31 August 2008

rounding third and heading for home (or, here's the story, of barry and sar-ah...)

I've been saying for months that he had to make it (the election) about smart, and not; committed, and not; qualified, and not. I think he did just that. I particularly like the part where he says that he doesn't think McCain doesn't care, so much as he doesn't understand. He's got me feeling like he can save the world on his own again, which is both wonderful and unfortunate. After all, he's not Jesus, he's not Jed Bartlet, he's a smart, passionate man that can inspire with only a few words, and is our most viable option for turning this country around. That's nothing to sneeze at, clearly, but he's also not going to make college tuition tax-deductible, or put something like a 40% income tax on the wealthiest 5% of the population to finance universal health care and alternative energy production in the first week of his presidency. But he might.

Regardless, I'd say this was a rousing success of a convention. Bring on the RNC, motherfuckers.

[UPDATE] And in other news...

This is going to be interesting
; I hope we all realize just how thoroughly McCain's pandering to the disaffected Hillary supporters, that he's willing to do anything and say anything if he, or his advisers, think it'll get him another step closer to the Oval. I'm kind of surprised that she let herself get exploited in this way, but maybe she's just as hungry for power as her running mate is.

I have this horrible fear that Biden's going to eviscerate her in the VP debates, but the networks are just going to edit the highlights they run to make it look like he's picking on this nice, decent mother of 5 (one with Downs Syndrome). If she can fake a tear, we're fucked, because no one's going to watch the VP debates that doesn't already know what's going on, and despite what I dearly hope to the contrary, I think people (not just Americans) are pretty goddamn stupid.

This is why I can't be a politician. I swing back and forth from idealist to pessimist far too quickly.

[FURTHER UPDATE] This is a much better article about what Sarah Palin represents than anything I've written.

20 August 2008

open letters

Here. Read this. Doesn't it just make beautiful, almost poetic sense? Couldn't they, almost singlehandedly, save the world?

Now, my response:


Hi, Mike -

So, I'm a longtime fan (insofar as a 24-year-old fellow could have been a longtime fan of yours - for what it's worth, I'm recently no longer a film student, and I think your progression as a filmmaker from movie to movie has been nothing short of remarkable. I'm legitimately looking forward to your next movie because it's a Michael Moore movie, and not just because I hate the corporate-industrial complex, too), but this is the first time I've ever written you.

My mother just emailed me the link to your letter to Caroline, and I'm actually kind of choked up. I think that's always been your greatest virtue, not just as a public person, but as a person, that you tend to wear your heart on your sleeve, and man, is it ever on display here. I never would've thought of Caroline Kennedy as Barack's running mate, but you lay out a compelling case. What better way for the 21st century Kennedy to take his turn holding the reins of power than with an original Kennedy by his side? What better way to remind the world of everything that used to be good about America as a country, or as a people? Plus, you know, I like her as a person, so that's a serious plus. Between Caroline and Michelle, Barack'd have two extraordinary women keeping him on track, and anybody that watched The West Wing knows that it was as much Dolores Landingham (and, later, Debbie Fitterer) that kept Jed Bartlet on his A-game as it was Abby (not to demote VP Caroline Kennedy to the level of executive secretary - I'm just saying that he had two strong, constant female presences in his life. And that's not even counting his daughters, or Nancy McNally, or C.J., or Donna...).

I'm sorry for that. Years have gone by, and I find myself still obsessed with the show. Probably because the fantasy far outstrips the reality we're faced with.

And that's where we come to my problem. You've presented us with a great option, and one that, likely, will never be taken. All I'm going to be left with now is the "what if?" question, and I hate those questions. Your fantasy (now mine, I suppose) will best reality to an extraordinary degree. The debates between Caroline and... whoever the Republicans come up with (please be Joltin' Joe Lieberman - they'd have the most obnoxious ticket in recent memory, that way) would be a thing of beauty, perhaps surpassing that between Barack and McCain. No country in the world would be able to effectively marginalize women ever again, not after the twin shining lights America could put front and center on the global stage. Anyone that could summon the audacity to demean women as less than men would be stunned into silence when face-to-face with Caroline and Michelle.

Your proposal, Mike, it appeals to the best in each and every one of us; it would tell the world that we really are a new America, a better America, the America we've always strived to be. To me, what's heartbreaking about that is that it won't happen. Aaron Sorkin doesn't write real life, much though I might prefer the contrary.

Thank you, sir. You've glued together my long-dashed hopes once again.

Yours,

Phil Wrede


19 August 2008

hopefully Eddie will forgive me

Looking at my iTunes library a moment ago, I realize that I've listened to Eddie's sountrack to Into the Wild nearly a dozen times this week. I've listened to it quite a lot in the last few months, but this, frankly, is ridiculous.

If I had the energy at the moment to write a long retraction regarding the #5 album on my Top 5 albums of 2007 list - replacing Zeitgeist with the aforementioned soundtrack - I would. I'd go into great detail about my longstanding affection for the Pumpkins and Pearl Jam both, and how I've found my taste slowly but surely tilting in the direction of Eddie & Co. for several years now. I'd talk at length about how Eddie's voice is like a warm blanket that makes you feel safe when you wrap yourself in it, how his greatest vocal gift is his honesty, the fact that he sounds like he's never believed anything in his life as much as he believes the words he's singing right now (and onto the next song, and the next, and etc). I'd rant and rave about how "Society" is a song that needs to be played nonstop on radio stations around the country, how it's the perfect song for the world we're living in today, how it's a strong, beautiful flag for the people who really want to save the planet (and, by extension, us) to rally around. I could lose hours dissecting "Hard Sun," because it's a perfect song. Eddie's brought to new vocal heights in his duet with Corin Tucker (I dearly hope they do an album together soon - the male/female duet album seems to be in vogue these days, and they're just such perfect vocal counterparts); the instrumental part, so forceful and powerful from the start, just builds and builds inexorably until the distorted guitar overwhelms both their voices. The poetry of the lyrics, suspiciously simple ("
So I tried to want her/I turned to see her weep/40 days and 40 nights/and it's still coming down on me
- the imagery there, just overwhelming) but awe-inspiring in their power.

Yes, I know it's a cover. I don't care.

"The Wolf" allows the more primal elements of Eddie's voice (used sparingly during the bridge in "Hard Sun," but oh, to such effect) to take center stage, and it's about time. "Far Behind" is something not unlike a stripped down Pearl Jam song, and mentioning that could bring me to the featuring of his beloved ukulele on the record, and how much I love it. The beautiful plinkiness of the instrument contrasts and supports - like Corin's voice, but in a different way, for her voice is less than plinky - Eddie's rich, dark chocolate-y baritone.

I doubt I'll ever bring myself to see the movie, though. I like the images I have in my head associated with these songs much more than any than Mr. Penn could marry to them. Is that arrogant? It's only meant to be true...

15 August 2008

...

They found Bigfoot?

There's a press conference on CNN.com right now. It sounds like there are a lot of members of the press there, and the snake oil salesman that's taken over for the two good old boys that apparently found the body says that top-level scientists (and Megan Kelly, from Fox News) will be watching the autopsy.

People are dying all across this planet, Russia's invaded Georgia, the Chinese Olympic program may be forcing girls who haven't even hit puberty yet to compete, and the two men running for the office of the President of the United States of America are basing at least part of their campaign strategy around Paris Hilton and 24, and CNN's streaming a live press conference about the Bigfoot corpse that two guys apparently found in Georgia.

This is another one of those times where I think the terrorists are right.

05 August 2008

the cycle

So, I've lost a lot of time in the last 12 months attempting to write a movie. Unlike pretty much every other project I've thrust upon myself in the name of "cinema" thus far, this particular project has a special personal significance for me. This script is, unfortunately, my own personal version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (only conceived by me long before I had any idea about FSM); the Phil Wrede story of getting over what I reluctantly have come to see as one of the defining events of my not-all-that-long-life (the ending of an, at that point, nearly two-year-long relationship that, while not that particularly traumatic, left me what I refer to as "gun shy" for several years - a good friend of mine misheard me one day and believed I said "c--- shy," and was therefore unable to breathe for a good several minutes because she was laughing so hard).

It has to be defining, because I obsess about it to this very day.

I've already lost a lot of time attempting to define what I think art is, so I'm going to avoid rehashing it here. However, it's been my experience that great art, whichever one or combination of the senses it appeals to, comes out of truly gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, soul-crushing despair (or the closest analogue you as an artist have to that - we haven't all wanted to cut off an ear because of unrequited love, after all). My belief in this regard is that negative energy requires some sort of direction, a channel to twist it into something productive, lest it eventually become all-consuming. You don't need to direct happiness in that same way; I've yet to meet a person fearful about their happiness consuming them.

Does this mean great art is, essentially, therapy? Perhaps. Am I contradicting my previous definition? I don't believe so.

