Thank you, sir, may I have another!

Ugh. The second-worst part of my job is requesting permissions for various publications, partly because it is a year-long process that requires going back to the author and asking that they tell you what author, page number, book and VERSION they’re quoting (which oft-times they decide is not fun and they don’t want to look up the book on their own bloody shelves), then tracking down people who’ve been dead for a decade and publishers that have been defunct for thirty years, looking for someone to give permission. Ngh.

So today, the day we go to press, I’m abruptly handed 16 new permissions I’ve never seen before, all due by 2 PM today. Hell in a handbasket does not begin to describe it.

And shockingly, in the past three hours I’ve had reason to get down on my knees and thank God and Murphy, because I now have all but three of the quotes. Thankfully this is an office which, despite the word Conservative in the title, doesn’t mind if you skip down the halls once in a blue moon.

Dark caves

Okay, here are my thoughts on I, Robot:

The good:
The acting for this was great, the characters meshed really well, and the movie felt more like a send-up of Asimov’s corpus of work rather a stricter rendition of I, Robot. I really liked how they elaborated on Susan Calvin’s character; all through this movie there was an emotional chord that Asimov was never good at bringing out. And the ghettoization of Asimov was something that shouldn’t have worked, but did, maybe because Asimov was always injecting an element of the man on the street into his fiction, and this simply updates it. (Of course, in ten years it’s just going to look dated, but for now it works.) Doctor Lanning was delicious in his scenes. And it was kind of fun catching all the parallels to Dark City.

The bad:
Alex Proyas can’t direct an action scene to save his life. He couldn’t do it in Dark City and he can’t do it here. He relies really heavily on CGI, he pulls back for wide shots when he should be pulling in for reaction shots, and the movement itself is a perfectly choreographed ballet of action and reaction. There’s never a stumble or a surprising turn of fortunes. I was longing for the fight scenes in Indiana Jones, with people waving their arms to keep from falling off cliffs, booby traps, changes of allegiance, not to mention heroes who bring a gun to a sword fight or lose their weapon in the middle of a battle.

The ugly:
Okay, this has to be the worst example of product placement I have ever seen in a movie. First, the Converse All-Stars that happen to be from this year and don’t match anything else that we know about the character, and then the luxury car. Explain to me how an injured, discredited cop manages to afford thirty-year-old, mint-condition shoes and a luxury car. Grrr.

Bwahahaha

Oh man, this is a fabulous reconstruction of the King Arthur movie. LMAO.

That movie had its moments, but it seriously pissed me off at points, especially when it decided to rip off whole scenes from Braveheart without quite knowing what to do with them. It’s the first movie I’ve ever seen where the costuming and weaponry were far enough out of period to make me surly. I mean, what the hell are these knights doing with bows that won’t be invented for another seven hundred years two continents away? Where the heck did “leather girl” Guineviere get a dress with drop sleeves and silver embroidery? I mean, normally this stuff doesn’t bother me, but when a movie gets on its high horse about being the first historically accurate King Arthur and then pulls this shit, I get snarky.

Anxious

After I went to see my grandfather last night, I went to Carmine’s for dinner. Somehow, in the past nine years I’ve totally forgotten how enormously huge their portions are. A single portion of pasta there, for instance, is served on a plate you would normally reserve for a whole Thanksgiving turkey. I got a side order of eggplant parmesan, and it was the size of three regular portions. Completely insane. But I love that place, and I really needed it last night. The colors of aged wood and firelight, the enormous room filled with huge round tables, the comforting liquid sound of happy human beings playing with each other, being together in such a lovely way. Not to mention really cute waiters who like to flirt. But the sound was the main thing, the noise was so soothing. And there’s something about going to a nice restaurant, about being cared for and fed.

Someone once described my family as “living in each other’s pockets.” So I guess maybe it’s not so weird that even though I’m all grown up now, I get a little anxious when my parents are out of the country. I mean, not whack-job nervous, just a niggling little thing in the back of my brain. So first Mom was in Russia and France and such, and now she’s in California and Tateh is in Israel. Lots of adventures and all, but I’ll be glad when they’re home again.

So, switching tangents completely, my brother is really, really cool. I’ve said that before, but it’s worth repeating. I love arguing with my brother and my best friend, but they both argue things so differently. Jay’s like me, confrontational and tough, quick to jump in with an opinion. Sometimes with him, I’ll take a position I don’t necessarily agree with, just to push him to defend his position, and we love ripping apart each other’s arguments and butting heads in a friendly way, almost like verbally mock-wrestling, playful and joyous.

