Writer’s Desk: Whiskey at Night


, , , , ,

Glencairn_Whisky_GlassYou see, I usually write at night. I always keep my whiskey within reach.

—William Faulkner

I always take Scotch whiskey at night as a preventive of toothache. I have never had the toothache; and what is more, I never intend to have it.

—Mark Twain

Weekend Reading: October 9, 2015


, , , ,



Quote of the Day: Film Snob


, , , ,

A film snob's film, in all the best ways (Milestone).

Charles Burnett’s ‘Killer of Sheep’: A film snob’s film, in all the best ways (Milestone).

From A.O. Scott’s quasi-manifesto “Film Snob? Is That So Wrong?

What I’m trying to say is: Yes, fine, I am a snob. I revere the formal achievement of the first and most recent “Mad Max” movies. I sneer at most biopics and costume dramas. I like my pleasures slow and difficult. I would rather watch a mediocre film from South America or Eastern Europe about the sufferings of poor people than a mediocre Hollywood comedy about the inconveniences of the affluent. I look up in admiration at models of artistic perfection, sound judgment and noble achievement, and I look down on what I take to be the stupid, cheap and cynical aspects of public discourse…

Sometimes a snob is a person enjoying certain things for their cachet, for what they believe it will say about them.

Other times, a snob is somebody with very definitive tastes that happen to not agree with the majority of people. This tends to make the majority annoyed and defensive about their own tastes.

Here’s to that kind of snob.

Writer’s Desk: Grammar Cops


, , , , ,


Elements_of_Style_coverA scene from perhaps the greatest movie that will never be made:

Police tape marks the scene. Red and blue lights flash. A young, nervous-looking BEAT COP sees STRUNK and WHITE approaching.

It’s over here, detectives. The body was found about an hour ago.

Use the active voice, rookie.

Oh god, it’s horrible. I feel nauseous.

Unless you mean you’re sickening to contemplate, you mean “nauseated.” Now get out of  my crime scene before you puke all over it.

WHITE (inspecting the body)
It’s definitely our guy, Strunk.

The Crossword Killer?

Yeah. And look, he’s getting more confident. This time, he used a pen.

Readers’ Corner: Banned Books Week




Every year this week, the good folks at the American Library Association “celebrate” Banned Books Week. It’s a way of drawing attention to all the books that are challenged for removal from libraries for various reasons, usually having to do with material deemed inappropriate for young students assigned to read them.

Though it should be noted—as Ruth Graham points out at Slate—really this should be called “Censored” or “Challenged Books Week” since you can’t really ban books in the United States of America; much as some people might wish that were not true.

The most frequently challenged titles are frequently assigned books that do any of the following:

  • depicts teenagers acting like teenagers
  • includes gay characters who aren’t treated as lepers
  • reflects in any way the world as it actually is, not how religious fundamentalists, PC extremists, trigger-warning bluestockings, and closed-minded nativists imagine it to be

Sherman Alexie's book moved up to #1 in 2014, though it's been placing in the top 10 for years now.

Sherman Alexie’s book moved up to #1 in 2014, though it’s been placing in the top 10 for years now.

You can see many examples of the above in the ALA’s list below of the most commonly challenged books for the year 2014:

1)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10)  Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: sexually explicit

The ALA has posted a list of books that are not just frequently challenged but are also on the Radcliffe Publishing Course’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. (Including, very ironically, 1984.)

Weekend Reading: October 2, 2015


, , , , , , ,


Screening Room: ‘The Martian’


, , , , , , ,

Matt Damon works on not dying in 'The Martian' (20th Century Fox)

Matt Damon works on not dying in ‘The Martian’ (20th Century Fox)

Astronauts go to Mars and a storm makes them bug out early, thinking they’ve left one of their own behind dead. Only that astronaut, a botanist played by Matt Damon with Chuck Yeager panache, isn’t dead and he’s got to figure out how to stay alive on an alien planet for years while Mission Control tries to put together a rescue plan. The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s bestseller, is the first Ridley Scott film in years that registers a pulse and might be the year’s first film to grab attention from both mainstream audiences and Oscar voters.

A can-do paean to engineering and astronaut awesomeness, The Martian is opening everywhere this week. My review is at PopMatters.

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Walk’


, , , , ,

Philippe Petite (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) defies gravity in 'The Walk' (TriStar Pictures)

Philippe Petite (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) defies gravity in ‘The Walk’ (Sony Pictures)

In 1974, a lithe, clownish French tightrope artist named Philippe Petit strung a rope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and did a death-defying 45-minute act up there in the clouds, almost too high for people on the ground to see what he was doing. In The Walk, Robert Zemeckis translates that legendary bit of aerobatics into a 3D spectacle.

The Walk is opening this week in a limited 3D IMAX run, which is truly the way to take in its vertiginous heights, and then opens wider on October 9.

My review is at PopMatters:

Once upon a time, everything was not fenced off. Those who remember life in New York City before 9/11 will experience moments of cognitive dissonance while watching Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk. It’s jarring to see the Twin Towers again standing like steel sentinels over Manhattan. It’s stranger still to see people rushing through one of the lobbies while it’s still under construction… with nobody stopping them. The scene recalls a time when we didn’t think anyone would want to break in to the site or worse, want to destroy it…

You can also see my review of the 2008 documentary about Petit’s walk, Man on Wire, at Medium.

The trailer for The Walk is here:

Screening Room: ‘Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead’


, , , , , ,

'National Lampoon': Funny people (Magnolia)

‘Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon’: Funny people (Magnolia)

Natlamp73Remember magazines? National Lampoon was one of the best. Beyond serving as something of a thinking man’s Mad, it also fostered that upswell of talent coming out of the Chicago comedy improv scene in the 1970s and midwifed them to stardom at Saturday Night Live. Sure, that ultimately led to Coneheads the movie, but we can probably lay that more at Lorne Michaels’ feet.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is playing now in limited release; my review is at PopMatters:

People who only know National Lampoon as that odd possessive sitting atop posters for Animal House andVacation might be surprised by some details provided by Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon. They might not have realized the depth of talent the comedy magazine cultivated. Or they might be surprised learn this monthly publication had a circulation of one million. Or that Chevy Chase was once considered a comedy genius…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Sleeping with Other People’


, , , , ,

Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis try to resist each other's charms in 'Sleeping with Other People' (IFC Films)

Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis try to resist each other’s charms in ‘Sleeping with Other People’ (IFC Films)

Although Trainwreck garnered all the headlines for this year’s explicit woman-oriented edgy romantic comedy, Leslye Headland’s Sleeping with Other People fulfills a lot of the promise that that Amy Schumer/Judd Apatow collaboration couldn’t quite deliver on.

Sleeping with Other People is playing now. My review is at PopMatters:

A deconstructive sweet-and-sourball of a romantic comedy, Sleeping With Other People seems made for the therapeutically inclined. To that end, it doesn’t quite deliver the story we might expect from its initial meet-cute. Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) do make their way to a big dance number and some climactic soul-baring, but Leslye Headland’s movie doesn’t balance out emotional payoffs for everybody. Both partners learn lessons, but neither quite gets what they want…

Here’s the trailer:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 338 other followers