Wednesday, February 28, 2007

So, What's It About?

"Well, I didn't buy the object for the glory and drama attached to it. It's not about Thomson hitting the homer. It's about Branca making the pitch. It's all about losing."

"Bad luck," Glassic said, spearing a potato on my plate.

"It's about the mystery of bad luck, the mystery of loss. I don't know. I keep saying I don't know and I don't. But it's the only thing in my life that I absolutely had to own."

People have asked me what Underworld is about, and I find myself somewhat at a loss. To be sure, there are characters, and they interact, but I think the book aspires to something greater.

In some ways, this is irritating. Invariably, when an author sets out to write a "great book," said book reeks of their intent; it's a little embarassing, the authorial desperation. Still, there are certain things that can only be accomplished when character and plot take a back seat to themes and ideas. Whether these things are really merited or whether they're the equivalent of literary masturbation is an entirely different discussion.

I find it interesting that the three books on the list which I have read all deal with loss, are focused on people who have lost, rather than won; the dark side of the American Dream, if you will. And it's not loss in the prettied-up, Hollywood sense; redemption is rare and pyrrhic.

Perhaps this is natural, perhaps all art is inherently concerned with the notion of being outside; outside convention, outside the mainstream, the dark mirror for society. And yet, perhaps it only seems natural because we choose to conceive of art in that fashion, because we are drawn to the archetype of the lone, tortured artist plying his or her trade in an effort to reach out, to communicate, to connect somehow to this monolithic culture which they are unable to touch as an individual, which they can only affect and be affected by through their art. Perhaps much of this comes from artists themselves, so desperate to justify their own existence that they assume postures and personas to lend their art that air of gravitas, which makes it necessary and important.

The saddest thing is that the only true justification for art comes from within; people (and I don't think you need to or should consider yourself an artist by trade to create something) should create whatever they feel the urge to. If they want to write, write, if they want to sing, sing, and so forth. I'm not saying everything anyone creates is good, nor that this is the only reason anyone should have for making any kind of art; simply that this is the only justification that is, in the end, necessary. Whether what you create is any good, whether other people will enjoy it, feel enlightened or touched by it, is a whole other story.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Snow is falling all around him, like fairies floating earthward in the service of some ancient god of rime and frost. "Hello," he says, as one settles on his nose, but she does not respond, she melts in silence. He takes a drag and hears the fluttering of wings in his chest, in time with the fluttering all around him. In the snowdrifts he sees her face, in the snow-heightened silence he hears her voice, and he smiles as fairies drift towards him, bestowing gentle kisses that he saves for her.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Old Town

We walked that day,
Past cathedral bells and cobbled streets,
Down by the river of dreams.

We sat on a stone bench
In a pool of yellow light,
And in between our hands
I could feel our dreams
Coming through,
Coming real.

We were dancing,
Though we never left that bench,
In glances and smiles,
To that ancient reel
That every lover hears

Milkshakes and cotton candy
Leaving sugary trails on our faces;
Wispy clouds,
The lightest touch,
A whisper of skin on skin.

I still taste
Your kisses.

A Snowy Day at the Bus Stop

Perfume on the breeze
Sweet and cloying
Kills the senses,

Butterflies flutter by,
Frozen in a moment
Behind a thin membrane,
Glittering with the light of dewdrops and coffee cups.
Doors open and shut
As the snow falls
And buses go by;
A neverending story
Of arrivals and departures,
Orpheus forever leading Eurydice,
Afraid to look behind him
But unable to stop himself.

Silent stops,
Empty receptacles
Where neighbors stand alone,
Refusing to acknowledge each other's presences
For fear or connecting,
Of being sent
Back to Tartarus,
Swept away on Lethe's currents,
A forgotten shade.
"Know me," they say,
"Remember me."
These ghosts,
These echoes,
Forever peering from glassed-in shelters,
Waiting for their buses to arrive,
Marking their lives by the 5:02.


Creamy paper under my hands;
An empty slate,
Waiting to be filled,
Waiting for me to cover you with my spidery script.

A blank page,
A challenge.
Satisfying warmth
In my hands;
Her hair,
Pressed against my cheek.

The pages start to fill,
And I run my hands over the bumps
Left behind by my pen:
A hungry braille
Defining her
Yet leaving her as strange to me
As she ever was.
This mystery.
This love?

Writings from the past
Leave their marks on the pages to come;
A forewarning,
A premonition
Waiting to be raised
By a rubbing.
The future,
In ridges and canyons,
Waiting for us to discover them


Diamonds glitter in the light
As her hand moves across the page
Filling in the blanks of her life:
One across,
Five down.
Chin in hand, the clues fly by,
Answering themselves,
Ticked off the list,
By one
As the world passes her by.

She pauses,
At a loss,
Frozen in a moment;
Searching for the right word,
The one that will fit
And solve the puzzle before her.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Do You Believe In Magic?

Saw Pan's Labyrinth tonight.

It was beautiful. Beautiful and terrifying, as many great works are.

I like to believe that there's magic in the world. And I don't necessarily mean spells and crazy ceremonies involving cool chalk drawings and baby's blood. The magic I like to believe in is far more prosaic, but all the more potent because of its ordinariness, its everydayness.

It is in the eyes of someone who loves you, in the way they touch you, in the shared glances and connections made and missed every day, between every person, in the daring to believe, to imagine, to aspire to whatever your heart desires.

There is magic there.

And it is frightening; of course it is, because there's no-one to catch you, no guarantees. Few can help you, and even fewer will understand you. There is only you and what you will dare, what you will risk, what and who you will turn your back on.

Imagination is painful because you must pay a price to hang onto it, and to follow it. Along your way there will be people who will delight in telling you how silly, how unrealistic, how childlike you are. There will be people, and they will be legion, who will tell you to put aside those things, to grow up. And many people do, and many people will. Perhaps they can be happy with that.

I hope I will never know.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Isn't It Ironic

Don'tcha think?

You Are a Smart American

You know a lot about US history, and you're opinions are probably well informed.
Congratulations on bucking stereotypes. Now go show some foreigners how smart Americans can be.

