Smart People, without its cast, is a relatively typical romantic comedy. But there are some great performances from the four lead characters the grizzly widowed English Professor played by Dennis Quaid, his precocious daughter played by Ellen Page, his never do well adopted brother played by Thomas Hayden Church, and the love interest played by Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s not really clear what Parker sees in her old professor Quaid, but the ride is pretty enjoyable especially with Church mugging it up. Not a profound film on any level but definitely an enjoyable diversion.
Here's another inspiring tribute to the recently departed author from The New York Times:
Beyond this, Mr. Wallace was the kind of literary figure whose career was emblematic of his age. He may not have been the most famous novelist of his time, but more than anyone else, he exemplified and articulated the defining anxieties and attitudes of his generation.
Mr. Wallace’s vibrant body of work — reportage and criticism as well as two novels and three volumes of shorter fiction — pursued themes that in retrospect look uncomfortably like portents. His last book of stories was called “Oblivion,” and an earlier collection included the stories “Death Is Not the End,” “Suicide as a Sort of Present” and “The Depressed Person.” Even his most exuberant explorations of absurdity are edged with melancholy. “Infinite Jest,” the enormous, zeitgeist-gobbling novel that set his generation’s benchmark for literary ambition, is, for all its humor, an encyclopedia of phobia, anxiety, compulsion and mania.
The moods that Mr. Wallace distilled so vividly on the page — the gradations of sadness and madness embedded in the obsessive, recursive, exhausting prose style that characterized both his journalism and his fiction — crystallized an unhappy collective consciousness. And it came through most vividly in his voice. Hyperarticulate, plaintive, self-mocking, diffident, overbearing, needy, ironical, almost pathologically self-aware (and nearly impossible to quote in increments smaller than a thousand words) — it was something you instantly recognized even hearing it for the first time. It was — is — the voice in your own head.
There's a good profile of Chuck Klosterman promoting his new novel, Downtown Owl, in Salon:
Chuck Klosterman is, in nearly every way, exactly as I expected him to be. A precociously talented writer who came out of nowhere in 2002 with "Fargo Rock City," an oddball memoir about growing up listening to heavy metal in North Dakota, Klosterman quickly went from working for the daily in Akron, Ohio, to penning compulsively readable celebrity profiles for New York's glossiest magazines. In just six years, he has produced two memoirs (in addition to "Fargo Rock City," there was also the 2006 memoir "Killing Yourself to Live"), two essay collections of deeply populist criticism (2004's "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" and 2007's "Chuck Klosterman IV") and a novel, "Downtown Owl,"published this month. During the years of 2005-06 alone, he juggled three columns at once -- for Spin, ESPN and Esquire, tackling topics ranging from the collapse of the American farm to the weirdness of American celebrity.
For this, he has been both wildly overpraised (People magazine called him "the new Hunter Thompson") and almost pathologically reviled. An infamous New York Press takedown of Klosterman, following the publication of "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs," was the media world equivalent of a hissy fit: "I have found the metaphor for everything vile in my generation, and its name is Chuck Klosterman," wrote Mark Ames, his professional jealousy seething from the page. He continued, "Klosterman is, quite simply and almost literally, an ass. His soft, saggy face bears a disturbing resemblance to a 50-year-old man's failing, hairless back end."
For those of us who toil in the trenches of alt-journalism, music blogs or the velvet coffins of midtown Manhattan glossy magazines, there was something both heroic and demonic about Klosterman's meteoric rise. For old-school music critics, he appeared glib, his fame unearned. For those of us who suspiciously eyed the hallowed world of cultural criticism as insular, elitist and frustratingly cold -- and I stand firmly in this camp -- Klosterman (like Dave Eggers before him) was a thrilling antihero, someone who talked more about Billy Joel than Sonic Youth, more about "Star Wars" than Godard. He was not Greil Marcus -- scholar, aesthete, historian. He was a state-schooler from North Dakota who chugged beer, wrote fantastic prose about his romantic misdeeds as related to his favorite music and movies and TV shows, and somehow struck gold. He was just like us -- except for the fame, money and accolades, which also created a twisted kind of resentment even among his fans, because if he was so goddamn much like us, well, then, why weren't we him?
I visited Phnom Penh about 10 years ago, and I will be going back for a conference in February. So this list from the NY Times will be useful for the updates about places to visit:
THERE’S another revolution going on in Phnom Penh. Once home to the Communist Khmer Rouge, Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, now has its own KFC and other capitalist trappings. Skyscrapers are rising, and foreign money is pouring in. This may be your last chance to see Phnom Penh before this former village at the mouth of three mighty rivers, once called the Pearl of Asia, turns into a booming metropolis. Even today, the city seems to shimmer with the sense that its low-slung buildings, ambling cows and smiling monks are not long for this world.
I remember hearing references to Barrack Obama’s first
memoir, Dreams From My Father, on a Slate Political Gabfest. So I was curious
to see what it was about.It is a
memoir about Obama’s search for identity and how it led him to a career in political
organizing, Harvard Law School, and his father’s homeland of Kenya to meet his extended
family from there. First of all his story is exotic, Hawaii, Indonesia, California,
New York, Chicago, and Kenya.Community organizing as he describes it seems like a n ideal position
for a career politicians as it puts him in contact with the everyday worries of
the average constituent’s life, concerns, hopes and dreams.Furthermore, it involves people skills,
building trust, dealing with bureaucratic institutions, gather and building
support for various causes, and much more.This lack of experience stuff really bothers me; he seems
perfectly suited for the position of president of the US.But perhaps the most illuminating thing
about the book is his narrative style-he is a truly gifted writer turning a
phrase that captures his wayward youth and rootless anger or the exotic times
spent as a child in Indonesia.Obama
comes across as a hard working, tenacious, deep thinking, and strongly principled
man of great character. The theme of the identity of a half African, half white
American person trying to find his way in the world and finding strength and power
in the identity of a largely absent father hits thematically in a strong way.Furthermore, the book includes the
first chapter of his second book; The Audacity of Hope and that hooked me as
well.I look forward to reading
that book as well, however, I have heard that it isn’t as powerful as his first
I’ve been hearing good things about The Avett Brothers (Seth
and Scott Avett of North Carolina) from friends for a while (they are reputably
a great live act). So I finally got a copy of Emotionalism and it lives up to
the hype.Punk-influenced bluegrass?
It is sort of folky and heartfelt songs about life and love, but they sometimes
surprise you with hard driving songs. My favorites included “Shame”, “I Would
Be Sad”, and “Go to Sleep.” But that being said it is a strong album overall
without any clunkers in my opinion.
I have also heard good things about the post punk British
band The Stranglers and mostly know them for the song “Peaches,” which was the
backing track for the opening scene of the great film Sexy Beast.It was recently singled out in the New
Cult Canon at the AV Club.The Greatest
Hits has three covers: “96 Tears,” “Walk On By,” and “All Of The Night.” Some of
the other originals are quite enjoyable as well like aforementioned “Peaches,” “Skin
Deep,” for example.The lead singer
sound s a little like Lloyd Cole to me (which is a good thing in myopinion).
David Foster Wallace is one of my favorite contemporary writers, recently committed suicide. I haven't gotten around to reading his latest short story collection Oblivion, I think it's time to honor his memory. There's a nice tribute in Salon:
He talked about how difficult it was to be a novelist in a world seething with advertisements and entertainment and knee-jerk knowingness and facile irony. He wrote about the maddening impossibility of scrutinizing yourself without also scrutinizing yourself scrutinizing yourself and so on, ad infinitum, a vertiginous spiral of narcissism -- because not even the most merciless self- examination can ignore the probability that you are simultaneously congratulating yourself for your soul-searching, that you are posing. He tried so hard to be sincere and to attend to the world around him because he was excruciatingly aware of how often we are merely "sincere" and "attentive" and all too willing to leave it at that. He spoke of the discipline and of the abrading, daily labor such efforts require because the one imperative that runs throughout all of his work is the intimate connection between humility and wisdom.
