Thirty Hertz Rumble

A bl-g about movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick

Tag: James Bond (Page 1 of 2)

zatoichi

So Zatoichi is kinda like James Bond, except blind – Vol. 1

This post about the Zatoichi films was originally posted at Cinema Shame.

I’ve had this Zatoichi Criterion box set on my shelf. It’s a very pretty box set, filled with lots of movies, 25 to be exact. After procuring the set for Christmas some years ago, I watched the first Zatoichi film, The Tale of Zatoichi. What a superb film!

And then there was silence.

I don’t have an explanation. I just have SHAME.

So Zatoichi is kinda like James Bond, except blind – Vol. 1

Last year for my Cinema Shame, list I vowed to complete the set. The 24 other Zatoichi films. This in addition to my regular allotment of SHAME. It might come as no surprise that I failed in this endeavor. But this is a new year, with new lists and new motivation. I’ve made certain promises to myself. That I will watch more, read more, write more. I promised to be better to myself and ignore the noise that has distracted me from doing the things I love. Noise is the urge to pick up my phone for no good reason and scroll through social media bullshit. Noise is a DVR filled with episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I haven’t actively wanted to watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory in years.

For January, I began my journey (and my 2017 Shame) through this Zatoichi set once more. To make this exercise more manageable, I’ll break the massive word-spewing down into a few different posts. I’ll watch four Zatoichi movies per month and leave my thoughts here for you to consider.

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Gawkers consider the lowly masseur/legendary swordsman in The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)

The first Zatoichi film, The Tale of Zatoichi, showcases a potent character study about the friendship between two warriors (with elevated moral codes) on opposite sides of a clan dispute. Light on swordplay, long on philosophy — but effective at establishing the cavernous division between the moral right and the moral wrong with a conservation of action and language. Our blind, pacifist swordsman vs. a world of human ugliness.

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Why I (mostly) stopped writing about music

If you’ve been reading this bl-g for any amount of time, you may recall that I founded this Interweb space on the premise that I would write about music and my rediscovery of vinyl records as part of my recovery from a bout of depression and anxiety that occurred in 2010. I know the exact date, you see, because I’d just returned home from the movies. I’d seen Black Swan on it’s opening weekend. I came home that night and after a short conversation with my wife about the movie, I broke down. I’d been experiencing these symptoms of depression for about a month by this point, but I couldn’t put the feelings into words, nor did I truly understand what was happening to me. I told her that I didn’t know what was wrong, that I knew I’d been distant. The things which had made me happy no longer had value. I’d largely stopped watching movies, reading or listening to music. I hadn’t been able to write. I told her I didn’t know what to do to make myself better. It felt very confessional. She says what shocked her the most about that night was when she asked if I wanted to see a therapist. Without hesitation I said, “Yes.”

After six-plus months of conversations with my therapist, I finally considered myself recovered. I continued to attend sessions for over a year, however. I’ve remained emotionally well (with one or two minor lapses) ever since. The existence of this bl-g represents the first step taken toward recovery. It reinvigorated my writing and gave me a focus again. Writing about music, just for the love of music, kickstarted my first steps toward wellness. As I dove into the vinyl hobby, I started going to concerts again. I wrote about all of it. I explored new music and what music had meant to me as a child as an 80’s youth. I wrote about the nostalgia that still fulfilled me.

Somewhere along the way, writing about music, however, became less fulfilling.

I don’t spend less time listening to new releases or scouring record bins for hidden gems. I just stopped writing about music.

Anyone who has spent any time writing knows that the endeavor is a very solitary activity. When writing and submitting fiction to literary magazations, publishers or agents, there’s no immediate response. Often not even denial. Often there’s just the kind silence that hurts more than negativity. Each and every story or novel is a slog with only the sound of that internal, nagging voice spurring you forward. Silence sides with that voice. Writing this bl-g proved helpful. Short bites of writing followed by immediate response. I was writing. People were reading when I wrote more about music and nostalgia. For awhile the topic of the vinyl resurgence held a regular audience.

But as my writing turned back toward new artists and new releases, response dwindled. I was again writing for the void. I didn’t need more silence in my life, so output lessened. I grew disinterested in the bl-g, and this space remained largely dormant until I conjured an idea for a post about some of that good old fashioned nostalgia. Even then, due to my less-than-regular posting schedule, I found myself begging for views. No one checks in if you’re not putting up words. Nor should they. That’s not what this is about, nor is it what I’d intended when I signed up for the writing-as-therapy gig.

If it’s not familiar, if it’s not already welcome or expected, it’s often not accepted.

