A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Thursday, March 31, 2005


I wrote a short story over the last two days. It's a taut little number, clocking in at 2,300 words, and it's written for all my lovely boys out there. It's called "You Once Said That You Liked Happy Endings."

Speaking of, the Stolen Sweets finished their first residency tonight. That was two solid months of Wednesdays at the Laurelthirst Pub. They were a much tighter band tonight than when I first saw them eight weeks ago. That much playing out will do that to you. I wrote the last quarter of "Happy Endings" there. Check their site for future gigs.

But before that I went to the Dark Horse screening of the Sin City movie. I kept my expectations pretty low. I love the comics, especially That Yellow Bastard, but worried that they had bitten off more than they could chew by adapting three volumes in one. Also, I've never really been knocked out by a Robert Rodriguez film.

I have to say, though, I am impressed. Even though sometimes the style is a bit overwhelming or a little too much like a video game, Sin City is a special feat of visual excitement. The performances, the music, the look--it's all of its own world (though maybe they could have toned back some of the costumes on the women, that aspect got a little too fetishistic after a while). Co-directors Rodriguez and Frank Miller do pack a lot of story in one film, but it works. Plus, being such literal adaptations, it makes it fairly evident that Miller's original work in the graphic novels is a lot more concise than it appears. He lets his moments breathe, and it makes the books feel hefty. Yet, put into action, pages fly by like lightning.

In fact, there were a couple of story points in the That Yellow Bastard section that jumped out at me, things I never noticed on the page. In mulling them over, though, I think they illustrate a difference in the way we take in information in two different visual mediums.

If you haven't seen the movie or read the book, you may not want to read the next couple of paragraphs. They aren't major spoilers, but I still want to give fair warning. A picture separates this portion and the next for your convenience.

After Hartigan and Nancy run the Yellow Bastard off the road, they go to a nearby motel, unaware that the Bastard is hiding in their backseat. It's a standard device used in thrillers. Only, a big deal is made of how bad the Yellow Bastard stinks: first in the prison, second at the crash site, when Hartigan sticks his fingers in one of the many pools of gooey blood in the snow (the film is black-and-white for the most part, except for spot colors, including the Yellow Bastard's very yellow skin and blood). If this bad dude smells so rank, wouldn't they notice him in their car? Sure, it could have easily been explained by the fact that the odor could be on Hartigan from examining the scene, but no such explanation is made. I assume it happened the same way in the comic book, but it didn't bother me there. The comic would be evocative in a different way--bolder, but more static--whereas the Bastard's greasy skin and sticky blood is much more shiny on film, it moves. It activates our sense memories in ways comics don't often do. When we turned the page in the book, the thought of the Bastard's stench faded.

The other quibble would be down to the spatial and auditory nature of film versus comics. In the final issue of That Yellow Bastard, when Hartigan rushes to the farm to rescue Nancy, we get a panel where we see that Kevin is still there, putting us in a timeframe before the first story arc with Marv, The Hard Goodbye. It's a cute trick in the comic, and it helps establish how interconnected all the tales are, but it becomes troublesome in the movie. In the book, that panel once again drifts away as soon as we turn the page, and we don't associate Kevin reading on the porch with the barn where the Yellow Bastard is doing his dirty work around the corner. Nor do we have the sounds of Hartigan and the Bastard tussling, which would easily be heard from Kevin's vantage point. In the film, we can't forget Kevin is not very far away, nor ignore the volume of the violence, and we realize Kevin would most likely try to rescue his boss' nephew.

Minor points that didn't hurt my enjoyment of the film at all. I bring them up only to ponder the difference between two forms that are often compared. See the movie for yourself and make up your own mind. Just be prepared to immerse yourself in a brutally violent, darkly comic, alluring place: Sin City.

Current Sountrack: Suede, Dogmanstar

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Weird stats I didn't know existed 1: I wasn't aware Blogger kept track of such things:

User Stats
On Blogger Since October 2002
Recent Posts: 20
Avg Posts Per Week: 2
Posts Written: 300
Words Written: 139,885
Outbound Links: 2,132

I wonder, too, how accurate that is, considering my profile links to my "most recent posts," and those are dated November 2004.

Weird stats I didn't know existed 2: When did Amazon create the Statistically Improbable Phrase feature for books? Apparently, Cut My Hair leads the way in having more references to "striped girl" than any other book on the site. I clock in at 3. You can see the actual quotes of the instances and my competition here.

When I found this yesterday, I nearly plotzed when there were two typos in the three quotes. I quickly checked the printed edition, however, and the typos are Amazon's, not mine.

I also like if you follow their "A9 Search for 'striped girl'" that the link to Cut My Hair is eighth in line. A search to lead me right back to where I was!

Current Sountrack: Morrissey, Live at Earl's Court

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


I just received my copy of the third Clamp School Paranormal Investigators novel in the mail.

I don't have much perspective to judge these things, but one would hope I got better at my job as we went, and that this is the best of the bunch. I have had zero feedback on the series. I have no idea if anyone has enjoyed the books at all.

Current Soundtrack: Trash Can Sinatras, "Ghosts of American Astronauts (12-04-04);"


The March edition of "Can You Picture That?" is now online. Its targets this month are Bambi and Popular: The Complete Second Season.

Coincidentally, last night I had a dream where Leslie Bibb and I started dating, but it was just like the episode where her character Brooke dates Harrison John in season 2, and they both have some ulterior motive that pushes them apart. It's like my own brain is my enemy, thwarting me at every turn.

