1.24.2012

Television is the New Non-Film Film

The television series of today (and one, as far as I know, of yesteryear) have some unique attributes that I think are somewhat of a new(ish) development and somewhat of a boon for creativity in film. Yawn. I know, I know: everybody fucking knows this already. In fact, by the time I start crooning over a compelling series, it is at least five years old and everyone else has already seen it. Except for Game of Thrones, but I just got lucky with that. OK. So what I'm thinking of is really to do with the scope of a narrative. With the average human attention span rapidly approaching zero as many of us are zombified by a horrendous and constant influx of media, the feature film has become an outmoded art form. That's right: outmoded. I'm not arguing that good films can't be and aren't made, it's just that they're rare. Because the goal of a three-or-less-than hour film is to enthrall and emotionally manipulate an audience that is at best fickle and at worst lacks actual sentience, the financial gamble of producing said film becomes more and more of an unacceptable gamble. Enter the distractions: fill-in-the-blank formula plots, the epileptic staccato of rapidly switching camera shots and the eardrum-imploding electronica armageddons that pass as soundtracks. Oh: and CGI. Of course, there's independent film, foreign film--sure, there are broadly categorized examples of this modality that dilute my argument...slightly.

Really what I'm getting at is that television series (which really are mostly HBO, and that's kind of different than actual syndicated television) are fucking badass. Maybe this has always been the case, at least selectively, but the shining examples just seem to keep cropping up. For me, this renaissance began with something really old (from 1990-91) called Twin Peaks. Part soap opera parody and part paranormal murder mystery, this brilliant David Lynch creation includes one of the most ineluctably tantalizing characters ever: Audrey Horne (AKA, Sherilynn Fenn). I'm sure this part garnered Fenn a ridiculous number of fanboys, of which group I can not exclude myself. It doesn't help a bit that she was covergirl in Playboy magazine either. But there is, of course, more to the show than that. Despite a few different writers, the ambiance is mostly telltale Lynch and the material explored is of both the human and the supernatural and is unforgettably dark.

Deadwood is another series with serious gusto. Although I haven't seen enough of The Wire to compare the two, Deadwood seems to be at the pinnacle of HBO serials. I doubt I've ever seen a character as complex and problematically compelling as Al Swearengen, at least as depicted in the series. In fact, all of the characters defy any Manichaean sense of morality, a trait shared to a somewhat lesser extent by the excellent Game of Thrones. The language in Deadwood, which is in essence 19th century wild-west crudeness mated to Shakespearean-grade iambic pentameter, is simply gorgeous, however. Both series employ copious and horrific brutality, but it is unquestionably a necessary backdrop to both the lawless South Dakota of Deadwood and the medieval epic political fantasy of Game of Thrones.

Most recently I have been watching Battlestar Galactica. This is, of course, the third incarnation of the story in television form, and as the series is ~9 years old I am probably the last person not to have seen it all already. As an avid Star Trek fan, I am much enticed by space drama, and BG does not disappoint. Also, it features another ridiculously compelling female character in the form of Starbuck. Alas, I join another million-strong group of fanboys (and probably girls) in being ensorcelled so by this character, but I think the writers/directors/producers knew that ahead of time when they made the original male Starbuck of the 1978 series female.

The power of the television series is truly in the narrative scope: rather than being played out in the rather limiting confines of a three hour feature film, the narrative can develop smoothly over dozens of episode-hours, as can the characters. My connection with the characters in a good series is far deeper than almost any film. This latitude allows my allegiances to change and gives me ample time to obsess unhealthily over female characters who are cruelly designed to enamor males like myself with their insane levels of desirability.

Also, when I watch the series there are no ads. And I know I'm a decade behind. Shut up.

1.13.2012

"An amusement park of stupidity, locked within a few kilobytes of data"

I edited this post because the issue has been resolved. The above title was included in a comment levied against me by someone on Mountain Project who thought I was fibbing about a climb that I did in Smith Rocks long ago (Rude Boys) and the style of my ascent. Originally, I pontificated about why he might be making such accusations; my reasons ranged from egocentrism to mere assholery (actually those were the only two reasons I could think of). I'm still really not sure why he called me out in a public place (the route information page for Rude Boys!) but it turns out that he is more reasonable than first impressions would suggest. I still like the description of my profile and 'ticklist' (a list of routes I've done): in some ways it is 'an amusement park of stupidity'; but it is at least my amusement park of stupidity, accurate and honest and ultimately personal, so I defended it and maybe had a meaningful interaction...maybe.

1.09.2012

At the Pinnacle

Spending the winter in Washington is like pissing into a stiff motherfucker of a breeze.

I have lived here for thirty years and have only just recently learned this.

I'm lying, of course; being facetious, as it were.

I wouldn't say they were necessarily remarkable, but thirty years is a damn well respectable amount of time to be doing anything.

Well, that isn't even true...and respectable is a bit of a stretch.

In plain unadorned fact, there are plenty of things that aren't admirable in the least, whether one spends a second or a century doing them.

This has been a damn fine year so far (January is a good month during which to make such a blithe statement of fact):

I'm unemployed.

Last year at this time I would have woken up in the dark at 4:30 AM to don black clothing and hat and handle food. Sometimes 6:00 AM would find me elbows deep in raw chicken breasts and grab 'n' go salad fixin's.

I would imagine that I changed gloves in between those particular tasks, no? I may even have washed my hands.

I have trimmed the fat from (an estimated) 300 lbs of the aforementioned chicken breasts and baked (an estimated) 2000 cookies whilst wearing an extra large white chef's coat that closely (and appropriately) resembled a straight jacket. The result was a rather informal teriyaki banquet event during which (an estimated) 300 lbs of rice was cooked and (an estimated) 150 lbs of cooked rice was thrown away (by me) afterwards. I made (an estimated) $200 overall and at least $15 throwing away enough food to feed a score of people for two weeks. Because I was told to. Because I wasn't allowed to take the food home or share it with others. Because of liability. Company policy. Standard food service policy. Because because, because because, because because because because.

God bless America. We're the best! The rest are the rest. You don't like it, die in a fire, assholes. We throw away more calories per year than comprise the typical annual diet of several dozen countries and we like it. So there.

Manifest destiny. God's chosen people. The salt of the sea and the red of the rose.

I really mean to keep my cynicism at bay, to effect a certain subtlety, a sort of muted critical edge that builds imperceptibly in sharpness until it incises little waypoints into any issue like so many tiny mouths to perhaps. But instead I pull out the headsman's axe.

We are doing so well.

Google surely filters my posts for seditious insinuations.

But it must know in its algorithms that in reality this is feces being thrown.

It's the writing on the bathroom wall along with the obscene depictions of women with the wads of toilet paper stuffed in the orifices. It's the grout puns written between the tiles. It's the paper towel dispenser emptied onto the floor and the sticky puddle under the urinal.

It's derisive metaphorical interposition.

In short: it is gold. My gold.

Pan for it; mine it; adorn thyselves with it. For it is what makes us most human of all.

Just so long as we have someone else to muddy their feet for us. Aught else simply wouldn't do!