Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wandering away to Wordpress.

Starting today, I'm putting all new posts (and there aren't that many of them) on my news Wordpress site, also known as Dave's Fiction Warehouse. I hope the five or six people who look in here periodically will also start looking in over there. Comment early and often. Thanks.

Monday, January 11, 2010

At play in the fields of Pandora

I finally saw Avatar. My short review: Fabulous effects, pedestrian story. James Cameron has certainly set the bar at a great new height for all future action movies, but he hasn't broken much new ground when it comes to sophisticated writing.

Not that it matters. This is not a boring movie, and you won't rue the price of your ticket. It's the first 3D film I've ever seen, and I'm glad I waited this long. For the first few minutes, the 3D effect seems a distracting gimmick, but as the movie unfolds it becomes much more natural. I considered only one scene gratuitous: a machine gun barrel protruding out of the screen. Elsewhere Cameron showed admirable restraint. In the Pandoran jungle, the judicious and subtle use of 3D makes the alien flora and fauna seem vividly real.

My only problem with Avatar is that every character is a stereotype drawn from other films. Remember Vasquez in Aliens? She's back, as Trudy Chacon. Wind in His Hair from Dances With Wolves? That would be in Tsu'Tey in Avatar. And so on. David Brooks has a smart column in the New York Times where he illustrates this quite well. But you don't need to read it recognize this latest incarnation of the White Messiah theme in Avatar.

No, that's not the worst thing in the world. As they say, there's nothing new under the sun. But when you're invoking such an oft-used narrative, it's probably a good idea come up with a few surprises. From the moment you meet each character in Avatar, it's possible to guess the story arc and status of each one by the movie's end. If you haven't seen the movie, try it. Avatar disappoints because the only surprises are visual.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Larry King and his cast of liars

You know, I don't even blame Richard Heene any more. He's just a terrible human being, and sometimes you have throw up your hands and accept that a person's shortcomings are so comprehensive that he just can't help himself.

Heene, of course, is the guy who lied about his son taking flight in a homemade balloon, finally plead guilty to perpetrating the hoax, and then on "Larry King Live" lied again, saying his earlier lie was not really a lie, and ... well, you get the idea. Heene evidently hopes his awfulness will at last reach critical mass, and, like Rob Blagojevich, earn him the coveted spot on "Celebrity Apprentice" that is his by birthright. I'd say his chances are good.

Awful people show up on "Larry King" all the time, don't they? Somehow they are multiplying. I guess if we want to blame anybody for that, Larry himself is a good place to start.  Larry doesn't discourage venal, self-serving bullshit, nor does he draw the line at turpitude of any kind. Far from it. The greater the depravity, the better he likes it. If Jeffrey Dahmer were still alive, he'd probably be on Larry once a week hawking his cookbook.

This old man has much to answer for, and not just for those stupid suspenders. Yes, so do the people who watch his show in droves, but I don't have their names handy. So Larry will have to do. Remember, any place Americans are behaving badly for the cameras, they're not just doing for themselves. They're doing it for Larry. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Having tea with Ms. James

One of my Christmas gifts this year was P.D. James' Talking About Detective Fiction. At less than 200 pages, it might be the shortest thing she's ever written. But for anybody who enjoys crime-writing in general and British crime-writing in particular, it's a fun, illuminating look at the evolution of the craft over the last 150 years.

The title doesn't exactly grab you by the throat, does it? But it's accurate. It's like having tea with Ms. James as she warms to her subject -- which, as she puts it, "was one of the few on which I felt competent to pontificate." She talks about Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie, but also discusses her own work and those of the modern masters like Ian Rankin. I gather she's not a big fan of Christie, and her view of the Golden Age writers on this side of the pond -- Hammett, Chandler and MacDonald, say -- may be something short of unalloyed admiration.

Which is another reason I like this book. I hate the book jackets where one famous writer is fawning over  another, knowing that a return favor is part of the deal. P.D. James is near 90 and past that now, and has nothing to gain by doling out insincere praise. When she says something she means it. And because of that, I also take heart from her line near the end: "We may well be at the beginning of a new Golden Age."  As someone who loves to read detective fiction and aspires to write it, that's good news indeed.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Decamping to a site more complicated

 Because nothing is ever good enough, I've decided to migrate Dave's Fiction Warehouse from good old Blogger to my own domain and Wordpress. The domain is davesfiction.com.

Why? That's an excellent question, since I've burned numerous hours learning the intricacies of the new system, and will probably burn a lot more before I know what I'm doing. In the meantime, I'll keep posting here and use the new one as a lab site. I'll experiment and fiddle incessantly there, then put the word out when I feel it's ready for my seven or so regular readers to have a look at it. Just so you know.

One of the best things about Wordpress (I hope) is this theme called Thesis, which allows for a huge amount of customization without the need for learning a lot of code. That's also one of the worst things about it, since the sheer number of choices and non-intuitive menus make for a steep learning curve.