Friday, January 28, 2011

If Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote for TMZ

In Xanadu did Charlie Sheen
  A stately hooker-dome decree:
  Where both his sacred nostrils, ran
  Through cocaine measureless to man
  He smoked it constantly.                                            
  So twice five girls he kept around
  With big fake breasts and asses round:
  And here were crack-pipes packed with rocks for thrills,
  Which set so much white and noxious smoke a-free;
  And here’s the deluxe home-theater where he chills,                         
  And watches hours and hours of pornography.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Things to think about when writing stories for/about children.

When you were in first or second grade, there was probably one kid in your class who just wasn't right.

To teachers and adults, this kid's situation was sad and tragic.  Maybe he had a horrific home-life.  Maybe he'd been the victim of abuse.  Maybe cruel and precarious fate had cursed him with some sort of debilitating medical condition.  In any case, things up to this point had been unpleasant for him, and his future wasn't looking any better.

Your teacher probably went to her pastor to talk about this kid.  What kind of God would inflict this kind of suffering on an innocent child?  How could she bring her own children into the world, knowing this is what could happen?  Sometimes, in class, she would look at him, sitting in the back with his finger two knuckles deep in his nose, and she'd cry a little.

But you didn't notice, because you were seven.  Your knowledge of the world and its cruelty was limited and your capacity for empathy was undeveloped.  To you, that kid was just the spaz; the freak; the smelly kid; the retard.

In gym-class dodgeball, he was everyone's favorite target.  You aimed for his head, and you threw the ball as hard as you could.  You still remember the sound it made when it bounced off his face.  You'd take away his sack lunch and spread its contents out for inspection and ridicule.  His family can't afford real Oreos!  Probably because he doesn't have a dad!  Is that olive-loaf? Ew!  And with the little diner packets of crackers to eat it on! Can't you afford bread, Spaz?

Afterwards, you'd stomp on it, so he had nothing to eat.  When it rained, you pushed him down in the mud.

Years later, you have difficulty admitting you did these things.  Maybe you've talked about this with your therapist.  Maybe you have lingering doubts about whether you are a good person.  When you attended your class reunion, you were very relieved this kid wasn't there.  You didn't ask about him, for fear that what you'd learn would break your heart.

The thing you couldn't bring yourself to say in therapy, the truth you can't acknowledge, even to yourself, is that crushing that little fucker's shitty-ass Hydrox cookies was the FUNNIEST THING EVER.  You have never enjoyed anything that much.  Not even sex.

II remember reading stories about children when I was a kid.  The way they interacted with each other never seemed realistic.  I was only able to suspend disbelief because I thought I was supposed to; I wasn't yet aware that some books were good and others were bad.  But I think the most accurate depiction of kids acting like kids I've ever read was "Lord of the Flies."  Something to think about.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Guest Post: Twitter's Fake Karl Lagerfeld (HungryLagerfeld) on Inspiration

The real Karl Lagerfeld had nothing to do with this
HungryLagerfeld is a mysterious Twitter personality who mercilessly ridicules the world of Fashion in the bitchy voice of Chanel's legendary, pithy creative director, Karl Lagerfeld.  I met this individual through Twitter networking, and he's agreed to provide something uplifting for you, since my usual fare is so damn dour.

I have added links to external sources to clarify some of HungryLagerfeld's material. 

There is no such thing as a bad idea; there are only visionaries and the people who hate them.

You are sitting alone, unattractive, no doubt, and probably poorly dressed.  You want to be a star, and yet you own no couture.  So you will write a book.  Books are great.  I write them, sometimes, to break up the monotony of my life of endless partying and flying around on private jets and telling runway models that they are too fat.

People will probably read your writing and tell you that it's bad.  This is to be expected, and it is to be ignored.  There are only two things that can possibly make your book bad:  1) your book will be bad if you lack the courage of your convictions and 2) your book will be bad if I read it and tell everyone that I don't like it.

That second thing is unlikely to ever happen, because I don't read books, so the ball, as they say, is in your court.  Don't give into the haters.

