Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Word verification of the kings

I just left a comment on a blog, and my word verification was "Exploded Dickier."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Synergy, baby

Hey, let's move away from this onslaught of deaths of talented writers, musicians, producers, songwriters, filmmakers, and actors that the last couple of years has seemed to provide in unending succession, most of these people too young, shall we?
Instead, here is a ridiculous coincidence that happened to me yesterday.
It was a beautiful day. I didn't have to work. The weather was perfect. I met my wife and a friend visiting from Louisville for lunch (jambalaya, fried chicken, and potato salad - oh shit hot damn hell yes) and a visit to the latest exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, "Making Movies." I got to see a lot of great stuff in this exhibit, including Robert De Niro's costumes from Taxi Driver and Casino, Tim Burton's storyboards for Beetlejuice, notes from Ernest Lehman to Alfred Hitchcock about North by Northwest (including my favorite from a list of "wild ideas" for action setpieces, unfortunately never used in the final script, "M. Mantle -- exploding baseball"), a smart-ass note from Robert Altman to a censor board requesting overdubbing of swear words for television distribution of O.C. & Stiggs, a list of banned words from the Production Code of the 1930s (including "nerts"), a ton of stuff from Gone with the Wind, a ton of stuff from Martin Scorsese's films, Paul Schrader's scripts, rough drafts of a book on directing by David Mamet, vintage posters, a note from Francis Ford Coppola to Kenneth Branagh with the story of Coppola's falling-out with Roman Polanski, and some beautiful photographs of movie theaters in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and New Orleans at the beginning of the last century.
After lunch, I returned home and decided to take a long walk in the neighborhood with my iPod and some earbuds. I walked around for almost two hours, and at the very end of my walk, something very bizarre happened. No significance to it, really. Just a weird coincidence. I was waiting for a car to pass so I could cross the street. The car had the right of way and no stop sign, but the driver hemmed and hawed. She slowed way down, presumably to let me cross, but she was still going too fast for me to bolt across the street. She finally came to a stop and motioned for me to go ahead. This is a giant pet peeve of mine. If she would have just driven her normal rate of speed through the intersection, she and I would have both crossed the intersection much quicker, but by waving me across, she gets to look all thoughtful and pedestrian-friendly when really she is just wasting both of our fucking times. Anyway, I looked back at her car and said "Jesus!" in frustration. At the exact same time I expressed my blasphemous frustration, the singer of the song playing on my iPod sang the word "Jesus," and a fraction of a second later, I saw the bumper sticker of the woman's car, which read "JESUS is the answer." Three Jesuses at once! What are the odds? Besides the weirdness of the triple J, I find it hilarious that all three Jesuses were expressing three different things:
My Jesus - Irritation and displeasure
iPod Jesus - Simulated erotic ecstasy
Car Jesus - Literal expression of religious faith (or, at least, the public appearance of same)

Damn, March 17, 2010. You were a good day. I didn't even have to use my AK. Of course, Alex Chilton died yesterday, but I didn't find that out until the evening.

Jesus H. Christ, Esq.

Dr. Mystery (below), ate jambalaya, didn't have to use his AK, bummed about Alex Chilton

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alex Chilton R.I.P.

This blog is unfortunately turning into the Awesome Dead Southerners Lounge.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Mark Linkous RIP

Another great Southerner felled by this big, stupid world. He shot himself in the heart at the age of 47, but he wrote a lot of great songs before he decided he needed to do that. He also wrote one of my favorite lyrics, "I woke up in a horse's stomach one foggy morning/His eyes were crazy and he smashed into the cemetery gates/All I want is to be a happy man."

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Barry Hannah R.I.P.

Until yesterday, when he died of a heart attack at 67, Barry Hannah was my favorite living writer. Now, he's just another one of my all-time favorites. He beat cancer and alcohol and struggled with heart problems, but this isn't Oprah and everyone has to deal with this shit, or shit like it. He was a Christian like my grandmother was a Christian, which is to say a real and complex and quietly personal one, not a spewing evangelical or a self-centered bore constantly banging on about his/her "relationship with Christ." He wrote specifically about the South and generally about everyone in a style that was unlike anyone. He broke rules of grammar and sentence structure in ways that never attracted attention to themselves and served to fit his style and move his characters where they needed to go. He didn't give a damn about plot, instead relying on feeling, character, and the careful construction of words on a page. Hannah's work gives me the same feeling I get when I listen to Neil Young's 1970s albums. Two people at their best, a little rough and raw, creating their own language, ignoring the dictates of fashion and the market, coming up with something both sorrowful and hilarious. I find every sentence of every published Hannah work completely fucking thrilling, and I'm sad to see him go. Is it too late to trade him for Neal Pollack or Dave Eggers or Chuck Klosterman or Terry Gross or the entire Onion A/V Club, vengeful God?
Hannah has a posthumous short story collection coming out later this year, according to some reports, an unfinished novel according to others, and a finished novella according to still other sources.

The first six paragraphs from a 2008 article about Hannah in Garden & Gun magazine:

One afternoon in July, the author Barry Hannah took to the small roads south of Oxford, Mississippi, where he lives, to visit the grave of friend and fellow writer Larry Brown. Hannah hadn’t been out this way in some months. He missed an important turn at a place called the Yocona River Inn and had to stop at a country store to ask directions.

“Excuse me,” Hannah said to the woman behind the counter. “Can you tell me which way is the Yocona Inn? We’re trying to find our friend Larry Brown’s place.”

The woman returned a vacant look.

“Larry Brown—he was a very fine writer,” Hannah pressed on. “He lived right around here. Do you read his books?”

The clerk did a weird abased shrug but didn’t answer. Hannah paid for his Coke and cigarettes and departed, vexed.

“It’s just unbelievable to me, the lack of pride and curiosity,” he said, pulling his Jeep Cherokee onto the blacktop. “If the people out here should be reading anybody, it ought to be Larry Brown. This is what he wrote about—these people, life out on these roads, and in these little stores. I guess they’re busy with their televisions. Man, it just nauseates me. It’s sick and dumb.”

Larry Brown and Barry Hannah
They're both dead and it sucks

Here's a link to a pdf of one of Hannah's stories, "Testimony of Pilot."
(UPDATE: There are a lot of bizarre typos in the pdf, probably from some kind of electronic transcription process, but I think enough of the story is salvaged to get a taste of his style.)