Current Soundtrack: The All Seeing I, "Walk Like A Panther;" "Al Otro Lado del Río" from The Motorcycle Diaries; The Tears, "Refugees;" The Trash Can Sinatras, "Wild Mountainside"

Monday, March 28, 2005


I was talking with Lynn Adair, who did the copyediting on I Was Someone Dead, about what we were calling "glacial movies." These are films that move at a rather slow pace, letting the moments play themselves out and not necessarily explaining them, letting the viewer drift into the mood and feel along with the characters. Some of the movies we placed in this category are Lost In Translation, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue, Hiroshima Mon Amour, and the work of Wong Kar-Wai and Michelangelo Antonioni. A lot of my thoughts on the topic were prompted by my weekend viewing of the latter's L'eclisse, recently released as a Criterion DVD.

I've often said of Wong Kar-Wai that he makes films like a novelist in the way he rewrites as he goes, shooting footage that takes him down unplanned avenues and that often gets scrapped, something most directors can't do once the camera is rolling. I've posited, possibly even in this journal, that I can't figure out how to write novels like Wong Kar-Wai makes movies.

Pushing this idea further, I wonder if there is a way to capture those empty, still moments from these kinds of films as prose. (Both Lynn and I referred to the films as poetic, and maybe poems can capture similar feelings, but I set that question aside.) For instance, when Antonioni crafts a moment between Monica Vitti and Alain Delon where the two don't speak, where he stands stock still in the street as she moves slowly around a wooden fence and looks at a half-built (or is it half torn down?) building, he gives no explanation as to his intent. You can infer his motives by how he frames a shot, by the objects around the characters, even how long he lets it linger, but that engages the audience in an entirely different way. It compels each viewer to ascribe his or her own meaning to the moment.

But in prose, you don't have the benefit of blankness. I can't write, "The two don't speak, and he stands stock still in the street as she moves slowly around a wooden fence and looks at a half-built (or is it half torn down?) building," and then leave the rest of the page bare, picking up with a new sentence on the next page. And even in that simple of a statement, each word choice comes bundled with its own meaning. Saying they don't speak suggests it's intentional, there is a forced reason. Why "stock still"? Does it relate to "wooden"? If I choose to make it either half-built or torn down, the image of the building changes, and even to pose the question such as I do in the version of the sentence as it exists seems to have a particular thrust. Each word I would add to the statement would only fill in the gaps for the reader more and more, and any description of the mood of the characters would topple the whole experiment. It all also runs the risk of being too formalized, and then I create a truly excruciating reading experience a la Robbe-Grillet.

So, what to do?

Current Soundtrack: Pet Shop Boys, "Flamboyant (Scissor Sisters Remix);" Scissor Sisters, "Take Me Out (Franz Ferdinand cover);" Garbage, "Bleed Like Me;" Kaiser Chiefs, "Caroline, Yes;" Moby, "Temptation (New Order cover)"

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Saturday, March 26, 2005


(Part I) (Part II)

Isn’t there a story about a guy all alone in a desert for years and years, and he meets an ocean? I sure like the way you kiss.” – Cuddles, Underworld, U.S.A.

Noir City’s third week is a triple-threat of Samuel Fuller. For a film noir snob like myself, there are some quibbles I could have with these choices. For starters, the three films range from 1959 to 1964, and there is a case to be made for the movement having run its course already, with Robert Aldrich’s 1955 film Kiss Me Deadly providing the ultimate abstraction of the form (life is so incredibly meaningless that the destruction of it is no longer down to man vs. man, but man vs. a power bigger than us all) and Orson Welles’ 1958 masterpiece Touch of Evil perfecting it.

My second quibble is that Fuller’s pulpy gusto, particularly in this period, is not very noirish. Film noir’s inhabitants are often restrained, being held back by the sins of the past and a code of conduct (or a measure of fear?) that prevents them from throwing themselves fully into any experience. There is always a guard up, some kind of veneer, that keeps them from enjoying life. A Fuller character loves life, and he doesn’t mind if he looks foolish or if anyone sees the big, meaty, romantic heart beating in his breast.

Still, these Samuel Fuller movies are like a nice addendum to the noir tradition, and we’ll let them slide, because any excuse to see more Fuller is a good one.

The first movie in the series is The Crimson Kimono (1959), a cop drama set in Los Angeles. Fuller opens on a fictional Main Street, zooming through its seedy blocks to a strip club where Sugar Torch is just getting off the stage. She heads back to her dressing room, but someone is inside with a gun. She tries to run, but Sugar is shot down in the middle of the street. Enter our detectives, Charlie and Joe, played by Glen Corbett and James Shigeta (follow the imdb link above to check any actor resumes). Charlie is your average white meathead, and Joe is a Japanese American with a touch more sensitivity. They’ve been friends since they were in the same unit in the Korean War. Fuller makes several visual side notes about the war, including showing memorials for other Asians who served in the armed forces and a sly revelation of an Army propaganda sign on the streets of Little Tokyo (which pops up again in the background of Underworld, U.S.A.). In fact, Fuller shows a surprising sensitivity for race in this film, using real locations, Asian actors, and shining a spotlight on the friendship between the detectives and the questions of racism and interracial romance that come between them. In fact, he is so interested in this side trip, he pretty much lets the murder case drop for most of the final reel of the film. You see, the key witness is a young painter named Chris (Victoria Shaw), and Charlie falls for her pretty hard. Joe does, too, and the guy can’t help but lure her away just by being much more well-versed in the sorts of things an artist would be interested in. He doesn’t want to act on it, but the two can’t resist, and when the pair finally reveals their feelings to Charlie, Joe misinterprets the various reactions that follow as racism. Everything becomes wrapped up in Joe figuring out he’s wrong.

The murder does get solved. The plot is tied around the participants in creating a geisha-themed stage act for Sugar Torch, which is where the titular crimson kimono comes from. The hunt for the killer culminates in a chase through a parade in Little Tokyo, and its resolution directly relates to Joe’s getting his head straight. Fuller is always fun. He’s not interested in subtlety. Even when Joe talks about the way his artist father delicately painted cobwebs, Fuller hits you over the head with the poetry. But that’s the point of his movies. The audience straps itself in and rides with him. Unfortunately, the print the NW Film Center acquired was of inconsistent quality, and it was often badly spliced--not a good thing when you consider that Fuller’s editing here was rivaling Seijun Suzuki for jump cutting. Still, nothing bad enough to really mar the experience.

The second movie is 1961’s Underworld, U.S.A., which I ended up watching on video instead of going to the theatre (saving both time and money.) This is one of Fuller’s most tightly scripted films. It opens with a quick assault on the viewer. Our protagonist, age 14, is Tolly Devlin, and when he sees a drunk stumble out of a bar, he takes the opportunity and robs him. Another kid sees and demands a cut. When Tolly refuses, the kid smashes a bottle into his eye. The implication is obvious: we are Tolly, and Sam Fuller is going to put our vision under attack.

Immediately after, Tolly sees his father beaten in the street, a spectacular sequence played in shadow. He becomes determined to find the men who killed his old man, and we jump ahead thirteen years to when Tolly has become a safecracker. Played by Cliff Robertson, he’s a collection of tough guy tics, single-minded in his pursuit of his revenge. He ends up becoming part of a larger scheme, though: the men he is after are the heads of the city’s crime syndicate, and themselves part of a much larger, national organization that hides behind the façade of big business. Rather than take the conventional route of vengeance, Tolly gets involved with the crusading district attorney trying to topple the group, and sets an operatic drama into motion. The only problem is, he can’t keep his hands as clean as he thought, and jumping out of the game he started isn’t going to be so easy. He thinks there is a sweet life waiting for him with Cuddles (Dolores Dorn), the prostitute he first used for information and then fell in love with, but his gangster pals may have something to say about that. You don’t go from being tough as nails to soft as a pillow, and just as he opened with a striking visual cue, Fuller closes with one last image to drive this point home: Tolly, dead in an alleyway, his hand on his stomach, closed in a fist. The camera zooms in on all five knuckles, one final punch to the audience’s face.

Finally, this Thursday, the series will be showing 1964’s The Naked Kiss. I’ve already seen this film, thanks to the folks at Criterion, but it’s always worth another viewing. The Naked Kiss is Fuller at his gonzo best. Any movie that opens with a bald woman having her wig ripped off is okay by me! The plot here is actually pretty noirish: someone with a checkered past runs to a small, rural town to try to escape it. Except in this case it’s a not some chisel-jawed anti-hero, it’s a tired-out prostitute, Kelly (Constance Towers). As is to be expected, once her past is revealed, there is nothing Kelly can do to live it down. Even working with handicapped children isn't enough to make people forget you used to sell your body. All Kelly wants is a little love, but if there is anything film noir has taught us, we can’t escape our own misdeeds. I find The Naked Kiss’s story to be a little shaky at times, with the aforementioned tendency of Fuller’s to jump from point A to point C coming to full bloom, but instead of having a sought-after object as his Maguffin to hang the story on, the story in The Naked Kiss itself is its own Maguffin: just an unnecessary object for Sam Fuller to drape his crazy ideas over. Don’t ask why you just got socked in the jaw, just savor the taste of blood in your mouth.

Bonus Beats: A couple of days ago, I posted my new destop wallpaper, and I kept meaning to post the previous one, because it's a pretty cool image (which is why I chose it, obviously), and it serves my ego to imagine you care:

It's Scarlett Johansson.

Current Sountrack: The Smiths, Rank; Morrissey, Introducing Morrissey VHS

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Thursday, March 24, 2005


I love the poster for the new Woody Allen movie, Melinda and Melinda. Don't you? The good news is, there is a pretty decent movie to back it up. One hates to hang posters on one's wall for movies that one can't get behind, doesn't one?

The film opens in a cafe, where four people are talking about their lives on Broadway. Two of the men are stage producers, you see, and one produces tragic dramas and the other produces light comedies. (The latter is played by Wallace Shawn, and Allen had to be playing with his audience when he cast him. I was having My Dinner With Andre flashbacks and had to go to IMDB to make sure the other actor wasn't actually Andre.) Their big question is which practice speaks more to the reality of life, and though they pretty much answer the query from the get-go (both, dear, both), it becomes the set-up for Allen's exercise: another of the diners poses a scenario of a woman bursting into a dinner party unannounced, and each man spins his version, showing how all of life's scenes has elements of both the miserable and the hilarious.

The rest of Melinda and Melinda criss-crosses between the two stories. Allen has cast both sides according to their form; Radha Mitchell, as Melinda, is the only actor to appear in both. Mitchell is brilliantly cast. Her switching between the two versions is more than a change of hairdo. She is somehow playing the same woman yet playing her different to fit the moment she finds herself in. On the tragic side, she has a manic fragility, whereas on the comedy side, it's more sweet--yet it's the same fragility. Regardless of the quality of the rest of the film, you'd want to watch Mitchell, just to see her fall apart and come back together over and over.

