If I follow this up by starting a Twitter feed, please kill me.
One sign of the new era: When my column on the near-bankruptcy of XM Sirius went up on the Reason site this morning, I announced it on Facebook within a couple of hours but am only now mentioning it here. Slowly but surely, I'm moving out of 2002 and into 2007.
But in my memory, Farmer was the sophisticate on the science fiction shelf. This wasn't just because he was one of the first scribblers in the sf ghetto to write directly about sex. It reflected the clever literary games he loved to play. Farmer tinkered with characters invented by everyone from Kurt Vonnegut to L. Frank Baum, plus some bona fide historical figures as well. (His Riverwold series threw dead men as varied as Mark Twain, Tom Mix, and Sir Richard Burton into the same setting.) I suppose you could call Farmer an exceptionally talented author of fan fiction. Like the most disreputable fanficcer, he often inserted stand-ins for himself into his stories -- he conveniently gave them his own initials, the better for readers to recognize them as the author -- though unlike the typical Mary Sue, the fictional PJF might turn out to be a villain or a fool.
Thinking back all these years later, two of his short stories stand out in my mind. One was about a mysterious object that appears in the sky and gradually begins to erase everyone's memory. It was written in diary form, as the narrator gradually regresses to childhood. The other was a double pastiche: an attempt to imagine what the Tarzan stories would have been like if they'd been written by William Burroughs instead of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Google reveals that the latter tale is called "The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod." That title alone should be enough to guarantee Farmer at least a minor literary reputation.
Hmmm....why did Mickey Rourke win Best Actor in every other award ceremony besides this one? As I said, the Academy punished Mickey for his gratitude towards President Bush for keeping our country safe from Islamo-facist [sic] terrorism. Instead, it chose to award its biggest donkey, Sean Penn. I would looooove to debate Sean Penn and explain to him why his [sic] such an insufferable idiot and jackass.
I was cheering for Rourke too. The Wrestler is a great movie, and Rourke's performance was the best thing in it. But Hollywood conservatives have reached a new level of self-congratulatory victimization -- we're talking The Ancient Egyptians Were Black Men Who Invented Airplanes levels of crazy -- if they need a theory like that to explain why an orthodox biopic with a tamely liberal message beat an unconventional film made outside the studio system. (Meanwhile, another Big Hollywood contributor seems to believeThe Dark Knight didn't get a Best Picture nomination because of its alleged pro-Bush politics, and not, say, because the middlebrows at the Academy felt insecure about honoring a superhero movie.)
Note: Joshpe headlined his comment "Sean Penn Makes Me Puke In My Mouth," which lends support to Graphite's charge that my post's opening paragraph concludes with an overplayed cliché. Chastened, I promise to throw that phrase under the bus, to kick it to the curb, or, if all else fails, to lose it in a perfect storm.
It has been one of the more unlikely celebrity endorsements; John Lydon, a member of the seminal punk band the Sex Pistols, advertising Country Life butter. But it appears to have worked.
Dairy Crest today said the campaign, featuring a spiky-haired Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, dressed in tweeds, had helped lift sales of the brand by 85% in the most recent quarter. Lydon, once better known for sending chills down the spine of middle Englanders, now appears adept at sending them to the chiller cabinet.
I don't know how much of that 85 percent can actually be attributed to the ads. I do know that the campaign is genuinely entertaining -- much more so than the Pistols' dimwitted Mountain Dew spots, not to mention the last few PiL records -- so I'll praise it anyway. Bravo, butter boys.
Before some Brit John Banzhaf sues Rotten for increasing England's cholesterol counts, I should remind readers of the usual pattern in cases like this. With a familiar product like butter, the general effect of advertising is to make established users switch brands, not to persuade people who had been eating their bread plain all these years that they really should try this newfangled "spread" stuff. Rotten may have changed the way people think about the Country Life brand. He probably hasn't altered their perceptions of butter.
Bonus Johnny Rotten trivia: He's a fan of former Reason editor Virginia Postrel's book The Future and Its Enemies, and he hosted both Virginia and Nick Gillespie as guests on his long-defunct Internet radio show. I think Nick will agree that one of the high points of his career was when he innocently asked Rotten why the punks never embraced Margaret Thatcher.
The Motion Picure Academy split its Best Picture award for "1927-1928" between two movies released in 1927, and it gave its "1928-1929" prize to a film from 1929. So it never did get around to honoring 1928, a fine year for silent clowns, Soviet propaganda, and Poe adaptations:
1. There It Is Written and directed by Charley Bowers and Harold L. Muller
One of the strangest, funniest comedies of the '20s, or of any decade.
2. The Fall of the House of Usher Directed by Jean Epstein Written by Epstein and Luis Buñuel, from a story by Edgar Allan Poe
European surrealists do Poe.
3. The Fall of the House of Usher Directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber Written by Watson and Webber, from a story by Edgar Allan Poe
The American version. Briefer and even more dreamlike than the French effort.
4. Speedy Directed by Ted Wilde Written by Al Boasberg, Albert DeMond, John Grey, Jay Howe, Lex Neal, Howard Emmett Rogers, and Paul Girard Smith, from a story by Grey, Howe, Neal, and Rogers
Baseball-crazy Harold Lloyd drives New York's last horse-drawn trolley. Is it possible to be nostalgic for another generation's nostalgia?
5. The Passion of Joan of Arc Directed by Carl Dreyer Written by Dreyer and Joseph Delteil
I'll steal from Ebert: "There is no scenery here, aside from walls and arches. Nothing was put in to look pretty. You do not leave discussing the costumes (although they are all authentic). The emphasis on the faces insists that these very people did what they did. Dreyer strips the church court of its ritual and righteousness and betrays its members as fleshy hypocrites in the pay of the British; their narrow eyes and mean mouths assault Joan's sanctity."
6. The Seashell and the Clergyman Directed by Germaine Dulac Written by Antonin Artaud
The movie that produced the British Board of Film Censors' most infamous judgment: "This film is so cryptic as to be almost meaningless. If there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable."
7. Arsenal Written and directed by Aleksandr Dovzhenko
It's supposed to be communist propaganda, but Dovzhenko, as always, has a more complicated political agenda. This was early in Stalin's reign, when it was still possible to get away with this.
8. October Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein with Grigori Aleksandrov Written by Eisenstein and Aleksandrov, from a book by John Reed
Eisenstein, on the other hand, was a committed Bolshevik. But he ran into trouble with the Soviet authorities anyway: The aesthetic police didn't approve of his riveting montages—i.e., the reason we watch the picture today.
9. Steamboat Bill, Jr. Directed by Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner Written by Keaton and Carl Harbaugh