Archive for July, 2010

An aside on genre-hate in creative writing programs

This started as an aside in my Tuesday’s 10 post, but when I previewed the post it took up an enormous amount of room and I realised that it really ought to be it’s own post as it really had nothing to do with making movies of books, but clearly I was passionate about it to have rabbited on so may words.

I don’t really get the “no genre” rule that Creative Writing programs have enacted to  ostensibly keep the work done artistic instead of commercial. I’ve taken studios at multiple colleges and they all seem to have this policy, and I think it’s counter productive and stupid. Shouldn’t it be no lazy fiction? No half-assed attempts, and not “no dragons and aliens?” The rules didn’t squash me since I’ve never been into sci-fi or fantasy books, which seem to be the number one victim of the genre rule, I suppose it’s hardest to cloak those in the garb of “legitimate non-genre” fiction to get it through the critique, but I fail to see how something like JRR Tolkein or CS Lewis is somehow less complex and critiquable than Melville or Henry Fielding. If serious fiction departments think they cut the tripe by declaring no genre fiction, they are incorrect, what they cut is diversity, which in the end makes for a very boring experience, because everyone is writing the same sort of thing they think the professor will deem serious enough. My favourite studio ever was the one where the professor told us she didn’t give a crap about the department’s genre rule and to write whatever you want as long as it’s worthy of making everyone hear it all semester while we work on it. (This was also my favourite studio because we did work on once piece either the whole semester or until we decided it was as good as it was going to get instead of bringing in something new every time you were up in the rotation, so not only did you get to see everyone’s work evolve, but you got a really good experience at the editing process. I really think less of the program I ended up getting my cw degree from because they did not use this method and in fact banned you from bringing the same work in more than once, except for the final half of senior studio, apparently you’re only supposed to revise if you’re a senior? I guess?) Okay end of rant, sorry, I have a lot of opinions about writing programs apparently. I’m just saying I’d rather read good fantasy stories than bad coming-to-terms-with-sexual-abuse-and-your-first-serious-relationship stories.

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Tuesday’s 10: Books I’d like to make a film version of

I have a tendency to turn everything into a movie. I suppose that’s partly film school’s big influence on me, by the time I was doing my senior fiction studios in my creative writing degree a lot of my critiques were about how I should go into screenwriting because the way I wrote felt like a movie (that could have been because I blithely ignored the program’s ridiculous stand on genre and wrote modern noir and semi-comic heist stories for the most part.) (*there will be a whole forthcoming post about this, that I cut out of here after writing it because it was long and irrelevant and every so often I catch myself at that bad stream of consciousness tributary thing and nip it in the bud.) I see animated movies in my head when I listen to music (provided the music isn’t rubbish.) I try to cast books when I read them, or think of shooting locations I may have seen that would be perfect. It’s probably a terrible habit that would horrify the authors I’m reading, but it’s just innate in me, but I do think it sort of makes the work more real and personal to me. 

The 10 books here, aren’t just books I’d like to see a film of,  they are books I’d personally like to make a film of, if I had stuck with it and bulldozed my way into the industry (I realised at the end of my degree that I didn’t want to direct feature films, but now that I’m older, I’ve come to realise that I think I’d have been a brilliant development exec if I’d just decided to go to Hollywood anyway, finding rough gems that are worth fixing, or polished gems that will succeed, but that’s not something you walk into, but I think I’d have a good eye for what will make money and what would win acclaim.)

These are the books that I spent way too much time trying to cast in my head, or could see entire sequences for while reading. They’re also great reads, and happen to be some of my favourite books.