My movie (which I'm calling Back on the Horse until I fashion a better combination of words) is my first real venture into this art-as-therapy field since the bad, bad, awful songs I wrote in high school (which should be consigned to the trash bin of history... I'll get on that), and it's the less-than-original story of a guy trying to get past a breakup. My idea here is that, perhaps like the good Captain Ahab himself, I can project all of my rage and hate (words that are too strong for the subject at hand, but when you develop a literary conceit, you have to go with it) onto this piece and maybe, finally, get past it.

I'm trying to address some of my principal complaints with the Apatow movies in my script, so that I can perhaps kill several birds with this one collection of words (endings that don't quite satisfy the "real" vibe that the rest of the movies so thoroughly exude, typically less-than-complex female characters). I'm also attempting to figure out the most satisfying resolution to these last four years of flailing blindly about in the darkness (while, again, attempting to keep it grounded in this somewhat ridiculous version of reality in which I like to think I exist). I've also attempted to recall every one of the high (and low) points from this bizarre recovery period, so they can experience the tweaking and upgrading that all reality needs in order to make it interesting.

Simultaneously to this little endavour, I have been attempting to meet women so that I can actually move past this obsession and maybe become something that better resembles a functioning member of society. Since I make shitty first impressions, I decided to engage in these attempts over the internet (I write much better than I speak, and for some reason I do a better job interacting with people when I'm in an environment that offers me less of a cushion than, say, a party with most of my closest friends). I've written, posted, re-written and re-posted an ad for several months, each time drawing in a few potentially interesting (and usually one compelling) "applicants," to use the terminology of the people most directly responsible for killing the planet.

I'd betray my heretofore nearly unimpeachable honesty if I didn't disclose the fact that, if nothing else, I thought that these internet dating experiences might prove to be fodder for my movie script. If I'm trying to pull from my real life experiences, I should accumulate more of them from which to draw (I will, however, not post the text of my personal advertisement here. Despite the fact that no one, to date, has read this blog, it's entirely possible that may change before the internet mutates to a point that makes this form of personal expression irrelevant. Plus, I'm still trying to use it to meet someone).

While I'm of the opinion that reality takes a back seat to fantasy in the entertainment department, these last three months have absolutely proven that, at times, truth is stranger than fiction. I'll summarize the most noteworthy ones:

1) I received a message from a woman that asked me how I felt about girls in body casts (as though they are now some maligned segment of society that people have become prejudiced against under my very nose) - she'd apparently taken a bad tumble while climbing a few months earlier, and was at that point reliant on a single crutch most of the time, and infrequently on a wheelchair. Her email was quite entertaining, so I figured I should get to know her. We decided to go to dinner, and so as to try and avoid flashbacks to high school, I agreed to pick her up from her mother's house, where she was convalescing.
To skip to the best part of the story, while we ate our dinner, she explained to me that she would have to undergo back surgery the next week, and another (arm?) procedure the week after that, so our imminent loss of contact would not be the result of any foolish behavior on my part, but due to her incapacitated state. We agreed to talk again after she'd recovered, and that was that.
A few days after her first procedure, she sent me an email that basically stated that she was in too much physical pain to date me (okay, she really said that she felt like shit, and wasn't fun to be around, and didn't think it was fair to me to have to put up with that when we'd only known each other... maybe twenty days at that point - my phrasing is funnier, which serves to heighten my argument regarding the battle between fantasy and reality). So, that was that. Rewrite, re-post, fast-forward.

2) I received a well-worded email about a month later from a woman who said that she found my advertisement one of the best she'd seen on the internet, and that she felt it was a shame that I was too young for her. By way of compensation, she sent me a picture of her and some of her friends at their themed Halloween party ("zombie prom" - an idea I intend to steal and expand upon sometime in the near future). She was quite attractive (looked like Charisma Carpenter, truth be told), and I attempted to engage her in something resembling conversation (she was entertaining, and I don't like to meet entertaining people only to see them disappear), but to no avail.

