Saturday, October 13, 2012

Go see Seven Psychopaths

A few days ago, I blogged that this was the opening film that I most wanted to see, so of course I went to it at my first opportunity.

It is wonderful, brilliant, funny, and just the best movie I've seen in some time. 

The more I say about it, the more I risk hurting your experience, so I'm not going to discuss any details.

I will say that its plot makes moves you won't expect--and lots of them.  Its cast is uniformly wonderful, and both Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell deserve Best Supporting Actor nominations for their performances.  I laughed more frequently and harder than I've laughed at any movie in ages, and yet I was frequently touched by it. 

If you don't have a sick sense of humor, or if violence or bad language offend you, I can imagine that you might have a very different reaction, maybe even hate Seven Psychopaths

The rest of you, though, should run to the nearest cinema, buy tickets, and have a great two hours.

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's not easy being my daughter

Kyle, Sarah, and I are heading to Vegas in December for a very short visit to watch the live finale of the The Ultimate Fighter TV show.  This trip led to an email thread in which we were discussing plans.  Here's how that thread went.

Me:  I am fine with one room; we just need to get one with three beds, and you need earplugs to survive my snoring.

Kyle: And air freshener for all the farting.

Me:  That's both yours and mine.  No fair blaming me alone.  Oh, and the belching.  And the stench from the sweaty midget strippers. They may be small, but their aroma is powerful. 

Sarah:  This is horrible.

Kyle:  What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  Except for the sticky residue.  That comes home with you.

Sarah:  Kyle's actual text to me:  "It is possible that your presence would remind your dad that he has familial responsibilities, and shouldn't indulge in the quantities of hookers and blow that are his usual wont...It's all I can do to help him limp back to the hotel room, pay some midget strippers to towel him off, and put him to bed."  :*(

Me:  Those little rascals are whizzes with the towels.  

I apologize now to little people anywhere.  Though I meant no offense, my use of the term "midget" was wrong.  It just read right in the moment of that early message, and then it stuck.

I think this thread proves conclusively that Kyle is a very sick man, I am a very bad father, and, most of all, that it is not easy being my daughter.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

YR15 rocked

Yep Roc records is a small label that features quite a few artists I like. When I learned they'd be hosting YR15, a multi-day 15th anniversary celebration at the Cat's Cradle, I was immediately interested. When I saw, though, that the Thursday night roster included both Dave Alvin and Nick Lowe, I knew I had to go.

So I did.

 I would have gone for Dave Alvin alone; Nick Lowe was a bonus, as were the many other artists on the roster for the night. I've been a fan of Lowe's for a long time, but I've remained a stone Dave Alvin fan since I first heard one of his songs, and I've never seen him live.

Until tonight.

This choice was expensive, because in a week in which work has kept me up until about six a.m. each night, taking time off to go to a show would be sure to cost me.

I didn't care. I had to do it.

I'm so very glad I did.

The full show ran 4:51--yes, four hours and fifty-one minutes of music and, between acts, emcee John Wesley Harding talking and singing.  One of his songs was the hilarious "Making Love to Bob Dylan."

The opening act of the night was a band I'd never heard of, Jukebox the Ghost.  I loved them!  They were fun and talented and great at producing catchy tunes.  Here's a silly one, "Schizophrenia."

Near the end of their set, they brought out a local chorus group and did a song with those kids.  The kids then came back after Jukebox the Ghost to sing Nick Lowe's "What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?"

I teared up listening to them.  I remember being a hippie kid and thinking my generation would end war and change the world for the better.  We didn't, of course, but I like to think we can all keep working toward those goals.

Dave Alvin did a half dozen or so wonderful songs, including this one.

Damn, what a show.  I wish everyone I know could have gone.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The next upcoming movie I most want to see

Yeah, that's right. (Warning: This is a redband trailer.)

So it's not intellectual. So sue me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gobsmacked by art: James Lee Burke's The Tin Roof Blowdown

Every now and then, a work of art, or part of one, hits me so hard and so perfectly that I feel it almost like a punch to the solar plexus.  I have to sit down, close my eyes, and wait for my mental breath to return.  I generally don't share those moments with others, both because they sound like so much hyperbole and because what works for me may not touch the next person.  I've decided, though, to start honoring those works when they hit me, because, hey, it's the least I can do by way of payback.

James Lee Burke is, as long-time readers know, one of my favorite writers.  For my money, he's one of the best writers working in English.  Period.  

The Tin Roof Blowdown is not his most recent book; far from it.  It appeared in 2007, so I've waited a long time to read it.  The reason is that this is his post-Katrina book, and I expected to be powerful--and powerfully unsettling, particularly because I adore New Orleans.  It was.  I loved the book, but it was also at least as disturbing as I expected it to be.  I was reading it in Cleveland while at Bouchercon, nibbling slowly at it as if it were the last meal I might ever get.  John Connolly mentioned it as proof that a writer can deliver works of genius at any age.  

I obviously recommend it highly.  

