friends of god

here is a snippet from the hbo documentary, friends of god. look, i am not against spirituality or beliving in the bible. if you believe in a divine being, sure, knock yourself out. but this... this is intellectual fraud, and it is child abuse.


here comes the sunshine

i've been following the progress of sunshine for a while now. pretty much anything that alex garland has a hand in writing, i'll look into. after reading his books and watching the brilliant movie, 28 days later, for which he wrote the screenplay, i think it is safe to assume that garland has a pretty predictable writing style. you tend to have a cast of characters, all hell breaks loose and lots of people die at the end, but the story retains an element of optimism.

i think it is fairly safe to say that sunshine will probably follow that route. having said that, i am also looking forward (hoping really) to be surprised by garland. the director, danny boyle, has done a great job of at least making sunshine look amazing. here's the trailer:


President Hilary Clinton?

hillary clinton, former first lady to president bill clinton, has officially put her hat into the rat race that is the u.s. presidency. with a giant war chest and her husband by her side, ms. clinton is considered the front runner for the democratic nomination. senator barack obama and john edwards are the next best contenders. it was quite a sneaky move of hers to announce just days after obama did, thereby effectively cutting off any momentum or publicity that obama could have taken advantage of.

with ms. clinton trying to become the first female president, and with obama trying to establish himself as the first black president, the 2008 presidential race has become the most politically diverse ever. also, throw in edwards attempting to be the first eternal manchild president, and you've got a pretty interesting next two years.

no one is doubting ms. clinton's political abilities, especially after having won two landslide victories in new york and being able to convince voters even in the conservative upstate region that she would represent them effectively in washington. the problem with ms. clinton is her polarizing effect. people either love her or hate her. that being said, i am not overly fond of her myself. and the other issue is her gender.

we can't ignore this issue, because it has already been made an issue by the media. is the united states ready for a female president? gender issues are almost as volatile as race issues, but i'm going to go out on a limb and say that i don't know if ms. clinton can win the election. i would almost think that a black president is more likely before a female president. but since the two issues are so intense, and because the united states has proven to be... unpredictable when it comes to forward thinking (let's face it, the last 6 years haven't been too hot for social progress in the united states), it's almost a toss up as to which president they would embrace more.

i'm not saying that gender is everything, that if ms. clinton loses, it will be because of her gender: quite the opposite. i think if she does lose, it will be more due to her politics. but gender is still an issue. if it wasn't, you'd have seen a female president a long time ago.

then there's john edwards. he would be the safe, bland choice. not that he's not qualified, because he is, and i think he's actually a pretty good guy, but more because the democrats just wiped the floor with the republicans in the midterm elections. they are on the cusp of a new democratic revolution, in the way the republicans took over in 1994. a democratic presidency would seal the deal. how much are they willing to gamble? perhaps they will go the safe route. but they went the safe route with john kerry and look how that turned out. all in all though, i wouldn't be too surprised of edwards pulls it off. it's a long battle, and anything can happen.

finally, i used to think it didn't matter who was president, or which party they were from, especially as of late, as both parties tend to move towards the middle for power. at times, they seemed like the exact same party. just talking heads with different colors. george w. bush sort of changed things. how one man could do so much damage without paying a price for any of it is mind boggling.

it would be nice if the american people actually chose an elitist next time around. and by elitist, i don't mean someone who is purely for the rich minority, but someone who is smarter than the average person. the word "elite" has gotten a bad rap as of late, but after seeing the short sighted idiocy of the last six years, why not go the opposite way? go for someone smarter, someone who will actually take time to think things through. who you want as a president shouldn't necessarily be someone that you'd want to be able to play playstation with, if you know what i mean.

it'll be an interesting two years.



joseph arthur and everything else

joseph arthur has a new album out called nuclear daydream. it's basically his post-katrina album the way our shadows will remain was his post-9/11 album. i'm finding that more and more joseph arthur is finding his way into my play list on a more consistent basis, mostly because his song writing ability and musical sensibilities just keep growing on me. his song, in the sun, which i've blogged about before, is still one of my favorites of all time.

he keeps evolving with each album, coming up with new and interesting songs while still maintaining the core what what makes his music so great and recognizable, even though he is one of the least known great song writers of our time. in my opinion anyway, but also in many other critical opinions. but we all know the critics are for shit. the only thing that matters is the art and what it means to the individual. that being said, i'm still on the fence as to what i think about nuclear daydream. i can't tell if it is just amazing, or just okay.

as i write giants, joseph arthur has played a huge part in getting me into my creative headspace. there has been a lot of other music that i've been listening to that has been working really well for me. for instance, today i wrote 780 words and it only took me eight hours to do it. (that's actually a lot considering how little i've been writing as of late. trust me.)

so with this blog entry, i'm going to just entertain all five of you with some of the music i've been addicted to. we'll start off with none other than joseph arthur. here's a video from his previous album, our shadows will remain called can't exist.

next up: black rebel motorcycle club. now, these guys i wasn't too impressed with in their early days of oasis-style wall of sound nonsense. but then, all of a sudden, they went all rockin' roll blues with their latest album, howl, which i think is a absolutely amazing. here's the single, weight of the world.

interpol. what can i say? i love this band. i wasn't a fan of their first album, but antics is a winner. here's evil.

been getting more and more into bruce springsteen as of late. his last album, devils and dust, is pretty good. here's the title song.


giants continued...

so i've been working sporadically on my novel, giants. the second half of the novel is turning out to be really interesting. as mentioned in earlier posts, i had wanted the second half to be almost like a break from the book, to change things up, to have a completely different mood and style to it. well, it's definitely a change up, considering my decision to have about 70% of the second half of the novel not have any dialogue. the first half of the novel was very political, with the second half being more of a travelogue / cult deprogramming drama.

i'm finding it surprisingly hard to write so much prose without any dialogue. dialogue is easy; you keep mental notes of things people say, of conversations you have in real life with your friends and family and you sort of use it if it is interesting or relevant. a good chunk of dialogue i write is made up, but a good chunk is also taken from conversations with friends. the more interesting the friend, the more radical the conversation, the better. unfortunately most of my friends are boring, so there's that set back.

a friend of mine came back from working in china for a brief two week vacation over the christmas holidays, and we got together and had some interesting conversations. out of all my friends, he is the most interesting as far as character studies go. i had originally based the character of noah from desert sessions on him, and he's such an interesting guy, that everything he says is fodder for future characters. he'd say the most outlandish, crude stuff too, sometimes borderline racist. he'd say things like, "fuck kung-fu, man, the chinese can't fight for shit" and "the afternoon that my girlfriend left on the plane, i picked up this girl and fucked her. i just had to get it out of my system. it was violent. she was walking like john wayne when i was done with her" or my favorite comment of the night, "it's like down syndrome in a pill."

at any rate, not having dialogue is quite a challenge. i had tried to pull this off with my last novel, this is hardcore, but i couldn't quite do it. the problem there, was that i had characters that needed to talk to each other; they were on the run, so they needed to plan, to discuss, to argue. plus, they had kidnapped someone so they needed to explain that away. there was just no logical way around any of it. with giants, i have two characters that don't need to do that. in fact, if one of them died, the other would probably never know it. they're both too preoccupied with what they're trying to make of their lives. one is trying to find meaning, while the other thinks he's found meaning in his life and he's chasing after it.

a major problem when you don't have dialogue is that human connection and communication is done primarily through language. but i've always been interested more in people's actions rather than their words. people can say all they want, but it's their actions that matter. and sometimes, i think language gets in the way of real communication. there's a truth to action that is sort of lost on language.

all this has forced me to stretch my writing, and by stretch, i don't mean to grasp at straws, but more in terms of reaching for new ideas, new methods, etc. the end result, i think, is a dramatically different mood and pace to the second half of the book. the first half is so front-loaded with action and dialogue, that it almost seems like a completely different book. the characters are the same, but the setting and mood are so different.

the characters have changed quite a bit for the second half of the novel. one character in particular, sean, changes a great deal. she was based on a girl i knew, but i hadn't spoken to her in months, so in writing the character, it's almost like i don't know the character anymore, which i suppose mirrors my real life interactions with this girl whom i had considered my muse for this novel. there's a disconnected feeling which actually helps the novel, and i'm glad to feed off the uncomfortable nature of real life. it's interesting how at one time you can feel so much for someone, then later on you can barely remember what they look like. it's a shame, really, and that's what part of the second half of giants explores: how important is that person to you? what worth is one life? can you give a shit? does any of it matter in the end?

the second half changes don't come as a shock though. i don't all of a sudden cut the novel up: instead, it's more of a slow conversion from the first half to the second, so hopefully by the time you get halfway through the second half of the book, you don't realize the change has happened and by the end of the book, the first half seems like a distant memory. the hope is that the reader gets the same experience the characters do, as they change and progress (in some instances, regress), and by the end of everything, what happened in the past, seems irrelevant.

i've also been trying to write more naturally, and by that, i mean letting my thoughts flow, not worrying about plot holes or whether it even makes sense for a specific character to do something. i've been going for more of a stream of consciousness type of writing that jack kerouac used to do, with less plotting and more feeling, considering the first half is so meticulously planned out. i haven't been able to sit down at long lengths, but when i have been able to let my thoughts out, the writing has been interesting. so far, it has been for a few hours every week, which is nowhere near what my past production has been, but i'm not forcing anything.

finally, i just wanted to talk about what the title means. giants represents everything that is larger than life, of accomplishing something, of making yourself bigger, larger, beyond the confines of your physical self. it's about doing something great, important, relevant. i mean, all of us at one point or another believed we were destined for bigger and better things. that is, before life sort of beat if out of you. but still, there are those among us who still cling to that dream. giants is ultimately about two men, who accomplish what others only dream about. above and beyond the bullshit of politics and life... essentially, they become giants.

all in all, it's hard to look at giants and not feel a pang of bitterness. mostly because it's been so tiresome trying to get my ideas out, and also because the bulk of it was written during the last year, which has been one of the worst years on record for me for a variety of reasons. it's been hard to keep the optimistic outlook of the novel. there's been a lot of temptation to just revert to past behavior and write a completely black ending. but then, that would be the easy way out, wouldn't it? in the end, there will be something bitter sweet about this novel. but i suppose all good art tends to come from suffering of some sort.

the streets

i have been listening to the streets for a few years now. when i am in the mood, i think it's absolutely brilliant. when i'm not, i think it's just horrible. at any rate, i know i've blogged about on and off for the past few years.

i am finding it's more of a love/hate relationship. sometimes i'm really in the mood, while other times i just couldn't give a shit.
the streets before, but when i'm into them, i sort of sound like a broken record.

is it rap? is it spoken word? is it techno? who cares. it's wicked bad.

take a look at this video. the streets are an aquired taste, no doubt.


half nelson

i've been meaning to write about half nelson for a while now ever since i saw it when it originally came out. the movie is basically about an inner-city junior high school teacher (ryan gosling) who develops an unlikely friendship with a female student. the catch is he's a drug addict and she catches him one day in the girl's bathroom in the afterglow of taking drugs. it's an impressive scene with a lot of weight. there's not much dialogue during the scene, and what little there is comes out disjointed due to his drugged out state, but it only just adds to the power of the scene.

what comes about is a relationship where the student doesn't judge the teacher right away, and it is this shared secret that helps the two of them grow close. the writing, despite a lot of it being ad libbed, is quite good. the movie moves at a much slower pace than most movies, and it doesn't have the dramatic payoff that a lot of movies tend to gear towards, which kind of threw me off, but it was a nice change of pace. it was also nice to see that the typical over-the-top situations that are usually written into these kinds of drug stories are avoided. for example, there is no cliched melodramatic drug scene where gosling's character loses it. and when gosling goes to confront the man who is turning his student onto a life of crime, you'd expect a fight or an argument at least, but instead, he ends up getting invited into the home for a drink.

it is also pleasant to see a character at fault. he is a good teacher who participates with his students in their extra-curricular activities and he teaches them to think beyond the confines of the school system. it's not as melodramatic or as cartoony as robin williams' character in dead poet's society, which is a good thing. in fact, everything about this movie shows a restrained nature, mirroring gosling's character. the title, half nelson, refers to a wrestling move which basically involves a person being caught in a submission hold that is difficult to get out of.

playing along with the restrained, sort of quagmire nature of the film is the underlying notions of liberalism and leftist political thought that seems to be stifled under george w. bush's america. the movie never comes out and says this directly, but it's crafty enough to leave enough subtle hints. it's this whole understated nature of the film that made me feel sort of underwhelmed when i initially saw it. but the more i think about it, the better the film gets in my mind.

here is the
ebert and roeper review (kevin smith is the guest reviewer. it's a good movie, and gosling is amazing in it and should get all sorts of accolades, but the film is not as amazing as smith thinks it is. he is right though when he talks about how powerful independant cinema can be.)
here is the trailer: