Thursday, August 26, 2010

No More Fantasy

Football season is starting soon. Until last year, this meant I was preparing for multiple fantasy football drafts. I was actually pretty good at the game – probably because I can be, um, obsessive. A year ago, I tried to calculate the amount of time I was spending studying stats and ready FF articles and trying to make trades and all that mess. The answer was: an f’n lot.

You only get so many hobbies. I think us writers get even fewer. Fewer because most of us are already spending a fair about of time on other pursuits that earn us a living, but fewer also because writing is a consuming craft. I haven’t met a good writer yet who honestly claims to be able to knock off a brilliant short story between trips to the gym.

Good writing takes time – time in the room and time conceiving, learning, observing. I’m not going to say fantasy football never taught me anything about life, but I will say that what it taught me was minor compared to what it cost me. I was unable to play the game casually. I was wasting too much intensity on which tight end to start on a given week or which running back was about to have a breakout game. Time drained. So I gave the game up.

I’m entering my second fantasy football-free NFL season and I actually feel wonderfully unburdened. There’s something to be said for winnowing away distractions.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is it Wrong That I Liked Inception?

I finally saw Inception. It was the first adult movie I felt compelled to see in the theater since Christopher Nolan’s last outing with that little Batman/Joker flick. It’s not that I don’t love movies. It’s that I have kids.

Anyway, I enjoyed the film. There were plot holes and a general lack of emotional complexity, but the premise was cool and the action engaging. It’s not Chinatown, but it’s certainly worth the time. I’d see it again. If possible, I’d trade in the minutes I spent watching Cats & Dogs just to see part of Inception.

But, really, what interests me is not so much the intricacies of the plot (dream or not dream and all of that), but the reaction it’s created in some quarters. And by reaction I mean negative reaction. Some people hate this movie – and not just this movie but Nolan in general (and specific). In fact, some people hate it so much that they are willing to spend untold minutes of their lives explaining in detail why the rest of us should hate it, too.

This strikes me as odd. I understand not liking the movie. I don’t understand the need to beat your chest and proclaim yourself a superior film viewer whose tastes are more refined (I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Jameson, here – he clearly knows his shit and his piece convinced me of Nolan’s failings -- but he’ll be the only link here because I’m lazy and this one was easy enough to steal from HTMLGiant).

I kinda think the vituperative approach comes from a tendency among some intellectuals to be reactionary to popular taste. In this way of thinking, it’s given that the common man/woman is an idiot. Therefore, anything commonly liked must primarily appeal to idiots. I’m not so much defending Inception as I am defending those who enjoyed Inception.

A movie doesn’t have to be a work of pure art to be worth the effort. In fact, I’ll argue that the fact there is so much discussion of this movie (and not of, say, Cats & Dogs) is proof of the film’s cultural worth. A movie that strives for classic and falls short is as fascinating a movie as one that succeeds in its artful attempts.

Unfortunately, instead of praising what the movie did well and criticizing what the movie did wrong, plenty of people feel compelled to label Inception an abject failure, a travesty of moviemaking, a sign of all that’s wrong with art. Okay, I’m the one being hyperbolic now. But the point is: Inception wasn’t awful.

I guess I just don’t get the need to so vigorously hate on those things in culture that are popular but not exactly art. God knows (and my wife knows) I’ve been less than generous towards Stephanie Meyer. I’m not above some, or even a lot, of intellectual/artistic superiority. But what’s really the point? To tell people they’re idiots for liking something you don’t like? Debate is one thing. Ripping something apart in service to a greater agenda just seems a few steps too far.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The People of Paper

I was in Austin today and stopped by Book People and saw on their recommended table The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia and I thought to myself: I don’t push that book hard enough on my friends and acquaintances.

The novel is brilliant. It’s experimental and deeply moving and lyrical and brain twisting and it does about fifty things I normally dislike in fiction and yet I can’t forget the book. It arrives in my head quite often and makes a mess of things.

You should read it.