"When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect – but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel Laureate, may be wrong... So you must always be skeptical – always think for yourself." --Linus Pauling
The movie is based on parts of two novels from a twenty book series written by Patrick O'Brian. The books are set during the Napoleonic War and follow the fortunes and failures of two men: Captain Jack Aubrey of His Majesty's Royal Navy and his ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin.
Jack, nicknamed "Lucky Jack" by his men, is a master of his chosen profession. He's a tactical genius at sea, and knows how to make one of the 'big ships' (the most complicated technology of the time) do anything he wants it to. On land is a different story; with firm ground beneath his feet and society all round him, Jack inevitably becomes well, a bit of a dork. He also plays a fair violin.
Ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin is cut from a different cloth: He's Irish and Catalan, a naturalist fluent in many languages and sciences, and a spy for His Majesty's Government. In his own way, Stephen is as deadly as Jack, capable of brilliant manipulations and schemes worthy of a Macchiavelli. He's also a dab hand at the cello.
The two, while being opposites, are also the very best of friends.
The movie does something difficult and manages to capture the feel of O'Brian's world and the people who populate it well. It is the first movie I think I've ever seen that seems aimed at the "highest common denominator."
O'Brian did not merely write sea stories by the way. He books seemed to want to describe the whole of society at the time. Mary Renault called them "the finest historical novels ever written." (Something she herself is accused of having done.) Walter Cronkite called the books "crack cocaine for intellectuals."
David Mamet wrote a great essay about O'Brian for the New York Times.
The books, and the movie are well worth your time.
It could be argued that there's not much point in the exercise but I believe in being true to one's enthusiasms. Besides that, doesn't who and what we love serve to define us in some way as human beings? No? Bah. Your lackluster taste in literature and film belies your station and has marked you as surely as favors from the Donner Party.
"Opinions are like assholes. We all have 'em." Yes, so I've been told. Yet my ass has been greatly admired in its time. My opinions as well. May we stake the same claim for yours?
I thought not.
But relax, child. Breathe easy. Do not fear my arrogance too much. I am here and all will be made well. When we are finished, we may not be simpatico on all things (that can be so boring), but let us at least agree on this:
1. Everything means something, whether we are aware of it or not.
2. Your right to hold an opinion is only so strong as it is an informed opinion. The market on uninformed opinions fell out long ago and has never recovered value.
3. The woman of my dreams, if she is to be of any quality, must have a love for the music of Leonard Cohen and something approaching a mild detest for one of the following: a) The Grateful Dead b) The Eagles c) Forrest Gump d) COPS and e) So-called "reality shows." This is a dealbreaker.
"I'm the Doctor, and I want the finest wines available to humanity! I want them here, and I want them now!"
I look forward to next week's episode with anticipation.
Various people over the years have told me that they do not read novels. "Oh, I don't read fiction," they said, "I don't have time to read that stuff. It's not REAL." You may have heard something like this as well at one time or another. Hell, you may be one of the people that says that kind of thing.
For some reason though, these same individuals never have any problem with looking at paintings. You never hear from a one of them, "Oh, I don't look at paintings. I'm a photograph man entire. Photographs are REAL. That painting there by --who is it?-- Magritte, I'll look at that when he's painted a proper face for that man. A green apple for a head? Absurd."
No one says things like that because it is so obviously a silly point of view. But then I would argue, so is the first. Incidentally, the only person who has ever said that they have no time for fiction that I believe is Sherlock Holmes. He's fictional though (and more real than I am in another sense) so who can say?
I shall continue this line of thought another time.
Naturally, I am going. I love the fact that I get to go to a movie at SIX IN THE MORNING and then grab breakfast and go to work. The 21st century is turning out pretty cool.
What would totally make it though, is if I could go back to bed at noon. I have only myself to blame for this.
Another shirt I wear has a picture of Hellboy. Created by Mike Mignola, Hellboy is a demon from Hell sent during WWII to destroy the earth. However, things go awry; he's raised by a kindly scientist instead and is now the world's greatest paranormal investigator.
