Sunday, January 31, 2010

Catcher in the Ire

Its no secret that J D Salinger - the writer of one of the most influential books of the 20th Century, the Catcher in Rye - was a notorious recluse who hated Hollywood and everything it stands for. Consequently, good old JD rejected all of Hollywood's advances of the past sixty years.

Mr Salinger's distrust had as much to do with the 'phoniness' of the movie business as it did with the hatchet job that Hollywood did on one of his celebrated short stories, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut in 1948 - before he had even written Catcher in the Rye and inspiring perhaps the now famous line in Catcher - "If there's one thing I hate, its the movies."

It is ironic therefore that Hollywood has long been hot on the trail of bringing the fictional lips that spoke these words, to 'life'. Now that JD is gone, the sharks have once again begun to circle, and there is every reason to believe that before long, the sharks will be fed.

Truth be told, there have been many versions / facsimilies of the Holden Caufield character since Catcher in the Rye made its debut in 1951. Just about every rebel that has ever portrayed, every outsider, has embodied some little bit of Holden Caufield. James Dean channeled bits of HC in Rebel without a cause. Lloyd Dobler (Say Anything), Max Fischer (Rushmore), Igby (Igby goes down), and even Graham Dalton (Sex, Lies and Videotape) all owe a debt of gratitude to the legacy of rebellion and individuality first initiated by Catcher in the Rye.

But now, the real prize is within reach. And the hundreds, nay thousands of Hollywood execs, who can count Catcher as one of the few books that they actually have read, are sure to start the process of stalking the heirs of the Salinger estate to become the first to officially sodomize his greatest work. The speculation has already begun on the internet. And no doubt, Catcher in the Rye will be the subject of many of the Studio Production Meetings this Monday morning.

I can just imagine the discussion now:

First Exec: 'Ok, guys. That Salinger dude is dead now and there is nothing to stop my lifelong ambition of bring the character of Holden Caufield to life.'

Second Exec: 'Its been some time since we did a baseball movie so.....'

Third Exec: 'Dude, did you grow up in Utah? Catcher in the Rye is the story of a rebellious young prep school student who gets expelled and journeys to New York for the weekend. Its a 'rite du passage' type story. I know, cause I wikipedia'd it myself last night.'

SE: 'Oh sure. I think I remember that. Great story. Wrote an essay from the Cliff Notes and scored a B+ in my modern american lit course. Haven't they made that into a movie before?'

FE: 'Nope! And thats why we gotta move quick.'

TE: 'Seems that the author had a problem with Hollywood. Didn't think that anyone could do the story justice.'

FE: '........Until now. I think I got the perfect formula for this one.'

SE: 'Well lets hear it!'

FE: 'I'm thinking that maybe we can get Robert Pattinson to play the lead: Holden Caufield..... And maybe get Chris Columbus or Catherine Hardwicke to direct.'

SE: 'R-Pattz has worked with Harwicke before and I think there's a rapport there. What about a love interest?'

FE: 'What do you mean? There is no love interest in the book.'

TE: 'Dude. This is Hollywood. We gotta sex it up for the teens. Teenage girls buy more tickets and t-shirts than anyone else.'

FE: 'Well I suppose that we can re-write the part of the prostitute. Maybe get them to fall in love. And have someone young and hot to play the part like Leighton Meister or Emma Watson.'

SE: 'Sounds much better. But make her a girl with a troubled past rather than a hooker. And maybe we can make it that he's been expelled for being a vampire.......'

FE: (Disturbed) 'What! Where did that come from?'

SE: 'The girls love the whole vampire bit (excuse the pun). It would all be part of updating the whole story. Its poetic license. And we'll be sure to treat with the whole thing tastefully.'

FE: (Cautiously) 'Oooookayyyy. (Turning sarcastic now) Why not make it a musical while we're at it....'

SE: (Excited) 'Now that what I'm looking for! A spark of originality to start off the week. Why not a musical? Maybe get those Mama Mia guys to write original music for it. Perhaps put some dancing as well. The kids responded well to that song and dance sequence in (500) days of Summer last year.'

