Saturday, November 26, 2005

José Saramago is a Golden God

José Saramago is a hell of a writer, a literary master. Of all those writing fiction these days, Saramago is one of the few that people will be reading after each of us has passed from this earth. Forget Grisham, Crichton and all of the rest of the popular authors whose latest work immediately jumps to the top of the best-seller lists. Saramago is the real deal.

Yet, to many, the Portuguese writer is an unknown.

The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, his is a remarkable story. Born in 1922 in Azinhaga (north of Lisbon), he was forced to abandon school in order to earn a living. Saramago first became a mechanic and -- before becoming a journalist, translator, and writer -- he performed a number of labor-intensive jobs. It wasn't until the mid-1970's that he first started writing novels and not until the age of 60 that his writing earned their first critical kudos; last week, he turned 83. His autobiography can be found here.

I only discovered Saramago in 2001, when I came across his novel "Blindness". His writing is extremely dense -- sometimes impenetrable -- prose that immerses the reader in these realities he has created. In "Blindness," an epidemic of blindness spreads in a nameless city. In honoring him with the Pulitzer Prize, the committeee wrote that this book illustrates a "horrific journey through the interface created by individual human perceptions and the spiritual accretions of civilization. Saramago's exuberant imagination, capriciousness and clear-sightedness find full expression in this irrationally engaging work." I still remember reading this and being absolutely blown away by the author's work.

The wonderfully quaint "All the Names" and the allegory-heavy "The Cave" are the two other books I have read by the author, both are wonderful. I just picked up his newest-- "The Double" -- and while I'm still early on in the book, this is pretty close to the greatness of "Blindness."

Be sure to check out this author if you haven't already, can't recommend him enough.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Talk About Having a Kick...

The Mudspot has made me a fan of the "Red Eye." Not the flight, but a drink which is a coffee topped off by a shot of expresso. Itsthecoolestthingever.

*Cough* Now, if I could just master the whole ability to not talk fast hours after drinking a cup.

Maybe I should not be having them at 9 p.m. at night. I'm still twitching right now, damnit.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The East Village Is Now Whole Again


Last March, the Astor Place cube -- a mainstay in the East Village, where I have lived the last 4 years -- went missing, supposedly to return in two weeks. Now, 9 months later, "the Alamo" has made its triumphant return (albeit covered with a gold-ish tarp). After all the false "It'll be back tomorrow" posts at Gothamist, we can finally say: "Welcome back, my lovely." And not a moment too soon.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Jimi Thing, Part Deux: What Does It All Mean?

I can't get enough of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," a beautiful -- yet deceptive -- little song.

"Well, she's walking through the clouds,
With a circus mind that's running 'round
Butterflies and zebras
And moonbeams and fairy tales.
That's all she ever thinks about,
Riding with the wind.
When I'm sad, she comes to me
With a thousand smiles,
she gives to me free.
It's alright, she says, it's alright.
Take anything you want from me...
Fly on little wing,
Yeah yeah, yeah, little wing."

13 simple lines, 70 words and 2:25 long-- That's it. This is perhaps the most intimate of Hendrix's songs, and the guitar work 1:38 into the track is wonderful.

But the rub: No one knows what the heck the song means, or is about. Some have theorized that it's about his mom, a prostitute, a groupie, drugs or a guardian angel. [ about a mixed bag here.]

Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Shane Black Lives!

"Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" -- which I saw last weekend -- is one of the top films of the year, make sure to seek it out.

The principal players -- Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan -- all shine, with great interplay and dialogue. It's vintage Shane Black, best known as the writer for the films "Lethal Weapon" and "The Last Boy Scout."

A while ago, I reviewed the script for the film at FilmJerk (here), back when it was called “You’ll Never Die in This Town Again.”

There, I said:

"In reading the script for “Again,” I found myself looking for signs showing whether he has regained that edge he once showed...for the most part, Black is back, displaying a deft ear for snappy dialogue. Those looking for the talent he once displayed in past works are going to be happy with this effort, as I feel he has proved...critics wrong, all in all. Black shows that he has it in him to make another great action flick, one that would make film buffs anticipate its migration to celluloid. It isn’t his best effort, by far, but “Again” is a film that amiably works...

After I wrote the review, I got an e-mail from Black, which blew my mind. He shared with me that the script was being re-written and how the ending (which I had criticized) was something he was currently improving. In addition, he sent me a document he had written "to marshall my ideas about this project (and to give my DP toilet reading) and what emerged on paper was a fairly thorough thoughts and feelings...crystallized a bit." To me, it was fascinating reading.

Here's a portion of it (and if you haven't seen it yet, contains spoilers), which is vintage Black writing and comes across like poetry:

"L.A. is cool and numbing and impersonal; you can publish or perish here, good luck, but the city itself is blind, and sterile, and way, WAY too fucking real...

Perhaps the single densest concentration in one place of pure, undistilled anxiety. Abject fear, stop by Swingers sometime and breathe it...

There existed, once upon a time, a sweet little eight year-old girl in Des Moines, singing, "Someday" to her teddy bear audience; She came to L.A., blinked -- and was 46. Look. There she is now, sun-blinded and headspun, saying, is it over..?

The city doesn't give a shit. It's a big, bright, grinning idiot. It's a fairy tale read aloud by a pervert.

You can just... I don't know, vanish. Or be huge. Or both. There is no sense to it. No destiny. You're not special. You're not one in a million. You're just ONE. In a fucking million.

This, sadly, is mostly the message imparted by Los Angeles, a city laden with romantic mythology; for most of us, it's a Harlequin romance with a trick ending.

Except every so often, someone tries to beat the odds.

In this film, the someone is Harry, it's Harmony.

Their message? Believe. Believe hard enough, and the best isn't over your shoulder. How old are you..? 40? 50? Fuck it. Tomorrow lies an adventure that tops everything so far. You'll be called as a hero. Tomorrow or someday. Get ready....

MAYBE EVERYTHING I'VE JUST SAID IS A LIE. Maybe L.A. wins after all..."

Be sure to check "Kiss King, Bang Bang" out-- it's only in 80 theaters, but worth catching.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I Can Feel My Productivity Slipping Away...

Earlier, I had posted about my love of Su Doku.

Damn you, Peter Shankman, damn you, for further feeding the beast that is my addiction.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What Guys Do When They Run Out of Utensils

My oddness further revealed: Even though I have a full set of kitchen utensils, I have been buying plastic forks and spoons for as long as I can remember. No reason especially as to why I have done this, mostly because it's one less thing to clean up in the apartment. Being a bachelor means that no one yells at me for doing such a terribly unsavory thing, thank God.

But what do I do if I run out of said spoons? Do I?:
1) Be the sensible guy, and use a metal soon.
2) Find plastic fork and break off its tongs-- voila, a quasi-spoon!

3) Burn the place down and start a new life somewhere else, where spoons are never in short supply.
Well, such a thing happened this past Sunday, after I woke up after a night of having some fun and craving ice cream (Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup, to be exact). It was none of the above options, actually-- I used a fork to eat half of a small container of ice cream. And it rocked, no apologies.

Ah, bachelor life...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Thanks for the Touch-Up, Brian!

Really appreciate the digital touch-up, Mr. Van Nieuwenhoven. Some get airbrushed skin blemishes, others apparently need the full work-up. I apparently fall in the latter category. Sigh.