What made me put it down, stretch out on the bed, close my eyes, and need more air was a passage near the end, a section in the voice of Burke's most enduring character and one of the greatest characters in the history of detective fiction, maybe all fiction, Dave Robicheaux.  At the risk of stretching the limits of fair use, I'm going to reproduce a fair chunk of that passage here.  
New Orleans was a song that went under the waves. Sometimes in my dreams I see a city beneath the sea.  In it, green-painted iron streetcars made in the year 1910 still lumber down the neutral ground through the Garden District, past block upon block of Victorian and antebellum homes, past the windmill palms and the gigantic live oaks, past guesthouses and the outdoor cafes and art deco restaurants whose scrolled purple and pink and green neon burn in the mist like smoke from marker grenades.
Every hotel on Canal still features an orchestra on the roof, where people dance under the stars and convince one another that the mildness of the season is eternal and was created especially for them. In the distance, Lake Pontchartrain is wine-dark, flanged with palm trees, and pelicans skim above the chop, the rides at the waterside amusement park glowing whitely against the sky. Irving Fazola is playing at the Famous Door and Pete Fountain at his own joint off Bourbon. Jackson Square is a medieval plaza where jugglers, mimes, string bands, and unicyclists with umbrellas strapped on top of their heads perform in front of St. Louis Cathedral.  No one is concerned with clocks.  The city is as sybaritic as it is religious. Even death becomes an excuse for celebration.
Perhaps the city has found its permanence inside its own demise, like Atlantis, trapped forever under the waves, the sun never harsh, filtered through the green tint of the ocean so that neither rust nor moth nor decay ever touches its face.  
That's the dream that I have.  But the reality is otherwise. Category 5 hurricanes don't take prisoners and the sow that eats its farrow doesn't surrender self-interest in the cause of mercy. 
New Orleans was systematically destroyed and that destruction began in the early 1980s with the deliberate reduction by half of federal funding to the city and the simultaneous introduction of crack cocaine into the welfare projects. The failure to repair the levees before Katrina and the abandonment of tens of thousands of people to their fate in the aftermath have causes that I'll let others sort out. But in my view the irrevocable fact remains that we saw an American city turned into Baghdad on the southern rim of the United States. If we have a precedent in our history for what happened in New Orleans, it's lost on me.
I don't know how that hit you, but, damn, it gobsmacked me.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

On the road again: Bouchercon, Cleveland, day 6

I approach travel days, which are not usually much fun, as a series of small tasks, most of which are annoying obstacles between me and anything else I’d like to be doing. Today was full of those tasks.

Get up. Work. Shower. Dress. Work. Check out. Cab to airport. Check in and get boarding passes. Go through security. Get lunch. Work. Get on plane. Fly and while on the plane, wish for bandwidth, read, and work. Get bandwidth at second airport; today, LaGuardia. Fight Boingo for access to the bandwidth I’d just purchased. Work madly. Board plane. Work.

And so on. Each time I complete a task, I achieve a small victory and am a step closer to home.

I’m home now, so today’s obstacles are behind me, for which I’m grateful.

The award for today’s most interesting airport moment goes to the couple seated two tables over from me at lunch at Cleveland’s airport. The man and woman had just finished discussing what they would do when they hit their vacation destination, an exchange I overheard because they were on the loud side. That decision made, the man returned to slowly chewing his grilled chicken sandwich.

Into the silence, the woman said, “I want to ask you a question. Are you ready?”

Even I blanched at that wording.

The man gulped the bite he’d been chewing, slouched a bit more, and nodded very slowly.

The woman put her arms flat on the table, leaned forward so her breasts rested on them, pinned him with a laser-like gaze, and said, “Exactly what kind of relationship would you say we have?"  She paused.  "In your own words.”

He quickly took a bite and chewed even slower than before.

She stared at him for a few seconds, gathered her trash, and stood. “You think about it for a minute.” She walked to the trashcan. I’m sure it was only an accident that she walked like a porn model, her butt swaying back and forth in skintight jeans and her chest jutting from her arched back. I’m sure she didn’t mean to flip her long hair.

No, I am not making up any of this.

The man glanced at me with wide eyes, as if I might have on my person some technology that could transport him either out of the airport or back in time.

I shrugged and shook my head.

He couldn’t keep his eyes off her for more than a second, though, so he watched as she dumped her trash and returned.

She sat and said, “Well?”

At that point, I gathered my own trash and left. I was willing to watch the setup, but I didn’t have the heart to stick around for the finale. From what little I saw of her body language as I was leaving, though, I don’t think his dream for what would happen after they reached their hotel was going to come true.

I wish the two of them the best of luck with their vacation. They certainly made me appreciate my quiet, dull lunch.

They also reminded me of another great truth of traveling: You never have to be bored in an airport if you are willing to pay attention to the people around you.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

On the road again: Bouchercon, Cleveland, day 5

I've written before about the strangeness that is a hotel after a con has closed down.  One minute, the halls are full of badged people hustling to and fro, chatting in clumps, looking baffled, and milling about.  Signs outside meeting rooms list programming events.  People sit attentively in chairs inside those same rooms.

The next, the hotel staff has taken the place back to Kansas.  The rooms sit empty.  Few people fill the halls.  Check-out lines are long, and then the hotel is back to normal, until the next event comes to transform it.

Today was that transition day for Bouchercon, as it wrapped up around noon with the last sessions. 

I enjoy this con, and I go to a lot of panels, but I come away yearning for more time to write, so that I could actually finish the mystery I've started, see if I could sell in that genre in addition to SF. 

Dinner tonight was a fixed-menu affair at Crop Bistro, a beautiful place set inside what was once a Federal bank.  We added a couple of appetizers to the salad, main, and dessert three-course menu.  Everything we tasted was good, but the portions were so large that we ended up wasting a lot of food.  Unlike last night's disappointing Flying Fig, Crop Bistro would get my business were I to come this way again.  For those who live here, I certainly recommend it. 

Now, back to work.


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