the imaginarium of doctor parnassus

January 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm (reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

I agree mostly with Nick Mamatas’ review of Doctor Parnassus but I’d like to do some of my own raking-over-the-coals because I just wasted a buy one, get one free pass to see it. Actually, scratch that– I didn’t waste a buy one, get one free pass, because this way, Terry Gilliam, who I was already loath to fund out-of-pocket because he signed the Free Roman Polanski petition of ’09, got less of my money.

Well, whatevs. The whole thing is essentially a carnival redux of Lady in the Water, in that Lady in the Water was a pointless, onanistic allegory about how misunderstood– nay, how veritably Christ-like– M. Night Shyamalan is for making movies as brilliant as Signs and, uh, The Village. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is basically the same movie even down to its hilarious racist stereotypes, except that it was vastly more boring, and also it casts Christopher Plummer as Terry Gilliam instead of Gilliam playing himself, which I suppose is a level of allegory-hiding I should appreciate since such, ah, nuance wasn’t deemed acceptable by Shyamalan.

The movie as a whole was bloated beyond excusability, coming in at 122 minutes according to the IMDB, and saying the film had 90 minutes of adequate material would be a stretch. There was not a single scene that couldn’t stand trimming, most notably anything involving CGI, because damn, even such films as Dragon Wars: D-War and Van Helsing looked better, if memory serves. There is a scene featuring a CGI Tom Waits as a sort of naga-ish thing that looked barely passable enough to be a villain in Charmed, and there is a scene featuring a CGI Christopher Plummer that would’ve been better-looking if they had gotten the animators from Monty Python to just draw the damn thing and just stuck it in there without rendering it. Jesus.

Moving from general problems to more specific ones: well, since I already mentioned the fact that Gilliam signed the Roman Polanski petition, let’s just say I was reminded unhappily of last summer’s traumatizing news cycle when shortly into the film the young-looking heroine proclaims loudly that she’s “16: THE AGE OF CONSENT” (direct quote). Awesome! Actually, best part is that as far as I could tell she was actually turning 16: THE AGE OF CONSENT, which would make her only 15, slightly under THE AGE OF CONSENT for most of the film, but that doesn’t stop Heath Ledger and Andrew Garfield leering over her.

So, that. And also: midget jokes, jokes about “politically correct” terminology for midgets, racist stereotypes of Russians, a midget in blackface, sexist stereotypes of women (what do women want? SHOES; also, to be home-makers), midgets cracking wise, a white dude playing an “Eastern” (?) sage, midgets making midget jokes, the age-old hilarity that is a man in a woman’s dress (a fat woman, no less!) and some incredibly subtle political commentary when a bunch of police officers roll up in miniskirts, fishnets, and high heels singing and dancing about how the racist Russian stereotypes should “join the police, [they] love violence.” Good fucking times.

On top of that, there’s an even weirder moment when the just-deflowered-by-Colin-Farrell-on-her-16th-birthday heroine proclaims angstily that “it’s a child, not a choice!” when looking at some sort of orphan. WTF? Was that a joke, or is Terry Gilliam sincerely a member of the pro-life movement? Neither option is particularly appealing, frankly.

What this all boils down to is that the film falls epically flat for a number of reasons. One, Gilliam spectacularly failed to make me care about any of the characters, thus why would I be invested in the deal-with-the-devil, the sacrifice of the shrill daughter, the romantic outcome? Two, the entire allegory of “a lovely man with such wonderful visions is tragically ignored by the masses because they just don’t appreciate what he has to offer” made my teeth hurt because Gilliam deserves pretty much every single piece of negative criticism he’s received regarding this film and much of everything else he’s done (my intelligence is still kind of hurt after the insults Gilliam hurled at it during The Brothers Grimm). And, given his uneven track record, he also kind of deserves to have studio executives be wary of giving him millions of dollars to make movies like, oh, say, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS because he has shown himself to be completely willing to blow fat wads of cash doing things like hiring Robin Williams to ruin The Adventures of Baron Munchasusen which was otherwise a perfectly lovely little confection of a film as far as I recall.

I really think Gilliam needs to wake up to the fact that racist stereotypes aren’t as amusing as I imagine they were felt to be during the Monty Python years, along with but not exclusively: shrill portrayals of women, cross dressing, slapstick, Robin Williams, people with lisps, people with limps.

I also think Gilliam needs to wake up to the fact that he is completely brilliant when it comes to set design, to spectacular visuals, baroque costumes and sight gags and lavish whimsical concoctions of sparkling, ethereal beauty. Doctor Parnassus had these, but it also had no plot, wooden characters, and a host of other problems. It hurt, because I was rooting for him. I wanted to like it, and I want Gilliam to do better than this because I know he can.

