Archive | January, 2004

I need help from my hip&groovy music-listening friends

26 Jan

OK, first the confession. I stopped listening to new music in 1992. Now, when I do listen to music at all, which I don’t very often because I find it distracting, I listen to old favorites like Depeche Mode or Elton John. I wake up to random classical music in the morning. But most of the time? I prefer to think thoughts, engage in mental argumentation and tell myself stories, and music makes it hard to concentrate.

Anyway, so I’m writing a novel. And my characters, who aren’t me (much), they listen to music. But I don’t have a clue what they would listen to. So I need suggestions.

What would the following people likely listen to?

• A seventeen-year old high school senior, female, white, middle-class, living in the ‘burbs*

• A 25-year old working class/no college woman, white, who is a bit of a “stoner” (do they still call them “stoners”? Loadies? *Ack*). I’m thinking she’s sophisticated enough not to listen to stereotypical “stoner” music, though. By that I mean she wouldn’t listen to music to enhance the “getting high” experience, but she would listen to things a somewhat intelligent person from her background would listen to.

• A 27-year old somewhat musically sophisticated male grad student, mixed race (white/native american), who I’m thinking listens to contemporary jazz

• A 24-year old registered nurse, female, black, middle-class, somewhat anal and neat-freaky and domestic

• A 22-year old hippy artist type, female, white, from a rich background she has rejected

Honestly, when I started this novel I was 29 and a lot closer in age to these people, but they’ve remained young and I’ve gotten old and I don’t know what these whipper-snapper young people listen to anymore!

*I would describe her as intelligent and bright, but rather sheltered and inexperienced. She’s spirited, but not really punk or “out there” in anyway. In high school, she’s part of the marching band crowd, but not in anyway a nerd. Developmentally, she’s in that in-between place where she might see things outside her experience (urban music) as interesting and exciting, but have enough intelligence not to be impressed by things that are rebellion for rebellion’s sake. In fact, I would describe her as someone who is learning as the novel progresses to be herself and NOT try to do those things teenagers do to seem more sophisticated/trendy that actually make them look juvenile.

Has anyone seen my right brain?

23 Jan

I can’t seem to access it.

At the beginning of the month, I got back into the editing of my novel, and what I feared was a case of writer’s block turned out to be a necessary two months of focusing on other things, namely buying a house, moving, the holidays, and a brain vacation.

Now that I am back into it, however, I’m finding myself dissatisfied with my editing efforts. Part of the editing process is very left-brained: are the details in each chapter consistent with each other? Am I using too many adjectives? Does this section contribute anything to the plot? I do well with that.

Other parts are more intuitive. This is the stage where you actually really need to concentrate on making your writing sound pretty, and I am finding some bits I’m happy with, and lots of other bits that are totally bland sounding. Which is not a federal disaster, I just need to make them read in a more interesting way.

The problem is, the part of my brain that puts words together in interesting ways seems to be asleep. Or it’s back living in my old apartment. Or maybe I left it behind months and months ago but didn’t realize it because I was working out technical problems.

Where is my creativity, the part of me that comes up with novel catches of phrase, interesting details and complications, fresh perspectives on old material? Where is the part of me that takes mental leaps beyond the obvious?

*Ack*

note to self: I want to be aliera9916 when I grow up. Or I might just steal fresne‘s brain.

Gratuitous fandom post – Alias

8 Jan

I must warn you. Talking about Sydney Bristow turns me into an eight-year old. I have been watching the first two seasons of Alias on DVDs I rented from netflix. OK, and can I say this show *kicks ass*? Or, more to the point, Sydney kicks ass. She kicks high! She could kick you butt. Kapow! giggle

But despite all the hot babe butt-kicking, I don’t think I would have quite descended into fandom if it weren’t for the family element. Some personal stuff on the theme of family connections

That novel thing

5 Jan

Well, I’m happy to report that I finally finally after two months, including two weeks of vacation doing nothing useful, just watching videos, I finally did a little work on my novel last night.

It was very mechanical work, the kind with little substance that allows you to say at least you did it.

I’m going through that “This novel is crap, I write like crap, I am crap” phase right now. Picking it up and looking at it after all this time, it’s slow and it drags and the characters spend every scene sitting and yapping with each other like talking heads and at this late date in the editing process, I’m not sure I can change that. Not without a heck of a lot more imagination and a major overhaul.

*sigh*

Polar bears and overdoses: it’s a VincentKartheiser-a-thon!

3 Jan

I became aware of Vincent Kartheiser the actor from his role as Connor on “Angel”. As a rule, I never watch the other roles/movies/TV shows/plays that the Buffy/Angel actors play, because of the whole not really caring thing. I appreciate the actors for the good jobs they do playing the characters I know so well, but I’m in it for the characters; I don’t follow actor’s careers or personal lives.

I was left a little bereft after Connor was so abruptly written out of “Angel” in Home, though, and I thought the solution might be to see Vincent Kartheiser in some of his other roles, especially since I’d heard he’d played some Connor-like (i.e., bratty, fucked up) characters.

But I was so traumatized by “Home” I just couldn’t bear to look at him. So I dropped the whole thing. Then, this past Christmas I was at my parents with absolutely nothing to do. I was so bored I went to Blockbuster video. Yes. I know. cringe. I saw “Masterminds” there–which is kind of hard to find–and decided it would be a good VK starting point. Light, non-depressing fun. And skateboards!

And that started the VincentKartheiser-a-thon.

It turns out this boy is a working actor, and has a longer resume than most of the older actors he appeared with in “Angel”. He is usually a central character in the films he appears in, and he has acted along side such notables as Patrick Stewart, Charlton Heston, James Caan, and Melanie Griffith.

And can I just say, VK is an impressive actor in his own right?

So noting that I will have the biases of a 40-year-old non-het chick, here are my quickie reviews of some of the highlights of the VK resume:

(Whited-out spoilers can be read by selecting the invisible text)
The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)

Other notables: Lindsay Crouse

Summary: A boy gets a magical cupboard that enables him to bring his toy action figures to life.

Happy Vinnie/Fucked-up Vinnie: I will note under each review whether VK plays a fucked-up character or not, just because, as it turns out, VK does not always play fucked-up characters. “IitC”, for example, is a Happy Vinnie movie.

Brat Quotient: 4/10. Gillon is the plot-device snotty older brother of the lead character, but since you hardly ever see him, and since he is the one who gave Omri the cupboard in the first place, he is not a total brat.

The hair: Who was your stylist, kid? That curled page-boy doo is foofie even for you, and I usually like you foofie! Fortunately, VK’s voice has already gone through The Change.

Bottom line: A cute little kid’s nugget about prejudice, tolerance and responsibility. If you’re only there to see VK, though, you should know that when he is on screen, he’s mostly just running down stairs.

Alaska (1996)

Other notables: Charlton Heston

Summary: City boy Sean Barnes and his sister Jessie trek across the Alaskan wilderness to save their missing father and encounter evil poachers and natural dangers. Luckily for clueless Sean, his sister actually knows what she’s doing. Jessie Barnes is totally on.

Happy Vinnie: He laughs! He grumbles! He follows his animal guide to greater self-awareness!

Brat Quotient: 8/10. I think this movie was the actual screen test for VK’s role as Connor on “Angel”. Yes, I’ve seen the alleged real screen test on the season 3 Angel DVD set, too, but after the first 20-25 minutes of this movie, you’ll know why Holtz used to leave the kid stranded out in the middle of nowhere in Quortoth.

The hair: Your standard bowl-on-the-head cut, nicely accessorized with a Chicago Cubs baseball cap. Sometimes forward, sometimes backward.

Other notes: There are also some great action sequences in this movie that might have contributed to VK’s role on “Angel”. Wonder how many of his own stunts he did?

Bottom line: Realism is put aside for big fun adventure and heroism out in the breath-taking Alaskan panorama. And there’s a cute polar bear (wonder now if the polar bear in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” was a shout-out to this movie?). And did I mention a healthy child-like suspension of disbelief? Definitely fun, like roller-coaster fun.

Masterminds (1997)

Other notables: Patrick Stewart
(Those who watch the same TV shows as me might also recognize Callum Keith Rennie.)

Summary: Teenaged MacGuyver and computer genius Oswald ‘Ozzie’ Paxton (AKA ‘Oz’) is a brat who wastes his talents and picks on his step-sister until he finds out she and her classmates are being held hostage at their school. Then he uses his skills to discover his inner hero.

Happy Vinnie, taking into account the…

Brat Quotient: 9/10. Adorable brattiness! He’s a brat to his family, a brat to the bad guys, he’s even a brat to his best friend. The only thing saving him from a 10/10 is the being-all-heroic factor.

The hair: Has his trademark bangs-in-the-face thing going, and still manages to have excellent precision hand-eye coordination.

Bottom line: This is a fun kids vs. the grown-ups movie, lots of action, and some suspension-of-disbelief involved. I liked it.

All I Wanna Do (1998) (AKA “Strike!”)

