Posts from September 2007.

Shouldn’t Have Quit The Day Job

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear ...

Wait, what?

Hearing this song moments ago, I suddenly realized something: the lyrics are “don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear.” That.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve thought the word was “if.” As in: “Don’t worry if it’s not good enough”. As in, it was possible that my song was good enough. A longshot, perhaps, but there was at least a chance.

Come to discover, after all these years, that my song is not, in fact, good enough for anyone else to hear. It’s not good enough now, and it never was.

I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. I need to go lie down.

* * *

Book And Movie: The Prestige

Some people like books about cats that solve mysteries. Some people like books about rugged individuals wandering post-apocalyptic America. Me, I like books about magicians, escape artists, and mediums, set in eras when such professions were respectable. Thus my fondness for The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Carter Beats the Devil, Girl in the Glass (and why I will presumably love Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, if I can ever overcome my crippling fear of its sheer enormity and actually attempt to read it).

So picking up The Prestige was a no-brainer. Feuding magicians in the late nineteenth century, each desperate to discover the secret of his rival’s greatest illusion? What’s not to like?

After a brief introduction set in modern times, the novel is epistolary, supposedly the journals of Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier, illusionists who plied their trade in turn-of-the-(last)-century London. An altercation between the two men in their youth snowballs into lifelong tit-for-tatism, each oscillating between desire to see the other ruined and remorse over how prolonged and petty the grudgematch has become. Each man has a signature trick that involves teleportation: in The New Transported Man, Bordon steps into one cabinet and instantly emerges from another across the stage; during In A Flash, Angier disappears in a surge of electricity and re-enters the theater moments later, from the back of the galley. Though the tricks are nearly identical, their central mechanism are starkly different; the crux of the book is that each man is ignorant of how the other does his version of the illusion, and is haunted by the knowledge that his opponent might have a “superior” method.

Having quite enjoyed the novel, I picked up the DVD for the 2006 film and prepared for disappointment. Surprisingly, the movie was as good as the book, as the screenwriter and director chose to adapt the story for the screen, rather than slavishly adhere to the source material. The framing device for the book (a man in contemporary time who is given the journals to read) is jettisoned entirely, and some aspects of the relationship between Borden and Angier and changed as well. I wouldn’t say that the film’s revisions were necessarily better, but they are certainly more cinematic. Thus, neither pales in comparison to the other, as both are sufficiently distinct to stand on their own.

Still, despite their difference, both the novel and the film tackle the same central question: what will a man do to be the best in his profession? In the case of Borden and Angier, it’s not only a question of what they will sacrifice to perfect their own illusions, but to what lengths they will go to destroy their rivals. Like master magicians adept in misdirection, both author Christopher Priest and director Christopher Nolan have crafted thrillers that keep you so engaged that you don’t even realize the profundity of the questions they explore, until you find yourself ruminating about the story in the days and weeks to follow.

* * *

Kevin Meuller, Not So Much

This was a non-commercial commercial I heard on NPR yesterday:

Last year, 6,000 teens were killed in drunk driving accidents. We at Allstate Insurance think that’s 6,000 teens too many.

Not bad at communicating the message “we care,” I guess. But truly great ads are thought-provoking. If they had instead said “we think that’s 5,992 teens too many,” the listener would really start wondering about the other eight.

* * *

Re Rill

Still, to my mind, the most astonishing September 11th tribute of all time.

* * *

Scare Tactics

I’m going to start 991, an emergency hotline for people who have the hiccups. “Oh my god!” I’ll scream at the people who phone in. “A killer is calling from inside your house!!

I’m also going to start a support line for People Who Do Not Currently Have A Song Jammed Into Their Head. It will just play this, 24/7.
 

* * *

One Hit Wonders

What ever happened to Exploding Lad? I reveal the answer in The Morning News today.

* * *

Know-It-All

We’re trying to get The Squiggle to say “I don’t know” when he doesn’t, well, know something. It’s rough going, because it turns out that he’s a bluffer par excellence. If he doesn’t know what something is, he just makes something up. But there’s no hint of deception. He really sells it.

{I hold up a Hotwheels.}

Me: What’s this?

Squiggle: It’s a car.

M: That’s right.

{I hold up a mug.}

Me: What’s this?

S: It’s a cup.

M: It is a cup, good job!

{I hold up an huge binder clip.}

M: And what’s this?

S: It’s a flongle.

M: It’s a– what?

S: A flongle.

M: Look, if you don’t know what it is, just say “I don’t know.” What is this?

S: I don’t know.

M: It’s a clip.

S: A clip.

M: Exactly.

{I hold up a pair of needlenose pliers.}

M: What’s are these?

S: Those are jemplons.

Hopefully we’ll be able to break him of this habit soon.

On the other hand, we’re going to feel like idiots if we later find out that flongle and jemplons are the words for clip and pliers in Aramaic .

Reading the Dictionary
Squiggle reads the dictionary,
in preparation for another round
of What’s This?
* * *

Scent Of A Woman

Squiggle and are in the grocery store. We enter the aisle containing laundry detergent, and are immediately assaulted by the cloying scent of lavender.

“Hoooo-wee” I say to Squiggle cheerfully. “Something stinks!

A woman nearby shoots me a dirty look and hastily stalks away. Only after she’s gone do I realize we’d been smelling her perfume.

* * *

Elsewhere Me

My short story “Customer Service” appears in issue 19 of Thuglit. Also in that issue is a story by Linda Sharps of All & Sundry, who says she was inspired to submit it by my Web Noir essay that mentioned Thuglit. Sweet.

Speaking of The Morning News, last week they asked the contributing writers to recommend a bottled beverage. You can find my response, along with the rest, here.

I have a short article in the September issue of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, describing my adventures in busking.

As threatened, Eden has wreaked her revenge.

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