for 23 January 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Tomorrow's Superwriters Today
You missed two of the best examples of writer-as-superhero thus far, and the two most successful. The box office failure of Naked Lunch notwithstanding, William S. Burroughs completely solidified his position as the real-life Doctor Strange, and managed to get on-screen with Christian Slater to prove it. In addition, Hunter S. Thompson as Captain Excess has been a consistently hot seller, though I have no idea what the box-office was on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (with the oddly-yet-compellingly cast Johnny Depp). These two worthies sell at least as well as the Incredible Hulk, and no one's killed him off yet.
You know, I had some complex argument all worked out why Thompson didn't qualify, but I'll be damned if I can remember it now. Depp, Murray and a cartoon by Trudeau is a better start down the road to cultural iconhood than almost anyone could ask for, not to mention the first-person implications of gonzo journalism. I wonder if the stomping by the Hell's Angels will one day be re-worked into a secret origin?
40th Street Black
Great piece... Now write an equally compelling denouncement of the ubiquitous use of narration in movies these days. It's like all screen writers have forgotten how to plunge the audience into the heart of a drama without painfully delivering a "history-up-to-this-point" exposition, and without jarring a popcorn-engrossed audience with the voice of omniscience at all the wrong moments. American Beauty took the gold for just such a frying-pan-to-the-head model of epic storytelling. Yeck with a guttural extended "ck" is my scientific analysis of that tired mode. I actually enjoyed the mainstream Cast Away simply because I didn't have to hear the watered down lessons learned by some in-the-ether protagonist. Believe me, there's got to be like a 75% narration rate in movies these days. It's even worse in films like Fight Club which employed odd cuts and jarring angles to convey the psychological state and then peppered it with Edward Norton's retrospective commentary throughout. Now I confuse it with Keeping The Faith. Please, I'd even watch The Phantom Of Liberty every night for a month straight if just one decent media rag like yours would stand up and assail this affront to the magic of filmmaking.
I'll give it a shot; that annoys me, too. I blame the influence of movie trailers.
The difference between Fight Club and Keeping the Faith is that in Fight Club, Brad Pitt's ass-kicking alpha male charisma machine was a figment of Ed Norton's imagination, while in Keeping the Faith Ben Stiller's sexy genius superstar rabbi was a figment of Stiller's agent's. Plus Keeping the Faith is the only non-Drew Barrymore movie I've seen on an airplane for three years.
40th Street Black
You mention Stephen King, but omit any reference to "In the Mouth of Madness". Surely the Sutter Cane character represents an alternate vision of King's comic-book future: that of the super-villian.
Michael X. Heyeck
Thanks for reading the piece.
You're right about King doing that. I think an interesting piece could be written on how King uses autobiographical elements in his own work. It might be particularly interesting if you agree with the argument made against his body of work, that he's written too many books instead of fine-tuning the best manuscripts. I would imagine not having read the majority of King's books that the conjectural versions of himself that seep into the work are often contradictory and perhaps even raw in a way that more guarded, less prolific artists tend to mask.
40th Street Black
There was one more film you forgot to mention in your article on writer as hero. The 1982 film Hammett, directed by Wim Wenders and starring Frederick Forrest as Dashiell Hammett, living out one of his novels before he became famous. It fits into the main points of your article quite well.
That does sound perfect, thank you. I was perfectly ignorant of the film you mention. Come to think of it, Peter Falk is playing himself in the angel movies, isn't he?
Was Hammet the one that received the cable movie doomed-romance treatment a year or so ago? I have this Dermot Mulroney/D.B. Sweeney confusion thing where Chandler and Hammet are concerned.
40th Street Black
Free At Last
Bartel, I start with the usual disclaimer about being a dinosaur.
You mention that people complained about the original Suck layout, but it had nothing on Wired Magazine #1. At least your text was linear and not printed on a varying backgrounds which often rendered it invisible.
Long ago, I was a dilettante student of Chinese and found I could cope with printing left-to-right, right-to-left, and top-to-bottom (with columns going either to the left or right) reasonably easily. But Wired broke my spirit. I note that famous backpage dyslexic Negroponte wouldn't put up with that shit for his words.
It looks like it might be easier to follow "plastic" than "slashdot". At least you have the front page text indented on the followup page so I can figure out where to start reading.
On the other hand, there is a lot of complaining about reality based TV shows. I think that displaying the comments of irreflective guffins in a nice web page layout is not much different.