1. The Brothers Karamazov- Fyodor Dostoevsky.

This is probably one of my favourite books ever. The first time I read it was in 4th grade. I’d probably guess that I didn’t understand half of the complex themes at that time, just being more into the “look I’m reading a giant Russian classic while the rest of you are reading Judy Blume” as 9-year-old me could be a mite pretentious. But unlike Tolstoy, which bored 9-year-old me as much as it bored 19 and 29-year old me, Dostoevsky stuck and I’ve read Karamazov multiple times. I really did want to make a film version of this as I was a little horrified that there was an adaptation out there with William Shatner as Alexei and I obsessively cast it in my head while I was at Emerson.  At the time I believe I wanted Ralph Fiennes to be Dmitri, Liam Neeson as Fyodor (even though way too young at the time and against my other casting choices), David Thewlis as Ivan (he probably would have made a genius Smerdykov and I think sometimes I moved him over there), I forget who I wanted for Alexei, it might have been Edward Norton though at some point because I was just blown away by Primal Fear.   

2. Confederacy of Dunces- John Kennedy Toole

I can’t believe that there has, to my knowledge, never been a film or in fact a bunch of adaptations of this book. I know at one point Stephen Fry was writing a screenplay (and in his youth he would have been a genius Ignatius) and then there was supposed to be a version starring Will Ferrell in a fat suit a couple years ago. Look, I love Will Ferrell as much as the next person, and I know that he’s got a lot more depth and chops than things like Old School would have one believe, (I really loved Stranger Than Fiction) but it’s not right. He’s not the right Ignatius Reilly, he’s just not. When I think of Ignatius I see someone who looks a little like Ricky from Better Off Dead (And if that character and his mother are not informed specifically by Confederacy I’d be shocked) and I might be able to see something else, but it’s not Will Ferrell, plus I think he’s too old. Castingwise, no it would probably have to be a cattle call to find the perfect Ignatius, imagine a stack of photos of actors in that hunting cap and the hot dog vendor apron.  Hmm you know who might not be a bad fit, Nick Frost. I just think of the socialist organising scene, which I can just see in my head and I know this could be the best film ever.

3. The Secret History- Donna Tartt

I’m actually a little surprised this was never filmed either, especially since it seems to me like it would have been a fit in the mid-late ’90s when ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ and other such literary dark mysteries were cleaning up on the screen. Everyone I thought about casting is of course insanely too old now, but there is a lot of talent that’s the right age now or about to be the right age (say Dakota Fanning. I could see that.)

4. Survivor- Chuck Palahniuk

Another book that was so close to getting made, and then 9/11 made films about people crashing jets like cinematic leprosy. Nevermind that he crashed the jet into the middle of nowhere and that he was the only person on board because he hijacked it, and dropped all the passengers off, but whatever. Survivor is, after Fight Club, what I think is Palahniuk’s best book. I guess 9/11 at least ensured that Madonna wouldn’t ruin the movie, she was apparently cast somehow.  According to Chuck’s website it sounds like this might actually leave development hell and get made. If not, maybe I’ll have to magically become a studio head and make it myself.

6. I, Lucifer- Glen Duncan

Rumours seem to abound that this is being made, and rumours of Ewan McGregor and Daniel Craig being attached, but it looks like it’s in development hell too. This book is a gem. It just reads like it was meant to be a film from the beginning. The Devil decides to have a go at being a human in the body of a sad-sack writer who is in the midst of committing suicide as part of a deal that could get him back into heaven  and while he’s at it he’s going to write his side of the bible so clear up some things that everyone had wrong, not to mention do lots of drugs.  I could see Simon Pegg or Peter Serafinowicz playing Declan/Lucifer too.

7. Church of Dead Girls- Stephen Dobyns

Of all the books here, this is probably the most difficult to film, because rather than being a conventional mystery, thriller, it’s really a quiet psychological portrait of how paranoia and fear and a grisly tragedy can implode a town. Done right, with the right cast, it would be a home run, otherwise it would likely end up a bad Lifetime movie.

8.  Fast One- Paul Cain

I passionately, unabashedly love film noir and classic hard-boiled fiction and Fast One is the perfect complement to Hammett and Chandler. I wrote a screenplay adaptation of this book as an exercise for myself back in the day. At the time I was still in the thrall of Denis Leary is a genius so I think I wanted him to play the lead, I still think he could, but nowadays I could see  whoever the guy playing the lead on The Glades or maybe Jason Lee though he seems more snarky than hardboiled when delivering any witty repartee in general.