It's an interesting concept, and for the most part, Allen makes it work. It's only in the end where he loses his momentum. The drama actually comes to a relatively satisfying conclusion. On that side of things, Melinda has always taken the responsibility for her fate, and any tragedy that occurs she sees as the result of her own actions. It's only when she discovers a betrayal at the center of her rehabilitation that she is exposed as a victim. It's the last thing that can be taken away from her: her control over her own screw-ups. To have those close to her wreak havoc on her life is more than she can bear.

Unfortunately, on the comedy side of things, the story more runs out of steam than wraps up in any real way. In fact, the comedy seems to get short shrift throughout. For the first couple of scenes, it's not actually very funny, but Will Ferrell, playing his most subdued role to date as the usual Allen stand-in, pulls the laughs out of it by sheer determination (it's odd seeing such a big man be the Woody nebish). But then the script fails him and Mitchell. It's supposd to be a romantic comedy, so we know where it's heading, and it's how we get there that is what we are onboard for. When the story should get ridiculously complicated, so that the untangling of it is fun and the union a relief, Allen plays it passively, as if he is afraid to get too close to the romantic heart.

Still, Melinda and Melinda is one of Woody Allen's best movies in a long while, and the split-story device is a clever way to play with convention. There is an even further melding of two opposing yet intertwined mediums, as the film is essentially two imagined plays, and though Allen shoots it like a movie, he writes it as if for the stage. I couldn't help but wonder, though, how much more interesting it could have been if he had taken yet another stretch and switched the casts. What if, instead of casting Will Ferrell and Amanda Peet for the comedy, as is expected, he had made them the tragic actors, and Jonny Lee Miller and Chloe Sevigny could have played the clowns. If Allen truly wanted to show how the two forms really are one and the same, that would have driven the point home even further.

Low stopped in Portland last night, playing at the Bossanova. I am always excited to see them, and it was going to be interesting to see how some of my thoughts about their most recent album, The Great Destroyer, played out in the live setting. I'm happy to report that the songs sound great in person. Alan Sparhawk seems to have unleashed something, indulging his inner geek rocker with little jumps and guitar hero poses. He was also in the lightest mood I've ever witnessed in God knows how many performances, with none of the usual self-deprecation. One audience member kept tossing flowers onstage, prompting several Morrissey jokes and culminating in him sticking some in his back pocket, old-school Smiths-style. Plus, the old Alan wouldn't have been able to rebound from a set that began on a mistake. His microphone wasn't turned on when the trio took the stage. They started "Murderer" anyway, with Sparhawk singing the first couple of verses without amplification. It was thrillingly spontaneous.

The set was probably 70% The Great Destroyer, but they didn't shy away from old, quieter tunes like "Laser Beam" and the ever-excellent "Shame." Still, it was hard not to feel like something wasn't quite right. Low shows always felt like a communal experience: people packed into a room for over an hour to listen to incredibly hushed music. It was automatically intimate, and we'd often end up sitting on the floor, eyes closed, just listening. Now that a good portion of the music is loud and fuzzy, it's hard for it not to be just like any other rock show. Feet are tapping, people are dancing--is this Low?

Pedro The Lion opened, and man, what a dismal experience that was. How frightfully dull! There seems to be potential there: they actually reminded me somewhat of the Doves, but like the Doves if they were in their garage back in high school before they knew how to sing, play, or make their melodies soar. Regardless, the army of poorly bearded, thinning-haired saddoes came out to see their king, and he projected their image right back at them.

Current Sountrack: The House of Love, Days Run Away; Low, "Cue The Strings (alternate version)"

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


My new desktop:

I actually stole it from the website for Racine, the new band by ex-Transvision Vamp Wendy James. It's too bad this image, which I am sure they didn't create (I haven't yet seen this film, not sure where the image is from) is better than the samples of the music. I was fairly ambivalent to Transvision Vamp. They had great singles but patchy albums. In some ways, they were the Rolling Stones in opposition to The Primitives' role as The Beatles of the early '90s blonde pop scene, but if the Stones didn't really have the tunes. I did like James' solo record, Now Ain't the Time for Your Tears, largely because that was penned by Elvis Costello. It doesn't sound to me like this limp indie disco is going to bring James back into the public eye.

Current Sountrack: Gorillaz, "Dirty Harry" (which, as "Don't Need a Gun," was one of the better tracks on Damon Albarn's tossed-off solo album Democrazy, but isn't all that interesting as a return for this side project, is it? Especially with its desire to make us think of their classic "Clint Eastwood." I got it off iTunes); Bloc Party, Silent Alarm

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Monday, March 21, 2005


This week my first goal is to get the script for Honey Mustard vol. 2 done for Tokyopop. I really like this book. The art can be inconsistent, but the story is fun. It's a goofy Korean soap opera about a high school girl who gets caught in what looks like a compromising situation and is pushed into a marriage with the boy that was involved rather than suffer the public shame. His all-male family ends up being a handful: the grandfather is a headstrong curmudgeon, and his father is a pretty-boy, heartbreaker dentist. The first volume is available for preorder HERE.