Perhaps someday we'll be offered an explanation for why David Foster Wallace took his life on Sept. 12, but any reader can see how his fiction had, in recent years, moved into greater darkness. "Infinite Jest," though "sad" in accordance with its author's stated intentions, bubbled with humor and the sort of creative energy that is a kind of hope, the belief that, in the telling, the tale might redeem what is told. The story collection "Oblivion," the last book of fiction Wallace published before his death, shows character after character flailing away at the impossible task of making life endurable. While Don Gately and Hal Incandenza, the heroes (more or less) of the novel "Infinite Jest," fight to stay on the road through the desert, the men and women of "Oblivion" mostly can't manage to convince themselves that such a road exists.
None of them more so than Neal, the suicidal narrator of "Good ol' Neon," a man who, we learn at the end, is based on a former classmate of Wallace's. The story's final paragraph sums up the preceding 40 pages as the thoughts flickering through Wallace's mind as he glimpses the dead man's photo while flipping through his high school yearbook. It's impossible to resist the idea that the fictional Neal's motivations in ending his life -- he regards himself as utterly "calculating" and "fraudulent" -- were Wallace's own, but such conclusions would only have multiplied the author's despair.
I have heard good things about Patricia Highsmith and I
enjoyed the film version of her celebrated novel The Talented Mr. Ripley.So I decided to read the novel version
so that I could read the Ripley series of which there are four novels.I don’t think that the novel was so
different from the film version, however, more seems to be played about his
sexuality of lack of it.Ripley is
a bit of a dandy but essentially asexual, it seems strange that Dickie didn’t
sense this or was possibly a latent homosexual.Anyway, it is basically the story of crime paying in a
fabulously successful way.I’m
curious to see where the other novels lead, but I have seen Ripley’s game which
I assume is based on a Highsmith novel, Ripley is a cool and detached sociopath
under it all.
Alec Baldwin, who stars in “30 Rock,” the NBC sitcom that has revived his career and done nothing to lift his spirits, has the unbending, straight-armed gait of someone trying to prevent clothes from rubbing against sunburned skin. He is fifty years old, divorced, and lives alone in an old white farmhouse in the Hamptons and an apartment on Central Park West—feeling thwarted, if not quite persecuted. In conversation, he lets out an occasional yelping laugh, but he is often wistful, in a way that is linked to professional and romantic regrets, and to a period of tabloid notoriety last year, when an angry voice mail that he left for his daughter, who was then eleven, became public. He is very conscious of what is lacking in his life—a spouse, for example, and a film career something like Jack Nicholson’s, and the governorship of New York—and his rhetoric can sometimes bring to mind a scene from “30 Rock” in which Baldwin, in his role as Jack Donaghy, a shameless but astute TV executive, stares at an equestrian painting by Stubbs and, in a growled whisper of longing, says, “I wish I were a horse—strong, free, my chestnut haunches glistening in the sun.” According to Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of “Saturday Night Live” and an executive producer of “30 Rock,” Baldwin “guards against enjoyment.” (Michaels is a friend of Baldwin’s and was a model for the Donaghy character.) “I’ll say, ‘Alec, you have one of the best writers in television’ ”—Tina Fey—“ ‘writing this part for you. It’s shot in New York, where you chose to live. You work three days a week, you get paid a lot of money, you’re getting awards. It’s a great time in your life. It’s an all-good thing. And, if you were capable of enjoying it, it would be even better.’ ” Or, as William Baldwin, one of Alec’s three younger brothers, said recently, “There’s always something for him to fucking whine about.”
I recently watched Shohei Imamura’s film The Pornographers
(1966) and it is an interesting film in that it examines the underside of
Japanese society. In this film he details the life of a producer/distributor of
porn films. He sees his job as benefiting society by satiating men who need the
pleasures of food and sex to exist.He has been common law husband to a widowed hairdresser, Haru, and lives
with her and her college age son, and her rebellious high school aged daughter.
Along the way he is harassed by the
police, the yakuza, sees Haru go mad and eventually die, while seducing her
daughter eventually marrying her and running orgies which he cannot participate
in.he gives up on real live women
in the end and makes a “Dutch wife.”It is a strange and intriguing film with several new wave cinematic
moments like the inclusion of surf rock music in the scene where Haru goes
insane, plenty of stop action, and close up of the carp that Haru keeps
thinking that it is the reincarnated soul of her former husband. It is certainly something to see.