Friday, February 23, 2007


1. The Rebel Sell: Why the culture can't be jammed, Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter
2. The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
3. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
4. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
5. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
6. Middlemarch, George Eliot
7. The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse
8. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
9. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
10. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford
11. Let Us Compare Mythologies, Leonard Cohen
12. The Sandman: The Wake, Neil Gaiman
13. The Sandman: Season of Mists, Neil Gaiman
14. The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller
15. The Sandman: The Doll's House, Neil Gaiman
16. The Sandman: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman
17. Underworld, Don Delillo

There are another 6 parts to Sandman which I'll probably be picking up and reading before I manage to finish Underworld, which was one of the books named in this list. Sandman is just so good that, having started its story arcs, I want to know all of it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Exit Light, Enter Night

1. The Rebel Sell: Why the culture can't be jammed, Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter
2. The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
3. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
4. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
5. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
6. Middlemarch, George Eliot
7. The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse
8. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
9. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
10. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford
11. Let Us Compare Mythologies, Leonard Cohen
12. The Sandman: The Wake, Neil Gaiman
13. The Sandman: Season of Mists, Neil Gaiman
14. The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller
15. The Sandman: The Doll's House, Neil Gaiman

Perhaps it is cheating to be listing graphic novels on a booklist, but when the stories are as good as the ones I read (and The Sandman, for anyone who has not read it, falls into the category of so-good-it's-depressing-because-I-could-never-write-anything-even-remotely-as-good), I think a little license is allowed. I didn't include The Watchmen or V for Vendetta on last year's list, but this is a new year and I feel generous.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Et Tu, Blogthings?


You Are 96% NYC

Congratulations, you are truly a New Yorker. You've seen it all, and you're more than a little cynical.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Genghis Khan and the Making of My Booklist

1. The Rebel Sell: Why the culture can't be jammed, Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter
2. The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
3. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
4. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
5. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
6. Middlemarch, George Eliot
7. The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse
8. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
9. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
10. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford

Another dad special.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Happiness Is...?

Vronsky meanwhile, despite the full realization of what he had desired for so long, was not fully happy. He soon felt that the realization of his desire had given him only a grain of the mountain of happiness he had expected. It showed him the eternal error people make in imagining that happiness is the realization of desires.
When you read great, older books, one of the things you need to get used to is the formulation of thoughts and concepts which have been parroted in the years since. Things which might seem obvious or concepts which we might have already encountered and accepted are at risk of being dismissed too quickly if we forget the context in which the original author wrote them.

I don't even know if Tolstoy was the first to express the above sentiment; he might have been, he might not have been. I definitely agree with it, though; it's a thought I've encountered several times and one which I can't find fault with. To desire is human, and yet achieving one's desires leads only to a new set of desires. This applies easily to physical phenomena: money, cars, houses and the like. But with relationships it's a little trickier.

Part of the problem, I think, is that people treat the people they have relationships with as objects, as static beings who will always remain the same. People act surprised when other people change, they cite it as a reason for relationships to end, when the reality is, everyone is always changing. Everyone, everything is always in a process of becoming. So by the time you "get" the person that you want, that person has changed, has become someone else. The only thing you've gotten is a shade, a memory of who they were a day, week, month or year ago. Worse yet, in pursuing what they were you are missing out on what they are, on the person standing in front of you.

I watched Bridges of Madison County on Valentine's Day (I inadvertently did a lot of romance-related watching that day, including the When Harry Met Sally commentary), and spent most of the movie pondering whether or not Meryl Streep's character was right - not to feel the way she did, since that can't really be controlled, but in the decisions she made. For those who haven't seen the movie, her character is married with two kids, and meets Clint Eastwood while her family is away for a week. They share a blissful, love-filled 4 days together, at the end of which he asks her to leave with him. She doesn't.

So one of the things I wondered was, is this sympathetic? Do I feel sorry for her character and her decision to stay in a respectful but loveless marriage and life? And in the end, I don't think I did; or perhaps it's more correct for me to say I don't think you're supposed to. Obviously, it wasn't a great situation. But she made her choice, and it was not a bad one; she stayed with the husband who had always taken care of her, who had always provided for her; with the kids she had raised, who she wouldn't have felt right abandoning. The point is made that loving Clint Eastwood's character the way she did was the only thing that allowed her to get through her life on the farm, that her perfect, unfulfilled love gave her the strength to stay, and that had she gone with him, eventually she would have come to hate him. Maybe the only reason she stayed in love with him was precisely because they were never able to be together.

It also makes you think - all those marriages that lasted for so long, how many of them were like that, in how many of them was at least one of the people filled with a secret identity, a secret longing for something more that they hid, how many of them had hidden thoughts that their partner never even came close to knowing? And I don't mean to suggest that you have to know everything about the person you're in a relationship with; in fact, I think there's (or there should be) an essential mystery to other people that you can never truly understand. But there's a difference between completely censoring a side of yourself and the aspects of yourself which are unknowable to anybody other than (sometimes even including?) yourself. How many people today live these sham relationships, pouring their affection into someone who doesn't exist, into someone they've created in their own mind, into some ideal they project onto the other person? What does it say about people if the only way the majority of them can stay together is through suppressing elements of their personalities? Is that even true? Am I being a bit harsh? I don't even know anyone who's been in a long-term marriage or relationship that I could ask these things to.


Your Brain is Purple

Of all the brain types, yours is the most idealistic.
You tend to think wild, amazing thoughts. Your dreams and fantasies are intense.
Your thoughts are creative, inventive, and without boundaries.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking of fictional people and places - or a very different life for yourself.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Known Unknowns

In the disagreements that occurred between the brothers during their discussions of the peasantry, Sergei Ivanovich always defeated his brother, precisely because Sergei Ivanovich had definite notions about the peasantry, their character, properties and tastes; whereas Konstantin Levin had no definite and unchanging notions, so that in these arguments Konstantin was always caught contradicting himself.
It's somewhat odd (or maybe it isn't; maybe this happens to most people who read the book), but as I read Anna Karenina, I find myself less and less interested in Anna's story - I think because it's an old story (or perhaps, to be more precise, it's a story which has been retold many times up to the present day), one which I feel familiar with. Levin, on the other hand, I find a fascinating character, possibly because he's the one I feel the most parallels with. He's supposed to be fairly representative of Tolstoy himself, according to the introduction of the edition that I have.