I have a couple of days, at least, before Keith starts laying out I Was Someone Dead, which should work out because I have been going round and round on this preface I wrote for it and am trying some different options. One dark girl called me "pedantic," which is always a somewhat ironic insult, since nothing is more pedantic than calling someone pedantic. It calls to mind my friend Christopher's 21st birthday party when, like all newly minted alchoholics on their 21st birthday, we hassled him endlessly (to be fair, I have rarely seen him drink since, so he's not really an alcoholic like some of us), and at one point, when I am sure he was making a pithy argument backed up by healthy quotes from Susan Sontag or somesuch, our friend Alex called him pedantic. He responded with an angry sputter. "Pedantic?! Pendantic!!!" I now understand his rage. That word really gets under the skin.

I finished "No Brakes, I Don't Mind," moving beyond the provisional ending to another provisional ending. I am letting it rest. I like to put space between readings of my own work, as I forget details rather fast and so it will be fresher for me. "Walk Like a Panther" received its first rejection, so I am going to go over it again, too, and hopefully have them both ready to be submitted somewhere by the end of the month. I have had one other short story, "Chevelu," out for four months, but that was sent to a magazine with a long lag time.

Currently Reading: Le Morte D'Arthur: "The Book of Sir Tristram" and the Devil's Footprints colllection by Scott Allie, Brian Horton, and Paul Lee (I never finished it in serial form)

Current Sountrack: 1965 recording of Harold Seletsky's experiment musical monodrama Christ in Concrete, featuring Eli Wallach

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Friday, March 18, 2005


This week's double offering as part of Noir City are two films directed by Frank Tuttle. (Read about the first weekend here.)

Friday night's screening was Gunman in the Streets (1950), a joint production between French and American studios. Dane Clark plays Eddy Roback, an AWOL American soldier who has gotten caught up in some dirty business. The film opens with a violent shootout in which Eddy's pals free him from the prison transport. On the run, Eddy reconnects with his former girlfriend, Denise, played by legendary French actress Simone Signoret (perhaps best known in America for Diabolique). Getting out of town isn't going to be easy, and the couple will soon be tangled up with a persistent police detective, an American reporter with a thing for Denise, and a weasely pervert with a thing for cats.

Gunman In The Streets is a strange hybrid. It has the austerity of French crime pictures, rather than the terse verve of American film noir. Yet, the character of Eddy is entirely American, lacking any of the world-weary ennui of someone like Jean Gabin. In fact, Eddy lacks any kind of redeemable qualities. He's simply hard. Hard and mean. The way he devises to kill the pervert is particularly gruesome, and it's hard to see why Denise stays with him. The tug-of-war for her heart between Eddy and the reporter ends up being the crux of the film, a rarity for the film noir genre: the woman is the real main character. Just like any man in a noir world, though, it doesn't matter what she chooses, since it's just like Eddy tells her, the stars had her fate planned before she was even born.

The second film is 1942's This Gun For Hire. I won't be attending any of the screenings, however, because I own it on DVD, and so there is no need. I do recommend you give it a shot, though, because it's a fun, if flawed, movie. The main draws are the stars. Veronica Lake is pouty and sexy, and she subverts the femme fatale idea by being a fair-haired mother to Alan Ladd's gangster with a case of arrested development. Ladd plays the film noir tough guy as a kid who never grew up. He started playing with guns and never stopped. He also never learned how to deal with emotions, so while he may be good at his job, he's not really equipped for the real world. Thus, the guy who never goes down under a punch melts with the first kiss of kindness. Sometimes the mix in This Gun For Hire is a little off, and so some scenes skew slightly humorous. To my eye, the uneven tone seems to be mainly a result of a push to give the hard-boiled story (based on a Graham Greene novel) a commercial edge. As noted in my Valentine's post, Lake is a night club performer in the film, and so a couple of songs are shoehorned in. There are plot motivations for her job, but the overall feel of the performances themselves is too nice, and doesn't fit the sexy or dangerous surroundings of the rest of the story.

I have to say, the crowd was on much better behavior this time around, though it could be simply because the Parisian air of Gunman in the Streets is much more arch. It has the whiff of an art film. Something tells me that the uneven tone of This Gun For Hire will inspire a much more (or less?) affected response. Or maybe they read my blog and I gave them the fear.

Current Sountrack: The Killers b-sides & remixes; Law & Order: Trial By Jury

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Spent yesterday with Lynn Adair, the freelance copy editor on I Was Someone Dead (and who worked at Dark Horse when I did), going over her notes and making the corrections. It was a strange experience. A copy editor questions everything, pulling sentences out of context and forcing them to speak for themselves. It's interesting to hear/see your words like that, almost as if spoken by another voice.

It's also a little demoralizing to see how you make the same kinds of mistakes over and over and over. I was pretty drained by the end of the day.

I finished up the rest of the work on the manuscript today. We had a highlighter system to track our changes: yellow was corrected on the digital file, pink was rejected, and blue was something I had to think over. I think there were five or six blues. So, I messed with those this morning, as well as snipping out 2/3 of the preface. I then went through and made notes to Keith Wood about layout, including where Andi Watson wanted illustrations, discovered I had spelled Lao-Tzu wrong, and then sent the whole thing to Keith to work his wizadry on. We are currently ahead of schedule, I think.

Typed up the last of my handwritten work on "No Brakes, I Don't Mind," and decided what I had thought might make a provisional ending doesn't work, and I am kind of starting to think I don't care for the story that much. 10,000 words. I may have to let it rest for a bit.

Current Soundtrack: iPod shuffle: Robbie Williams, "Radio;" Luke Haines and The Auteurs, "Bugger Bognor;" Doves, "One of These Days"

Sunday, March 13, 2005


The Northwest Film Center has begun a new festival of classic film noir called "Noir City." It began on Friday night and runs for the next couple of weeks. It's made up almost entirely of movies I haven't seen before, and they're movies that are not currently available commercially, so needless to say I have my schedule pretty well planned out for this. I used to enjoy going to the festivals at Cinema 21, when they'd run the films daily, not just on the weekend, numbing my butt into the shape of the seat and taking in as much black-and-white crime as I could stand.