C'mon: How can you not love that? Hellboy is the star of comics, a couple novels, the calendar in my kitchen, and next summer: a movie.
Anyway, I wore the Hellboy shirt to work a few weeks ago. A woman I was checking out videos to noticed it and said, "Hellboy? What's that?" Not one to miss a chance to promote my favorite storytelling medium, I replied.
"Hellboy is a comic book character. He's the world's greatest paranormal investigator, who just so happens to be a demon from hell."
"Oh, I don't think I like that."
I smiled, and my tone was pure helpfulness.
"Ah, there's nothing to worry about, m'am. He may be from Hell, but he was raised by a good family; so that's all right."
"I don't think you should wear that. You know I'm a Christian and warm tapioca pudding for brains. You can tell from the nonsenical natterings pouring from my mouth that I haven't had an original thought since Carter was in office."
Okay, you got me. The woman did not say any of the above after the word 'Christian.' She might as well have though.
Yesterday I wore a different t-shirt to work. This one is black with a lot of laughing skeletons on it. It's a Mexican 'Day of the Dead' shirt. Fine, right?
Wrong. The same woman shows up. She reminds me of our previous exchange, and hands me a flyer that she made herself.
It was a photocopy, and the original was written in pen. Presumably she wrote it, but it might have been hashed out by some other imbecile. The flyer (which I do not have beside me) proclaimed that we should: Boycott Halloween! Boycott the Devil's Day! and then a whole lot of crap about how Satanists sacrifice animals to the Devil and try to get our children and we need to put the Devil out of business (as if he has a storefront operation), etc. and so on.
She was going on about all this verbally as well while backing out the door. The other people in line were laughing at her.
It occurred to me that in my entire life I have never been proselytized to by a Satanist. No one has ever approached me and extended an offer to attend services in worship of Their Satanic Majesty. Ever been invited to an orgy by a Satanist or a Midsummer's Midnight Picnic of Evil (B.Y.O.V.)?
No, you probably haven't and neither have I. Which is too bad, as the picnics sound particularly memorable.
I am so sick of Born Again Christian doorknobs accosting me to tell of their Big Jewish Superhero. What, do they think I've never heard it before? That I'll mistake the bovine gleam in their eyes for the spark of intelligence and a novel way of looking at the world? The point of view they present on a regular basis is like a McDonald's Super-Sized Anathema Shake, and I'm not having any.
By the way, has anyone seen the t-shirts, stickers, etc. with 'Real Men Love Jesus' on them? Am I the only one who immediately pictures a big Mexican with oiled muscles and a leer getting all the man love he can handle? Maybe.
It's difficult to love a city that is routinely run with such blatant incompetence. It makes me think that I'd love to move back to Chicago, or to Seattle, or someplace else with a fine line in public transportation.
Right now, Seattle is winning for two reasons:
One, I've never lived there.
Two, I have friends who live there and are fun to drink with.
Three, the girls seem to like weird guys there and that suits me down to the ground.
I can't move anywhere at present though. I haven't gotten what I came for. Yet.
I've been told that I will have about ten minutes to read. That comes out to about 1000 words. The problem is, I haven't written it yet.
I want to write something witty and exciting and exotic. Something dynamic that grabs attention and won't let go. My brain feels like a blunt object. Sigh.
However, I know I will get it done in time.
Second, in Pulp Fiction Mia Wallace (played by Uma Thurman) gives Vincent Vega (played by John Travolta) a personality test of sorts. You remember she gives him choices between two pop culture opposites (of a sort) to determine what kind of guy he is. Ginger... or Mary Anne? Elvis... or The Beatles? The Brady Bunch... or the Partridge Family?
In that vein, one could ask, "Star Trek... or Doctor Who?"
For the one (two?) people reading this unaware of what it is, Doctor Who is the longest running British science fiction tv show. It began over there in the 1960's the way Star Trek started in the States. Both series are inescapable pop cultural touchstones in their respective countries. Both have very devoted fanbases. The similarities end there though.
