Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Márquez Puts Down His Pen

From The Guardian:

The Nobel Prize-winning novelist, Gabriel García Márquez, has announced that he has given up writing.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sunday, January 29, 2006

1 Year, 12 Months, 365 days...

Yup, it's Muse Ink's first anniversay this month. My, it just seems like yesterday...In the words of Fred Flintstone and the gang, Happy Anniversary! Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Condos, Shmondos

Sadly I must post that Ottawa independent record shop Record Runner is shuttering to make room for condos. Should you reside or visit the nation's capital and need to relieve yourself of much money on worthy CDs, visit the handful of shops mentioned on the link OR drop by Birdman Sound on Bank Street. Owner John Westhaver is one of the most enthusiastic and encylopedic music people I've ever met; taught me everything I love about freeform radio at CKCU.

via PWI

Toolin' with Maiden on the Net

Last week I indulged my inner metalhead and picked up Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beat (one of my top ten of all time) and Tool's Lateralus (both thanks to a Christmas-bonus gift certificate). They have yet to leave my CD player as the smile has yet to leave my face. I bring this only because tonight, having done my homework and house work, I've time to listen to the BBC online while I sort though bank slips. As I type this, Bruce Dickinson, former frontman for Iron Maiden, is hosting his "Rock Show." Nice to see that one can be in a successful metal band, keep your brains, and still be articluate. Lemmy aside...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

RIAA Killed the Satellite Radio Star

I remember an innocent age when I taped music from the radio that I couldn't afford or get my grubby teenaged hands on. It might have been a concert or an interview or just a song. I probably still have them, dust coating the evidence of my illicit, infringing days of yore. Today radio is crap, and I've yet to be convinced to buy a $400 unit + subscription fee. Nevertheless, the new technology is here with the same old cry for regulations hot on its heels.

If Truth Is Beauty...

...and beauty is truth...and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then cast thine eyes upon this. Cartoonist R. Crumb envisioned science fiction author Phillip K. Dick's visions in Wierdo #17.

via Mixmaster Shecky at Glorious Noise

Fooled Me Once

People are still nattering away about James Frey’s book and what a terrible human being he is for lying, that he’s just a rich, drunk, frat boy etc. Ok. Let’s get past that. He ain’t the first. He ain’t the last. And folks are just pissed that they got taken. Hey, “fooled me once, shame on you. Fooled me twice…”

I found a great article in the New York Times Magazine (Jan 8, 2006) by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt entitled “Hoodwinked?”. The tagline reads: “Does it matter if an activist who exposes the inner workings of the Ku Klux Klan isn’t open about how he got those secrets?”

Dubner and Levitt included in their book, Freakonomics, a chapter about the men in white. This is their lead to the magazine piece that centred on 1940s American activist Stetson Kennedy who is best known for taking on the Klan and wrote a book about it called The Klan Unmasked (originally published in 1954 as I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan). Kennedy described how he infiltrated the organization and helped bring it down a notch or ten. He dutifully archived his notes, letters, and reports.

In 1992 Ben Green began writing a book about a black civil rights advocate and collaborated with Kennedy. Turns out the man who unmasked the KKK didn’t lift the hood alone. He had help. Ok, fine. Except in the book Kennedy claimed to have done a lot of things and spoke to a lot people that he himself didn’t really do at all. This came to light with the publication of Green’s book when The Klan Unmasked was footnoted as a “novelization.”

But it was all for a good cause. Right?

Canadian author Farley Mowat has long been an advocate for the North and the First Nations people who live there. And he has “never the facts get in the way of the truth.” This has brought him as much criticism as adoration. But since it’s all for the right reasons, does it matter?

I ask this because Kennedy and Mowat appear to be forgivable. Their respective foes were reprehensible and genocidal. But rather than fuel the battle with zealotry, I believe one must arm oneself with facts.

But what can you believe? Former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair blew his and the paper’s credibility by stealing articles and inventing quotes. Is he just the one that got caught?