The first film on Friday night was Angel Face, a 1953 RKO release, directed by Otto Preminger and opening with a massive "Produced by Howard Hughes" title card. It stars Robert Mitchum as a driver with dreams of owning his own garage, and Jean Simmons as the spoiled rich girl who sucks him into her world of evil stepmothers, lies, and dangerous derangements. The dark-haired beauty immediately destroys Mitchum's relationship with the wholesome fair-haired girl who sees the twisted debutante for what she is, but when Simmons brings Mitchum to her house, hiring him on as the chauffer, she has brought him too close: he, too, starts to see that things aren't right behind the mansion doors, and everything begins to unravel. The film is a bit stiff at times, but there is some genuinely great hard-boiled dialogue (when asked what he thinks of a horse featured in the seventh race, Mitchum replies, "I think she'll still be running in the eighth"), as well as a palpable sense of paranoia and foreboding. The genuinely bleak ending puts it a cut above the other B-grade noirs (does a B-grade B-movie equal a C-movie?), but not necessarily a stunning picture to start a festival with.

The Sniper, Saturday's outing (and both of these films are shone again this evening), is actually a better starting point. The 1952 release was directed by Edward Dmytryk, also known for Murder, My Sweet and The End of the Affair. Dmytryk really has to struggle against some heavy-handed material here. The film stops dead twice as the police psychologist explains his theories about sexual predators and the proper course of treatment, but even as these monologues grate on modern ears, you have to appreciate the progressiveness in even approaching the subject. The titular sniper is a disturbed young man who has developed an obsessive hatred of women, and he is compelled to climb the rooftops of San Francisco and shoot ones he feels have done him wrong. Arthur Franz plays the killer as a lost soul who just wants to belong somewhere, only to find himself barred from the social situations he finds himself in. He goes from placid happiness to rage to self-loathing and guilt all in the course of single scenes, the smallest slight setting him off. It all has an unexplained connection to baseball, stemming from his first violent outburst as a child, and it comes to the fore at a carnival where an obnoxious woman in a dunking tank game taunts customers. Franz buys nine balls, sinking the woman five times in a row before really losing his cool and hurtling the rest of the balls at the tank itself. It's explosive, and makes perfect sense for a character overcome by irrational anger.

The movie truly shines, though, when we focus on the cops (including the amusingly named Lt. Frank Kafka), who approach the crime scenes with a gallows humor and a dogged determination they never quite let show. The best scene, though, is when a parade of sex perverts is led through an open interrogation where they are more ridiculed than questioned, the sort of snarky bad-cop interrogation that has become a staple of police stories. Dmytryk's fantastic location shooting is another high point, adding a realistic touch to the film. The steep San Francisco streets seem to personify the sniper's internal struggle: he can never walk normally on even ground.

So far, the only downside to Noir City has been the audience, and it may prove to be a struggle for the whole festival. I have experienced this before when going to see other films doing the revival circuit. They seem to attract people who like to come and snicker at the movies for being old and quaint, basking in the disgusting afterglow of camp. I don't know if this is the same everywhere, or if it's a particularly revolting manifestation of Portland's Napoleonic Complex (never as cultured as it would like to be), but I really don't get why these people get off on going to see a melodramatic crime picture and laughing at it like it's a comedy, not just at the intended humor, but at everything. Does it really make you that enlightened? Are you so much more clever than everyone in 1952? I'm not sure you've revealed yourselves as such. At The Sniper in particular, I witnessed shameful behavior. During a scene where the killer's female boss gives him a hard time, a much older man next to me turned to his wife and loudly declared, "He needs to shoot her ass." This kind of reaction was repeated in a later scene with the same character, when a man in front of me, also old enough to know better, made pistol gestures at the screen. I'd hate to hear their quips and witness the pantomime with these men at a movie about rape. How jaded would our eyes be, then?

Current Sountrack: The Trash Can Sinatras, Weightlifting

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Friday, March 11, 2005


I was working on "No Brakes, I Don't Mind" when I realized that the 500 words I had just written were useless, because it too closely mirrors Chapter 21 of Cut My Hair. Both are based on things I witnessed or was part of at real concerts, and they happened many years apart, but to a reading audience, it wouldn't be seen as just the sort of common thing that happens at these kinds of shows, it would be seen as repeating myself.

I quite like the whole exchange, though, so I figured I'd post it here, in its rough and uncorrected form:

Two girls stood tightly together, shoulder to shoulder, halting Wayne's surge to the front. He gave them a bit of a push, but they didn't budge. He could feel the rest of the crowd collapse in on him, like when you pull something out of the mud and the rest of the muck falls in immediately to fill the empty space. The girls weren't going to move, so he opted for the polite approach.

"Excuse me," he said.

"You're excused," the girl on the left said, only half turning back before focusing on Tristan again.

"No, excuse me, can I get by."

"You may not," the girl on the right replied.

"But you're excused anyway," the left added.

Wayne slid his arm over their shoulders, past their faces, and pointed at Fenn three rows up. Her hands were above her head and she was clapping. "My friend's up there," he explained. "I'm just going to meet her."

The right girl slapped his wrist. "Don't touch us," she hissed.

He pulled his hand back.

