch-enemy is Green Goblin, which is weird. Hangs out with his super-old aunt and a redheaded chick. Works at a newspaper for an a-hole of a boss. Almost nothing about Spider-Man is cool (he is too much like you and me), but that's what made him a groundbreaking character at the time.

WOLVERINE -- All-around bad-ass. Rips fools to shreds and then casually walks away. Can't be killed. Lives longer than everyone. His arch-enemy is Sabretooth, who was originally written as his father (and the only thing cooler than wanting your parents dead is actually attempting to murder them yourself). Actually, maybe his real arch-enemy is Cyclops (who's a huge douche, so either way he wins). He hangs out with a bald dude in a wheelchair and a bunch of confused, angsty teenagers who he acts as mentor to. His day job is sitting around in bars and getting into fights with patrons who are stupid enough to antagonize him. Has awesome hair. Nothing about this guy is not cool.

IV: Verdict
Wolverine is the coolest superhero ever. His powers are cool, he has cool friends, and his approach to life is pretty much the epitome of coolness. He clears absolutely every important category of coolness, and although some of the other guys give him a run for his money in certain categories, they also come up lacking in others. You could come up with good reasons why little prepubescent boys would not want to be Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man, but there's no reason why any of them would not want to be Wolverine in a second.

That was easier than I thought. Next time I will be examining the question "Who is the gayest superhero?"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Early 90s rap

We were playing a game of For The Record when I found out that Wendy does not know the song "Informer" by Snow. Word? Word. Bust it:

Soon it also became apparent that she wasn't sure who Kris Kross were. I told her that they were two little kids who wore their clothes backwards, but that just wasn't enough.

Then I started to question her a little further, and found out that for whatever reason, she just wasn't exposed to a lot of this stuff growing up. And really, that's none of my business. Her life was not mine. But maybe this is an attempt to make myself understood, to share some of my own experience and how it affected me. Or maybe this is just a flimsy excuse to post a blog of some of my favorite songs from childhood. Either way, Wendy now can no longer tell me she doesn't know this stuff.

(arm me with harmony)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughts on every Best Picture I've seen

Wings (1927) -- Not very interesting, mostly just a typical rah-rah war movie. Good flight effects for 1927, though.
Sunrise (1927) -- Technically, this won the first and only "Unique and Artistic Production" award the same year as Wings. Which is fortunate, because it's much better than Wings. It's the world's simplest story (happily married man is tempted by seductive woman -- that's the whole plot), but it unfolds so beautifully.
All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) -- Brutal. I'm not sure how it even got made. There are no characters we care about and the plot is just an excuse for spectacular battle sequences. I think it was Francois Truffaut who said that it's impossible to make an anti-war film because you can't depict war on film without making it look exciting. That applies here. I come away from this movie thinking two things: "War is a miserable, hellish, nightmarish experience," and "As far as miserable, hellish, nightmarish experiences go, it's probably the best".
Cimarron (1931) -- Total failure, just awful on every level. Purports to be an epic tale of the American frontier or whatever. What it's really about is this total asshole who gets everything he ever wants, for no other reason than because everyone around him is completely incompetent. A protagonist without failings is the most boring thing in the world.
Grand Hotel (1932) -- Garbo!!! Joan Crawford!!! Four or five different plotlines that sometimes overlap. It's a lot of fun.
Cavalcade (1933) -- Another "sweeping history" would-be epic that fails completely. The main characters don't even DO anything, they just sit around being affected by every single historical event of the early 20th century. People accused Forrest Gump of ripping off Being There, but it's really a rip-off of old Hollywood movies like this that cheapen the scope of history by trying to dramatize it.
It Happened One Night (1934) -- One of the best screwball comedies ever. Gable eats a carrot, Claudette whips her leg out, you know how it goes. It's too bad films like this can never win an Oscar anymore.
Mutiny On The Bounty (1935) -- I remember not liking it much, probably because the movie is totally pro-Fletcher Christianson. From what I understand about the historical record, Bligh was actually one of the more humane captains and Fletcher was a traitorous scoundrel. But whether this is true or not, it certainly didn't work having the movie just portray Bligh as a one-dimensional monster (though Charles Laughton is of course, awesome).
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) -- This movie is 3 hours long and as boring as hell.
You Can't Take It With You (1938) -- Stupid.
Gone With The Wind (1939) -- Awesome (though Scarlett O'Hara is one of the most hateful heroines of all time and I'm always glad to see her get her comeuppance).
Rebecca (1940) -- Not the best Hitchcock movie, but certainly one of the classiest. But who cares about that. Hitchcock as a deranged pervert is far more interesting to me than Hitchcock as a dramatic masterpiece director.
How Green Was My Valley (1941) -- Probably John Ford's worst movie. The Grapes Of Wrath should've won the year before, and Citizen Kane should've won this year.
Mrs. Miniver (1942) -- I remember very little about it, but it's a "effects of war of normal families" sort of thing, and as those things go, it's nice enough.
Casablanca (1943) -- Greatest movie ever made.
The Lost Weekend (1945) -- The bleak look at alcoholism is kind of cool, but it kind of does the "All Quiet On The Western Front" thing. In trying to make its subject seem horrifying, it actually ends up looking quite glamorous. Anyway, at least dying in a gutter puddle of your own vomit isn't boring, right?
The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946) -- The guy with hooks for hands was kind of a bad actor (or at least badly overmatched by Fredric March and Dana Andrews), but parts of the movie were really good.
Gentleman's Agreement (1947) -- Gregory Peck poses as a Jew in order to blow the lid off of the hidden racism in society. The message actually holds up really well, but the approach to the material is very much heavy-handed.
Hamlet (1948) -- Maybe not the best film version of Hamlet, but certainly the best one with Laurence Olivier in it.
All The King's Men (1949) -- Holds up like hell, more relevant than ever. Politics rarely make for good drama, so it's encouraging to find a movie like this that manages to make it work.
All About Eve (1950) -- Fantastic. As perfect as a movie can ever be.
An American In Paris (1951) -- I love watching Gene Kelly dance as much as a straight man possibly can, but this thing is like so boring. Lavish set designs and elaborate musical sequences shouldn't have to come at the expense of plot and character.
The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) -- Star-studded cast playing a billion people who work for the circus and nothing happens in the movie for like all 3 hours of its running time. Gloria Grahame wrapped up in an elephant's trunk is the most adorable thing I'll ever see, but everything else in this movie was totally forgettable.
From Here To Eternity (1953) -- Totally badass. Saved Frank Sinatra's career, made kissing by the ocean seem like a good idea, used Hawaii as a legit filming location, established Ernest Borgnine as the coolest man in the world. Nothing is wrong with this movie.
On The Waterfront (1954) -- I like it, but that doesn't mean I agree with the guy who made it that he should've ratted out all those commies. Be a man, get yourself blacklisted like everyone else.
Around The World In 80 Days (1956) -- I watched this as a kid, but I remember exactly nothing about it. Guess I need to rewatch.
The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) -- It's unbelievable how awesome this movie is considering every character in it is fully psychotic. Why are P.O.W. movies always so light-hearted and upbeat? I would think that being an actual P.O.W. would be pretty miserable. But this movie is super cool, especially the ending. I give it 9 exploded bridges out of 10.
Gigi (1958) -- Musical. I did not enjoy it.
The Apartment (1960) -- You should see this, and you should love it, and that's all I'm gonna say.
West Side Story (1961) -- Musical! Dancing and singing! Natalie Wood as a Puerto Rican! Yeah, half the songs are boring love ballads, but the rest of the numbers are a blast. I'm completely embarrassed at how much I enjoyed this and maybe I should turn in my man card, but I also don't care. Sharks and Jets!
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) -- Can I just say how much I hate the fact that Gregory Peck won Best Actor this year instead of Peter O'Toole. I like Peck and everything, but he was born to play Atticus Finch, that's way too easy for him. But playing the main character of a four-hour historical epic in your first starring role? That's gotta be a little more difficult, right? By the way this movie rules.
Tom Jones (1963) -- British sex farce. Whatever, I'm not going into this one.
My Fair Lady (1964) -- I like the play this is based on, but not this version. Mostly because I don't see why Rex Harrison has to be such a dick to her the whole time. What kind of asshole proclaims his love by saying he's "grown accustomed" to someone's face? 'Enry 'Iggins, that's who.
The Sound Of Music (1965) -- Look, a musical is only as good as its songs, and about half of the songs from this are permanently embedded in my brain (therefore they must be good), I've accepted that. So what if the movie around it is just conflict-free sap. You can revoke my man card now.
In The Heat Of The Night (1967) -- Yeah, Poitier! Rod Stieger kicks ass too. It's hard to find a movie about race-hate that's less preachy than this. Maybe because there's an actual story in it.
Midnight Cowboy (1969) -- Look, rule number 1: If you go to New York to pimp yourself and you have a cowboy hat on, OF COURSE you'll only end up turning gay tricks. That is why this movie will always be stupid.
Patton (1970) -- Awesome, obviously.
The French Connection (1971) -- This movie singlehandedly decided what every other movie made in the 1970s would look like. I think a lot of the movies that came after it were better, but most of them don't have a character as badass as Popeye Doyle in them.
The Godfather (1972) -- Greatest movie ever made.
The Sting (1973) -- It's fun.
The Godfather Part II (1974) -- It's awesome when Fredo dies and in the DeNiro flashback scenes, but every other part of it is kind of boring.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975) -- Rules. I love how Nicholson played the charcter completely differently than he was written in the book, and yet the story still worked.
Rocky (1976) -- Hey, it's Rocky. It's good.
Annie Hall (1977) -- I hate this movie.
The Deer Hunter (1978) -- Super badass, I don't even hold the hourlong wedding in the beginning against it.
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) -- This movie is just as cute as hell, but Apocalypse Now should've won instead.
Ordinary People (1980) -- Mary Tyler Moore is awesome in this movie, which is like a depressing suburbanite thing.
Chariots of Fire (1981) -- SO BORING. But that musical theme is so nice! Let's listen to it again.
Gandhi (1982) -- I'll never say anything bad about Ben Kingsley, but good lord this movie sucked.
Terms Of Endearment (1983) -- Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine, yes of course I'm there even before I find out about Jack Nicholson. SO yeah, this movie good.
Amadeus (1984) -- Amadeus is totally badass.
Out Of Africa (1985) -- I can't remember anything about this, but I know it was boring.
Platoon (1986) -- This might be Oliver Stone's only good movie. Tom Berenger rules.
The Last Emperor (1987) -- Long and boring and uninteresting. Go watch Kundun instead.
Rain Man (1988) -- Dustin Hoffman is one of the best actors who's ever lived, but not because of this.
Dances With Wolves (1990) -- I like the part where the Indians slaughter the stupid white man. Unfortunately, this movie isn't as good as the sci-fi remake AVATAR.
Silence Of The Lambs (1991) -- This movie made everything better. But it's hard to watch it now without getting the sense that every TV show about criminal investigations has basically ripped it off to the point where it doesn't feel fresh anymore.
Unforgiven (1992) -- Probably the best movie Eastwood ever directed, and one of the more badass Westerns ever made. I love movies where a guy who used to be a bad guy tried to straighten out and be a good family man, but he can't keep his true nature from coming back out. And of course, Gene Hackman, the end.
Schindler's List (1993) -- I feel like I can't say anything bad about this movie, so nevermind.
Forrest Gump (1994) -- I hate this movie so much.
Braveheart (1995) -- Good movie. In retrospect, it's apparent that Mel Gibson was always crazy.
The English Patient (1996) -- I remember almost nothing about this, but it's definitely not as bad as that Seinfeld episode makes it sound.
Titanic (1997) -- Oh, THIS thing. I have always hated it and I probably always will.
Shakespeare In Love (1998) -- Shakespeare in love you say? I'll pass.
American Beauty (1999) -- Chris Cooper is awesome in this. That's the kind of dad I'm gonna be. I'll piss-test my own son and execute his gay neighbor. The rest of this movie is more depressing suburbanite stuff. If your marriage sucks that bad, I don't see why you wouldn't just get a divorce.
Gladiator (2000) -- This movie has always been awesome. I'll even forgive it for making 300 possible.
A Beautiful Mind (2001) -- Total unwatchable schlock. When Russell Crowe is getting attacked and threatened by mysterious forces, it's impossible to see why he doesn't fight back and kick all their asses. He's Russell Crowe! I just saw him decapitate a dude using two swords! More of that next time.
Chicago (2002) -- Seeing bad women succeed will almost always be entertaining.
The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003) -- I'm one of those silly people who like Fellowship the best, but this one's not bad.
Crash (2005) -- You know what I said about In The Heat Of The Night being a movie about race hate that isn't preachy? This movie is the opposite of that.
The Departed (2006) -- Movies don't get much better. Until the year after this:
No Country For Old Men (2007) -- GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE.
The Hurt Locker (2009) -- Always fun to see James Cameron fail, and to his ex-wife at that. Disarming bombs in the desert never looked so fun. I feel like this is the last good decision the academy will ever make.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The week I was born

"Man Eater" by Hall & Oates was the #1 song

The Toy starring Richard Pryor was #1 at the box office (This movie? For SERIOUS?)

Space by James A. Michener was #1 on the Best-seller list

Business As Usual by Men At Work was the #1 album

Roger Clemens signed with the Toronto Blue Jays

The Smurfs' Christmas Special aired

Also, on the exact same DAY as my birth, the first Olive Garden opened and Vanna White STARTED her current job on Wheel Of Fortune. It was a crazy day.

Monday, February 6, 2012


This is what the following drugs do to you:

Marijuana -- Brings things that you normally don't notice into uncomfortably sharp focus. Makes the commonplace seem bizarre and alien. Sensory overload is very possible while on this drug, to the point where everything starts to feel absurd after awhile. Dries the hell out of your eyes and mouth. If you tend to suppress a lot of your fears and anxieties, it might bring them directly to the surface. Makes every action require a thousand times more effort than it normally would. Sometimes paralyzes thought processes and glues your mouth shut.

Alcohol -- Makes you either puke or pass out. Up until you do one of those things, makes you think you're having more fun than you've ever had in your life. But you're not -- you're just exercising poor judgement.

Cigarettes -- Make you feel like the coolest person who's ever lived. Then if you ever stop smoking, it makes you hate everything in the world.

LSD -- Brings out colors and shapes that normally don't exist. Makes you love everything in the world. Makes walls vibrate. Causes sensory confusion (sounds have colors and stuff). Makes you stay up all night smoking and talking with other people who are also on LSD. Makes all music awesome, even if it actually sucks.

MDMA -- Makes you love everything in the world. Makes physical sensations feel a thousand times more intense. Makes you sweat buckets even if you're not doing anything. Makes strobe lights seem like the coolest thing in the world. Absolutely destroys thought processes.

Meth -- Makes you feel superior to everyone and everything that has ever existed. After that goes away, makes you want more meth.

Crack -- After five minutes, makes you want more crack more than you've ever wanted anything.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Feelgood music

When I badly need my spirits lifted, I listen to this stuff.

(Just watching this video with the sound off could make me happy.)

(what a very special time)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lyrics I like: Flipper - Shed No Tears

(The first in a new series)

I don't generally care about lyrics too much, becuase the words to a song are just vessels carrying the tune (and because the majority of song lyrics really suck). But there are some songs that convey a distinct message so succinctly and powerfully that it's impossible to ignore. These are the few songs that I listen to for the words as much as the music.

Now I would like to direct your attention to the song "Shed No Tears" by Flipper.

The music on Flipper's debut album "Generic" is totally beside the point (though still good). There's an 8-minute song on here where the only spoken words are "She's a sex bomb my baby/yeah". These are more like tone poems that happen to be set against a backdrop of crashing drums, loud basslines, and guitar feedback.

I find the lyrics to this song incredibly poignant because they attempt to find the positive side to things that are generally considered tragic. I've pasted the lyrics below and highlighted the sections I find especially potent. Listen to the song if you're interested.

Shed no tears for the martyr dying
Only in pain suffering and death
Can the martyr become what he's chosen to be

No tears wasted
No sorrow no pity
No, no crying, no loss

Shed no tears for the cop bleeding
He once held the gun. he once held the key
Now his prisoners will sing and dance and play

No tears wasted
No sorrow no pity
No, no crying, no loss

Shed no tears for the nun beaten
By the children she once called her flock
How they hate their teachers. who force darkness upon us

No tears wasted
No sorrow no pity
No, no crying, no loss

Shed no tears for the suicide
He has made his choice, the pain of life was great
And some will find it sweet to rot beneath the earth
As we rot and live and breathe

No tears wasted
No sorrow no pity
No, no crying, no loss

Saturday, January 14, 2012

DJ Jazzy Jake

I got a brand-new iPod nano for Christmas, which means I get to control the music we listen to at work now. The following is a selection of comments, without attribution or context, that my co-workers have made in reaction to being forced to listen to my music for hours at a time:

"Is this Pink Floyd?" (it was)

"This sounds like we're watching a movie."

"Can we listen to something happier?"

"This music is SO ANGRY."

"I could have written this song."

"Hey man, are you emo or something?"

"Is this Depeche Mode?" (it wasn't)

"Jacob, you have a lot of good music."

"'Death Is Not The End', that's kind of morbid."

"I hate Christmas music!"

"You have such a weird variety of stuff. But some of it is good."

I'm not sure what it says about me that I remember all these quotes. Maybe it means that I take things more personally than I should. But maybe I just work with some really outspoken people.