3) Shortly thereafter, a fantastic message from another woman arrived; while admitting, as everyone probably does, that she mostly reads the online personals for entertainment, she decided to email me after reading my posting (adding creedence, I think, to my claim that my ad is among the best-written on the internet). There was little bush-beating-around in her email; she proposed a meeting for drinks sometime in the next few days. I wasn't going to say no to that. We talked a little bit during the week, and wound up going out on Thursday.
There really is not a single negative thing I can say about her. She was funny, she was nice, she was smart, and quite pretty, too (a fantastic smile - perfect teeth. Christian Bale-perfect). We were at the restaurant for about two hours - at least eighty minutes of which I spent talking about the most ridiculous shit that came into my head - Lil' Wayne, Stuck, the mummy movie - after which I walked her most of the way back to her place, where she gave me a hug and told me I was extremely entertaining (do girls make out with extremely entertaining? I still don't know).
A small bit of background information might be useful. While originally from Texas, her parents moved to New England recently, so as to allow her father to be closer to work. Her brother also lives and works on the East Coast. This will all be important in a moment.
Ignoring all of my smarter impulses - much like George Costanza - I sent this girl an email barely hours after our "date" ended, explaining how enjoyable of a time I had with her, how I hoped she felt the same, and how I'd be excited to do anything with her at any point in the future.
Shockingly, she reacted to this unprovoked display of strange affection positively. We made plans to go out the following Monday. During the weekend, I accosted her at work (grocery store - I needed food anyway, so it was a convienent excuse to not stalk her quite so egregiously), where, again, we had a nice, brief conversation peppered with smiles and affectionate pats on the shoulder.
The day of the second date. She sends me an email that morning explaining that something big came up that was going to keep her busy all the rest of the day and into the night, and this wasn't anything personal - not a blow-off - but she'd have to cancel. That's fair, right? Sometimes life just gets in the way. I know how that goes.
Remember about how her family has all moved several thousand miles away? Well, I heard from her the next day - she had just decided to move out to the Northeast to join them (she didn't like CO anymore, she missed her family, all terribly valid, sweet, unimpeachable reasons) and would be leaving in two weeks. She showered me with unearned praise - perhaps because she felt bad, or maybe just because she's crazy - before telling me that she expected to be so busy in those two weeks that she wouldn't be able to see me before her departure. I've spoken to her via email since then, and she sounds happy. Who can hold that against somebody?
Rewrite, re-post, fast-forward.

3) I'd planned to go to Seattle to visit some friends anyway, so perhaps it was for the best that I left shortly after I got the non-breakup breakup email. While I was in the lovely Pacific Northwest, I was able to steal a neighbor's wireless internet to check my email, where I'd received a message from a girl that sounded remarkably ideal. Interested in the same nerdy things as me (Star Trek, Firefly), similar taste in music, predisposition for wordy, rambling emails... We sent a few messages back and forth, but the interest on her end apparently died right after she informed me that it was quite funny I was visiting Seattle, because she intended (and still intends, as far as I know) to move there at the start of the new year. Sadly, I've not heard from her since.
Am I cursed to be alone as long as I'm in Colorado? Rewrite, re-post, fast-forward.

4) Most recently, I managed to quickly hit it off with a girl who, again, shared many similar odd interests of mine (plus, and this became clear very quickly, she's much smarter than I am, which is for some reason a big deal). We exchanged several emails very quickly, and began to speak on the phone shortly thereafter. I visited her at her place of work (seems to be a trend, or even a tactic, but it's not a lot of work, and I hope people appreciate getting visitors - I always do - and if that's the only way you can see somebody, I'm happy taking time out of my less-than-busy schedule to pay someone important to me a visit), and I eventually grabbed some dinner with her on one of her all-too-short breaks.
It's good when you get telephone calls during your lunch break in the middle of the day, and you lose those entire forty minutes engrossed in entertaining, enlightening, thoughtful conversation, right? I'd like to think so.
I don't exactly know what happened that caused her to effectively cut off contact with me; all I know is that it happened, and whether or not it resumes (which I hope it does, seeing as how I like her and all) more or less rests with her. Maybe this is my version of a whirlwind fling - we talk a lot for a few days, and then she vanishes (perhaps punishment inflicted upon me for having repeatedly said these years that a good, engaging conversation would be be far more fascinating to me than the prospect of sex. It remains true, by the way), never to be heard from again. I suppose we'll see (to spend a moment venting my frustration over this turn of events, she told me specifically that she craved building a relationship with somebody that was built on the bigger things - sharing of trust, openness regarding hopes, dreams, fears, etc. Admittedly, we've been aware of each other's existence for little over a week at this point, but you can't just throw out heady concepts like that and expect the person who responds to that to... not respond. I don't want to be relegated to the position of sideline sitter while she puts up with whatever shit has fallen upon her. I can't force my way in, so the best I can do is hope from afar that things manage to improve for her. For once, I burn to do better, and yet I can't. The twists life takes...).

So, that last story's not that funny. The other ones are, though, particularly in the way they build on top of one another and eventually steamroll over me. My script has been directionless for too long now; life has now provided me with a framework, and while that's not necessarily the way I wanted this online dating thing to go, that's what has happened. I'm not usually one to question artistic providence.

More on this story as it develops.