Professor Boylan, with whom I studied creative writing at Colby College, is on Larry King right now. Boylan was a man when I knew him, and switched genders after I graduated.
Saw Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
It was pretty good. It’s about the best that could be hoped for, I guess, given that it’s a continuation of the other two prequels. The opening space battle may be the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.
If you saw the New York Times review, the gist of it was “Writing and acting aside, it’s a pretty good movie.” And that’s about right. All the dialogue is inadequate, and the scenes between Anakin and Padme are staggeringly awful. They’re much harder to watch than any of the (surprisingly dark) scenes of violence. And like the other Star Wars prequels, there are frequent moments where you wonder just who the hell could have possibly thought that this was a good idea, like when Obi-Wan Kenobi rides around on a giant cartoon lizard.
The thing is, the story itself is really pretty cool, and if you just sort of imagine each scene playing out with strong writing and acting, you can almost imagine the movie being very powerful. Probably the closest the movie actually comes to achieving this is when the clone troopers betray and massacre the jedi. Uncoincidentally, these scenes involve no dialogue.
I’m actually excited now to see the new Star Wars movie. I mean, not camped-out-in-front-of-the-theater-dressed-as-a-wookie excited, but still, faintly vibrating. This is strange because, when I walked out of the theater after Episode II, I doubted I’d even bother to see Episode III on the big screen. But I keep hearing good buzz about it. Even the New York Times liked it, saying it’s better than the original Star Wars. We’ll see.
In the meantime, I’ll be doubling my scientific knowledge tonight by watching The Science of Star Wars on the Discovery Channel.
Update: I’m now officially excited to see the new Star Wars movie and the new The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe movie.
Further Update: The Science of Star Wars featured some nifty stuff, like the exoskeletal legs, but boy, I think that even the worm-robot that burrows through rubble looking for survivors and has a brain like an ant must have felt that the patronizing narration was an insult to its intelligence.
Came into the city today for the spec fic fair. Turns out it was cancelled. Hey, you know what would’ve been totally awesome? If someone had announced that somewhere, before I spent two hours getting there. Fortunately, someone I know showed up, having also not gotten the nonexistent cancellation announcement, so we sat and chatted for a few hours. So it wasn’t a total waste of time.
Afterward, I browsed Barnes & Noble at 22nd & 6th Ave, which gets my Official Seal of Approval as a Quality Establishment, as it carried not one but two copies of the All the Rage This Year anthology (which contains my short story “Veil of Ignorance”).
The weather was nice, so I decided to stroll back to Grand Central. Passing through Madison Square Park, I happened to spot a fat man wearing only very skimpy blue underpants. No sooner had it occurred to me that this was somewhat odd than a pair of park police pulled up in a cart and attempted to restrain him. The guy never looked at or responded verbally to either of them, which gave you the distinct impression that he was either mentally disturbed or else had just taken some of those drugs that let you do a really good job of faking it. One of the cops kept trying to grab his arm, but underpants man just kept pulling loose and continued walking. I paused, in order to spectate the (at that point, seemingly inevitable) moment when underpants man would be wrestled to the pavement and handcuffed.
But that’s not what happened. Underpants man wandered out of the park and across the street, at which point the park guards shrugged and drove off. Apparently across the street is out of their jurisdiction, or else they figured they’re just not being paid enough to wrestle down fat drugged-out mostly-naked guys. Underpants man paused in front of a bank and spent a few minutes staring at his reflection and fussing with his hair. Then he wandered into the bank. (Was he applying for a loan? Maybe that’s why he was so concerned about his hair.) But the bank employees politely encouraged him to leave again.
Next, underpants man descended into the subway. I couldn’t imagine he had a metro card on him, so I figured he’d pop up again soon. When he didn’t, my curiosity got the best of me, and I followed him down into the subway, but he was gone. I figured he must have gone through the turnstile, but I didn’t care enough to waste the last two bucks on my metro card to find out. So I guess he did have a metro card after all. (I don’t even want to think about where he had it.)
Whoops. I just noticed I had goofed the link for Derek’s site. It’s www.derekjamesmusic.com, not www.derekjames.com (that’s the site for a different Derek James). It’s fixed now.
Eventful day today (at least by my fairly laid-back standards). Went to editors lunch. Heard many interesting stories. Checked out all the new gallery openings in Chelsea. Original dinner plans fell through. Went to check out Conservatory Garden in full bloom. Was hit on by pair of attractive older women. Met friends for dinner. Heard some very interesting stories. Went to see bud Derek James play a show in the East Village. Fun day.
Update: I see that Derek has updated his web site. Now you can listen to some of the tracks from his new CD. I really like “Summer.”
Primer is the best science fiction movie I’ve seen in a long time. This is even more impressive when you consider that its budget was $7,000. And no, that is not a typo, I did not slip three decimal places, its budget really was seven thousand dollars. Check it out.
I’ve been invited as a guest for a live chat at Absynthe Muse: Young Adult Writing Community. I’ll be chatting about writing, workshops, and getting published. The chat will be at 5:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, May 21st.
Wandering through the Rambles in Central Park this afternoon, I was set upon by three attractive midriff-baring girls with a boombox who mobbed me and proceeded to gyrate provocatively all around me as I walked. This is (sadly) not something that happens every day, and I was unsure how to react. I tried saying, “So … what’s up?” but they just smiled enigmatically. Maybe it was just a gag, but I kept walking due to a vague suspicion that associating with them was somehow going to end up costing me money. But geez, what’s the world coming to when you start to suspect every random passerby on the street who gyrates provocatively of having ulterior motives?
A few minutes later I saw one of the girls doing the same routine to an old stocky guy with white hair. How could she? I thought we had something.
I also saw Mel Brooks and Nathan Lane outside the Plaza hotel filming a scene for the new The Producers movie.
Signed up for classes this fall at USC: Playwright’s Workshop, Writing for Film, and Academy Series. Writing for Film is taught by Irvin Kershner, who directed Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Academy Series is a film series where they show a different Academy-award winning movie each week and the director comes in to talk about it. I was hoping to get into a fiction writing class, but those were all full already, though I’m on several waiting lists, so we’ll see what happens.
Went to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York today, for the first time since it reopened. I’d heard it was expensive now, but it really wasn’t too bad. A quick second mortgage and I was good to go. No, just fooling. Actually, I got in for free, since one member of our party volunteers at another museum. We haughtily breezed past the plebeian suckers waiting in line (and it was a long line). I couldn’t believe so many members of the American public were lining up to see art … and it turns out they weren’t. Everyone in the museum was European. We mostly stuck to the “old school” wing, where I am able to awe onlookers with my modest art knowledge by successfully identifying pieces by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, Gauguin, and by making perspicacious art comments such as “This is pointillism” or “This counterpoints the meaning of the underlying metaphor” or “This was done with paint.”
Actually, that reminds me of the first time I went to MOMA, as a teenager. I encountered Duchamp’s famous bicycle wheel bolted to a stool. It really baffled me. What the heck was it supposed to be? I just stood there staring at it. I stood so still and concentrated so hard that one woman asked if I was part of the exhibit. Shortly thereafter, a docent attempted to allay my perplexity. He came up beside me and explained dismissively, “It’s just a bicycle wheel on a stool.”
I’ll be going to see the New York Review of Science Fiction reading series tomorrow night. Michael Cisco (The Divinity Student) and Rachel Pollack (Godmother Night) will read at the South Street Seaport’s Melville Gallery, 213 Water Street. 7:00 p.m. Suggested $5 donation.
Saw the new The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie.
I was expecting it to be just okay, and was a bit disappointed. I think any Douglas Adams fan is going to be perplexed at how much great stuff was left out and how much limp new material was added. The opening sequence is great, and the first act is fine, though the comic timing is a bit off and it’s a bit hard to follow. The entire second act is an interminable and unfunny “rescue Trillian from the Vogons” sequence that has no basis in the book. The third act gets back to the book, more or less, and is adequate.
As for the characters, I really didn’t like their Zaphod — he’s supposed to be acidly condescending and monstrously self-absorbed, but he just comes across as goofy and stoned. Ford also seems just too kooky; it’s hard to imagine him and Arthur being close friends. Arthur was pretty good, and I liked Trillian, though I think that’s more because they cast an interestingly quirky actress than because of anything in the script. Marvin is criminally underdeveloped. The one area in which the film exceeded my expectations was special effects — some of the them, such as the Slartibartfast flyby, are truly stunning.
I was really annoyed by the ending, where Marvin says, “The restaurant is at the other end of the universe,” and the ship does a 180. The Restaurant at the “End” of the Universe is at the conclusion of the universe, not at the edge of the universe.
More hot Wikipedia action. Someone (again, not me) added me to the list of Famous Alumni from Colby College.
I’m sure no one really needs to be reminded of this, as the media hype has been as pervasive and exhausting as ever, but in the interest of completeness I’ll just mention that tomorrow, April 30th, is Amber Day, the worldwide celebration of Roger Zelazny’s literary masterpiece The Chronicles of Amber. April 30th, of course, being the date in the books on which a mysterious individual makes annual attempts to murder Corwin’s son, Merlin. Billions — possibly even trillions — of people all over the globe will begin their annual re-reading of this classic, thrilled once again to relive the adventures of Corwin as he awakens with amnesia in a hospital on the shadow world Earth, and gradually discovers his true identity as a Prince of Amber.
This year, the Swiss Army will be taking to the Alps to stage a full-scale reenactment of Corwin’s doomed battle up the steps of Mount Kolvir, and Buddhist Monks in Tibet will be having their eyeballs burnt out with hot pokers, in commemoration of Corwin’s blind years in the dungeons of Amber. As I write, a full-scale recreation of the Pattern of Amber is being constructed in Central Park, which tomorrow thousands of pilgrims will walk, hoping to gain power over shadow. Of course, to give a comprehensive listing of all the festivities would be prohibitive, and might spoil the story for those individuals who have yet to experience the wonder of Amber. Yes, yes, sadly it’s true that such tragic individuals do exist, albeit only in some of the most wretched, backward, provincial corners of the world. Sadder still is the fact that each day literally dozens of people die having not read Amber, their lives utterly wasted. Speaking for myself, I can hardly wait until the stroke of midnight when I will crack open my well-worn tome and begin anew with the familiar words: It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me …
Well, the thing at the Met was kind of a bust. The way I understood it, we would be trading bon mots with the artist in an intimate atmosphere suffused with free wine and cheese. Hardly.
My first warning that all was not proceeding according to plan was at the door, when they asked to see my NYU Student ID. Huh? Of course I didn’t have one, but they let me in anyway. At first things looked promising. The main hall was all decked out with really cool pink and purple lights, there was a stage for a band, and people were drinking from wine glasses. Unfortunately, what they were drinking from wine glasses was ginger ale. That’s right, there was no alcohol. The crowd was all undergrads, and the room was too massive, noisy, and crowded for us to really mingle. The place was also incredibly overheated. We trooped dutifully through the exhibit, which seemed to go on forever and consisted entirely of mildly interesting black-and-white photographs. And as for meeting the artist? Well, it turns out she committed suicide in 1971. Whoops.
The panel discussion at Fordham yesterday was awesome. (And believe me, that’s not something I say about every panel I see.) I knew two of the panelists, Marleen Barr and Paul Levinson, so it was good seeing them again. The panelists were all very interesting, articulate, and funny. They read from their work, and discussed why genre fiction is fabulous. (There was a refreshing lack of an alternate viewpoint.) I had never heard of Eloisa James before, but now I’m extremely curious to find out what a romance novel reads like when it’s written by a woman who’s a Shakespeare scholar, a graduate of Harvard, Oxford, and Yale, and the daughter of a famous American poet. And to quote her, “Shakespeare was a genre writer, down the line, never wrote outside his genre. He was not an innovator. Because it’s really quite a recent idea, that the best books have no genre … most of the books we study as academics are firmly within one genre or another.” And, “In the Renaissance, it was considered challenging to write within a genre.”
I have concluded contemplating, and will now be acting. (See April 17th, 11:33 a.m.) I’ve decided I am indeed going to the panel today. It’s right next to Central Park, and it’s a gorgeous day, so I’ll also be going for a stroll beforehand.