Saturday, January 19, 2008

Coming this... Huh?

You've probably been to metacritic, the website that quantifies movie reviews, then tabulates the numbers to score each movie. I like to skim the paragraph-long excerpts from a dozen professional reviews every so often, to get a taste for how critics feel. Yesterday morning I checked out Cloverfield, the "love-child of Godzilla and the Blair Witch," as metacritic put it. Was there ever a description more geared to my taste?

I clicked on the image beside the title on the main page for the Featured Review ( check it out - hasn't the link in the image as of January 19th) and was shocked to find a string of perfect 100 scores, and compliments like, "Gorgeous cinematography," "A singular achievement -- romantic, sensuous, intelligent and finally shattering," and, "This is one of the few adaptations that gives a splendid novel the film it deserves."

I didn't know Cloverfield was a novel.

I scrolled back up the page and let it finish loading. My connection is sluggish sometimes. It was then I noticed that I was reading reviews for The Atonement, the romantic critical darling of 2007. I'd bypassed the title and image and went straight to opinions, only to find them so vague that I didn't realize they were about a love story instead of a giant monster movie.

This is an anecdote of my incompetence, but not of mine alone. I like to think we all failed a little.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: The Science of Minimalism: Like a Drill in a Doctor's Bag

Occasionally we artists and scientists get tired of actually doing anything of value and stop to argue over who is more important. The newest edition of this argument is whether scientists have more to learn from artists in the next millennium, or if artists have more to learn from scientists. As an artist with a passion for science, I think we have much to learn from psychology, sociology and anthropology that can verify or alter our feelings on the way people interact. There is a wealth of information about biological imperatives, about evolution and environment, the chemistry of our chemistry, the physics of our physicality, and the great sums of forces at work in the universe, like entropy or the dual nature of light. There is even a field of cognitive science for how we organize and express, which would give any painter, dancer or composer a greater appreciation for how the human mind shares itself. Artists have so much to learn from science. Meanwhile the biggest thing scientists have to learn from art is how to fucking write.

Bathroom Monologue: Real Titles that were Disappointingly Not Comedies

-Our Lady of the Sauropods
-The Dream Hunter (A Dream Hunter Novel)
-Hell Hath No Fury
-Letter to a Christian Nation
-Tyrannosaur Canyon
-Beauty's Release: The Conclusion of the Classic Erotic Trilogy of Sleeping Beauty
-Bite Me If You Can
-World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
-Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
-The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Snow Job

Little Becky made a snow "man." Little Bethy made a snow "woman" and two snow "babies." Their father made a snow "off my fucking driveway." He was no fun.

Bathroom Monologue: Generous in General

General Electric recently pledged to harvest millions of gallons of pure water from the oceans every year. Billionaire philanthropist Stewart Tiddlesworth will not be outdone, even by a major international monopoly. He has already pledged to retrieve millions of cubic yards of air from the atmosphere by the year 2010. His land development wing is already hard at work liberating tons of surcharge-free stone from the Rockies. And in case this summer is again too boiling hot, his expeditionary divisions are extracting ice from the south pole, which they will distribute at a modest fee. There is no height of philanthropy Tiddlesworth Co. Ltd. won't go to (and copyright) for the good of humanity.

Waiting to Talk to the Fourth Straight Operator in the Same Hospital Monologue

The Fodati were a very enterprising species. They were very good navigators, they were very good pilots, and they were very good shots; which meant, they were very good conquerors. They ruled almost half a continent under a bureaucratic fist, with three archipelagos on the side, like change in their purses. Soon everything had its own office: the Office Conquering, the Office of Strip-mining, the Office of Cultural Dismemberment, the Office of Re-Education, and the Department of 'No, You Can't.' Nobody could even get his hands on the paperwork to begin an insurrection. Soon the Fodati even sold shares in government, which paid the best dividends in the land for five generations. Then they went extinct. It was a cunning new form of influenza, dubbed the "Orson W. Strain," named for the first Fodat to sneeze it out. The extinction was brutal, but only half as brutal as what the Fodati did next. Only ten years after their extinction they bought up all the common stock available, giving them 51% ownership over Hell. This quarter's financial report suggests that service in the inferno will not change dramatically, but it will be streamlined.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fifth Straight Night of Shredded Wheat for Dinner Monologue

I've got a new diet idea. It's a little drastic, but this just isn't cutting it. I'm going to go buy a gun. Then I'm going to use my remaining money to eat extra cheese pizza and huge hamburgers for every meal until I run out of money. Then I'm going to have one more meal, and when the check comes, I'll shoot myself. I expect I'll gain weight the first few days, but by the end, I'll probably drop pounds rapidly. Embalming fluid isn't very fattening, you know.

Bathroom Monologue: Mitochondrial Hussie

Every cell of our bodies has a mitochondrion, an organelle that turns food into energy. This little item is so novel that many scientists say it couldn't have evolved with in the primitive biology of the single-celled organisms in which it is believed to have originated. Perhaps, my biology teacher said, one came about by pure chance in the chemical soup of the primordial world and was swallowed by a greedy single-cell organism ate it, which assimilated rather than digested it when it proved to be so handy around the office. Regardless, mitochondria stuck around, and you’ve got one in every cell of your body. Mitochondria have their own DNA, unique from the DNA of the majority of the human body. Most mitochondria are inherited from the mother, allowing us to trace back lineage of all human beings to one common ancestor, who lived approximately 150,000 years ago. She has been dubbed the “Mitochondrial Eve,” in the hopes of making Christian fundamentalists' heads explode. However, she was not the only woman at that time - it would have been very impractical, and you can only use the "I've got a headache" excuse so many times to a continent of primitive men. It is merely that her progeny thrived and replicated where those of the Mitochondrial Lilith, Mitochondrial Gertrude and Mitochondrial Emily Dickinsons were too busy gossiping and writing poetry. It's also interesting that the earliest common male mitochondrial DNA-ancestor we can trace back to lived about 90,000 years ago, separating the Mitochondrial Adam and Eve by about 60,000 years - a long distance relationship of Biblical proportions. What happened in those 60,000 years? We can't be sure, but the gap suggests that lesbianism was much more creative back then.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Show of Hands?