Broadway visionary Julie Taymor, like millions of others, saw the "Spider-Man" film when it came out in theaters a few years ago.  But of all those millions, she's the only one who asked:  "Wouldn't this be better if the spider that bites Peter Parker got really giant, and started singing?"

Because she dared to ask, her show "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark" is the biggest musical in history, and one day it is going to open, no matter how many people have to die to make that dream a reality.  Brava, Julie Taymor.  Brava.

Were it not for the bold Warner Brothers executives who stood up to the critics that lambasted their dream, the world would not, today, have "Yogi Bear: 3D."  Do you know what makes "Yogi Bear" worthy of an $18 IMAX 3D admission?  The fact that those brave men and women believed in it so hard.  If you haven't seen this movie yet, you're like an animal to me, and I find you disgusting.

When naysayers asked if the world really needed an "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movie, the brave people at 20th Century Fox said: "No, motherfuckers, we need two!"  Do you know how rich they are now?  Let us just say that we will keep our Chanel boutiques open late, if they are taken with the desire to shop.

So, write with abandon, live without compromise, and try to lose ten or fifteen pounds, for Christ's sake.  Nobody wants to look at that.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Further Appreciation for DON'T EVER GET OLD

We shipped a copy of DON'T EVER GET OLD to the notorious Andrew Shaffer, Author of GREAT PHILOSOPHERS WHO FAILED AT LOVE, proprieter of, HuffingtonPost blogger, and Twitter impresario behind popular personalities Evil Wylie and Emperor Franzen.

He read the book in two days.  Had this to say:

"Daniel Friedman is the Jewish Elmore Leonard. If you read only one novel featuring a gun-toting, wise-cracking, octogenarian protagonist this year, make it Don't Ever Get Old. Friedman is a master storyteller who can speed your heart up and stop it on a dime."

Someday, you'll also have a chance to experience the majesty that I have wrought.  I will keep you posted on future developments.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Are Video Games Art?

The Millions has an interesting article up about the long-debated status of video games as art

The idea of art has become fluid in the 20th century; pop art has confronted and challenged the idea that art implicitly carries value, and conceptual art has challenged the boundaries of what kinds of expression counts as art.  I like Roger Ebert, but his defense of the battlements of "art" from corruption by the influence of video games seems faintly ridiculous in an age where arguably the most prominent living artist, Damien Hirst, creates installations composed of animal carcasses in vats of formaldehyde.

Writers, I think, should look at video games as a mechanism containing new narrative possibilities.  Technology has advanced to the point where any story that can be told on film can be depicted in a game world, and the interaction between players and the world really implicates them in characters' actions in ways that aren't possible in traditional narrative forms.

One very popular subject of examination is choice; player are allowed to make choices at various points in the story that impact later events.  A game called "Mass Effect 2" placed the character in the role of a leader of a sci-fi special-forces unit, and choices made throughout the game determined whether his team members would live or die during the final, climactic assault on an enemy space-station.  "Fallout: New Vegas" takes place in a fully-realized post-apocalyptic Nevada, where the player can choose sides among any of three feuding factions, or betray them all.  Each option leads to a different resolution, which is an impossible mechanism in traditional linear stories, but progressing through it feels organic rather than experimental.  This is an exciting way to tell stories.

Meanwhile, other games juxtapose the interactivity of the media with a lack of any real capacity to influence the game's story, to significant emotional effect.  "Modern Warfare 2," had the controversial "No Russian" mission, in which the player was forced to massacre civilians in an airport.  And "Red Dead Redemption," leads players toward an unavoidable narrative resolution, despite its open game-world.  Hitchcock was concerned with the ways in which media makes viewers or readers complicit in the acts of characters, and I think he would have found the possibilities of these games fascinating.

At the same time, the artistic aspirations of games are necessarily undercut by structural concerns.  A game is expensive; new Playstation and Xbox games cost $60, so players expect a certain longevity to the experience.  This leads stories to become distended; narrative pacing is slack because value is perceived in length, and players can leave the narrative behind to embark on digressive side-missions or free-roaming.  The conventions of the form require numerous, often repetitive shootouts or car chases.