Doctor Who follows the adventures of an 800 year old renegade Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He journeys through time and space (with companions that he picks up) in a stolen machine called a T.A.R.D.I.S. (short for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space).
Initially the TARDIS was supposed to be able to change its appearance in order to better fit in with the surroundings. However, something went wrong with that part of it-- so it always looks like a blue London police call box.
At its best, Doctor Who was short on budget but long on charm, creativity, weirdness, idiosyncracy, cleverness, freedom, and the lure of adventure. No explanation of Trek is necessary I hope.
So which is it for you? Star Trek or Doctor Who? Don't tell me you don't like science fiction because we live in a science fiction world and I won't believe you.
All this is preface to the news that Doctor Who is returning!
On the way home from the bookstore, I stopped by Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee. Eddie's is one of the greatest video stores in the entire country. They've been around for over thirty years and have somewhere around 60,000 tapes.
I love their collection of old television programs. I've made it a habit to go and rent several tapes of certain series at one time. To give myself a taste of what it was all about. In particular, I love the mystery, adventure, and western shows of the 1960's: The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Burke's Law, and the westerns of the period: The Wild, Wild West; Have Gun --Will Travel, Maverick; and one that is completely new to me: Yancy Derringer.
Yancy Derringer follows the adventures of an ex-Conferderate soldier turned river boat gambler and secret agent for John Colton, administrator of New Orleans. Here's a bit of dialogue from the pilot. Colton has just asked Derringer to work for him in secret (meaning if he's caught, Colton can't lift a hand to help him):
Derringer: You on one side of the law, me on the other?
Derringer: The same law?
Colton: That's right.
Derringer: What you want is a rakehell, a rogue, a scoundrel, a gentleman, a smuggler, a gambler, and a fool.
Colton: Well, Mr. Derringer?
Derringer: Well, Mr. Colton... guess I'm your huckleberry.
They just don't make 'em like that anymore. Damn it.
(Here I should point out that the two did not marry each other but rather the ladyloves of their choosing. Second marriages for both as well.)
Mark's wedding was understated and classy. Held at the courthouse in Santa Barbara, which used to be a mission and so looked like a church anyhow. There was alcohol.
Rob's wedding was much more formal. I was part of the wedding party and so got to wear a tuxedo. It marred by the fact that it was dry and the name Jesus was tossed around more than Frisbees at Venice Beach.
Listen: No one, and I mean No One should be expected (allowed?) to marry or bury a loved one without the presence of alcoholic beverages. Drinking is a fucking requirement, folks. Much proselytising about how okay the Lord is with your matrimonial union doesn't cut it. Ever.
Your Lord Jesus did not spend his time turning water into wine so you could just blow it off. It is your duty as Christians to go forth and turn wine into water.
2003 has just been an incredible year in terms of pop culture. By far though the thing I've been looking forward to the most is Neal Stephenson's new novel: Quicksilver. It's the follow-up to Cryptonomicon, and like that one deals with codes, power, money, freedom, and intellectual thrills. Simply put: Stephenson writes geek fiction.
Less than to go now, and I can't wait. I even took a vacation day so I could stay home and read his latest opus? Can you believe that?
(Reminder: Must get girlfriend immediately. If this were Bangkok, I could get one on the way home from work. Kidding.)
Which reminds me, I need to pick up a deck of Eno's Oblique Strategies cards. Alan Moore has a set don't you know.
The French have an aspect of romantic fatalism to their culture that I find completely irresistible. You can see it in things as Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. It's unmistakable in Casablanca (which while not being French was hugely influenced by Julien Duvivier's 1936 film Pepe Le Moko. Bogart was a film icon in Paris years before he became one in the US.
Along these lines, the Criterion Collection is going to release Le Circle Rouge. It will make a nice companion to Bob Le Flambeur. The French understand something about film noir. They coined the term.