They weren't budging, and Wayne was feeling agitated again. He was soaked with his own sweat, as well as the sweat from everyone else. It was hot, just like always down here, in the desert. His weight was returning, increasing—no longer light and airy, but heavy and solid. He decided to use that weight to get where he was going and threw his body into the girls once more.

It didn't work. They bounced him back with just a tiny flick of their shoulders, bony saloon doors rejecting a patron. The duo turned on him. They both had shiny lip-gloss on, and for a second he wondered what flavor. "No one here is your friend," the left girl said, and then in tandem, they shoved him, knock him into several people and nearly off his feet.

Everyone had turned on him now. The crowd started pushing him and yelling at him.

"Get out of here!"

"You like hitting girls, you fuckin' pussy?"

"We were here first, jerk!"

Every time Wayne thought he found a neutral spot he could stand, someone else would tell him to go.

"You can't stand there, man, that spot's taken. By me."

"Nuh-uh. Not in front of me, jagoff."

No one was going to let him be, so Wayne gave up. When he turned fully around and declared he was going, several people clapped. Someone slapped him on the back of his neck on his way out, but he didn't turn to see who.

There was a bar in the back, dimly lit by orange neon, and Wayne ducked into it, hoping people would forget who he was and leave him alone. He was drenched from head to toe, and he felt like he'd just been washed down a river that was full of gigantic boulders and he'd ricocheted off of each one. "Interior Gardening" was over and they were playing a song Wayne had never heard before. To be honest, he wasn't sure how many songs they had played. He had no memory of the first song ending, and there could have been half a dozen before this one. The melee had caused him to completely miss the opening.

Current Soundtrack: The Thrills, "Viva Las Vegas;" Jennifer Lopez, "He'll Be Back" (produced by Timbaland)


I linked to this humorous article by Everett True in the Lance Scott live journal (where I go to air out Lance-like thoughts and fictional occurrences and confuse people into thinking it's all happening to me), but I am going to link here, too, because (a) I like it, and (b) I like Everett. I was writing for the Portland Mercury when he first moved to Seattle, and that was when Cut My Hair came out, so my editor there forwarded him a copy. He wrote back that he liked it until the final third when "it got all portentous on my ass." Fair enough. I think a nicer way to say it than the Willamette Week's "The major symbol...recurs as chronically as crabs in a whorehouse to remind us that the book has Big Meaning." But the rest of that WW piece was a nice review, so I didn't take it bad. I even joke about it on my own site when linking to it.

There was actually a worse write-up in WW the week before the review was printed. It was the blurb for my reading at Powell's. The tone of it (and it was just a couple of lines) was extremely sarcastic, including making fun of the fact that I was having a slideshow with some of the art (something Powell's had requested). It pissed me off, and I nearly dashed off a letter to the books editor at the paper, who I wrote the occasional graphic novel review for, but thought better of it. This was the same editor who eventually told me that writing critical reviews of graphic novels was "stupid." Her logic was that, you know, people wanted to look at comic books, not read about them. I kid you not. I was glad to see her go.

Anyway, it was the right choice not to complain. I think it's entirely bad form for artists to whine about reviews, particularly in the same forum as the review was printed. It's part of the trade off. You know that going in, there is a double edge to promotion. I had also written my share of snarky pieces in the past, including a few that garnered responses from the targets. Like, when Cobra High called my house in the middle of the night and hung up, not considering the fact that I may have caller ID and crank calling from their work wasn't the smartest option. I just asked my editor, "Do you know anyone who works at _______ Café?" Yes, she did. Some guys in Cobra High. What a coincidence that my write-up of their show had appeared the same day. I also had a review of a CD by The Pinehurst Kids that had inspired one of the guys in the band to retaliate on the Mercury's letters page. As usual when such a thing occurs, the artist ended up looking like a baby who couldn't take it. Trust me, no one remembers a bad review, nor the guy who wrote it; everyone remembers the guy who got reviewed whining about it. (I took a different approach as an editor, as I often felt compelled to defend the work of my colleagues; though, I tried to confine it to someplace like the Oni message board, where it was in the atmosphere of people hanging out and talking; our own backyward, as it were.)

I've been noticing a disturbing, yet similar, swing in another direction for a while now. That is, the critics now defending themselves. This seems to take place particularly online, where reviewers seem to roam around looking for people taking exception to what they wrote (do they google themselves?). To me, this is plainly bad form. I never answered my hate mail, I just let it go. It's the same principle: if you're going to criticize, expect to be criticized, accept it as the lay of the land. Even worse than having a thin skin, though, as a writer of opinions, if you feel compelled to not just defend those opinions against scrutiny, but to clarify those opinions in order to be better understood, you shouldn't be spending the time arguing with some blogging scamp, you should be looking over your original piece and wondering if it was something you did to be misunderstood. You can't wave away the criticism of your own work by insisting you were misinterpreted. As an alleged writer, you should know that all words can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, and you should be examining the ones you strung together to see how you may have led a reader down the path to misunderstanding you. You can never hide behind the stance that "it's just words on a screen," either, because you should know how powerful words are.

Now that I think of it, that last bit applies to writers who can't help but act like jackasses in online forums. I've seen plenty of these "personalities" who indulge in bad behavior and then hide behind those kinds of defenses (I've even pulled it myself once or twice, sometimes intentionally to fuck with someone). If any writer says, "Hey, you misread, I'm just kidding, I didn't mean it that way, it's just words," you should assume either (a) he is lying to you, or (b) he's a piece of shit writer. More often than not, go with (b). And all you (b)-grade writers should consider yourself on notice. Piss me off, and I may point you out. It's because I'm a type-(a) "personality," and I'll get away with it.

