lengths of comfy verdure

i like to sit back, relax and opine.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

movies today PART TWO


Gloria Steinem in her autobiography wrote that when she was working for women's magazines, before she founded Ms. Magazine in 1972, she was literally told to "create an environment that was friendly to their advertisers." (that quote is really just me paraphrasing from memory, not a citation.) by "literally" i mean that they didn't beat around the bush, she quotes letters she received (in that fabled time beofre email) from cosmetic companies telling her exaclty the kind of articles they wanted to see surrounding their ads; estee lauder, i remember, was a particularly grave offender. this is why "women's magazines", for the most part, today consist of arcticles about how to put on mascara and what the new "in" color of eyeshadow is (teal, BTW), etc. thus began the ultimate tyranny of madison avenue (actually today really it's european PR companies, but that's a whole other ball of leg wax) over the american media.

we all know about this already, though. we've all witnessed advertisers threaten to "pull their ads", i.e. remove advertising money from the networks' profits, when jesus christ got dissed, or someone's nipple popped out. we've all seen our favorite actor take a swig out of a can or bottle whose label is uncannily facing perfectly forward and perfectly unobscured. we all noticed how nice the apartment was on friends. does anyone have a grubby or cramped apartment on tv any more? (i actually really don't know; i don't have a tv.) it's as if there is a certain standard of living below which it is not acceptable, or even polite, for an american to live in. the "updated" houses and apartments people live in on tv are what's normal. if you don't live like that, you'd better get on it!

more insidious than product placement, however, is the ever ubiquitous backdrop of a culture of constant striving embedded in the very structure of almost every movie we see, every book we read. now, i agree that often a lack of traditional structure can mean that a movie is depressing (e.g. cassavetes' gloria, in which characters wander about aimlessly, full of despair) or annoyingly has no discernable point (gummo, lost in translation.) despair often negates structure, as does insanity (a la aronofsky's 1998 pi), but you can do despair with a traditional hollywood structure, i.e. the main character passionately needing to accomplish something, as in leaving las vegas, in which the main character. must. kill. himself. i prefer it when purposefulness is artfully and superficially sprinkled in to help push the story along without becoming the main point of the movie, like in midnight cowboy, in which dustin hoffman dreams of making it to florida.


Monday, February 27, 2006

movies today PART ONE


it occurred to me last night, as i lay, immobilized by my recently initiated excercise regime--more on that later-- while warren walked the dog, that the reason we don't go to the movies any more is partly because they are all terrible. (another reason is that we really don't like to leave the apartment for anything.) i mean they are all boring. because they are all the same. and what's the same about them is their structure. it's the structure that the "plot-o-matic" software, described in my previous post, probably helps you arrive at. it's just a given these days that you set your main character up for twenty minutes and then "something happens that turns her whole world around," etc.

this is not a novel observatioin by any means; it's what we mean when we say that a hollywood movie is "formulaic". but it occurred to me that part of what we must do, maybe even most of what we must do, when we "set up" our main character, in other words, tell the audience who she is, is establish what the character desires most in life. because then the plot unfolds as a function of whether she gets what she wants or not, how she gets it or not, who gets in her way, etc. this is a very 20th to 21st century consumer culture american way of identifying a person--by what she wants.

for example, GI jane wants most in life to be a high ranking military officer (she is even willing to endanger her marriage toward this end.) in order to accomplish her goal, she must prove herself as valuable as any man in combat by becoming the first female navy seal. (if you are going to watch a formula movie, this is the one to watch. i LOVED watching demi kicking some serious camo ass.) or: the protagonist of todd solondz's *palindromes*, 12 year old aviva, wants a baby. she'll do *anything* to get one. (i won't spoil it, but i don't recommend subjecting yourself to the excruciating things she does, either.)

i'm not saying that other cinematic, or other narrative, traditions don't define their main characters by what they most want in life. but lots of french movies, for example, don't, and then there's even the american, terrence malick. oh, and short-lived harmony korine. but the constant barrage of dreams realized, vengeances wrought and journeys home is exhausting in a rapidly declining culture, such as ours, in which culture itself has devloved into a mere expression of an unending cycle of desire and consumption. it's the ultimate product placement, the hollywood three act structure. we can't conceive of life any other way, i was thinking, lying in bed, contemplating the fact that i pretty much have everything i have ever really wanted passionately, and wondering what i should want passionately next.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

how to

i never read new york magazine because it's--and everyone has their own personal new york magazine diss--like people magazine but just about manhattan. or: it's full of advice for people who have a ton of money but no taste, or for people who think they're going to magically have a lot of money someday. i don't know. i don't even get it. but i did buy the last issue, because the cover said it was all about "how to: open a restaurant, a boutique, a bar, become an expat, raise sheep upstate...." (puncutation mine.) it was the "raise sheep upstate" that caught my eye, since that is a fantasy of mine. each of those topics, and more, has a nice-sized blurb about someone who really did one of those things and a breakdown into real numbers, like start-up cost, rent, how many cupcakes, or whatever, you have to sell per day to break even. i really appreciated the info. i learned, for example, that you can't make any money selling chicken eggs.

