Age of Apocrypha

On the way to Ikea, Terri pointed out a sign advertising that Bambi II was coming out on DVD. (At first I didn’t hear the “DVD” part, and thought “Bambi II” must be a new South Shore gentleman’s club). I’ve seen lots of these sorts of apocryphal sequels in the Disney world, which I attributed to parents getting sick of watching the Lion King over and over again, so, hey, why not Lion King IV: Simba gets a haircut to mix it up a little? But the same thing is even worse in the Star Wars world, where about half of the most recent movie makes no sense without the backstory that you were supposed to get in a Cartoon Network series (which I was lucky enough to get summarized for me by Glenn right after we went to see it at the Uptown(?) theater in D.C.).

Anyway, something finally occurred to me that has occurred to a lot of other people already: it’s more than bored parents that are responsible for this dynamic. It’s that the same relatively cheap tools that make it possible for amateurs to create and distribute their work can also be used by the pros.

Yes, Big Content can now produce its own fanfic!

First Ikea Stoughton trip

Swedish cloning technology far surpasses ours
So, we finally went to Massachusetts’ first Ikea Saturday, a couple of months after it opened, braving it even though we figured it would be a madhouse on a Saturday afternoon. I guess the light snow scared enough people off, because it really wasn’t as crowded as I expected.

We bought a bunch of Billy bookcases for the dining room, some lights for under the kitchen cabinets, some new curtains and pillows for the bedroom, and some other odds and ends. And with some creative rope work, it all fit in the Civic (to the surprise of both me and the Ikea workers out on a smoke break in the loading area). I did note for future reference, though, that if we do need to take something big home from there someday, they do have Zipcars of the large variety parked there, as well as a shuttle from the Quincy T stop.

I tried to put my finger on what I like about the place, given that I’m pretty good at curbing my enthusiasm for most stores even if I tend to like their stuff (because they are stores, and it is stuff, and it’s just not my thing). It’s really that I tend to come out with more good ideas than actual stuff, I actually think about how I can organize my space better, and I already have enough bags of unburned tea lights to know not to get tempted to buy a lot of stuff there just because it’s cheap.

Is she, or isn’t she?

We went to see Capote a couple of weeks ago with some friends. It didn’t really impress me, mostly ’cause I’m a goddamn grump, but it did make me want to read In Cold Blood (which I also picked up in Portsmouth over the weekend).

I actually do owe Truman Capote the whole “RealFake” thing. The whole idea got planted when I saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s a couple of months after college, which includes this little clip (3MB, .mov ).

As a youth, I was like Holden Caulfield, and couldn’t stand the phonies. And then as a late-youth I thought that people who couldn’t stand phonies were all adolescents or folk singers. When I heard Holly Golightly described as a “real phoney” something clicked and I understood that there could be a third way where artifice and necessity were fused into an atomic whole and the whole dialectic didn’t matter. Or at least that such a thing could be strived for.

Funny thing is, now I think Holly is pretty much just a plain old phoney, albeit for good reasons. But the phrase still has magic properties for me.

Portsmouth jaunt

Ice patterns, brake lights We took our annual surprise-approximately- Valentine’s-day- getaway trip this weekend; this year, we went to Portsmouth, NH. It’s a frequent day-trip spot for us, but we’ve only stayed there once before. We stayed at a place called the Sise Inn, and our room had a bubbling tub which was very nice and made me feel like cooked spaghetti. Haven’t been that relaxed in a long time!

I bought a copy of the collection Jay Ryan’s posters, 100 Posters, 134 Squirrels at the Riverrun Book Store, and got into a brief conversation with the man and woman at the counter about Andrew Bird (Jay Ryan did the art for the Mysterious Production of Eggs, and I bought a poster from him at the Middle East show, and he complimented my coat). His posters are so much fun, and very inspiring.

Otherwise, we spent a lot of time sipping hot drinks, went to the Portsmouth Brewery (twice), and tried to stay out of the unbelievably frigid winds.

By the way

I really do love the film of Doctor Zhivago.

I just rag on it every time I mention it because I worship the book, and the film is just a very different thing. It would be better if I could just get past comparing them, or even of thinking of them as the same thing.

Book Report: The Risk Pool

So, I’m very overdue in writing any of the book reports I promised. I’ve been too busy either reading or working on my webbified Exquisite Corpse (yes, that’s back in the works). So I will begin to rectify.

The first book of the year, back at the beginning of January, was Richard Russo’s The Risk Pool. I’ve probably talked a lot about Russo here, but it’s good stuff. This one was worth reading, but there’s not much in it that I hadn’t already encountered in Mohawk, Nobody’s Fool, or to a lesser extent, Empire Falls, whether in setting, plot, character, style, subject matter. I’m not really complaining, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a starting point, or if you aren’t sure you want to read everything. I’d start with Empire Falls or maybe Straight Man or Nobody’s Fool.

They all take place in some small manufacturing town that’s seen better days; there’s a lot of drinking of cheap beer in local bars; there’s usually a kid or two who have escaped and gone to college and gotten out; there’s some trash-talking; there’s a lot that might come off as melodrama if it weren’t done so well. They’re all also really funny. One of the things I most admire is Russo’s ability to take something that’s almost unbearably well-trodden in literature (say, the later-middle-aged English professor who’s had writer’s block since his first book was published, as in Straight Man) and to somehow make all of it seem fresh, like no one’s ever written about it before. I think it’s a rare but useful feat to not shy away from the obvious yet be totally original. As much as we all love to cling to our uniqueness, the truth of the matter is that most of the things that are really important to us have already been experienced by others, often millions of others. To not examine it, or cherish it, or share it, just because it’s been done before seems like a big mistake to me. And while a lot of writers blather about finding wonderful things in the ordinary, a lot of that kind of writing comes off to me as more pretentious than actual pretense.

Then again, maybe I just like it so much because the milieu Russo writes about is one that’s very familiar to me.

Blizzard, Lincoln’s Birthday, 2006

the curtisian

Terri and I are watching the snow pile up here at The Curtisian. We’re taking a break from watching “David Lean’s film of Doctor Zhivago” which is what the title screen says, I believe aptly. It’s something that probably should be qualified, like calling Kraft singles “cheese food”. It shares the same plot as the book, but it’s really not a whole lot like it. Terri is doing some of her physical therapy back exercises, and I’m waiting for a little more snow to pile up before taking a turn with the snowblower.

* * *

several hours later…

* * *

April called and tells me that the news in France has been all about the people who are freezing to death because of the record cold in Russia. Whole towns suddenly plunged into crisis when their pipes burst. What people freezing to death of cold in Russia? Can’t even find anything about it, except from stuff on the BBC from Jan. 19. We both agreed that the news is very warped lately; focusing on really trivial stuff, while the whole Iran thing is basically going to turn into World War III, and oh, while the news spent two days just itching for the snowstorm to come to the Northeast, the Yemeni prisoners who were being held for bombing the USS Cole in 2000 escaped. But I’m sure they just wanted to get back to their families and have no intention of causing any further trouble.

Anyway, April agrees that Doctor Z is a perfect movie to be snowed in with. Speaking of hard times in Russia.