I've never held many passionate thoughts or opinions. I don't mean to say I don't care about things, what I mean is that a lot of the ideas I have I'm willing to question or doubt, depending on whatever perspective I'm faced with or what I feel at any given time of any given day. I can argue something passionately one day and then say something completely opposite the next day. I think people who talk to me a lot find this intensely irritating at times. Is this intellectual, is it an expression of the knowledge that I know nothing, that there are no absolutes in life? Or is it human hypocrisy, is it just the natural tendency of people to say one thing when examining a situation in an objective, academic fashion and then act differently when their own desires come into play? Or some combination?

See, even now I'm unable to find a definitive answer.

I notice, when I'm in conversations, that I tend to ramble all over the place, that I'll mention something to try to illustrate a point and it sets me off on some other tangent, and by the time I finish that I've forgotten what the original point I was trying to make was. I had an acting teacher tell me that that, and my vocal patterns, were symptoms of a restless mind, that my brain's moving so quickly and so (to everyone else's mind) randomly that my mouth struggles to keep pace. I can focus on subjects and on single arguments - to write a thesis paper, for example - but when given the chance to do otherwise my mind tends to work in a far less structured manner. I don't feel that I'm particularly creative or inventive, I just have such wide-ranging interests and knowledge that they all compete to be shown off.

That makes me sound like an insufferable ass, and I suppose that's how I come across sometimes.

I also find it interesting that Tolstoy's style is far more polemical than his Western counterparts; where they had begun to move towards a more disinterested commentary on the characters in their novels (to give you an idea of where Western fiction was at this time, Middlemarch was written around the same time, 5-6 years earlier), Tolstoy's perspective and his beliefs are fairly easy to detect in the tone he adopts towards various characters and lifestyles. He certainly doesn't seem to have much sympathy for Anna, which makes the decision to center the book around her even more interesting, especially when many of the "secondary" characters are as if not more realized.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Scenes From a Cafe

On the table, a chessboard
Empty of pieces,
Cold and barren.
Glossy pages reflect my life,
The tale written on my face.
Hissing steam keeps time
As it slips through my fingers.
Notice me,
Notice me,
My hands beg
As they turn the page.

Papers, papers
Bulging from a file.
Tapping fingers:
A life line
Sending messages
In morse code.
File it away;
This day was brought to you by the letter, "P"!
This is how I spend my days.
This is important.
This is the truth.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Alchemy of the Soul

1. The Rebel Sell: Why the culture can't be jammed, Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter
2. The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
3. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
4. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
5. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
6. Middlemarch, George Eliot
7. The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse
8. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
9. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
That night, the boy slept deeply, and, when he awoke, his heart began to tell him things that came from the Soul of the World. It said that all people who are happy have God within them. And that happiness could be found in a grain of sand from the desert, as the alchemist had said. Because a grain of sand is a moment of creation, and the universe has taken millions of years to create it. "Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him," his heart said. "We, people's hearts, seldom say much about these treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, towards its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out of them - the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.
It's been a while since I read anything so unabashedly romantic as The Alchemist; maybe A Hundred Years of Solitude is the closest parallel out of books I've read recently (as a side note, I find it somewhat interesting that Marquez came to mind, as he's Colombian and Coelho is Brazilian), although the quote on the back of the book jacket likening it to Le Petit Prince is right on.

It's a beautiful little book with a concept of a "Personal Legend" which everyone and everything has within them, waiting to be fulfilled. But people get in the way of their own desires, people find excuses not to follow the things that fill them with joy and enthusiasm, and wind up - perhaps not unhappy, but not as happy as they could have been. It is so easy to get sidetracked in this world, something I know from having seen all the kids who came out of theater school with me whittle away their time, making excuse after excuse about why they didn't audition, instead of just going out and doing it. And maybe that wasn't their dream, maybe they had to go through it to find out that they could live without it, but I can't shake the feeling that at least one of those people doesn't or won't regret that decision, or lack of decision.

When you have a dream, nothing else should matter. Not money, not family, not relationships, because if they are true, they will understand your dream and why you must pursue it. This might sound like a recipe for ending up alone at age 40, and maybe it is; but there are things you have to do for yourself, and let the other chips fall as they may. I like to think that improving yourself, that living in a way that makes you content with what you do and who you are, leads to more effective relationships; love without possession, giving and fulfilling. I could be wrong. But I like thinking that way, so I choose to.

Man, I really am a romantic sap. Pathetic.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


There once was a boy who loved a girl very much, and she in turn loved him. They were young, and they were happy, because they did not know any different.

The boy grew older, as boys do, and decided to follow his dreams to the city, where he could hear them calling. He promised the girl he would not forget her, and she likewise.

He went to the city, and every evening he looked to the north, imagining that the girl was looking south, that somehow, some way, across the miles between them, their eyes were meeting, that she had not forgotten him. And, indeed, there were many nights when she was looking south, towards the city, at that very time, and thinking of the boy, whom she loved so much. "Remember," the sun whispered to them as it set, and they did.

Time passed, as it does, and the boy stayed in the city. The boy and girl did not forget each other, but distance has a way with memory, not to weaken but to strengthen, to calcify it, set it in stone, cold and unliving. And love cannot be blamed for weakening in those circumstances, for love requires heat, is nothing if not the distillation of life. The girl did not stop loving the boy, but her love for him stayed still, like her memory of him, and other loves went rushing by. One day, one of these loves asked her to be his wife, and she said yes, for she loved him. But she had not forgotten the boy. She looked south, hoping he would hear and forgive her, that he had not forgotten her.

And he had not.

The boy looked up and to the north, with that feeling we all have at times, of unexplainable unsettlement. Things were changing, he knew, they were always changing; such was their way. But memory is constant, memory does not change, memory is all the little details of people set in stone, waiting just a step behind for us to turn and see them once more. He still remembered the girl, as he had promised he would, and he closed his eyes and smiled as the sun sank below the horizon.

Oh My Sainted Aunt

1. The Rebel Sell: Why the culture can't be jammed, Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter
2. The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
3. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
4. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
5. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
6. Middlemarch, George Eliot
7. The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse
8. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Code of the Woosters was everything I had been expecting it to be: an airy, fluffy, fun book, possibly made even more enjoyable because I've seen Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry's version of Jeeves and Wooster, and being able to hear them as the characters added a whole other level of enjoyment. It's the sort of book which some people would probably see as silly and pointless, but I say those people should get their h. out of their a. and not be such insufferable prats.

The Alchemist was a book that my dad tossed into my reading pile, so I'm both wary and interested. He's never given me anything bad, he's just an odd dude when it comes to taste in books (and in general, come to think of it). I suppose I inherit that from him, so I shouldn't comment.

The Sound of Silence

1. The Rebel Sell: Why the culture can't be jammed, Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter
2. The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
3. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
4. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
5. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
6. Middlemarch, George Eliot
7. The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse

So Middlemarch was good - very, very, good, worthy of many hyperbolic adjectives - but there was something in there that interested me above and beyond its merit as a book.

It's funny to read books from that (the Victorian) era, and to realize how little society has changed since then. To be sure, women are allowed far more independence now than then, but when reading the conversations and the relations between men and women one sees the same mixups, miscommunications and plain lack of communication that can be found today.

I don't really know what this says. It's not a bad thing, I don't think, so much as it is unavoidable. There will always be words which miss their mark, which are said with one intention but interpreted with another, until the day when we're able to read each other's minds (and won't that be fucking terrifying, knowing exactly when that guy is thinking about sex and - perhaps worse yet - when he isn't). What is important is to talk about them, and to not let them just sit there, an open wound waiting to be prodded. Because that's what people (well, I) do, when they have imagined hurts or slights; future comments are reinterpreted with that bias in mind, with the thought that you are somehow lacking in that area, that the other person is constantly picking on your shortcomings. And that's neither fair to yourself nor that person.

My life and my relations seem to be characterized more by silence and the words not said than the things I did say. Something in me finds that sad. Sometimes silence is right and sometimes silence is good, but sometimes silence hides fear and shame and doubt. And how can you know when silence is best? How can you know when her quivering rage hides a need to be reached out to and when you just need to shut the hell up and go away?

I feel like my relations in the past have gone too far, that they've been silent too long and I don't know how to change them, I don't know if the other people involved want to change them. Maybe I'm just too scared to make them change. But I do know that in the relations I invite into my life now, I aspire to something different, to something more open. I'm not talking about wholesale apologies for anything and everything I can think of any time I think the other person's upset; that defeats the whole purpose of an apology. If you're not truly sorry about something, if you don't really think you've done something wrong, then saying you're sorry is even more insulting than saying nothing. But when someone is important to you, you owe it to them to try to see things from their perspective, to understand what and why they are feeling a certain way.

From time to time, I trample on a lot of feelings. I think it's another reason why I come across as arrogant; I sort of like to hear my own cleverness, I get caught up in discussions and don't necessarily consider how my words might affect the people I'm speaking to. I think I'd rather be interesting than nice. I mean, interesting and nice would be cool, and I think on the whole I am, but if I had to pick it would definitely be the former.

You can't ever know what would have happened if you'd said whatever you wanted to say unless you say it. Personally, I would rather err on the side of saying one thing too many than not saying enough. Words are important; they are the only bridges that can be built to link two people together, in any kind of a relationship.

Monday, February 12, 2007


There's a little article about Jason Robert Brown and a recent New York performance of his over here, containing a little throwaway comment about, "his contradictory image as a cocky borderline geek."

I mean, that's me. Except I guess you can take out borderline.

I was having a conversation with some people a few days ago, and was telling this story about watching Love Actually with a roommate of mine, who was unaware that All You Need is Love was actually a song recorded far before the movie was made. But when they found out that the roommate in question was female, they went, "Oh, ok, it was a girl," which made me pause and ask them, what's wrong with two guys watching Love Actually together? I mean, what if one of us happened to be (oh noes!) gay? Or what if neither of us was, what's so wrong about two straight guys watching a romantic movie? Just because it doesn't happen often (ok, ever) and isn't "normal," that gives you the right to think less of me?

There is nothing I hate more than people who try to label others. I suppose everyone does it, and I am no less guilty than any other person, but I think there's a difference between likes that are quantitatively different (liking Paris Hilton and thinking she's awesome) and likes that simply demonstrate a different appreciation of things (liking Before Sunset). I think anyone trying to label me based on things I like or am interested in would end up getting a very superficial view of my personality, either as a terrifying nerd (should the conversation be about Superman or Batman or something), a boring film snob (if it's about 2046) or just a plan old dick (if it's about racial politics and identity). But isn't that the only view we ever have of people? Everyone has thoughts swirling about inside of them, everyone tries to communicate them and everyone fails, in the end, to display themselves to their full advantage, as a thinking, feeling human being.

Then again, maybe everyone doesn't deal with this. Maybe it's only myself and a (small or large) minority of other people who do. Maybe other people are calm and confident in their definitions, in knowing who and what they are.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Boxes, boxes, boxes. Isn't it funny how we pack up our lives in boxes; a year here, a year there, and at the end of your life you find yourself packed up, packed away, tucked in between the blankets and bicycles. He lifts the cover and runs his hands over the paper within, its yellowing smoothness slipping through his hands, like the past he is trying to hold onto, to remember. Faces with no names, names with no faces, people he can't even remember forgetting.

And then, her.

It isn't a good picture of her; she always hated her hair that day. But it's the only picture of her he has, the only one she ever let him take. In all the other pictures he has of her she is on the periphery, half seen and half invisible; a pair of eyes in the background; a ghost; a cipher. Perhaps that is why he still remembers her; how can you forget someone you never knew?

It's the look in her eyes that draws him to this picture, a look that has said everything and nothing to him at different times in his life. He remembers a time when he pulled it out and was filled with rage, with the urge to burn it, to wipe her out of his life as surely as she wiped him out of hers. But today he looks and sees only sadness. "Take my hand," she was saying, but he could not hear her then and can hardly hear her now, her voice echoing thin and tinny from a faded yellow photograph.


i'm honest about this kind of stuff, so i hope you're ok with that.

you're right, it is definitely emo (as i understand what that means), which means that i wouldn't really be part of the target audience for it. but, putting aside that consideration, i thought it had lots of promise. lots of interesting writing around images, and human touch. there are some nice intellectual flourishes, writing and structure. but it leans heavily towards syrupy, and it does need much more work.

i hope that's helpful, i'll talk to you more about this when we catch up.
So over the past while I've been considering actually trying to do something (ie publish, either shopping it around and entering contests, or self-publish and shill online/in indie bookstores/to friends) with some of the stuff I've written over the past 2 years, and decided to forward most of it to a friend of mine whose opinion I trust and respect. That's the first thing he's said to me about it.

He's got a good point, and I agree that some of them probably could use work, but I'm somewhat leery of losing the emotional honesty that a lot of the pieces exhibit. When I was younger and wrote poetry in class, the most frequent feedback I received was that it was a bit too contrived, a bit too intellectualized; it just didn't quite bring the reader along. I don't know if the stuff I've been writing over the past few years has done that, but it's certainly felt far more spontaneous and free. Some of it is angry, some of it is happy, most of it seems to be sad, but it is what it is; I'm glad I've never felt the need to edit them because they displayed a side of me I wasn't comfortable with expressing (at least, expressing in writing).

I'm not too sure where to go with it now. I have a few other people I've been considering sending them to, but I'm a little worried that they (knowing me as they do) might read too much into the content, and I'd really rather not deal with that. All stories are somewhat autobiographical, but sometimes a story is just a story.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Information found here and here.


Once upon a time there was a maiden who had a beautiful garden. People came from miles around to walk its curving paths, sit on its stone benches and admire its pretty flowers. Men came from even further away, for the maiden was fair; fairer than the fairest flower in her garden. They brought her exotic gifts, wrote her songs and poetry and waited on her hand and foot, yet all were turned away, for there was no room within her heart for any but her garden. The men despaired, but what were they to do? She had made up her mind that none would possess her.

One day a strange boy came to the garden. He did not glance at the girl, did not speak to her, did not bring her gifts. He walked in, sat down on a bench and began to read. The girl thought this very strange, indeed, but as he was quiet and did not disturb her, she let him be.

The next day a new suitor came, and the boy closed his book to watch. The suitor brought the maiden a present, which she took, but when he tried to approach her, she turned him away, as she always did. Despondent, the suitor left, like countless men before him.

The boy watched in silence.

"Do not judge me so," the maiden said to him.

In response, the boy picked up his book and began to read once more.

The girl was irritated by this strange boy. He did not glance at her, did not speak to her, did not bring her gifts, did not do anything. He simply sat and read. She wanted him to go away, to leave her and her pretty garden in peace, and so she devised a plan to chase him away.

The next day, the maiden walked over to the boy's bench. The boy looked up and closed his book as she approached.

"Boy," she said, "Since you have decided to stay, you must earn your keep."

The boy stared back at her.

The maiden hesitated. She was not a cruel person, and what she was about to say was unnatural to her.

"Fetch me a bag of manure from the shed."

The boy held her gaze for a moment longer, just long enough to unsettle her, then placed his book on the bench, stood and brought her a bag of manure from the shed. The maiden was unsure if her plan was working as intended, so she continued to make demands of the boy, hoping that one day he would have had enough, and she would wake to an empty garden once more. But every morning she awoke to find him on his bench, reading his book. The maiden's irritation came to be replaced with something new, something she had never felt towards anyone, man or boy before, and she became afraid. She did not know what to do with this strange new seed within her, which grew with every passing day, and she was afraid of what it meant for her beautiful garden. So, one summer day, she decided she had no choice: she packed herself a small bundle and left in the night, planning never to return.

The boy awoke. The maiden was gone, and he missed her; he, in turn, had come to love her, for in her demands he had felt the first stirrings of her feelings. But she was gone, and did not return the next day, nor the day after that, nor the week after that. The boy grew sad, for he felt in his heart that her fear had won, that she would not, could not return to him. So he closed his book and stood, turning his face towards the sun with a silent wish. His whole body began to lengthen and grow; he put down roots and his fingers stretched towards the sky, as if it were his pretty maiden's face. And he was content.

Summer turned to autumn. Autumn turned to winter. And as winter turned to spring, the young tree hoped the maiden would return to her garden. He shot out blossoms just before spring, five petaled blossoms which showed how he had kept track of the passing days: five fingers at a time. Visitors marveled at this new tree, and praised the maiden for making her garden even more beautiful.

But the maiden did not return.

In time the tree bore fruit, round plums filled with all his unshed tears and unsaid words. People picked them, but they were so sour that they could not be eaten. The people shrugged; "Nothing is perfect," they reminded each other with lemon-faced chuckles. The strange tree was certainly beautiful, even if its fruit was inedible.

The seasons marched on; spring turned to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter and winter approached spring once more.

And then, one day, the maiden returned.

She had travelled far, only to find that she could not, did not want to forget the strange boy and his even stranger silences. She loved him, and came back to find him and tell him so. But the boy was gone; his book lay on his bench, but it was cold and empty. Beside his bench was a tree, a tree she knew she had not planted and had never seen before. She ran her hands over its young bark, marveling at this strange miracle, and as she did so its blossoms burst into bloom: red, white and pink, with five petals and a strong fragrance that brought tears to her eyes. And she knew that the strange tree was her strange boy.

The maiden wished he could be her strange boy once more; but some choices, once made, can not be unmade. So she cared for the tree, picking his fruit and pickling it so she could taste his strange flavors, taste his tears and feel his love, even when snows covered the land. People came, and she allowed them to take cuttings from her beloved tree, spreading the strange boy's love for her, and his tears, all over the world. As the years passed by, the people who returned noticed that the maiden had ceased aging; like a tree, her growth was undetectable to the human eye. Seas rose and fell; the land around her changed, but the maiden's garden and her strange tree remained untouched. And there, high in some forgotten mountain range, they remain, and will remain until the end of time: a beautiful maiden, her pretty garden and her strange plum tree.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Party on the Bloc?

Feeling kinda down tonight; just generally run down and a bit tired.

Been listening to a lot of A Weekend in the City, Bloc Party's new album. It's not as strong as Silent Alarm, but it's different; seems a bit more contemplative, a bit more melancholic. I wonder if that's part of the reason for my current mood. Favorite track so far is "I Still Remember", which, in my typical fashion, I've had on repeat for the last little while and it's already solidly into my Top 25 Played Songs:
I...I still remember
how you looked that afternoon.
There was only you.

You said "It's just like a full moon,"
Blood beats faster in our veins.
We left our trousers by the canal
And our fingers, they almost touched

You should have asked me for it;
I would have been brave.
You should have asked me for it;
How could I say no?

And our love could have soared
Over playgrounds and rooftops;
Every park bench screams your name.
I kept your tie

I'd've gone wherever you wanted

I still remember

And on that teachers' training day
We wrote our names on every train;
Laughed at the people off to work,
So monochrome and so lukewarm.

And I can see our days are becoming nights,
I could feel your heartbeat across the grass.
We should have run,
I would go with you anywhere.
I should have kissed you by the water

You should have asked me for it;
I would have been brave.
You should have asked me for it;
How could I say no?

And our love could have soared
Over playgrounds and rooftops;
Every park bench screams your name.
I kept your tie

I'd've let you if you asked me.

I still remember.
In case you were wondering (and I know you were!), this is what my full Top 25 Played Songs list looks like on this computer:

Fields of Gold (New Version) - Sting
I Saw Her at the Anti-War Demonstration - Jens Lekman
Motorcycle Drive By - Third Eye Blind
Landslide - Fleetwood Mac
Regret - New Order
Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Code Monkey - Jonathan Coulton
Here It Goes Again - OK Go
Rockaway Beach - The Ramones
Do You Wanna Dance - The Ramones
Bad - U2
Glasgow Love Theme - Craig Armstrong
Perfect Day - Lou Reed
New Slang - The Shins
The New Year - Death Cab for Cutie
I Still Remember - Bloc Party
Turn - New Order
The Trapeze Swinger - Iron & Wine
Oh Well - Fiona Apple
Jesus Doesn't Want Me For a Sunbeam (Live) - Nirvana
Please Please Please - Fiona Apple
Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
This Modern Love - Bloc Party
Since I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles
For Real - Okkervil River

Man...I have the weirdest taste in music ever. I mean, I prefer the term, "eclectic," but let's face it, that's a nice way of saying weird, kind of like "eccentric."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Living here day by day, you think it's the center of the world. You believe nothing will ever change. Then you leave: a year, two years. When you come back, everything's changed. The thread's broken. What you came to find isn't there. What was yours is gone. You have to go away for a long time... many years... before you can come back and find your people. The land where you were born. But now, no. It's not possible. Right now you're blinder than I am.
Just finished watching Cinema Paradiso, which was fantastic - and I hesitate to say this, because it seems to be said far too often, with far too little reason - one of the best tributes to movies and their power that I've ever seen.

The movie's also about personal growth (aren't they always?), and it's interesting that the above quote is one of the two posted on the imdb profile. For me, coming back to Toronto, the thread is indeed broken. There is nothing here that I know anymore, nothing that ties me here. I suppose that was part of the problem at the US border. The main character (as an adolescent) leaves his home town, becomes established as a filmmaker and never looks back, never goes back, never calls, partially because his mentor (the speaker of the above line) tells him not to, tells him that if he returns he'll refuse to see him, that he doesn't want to talk to him, he wants to be talking about him. And yet, you don't want to live without any sense of grounding, of belonging. There is (as there always is) a lost-love, a relationship which is never resolved and which he seems to have been searching for since he lost it, since it was taken away from him.

That certainly isn't attractive, but it is human. I suppose he finds meaning in his work, in his passion, which is summed up quite nicely in the finish, one of the most passionate 5 or so minutes of film I've ever seen. I don't want to spoil it, but it's amazing.

I've been told I'm terrible at this game, but doesn't the girl who plays the love interest look sort of like Grace Kelly? Just a little?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Check, Please?

Bam! $2.9 trillion is the 2007 US budget, of which $481.1 billion is earmarked for the Defense Department, $49 billion higher than last year. This number, of course, is still smaller than the approximately $700 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services and the $656 for Social Security, but the DoD number also doesn't count the $93 billion for this year and $145 billion for next year which has been requested as supplemental funding for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, money which doesn't need to be counted in the budget because it's - well - supplemental.

It is staggering that the Bush administration claims the budget will be balanced in 2012 while "...the budget package projects no spending on Iraq and Afghanistan after 2009. “There will be no timetables set,” Mr. Bush said in a question-answer session after a Cabinet meeting this morning. “We don’t want to send mixed signals to an enemy, or to a struggling democracy, or to our troops.”"

Now, not wanting to send mixed signals is fine and understandable. But if you're not counting that spending past 2009, how can you rationally believe that the budget will be balanced in 2012? How can you account for that spending which, by your very own admission, you are refusing to count, like some child trying to ignore something and pretend it isn't there? When did Republicans become profligate spenders and Democrats the ones trying to rein them in?

Toronto: A Bit of Alright?

As much as I disparage Toronto and Canada, it is nice sometimes to be reminded that the difference between here and New York can sometimes be a neat thing. Case in point, this article from The article refers to a street in the downtown core which the city is designing pretty much from scratch, and so is holding meetings to gather community feedback for their proposals. And so:
The meeting started with a presentation by the architects who are leading the project. They proposed, as a sort of opening bid, a 35-meter-wide street (a little bit more narrow than Spadina, for example), including extra wide (4.5 meter) sidewalks, four lanes of traffic (including a slightly widened lane for bicycles and off-peak parking, but not a full bike lane), and a streetcar right-of-way. It was a modestly impressive attempt at pleasing all interests.

Then came time for questions of clarification, and the very first one was impressive. "Has there been any thought given to the very likely possibility that cars won't be playing a key role in our transportation mix at all 25 years from now? Why are we building any lanes for cars?" The question wasn't asked in a confrontational tone, nor did it come from someone wearing sandals and a hemp-woven hat. It was simply a reasonable observation of the facts, coming from a normal, reasonable person.
Wow. Way to go, that person. And yet, even though I love New York way more than I'll ever love Toronto, even though I consider New York my home and would love to live there again some day, it pains me to wonder (and doubt) if anyone there would express a similar sentiment in such a non-confrontational, consensus-seeking fashion. In some ways, the in-your-face that is New York is one of the things that I love about it (of course, the New York aggressiveness is interesting in that it exists, but only if provoked; if you walk down the street and keep to yourself, you are far more likely to be left alone and not have every person you pass by stare at you, no matter what you look like, than you are in any other city I've ever been in).

I watched An Inconvenient Truth a few days ago, and had an incredibly frustrating conversation with a person about it. This person's viewpoint was essentially the same as the one that Matt Drudge foists upon his readers (for example); it is the perspective that the human factor in global warming remains unproven (perhaps is even, ultimately, unprovable?); that there could be other factors to account for it, that the rising temperatures are simply a part of the earth's natural cycle, and so there is little or no reason for us to change our lifestyles, certainly not without much more research into the effects of carbon dioxide and other factors on the Earth's climate.

There's something inherently wrong with that perspective, with the perspective that just because things seem fine right now, they always will be, that without incontrovertible proof there's no reason to make any changes whatsoever. And the most frustrating thing is, there doesn't necessarily need to be massive changes for real progress in sustainable growth, changes which would benefit both the environment and consumers. Everyone knows fossil fuels are a finite resource; why then are we not conserving as much as possible? Why are North Americans the only people living on the planet who barely give a thought to recycling, to energy efficient appliances and weather-proofing homes? Why do people still need to be reminded to turn lights off when they're not in the room? How much of a difference could it make if governments upped gas mileage requirements by 2 miles per gallon? Or 4? How about 10? How about mandating minimum efficiency requirements for other appliances, or for lightbulbs? Why is mass transit over here so shitty? All of these things are so minor (well, maybe not the mass transit question), and yet add up to savings for both consumers (less money spent on gas and utility bills) and the environment. So why not go ahead with them? What does it hurt? Why is North America so fucking selfish?

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Another day, another cigarette. He inhales and holds his breath, feeling the smoke wash through him, displacing him. He looks down at his hands, half expecting them to turn insubstantial before his eyes, to see the smoke issuing from under his fingernails, to see himself bleeding away before his eyes. He watches the people pass by, alone and isolated in their hopes and fears, and wishes he could be like them, wishes he could help them all. The wind blows, ice blowing over him, blowing through him, making him numb, a blessed numbness that he welcomes, that he surrenders to and is carried along by. The hand holding the cigarette lost all feeling long ago; he glances down at the foreign claw at the end of his arm and smiles, swept away by a memory of storm-filled eyes and an irresistable smile. "The hand that holds the cigarette always gets colder." So it does. So it does.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Grey, grey, as far as the eye can see; the sun a pinprick of light, straining through the curtain of clouds. He takes a drag, feeling lightheaded; as if he is floating just above the pavement, as if the steady rhythm of inhale and exhale is the only thing keeping him together, as if the second he stops he will burst out of his skin, scatter into the wind and disperse. He has always felt this way, felt as if there was a secret he wasn't quite aware of, as if he was never meant to be here, as if it is all a surprise to him. He closes his eyes and feels the light on his eyelids; light without heat, without source, pressing down on him, giving him shape. Her face, unbidden, floats out of his memory, and it is a dam bursting. Her in the night, in the predawn, in the day, in the evening, washing over him, the memories pummeling him with their vividness and detail. He stubs out the cigarette and lifts his fingers to his face, smelling that ancient smell of earth and sweet; of her and him in a creaky apartment while the world passed by.

The Unbearable Blackness of Barack Obama

Shit like this makes me really angry.

The article, for those unwilling to click, is entitled, "So Far, Obama Can't Take Black Vote for Granted."

No, that's not what irritates me. What irritates me is the sense both from the writer and from the people quoted within that a truly "black" presidential candidate should be expected to carry the black vote, simply by virtue of his blackness, but his specifically American slave blackness. To wit:
“When you think of a president, you think of an American,” said Mr. Lanier, a 58-year-old barber who is still considering whether to support Mr. Obama. “We’ve been taught that a president should come from right here, born, raised, bred, fed in America. To go outside and bring somebody in from another nationality, now that doesn’t feel right to some people.”
Guess what? This statement is bald-faced fucking racism. It's black-on-black, but it's still racism. Barack Obama (according to his official bio over here) was born in Hawaii - America, last time I looked. According to the wiki on him, he went to Indonesia with his mother after his parents split, attending a madrassah from age 6 to 10, then returning to Hawaii to go to a private school until he finished high school. All of his collegiate and subsequent career was in the United States. So what's the problem? How the fuck is Barack Obama considered un-American? Because his daddy's daddy wasn't a big industrialist in the States who did business with Nazis? Because any white politician whose father was a big industrialist probably did business with them (well, this basically refers to the Bush and Kennedy families). Oh, but wait; there's more. Just in case you didn't quite get the picture:
“I’ve got nothing but love for the brother, but we don’t have anything in common,” said Ms. Dickerson, who wrote recently about Mr. Obama in Salon, the online magazine. “His father was African. His mother was a white woman. He grew up with white grandparents.
“Now, I’m willing to adopt him,” Ms. Dickerson continued. “He married black. He acts black. But there’s a lot of distance between black Africans and African-Americans.”
I'm sorry. You'll accept him as a presidential candidate because he married black? Because he acts black? How about you take a look at his policies, you stupid fuck? Shouldn't that be more important than any skin tone, any physical characteristic whatsoever? And what the fuck does it mean to act black, anyways? By the mainstream definition, doesn't that mean he should have a criminal record and write songs about bitches, blunts and 40s? Surely there must be a voice of reason somewhere in this article, right?
“He’s going to have to win over some African-Americans,” said Mr. Walters, who is black and heads the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland. “They have a right to be somewhat suspicious of people who come into the country and don’t share their experience.”
Oh, they have a right to be suspicious of people who don't share their experience, ok. How many people were the rich-ass son of a former President, were set for life monetarily, got cushy assignments keeping them out of Vietnam and were allowed to run several businesses into the ground before being bailed out by daddy's friends? How many people were former actors and the head of SAG? How many people were peanut fucking farmers?

Here's a thought: maybe if black people stopped being so hung up on being "black" and excluding everyone they don't like who doesn't fit into their little club, they might be able to move on and effect some real change in society. Maybe if black people weren't so afraid of becoming "Uncle Toms," of being labelled a traitor to their race (whatever the hell that means) because of a simple desire to better their and their family's economic situation, black people wouldn't remain shockingly poor as a whole. Yes, there are difficulties; everyone who is not white faces them. But they also need to wake up and realize the effect their own acts of self-sabotage have.

I don't even really care much for Barack Obama. I don't know much about his platform, and I think he's been deliberately vague on the subject. He doesn't have much experience as a legislator, and I think that making him President at this point in time in his political career might be a big mistake. But he deserves to be judged as any politician, as any person does: by the strength of his words and actions. Do not fucking walk up to him and say, "You don't understand me." Guess what, asshole? No-one understands you. No-one has experienced your unique set of circumstances, no-one has your specific personality and no-one chose to respond to their circumstances in exactly the way you did. Get the fuck over yourself and everything that you think defines a person, because you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

(insert content here)

So, I just realized I typed up that whole post about the witty back-and-forth and then didn't talk about the content of the quote at all.

One of the things I love about reading older literature, which I tried to communicate in a previous post, is the recognition of themes and thoughts which have become dominant today, which might not necessarily have been at the time of their writing; in this case, the idea that a relationship legitimizes you, makes you somehow a better person because you have someone who supports and pushes you to be the best person you can be.

I don't know how I feel about that. On the one hand I think it's accurate; we always want to please the ones we love. But it's very dangerous territory to tread, and I certainly don't think Eliot is necessarily positing such a perspective as good; it's simply an observational truth. Who among us hasn't changed to fit our perception of our lover's wants, only for them to turn around and say that we've changed, that we aren't the person that they fell for anymore? And then what are we left with, what remains of our identity, where do we go from there? Why do we do that to ourselves? And is there any way to avoid it?

I like to believe that there is. There will always be conflict in relationships, and there will always be temptations to do whatever is necessary to avoid those conflicts. I feel this in particular; due to my own history, I am intensely conflict-averse, and would often rather endure incredible inconveniences rather than create conflict. But maybe conflict is what defines relationships, maybe there is a healthy level of conflict which is vital to a successful relationship. Maybe if we accepted the inevitability of conflict and, instead of trying to avoid it, concentrated on apologizing, understanding and then moving on from it, we would never fall into the dance of trying to please, of mortgaging everything about ourselves that makes us dangerous and beautiful for a pair of pretty eyes.

Whatever Happened to...?

"When a man is not loved, it is no use for him to say that he could be a better fellow - could do anything - I mean, if he were sure of being loved in return."
"Not of the least use in the world for him to say he could be better. Might, could, would - they are contemptible auxiliaries."
"I don't see how a man is to be good for much unless he has some one woman to love him dearly."
"I think the goodness should come before he expects that."
"You know better, Mary. Women don't love men for their goodness."
"Perhaps not. But if they love them, they never think them bad."
"It is hardly fair to say I am bad."
"I said nothing at all about you."
"I shall never be good for anything, Mary, if you will not say that you love me - if you will not promise to marry me - I mean, when I am able to marry."
"If I did love you, I would not marry you; I would certainly not promise ever to marry you."
"I think that is quite wicked, Mary. If you love me, you ought to promise to marry me."
"On the contrary, I think it would be wicked in me to marry you even if I did love you."
"You mean, just as I am, without any means of maintaining a wife. Of course: I am but three-and-twenty."
"In that last point you will alter. But I am not so sure of any other alteration. My father says an idle man ought not to exist, much less be married."
Does anyone ever wonder what happened to wit? What happened to sparkling repartee, breezy responses with arched eyebrows while statuesque women lounge on chaises with men perched on the arms, two fencers with epees of words?

There's an interesting article in the new GQ about how Robert De Niro, by giving us the definitive modern portrayals of the tortured anti-hero, has created a legion of impersonators who equate acting with torturedness; in effect, he killed the old-time movie star, men who got by (and won Oscars, not that they're a true sign of acting prowess; more one's ability at politicking, but that's a story for another time) more on personal, intangible charm rather than angst-ridden scream fests (see: Sean Penn. "Is that my Oscar in there? Is that my Oscar in there?" I haven't even seen Mystic River; I really have no interest because that seems to be a pretty accurate portrayal of the subtext of that scene). I think it's a bit excessive to point to De Niro as the only reason (Montgomery Clift? James Dean? Brando? Pacino? Hoffman? Hackman? Nicholson?), but certainly fair to suggest that he had a lot to do with it. The article mentions Clooney as the only modern-day actor who even comes close to the icons of the golden age (when he's not making self-indulgent pap like Syriana), but I would suggest Will Smith as well, someone the article author completely ignores (we pause here for the requisite thoughts about institutional racism). Tom Cruise was also once there, but not anymore, though he probably maintains the highest box-office clout out of any star in Hollywood.

One wonders when the institutional bias against well-constructed comedy began; remember Bill Murray's comments when he was nominated for acting awards after Lost in Translation, where he talked about how they really needed to remember the dramatic actors, who never got enough attention at awards ceremonies.

I am personally of the opinion that comedy is more difficult than drama, simply because comedy cannot be taught, cannot be learned. Everyone instinctively "gets" drama; things happen to each and every one of us which we can equate to any number of experiences. But (comprehension aside) you either get the timing of a joke or you don't. Perhaps part of the reason why fewer great comedies were made in the 70s and 80s and why audience appreciation for them dimmed was because none of the great stars (Woody Allen aside) were capable of it, not because they were bad actors, but because of their specific limitations as actors, because of places they were unable to go, unable to take their audiences. Yes, it is fake; yes, it is elevated reality; but sometimes don't we all want that? Don't we want to be transported to some happy fluffy land for an hour and a half, where the worst thing men do is make disparaging remarks about their inlaws while the women remind the men that they never wanted to get married in the first place? Isn't that part of the point of entertainment? When did the Oscar become the award for the best crying/screaming/handicapped actor? And if you played some role where you were a mentally handicapped dude who had a crying, screaming fit about his dead child, would that, like, automatically win you the Oscar for the next 10 years?

Holy shit, I just had an awesome idea for a screenplay.