9. The Cheese Monkeys- Chip Kidd

From its whacked out characters to it’s larger than life art school satire, this book reminded me entirely too much of my own experience, and cracked me up. It has the potential to be the film lampooning art school that Art School Confidential failed to be. It’s been optioned, but doesn’t look like it’s rolling. It’s a shame that Jeff Bridges is getting a little old, he’d have made a good professor.

10.  The Alienist- Caleb Carr 

Another great highly commercial mystery that landed in development hell. I always thought this book was better than the Bone Collector which I read around the same time, though that one did make it to the screen. Apparently there was also an issue in which the author feels that the producers that bought the rights wanted to basically gut and rewrite the story, which didn’t make him happy. I don’t blame him it wouldn’t make me happy either. In the studio I own in my mind, this movie would be made as faithful to the original as is feasible in the 2 hour time frame.

Honorable Mention:

M*A*S*H- Richard Hooker

I always hated that they cut the scene where Trapper John grew a beard and looked so much like Jesus that they got headshots autographed them as Jesus and flew him around hanging from a cross from a helicopter and sold them to raise the money for Ho Jon to go to Pierces alma mater in the States. Best scene in the novel.

A Prayer for Owen Meany- John Irving

I still refuse to watch Simon Birch they so gutted that they couldn’t even call it “based on the novel” they had to say “suggested by the novel.” Look I understand more than a lot of people that concessions must be made when you swap mediums, but first of all this novel is structured in a way you could make a true adaptation, you might have to lose some scenes, but you could feasibly do a pretty faithful adaptation and secondly the Vietnam part wasn’t just a scene or two you didn’t need, it was the fucking crux of the novel.  Also the only good casting in it was Ashley Judd, and I don’t even like her.  I get mad just thinking about it and I haven’t even subjected myself to the full brunt.  

1984- George Orwell

Who doesn’t want to make their own version of this novel? Secretly I don’t want to make it, I want to make the sequel. Or I want to make an updated version that’s about post-9/11 America, but that would be extremely deconstructed because if you went literal with the plot and update it would be tedious and expected.

Northanger Abbey- Jane Austen 

One day I’m writing an update, I have the whole idea in mind and it will be pretty perfect. Until then, I will keep it mum lest someone beat me to it.

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GPM: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Peanutbutter Cupcakes, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

Due to what I like to call niceness gone wrong my cake-taker is indisposed (I brought the leftovers of my birthday cake over to my parents’ house, but a few days later, my dad called offering to pay me to make another one because apparently controversy erupted over whether he had hogged all the frosting, so he thought it was just easier to get them another cake. I didn’t charge him obviously, but I did make a new cake yesterday for him, so the taker is over at their house again.) so the ultimate chocolate peanut butter torte turned into me deciding to make cupcakes. I didn’t turn the torte recipe into cupcakes, just the spirit of it (because the reviews of the recipe on the site were pretty mixed so I figured I’d go it alone. I am all about the ganache, I think I could eat that all just out of the bowl. The batter is adapted from my goto chocolate cake recipe from ‘Baked’. The ganache I just made up.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes (makes 3 dozen)

for the cake:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups hot water
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 cup chopped Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups (I bought a bag of them from the horrifically early Halloween candy section at the store. I used about 8 for cupcakes and then sliced the rest into thin strips for garnish)

For the Ganache:

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (high cocoa content)
1 cup heavy cream
4 spoonfuls of creamy peanut butter (I used a soup spoon and heaped it)

make the cupcakes:
In one bowl combine the cocoa, hot water and sour cream, set aside.
In a medium bowl sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter and shortening for about 5 minutes on medium until light and fluffy. Add both of the sugars and beat about 5 minutes until light an fluffy. Add the eggs 1 by one, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl and beat 30 seconds.