Current Sountrack: 808 State, Ex:El

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Friday, March 04, 2005


This is an iTurnes survey I saw on Laminatedcats live journal. I liked it, so I nicked it.

How many total songs?

Sort by Song Title
First: "J.P." - Kenickie
Last: Yumeji's Theme + Li-Zhen's Dialogue – In The Mood for Love Soundtrack

Sort by Time
First: Intro - Muse (22 seconds) (from Absolution)
Last: Good Intentions Heal The Soul - Mansun (26 min., 12 seconds)

Sort by Album
First: 'neath Your Covers - The Cowboy Junkies
Last: Zenkyoku Shu - Meiko Kaji

Sort by Artist
First: 101ers
Last: Faye Wong, due to the fact that it puts her name in Chinese characters; Yo-Yo Ma & Ennio Morricone if we stick to English

Top Ten Most Played Songs
01. The Never-Played Symphonies – Morrissey (ironic, no?)
02. Jenny Was A Friend of Mine – The Killers
03. Here I Go Impossible Again - Erasure
04. Who Let You Go? (iTunes Version) – The Killers
05. Communication - Cardigans
06. I Bet You’re Mad At Me - Erasure
07. My Life is a Succession of People Saying Goodbye - Morrissey
08. Don’t Make Fun of Daddy’s Voice - Morrissey
09. No One Can Hold a Candle to You - Raymonde
10. Jealousy – Dubstar (covering the Pet Shop Boys)

Find "sex," how many songs show up?

Find "death," how many songs show up?

Find "love," how many songs show up?


Current Soundtrack: New Order, "Here To Stay"


The March 2005 edition of Previews, the monthly solicitation catalogue for the comic book industry, has been released. It's the catalogue for items being released in May, and so includes I Was Someone Dead on page 322. The preceding two-page spread (320-321) is the regular Oni Press Bulletin. The Dead excerpt is thus:

It's a little hard to read in this format, but you can download the entire double-page at full size right here. I recommend all four books listed on it.

Oni has also started to build the page for the book on their website, which includes pricing information, ISBN number (for ordering through bookstores), and the Diamond order code (for ordering through comic book shops, which you should do as soon as possible, if that's the route you choose). For people like me who shop online a lot, I have not yet seen an etailer listing anywhere.

Oh, and in case anyone cares, my leg is doing much better, and my meeting with the copy editor on I Was Someone Dead went ahead as planned yesterday. (And I just looked it up: "copy editor" the noun is two words, while the actual verb "copyedit" is one. Interesting.)

Current Sountrack: Manic Street Preachers, The Holy Bible: 10th Anniversary Edition (US Mix)

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


I think I broke my butt. I have no explanation for it, but last Thursday I woke up and my left cheek was totally sore. It felt like some kind of pulled muscle, and it worked itself out for the most part throughout the day, only maintaining a dull ache over the next two days. That is, until Saturday night, when I was walking home from playing pinball and it really started to hurt, and my bad knee, also on my left leg, started to go with it.

I chalked this up to being tired. My legs get stiff when I need to go to bed. They don't predict the weather yet, but they tell me when I am getting sleepy. By the next morning, I still hurt, but I got through work that day fine. Sleeping became an issue, though. It's hard to get comfortable when one half of your ass is in pain. Monday nights are my shifts to work alone, which means a lot of movement, and I was really starting to feel it. Some people gave me that scary look sick people often get, that makes you think you must have rotting flesh or something. Apparently the trouble was evident. I know I was sweating, perhaps slightly feverish. The worst part, really, is when you stop moving. The actual pain is no big deal, I find, it's how your body reacts when the pain subsides. It seems to scream, "WHAT DID YOU JUST DO TO ME?!" I nearly passed out a couple of times. To make matters worse, when I got home, I discovered I had taken the key to the lockbox with me and had to walk all the way back.

So, I finally started to fall asleep around 1:30 am, but was up and down all night. I definitely developed a fever that seems to have burned out a lot of it. I was much better when I got up this morning. I took a bath and went back to bed and slept for a couple of hours pretty well. I'm feeling much better and am going to call in sick today. This whole thing has put me behind on my stated goals of last week, but even worse, while I have a pot of leftover coffee from yesterday, I am out of fresh beans and I accidentally left the creamer out all day, so I have no cream for my coffee. Quel tragedy!

In other business, the Trilogy staff picks return this month. I didn't post any last month because our feature section tied in with the Portland International Film Festival. But here are my five for this month:

* Blue Spring, directed by Toshiaki Toyoda, based on the manga by Taiyo Matsumoto (U.S. comics script by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who turned me on to both the movie and the book)

* Days of Being Wild, dir. Wong Kar-Wai

* I Vitelloni, dir. Fellini

* Shadows, dir. Cassavetes

* Who's That Knocking at My Door?, dir. Scorsese

All of these films are stories of restless youth, and except for Blue Spring, are either first efforts (Cassavetes, Scorsese) or the breakout films of the directors (Fellini had co-directed Variety Lights; Wong Kar-Wai made As Tears Go By, but Days of Being Wild was the one where he had the freedom to really show his distinctive style).

Also, in bookstores and comic shops now: Clamp Paranormal Investigators novel vol. 3, and Ai Yori Aosi vol. 8, both rewritten by me.

Current Sountrack: Ride, Live Light

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich