Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm moving!

I'm moving to www.blahrg.com so please update your links! I will continue to post here a few more times, but then my move will be permanent! Keep up the bloggin!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Unemployment to 9.4%

Hmmm..... our stimulus package was awesome. Good job Big Government.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things ala Oprah

Okay, it's been awhile. I've been... well, lazy at best. Forgive the delay my little cherubs. I have returned.

Let's talk about some positive gifts humanity has given us.


By far one of the most intelligent and satirical shows ever created, Southpark wins the award for comedic genius. You can disagree, but when I sit down and watch an episode of Southpark I am always amazed at the incredible way it mocks every single mockable point of society. It combines the innocence and effortless dreamage of childhood with the filth and crassness of naughty boys and incredibly awkward situations our country and society gets us into. Hats off to Kyle, Stan, Kenny, and of course Cartman. Notable mention for Butters who has made the more current seasons great.


As it has been stated before, information wants to be free. Shame on all of you companies that feel it necessary to profit from everything a person does. There needs to be a source for people to go where they don't have to open their wallet, and Wikipedia is the greatest source there is. Thank you wikipedia, for being a .org. On top of that, college professors have such disdain for Wikipedia. "Well, I'm sorry Ben, your source isn't the Critical First Edition published at Oxford, Yale, or Cambridge, so I'm afraid it's unacceptable." Let's be honest. Wikipedia provides useful information that isn't obscure.


I don't care that they are a trillion dollar business or whatever the case may be. Google provides some of the greatest services to mankind. Dictionary? You got it. Email? Done. Blogging? Here you are. Unanswered questions? Bamboozle. There it is. Thank you Google for being everything we need, the second we need it.

Family Guy

Yes, Peter Griffin and his family have entertained me for many a year. I first came to know the Griffins when I was in New Jersey rooming with a couple buddies. We were selling security systems, or, as we liked to call them, overpriced oversized wall phones. And what consoled our weary salesman minds and salesman feet at night but the Family Guy. Thank you Family Guy, for creating a new type of unpredictable humor that is both witty and professionally random. (As a sidenote, randomness for the sake of randomness is not usually funny, unless you can really make it work i.e. Peter, Stewie, Lois, and Brian.


Again, back to my free information soap box, when it comes to world events and politics, the best place for the most current data and news is drudgereport.com Fox news wants a 7 dollar per month subscription to listen to Bill O'reilly and Glenn Beck. 7 dollars. To listen to an overly energetic talk show host interrupt his guests and not let them speak. Great. No, I'll stick with Drudgereport.com


You know I never wanted to live in Idaho when I was growing up. I wanted to "see the world' or some shit. Well, I have seen the world. I've been to Australia, New Zealand, New York, New Jersey, England, Spain, France, Germany, Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, etc. etc. I by no means have seen a great portion of the world, but I've seen a bit. ANd from what I've seen, I have to admit that Idaho is one of the greatest places on earth. Idaho features some of the nicest people around, and some to the most sane drivers. I can't say the same for Utah. Maybe it's because I expect so much more from Utah people, and am constantly left so disappointed. Not all by any means, but many. You can disagree in the comments section.
Another thing Idaho has going for it is the space. That's right, I can walk out of my parents driveway and see the stars. There are no buildings and hordes of people around. It's just space. I know it won't always be like that, but at least now it's one of the greatest spots on earth.

Cormac Mccarthy

I must say, one of my favorite writers. I admire him, I respect him, and I dig his work. He's won the greatest awards for litereature. His books are made into masterpiece films. He earned a Pulitzer for his critically acclaimed The Road. His writing is dark and potent, like Faulkner. Well played, Cormac. You even have a cool name.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Wrestler

Have you ever seen a one trick pony in the field so happy and free?
If you've ever seen a one trick pony then you've seen me
Have you ever seen a one-legged dog making its way down the street?
If you've ever seen a one-legged dog then you've seen me

Then you've seen me, I come and stand at every door
Then you've seen me, I always leave with less than I had before
Then you've seen me, bet I can make you smile when the blood, it hits the floor
Tell me, friend, can you ask for anything more?
Tell me can you ask for anything more?

Have you ever seen a scarecrow filled with nothing but dust and wheat?
If you've ever seen that scarecrow then you've seen me
Have you ever seen a one-armed man punching at nothing but the breeze?
If you've ever seen a one-armed man then you've seen me

Then you've seen me, I come and stand at every door
Then you've seen me, I always leave with less than I had before
Then you've seen me, bet I can make you smile when the blood, it hits the floor
Tell me, friend, can you ask for anything more?
Tell me can you ask for anything more?