FE: 'So, you're saying that we re-imagine Catcher in the Rye as a vampire romance musical starring Robert Pattinson and Leighton Meister????!!!'

SE: 'And I'm thinking that we can cast Johnny Depp as the pervish teacher. And Justin Timberlake and one of the Jonas brothers as Stradlater and Ackley....."

Harvey Weinstein: (From a dark corner of the room) 'Sold! We start production in two weeks.'

Friday, January 22, 2010

Poetry Break # 2: Caught in Cheshire's wide whiskered grin, I, the fly, dive in.

‘Caught in Cheshire’s wide whiskered grin, I, the fly, dive in’

The buzzing fly
Around your sleepy head.

A yawn
That grows
From a smile
Into a chasm
Waiting for me
To dive in.

She purrs
And it sounds
Like the whole world
Is buzzing
Around my sleepy head.

Its waking up.

I’m waking up
to you.

I’m diving in.

Your eyes are the colour
of the clear night sky
And seas of midnight blue.

That wash over me
And pull me under
The waves

And pushes me
Back up again

I am born again
With you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

President Obama - One year on

Today marks the one year anniversary of Barack Obama's presidency. In the twelve months since he took the oath of office, President Obama has had to deal with the crushing weight of optimistic expectation and the cold, cruel reality of getting what you wished for. For the pundits on both sides of the political fence, there is consensus that this Presidency has not signalled the much hoped for return to Camelot. Instead, the shine on the new president and his family have dulled fast. And what is left is a nation in a state of near crisis.

As an anniversary gift, the President received some of the worst news imaginable: the once unassaible democratic fortress that is the senatorial seat formerly held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has fallen to a Conservative Republican of little repute and whose chances of winning were being written off as little as two weeks ago. Even the President's attempt to hit the ground campaigning for the Democratic candidate has been for nought. A slap in the face for the President, yes. But more startlingly for the President's policies in particular Health Care Reform, the Social Agenda and Homeland Security. 'Yes, we can!' Is quickly turning into "Yes, we could have." Or even, "Yes, we can't!"

There has been lots of talk this past week about the President's Report Card. Even the President himself somewhat foolishly stumbled into the discourse by giving himself a very generous B+ for his freshman year effort. History will instead recall a very different story. Of a year that has been filled with gaffes, misdirection, dashed hopes, a damaged american psyche and a series of political miscalculations. This is not to say that President does not remain popular with a sizeable portion of the american public. But perhaps what was needed in 2009 were fewer pleas for time and patience and more attempts at communicating a future that could well still be. A little more fatherly and alot less dithering.

I myself have attempted to grade the President's Performance against the key issues of the past year. Sadly, in spite of the desire to be a more generous grader and in light of the crushing weught of unfulfilled promises, overall the President's grade could hardly be above a C+. Hardly the performance of a Nobel Laureate, I know - but lets be honest: he didnt really deserve that either did he?

The President's Freshman Report Card would read as follows:

The Economy D+

In spite of the billions of dollars in bail-outs. The average american continued to lose his job and his home in 2009. Cash for clunkers? Tax breaks on electric golf carts? Runaway defecit spending? Stimulus packages with so much graft and riders attached to it that they barely delivered any relief to the american people. In spite of the billions of dollars of new debt, americans are waiting with bated breath for the dreaded 'double dip'. The Economic Crisis was not well handled and it is still far from over. Much room for improvement next year.

Foreign Policy C-

The Nobel Peace Prize could well have been an accolade earned by future President Obama (lets say circa 2015) but with Professor Brown suffering from a lack of funding and Marty McFly no doubt looking for meaningful employment, there was no way for the DeLorean to make that trip Back to the Future to confirm that the President planted any of the seeds for lasting peace let alone meaningful dialogue in 2009. The President caved in Palestine. Had his bluff called in Teheran. And needed a well executed Hail Mary from an ex-President to save the two journalists in North Korea. Even now, the US is making a total mess of the relief effort in Haiti. There were shades of 'W' all round. To his credit however, he did try to save the show at Copenhagen but at what cost? And to what redounding benefit is still to be seen.

