Archive for January 2010
Until Runaway American Dream, the book of mine that got the most attention was The Worst Rock’n’Roll Records of All Time, which I wrote with my friend Owen O’Donnell. Almost 20 years later, I have mixed feelings about that book. Working with Owen was a great pleasure, but the book now feels more mean and less funny than it should have been. (You could say the same for the book that inspired us, the Medved Brothers’ Golden Turkey Awards.)
I hardly ever think about The Worst anymore. I get the occasional email asking me when we’re doing a sequel or defending Bon Jovi, but that’s it. Questions of awful art and how we treat awful art zoomed back to front of mind earlier this month when I read Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste. It’s a wonderful short book, part of Continuum’s 33-1/3 series, and it focuses on a Celine Dion record that Wilson, an ace rock critic, doesn’t think is any good. Yet he spends more than 100 pages finding interesting things to say about it and finding aspects of it that are not as awful as other aspects. He finds it a tremendously flawed work of art, but he also finds it a work of art.
In most of The Worst, it was easy to sneer at the performers. Owen and I didn’t break much of a sweat making fun of Billy Joel and his ilk. (If I remember correctly, we broke more of a sweat playing handball in the street in front of my house when we should have been writing.) Sometimes, though, the sneer didn’t come so easily. I’m thinking in particular of when we wrote about The Shaggs, a group of sisters best-known for their inability to stay in tune. Yet there is joy in their playing, an artless love of life in their songwriting, and I think Meg White listened to them when she and Jack were dreaming up The White Stripes. Can they play? Not really. But their enthusiasm is infectious. If the Shaggs’ music gives me so such pleasure, how can it possibly be bad? Why would I make fun of someone who is creating art that is moving me?
Which brings us to Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus. It’s a disaster film that came out last year. Don’t worry if you missed it; almost everyone else did, too, even though it is, I think, the only film in which Lorenzo Lamas and Deborah Gibson (yes, she of “Shake Your Love”) both appear, the latter as a submarine-stealing oceanographer. The film was originally entitled Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus in 3D, but the filmmakers had to change the name when they couldn’t get enough funding to shoot in 3D.
But let’s see a bit of the work itself:
That’s right; you just saw a shark jump thousands of feet out of the ocean to attack a jetliner (it could happen). And you should see what the shark does to the Golden Gate bridge:
And don’t forget the “octopus” part of the title:
We self-appointed tastemakers tend to consider work of this level wanting. But what does bad mean here? All three of those clips bring me pleasure. Every single person I’ve shown the clip with the plane has responded to it. How can that be bad? No, the pleasures aren’t as deep as a film by Bergman or Kurosawa might bring, but they are pleasures nonetheless. The filmmakers sought to entertain me and they succeeded. How can such a pleasure be relegated to a guilty one?
Speaking of guilty pleasures, I cannot end this post about a shark attacking a plane without a reference to my until-now favorite shark moment on film, which, of course, involves Batman:
And now I’m going to decide whether I want to reread The Guermantes Way or Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal.
First, some words from two of my favorite Russian writers:
“Everything I am writing at present bores me and leaves me indifferent, but everything that is still only in my head interests me, moves me, and excites me.”
— Anton Chekhov
“I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child. “
— Vladimir Nabokov
Several times a day, I get an idea. I think it’s good. I write it down. I read it. It isn’t good. I work at it for a while and sometimes it gets good (or, at least, good enough). But it’s never as good as it was in my head. I can’t just connect a cluster of cords from my brain to my readers, Navi-style, so I have to keep writing until I get closer to what I first heard in my head. Will I get there? Probably not. Will I get close if I try hard? I’d better.
This morning, on the corner of Mass. Ave. and Comm. Ave., I saw a Globe delivery truck. On the side of that truck was an ad for one of the many things that will make such delivery trucks disappear. (It won’t be the anemic Globe Reader that kills the physical-newspapers-to-your-home service, but it will be something delivered in a similar manner.)
Twenty or 30 years from now, when I tell my grandchildren that news from the day before used to be dumped by a truck at the end of a driveway, they’ll roll their eyes. Old news? By truck? There goes the crazy old man again…
… you may need to spend a few minutes with some of the hottest music ever broadcast via a television:
This year I’m going to finish the novel. Really. I’m hoping that announcing it will make it more likely that I’ll do it. We’ll see.
One person not having any trouble getting her writing going is Grace Guterman, age nine. On New Year’s Eve, out of nowhere, Grace decided to use her whiteboard to show us how to write a novel.
First, as you see in the picture, you have to pick a genre. She went with fantasy. Then you have to figure out who the characters are. She likes to start with pairs of characters, such as a boy and a girl, a horse and a cat, or a doll and a teddy bear. She considered many combinations, decided on a boy and a doll, and started writing.
A second draft comes next, followed by the final one. “I usually write two ‘draphts’ and then go on to the real thing,” she advises. Although she started with a boy and a doll, she switchd to a boy and a horse. Her premise: “The boy was a prince and the horse had diabetes.” The story had medical complications and a trick (O. Henry-ish) ending. Did I mention that Grace is nine?
She’s also writing another novel, apparently, about the three most important things in life: