Saturday, July 9, 2011

BM: "There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man." –Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear

It sounds nice, but that means wise men don’t fear:

-Being in clear line of ventilation with people exhibiting symptoms of a catastrophic airborne disease.

-Uniformed masses whose biases cause them to set their houses on fire.

-Getting stuck in a burning building.

-Getting covered in HIV-positive blood.

-Talking dogs that threaten to bite them as soon as they fall asleep.

-Falling out of an airplane.

-A shark’s fin popping out of the water when they’re bleeding.

-Death, which is a peculiar fear to lack if they’re afraid of sea storms.

-Their legs getting caught in the anchor chain as it’s thrown overboard, during a storm or otherwise.

-An amateur juggler trying out the "handleless knife set" right next to them, also during a storm or otherwise.

-A day with no sun.

-Having a curious medical condition and seeing Hugh Laurie walk into the room.

-That while dining in a foreign country at a highly recommended exotic restaurant, the waiter will bring them a dish that possesses one of a hundred things to which they’re fatally allergic, despite the waiter’s thickly-accented assurances that this thickly-spiced meal is quite palatable and the entire party staring in mute disdain for their hesitation.


-The foundation of their epistemology being found wanting.

-That he fears the correct three things.

-That there aren't other things he should fear.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Never Forget How to be Alone

"I'm going to be okay. Knew it from the first moment I woke up, before the doctors said anything. Before I saw Mitsy's eyes. She doesn't glass up like with happiness.

“See, when I wake up, I always turn over. My ankles roll while I sleep, and my spine shifts. I've woken up adjusting myself so many times that now I expect to do it. And my feet wouldn't move. Tried again and realized my knees weren't coming along either. Right then I didn’t know, but I knew. You know?

“And my first thought wasn't, 'Career is over.'

“It wasn't, 'Getting around the beach is going to be harder.'

“It was, 'I bet I can balance myself between that IV stand and the windowsill, and look like I'm standing for at least a minute before I fall over. That'll look bad ass.' I was kind of excited to try it.

“Then I saw Mitsy's eyes, and the doctors told me about fractions of percentages of chances, and they scheduled a lady to stretch my legs for me two times a week, and my mother called to cry. Then I got all those thoughts you're supposed to have.

“None of those people thought it was funny. Mitsy screamed at me, but you know, on Tuesday? I fooled four passersby before I collapsed. It’s not a denial thing. It’s funny. I’ve got to find different ways to express it, because she will chain to me a wheelchair if I keep pretending I can stand.

“Throughout, it's stayed with me. That there’s a spot in my brain that not only auto-adjusts to tragedy, but that wants to do something with it. This is my nature. I'm going to take it belly-sledding next week."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Inventing Homer

This is a light update of a 2008 Bathroom Monologue. You can read the original here. The remake is dedicated to Judge and Danni.

"Homer, aren't you done with your epics yet?"

"Well maybe if somebody would invent paper I wouldn't have to do it all in my head."

"We gave you listening boys--"

"Because when I'm composing, what I really need is brats rolling their eyes at my epic meter."

"How can you tell? I thought you were blind."

"You don't know because nothing has been recorded about me. I only gave you the foundation of European literature, so no hard feelings about giving me less press in my day than Paris Hilton."

"Bitter, old--"

"Is it recorded that I'm deaf now? Get out and don't come back until you've developed something more durable than parchment. This is immortal work, I want this stuff written down, but I'll feed myself to the dogs before I let it get lost in a library fire."

"We don't have dogs in our--"

"Do I have to invent the fucking metaphor around here? It was hyperbole! Get out!"

When it sounded like the intermediary had left, Homer sat down in the cool shade and rubbed his temples. When was someone going to invent coffee?

He began again, "Muse, sing to me of..."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

7 Movies That Are Better Than The Books They’re Based On

So what if books aren’t really comparable with films? So one is letters in a certain order, and the other is an array of actors and music. One requires imagination to see, while the other can be viewed passively. One can have a living person give an amazing performance that renders a character classic, while the other has only one person describing every character. If the book rocked by book-standards and the movie sucked by movie-standards, we all just say that the book is better. Nobody cares if we’re comparing two disparate and non-quantifiable items. We want star ratings! And besides, everybody knows that the book is always better than the movie. Except…

1. Jaws (originally by Peter Benchley)

The worst book I read all 2010. The descriptions of wealthy teens sound like the work of a guy about to go on a shooting spree. The mob comes in for no good reason. The cop’s wife cheats on him just so she can realize it was wrong later. I like most of Peter Benchley’s books, but he couldn’t even do word choice here. At every possible opportunity he refers to his killer shark as “the fish.” That’s quite possibly the least scary word in the entire English language you could describe a multi-ton eating machine.

Not only is the movie a blockbuster classic and the book atrocious, but Benchley even apologized for doing sharks such injustice later. To the best of my knowledge Stephen Spielberg has never apologized, but still cashes his royalty checks. So the movie also wins for unrepentant damage to wildlife.

2. 300 (originally by Frank Miller)

Many comic book movies could be argued as superior to their source material, given that most are based on origin stories from the infancy of superhero narratives. What Spider-Man is based on is stilted and dated. A little streamlined dialogue and slick special effects, and a modern audience will come along. But Frank Miller’s 300 was produced into a film within a few years of its creation.

Why’s it better? Whatever talent Miller has at drawing big crowds of sweaty men isn’t as impressive as the actual sea of abs that Zach Snyder recruited. Their cinematography, effects and choreography hurdled right over Miller’s tired blood splashes. The movie also features a strong female character (my theatre cheered louder for her stabbing that jerk than any of the battle scenes), and cut the lame moments like nicknaming a soldier who tripped “Stumblius.”

The soundtrack and nimble editing also help, but I’ll rant about that stuff next.

3. The Princess Bride (originally by William Golding)

The most unfair movie. Cary Elwes was great. Andre the Giant was great. The direction was great, the humor beats were great, everybody runs from the theatre screaming, “My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!” and, “Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink!”

It’s not fair. It’s a hilarious, charming book that’s only a book. When this many things about a movie rule, the book can’t win because it’s only good at being words on a page. It can’t have fabulous delivery, jump-scares and fight choreography. It can’t have Billy Crystal in a walk-on role. If it was possible, I would have Billy Crystal in a walk-on role in every novel I ever wrote. But I can’t, and the movie versions all can (budget and his mortality providing).

This movie pulled the ultimate cheat, too: they got the novelist to write the screenplay. Since William Goldman was a professional screenwriter with great credentials, he did a bang-up job while also being entirely faithful to the creator. All he had to do was like what he did. That’s cheating.

4. The Shawshank Redemption (originally Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King)

Just like The Princess Bride. Oh, you got Tim Robbins in the role of his life? And amazing cinematography? And a haunting soundtrack? The only relief is the rumor they’d cast a black guy as Red. That’s silly. He’s “Red.” Nobody could do that.

You got Morgan Freeman?

I hate you. He’s going to narrate the movie, isn’t he? As good as any book’s voice can be, it’s in uphill battle if the opposing voice is read to you by a world-worn Morgan Freeman.

This is not just a Frank Darabont movie. It’s the movie everyone points to when they want to show that Frank Darabont is good. He produces a zombie TV series and a generation goes, “Well he did Shawshank, so…”

It’s my completely unverified theory that this movie made Stephen King write The Green Mile, another novel of humanity tested in a prison. He gave us a juicy tragedy of the justice system, someone even more sympathetic than Andy, a prison staff member even more loathsome than Norton, threw in more religious subtext, some idle romance and regret – King basically baited a bear trap for Hollywood to dare and trump him again. And they stepped on it. Frank Darabont came right back and said, “I can pull a mulligan! Let me go get Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan.” And he failed! He failed by only making a deep, touching movie. That loser.

5. Thank You For Smoking (originally by Christopher Buckley

An even colderhearted trumping of the source material than The Shawshank Redemption, this movie cast Rob Lowe in wardrobes that cost more than my net worth for five second jokes. Between William H. Macy, J.K. Simmons and Robert Duvall, the movie had an absurd stock of frequently overlooked talent– the kind who seldom win Oscars, yet every time they pop up in a movie, you’re refreshed by how good “that guy” always is. Except there were at least half a dozen of “that guy” guys running around. Even the MOD Squad was cast immaculately. The raw acting talent they sprayed around every edge of the movie was obscene. Any line that might have been funny in the book was now enunciated by someone perfect for that character. The bastards.

People argue about the changes from book to film – but any sacrifice of anti-tobacco satire didn’t hurt it. It’s not like the movie doesn’t screw over a dying Sam Elliot. Everyone in the audience knows that cigarettes are hazardous to your health. Expanding the scope of the satirical blast and leaving the ending a little less biting but more clever only made it a more entertaining story. And just like The Princess Bride, they had Buckley endorsing and aiding the project, so any changes were faithful to the art.

6. Die Hard (originally Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp)

The easiest item on the list. I can say the book was trash. I can say its Sciento-Mormon agenda was offensive, and the Mexican astronauts showing up at the end made no sense. And you can’t disagree, because you didn’t even know it was a book. You’re not going to read it now. I’m so sure of it that, you know what?

Go buy it. I dare you. Me, Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, the dad from Family Matters and the best use of Ode to Joy in cinema history will be waiting here, staring while you check out of Amazon.

Go buy it, or concede this one by No-Contest.

That’s the evil of this situation. The movie is so great that you’d rather watch it again than go read the book. By the time he gets a machine gun, you’ll have forgotten Roderick Thorp existed.

7. Pretty Much Every Play You Can Name (originally by a languishing industry)

A Streetcar Named Desire. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. The Crucible. You’ll find all of these books at your local store. Between the Greeks and Shakespeare, plays are assigned in too many Literature classes to be excluded. It’s true that they were written for live theatre, not the movie theatre – but they were printed as books and have been adapted to the silver screen. They’re what don’t come to my mind when people say the book is never better than the movie: books written specifically to be performed more than to be read.

You can read them. I do. You are also almost guaranteed a better experience when professionals with large budgets do it for you. That’s why they were composed at all. You have to dramatically change something from the source (like the ambiguity of Doubt) or have really bad acting for people to actively prefer the text over the performance.

They’re a gaping exception that begins to show the “books are better than movies” conflict is nonsense. You know live theatre is different from cinema. Reading and attending a play are different experiences. Why would you rank them?

The Only Solace...
I’ll tell you why. You do it for the same reason it’s fun to claim No Country For Old Men is a better novel than a movie in front of all your intellectual buddies who take the Coen Brothers like an opiate.

It’s the march of culture. An older generation says their favorite thing is the best while the new one patronizes some lower form of entertainment. Those film junkies who got crabby when I said it takes more thought to appreciate a book than a movie are likewise going to be furious when they learn how many more hours were spent on Facebook than spent watching all the Academy Awards nominees combined. But it’s true.

My solace is a mean one. Film, television and radio will dwindle not only in popularity, but in what a generation sees as valuable. Name the best hundred movies you saw this century. I will bet you if we ask ten random teenagers right now, they’d rather have an iPhone than free passes to all hundred of those movies. Give them time, let them inherit the earth like all generations do, and you’ll have a crop of parents complaining their kids don’t appreciate a good text-message anymore.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Own'd by the Devil

Haley spun the left thumbstick. He couldn’t see the gamertag LUCEY666 anywhere in the game map. He turn Marcus Phoenix around and bullrushed for cover, planning to hide behind its safety until the sucker came out.

But behind that same wreckage-turned-cover on his TV screen, Haley saw the needlessly broad shoulders of the enemy. LUCEY666 popped up, hopped over the barricade and sank his chainsaw into Haley’s hero. The screen went grizzly.

“What the fuck?” Haley yelled into his headset. “How’d you do that? That was bullshit!”

“Fourth time today, HALEYCOMET. I don’t think you can call bullshit anymore. You got owned.”

“Owned?” he repeated in disbelief. Not disbelief in the Devil – he’d been playing Best-of-Seven with her all morning. It was disbelief that the infernal would talk like that.

Then it was disbelief that he’d made that bet. Wishful disbelief, the last disbelief he ever experienced. He felt his soul tug into the earphone of his headset, and something crawling into his body. His own lips moved, allowing someone else’s voice out.

“Well, possession is nine tenths of the law.”

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Suppression at the Barbecue

“Suppression: the best gift a family can give.

“No, you're bold and bright and original. You're going to tell Mom that her Jesus was wrong and that you don't appreciate Grandpa's service in the War. That the food and supplies came from immoral stores, the meat is murder and while sitting around all day is great, sitting around not thinking these specific thoughts is damaging the future of humanity.

“Bullshit you are. You're going to silence and suppress. You're going to do this because:

"One: it'll hurt their feelings,

"Two: it won't change their minds,

"Three: you're not a total ingrate,

"Four: only the sweetest of them don’t have the same scrutiny for you,

"And five: the resulting fight wouldn’t change anyone’s mind, including yours.

“So you're going to shut up and pass the high-fat gravy. The America you want to live in is a rare amalgam of fantasy and cynicism, and that's why your home state is bankrupt and still trying to build a light rail. Suppress it, just like I will.”

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pet Baby Cthulhu

The above was composed in the bathroom by John Wiswell. He’s writing in the third person right now!

It was drawn by Max Cantor. He is eternally imprisoned in the second person.
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