If micropayments worked, it would be great to charge for a posting. You could even pay more to end up at the top of the feedback list. Now there's a revenue model that could rejuvenate the dot-economy.
While there probably are people out there who would pay to post, you'd probably have to pay people to read their postings.
And personally, we can't get enough of irreflective guffins complaining about reality-based TV shows.
A few months ago, I started telling people about suck.com and I discovered that they liked it. I told some more, and they liked it, too. Soon I started telling people who I wanted to have sex with about suck.com, which means I used suck.com as a means to assist in getting laid.
I don't say it worked, but the fact is I did this. And to be fair, there are still enough irons still in the fire to resist concluding that it HASN'T worked, either. It may work as soon as this weekend.
Point being: I know it's tough to grind out those ironic diatribes day after day for those of us in the "overmass". Just letting you know how much we appreciate it, and (in my case) appropriate it. You can't say it's a thankless task anymore.
One other thing: it might be more convenient for me if you could find a way to have suck come out in water-soluble pill form. Could you get to work on this?
Um, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for those irons to heat up, Bryan. Suck.com is not recommended as a means to assist in getting laid, and is, in fact, not approved for this use in 32 states.
We don't have any hard data to back up our assertions, but our anecdotal evidence on the subject amounts to this: being associated with Suck.com has prevented most of us from getting laid for several years now.
And, while we appreciate the free word-of-mouth, we're not entirely sure you're helping our PR campaign by namedropping Suck.com whilst busting a move. It might be more convenient for us if you could try to keep our publication out of your sexual conquests in the future.
On the other hand, how much would you be willing to pay for Suck in a convenient pill form? We don't have a pill just yet, but our castles made of sand are certainly water-soluble.
I would rather shoot myself then hear what a 12 year-old from Vermont has to say about the depth of emotion evidenced by Pope John Paul's slow slide into senility or some other crap.
If this is what it takes to continue with my daily dose of bitterness then well I guess we all have something else to write in our collective dark journals at night.
I hope that the daily updates can still be accessed at suck.com
Screw punctuation and spelling. I'm pissed.
Um, did you find a comment somewhere by a 12 year-old from Vermont who has things to say about the depth of emotion evidenced by Pope John Paul's slow slide into senility? Because, uh, that sounds kind of amusing.
Don't go punctuating when you're angry, Rich. It's dangerous.
Staring emptily into our collective dark refrigerators,
Yuck! You've sold out to the corporate "we ripped this off from a Microsoft product" look as well as going for the oldest, lamest possible source of content: your readers. I don't want a bunch of lousy message board crapola! I want a bunch of well-researched poorly formatted crapola!
Robert St. James
We sold out years ago, Robert, and thanks to that, you'll continue getting your well-researched poorly formatted crapola on a daily basis. So quit yer whining.
Oldest and lamest crapola in the business,
Say it ain't so. One of Suck's best features was that it didn't take too much feedback from the audience. Why is it that every news show must now have a five-minute segment that allows viewers to call in and air their opinions if I want to know what Bob down the street thinks, I'll knock on his door and ask him? In the entire history of the written word, has anyone EVER had their mind changed due to a letter to the editor? (with the exceptions of those times that you originally agreed with the letter writer, but switch sides just so you didn't have to think about how similar you might be to him/her.) Weren't even the most painful parts of Dennis Miller's Monday Night Football commentary 1000 times better than the best call he's ever gotten from the audience to his HBO show?
Sure the writers at Suck might not always be on target, but there is only one of them a day, and it's simple enough to separate the wheat and chaff. Just because you have to slog through the pain of reading umpteen horrid unsolicited submissions doesn't mean you should make us suffer the same fate.
(Please ignore the fact that this is itself a letter to the editor. I promise never to do it again)
Well, there are different levels of interactivity here. There's the daily piece, which is one writer dictating that which the many shall read and ruminate for the day. Then there's the Fish page, where a few select letters to the editor, like yours, are published with a thoughtful response, like this one. Then there's Plastic, where readers are free to discuss crap with writers and so forth and so on.
There are people who will appreciate the first level but ignore the other two. There are people who will appreciate all three levels. There are people who will spend the day thoughtfully picking their noses, then drive out to El Pollo Loco for a 3-piece chicken meal with a side of BBQ beans. Maybe you don't like BBQ beans.Maybe you used to think that one of the best features of El Pollo Loco was that it only offered pinto beans, and didn't foist those awful BBQ beans on you like they did everywhere else. Maybe if you wanted BBQ beans, you'd go to the Safeway and buy some. Frankly, we couldn't care less.