Uri, on the other hand, doesn’t rush into things. He sits back and listens, gathers data from a lot of sources, and tends to come at things from a different angle, very calm and asking questions like, “Why does it matter? Why is our attention being directed here? Is this constructive? How much of what you’re saying is generalized or exaggerated? How do you know what you know?” It’s less a straight-up debate and more a meta-argument, opening my brain in new ways.

I am so freaking lucky for the people in my life, both the ones that I’ve chosen and the ones I’m more randomly blessed with. I say that a lot, but I still think I don’t say it nearly enough.

Sacred Institutions

Just a quick note: MoveOn is running a petition on the marriage vote coming up tomorrow. The vote would reword the law to define marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. You can sign the petition here: http://www.moveon.org/unitednotdivided/

I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but it really pisses me off that Bush is arguing that allowing everybody to get married would make marriage a hollow business contract instead of a sacred bond. Can someone please explain to me how allowing marriage for people who love each other and want to commit to each other permanently makes it a sham or a business contract? I would think the opposite: by reserving marriage for people who share your political and sexual views, you make it a hollow act.

Yeee!

Excerpted from the Tangent Online review of my story “Kaddish”: “It’s a surprisingly sad story, especially to an old atheist like myself. It is, as far as I know, untilled ground, horror primarily feeding off of Catholic catechism and superstition, the Jewish angle being very refreshing without overbearing the deeper story of love.”

Very happy with this, because it was exactly what I was aiming for. One of the things that got me into writing Jewish science fiction in the first place was reading the Wandering Stars anthology, which disappointed me because every story revolved around the question of “Who is a Jew?” with the answer being, “Anyone who wants to be one.” I felt frustrated because there is (or there should be) so much more to Judaism than who is in or out. I’m sure Catholics feel the same way when they read stories dependent on the tired old convention of a criminal who confesses to a priest, thus forcing the priest to remain silent.

In other news, totally forgot to mention what I did for the 4th. Got a last-minute invite to Susan and John’s place to watch fireworks though their enormous window. Enjoyed spending time with their other friends, too; one of them’s the kind of guy you can get into a really great argument with, someone who will take it to the mat every time, but who listens when you’re making a point and doesn’t let you interrupt until he’s finished making his point. Good stuff. We feasted on patriotic food, and I didn’t get home until 1:30 in the morning.

Chewy

Man, long weekend, in the sense that it was exhausting and full of obligations. Never did get around to cracking the books for the GREs, or writing, and yet there was not a single night that I got to bed before two in the morning. Gah.

On the up side, saw both Spiderman 2 and Fahrenheit 9/11. Go see Spiderman if you haven’t already. It’s really phenomenal, really well done. I think the advantage of the latest crop of comic book adaptations over ordinary action movies is that, when they’re well-done, comics have lots of experience in balancing action with character arc. It’s not just about explosions, it’s about the special effects serving the emotional chords. It puts the emotional issues at the forefront instead of tacking them on as obligatory character development. Definitely pleased with this one, and screamed with laughter at the Hal Sparks cameo.

Fahrenheit, on the other hand, I had mixed feelings about.

Personally, I thought if Moore had cut a half-hour of the worst of the propaganda, he would have had an incisive and insightful documentary. The footage of Bush’s initial reaction to the news of the crisis was pretty shocking. And I loved the little caption on the bottom of the screen when one interviewee claimed he had an 800-number to receive complaints and questions: “He’s lying. But here’s his private office number!” And it’s shocking to be reminded of how little time Bush spent in the office before 9/11, and Moore does some nice research into Bush’s financial ties.

On the other hand, how is Britney Spears’ opinion of Bush at all relevant? She’s entitled to her opinion, same as the Dixie Chicks are, whether or not we agree with it. What does it matter whether Bush sleeps on nice sheets? He lives in the freaking White House! Why is it significant that Bush shakes hands with the Saudi princes when he visits their country? He shakes hands with world leaders in France, Great Britain, China, Japan, Korea, this is in his job description. Why is it sinister that, when an international crisis breaks out, Bush has a private meeting with that country’s ambassador? That’s what ambassadors are there for, so there’s someone physically in the country to address questions and concerns and relay them to the appropriate people.

Why do these things piss me off? Because Bush is a monster and an incompetent, and Moore has done a lot of first rate work here, and these exaggerations and tangents only hurt the credibility of the rest of the film. I’m pissed that people who would otherwise agree with him will be turned off by some of this inflammatory nonsense.