Raise your hand if when you were a kid you didn't realize "fig" was the flavor of the cookie, and so thought Fig Newton was the name of the product. So when they were raspberry-flavored, they were Raspberry Fig Newtons. Apple? Apple Fig Newtons. And how surprised were you when you found out that figs were a fruit? There's nothing profound here. Just thought I'd ask for a show of hands.

Bathroom Monologue: I'm No Better Than My Worst

Back in middle school I made up a lot of characters to live out fantasies. I was bored with my parents and afraid of my peers; and they all thought I was weird. So I lived through my stories. One was of Colonel Vortez, a black knight of the darkest shade. He lived a contrived existence, purely ridiculous with its carnage and excess, but it was real to him. It wasn't easy on him, either. He fantasized about the original Black Emperor, a mythological figure who consumed all the lands in his kingdom and took all strife with ease. But you know, that emperor had his weak moments. They weren't written down, but they happened, and they felt long. In those times the Emperor wished he were something other than human. He wished he were a dragon, like the Fjiorjund of legend. But the Fjiojund dragon, for all its treasures and bluster, had a deathly fear, for there were cracks between the scales on its belly, and so much as a needle between them would end its eternal life. And there were so many brave hunters and would-be dragonslayers in its time, with so many more things than needles. It wished to be something smaller, less sought-after. It wanted to be an Elf King, one of the Jou, tucked away in the misty woods where no one could walk uninvited, and all trespasses were lost. But Fjiorjund the dragon had only heard thirdhand rumors of the Elf Kings, and didn't know how lonely these perfectly safe, secluded rulers were. Each and every Elf King wanted to be someone else. One every wrote poetry about the life he wished he could lead, if only he was human, out in a big human society, in their concrete buildings. How much he would have liked to grow up a human, with a lifespan, limited to give his years meaning. How much he would have liked to grow up a human, to grow up with parents who cared, and go to school surrounded by other children, instead of living all alone in his boring, real world.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: So It Is Written

[Panel 1]
God: At first I wanted the Bible to be accurate since, you know, that might be important eventually. But I kept running into problems like:

[Panel 2]
Joshua: And over millions of years monera evolved into prota--
Peasant: What's a "million?"

[Panel 3]
God: The second time I had to give a prophet an epiphany on what a triceratops was, I said, "Fuck it. Everything in 6,000 years."

Bathroom Monologue: Sleepy Head

While everyone else rummaged through the yardsale, Som napped in the passengers seat. That’s the way it always went when they went out; him waking up would ruin the fun, and he understood it. Som wasn't a fairy or a wizard or one of those mutants in the movies. He was just a circumstance of the world. Whenever he was awake, anyone around him fell like a stone. Not dead, don't worry about that. Just asleep. Being asleep isn’t so bad unless you happen to be driving on the highway, performing surgery, constructing a skyscraper, serving as a 9-1-1 operator-- alright, it could be quite bad. Which was why he stayed out of the way. He only chatted with people over IM’s and cell phones, but even that left them feeling drowsy. It might have been his personality. He only roamed the streets late at night, with bed hair and crinkled pajamas. According to one note he left on the fridge, you ceased to care about your appearance when all the better-dressed people around you fell to the ground the second you so much as got in their peripheral vision. He’d stuck with this group of friends for two years now, and every morning they’d wake up to find him dozing in front of the TV. Back before they met Som two of them had been insomniacs, and the curmudgeon among them had been narcoleptic. Now everybody went to bed at the same time, and the curmudgeon hadn’t had so much as a long blink in – well, two years. They took a shine to Som, and the best part was that, according to all the notes he left on the refrigerator and the pleasant, subdued smile he always had while napping, he really enjoyed their company, in his own way.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Grim? Yes, please.

Harold tried to fit his wife's severed arm in the freezer, but there was too much stuff in there. Frowning, he opened the refrigerator. Tonight was leftover night, so there was ample room, but Harold worried that it wouldn't keep the limb cool enough. He nibbled his lip uncomfortably. For a moment, he considered going back and asking them what to do. But no, that was stupid. It wasn't like they'd let him back in the room. Not after what he'd done. So Harold shut the fridge and began pulling ice cube trays and tubs of cookie dough ice cream (his wife's favorite) out of the freezer. Then he placed the arm as apologetically as possible on the top shelf. To make it fit, he had to bend the wrist at an angle that made him squeamish. Jesus, he hoped they'd be able to sew it back on. With a sigh, he plopped down at the table, and stared at the two tubs of cookie dough ice cream. He thought about going and offering some to them. No, that was stupid. None of them would want to see him after what he'd done, even bearing ice cream. So he pulled out a spoon. There was nothing else he could do until the ambulance and police got here. So he ate, and hoped his wife had calmed down. At least she'd stopped screaming. And the ice cream was really good.
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