one of the blurbs was "how to publish a novel," note: it wasn't "how to write a novel," because here in new york we don't care about the actual thing, we just care about how to make money or get famous because of it. debra galant, author of rattled, just released from st. martin's press, advises you to "buy a software program that helps you create a plot. 'i used Dramatica Pro. My husband ... called it 'plot-o-matic.''" her novel is about a "woman in a suburban McMansion who gets in a fight with everybody after an endangered rattlesnake dies in her backyard." is new york magazine's tongue in its cheek? i can't tell. anyway, i think we should dispense with the whole writing and reading of books altogether and simply take pills that give us the sensation of just having read a book, which, for me, is, if the book was any good, slightly wistful, a little excited and maybe a little sensitive.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


apparently it now takes me three days to recover from drinking at a party.

i love having people over, photos from my last soiree on the lovely sarahlucillefisch's blog, but now that i am a boring old lady, i must plan for three subsequent days of incapacitation, which, amazingly, according to dictionary.com, is actually a word.

this is me, photo by livejournal's truth_scriber, on saturday night.

i am the one behind reverend jen, with the afro, which i think is the ideal hairdo for me. my fiance does not. think it's the ideal hairdo for me.

P.S. download for free the superfun painting software i used for the picture of hungover me here

Saturday, February 18, 2006

overheard recently

in the grocery store: an older lady telling another one that she had to watch soylent green and that it would "make the hair stand up on the back of [her] head" and that it would "change her life."

some yuppie gals to each other on avenue A: "that's a great hat," about my hat. (not that i'm not technically a yuppie, but i've been living in the east village ever since i was broke and it was dangerous, well, kind of dangerous.)

at a party: "hey everybody! skrit steak has arrived: let's get this party ended!" i found out what that meant right quick.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

winter shoes

ridiculous footwear foisted upon us this winter:

1. suede and/or fur snow boots (EEEDGIOTS!!)
2. "peep-toe" slingbacks or pumps (the very *term* for the shoe suggests it's shortcoming as a winter shoe; your freaking toe *peeps* out into the bitter cold. why have these been marketed the hell out of all winter? why?!)

i would like some pumps with a wedge heel. (are they still called pumps then?) but i can't find any that are not "peep-toe." it infuriates me that they make something so insidious sound so cute. aawww, they're "peeping." eff you, shoe industry! and why didn't you make ankle boots this year either?

Monday, February 13, 2006

mish mosh o' the day

i know you guys are dying to know what's going on with my reading. well, i'll tell you. the lipsyte book was unreadable. to me. peeyoo! i don't even feel like describing it, except to say that it was chock full of veddy, veddy clever cleverness. i don't get it; he got a bunch of really good blurbs for the cover. if anyone wants my (paperback) copy, and lives in new york city, i'll give it to them.

so i'm reading proust after all. and racing through it like it's a page-turning mystery novel. it really helps that my second favorite author of all time, lydia davis (sandra newman is my first) did this translation. i may even go on to volume II!

since i still don't have a digital camera, i can't post the wonderful photos of the "blizzard of the millenium" i would have taken.* anyway, even though the storm was fun and beautiful, it made me a little sad to see everyone out with their cameras, snapping pictures as if this might be the last real snow in new york ever.

P.S. it seems i am to perform some music in public soon. i'll keep you posted.

*warren's phrase

Thursday, February 09, 2006

my spam

i've been getting a lot of spam in my earthlink email ever since i joined a yahoo group. (actually, i already was in a yahoo group, but it was a group dedicated to reading proust, so, needless to say, i rarely participated.) i am instantly bored by even the idea of different levels of spamblocking, so i've just been deleting all my spam.

but i just had to click on the spam from Lucille Gallegos, subject: "lysergic plume". these are, i swear to christ, the contents:

"Subject: lysergic plume
Date: Feb 8, 2006 2:12 PM


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Antone was at noetherian when that happened antiquated. gangplank at disparate or even drew as in postgraduate. aphid. aforethought at godhead or even languid as in restive. barbiturate was at tentacle when that happened micron. gastronomy was at clarke when this happened racetrack. lunchtime at aerodynamic or even fifo as in bernini. ivan was at cuny when that happened butyrate."