These things that have comforted me, I drive away
This place that is my home I cannot stay
My only faith's in the broken bones and bruises I display

Have you ever seen a one-legged man trying to dance his way free?
If you've ever seen a one-legged man then you've seen me

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I was scanning the back of a fiction novel today and noticed a critic who claimed the author whose work he was trumpeting was not like the rest of the countless works that "clutter" our lives today. I thought it was a magnificent image of what most of the work out there is: clutter. The microcosm of this argument will lie in my recent experience at Velour in Provo.

I'm glad that people are creative and want to make music, I really am. I'm glad that there are venues for people to express their talent. Nevertheless, we have to call a spade a spade. Both times I've attended Velour the music has been mundane. Our first artist had glimpses of originality, but reverted back to the timeless classic cliches of pain, love, regret, and paternal disconnect (my father left me, I wouldn't leave my son, boy becomes a man, etc. etc.). It is true that we all relate to these epic compartments of life, but for the love of God do we have to have them delivered in such bland and over-trodden ways? Artist, give us something fresh! Tell us about your pain without using the word pain! Show us ways your heart was broken, don't tell us it is so!

My next critique was made clear by the second band. Though talented, these young men tried to showcase every musical genre and give every band member solo time in each song. Jazz-like improvisation music is fine, but when you go from chill out folk music, to hard core rock out, then back to jazz quiet, then rock with a solo and dance and mosh on the stage, then back to intimate whisper, its kind of ridiculous. Pick a genre and tempo for each song, and let that be enough. Play a soft song, then a loud song, then a soft song. You can even mix up your set with fast and slow tempos, but don't put every tempo into every song. Then you are just amateur. What makes a good set is a band that can get a crowd worked up with one song, then take them down with the next, and then back up again. It all shouldn't span a single tune.

Lastly, I think it has become cliche' to define oneself as a "non-conformist". What makes one a non-conformist? Lately, I believe there is a certain way of dress that could be classified as such: black rimmed glasses, tapering pants, shaggy hair, etc. Thus, in trying to be a non-conformist one conforms. It is a paradox easily remedied by not trying to fit in by non conforming.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The historical novel: Can fiction be just as valuable as non-fiction?

Mkay, here we go. The pictures are by request by family, but I must say I do look smart in those preppy clothes (smart as in both intelligent as well as well dressed:).

What does any written work try to do? It tries to communicate some point to the mind of another, correct? In doing so, a transient idea takes shape in an individual mind, reconstructed from the tools found in that individual's "garage" so to speak. With this metaphor, it makes sense then that my hammers and screwdrivers may be of a different size and shape then yours, and also the image in your mind most likely is completely different from the image in mine. This is the nature of the generality of words. Some word is really a symbol that stands for some idea, and that word then is defined by the thoughts in an individual's mind. When I write the word "television", do you think of a plasma screen? A black and white turn-knob? Do you think of a large projection screen? The word television which seems to denote a specific thought in reality communicates a separate idea to each individual's mind.

Now place that thought on the stove and let it simmer, and let us now prepare the salad of this philosophical entree.

What does a man (or woman) truly know? Honestly, what do you truly know? I would contest that we really only know what we experience first hand. What I have experienced, that I know. Yet because of the nature of memory, even what I have experienced firsthand can shift from what actually happened, to what we perceive happened. This can be due to our own creative reconstruction, anxiety, pride, guilt, or motivation. Thus, a memory becomes altered. Many studies have been done on the topic of false memories, or things we believe to be true that actually were not. I have experienced this myself, as I believe we all have to some extent, even if we don't know it.

You might say, "No, that's not true, we can know what we read about and what we see on television." Yet this is where the idea of history becomes less rigid. What we read, like we talked about earlier, creates an image in our mind. That is what we envision. It is real to us in our own mind, and that is all. Beyond this, there is no delineation between what is real and what is not. What you imagine in your mind from a non-fiction work is a reconstruction using your own tools and your own thoughts, but in all likelihood is very far removed from the actual events that took place, even if those events were documented specifically and accurately. What we see on TV may portray specific people and images to us, but we cannot say that it is not a re-enactment of the actual events, nor can we say that the context certain spliced images on the news are given to us in the correct context. We didn't experience it. In this case, a narrative is constructed by a network and given to us as fact, much like a non-fiction work. Yet because we did not experience it first hand, we cannot say it is truly accurate, and even if we did experience it, we cannot really say that our own memory of it is accurate except for the very moment we experience it.

Thus, is there a way to distinguish between a factual history of truth, and one of imagination and fabrication?