My mother died back in June. The day of her funeral (miserable in so many ways), I checked my e-mail and found this. It was an e-mail from Jeremy. He claims to have seen it in a dream. It cheered me immensely. I don't even have dreams about myself where I come off that cool, but I've started.
He's probably the kind of friend Melville was going on about.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Past work experience:
I ran for congress and lost.
I produced a Hollywood slasher B movie.
I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas; company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.
I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.
Biggest move: Traded Sammy Sosa to the Chicago White Sox.
With my father's help and nearly the same name, I was elected Governor of Texas.
I changed pollution laws for oil and power companies and made Texas the most polluted state in the nation.
I replaced Los Angeles with Houston as the most smog-ridden city in America.
I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas government in billions in borrowed money.
I set a record for most executions by any governor in American history.
I became president after losing the popular vote by over 500,000 votes, with the help of Republican appointments to the Supreme Court.
Accomplishments as President:
Attacked and took over two countries.
Spent the country's surplus and bankrupted the treasury.
Shattered the record for biggest annual deficit in history.
Set economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.
Set an all-time record for the biggest stock market drop in its history.
I am the first president in decades to execute a federal prisoner.
I am the first president in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record and in my year in office set the all-time record for most vacation days taken by any president.
After taking the entire month of August off for vacation, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.
I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips of any other president in U.S. history.
In my first two years in office over 2 million Americans lost their jobs. I cut unemployment benefits for more out of work Americans than any president in U.S. history.
I set the all-time record for the most mortgage foreclosures in a 12-month period.
I set the record for the lowest number of press conferences than any president since the invention of television.
I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption was revealed.
I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history and refused to use the national reserves as past presidents have done.
I cut healthcare benefits for war veterans and set the all-time record for the most people worldwide to simultaneously take to the streets to protest (15 million people), shattering the record for protest against any person in the history of mankind. http://www.hyperreal.org/~dana/marches/
I dissolved more international treaties than any president in U.S. history.
My presidency is the most secretive and unaccountable of any in U.S. history.
Members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history.
(The 'poorest' multimillionaire, Condoleeza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her).
I am the first president in U.S. history to have all 50 states bankrupted at the same time.
I presided over the biggest corporate stock market fraud of any market in any country in the history of the world.
I created the largest government bureaucracy in the history of the United States and set the all-time record for biggest annual budget spending increases, more than any president in US history, while at the same time proposing tax cuts.
I am the first president in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the elections monitoring board.
I withdrew from the World Court of Law.
I hold the record for most corporate campaign donations.
My biggest lifetime campaign contributor, one of my best friends, presided over one of the largest corporate bankruptcy frauds in world history (Kenneth Lay, former CEO of Enron Corporation).
I am the first president in U.S. history to unilaterally attack a sovereign nation against the will of the United Nations and the world community.
I am the first U.S. president to have a majority of the people of Europe (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and stability.
I set all-time records for the number of administration appointees who violated U.S. law by not selling huge investments in corporations bidding for government contracts.
I failed to get Osama Bin Laden 'dead or alive'.
I failed to capture the anthrax killer who tried to murder the leaders of our country at the United States Capitol building. After 18 months I have no leads and zero suspects.
Records and References:
I have at least one conviction for drunk driving in Maine (Texas driving record has been erased and is not available).
I was AWOL from National Guard.
Records from my tenure as governor of Texas are in my father's library, unavailable for public view.
All records of any SEC investigations into my insider trading or bankrupt companies are sealed and unavailable for public view.
All minutes of meetings for any public corporation I served on the board are sealed and unavailable for public view.
Any records or minutes my VP or I attended regarding public energy policy are sealed and unavailable for public review.
For personal references please speak to my daddy or Uncle James Baker.
They can be reached at their offices of the Carlyle Group for war-profiteering.
I am not even joking a little bit when I say that.
2. No, really don't.
3. DEFINITELY don't---I mean it.
4. Whatever you might be imagining about a life of writing, it's not like that.
5. OK, if you're going to anyway, if you're going to be a writer of any quality, you will have to commit yourself to writing---which is something that, when you're young and idealistic, sounds incredibly easy to do, but you should commit almost as if you were some ancient Greek or Egyptian committing yourself to a god.
If you do right by the god, then the god may, at some point in the future, reward you. But if you slack off and don't do right by your talent or your god, then you are heading for a world of immense and unimaginable pain. If you have a gift that you choose to pursue, then you have to pursue it seriously. Don't be half-assed about it, but realize what that commitment means.
Committing yourself to writing will mean, to a certain extent, your writing will become the most important part of your life---and that's a big thing to say. It can have a distancing effect upon other relationships. It can be sometimes quite a solitary life. If you're committed to your writing, you're going to spend most of your life indoors in a silent, empty room, concentrating on a pen and a piece of paper or their equivalent. Be prepared to take it seriously and be prepared to follow where it takes you, even if that takes you to some very strange places.
This is by no means the most glamorous profession.
Don't say that I didn't warn you.
Anyway, I want to talk about some other stuff. Like books! And comics! And... Other things!
I set aside Declare by Tim Powers to read some other worthies:
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane- I've read everything by this guy, and he is really turning out some incredible stuff. He's written seven novels so far, and every one of them is an addictive thriller written by someone with a poet's sense of the language. This is probably my least favorite of his books, but I have nothing but admiration for the guts he had to write it.
The Hunger and Ecstasy of Vampires by Brian Stableford- Stableford has long been a writer I wished to try. He writes in a lot of different genres, but one of the things he's really known for is his scientific romances (this is a term used to describe the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and other early writers of science fiction).
After that, I figure on reading the entirety of Raymond Chandler's work. Start with the short stories, then burn through all seven novels. I am addicted to story, and need as much as I get of it right now.
Speaking of which, which I wasn't, here's an interview with one of my heroes, Grant Morrison. Pay particular attention to the portion where he talks of his upcoming comic Vimanarama. I'm really looking forward to this. Morrison had an indelible effect on the way I think when I was in my teens. Unlike many other writers, he continues to impress to this day. Fucking pop genius.
After wandering around like this for a bit we finally ended up in Tangiers-- a restaurant in Los Feliz. Dinner was great, and then she gave me a present of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. For such a small book, it has a lot of meat to chew on. It is one of the most wonderful thoughtful gifts anyone has ever given to me.
I might be falling in love with this girl.
Anyway, I should point out that the "date" as it were ended badly. I realize that sometimes I reveal my emotions with about as much charm as an Old Testament god. It's about that appealing too. Ugh. I'm certain she thinks I'm an idiot.
Oh wait, that's The Twilight Zone. Well it feels the same from where I'm standing. If I could just find the Rod Serling jerk in control of the place, I'd bust him one in the nose.
Jack: So, if I joined a religion that required me to spend my holy days totally debauched in worship of Nyarlahotep, could I be excluded from working Sundays?
Bosslady: No, you can't use that reason. Better people than you have tried.
Jack: (pause) There are no better people than me.
Whenever things would get messed up, go counter to my wishes, or generally go pear shaped as they inevitably do: S'alright. All is well. EIGATP. I like to think Norman Vincent Peale would be pleased, and slightly scandalised.
Last night, I had a date with a girl. We ate at Tommy's, watched Wings Of Desire, and talked. I leaned over to kiss her and...
...Girl said no. Can you believe that? Girl Said No. Urrrgh. We debated and discussed the matter. I brought out Occam's Razor and some Cream of the Jest. Girl would not be swayed. She still say no.
Still, no reason to be discouraged. Everything Is Going According To Plan. I'm seeing her again on Thursday night, where she has another chance to say, "No." On the bright side though, it is also a golden opportunity for her to say, "Yes."
I've started this blog in order to give myself someplace to think out loud as it were. Maybe that should be think in print. Over the next year or so I'll be posting every day about the things that fascinate, obsess, and sometimes annoy me. Sometimes all at once.
It will fairly thrum with interest I promise.