Add half of the flour mixture, once incorporated add the cocoa-sour cream mixture, incorporate and then add the rest of the flour mixture scraping down the bowl each time. Add the chopped peanut butter cups and mix on stir to just combine.

Divide among 3 trays of lined cupcake pans. Bake at 325º for 30-35 minutes rotating halfway through baking. Cool on wire racks.

Make the ganache:

Put chocolate into heat safe bowl. Heat the cream until just starting to boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let sit a couple minutes to soften chocolate, add peanut butter and stir until everything is combined and creamy. Let cool about 15 minutes to set up a little. It should be soft enough to spoon or pipe, but if it’s too warm or runny it will soak into the cake and you’ll use more of it than you need.

Assemble:
Using a paring knife, cut circles into the top of the cupcakes and remove the cake to make a small cavity. Fill the cavity with ganache and spread a thin layer of ganache over the top of the cupcake. Slice your remaining peanut butter cups into thin strips and garnish the cupcakes.

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Secret Project Revealed: Conan Portrait half-stitch

Conan Portrait, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

I’m excited that I can share the photo of my secret project, it was a birthday present for my friend Layne who loves Conan. The photo to pattern conversion program I used did not do a very good job, firstly it had Conan’s face as green, and as much as I love Zombies, zombie-O’brien was not the direction I wanted, and then it didn’t even have an eye on the right side so I had to do a lot of improvisation in mid-stream, but all in all I’m super happy with how it turned out, and Layne loved it which is what matters most.

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Tuesday’s 10: Just 10 things I love this week

This week’s theme is either, no theme at all, or just 10 items on etsy I just really dig this week, (and maybe that’s a theme into my psyche for the week. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I heart things that I completely covet at the time and them a few months later I see when running through my favourites and wonder what drew me to it because it’s so out of my usual taste.)

1. Interspecies couple Bunny/Squirrel cake topper/figurine at Melabo.
photo of the cake topper
While this is meant to be a wedding cake topper, I just love this cute couple as a super interesting figuring for a display shelf.

2. Zombie Apocalypse Old Fashioned Glass at BreadandBadger.
photo of an old fashioned glass with etched zombie
So, yeah, it’s true zombies are sort of getting the kind of obnoxious over-exposure right now that kills their coolness, but I’m still a sucker for zombies. The zombie apocalypse glassware elevates the trendiness of the zombie with a bit of subtle elegance, that means they should last past the zombie backlash the way all those zombie dating guides never will.

3. ’30s-’40s style wide leg denim trousers from allureoriginalstyles.
photo of wide leg denim trousers
These are so Philadelphia Story, and they’re custom-made so you can have Katherine Hepburn style, even if you’re not the size 2 that most vintage finds seem to be in.

4. Vintage mushroom basket purse at smallearthvintage.
vintage basket purse with painted mushrooms
Nothing says summer to me more than wicker purses, but this adorable little basket purse is perfect for the transition into fall.

5. Herringbone iTouch case at Mariforsell.
herringbone iTouch case
My iTouch desperately needs a carrying case. I can never find the thing in my bag without a ridiculous search, and to plug-in my transmitter to listen to it in the car I have to take the bottom off the protective plastic case which I never remember to put back on rendering the likelihood of damage by dropping high. I think I’m definitely buying one of these sophisticated and sharp cases. If nothing else I’ll be able to find it in my handbag.

6. Morning Glory fabric flower necklace from RiRiFisch.
morning glory asymmetrical necklace
Even though most of my necklace collection seems to be vintage thermoset, I spend more time wistfully favouriting big asymmetrical statement necklaces. Perhaps it’s time to stop favouriting and start working on my jewelry collection again. I love how this is both a large statement piece and yet so light and unassuming.

7. Vintage Ceramic Owl Coffee Set at HinterlandVintage.
Owl coffee set
I have a well documented love of owls. In fact I’m surprised I haven’t done a Tuesday’s 10 about just owls. If I had a larger house or at least a larger kitchen this set would be mine already. I don’t even drink coffee, but the coffee owl would work just as well as a tea safe. Hmm perhaps I shouldn’t have said that, now I’ll be trying to convince myself I need it again.

8. Vintage 60s red, white and blue stripe dress at violetvillevintage
mod red white and blue striped dress
Violetville is one of my favourite shops to go and drool over amazing vintage clothes, both on etsy and her ebay store. Most of the time the pieces I adore are as usual way to small for me. This dress is no exception, amazing, but too small.

9. Vintage Mid-Century Egg Lamp with Tulip base at rhan.
mid-century egg lamp
Even though it wouldn’t work with my decor, this is one cool lamp. I’ve been on the lookout for the right lamps lately. I missed out on the most brilliant pair of ’60s teardrop pole lamps on craigslist the other week, which was crushing. I’m not even sure what the right lamps for my space will even be, especially since I still haven’t purchased any side tables yet, we’re still using tv trays as end tables, which I need to remedy, but I don’t want to buy more brand new furniture and it always takes so long to find the right things via craigslist and estate sales, especially when you don’t live in a metropolis.

10. Ice ENGEL topaz ring from JanetMillerDesigns.
ice ring
I almost never wear rings, my fingers are, I think, weirdly built, so even those which are sized so they’re slightly large going on cause blood flow constriction and swollen knuckles, but every so often I run into rings that make me re-think my stance on them. This is one of those rings. Seriously, I love the design of this, like jaggedy glaciers of silver. I don’t even think that I’d care that by the end of the day I’d never be able to get it off my knuckle or that I’d probably lose circulation.

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Party all the time

I’ve been sick all week. Summer colds suck anyway, there’s just something about watering eyes and a runny nose and hacking cough that just seems even more unfair than usual when it’s Summer. Perhaps it’s that it’s bad enough enduring a cold without also having to endure the extra sweatyness of hot, humid, heatwave-filled days. My irritation at being sick was compounded by my need to clean up the house and cook for the brunch part of my karaoke and brunch birthday party weekend.

In the end my house was passable, but a little messy and  not really company perfect and my ambitious spread was whittled by half. I’m a classic over-producer when it comes to party food, it’s like I go into Martha Stewart explosion of turning any get-together into a restaurant menu of stuff I want to try out. So, for once, the left-overs to get rid of were modest and I didn’t feel like I needed to delude myself into keeping them in the fridge so as not to waste. (I just can’t do leftovers, there are a few exceptions that I do think are as good or. in the case of chili, better as leftovers, but in general, I’m just not in the mood to eat them again until it’s too late.) The karaoke was a blast, I did actually break out the MC Hammer, complete with the actual Hammer-dance that I threatened, and did not fall off the stage. (secretly I was emboldened by this awesome Japanese guy Takashi who was up earlier in the night and busted out an energetic Journey tune while wearing a sweatband and playing an inflatable guitar prop.) Brunch was also great and despite the dough for the sticky buns and marmalade rolls not rising at all, forcing me to discard them, otherwise no hitches.

What actually made it to the final menu? 2 Types of Stuffed French Toast: Mascarpone and cinnamon and Peanut Butter and Banana; The Amaretto and Pecan Baked French Toast casserole from Sweet Paul magazine; a Breakfast strata; Bacon-wrapped potato bites with spicy sour cream; Spicy Bloody Marys and a Strawberry balsamic soda.

Hopefully I’ll be over my cold soon, for, my nose is crumbling under pressure and my poor watering, dry scratchy eyes are making progress on creating the pattern for my next needlework project slow indeed. Plus I have anohter birthday party to attend on Friday. (After which I can finally show you the big secret project I was working on for the last couple weeks!)

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Guinea Pig Birthday: Grasshopper Cake

Grasshopper Cake

It’s not really a guinea pig experiment as I’ve made this cake before, though I did wait so long to get started that I didn’t have time to make the buttercream in the recipe and had to substitute the lazy beat butter and confectioner’s sugar together kind.

The recipe is out of Baked! which is one of the few cookbooks I own that I seem to actually use to cook from.

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