Climate B-

This president talks the talk but the jury is still out on whether or not he can walk the walk. With the nation facing down the barrel of economic ruin it would have been foolhardy to believe that there would be a meaningful shift from fossil fuel reliance to more renewable forms of energy. Truth be told, this is a charge that Government will have to drive through its infancy until it can be weaned off of the national teat. Copenhagen represented a minor victory of sorts for the Climate Chaneg advocates. The proof however will be in the pudding and whether or not an economic upswing can be manufactured on the backs of a carefully managed national energy and national conservation policies.

Homeland Security B-

The entire visa system in the US requires a overhaul - fast! How is it that a Nigerian teen (hell-bent on the Apocalypse) can be granted a visitors' visa yet bonafide students from english speaking countries are being routinely denied student's visas? (True story that) One would think that with the mess that the health system is in that there would be an open-arms policy when it came to medical students possibly even inducements to have them stay there after as well. This 'issue' aside, the Department of Homeland Security is no nearer to being properly integrated with other state agencies let alone have a true picture of just who exactly is showing up at every american port of call. Still no repeats of 9/11 makes a B- a pretty fair grade.

Healthcare C+

Even though he was able to get some semblance of a Heath Reform Bill passed in the Senate, the defeat in Massachussets on Tuesday could signal un an unravelling of the support for his Healthcare agenda in the coming months. There are many democrats in the House who are up for re-election this year and for many this contentious issue could well lose them their places on Capitol Hill. What is required are baby steps rather than a sea change with respect to this issue. The President must learn that to push his agenda through he is going to require friends on either side of the house. Moderation and collaboration will help to remove the much bandied about labels of 'liberal' and 'socialist' from the debate and will in time cultivate the sense that a health care plan that benefits all americans is morally right, christian and the gosh-darn american thing to support. More honey and less vinegar Mr President. Play nice with the kids on both sides of the house and a much higher grade can be yours next year.

The War in Iraq C+

Depending from which angle you look at it, this Administration's performance on this front has been either a startling failure or a moderate success. The mere fact that the withdrawal of troops in Iraq appears set to begin as planned in August 2010 is a success of sorts. Mr Obama neither started this operation nor has he made a hobby of justifying what has from the start been an unneccessary and costly expedition. Still, his ability to keep his word has to be juxtaposed by the fact that the occupying forces leave behind an Iraqi Government and Military that is ill-equipped to deal with the mess that is Iraq. For all that he was, Saddam Hussein helped to maintain a certain balance and stability in that region. With so many diametrically opposed views vying for its share of resources in Iraq (Shi-ites, Sunnis, Kurds, Baathists) the outlook for that country remains grim to say the least. The amercianization of Iraq is no doubt destined to be a temporary event.

The War in Afghanistan F
Even I called this one wrongly. Initially, I had anticipated that the action in Afghanistan would have been a short-lived affair. That a nation worn down by under-development, years of civil unrest and a long treacherous occupation by the second most powerful nation in the world - would have been no match for the US Armed Forces. Instead, Afghanistan will more than likely go down in history as Vietnam 2.0. 18,000 additional troops are not going to help the situation very much. Get out now while you still have black hair on your head.

With few successes behind him, (And even the threat that some of what has been accomplished will now be undone in the wake of yesterday's election defeat!) and with November and a slew of Congressional, Senatorial and Gubernatorial seats to be contested looming on the horizon, the question arises: Is Barack Obama destined to be a one-term President?

Both Presidents Bush (Number 43) and Clinton faced similar questions one year into their first term when very different sets of circumstances stepped in to save each of their presidencies. More famously, the Bush Presidency was for all intents and purposes saved by 9/11 and predictably the good ole boys circled the wagons and he was re-elected in 2004. As a political and historical observer, I cannot help but wonder just what, if any, event or series of events awaits americans this time around. Or will it simply be a case of a President changing his course on the advice of his people? Erring on the side of reason? Does this President even want to win a second election?
On the surface, President Obama has until now had an easy run of things. His elevation from Illinois Lawyer to President has been a relatively short and favourable road. Now with the chips seemingly down, President Obama has a real opportunity to prove to the nation that he has what it takes to be a truly great president.
And the opportunities for greatness are blatantly obvious. I mean where is the bipartisanship that he eschewed during his campaign fifteen months ago? Where is the great communicator elected in November '08? The uniter of the people? The leader through the tough times? Where is the man americans thought they elected a year ago? The answers to all of these questions will come in good time. But for now, the rest of the world is still rooting for President Obama and the audacity of hope remains - a little bruised and dented - but still there, as we turn our faces into the headwind of a very uncertain future.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Talking about a New Religion

I've been thinking about Scientology again lately, and the huevos grandes that its followers must have to have stuck out the shouts of critcis and the sane alike. It takes a special breed of people to believe some of the outlandish 'shite' that they do. Not that I'm saying that theyre gullible (just covering my bases in case I die and meet up with Xenu in the afterlife), but rather that it takes a great amount of conviction and faith for someone to believe in this stuff.

Scientology has been having a rough time of things recently: problems with the Governments of France and Australia; defections by celebrity adherents; all those pesky gay rumours that seem to follow John Travolta and Tom Cruise around. Heck, I even caught a repeat of the Scientolgy episode of South Park the other night - and when badly animated eight year olds start taking swipes at you, things must be really bad.

So back to my 'thinkings'. We all know that Scientology is the result of the revelations of L Ron Hubbard - a man who among other things was a convicted charlatan, pervert and failed sci-fi writer. Regarding the latter, it would seem to me that perhaps herein lies the reason why Scientology has been such a 'niche' religion.

Had L Ron been a good writer (not even a successful one), would that have made his story a better and more digestable one for his followers? Why has Judaism, Christianity and Islam lasted this long? Because God must be the best g$dd@mmed writer around! He is the Stephen King of redemption and the Robert Ludlum of damnation. Or at the very least he hired the best ghost writers that 50 virgins can buy. :)

With that single thought I started to hypothesize, what if better, more successful writers had decided to 'talk about a new religion? If Chuck Palahniuk were a less successful writer, would the world have him to thank for 'Fight church' - where men settled issues like men - until one is bloodied and incapacitated?

Ludlum's Bourne series is pretty philosophical at its root. Would the Bourne Religion - where we spent our entire lives trying to piece together the meanings of our lives while delicately taking out those people responsible for making it what it is - make sense to the masses.

And how about Suessism - based largely on the rants of Theodor Geisel and whose 'god' is a cat in a hat?

The truth is that ever since man first crawled up on to the shore and learned how to express himself, his musings have been largely existensial in nature. It is after all OUR NATURE to probe and to question and to look for that greater meaning in everything around us. As outlandish as L Ron might appear, he really was just satisfying one of our most primal of instincts. (Well two, if we were to add accumulation of wealth to the list).

At the end of the day, is it our sense of reason that determines what becomes part of our psyche and what is discarded as bad prose? Or is it some form of inherent knowledge - something in our DNA that tells us to believe in a God that loves us, instead of stories of alien overlords and orphaned spirits? That makes us rely on the cross rather than E-meters.

So, with the above to ruminate on, would any of you care to risk damnation at the hands of Xenu to offer a thought on this rant? Or perhaps suggest a new religion or two that might still safe mankind from itself? Post your comment after the beep.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

I am good at taking things apart. I am not a plumber.

I should be made to write the title to this blog at least a thousand times. But the fact that I lost two hours of my life on Friday night that I can never hope to recover should be enough punishment in this instance.

The Crime: Thinking that I could fix the leak on the kitchen sink faucet. I did an excellent job of taking that bitch down. But two hours later, I couldnt for the life of me put it all back in a manner consistent with good manufacturing practices. F@#king faucet! And poor stupid f@#king me! This one is going to cost you lad. And it has. $1500 and counting so far.

On reflection (and in-between the swearing) it would appear that my life has been a tireless routine of deconstruction (A favorite toy. An electronic device. A person's psyche.) and abject failure each and every time I have tried to put it back together again. I suppose that some people never learn.

Lets hope that Delta lives up to its promise of being 'guaranteed for life'. And that maybe, just maybe, somebody would hide my toolbox away before I attempt something this stupid again.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Poetry Break # 1: Like Code

In honour of the Derek Walcott 70th Birthday Celebrations now on at the University of the West Indies (he's doing a book signing this evening!), I thought that I would post one of my poems for your consumption. That said, this is in no way as epic as Omeros and I pray that no one tries to decipher it as if it were a Rorshach, but still please leave me your impressions. At its worst, I hope you enjoy it. Its called 'Like Code'.

Crows sit perched
On lamp-posts.

They swing by,

past me -


I see one alone and

Then two,

And four.

Shadows against
The eastern sun
Like breaks in the transmission,
Tapping out
Messages in code.

I want to close my eyes

And surrender
This wheel
For a ride
In the back
Of a big,
Black car.


Sticky sweet
With honey
For you honey
With hidden guilt
And shame,

Is nothing more
Than a distant taste
Of kind words
Of reconsolation

From my tongue
Like breaks in the transmission

Like code.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pandora's Bucks (or my take on the Frankenstein's Monster that is Avatar)

Avatar is now the second highest grossing film of all time. Whoopee. (Please note the sarcasm) As I would recall from the sad spectacle that is the Top Grossing Film of all time (Titanic) - box office grosses are in no way indicative of the quality of a film.

Avatar is a visually lush escape to a world beyond this one but which is destined to suffer the same fate as the one in which we currently live. Pandora is serene and rich in vegetation but thanks to the arrival of the 'white man' this idyllic paradise is certain to be destroyed.

Visually impressive, yes, but as a story this movie really let me down. I won't even get into the obvious borrowing from other source novels and movies as this has been extensively blogged about in the past six weeks.

Instead, I have five distinct issues with Avatar, that trasposes it from being a great film to a mediocre one.

1. Who the f@#k annointed Sam Worthington the next big thing?
With turns in Terminator Salvation and Avatar alreday under his belt. And Clash of the Titans in the Spring - it would appear that Sam has been annointed the Next Action Hero by Hollywood. Unfortunately, his limited emotional range and sub-par acting skills made it very difficult to connect (or even like) the Jake Sully character. Perhaps much of his range was lost in translation (into CGI) but still at the end of the day I still dont get him and I couldnt care less if he lived or died at the end.

2. Did it really have to be so long?
At 162 mins it was probably a reel too long. When I start praying for the end of a movie I know its just too bloody long. A leaner movie would have probably made it easier to digest. (NOTE to James Cameron: keep all the additional footage for the DVD, Special DVD, and for the inevitable Director's Cut that will be released a couple of years later.)

3. Whats with the music?
I swear that at times I had fallen asleep and rolled over on to the remote and switched over to Lion King or something. James Horner's score may just be insulting to the african continent seems it seems to connect the dots between the words exploitable natives and Africa. As simple as the ewoks are even George Lucas seemed to get things PC when he added music to their celebration at the end of Episode Six.

4. Still with the music -
Thanks for sparing us another sappy ballad from Celine Dion, JC. But is a powerballad by Leona Lewis (I see you) necessary for the end credits of this or any other 'action' movie?

5. Why are there just 5 species of animals on Pandora?
I'm no biologist but it would seem to me that a 'new' planet like Pandora would have hundreds of insect and animal types to choose from. Instead it would appear that the CGI team really only had time enough to introduce a handful of them to us. Lots of plants to show for it but really not the kind of biodiversity one would expect.

So that's my take on the second biggest film of all time. As a former fan of James Cameron, Avatar is a disappointment to me. Sadly I would have settled for worse special effects had the story been more original - rather than a Frankenstein of a movie (made up of parts of Dances with Wolves, the New World, Aliens, Titanic, the Abyss, Pocahontas, and the Lion King) with a CGI budget that could probably fund a small nation for a year. I suppose that it would be too much to wish for Fox to not greenlight a sequel to this but I suspect that they will probably milk this until the cows come home. Or at least until such a time that 'Avatar - the Musical' confirms that this movie is all filling no meat.

25 Things that you probably don't know about me (10 things that you wish you never knew!)

As this is the first entry of my blog, I thought that I would save myself the bother of choosing one of my many random thoughts to go with and instead re-cycle something old that would still serve as some form of apt introduction to me as well as to what makes me tick. Lets dive in shall we:
0. I have never blogged before.
1. I was complete wuss as a child growing up. So much so that I would probably kick my own ass if I travelled back in time and met up with myself.
2. I obviously believe in some romanticized notion of time travel. Probably has everything to do with me watching the movies 'Slaughterhouse Five', 'Back to the Future' and 'The girl, the watch and everything'. The former and the latter before I was twelve.
3. I endured very few limits while I was growing and consequently a) got into to trouble way too often and b) grew up way too fast!
4. I sometimes have vivid dreams that ARE movies. I'm not even in these dreams but they play just like movies and are usually quite entertaining.
5. I had a recurring nightmare about Cookie Monster until I was like eight.
6. I was terrified of scary movies until I was eleven and started reading Stephen King books and watched Friday the 13th with an older girl (gotta play brave for the honies!). Before that the mere sound of the theme to Dark Shadows could reduce me to tears.
7. If I could live anywhere in the world- anywhere at all - it would be San Francisco - I really did leave my heart there.
8. And I'd love to own a vineyard in Nappa too.
9. I have this notion that tending to a grapevine will help me to stay connected to my Grandparents. (Perhaps this is the year that I plant one. :)
10. I often think of my Tita and Jido. They are still my favorite people in the whole world. I love them so much even now.
11. I drink alot less now than I did then......even now I'm not sure if I could have another vodka and coconut water. I might just say yes to a bottle of Pinotage or Pinot Grigio however.
12. Even now - vodka is the breakfast of champions.
13. I would love to entertain the idea of being independently wealthy. (I'd retire tomorrow if I can find the right sponsor.)
14. My dream jobs are: Movie maker, model scout, photographer, and novelist (though not in that order!)
15. When I was a boy the answers for no 14 ranged from actor to astronomer to surgeon to writer....and then I came crashing back to earth.
16. I really am sorry if I've ever been a jerk to you.
17. I used to be the biggest Duran Duran fan. I can still sing along to every song they made before 1995.
18. I cant stand this obsession with 80s music. I already lived through that. Give me someting new.
19. I can proudly say that I have seen Sting, Sarah McLachlan, and the Dave Matthews Band (and others) in concert in my lifetime. The first two I've seen twice! I will see U2 and the Police before the book is closed.
20. The smell of Noxema still transports me back to a time when I was four.
21. The last song that I sang at Karaoke was the Killers' 'When you were young'. Apparently I rocked!
22. I love sushi - although I never really ate fish until 15 years ago!
23. I'm a cat person who just happens to own a dog right now. It still surpises me just how much I love that little rascal that we rescued from the pound.
24. I'm a Spermologer that is to say that I'm a sponge for useless information and trivia.
25. I'm actually far shyer and more socially inept than I lead on.
26. I love traditional Carnival (Bookman is my favorite character) and I still think that old style Calypso was the best (the Mighty Spoiler was brilliant!)
27. If I was a muppet I would be Gonzo the great; if I was a disney Character I'd be Tigger.
28. I have strong opinions on just about everything. (Again, I apologize if I've ever been an asshole to you.)
29. One day I will - be published; visit Lebanon; have a child; learn to swim; learn to be comfortable in my own skin; lose those extra pounds; run a marathon; and swim with the dolphins.
30. My favorite books are 1984, The Catcher in the Rye and the Stranger by Camus. My favorite movies are the Godfather, Fight Club and Alien 3. I watch the latter on my birthday every year - and I couldnt tell you why.
31. I sometimes cry when I watch baseball movies such as Field of Dreams and Eight Men out - even though I have never played an inning in my life.
32. I was there in the Queen's Park Oval the afternoon that England finshed on 40 for 8 after the most amazing hour and a half of cricket I have ever witnessed.
33. Even though I live on an island I dont go to the beach nearly enough.
34. Some advice for my unborn son: 1) Never trust anyone who refers to himself in the third person or who is known by a name that does not appear on his /her birth certificate; 2) The three biggest scams in the universe are banking, insurance and religion - if you have to choose one make sure its the latter; 3) Life is too short for bad company or bad wine.
35. I'm afraid to change it all even if I could because then I wouldn't be ME. Now would I?