Maybe.

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noms to write home about

January 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm (cooking, vegan living) (, , , )

I haven’t posted about food-related stuff for a while, so let’s get down to it. First, I want to give a shout-out (the “big ups corner” spot for the week) to Divvies, a company I just discovered because they had a big basket of their cookies at Whole Foods. They are completely awesome! I tried the choco-chip cookies, but I’mma try others next time I go back, to be sure. I really like their slogan: “made to share!” Friendly, and much appreciated I’m sure by anyone in an office or at a party who’s vegan or has egg, dairy, or peanut allergies. They make cookies, candy (chocolates, jawbreakers, and gummy stars, to name a few), and cupcakes. Check ’em out!

As for me, I haven’t been cooking as much variety as of late– mostly I just do rice and tofu and veggies for dinner these days– but I did make a kick-ass pizza the other night, with the cashew goat cheese I made during VeganMoFo, thinly sliced pears, black pepper, and some seitan browned with some shallots, and that was fucking delicious. That said, I actually bothered to document a food experiment last night (!) that eclipsed pretty much anything I’ve made of late. I got the base recipe here, after doing an internet search for seitan satay, but I modified it and used a different methodology, which I’ve outlined below:

Seitan Satay

1 large shallot or two small, peeled and cut into chunks

4 garlic cloves, ends cut off, maybe halved if you care to

2 tsp canola oil

Equivalent of 4 tsp ginger, peeled and cut into chunks

4 Tbs tamari

The juice of two limes

2 Tbs toasted sesame oil

4 Tbs agave nectar

2 Tbs siracha or other asian chili sauce (I use the kind with the rooster on it)

24 oz seitan, cut or torn into chunks (I used 2 boxes of the WestSoy kind from the supermarket)

Preheat oven to 45o degrees F. Take all ingredients except for seitan and throw into a blender, blend until smoothish. Put your seitan in a 9×13 baking dish (lasagna-style) in a single layer, then pour the slurm over everything. It will look like this:

At this point, let the seitan marinate for about 30-45 minutes as you make your rice (I used jasmine), and then bake it for about 15 minutes in the marinade– what I mean is just throw the whole thing in the oven and let it go. While it’s baking, make your vegetable. I made some green beans sauteed with minced garlic (about a teaspoon), 3 cloves of pressed garlic, toasted sesame oil, and salt and pepper:

Pull out the seitan, it should be bubbly and the exposed parts of the seitan should be browned and luscious. I plated everything together, rice, seitan on top, green beans off to the side, and for extra deliciousness I put some cilantro leaves on top, and I also added two condiments: a lime wedge for squeezing, and some peanut sauce out of a jar for adding a touch of peanutty sweetness. OMG.

I really can’t say enough about how utterly delicious this was– I struck gold with the original recipe (the marinade is delicious on its own) and the saucy-method pleased my curry-loving self. So today, wanting a redux of those flavors, I used my brand new To-Go Ware lunchbox and packed myself a feast. Layer one, rice and seitan:

Layer two, green beans. I used the dressing cup to hold my cilantro:

Ready go go:

And speaking of, it’s lunchtime! Posting all this has made me hungry.

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the darkness grips us all sometimes

January 17, 2010 at 4:29 pm (writing) (, , )

In the wake of the Great Rate Fail Debate of late ’09 people still seem to be discussing why (allegedly) it’s impossible or at least very difficult for new writers to break into semi-pro and pro markets, with or without a list of token or “for the love” markets following their name in their bio, with or without friends, with or without whatever.

A lot of people have had things to say about it, ranging from more or less confirming that there is a glass elevator for those who have already proven they have chops (at least for some markets), to ranting about the Augean task of selling one’s first story (or second, or third), to discussions of whether even discussing the topic is worthwhile, to the revelation that some writers are sending nasty “well, you might have rejected my story but guess what, I just sold it!” letters to editors, which is simply shocking beyond all excusability. Maybe I’m just new to this community (LJ specifically, but more broadly, the world of genre writing and publishing) and this sort of thing happens all the time, but it’s my first time seeing a lot of it.

I personally think that Jeff VanderMeer summed up everything very nicely on his blog:

Stupidity rather than malice is the main reason bad things happen in genre. Let’s be a little more forgiving and also a little less willing to contribute to a sense of vast conspiracy where none exists. It is always good for one’s health and to a community to assume the best until it’s proven otherwise.

How true this is.

I’m going to be starting an experiment. I’m going to start restricting my internet-vieweing to a to-be-determined amount per day (even checking my email). I feel like paying so much attention to the internet–including but not limited to my own snotty ranting about such important things as double-spacing after a period–has been affecting me on a personal level. Quite frankly, I feel like it’s been gumming up my works (though that’s a really gross way to think about it), because to be honest, I’m straddling here. I work for a genre mag, but I’m also a newb author. Half of me comes down firmly on the side of “good writing is good writing, write good stuff and you’ll eventually get rewarded” and half of me knows very well the black tundra of despair, of feeling like my stuff would be appreciated if only I could get an “in” with an editor; that my stuff is just too different, or too subtle, or too slow (it’s not boring, it’s called a slow burn, OK?), or not what’s popular, or whatever serves that day to explain why someone somewhere didn’t immediately buy whatever story and put my name up in lights, the jerks, and tra la la. I’ve walked many a mile on that tundra. I’m not proud of it, and part of me doesn’t even think I should admit it to the internet but what the fuck. I’ve been there, and hiding it seems dumb because it seems like a lot of people have been there. But, the thing is, I’m (in general) sensible and healthy enough hear those thoughts for what they are–bullshit–and try to short-circuit such self-indulgence by taking a walk, having a really stiff drink (gin does it, though Jesse proved that he can actually mix a good drink the other night when he made French 75s, and frankly, had I the funds, I think that would be my drug of choice), or do whatever to slap myself around a little, and remember that the list of claptrap above is just that–claptrap.

It sucks, starting out. It sucks a lot. I’ve been trying for three years now to write and publish, only about six months of that without the distraction of grad school, and I just a week ago I made my first sale. That’s not really a particularly awesome return rate (nor is it particularly terrible, says my defense mechanisms), but I’m proud of myself, and I’m proud of the story I sold. I know for a fact that three years ago, when I started considering trying to write fiction professionally, I could not have written “In Sheep’s Clothing.” Six months ago I don’t think I could’ve done it, either. And when I wrote it, I got this feeling about it, something like “hey, you know what? This is my best work to do date, and if anything I’ve written stands a chance of selling, this will be it.”

The first place I submitted it to accepted it.

I do this thing to myself where occasionally (or, uh, more than occasionally) I get tangled in my mind, worrying about whether I’ll ever make a living from writing, whether or not I’ll ever find an agent, whether or not I’ll sell this probably-too-long novel I’ve been working on, whether I’ll “make it” or burn out and give up before I succeed according to whatever definition of success I’m using that day. That shit is just stupid. That is the kind of shit that should not even be on my radar right now. Right now my concerns should be writing, editing, polishing, creating. All that other stuff comes later. It’s more difficult than it should be sometimes in part because my best friend is a very successful new writer and I get to see what he’s up to and that gets me pondering things that are simply just not anything I should worry about because–and here’s the hilarious part–I haven’t even finished my first solo novel. I only have as of this minute three short stories out circulating. I’m not prolific. My strengths are research and editing, not generating a ton of material. So I play to those.

And you know what? I keep the hope that some day it will pay off. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. We’ll see. But the thing is, every moment I spend worrying about things in the future, or feeling slighted, or being distressed, or wondering if whatever I’m working on is too long, or too weird, or too whatever, well, that was a moment I spent not thinking about the important things, a moment lost I could’ve spent time dreaming, or writing, or doing work for my magazine, or planning, or researching. It’s literally wasted time, because no amount of that kind of shit will ever make me a better writer.

You know, unlike blogging. That’s writing, whispers my mind.

Not as much as actually writing is, I say back. And thus, I return to my regularly scheduled novel.

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there should be only one

January 15, 2010 at 5:28 pm (editing, writing) (, , )

There should be only one space after a period in just about anything you send out to magazines these days. Unless you are a lawyer, I think. But for creative writers and, in many cases, non-lawyer academics (though the rules for those magazines tend to be more quirky), when you submit a story or an article anywhere, you should probably have one lone space after the periods.

“Kicking and screaming” would not be too hyperbolic a phrase to describe my reaction to, years ago, a friend informing me that these days you should only put one space after a period.

I had read this wisdom already, probably over a decade before, in 8th grade. I was reading a manual on how to use Macintosh computers for a graphic design class and the writer of said tome remarked that it was standard to only put one space after a period. I remember this, so disturbing a sentiment it was to young Molly: Look at the type in this book, exhorted the author. There’s only one space after the periods.