History is mainly written by the winners. We only know what we do about Britannia, for instance, because the invading Romans were literate. Interesting that the culture that introduced coinage to that island didn’t recognize that said coin had two sides.

And so here we are in January 2006. George Bush lied to his country and sent young soldiers on a deadly wild goose chase. And Canada goes to the polls after a winter of discontent and rhetoric.

Frey pales in comparison.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Million Little Refunds

James Frey's book (pick a genre any genre) A Million Little Pieces has generated a lot of press. I'm not sure the reason is unprecedented, but it's certainly uncommon. "Misrepesentation" is the bread and butter of showbiz and, let's be honest, much of book publishing is showbusiness.

That said, Frey has certainly moved people with his writing. I haven't read either this or his new one, My Friend Leonard, supposedly based on the headline-making paperback. If A Million Little Pieces was promo'd as a work of fiction none of this would have happened. OR if he included a disclaimer of sorts, like David Eggers did in Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, no one would be "hurt", or at least egos would have remained fully inflated. Question is, would people had liked it as much?

So at the end of day, if you bought the book and are utterly dismayed that the story is mileading, find the receipt (provided you bought it directly from the publisher), read this, and call Random House to try and get your money back. If you liked it for a good yarn and don't give a damn about its veracity, all the better.

As for me, my curiousity is piqued so I'll put a hold on at my local library.

For more information on James Frey by the man himself, visit BigJimIndusries.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Creative Non-Fiction

I take issue with the term "creative non-fiction." Perhaps I'd be happier with the cinematic workaround: "based on a true story." The former implies that the incidents contained within the covers are true, more or less...

And so we have James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, and the man who got one over on Oprah. If the usually savvy businesswoman doesn't have factcheckers yet, I suggest she hire some damn soon. Perhaps Smoking Gun has a couple of interns looking for work.

The story was also covered in the New York Times (requires registration, but it's free) and by McSweeny humourist John Warner.

Either Mr. Frey is salivating over the additional sales this "bad" publicity has generated, or he's made a quick call to his lawyer to review the terms publishing contract, you know, just in case.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude

By Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa
Published by Harper Perennial
Trade paper: $18.95

Whenever I mention that I’ve just finished this book, people look at me expectantly and ask, “So, what did you think?”; not in a curious way, but rather in an iconoclastic-expose-the-canon manner.

I have to disappoint, I’m afraid, because I did like this Oprah pick.

Originally published in Spanish in 1967, Márquez is touted as being first to employ “magic realism.” (It could be argued that Lewis Carroll or Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels were be forerunners, but I digress.) “Magic realism” is a strange and wonderful device that weaves the fantastic (in the true sense of the word) into a real story (i.e.: not a whiff if dragon dung to be found). Hence the true reason for me to sign this book out of the library; I’m a big fan of Jeanette Winterson and other writers of her ilk.

To be fair, I’m still mulling over the story. And having returned the book (incurring $2.00 in overdue fines), I cannot provide quotes or exact details. Nevertheless, a synopsis is in order.

One Hundred Years of Solitude takes place in Macondo, an imaginary, isolated, South American town at an indeterminate time in history. Centering on the Buendía family, we follow the sorrows, merriment, tragedy, and frustrations of the clan over a century; from the town’s settlement to its demise. Informed by the politics that Márquez lived through as a journalist and writer, the author ably sweeps away moral judgments to paint flawed human characters.

To compose an adequate essay exploring the themes and nuances the author examines would take not only more time, but a second and third reading, pencil and notebook in hand. An comparative lit major I am not. But as a reader, I found I had to stick this out; I knew Márquez would deliver, resolve, and satisfy the time I invested.

Many who have read One Hundred Years of Solitude hated it. Admittedly, it’s quite lengthy and can be depressing (I think of one particular scene about three quarters of the way through that underscores my sentiment about politics) but the poetic execution and the need to chew the story over make the experience worthwhile. Definitely worth revisiting.

Movie Review: King Kong

Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (screenplay)
Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace (story)

Remember Saturday-afternoon matinees full of romping, restless kids jacked up on popcorn and pop? Ok, nor do I really, but I do recall the live-action Sinbad movies complete with the sword-fighting skeletons. Not cinematic glory or special-effects milestones, but fun and fulfilling nonetheless. Hollywood spectacles aren’t necessarily about art or meaning or the greater good. Sometimes it’s about chase scenes and treasure islands and scary-larger-than-live monsters. George Lucas once unapologetically described his often-maligned Star Wars series as “popcorn movies.” The Mummy falls into this category and so does King Kong.

Peter Jackson’s latest clocks in at approximately three hours; pretty lengthy even for grown-ups. Indeed, a lot of people have complained about this. Strangely, the length didn’t bother me at all; I was too busy running from dinosaurs to look at my watch. The story divides into four acts: the character introduction in Depression-era New York, the sailing to Skull Island, the adventure on the island, and the return to Gotham with Kong in tow.

Throughout the camera captures plenty of emoting courtesy of Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), which would normally bug me but I’ll forgive for this picture; it’s in keeping with the ‘30s-era movie-making tone I think Jackson wanted to set. There’s lots of “damsel in distress” stuff happening, but to change that would be to further wrest the movie from the original’s moorings. This occurs often enough without further changing the characterizations. For example, there’s a sweet yet silly scene where Darrow entertains the ape, which I’m not sure actually appeared in the 1933 original. (If somebody knows for sure, please do comment. Otherwise, I’ll need to rent it to find out for myself.) All in good fun, though.

The production and art design are amazing, too. A quick search through the credits on Internet Movie Database confirms that many of the crew also worked on the Lord of the Rings films. So too with the digital effects developers. The scope and fine detail added to the entertainment value.

As far as a message or sub-text goes, King Kong is somewhat confusing. There’s a love story of sorts between a giant gorilla and a woman who later falls into the rescuing arms of writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). Is this a compassionate thing à la Dian Fosey, something sexually weird, or an overarching allegory for women’s perceived nurturing love of nature supplanted by men’s perceived technologically imperialist pursuit of the almighty entertainment buck? Perhaps this question is best left for the chin-rubbing wags of the film-studies set a part of which I’m not, thankfully.

So cast aside your watches, bring on the popcorn, suck back your soda, and enjoy. Be warned: the eighth wonder is best served on the big screen.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hi Resolutions

Merry Christmas and Happy 2006!

I've only a few random thoughts since I last had a moment to grace this space. To start, it was an interesting experiment to conciously wish people a "Merry Christmas" than merely "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings." Some say the latter in an effort to not offend anyone. Strange. I'm not Jewish, but I'd hardly take offence at someone wishing me a Happy Hannukah. It's a blessing of sorts. The CBC news noted that customers actually walked out of stores or refused to patronize shops that used the inoffensive milque toast seasonal saluation. In my recent retail experiment, I wished my customers a merry Christmas and received surprised smiles or shocked recipricals.

Boxing Day reminds me that people really are strange. Exactly three minutes after we opened the shop at eleven a.m., we had a full store. Nuts. Why are thirty-cent books more appealing than those priced at three dollars? How is something a deal if you weren't going to buy it in the first place?

So with all this merrymaking comes resolution drafting. In 2004 I decided to loose weight. I did. Last year I resolved to move up in my career. I did. This brand-spanking new 2006 I'll pay down debt; not sexy but somewhat achieveable, which is the aim of a resolution. I don't smoke and I don't drink heavily, so those traditional sins are nipped in the bud. I thought also I'd try to see more movies; perhaps one a week. And last, I'll endeavor to post my missives more often than once a month. So I resolve to keep you entertained. In twelve months, we'll see how I fared.

To you, yours, and those you have your eye on, have a boistrous and properous new year. May you achieve everything you set out to do and then some.