I swear to christ.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

the normals

i am reading a book called the normals by david gilbert; it's about a guy who becomes a subject in an experimental drug study in order to pay off his student loans. as was the case with the big love by sarah dunn, i am encountering disturbing similarities between it and the novel i have spent the last three years writing--well, not the whole time.

i guess it's only to be expected, the only book reviews i read to determine which books to buy are the blurbs in the new yorker's "briefly noted", and i tend to select books about losers who are around my age. on deck is home land by sam lipsyte, an epistolary novel consisting of bitter letters to his high school alumni newsletter. it's not that i identify with losers (see below). it's just that i like novels about people who are around my age written by people who are around my age. and if you've just published your first novel at age thirty-five, or what have you, it's likely that a lot of people have been perceiving you as a loser for a few years at least. plus, novelists tend to be less social than other people. (i think i might be a little too social to be a novelist, which is why it's taking so long, and why this will probably be my one and only novel.)

anyways, this book is totally overwritten. there is an unusual metaphor in every other sentence, often wedged in with a shoehorn. "gretchen lounges not quite lovely in bed, the weather swirling in front of her, like Isis if Isis were in the witness protection program after ratting out the syndicate of gods." and "lannigan hopped out of bed and went to his section of the bureau where his toiletries (a city compared to the towns of Billy and Do) stood. He grabbed the Right Guard skyscraper...." i am guilty of the same crime, so often unable to resist my own cleverness. here's another doozy, "It's raining.... Any harder and the drops would lose their integrity." oh, please.

some of the metaphors are beautiful, apt and efficient though, for example, "Do glared, his heavy brow like knuckles on a ledge," and, "The storm's bruised light does wonders with the bronze," and, "The Bible is held tight to his chest, like some flotation device." also, he seems to enjoy the rhythm of his paragraphs as much as i do my own, and, i guess, his, and he also likes to say things that sound like truisms a lot, "nothing worse than jerks with sudden souls," like i do. we also have both written a lyrical passage about a weatherman.

as is the case with first novels, the narrative arc is rather forced. it's making me scared about the ending of mine, which i am writing right now, and quite frankly forcing the hell out of. i am averaging about a page every three weeks. twelve point courier double spaced.

Monday, February 06, 2006

are you deft?

increasingly, my most defining characteristic is that i am an amazing editor. my work today after a screening was described by the executive producer as "deft".

Saturday, February 04, 2006

how my day was

i looked kind of good today. i think it was because of my hair. anyways, increasingly, when i look in the mirror, i don't look like myself. also, in general, i look more grown up. and when i was giving my assistant instructions for the night, i sounded friendly, capable, professional and authoritative. all at the same time. i still look hilarious in my silly hat, though. so i've got that going for me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

state of stuff

i was only able to hear the very end of the state of the union address last night, in a taxi on the way home from work. number one, it is ridiculous that i ever have to work that late; number two, it is ridiculous that i ever take a taxi home from work because it's only like ten blocks from my house, but i had told my, uh, "warren" that i was only going to work till nine, and then it was almost ten already. he was playing video games happily when i got home, so, phew, and then the rest of the night too, so, whatever.

anyways, i thought that the speech, the end of it anyway, sounded rather apocalyptic:

"Fellow citizens, we have been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite...."

OK, whatever.

"We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. And sometimes it can seem that history is turning in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore."

emphasis mine.

"Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing.... Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?"

"finish"? you mean "die"?

"Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage. Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we will finish well.... And so we move forward -- optimistic about our country, faithful to its cause, and confident of victories to come. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America."

i emphasized again.

i would just like to take a moment to point out again for anyone who missed my previous post: i do not have a tv. ok.

maybe it seemed apocalyptic because i just heard that part coincidentally for the exact length of my cab ride. or maybe it's because i saw cherry blossoms blooming on mott street on sunday--i have to be disturbed by cherry blossoms now?! it was still freaking january then! or maybe because i am thinking about whether i want to have children, and the responsiblity of bringing a child into the world right now, what with "history turning in a wide arc" and everything. is it me? doesn't that seem like a line from "the second coming"?