I believe my reaction to this statement was: fuck you. Mavis Beacon had taught me to put two spaces after a period when I typed and by God, I was a believer in Mavis Beacon. Through high school, through college, Christ, through my first year of grad school, every damn period had two spaces after it. My reasoning was that you pause longer at the end of sentences than you do at comas, and thus it was intuitive punctuation. Also, that’s how “they used to do it.” Holla!

Then I began working on a creative project with a cohort, and said cohort was all wtf? when I sent him a draft of something or other, ragging on me for putting two spaces after a period. I told him two spaces was standard. He told me I was full of shit, and showed me so. Here, and also here. Christ, even the folks over at The Chicago Manual of Style agree, if you can catch them between fits of weeping over the knowledge that they’re just not as cool as MLA. I kid, I kid. Sort of.

I don’t care if they used to do it back in the day when you learned from Mavis Beacon or a typing class on typewriters instead of computers or if you’re just used to it. Guess what? Printers used to put the first word of the following page at the bottom of each and every page, and we don’t do that anymore. Because it’s pointless. They also used monospace fonts back in the day. Now, with proportionately-spaced fonts, type just looks better in general, and it is unnecessary to have two spaces after a period.

I changed. It took a lot, believe me. Every person who types a lot has typing quirks, and disrupting one’s usual use of spaces is a huge fucking pain. But I changed. You should change too, for a number of reasons.

One, it’s correct.

Two, it’s correct.

And three, other than the fact that it’s correct, it’s also a nice gesture.

Why? Because everything you do on your end, as a writer, to make your manuscript perfect– or at least conform to publishing standards– makes less work for editors and publishers of your work, and thus is really awesome. Now, if you refuse to change your typing habits, and believe you me I understand this, then just, at the end of working on a project, do a find/replace, substituting one space for two. It can be done in one fell swoop, just replace all. This way, if some poor soul is formatting and inputting work for publication in one of the many, many online venues, they won’t do all the work that is associated with that, only to catch anachronistic spacing at the last minute and then be faced with the prospect of either combing through the story to manually excise the improper spaces, or exporting the story to MS Word (possibly losing a lot of the formatting they’ve done already) and re-importing it with the spacing corrected.

I now view using single spaces after periods as just part of the proofreading process, an author-end activity the same as correcting comma splices or poor grammar. It’s professional, it’s courteous, it’s (in general, but always always check your target magazine’s rules) correct. Unlike having your work in Standard Manuscript Format, which generally corrects into Online Publishing Format (explained by the kind folks at Cabinet des Fées here), having two spaces after your period is an annoyance for editors, especially nit-picky neurotic editors, like–well, like me. And others, trust me on this.

It’s not really a stylistic decision any longer, like, say, the Oxford comma (which you’ll have pry out of my writing with a silver crowbar, heretics!). It’s just not in general considered standard. And it will likely be edited out of your work anyways, without any sort of remorse on the part of the editor.

The times, they aren’t a’changin’ in regards to this. They’ve changed.

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back to it

January 14, 2010 at 12:01 am (reading, this and that, writing) ()

Huzzah! The contest is now over, the entries published, and I can now get back to my regularly scheduled nothing-much around here.

Things have been good around my neck of the woods, but as usual, once I felt like “yeah! I’m truckin with the novel!” I got seriously, unhappily stuck. Thems the breaks. I really want to get back on track, it sucks. Oh well. Something will trigger me sooner or later!

I did however bang out a short story earlier this week. I’m not sure if I like it. It is kind of gross and kind of weird and kind of about morally bankrupt people and. . . well, that’s not usually my thing. I can’t decide if I’m going to submit it to the venue I wrote it specifically for. We’ll see.

I’m thinking about applying to go to Clarion.

I’ve been making kimchi at home. Somewhere along the line I stopped doing homemaker-ish things and I kind of miss it. I’m trying to do more stuff like that, and kimchi is fun and delicious. Mine is too salty, I need to do something about that in the future. The past two days I’ve also been making awesome smellywater to humidify my home, as my husband’s yoga guru (I’m really not sure what the heck she is, he goes to her for yoga and massage and also apparently for little bottles of nose-oil and recipes for a turmeric-based sinus tea that has now stained my pots, my cutting board, and my mugs) suggested some of his sinus troubles might be related to a dry home. The smellywater (it’s not really potpourri since it’s not dry, I guess?) is just water in my crockpot, into which I throw lemon peels, cloves, rose petals, rosemary, and some essential oils, mostly rosemary and eucalyptus. So my house now smells like that, when it doesn’t smell like catfood (though yesterday Jesse came over when the cat-food smell was strong and asked me what the “tasty smell” was. This is not slander, this happened).

Other than that, meh. Stuck on the novel! It’s making me mad.

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waning moon

January 13, 2010 at 12:01 am (writing) (, , )

Waning Moon

J.T. Glover

Chelsea thought surprise had vanished with hope, but then the man arrived at the window. Two fingers snapped, and the pane swung open. He slipped inside, tilting broad, spiral horns left and right to get through, and his hooves clopped softly onto the linoleum.

“You never called,” he said.

Read the rest of this entry »

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beth/slash/nathan

January 12, 2010 at 12:01 am (writing) (, , )

Beth/slash/Nathan

by Drew Rhys White

Food provided the bulk of their pleasure these days. Beth pulled the car to the cement bar at the end of a ShopRite space and moved the gear shift to PARK. Nathan felt his center of gravity sink from his sternum to the base of his gut as the engine stilled.

“Want anything else?” Beth asked, gathering her purse.

“No thanks,” he said.

His wife stepped from the asphalt to the curb with the slight hesitation of a much older person.

Fat ages you, Nathan thought. It’s aging both of us.

Two skateboarders left the store, laughing. One was dark and curly; the other fair and shorn. They had the same shorts, the same hoodies, the same bright, empty eyes.

If any pair on Noah’s gangplank matched, these boys matched.

Two by two, thought Nathan. Beth and I would sink the boat.

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how a blog was born

January 11, 2010 at 12:01 am (writing) (, , )

How a Blog was Born

S. J. Chambers

Molly Tanzer awoke in an Elysian field. The grass grew long and verdant and swayed in Boreas’ gentle sighs. The sky overhead was a crisp azure with billowy leviathans swimming overhead. She knew not what world she had entered, but saw over the undulating hills a tall, pale man, boundlessly British, with rumpled head and a black leather trench coat standing before an orchard. Suddenly, she stood before him. He had some weird Jerusalem star in one eye, and it twinkled at her as he turned to lead her.

“I am here to show you the way, the way only dreams can, through the subconscious to the conscious.”

Molly looked at the man.

“You look familiar. Have I seen you in like Swamp Thing or something?”

Read the rest of this entry »

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my first sale!

January 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm (writing) (, , , )

It’s official! It’s official and I can announce it! I’m going to be published! Me! In a book! Seriously!

My short story “In Sheep’s Clothing”  is going to be published in Running with the Pack, an urban fantasy werewolf anthology edited by Ekaterina Sedia, published by Prime. Sedia is an amazing writer and editor, her Paper Cities just won the World Fantasy award for Best Anthology, in case you hadn’t heard. I am completely honored to be included in her latest effort. It should be coming out in May sometime, or thereabouts, so. . . I’m not asking you to go out and pre-order it, but if you wanted to, you could pre-order it! Also on the table of contents: the esteemed Mr. Jesse Bullington with his Tallahassee-based “Blamed for Trying to Live,” and a host of other amazing, talented writers. I’ll be less vague about the Table of Contents later, when it’s officially released. At any rate, it will be awesome, it’s actually mostly a reprint anthology, but there is some new stuff in there, including my story!

This is my first sale. Ways I plan on celebrating: definitely champagne, probably a tattoo. Of, you know, a werewolf. Arrroooo! This is awesome.

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contest winners! congrats!

January 5, 2010 at 1:00 pm (reading, writing) (, , , , )

I’ve heard back from everyone and thus I am happy to announce the winners of the Paper Fruit Bloggiversary Flash Fiction Contest!

S.J. Chambers earned herself an Honorable Mention with her tale “How a Blog Was Born,” a tale of a girl and her (I guess) spirit guide. Longtime readers will likely get a kick out of it. S.J.’s story will be published on Monday, January 11th.

Drew Rhys White‘s “Beth/slash/Nathan” grabbed the runner-up spot, earning himself a signed copy of the The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart. His story is slotted to go up on Tuesday, January 12th.

First place was snatched by one J. T. Glover with his stellar entry, “Waning Moon.” For his efforts J.T. will get to kick back with some Philip K. Dick, courtesy of Prime Books. Check back to find it up on Wednesday the 13th!

So here is the thing: anyone who stumbles across this, please tweet/FB/blog/email your friends. I’d love for the winners to get some well-deserved attention for their stories, which rule. I am super-stoked to be able to publish them on my blog, and you should be super-stoked to read them!

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