Other notables: Lynn Redgrave, Kirsten Dunst

Summary: The ambitious students at an early 60’s all-girls preparatory concoct several schemes to prevent their school from being merged with an all-boy’s school.

Happy Vinnie, although the dork quotient is high.

Brat Quotient: 5/10. “For I am Snake, King of Dorks. May all lesser dorks follow me around pathetically.” Snake the townie chases after a prep-school girl with the most appallingly moony dialogue ever written, somehow manages to beat up a prep-school boy twice his size, and gets the girl (who 30 years later admits she is a lesbian. What’s up with that?)

The hair: Short, but the cool Beatles/beatnik doo is stylin’. And there’s hats!

Bottom line: Fun, nostalgic, balanced grrl-power movie. Worth seeing even if you’re in it purely for VK.

Another Day in Paradise (1998)

Other notables: James Woods, Melanie Griffith

Summary: A “Bonnie and Clyde for the ’90’s” take a pair of teenagers under their wing and set out to party and do crime.

Fucked-up Vinnie: Bobbie shoots speed, robs cigarette machines and gets mentored by a career criminal. And my boy is all grown up and having sex! *sniff* He doesn’t look completely ridiculous doing it, either. Plus, watch all the amazing ways he can light a cigarette.

Brat Quotient: 6/10. The James Woods character actually thinks it will be fun to teach an arrogant adolescent about life and women and making money. There’s a reason parents dread their children becoming teenagers, guy!

The hair: The grease quotient is high on this one, kids. But then again, Bobbie is a patheticloserjunkie, so, you know….

Other notes: This is the second movie I’ve watched in as many weeks that referred to the cunnilingus technique of “spelling out the alphabet with your tongue”. I find that interesting.

(Also wondering now if Sunny dying of a needle OD in “A New World” was a shout-out to this movie?)

Bottom line: “Pulp Fiction” with less style. This movie is not one I would have ever chosen to see if it wasn’t on the VK-a-thon list. A depressing, vulgar, violent tale of the dregs of society. But if you’re into that, go for it. There are a few tender moments. Plus, there’s a drinking game you can play every time someone calls someone else “baby”.

Crime and Punishment in Suburbia (2000)

Other notables: Ellen Barkin

Summary: Vincent the high school loser photo-documents and narrates (and finally gets involved in) the family troubles of the popular girl he is infatuated with. From family fights to murder to trial and punishment. Supposedly loosely based on Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

Fucked-up Vinnie: Relatively speaking. Although this movie has a dark subject matter, the character of Vincent is surprisingly together for a “damaged little fucker”, the skinny high school loser/stalker with a heart of gold.

Brat Quotient: 2/10. Vincent is relatively mellow for a freak, but he merits points for getting under the high school jock’s fingernails. That’s never a bad thing.

The hair: Yikes! Dyed dark and greasy. This kid is so not a brunette. And would a shampoo kill you? Ah well, you get used to it after five or ten viewings.

Other notes: I wonder if the actress who plays Roseanne had to get her cleavage re-inflated with an air pump between scenes. Just a stray thought.

Bottom line: Full of plot-holes, but strangely addictive. Plus there’s just something visually intriguing about this whole movie.

I’m a bit concerned that the eventual friendship of Vincent and Roseanne sends mixed messages about the motives and dangers of stalkers. However, the real theme here is the exploration of how different people deal with those who do them wrong, and accepting responsibility for one’s reactions. Redemption and all that blah blah blah. Just keep telling yourself, “Vincent isn’t a stalker, he’s Jesus fucking Christ”.

Luckytown (2000)

Other notables: James Caan, Kirsten Dunst

Summary: Girl with adolescent identity issues goes to Las Vegas to find the screwed-up gambler father who abandoned her and her mother years before. In tow is Lidda’s screwed-up gambler love interest, Colonel.

Fucked-up Vinnie: Again, relatively speaking. Colonel used to be on the high school football team (skinny little Vinnie? Yeah, right) but now he’s a compulsive gambler working in a video store. Then he moves his habit to Vegas with Lidda. Until he decides he really wants to change for the girl.

Brat Quotient: 3/10. A little grouchy with a hint of tough-guy, but with a Connor-esque sweetness that just makes you want to pinch his cheeks! One bonus point for being a bit cocky at the tables and dancing like a spaz.

The hair: In the face, butofcourse. Could use a serious comb. But it goes well with the cool leather jacket and the Wesley-esque stubble. And the suit! I want his clothes. How fabulous would I look in his clothes?

Other notes: Colonel. Let’s see, grouchy, check. Standoffish, check. Poker player, check. Living proof girls still marry their dads no matter how hard they try to do otherwise.

The father-daughter stuff is suitably moving, if predictable. She thinks she’ll get validation, maybe discover something about herself if she finds her father. Dad’s convinced he’s a total loser (was it the lifetime of loser behavior away from the card table that gave you that clue?) until, well…

[Whited out for spoilers] …daddy gets his redemption saving the life of the daughter he abandoned. Which is cool. I’m disappointed, however, that the father never got a good look at his daughter’s boyfriend, knowing he was her boyfriend. That scary mirror image between parents/children or parents/children’s S.O.s is always a moment that works for me. [/Whited out for spoilers]

Bottom line: The dialogue is atrocious. The pace is slow and awkward. Most of the actors are pointless (happily, VK is not one of those). Stereotypical gangsters (not “Bound”-level stereotypical, but still). Also,

[Whited out for spoilers] Colonel abandoning his plans to take on a financier–and then abandoning gambling in general–for the girl, was too quick and too easy. I like happy endings where losers turn their lives around, but “Luckytown, the sequel” would be about Lidda discovering Colonel sneaking out and gambling behind her back. [/Whited out for spoilers]

Bad Seed (2001) (AKA Preston Tylk, 2000)

Other notables: Luke Wilson, Dennis Farina

Summary: A man who has learned that his wife had an affair comes home to find her dead. In pursuing her killer, he ends up killing the brother of his wife’s lover, and becomes a fugitive with an incriminating video tape hanging over his head.

Happy Vinnie/Fucked-up Vinnie: Dillon is neither in this movie, because he’s a two-dimensional bit character. A pre-med student who owes something to the private detective the main character has hired.

Brat Quotient: 1/10. Dillon seems nice enough, and understandably doesn’t want trouble. He gets it anyway.

The hair: Is it my imagination or is it more blond than usual? Anyway, seriously in need of a comb (and would we have it any other way?) Beard stubble is also a major theme.

Bottom line: You know, movies like Another Day in Paradise and Crime and Punishment in Suburbia spoil you. VK in the opening credits. VK in nearly every scene. VK VK VK. Since “Alaska”, he’s been the leading man in his films. Well, OK, leading boy. Except for All I Wanna Do, in which he at least appears in more than one scene.

As thrillers go, this one is less than intriguing. Another movie about undeveloped characters learning to take responsibility for actions that were unclearly motivated in the first place. Only without the beaucoup VK to make it interesting.

So VK, buddy, it’s a good thing you had meatier roles to sink your teeth into in 2001, like…

The Unsaid (2001)

Other notables: Andy Garcia

Summary: A psychotherapist who lost his own son to suicide tries to help a troubled teen get to the source of his own trauma.

Fucked-up Vinnie: “I’m sweet, I’m pretty, I’m completely mental!” Thomas Caffey seems nice and functional on the surface, but he is a master at manipulation and is totally unable to deal with his sexuality. And VK having parental issues! There’s a shocker.

Brat Quotient: 3/10, just for the manipulativeness.

The hair: Short, washed, neatly trimmed and combed. An obvious sign of deep repression. This boy should never have short hair. Ugh!

Other notes: [Whited out for spoilers] Mutant Enemy ought to take note of how this fucked-up kid guilty of manslaughter and assault and on the verge of suicide is saved from killing himself and given a second chance at therapy and inner peace, all without drastic magical interventions that steal his memories! Ahem. [/Whited out for spoilers]

Bottom line: Fascinating psychological drama of a psychotherapist, his patient, transference and counter-transference, worth a look.

( Heaven Sent )
( Ricky 6 )
( Dandelion )
( Truth and Consequences )

Notes on movies I haven’t seen
I’m trying to find a copy of Ricky 6 (2000), which so far I’ve only seen on E-Bay going for $40.00 for the VHS. I suspect this movie was either such a clunker, or so disturbing, it didn’t sell well, and now is strictly for horror aficionados, of which I’m not one. But since VK plays the title role, it’s on my VK-a-thon list.

VK’s two most recent movies are Falling Off the Verge (2003) and Dandelion (2005). Dandelion is suppose to be premiering at the Sundance Festival in January 2004, but I can’t find Falling Off the Verge on VHS, DVD or in theaters. Any one else seen it?

Itty bitty baby VK also has roles in Heaven Sent (1994), Little Big League (1994), and Untamed Heart (1993). I am assuming these roles are bit parts and I’m not missing anything if I skip’m.