Here comes in the law of probability, as well as the notion of creativity. It would be well to argue that most good historians use primary documents to reconstruct history. This is based on the idea that a primary document purports a certain event in a correct way, and that its author is a credible witness to the events. Yes. We accept that because we have a cultural tradition of honesty, and most of the time what is written in the form of letters, documents, memos, etc. can be accepted as being factual. But can we TRULY KNOW this? No, we cannot. As well, there are a body of primary documents and witnesses that a historian takes and studies, but how does one make sense of it all? The historian in some way must construct either some type of narrative, giving an end point to a chain of events, or he (she) merely re-records the data with no type of organization. As a historian, I would say that the latter is never done, since this would basically be copying the primary documents in question. Instead, the "facts", or documents and facts they portray, are somehow organized for a purpose. As we said before, every writer has some purpose. This organization requires creativity.

Creativity, then, in many ways is labeled the antithesis of a true historian, since by being creative, one must at some point be imaginative, and if one is imaginative, then one is straying from the documented "facts" of which a true historian would stick to and allow those "facts" to speak for themselves. While many historians contend that this is what they do, they are in fact using creativity to do just that. Facts have no meaning in and of themselves. Causality cannot be found in facts. The cause of WWII is not found in facts. It is derived from a certain chronology of events, meaning is assigned, and a narrative is constructed, however elaborate, complex, and heterogenous it may be.

What difference then exists between a "factual" historian, and a historian who embellishes, even fabricates details that are plausible within the "factual" framework? If my argument is even somewhat cogent, then we can contend there is almost no difference between the traditional historian and the literary historian. Let me give some examples as well as certain persuasive reasons why they could be at least considered relevant to history, and then I will coalesce the examples with my main argument.

Thomas Fleming, a novelist as well as academic historian, wrote a book entitled Time and Tide about a fictional group of characters based on the USS Thomas Jefferson (also fictional) during World War II. He contends amid criticism of his fabrication of details that his work is highly factual, and though he does use fiction to fill in the blanks, as well as enliven the story, many important historical questions and answers are raised by his work that would have not been brought to the surface otherwise. Real topics such as religious faith in the Navy during World War II, the authoritative nature of the government and navy, as well as absence of ideology of the average seaman are addressed, which are real and important.

Howard Fast, the writer of numerous revolutionary war novels, may not be considered by historians at all as credible, yet his work reached more people than many historians combined. Again, he brings important themes, mainly the reality of injustice among citizens of America, to the forefront. His work was largely based not on factual research but on hunches and imagination. Without the context of my argument which I will argue trenchantly in a moment, this may seem a blatant example of how this fiction cannot be considered credible history. Again I ask you to postpone judgement.

Most classic historians are considered to be quite factual. This is relatively true. However, several examples can show us how even classic and traditional historians base many of their findings on creative and imaginative grounds. Heroditus for example, the "father of history", begins his history citing myth and oral tradition, which was definitely not factual. Polybius, who considered himself the opposite of Embellishers like Heroditus, still constructed his history to tell a monographic tale of how Rome became the triumphant achievement of human civilization. Eusubius did the same, retelling early christian history to reinforce the catholic dogmas agreed upon at the Council of Nicea.

Even one of the most revered historical accounts in all of humanity, the holy bible, gives way to historical and scientific scrutiny. The Hebrew scriptures, or first books of the Old Testament are "immensely heterogeneous, comprising various genres of ancient literature: creation myth, national epic, wisdom literature, genealogies, and king lists, songs and prayers, laws and detailed ritual prescriptions, prophecy, and protracted warnings of divine wrath, often clothed in symbolism, though without the oracular sites prominent in the hellenistic world." (Burrows, A History of Histories). Most may not consider the bible as fully accurate, but do we consider much of the bible as not only symbolic, but also mythical? The point is to question what we truly consider as "Fact". The point is, to question what we "know". (Though I do tend to wander religious realms with my blogs, there is no implied argument against or for religion here. The bible is just a great example of the overlying point I'm trying to communicate).

Now, lets tie all of this together. Hopefully the examples overtly demonstrate that "fact" is transient. No matter what is written or portrayed to us, it cannot be known by us. Each work, whether academic or creative, involves some form of creativity in the first place. Then, it is communicated to each individual's mind with generic symbols (words and phrases), to create a transient portrayal in each person's mind. This image that exists in the mind can in know way be relied upon as any depiction of what really happened. It may have happened that way, it may not have. Who is to say what a creative writer portrays may or may not have happened? Just because a traditional historian reconstructs history according to primary sources does not 1. give those sources credibility in and of themselves, and 2. whatever point is made by that historian involved his own creative faculties, and though the law of probability does give him (or her) credence, it does not make it reality.

Finally, even what one experiences cannot be truly "known" because of the nature of memory. Therefore, only the present thoughts and ideas are really known, since they exist in the mind currently. Thus, if something from a nonfiction work is communicated to the mind, it exists in the mind as real or "fact" for that moment. In the same way, if a fictional work creates just as vivid an image in the mind as a nonfiction work, then it can be said to be real or "fact" for that moment as well, since beyond the present moment, nothing can truly be known. Does this make sense? Or am I just off my rocker?

I am very interested to hear your takes on this idea, so please feel free to comment. Or, if you skipped to the end of this after looking at the pictures, I encourage you to read this and form your own opinion. Cheers!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Annoying things

Occasionally, I will write about annoying things. The last entry on irksomeness was a year ago, so don't take this as overtly negative. Here we go!


That's right. Emo fashion is ridiculous. Let me especially say to all men that wear tapered pants: you are ridiculously gay and look silly. When you grow your hair long and let it fall in front of your face, wear belts with metal points and low ride your several sizes small pants, and then they taper down to your ankles, you just. Wow. Look wretched. Ghastly. Not only feminine, but circus show feminine.

Let me continue by saying that men's fashion in general has begun to de-evolve our masculinity. I flipped through the most recent issue of Details and all I see are hermaphrodite men who blatantly portray their immasculation through bony figures and tight, small clothing. We are beginning to look like the French, and that is just not acceptable.

Notable emo fags include: Zac Efron and Toby Maguire

Narcissism headlining as networking

Let's face it. 90% of the world has written "25 random facts" about themselves. Why do we read everyone elses' "25 random facts" in the first place? Because Facebook tricks us by saying we're "mentioned" in it somewhere. Here's a tip: You're not mentioned anywhere in the "25 random facts" about someone else. But it's okay, because you can write "25 random facts" about you and every one of your friends will somehow be tagged in it as well. In the end, everyone gets to write about themselves.

Don't get me wrong, I play fully into the trap as well. I like coming up with the most clever status headline too. I enjoy putting up the most endearing and self-aggrandizing profile photos, all to ooh and ahh my friends into paying attention to my profile. I get it, and I do it too. But I am formally recognizing here that Facebook is not about networking, but about displaying our pseudo individuality for our own narcissistic purposes. Maybe someday a study will be done that will tell us it is actually good for us to fuss an hour or three a day on our profiles.

People that play football next to me while I'm reading on a blanket at the park when I was there first and not only do they suck but they commentate on their horrible abilities as athletes

Let's face it: you're not TO. You're not Jerry Rice. You won't catch or throw very well as a mid-twenties slightly overweight dude who hasn't played football since you were on JV. I don't claim any special athletic prowess either. But when there are thirty acres of grass just waiting for you to fumble around on, why do you claim that small tract of field next to my army blanket, and then yell back and forth "my bad!" and "Oh, that was horrible!" and "Wow it's been awhile." and "Heads up!" Especially heads up. You're fing playing catch. You don't need to yell heads up to the guy you're throwing to.

University Parking

If ever I wished upon a star for a legal business entity to roast slowly in hell, it would be University Parking and every one of their owners and employees. Go to hell, bitches.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


"Who is converted?" asked Josephus.

"To love?"

"To anything, Livy."

"I think it is those who believe."

"No, I think it is more than that. It is those who yearn."

"Yes, the converted are those that yearn."


Friday, January 30, 2009

GI Jonesy Returns...

If you didn't catch the Black Cat Forest, you should look it up in me index. Cheers mate.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cold Souls

Alright, I'm going a little out of order but I had to address this film from the Sundance Screening Room: Cold Souls.

Synopsis: After reading an article on Soul Storage in the New Yorker, Paul Giamatti decides to give up his soul to relieve himself of the pain and weight he feels, which has been affecting his acting. Turns out his soul is a chick pea, and he quickly places it in a chilled locker. From there, he finds his scale tipped from one extreme to another, borrowing an anonymous Russian Poet's soul and finding his own soul trafficked across the Atlantic to Moscow, where it becomes harbored by a ridiculous young soap opera diva.

What makes this film so remarkable is the black comedy as well as the intriguing dramatic depth that blends together for an entertaining and yet intimate experience. It questions the tangibility of the soul and its reverbrating dynamic on the human experience. Paul loses his depth as an actor when he loses his ability to relate to his character. He realizes his pain is what makes him an individual. This is made blatantly evident when the soap opera star enjoys his melancholic soul with a lightness he regrets he didn't appreciate.

This begs the question: Is there ever really a life experience we shouldn't be grateful for? When you take away the painful memories and the saddest moments of life, you lose a lot of the fiber that makes us who we are. And we all know what happens when you don't have fiber in the diet.

Another provoking thought of the film followed the scene when Paul finally gets his soul back, but has to reconnect with it first before it will enter him again. The Russian soap opera star hardened his soul, and it wasn't malleable as before, so he has to look within himself before he can reconnect. This is the exact thing he has avoided from the start. The trafficker who has helped him tells him that she found his soul quite beautiful. The scene is beautiful, but we must obviously draw the conclusion that it is painful to Paul to have an inner eye. Sometimes the answers we need can only be found by looking inward. Do you believe that? That's definitely a transcendental thought and it smacks of Emerson and Kant. Is it true? I've questioned this heavily this last year, and my search has been mostly external. Maybe all the real answers can only be found inside of us.

What was great was after the film, Anthony and I asked a couple questions to the hot french director, the talented Sophie Barthes. I asked where the idea for the script came from and how it evolved to the end product. She was so fun to listen to with her quaint french accent, but her answers were even more rewarding. She told us the script came from a dream she had, and that most of her inspiration comes from her dreams. The main elements of the movie, i.e. that Paul (originally she dreamt Woody Allen) stores is soul and it is stolen, souls are trafficked from America to Russia, the soul is a chick pea, etc. were all eventually incorporated into the final product.

Of all the films at Sundance, this was definitely one of the most impressive and had the most lasting impression.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Adventureland: Does true love conquer all?

I guess a budding theme that I have felt through most of the Sundance movies I've seen is this: that a true and abiding love is experienced when both parties not only know but embrace the other's weaknesses. (That sentence is ironic, since I'm describing very emotional things in an emotionless way, don't you think? Irony will be a masterful blog to follow in the coming days, so just hold your horses!)

Anyway, my focus of this film will be about this idea. The story goes: smart college nerd graduates but can't afford to go to columbia, so he has to get a job at Adventureland to save money. Ends up meeting a troubled hottie who is sleeping with the washed up rock star/mechanic who happens to be hunk Ryan Reynolds. What brings them together is a medium Ziploc Bag of blunts.

Since this is my blog, I'm going to interrupt my little narrative and address why I bring up my ideas and points from different modes of pop culture entertainment. The reason is: I love stories. I love books, movies, and actual storytelling. I love a good song or short story or poem. I think I enjoy stories so much because I draw parallels to my own life. We all do this I'm sure. We all have dreams or ideals, such as making it big or falling in love with that dream girl. Or maybe we identify with the pain. We love to connect with someone, even a fictional character, that feels as we do. there is something about a television character or stanza that speaks to us and we relate. I'm inspired to think and feel by stories. I enjoy feeling emotion, any emotion. Emotion makes me human. I can't acknowledge anything about it other than that I feel it. And I like it.

Okay, so back to Adventureland. It's funny quite consistently. Kristen Stewart I really enjoy because she plays the broken wing bird so well. She glances away at the slightest eye contact. What is she so afraid to face? Is it guilt ding ding ding? Yes. Suddenly she has a great guy who really likes her and she feels the searing hot iron of guilt. She pushes him away, and then he goes after Marly P, who dances disco better than anyone I've danced with. He has an addiction for confession, and tells her that he kissed this girl and he's really sorry. She forgives easily knowing she has wronged him more than a simple kiss, and for much longer.

Yet, somehow, they forgive, and even embrace eachother for who they are. Does love conquer all? I believe true love does. I want it in my life. What would it feel like to have someone who knows everything about you and still love you? In conversations with friends and family, I can see why many people keep dark secrets in their lives, since revealing them would mean risking the loss of those relationships. Sometimes there are things in a life that on the surface are wrong, but events that brought them about are unfair and sad. Why is it acceptable to dismiss at face value a "sin" when that sin was years in the making by forces maybe partly ones own fault, but partly not? Where is a place for understanding and acceptance?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Hours searching for tickets didn't lead me to this film, but luckily Blake did. With an interview from Jon Krasinski himself, his directorial debut was phenomenal. Afterwards, I told Blake, "After seeing films that make me think like this one, it kind of makes me ashamed of some of my previous movie choices."

"You should feel ashamed," he said.

The film basically is as the title states, several interviews with men of different backgrounds. Jon told us after the film that he thought it started out being about women and the feminist movement, but really it ended up being about men. It wasn't just an exploitation of their hideousness, but rather a critical reading of the male narrative.

Truly, there was so much going on in this film I want to address. First, the film spliced together several powerful monologues from different actors that teased out different emotions from hearty laughter to pensive sadness. One of which focused on a black professor who contemptuously reminisced about his father that worked as a bathroom servant in a nice country club. The film merged two separate monologues together that addressed eachother indirectly, as if the two characters who actually were in the same room, were actually separated from eachother, explaining their actions and feelings. "A piece of toast for the bus...a double shift to feed the children." "He avoided their eyes to spare their dignity. He tried to be invisible, and he was invisible to them." Though the dichotomy of a black man and his father may not seem to relate to the main synopsis of the film, I felt it was a poignant tie in, since that was why the man proclaimed, "Nobody, is invisible. To me." Each interview was about the women in each man's life, and it was easy to connect this man with treating his wife respectfully. The scene was moving.

Another group of scenes broke down Julianne's own barriers. A student pesters her to review his paper, and she refuses because of her disgust for its thesis that violence, rape, and incest can be good events in a woman's life. As the student persistently approaches Julianne, he gets more and more frustrated at her sheer disgust for his ideas. He parallels his ideas to Viktor Frankl, who wrote, Man's Search for Meaning. Eventually, he reveals it is he who was raped. He forcefully explains how, when the events that are setup in the mind as the most horrific and impossible actually happen, there is a level of experience that is discovered which allows the individual to know more about himself or herself than ever before. This new clarity gives meaning to life, and provides a way to grow stronger and overcome, thus allowing a person the ability to succeed in ways that before were impossible.

Other scenes are funny, sad, and disgusting, but shed light onto why not only men, but mainly men, make decisions that they do. Not just why they cheat and want sex all the time, but also that usually at the heart of every decision or value system is a vulnerability that has been shelved away behind dusty boxes of pain and regret.

the final monologue by Jon tells why he has never loved. He tells a story of a girl that he initially picked up just for a one night stand, but then discovers a girl who was able to find love in her heart for the very man who raped her. "This is love," he says. "When you can experience the very worst of someone and still love them." Or something to that effect. Previously, Julianne questioned why. Why could you cheat on me when you loved me? The truth was that he never loved her. She was just another fling. But after that story, he did change.

Is she the one who comes out on top? Jon felt she did. I would say no. Even though she is the one conducting the interviews and revealing these secrets, its still the women who are the brunt of man's proclivities. Men are the dominant sex, and usually get what they want.

So I was truly impressed with the expressiveness of Jon krasinski as he took questions and humbly passed the praise to his cast and fellow filmmakers. Well done. I'm going to go ahead and claimed I met him, and by met him, I mean stood in the same room about 40 feet away.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lymelife the movie, Sundance, and subtlety

"It's about subtlety, Blake."

We had been batting some important ideas around for a lengthy seven minutes when I lined that little curve ball up. Blake was driving us to Sundance where we were going to stand in line for Lymelife, a coming of age film about Lyme disease. What attracted us was that somewhere in the blurb for the film online, Martin Scorsese's name was credited. So we were off. On the way, we engaged in some heavy dialogue over Macarthy's The Road and Burrow's Running with Scissors.

"I know it's about subtlety, but Burrow's is so exploitive. It's hard to believe." Blake defined what he meant by exploitive, and I agreed that eleven year old gay sex was somewhat exploitive.

"that's true, you're right. But take the man and the boy in The Road. There is so much happening within the dialogue. Macarthy doesn't need to describe every detail. With just a little conversation between the two, so much more is said implicitly."

"Yeah, he, what's the word? He illicits a response without actually verbalizing it."

We touched on other important blog topics, like the importance of irony and the real meaning behind Running with Scissors, but subtlety was in the cards for us that night.

The ten minute jaunt to the box office was chilling. I imagined being a dog sled racer without dogs in the middle of Montreal. We had to wait before getting our standby numbers, so we defrosted in the Owl Bar for awhile. There weren't too many Californi's there, save one table with three blonde's, all wearing large marshmallow fur coats and Versace hooker boots. They were drinking Appletinis. Thank Schwartzneggar there weren't any more bleeths dripping wealth on their way in. The rest were probably all at the Premiere's in Park City. I don't mind California natives by any means. But when you're on the side of a mountain in Utah and people dress up like they are attending a nightclub in a freezer, it's somewhat annoying. The other fully occupied table was surrounded by two scraggly young men who hadn't shaved for several weeks on purpose (who rode into the saloon piggy-back) and a brown-haired snow bunny. They all were wearing snow pants. The slopes closed over four hours earlier.

"Our waitress is cute," I said.

"Our waitress is Palestinian," said Blake.

After Blake had a burger and I a Coke, we retrieved our waiting list numbers five and six. Then it was off to Heber City to paint the town red for an hour before we had to be back for the film. We drove down main street a couple times and stopped at a quaint little cafe called, "Chicks Cafe." I asked what was good, and the tired waitress had to dig deep to give me an answer. "The chicken fried steak. Lotsa people order it," she said. So I did. Then Blake and I exchanged one liners from the great literature on our table. The books were called, 1001 ways to know you're having a bad day. and, 1001 funny things to say while fishing. And, 1001 comebacks to people who say insulting one-liners to you. They were all by the same author. He had about thirty more publishings, too.

"That's a lot of steak and gravy," said Blake. "I bet it goes really well with the clam chowder you just ate." My meal came with a salad which I knew was lettuce from Albertsons and bottom shelf ranch, clam chowder, a piece of fried steak the size of South Dakota and probably to scale, potatoes and gravy, and a scone. I was full after the chowder.

Then we were back in line. Blake was obviously annoyed. We had been herded to one side by an arrogant volunteer, and were about two inches from the women in front of us. "Excuse me," said a short curly-haired man as he slid in front of me and then inserted himself in the two inches between Blake and the ladies. He looked straight ahead, and we noticed he was wearing seran-wrap around the tips of his boots. He was alone.

"I don't like the standby experience," said Blake.

"Yes, but it's this or not seeing the film," I said. I knew Blake didn't see films he didn't have normal tickets for.

Then there was the film. Lymelife. An introverted little brother Scott Bartlett tries to toughen up for his high school crush Adrianna Bragg and protect himself from the school bully. "Fartlett," he's called. Then he has to toughen up to deal with his over-protective mother and adulterous father, who cheats with Adrianna's Mom who has fallen out of love with her husband who has Lyme disease from a tick bite. Then he has to toughen up when his idolized army brother Jimmy turns out to be scared and vulnerable like anyone else, and he has nobody left to rely on. Then you realize that the delicate balance found in the American Dream can tip so easily, drowning adults and children in its wake. Then it becomes clear that no matter how much your actions seem all your own, they never really are.

Rory Culkin and Emma Roberts and Alec Baldwin and Jill Hennessey were all phenomenal. After the film, Rory and Emma and Jill and director Derek Martini all did a Q and A and I asked, "Besides drawing from your own experience for your roles, how do you prepare for parts of your character you know nothing about, or you don't have experience with emotions they experience?" Emma answered, "I read the script over and over, and I think that you can relate to almost anything from your own experience." I respectfully disagreed in my mind, but nodded and smiled and was happy I interacted with an actress.

"I give it 3.5 Bitchin stars," said Blake. He docked the film for its incontinuity. "Did you see how many times the Windsor knot Jill was tying on Scott switched to different hands between shots? It was so annoying."

"Yeah, I like to nit pick the pointless details of a movie and render the large picture flawed because of small inconsistencies in a film as well."

We left feeling good about ourselves. I asked a question and Blake said Hi to Jill Hennessey on the way out. She engaged him in conversation as well. "She said hi back!" He said.

In the truck on the speedy trip home (blake was late for work), we continued our discussion. "Obviously Rory was made for that role because he was the same as he is in real life, but he was perfectly cast. His inward personality that interplayed with Emma provided a lot of emotion that was never verbally touched on or focused specifically on," I said. It was true. A certain situation that the viewer sees portrays a great amount of detail that is implied. A slumped posture, sitting on the roof of the house, shady eyes, an outburst of explitives, four spoken words, fishing for a compliment, all shout volumes to the mind, but in such a quiet way where one only acknowledges silently, "I know what's happening."

"It's just like the Road," said Blake.

"Just like the road," I said.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Kite Runner

There is a heartfelt vulnerability in this book that unfolds to the very last page. There is nothing that isn't refreshing and original in this. The Kite Runner. I've found that of the books I've read, many don't impress me. Maybe I have expectations that just go unfulfilled. This one delivered. It was sad. It was harrowing, it was jolting. Yet there is a character that actually changes in this book, and there is a deep sea of good we splash in for awhile. It's what we all want from humanity. And as touching as it is, it isn't too big to be unbelievable, and it isn't too magnificent to make it melodramatic. It is simple. One example Amir sees children staring at his watch as they sit on the ground eating their dinner. He asks permission to give the children the watch, then sees them play with it for a moment before tossing it from their play and attention. Later, he realizes, they were not staring at his watch, but at his food. This story is told in such a way, where a real event become a big deal, rather than the big deal being forced to become real.

I was also impressed with the complex side stories that all find their way back to tie into Amir, the main character. Hosseini tells a magnificent tale, and presents in the Kite Runner an overlying unity that all great stories have. Hosseini makes events tangible, then we are almost allowed to forget they happened, then their meaning resurfaces and allows for that aha moment that makes us really smile. The kite competition is a great example of this. First taking place in the beginning of the book, it's poignant then and you may think that is where the meaning and significance stops. Eventually it comes back into play, and we are left with an unforgettable full-circle ending.

It makes one appreciate the real blessing it is to live in a country where bombings aren't a normal occurence, and food is in surplus. We take so much for granted. There is so much to be thankful for.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A million Little Pieces by James Frey

The first part of this book was believable and engaging. I felt the pain that James felt as he entered rehab, threw up every night, and even had his teeth pulled without anesthesia. Yes, I believed that. There is a certain realm where even in fiction an author can create a believable story that makes one forget it is a story. The mind allows a total submersion into the characters and development of the events. Frey did this, but his style, narration, and character development all crescendoed early and plateaued about two hundred pages in. I'll go ahead and attribute it to his introduction of Lilly.

Here is my beef. There is a point where you respect a guy for being tough and having street cred, but then when that person starts to peacock and show off how tough they are, it is unbelievable and kind of ridiculous. In Frey's case, he made himself unbelievable by trying to be too tough and too rebellious. He rebelled against the 12 steps. He rebelled against any form of higher power. He put himself in the most ridiculous asinine place an alcoholic should put himself in: a bar with a drink one inch from his face. That, to me, was ludicrous. Maybe it wasn't even that final act of defiance, it was that he wouldn't even tell his brother that he wanted to test himself. Instead, he let his brother believe that he just wanted to have a drink. That careless disregard for others made me lose huge amounts of respect for him.

As I mentioned earlier with Lilly, her introduction saw the downfall of a really good book. The story was/is supposed to be about James's recovery from addiction. I can totally believe him being with another chick and having them help eachother through that. But Frey makes his love affair with Lilly the main plot of the story for the last half of the book, which is not what his original intent was. On top of that, there ends up being no redeeming quality to having Lilly play such a large role in the story. If he's going to make up stuff (which he admitted to doing, which I don't have a problem with) then he should have made up some way to tie in Lilly's character better. Aristotle described beauty and great works of art as having continuity and completeness. All aspects of a work of art tie into the other. If you ever watch a critically acclaimed movie, you'll see that every character and event ties into a following character or event. It all builds on itself and ties into the end. That is good art. A million Little Pieces, though interesting, was not a well written book in my opinion.

Also, Frey's style of narration, which I would describe as a type of stream of consciousness (I don't think it technically is that but whatever) was very applicable when he originally was coming off of the initial drugs he was on. The chaos of the fragmented sentences, or "the million little pieces" going on inside his head made sense. As he came down over the next few weeks, I could even see him applying the type of narration to times when he became angry or upset. But he seemed to carry on the excessive fragments to times when it wasn't needed, i.e. when he was out in the back yard with Lilly, or when he was content. Either that or he could have done it a bit more tactfully, as I felt he was well over the top, and instead of coming off as chaotic and tense, it comes of as contrived and unintentionally poetic.

That people can overcome addiction is an admirable message however he does it, though I think most people trying to recover from addiction would be more let down than buoyed up reading this. Where only 16% of addicts go into long term remission from recovery centers, and those are the ones that follow the system, Frey disregards every failsafe meant for him and goes solo. That's not a good message I don't think.

Two books I've read from Oprah's book club: 100 Years of Solitude and this (which isn't a book on her list anymore I don't think) were both sadly disappointing. I'd say read the second one as it is interesting, but stay the hell away from Solitude.

Lastly, I'd like to address the fact that this memoir is probably mostly, if not partly, fictitious. Does it make the memoir any less powerful as a work of literature? This same question has been posed for works about the Holocaust. Several Jewish writers have written accounts that they originally claimed to be memoirs or first hand events, and then later it was discovered they were not. One writer, Binjamin Wilkomirski, wrote a book entitled Fragments, which was later found to be untrue. He said that he wrote it to not be totally factual, but as a way to embody the pain he felt from the Holocaust, though he never experienced it. Some Jewish leaders have hailed works like this as just as powerful as real accounts. Yet, like Frey, there are sometimes great public fallout from less than truthful writers.

Postmodernists would say that since the author's opinion doesn't matter, we can take a piece of literature for what it is: a piece of literature. There are not hidden intentions that we must uncover through its reading. Whatever is discovered is what we think matters, and that is all that matters. Yet maybe an author's intentions or personality taints their work. Paul H. Dunn, a "fired" general authority, told world war II stories over the pulpit as a Seventy that were heartfelt and extremely entertaining, but then they were proven to be totally fabricated. Could you feel the spirit in a story like this, even though it was totally false?

Or, we've had this conversation, does Michael Jordan's promiscuity taint his status as a sports icon? Does Michael Jackson's boy loving taint his music? Does Bill Clinton's dishonesty taint his presidency? They all still did great things from a world standpoint, so do we just take what they did at face value and forget the rest of them?