But then there’s the other side of that coin. Much of my disillusionment stems from reading the greater oeuvre known as “music writing.”  As “music writing” has grown, so too has criticism of music writing. We’ve reached a point with the proliferation of music blogs that criticism of criticism has become it’s own genre. I’m also implicated here. I read P-fork (as the spearhead of this particular genre of music writing) like rubberneckers view the aftermath of a traffic accident. I often blame P-fork for everything that ails music writing, but they’re not alone. This is part subjective disagreement and part fundamental discord. Even when I agree with the overall opinion of a review, I often can’t relate what I’ve just read to the music it intends to describe. Purple, expressive and flowery prose often aptly describes the feeling that a certain music inspires. P-fork (just as one example I apparently plan to beat like a rented mule) has allowed rampant negativity to cloud their reviews. “Listenable” has taken on a very negative connotation. Not all music has to break new ground. Not all music must “challenge” in order to justify its existence. Talented writers work in this music writing genre, but I more often than not feel that they’ve completely lost sight of the goal — to express their connection to the music — in favor of fostering aural elitism.

I’m generalizing, but I don’t have the time to write a full treatise here… so generalizations will have to do.

This culture of elitism has plagued music writing since the dawn of the Interwebs (probably before as well). The “I knew about this band when they were playing out of their garage” mentality spread. Soon it included the notion that most average humans haven’t yet developed the aural IQ necessary to appreciate said music/noise of choice. I’ve never to my recollection begrudged someone for “not getting” a particular artist or record. I believe, however, that music appreciation develops and adjusts over time. We become more discriminating, more appreciative of true greatness. Greatness does not require innovation. Greatness can be the evolution of something familiar or merely a catalyst for change. What I’m trying to say, through far too many words, is that music listeners, overall, need to listen to more music and rely less on the hyperbolic elitism fostered by the most visible of music writers.

This is where I radically change directions for a drastic juxtaposition (and to get to the point).

When I started writing about James Bond for The James Bond Social Media Project, I found connections that had eluded me while I wrote about music. Despite being joined at the hip, the online cultures for music and film couldn’t be more disparate. I’m sure others have had different experiences; I can only speak to mine.

When I started the #Bond_age_ live tweet series, I immediately made stronger connections than I had through two years of writing about music. There’s greater acceptance and exchange of new ideas and opinions. Guilty pleasures are discussed and accepted. Where social media has shifted the focus of film criticism and appreciation away from the tedious and nebulous elitism once fostered by a handful of film critics, it has only exacerbated that effect in music. As a result, I’ve gravitated toward writing about film — oddly enough where my writing began as a 15-year-old kid writing movie reviews for Mandel and Patrick’s Movie Corner.

My friend and I began writing that page in 1994 as high school freshman and continued until we went to college. Writing homegrown reviews now seems quaint at best, but this was 1994, goddammit. This was the future. We earned a full-page writeup in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and had our reviews syndicated by MTV’s Adam Curry (who at the time was more than just a forgotten punchline). Sadly little of that endeavor remains, only fossilized records in Google searches. We each wrote reviews for at least two movies per week. We even had our own Top 100 lists. I still have the PPG clipping, and you’ll occasionally see our names pop up in really random book citations, like this one for Accounting for Taste: Film Criticism, Canons, and Cultural Authority 1996-2006 by Jonathan D. Lupo.

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…and you can still find us in many old-timey lists of favorite movie review sites that more closely resemble ancient Internet sea scrolls. That’s us down there in that list alongside the San Francisco Chronicle and Usenet! If you’re old enough to remember Usenet, you’ll also find that amusing. Or not. I’m no authority on outdated Internet humor.

 

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Maybe writing about music was never my bag. Writing about music may have just served as that temporary dose of adrenaline to bring me back from the brink. It’s entirely possible I just don’t have the stomach and/or necessary disdain for humanity. For as long as I can remember I’ve written about movies; it was just James Bond brought it all back. Though I may never reach the lofty heights of Mandel and Patrick’s Movie Corner (some sarcasm intended), I’ve met people through talking and writing about movies whom I believe will remain lifelong friends and contacts beyond the Twitterverse, even when The James Bond Social Media Project too has also joined the legions of websites in the Interweb heavens.

Am I crazy in thinking that that’s what this is all about anyway? Are any of us doing it for fame or money? I hardly think so. Writing for free, writing with time that would otherwise be spent living AFK, all of this is about the connection with people who share similar passions. As long as this bl-g remains part-time therapy and subject to the whims and memes of my life, it will be about the movies, music, writing, literature and guilt-free nostalgia that fulfills me for just as long as the end result, the connection, justifies the effort.

 

 

Skyfall Remixed Opening w/ Oingo Boingo

I really liked the thematic coincidences between Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party” and the Skyfall title credits. So I mashed ’em up.

Skyfall Remixed Opening w/ Oingo Boingo from James Patrick on Vimeo.

A Short History of Brave New Bonds

We recently renegotiated our relationship with our living room furniture. Mostly we just moved a bookcase, but it looks like a drastic change. The bookcase was essentially a room divider and swapping it from one side of the room to the other flipped everything on its head. This move also had the effect of making more of my books visible. Two books in particular now stand out in the room that had previously been obscured by the other bookcase.

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

and

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

I can’t exactly put my finger on why these two books are linked, other than their newfound visibility in the room, but it seems like there’s something portentous there. There has to be right?

One is about a brave, new “World” and one seeks to explain nearly everything in this old, damn world. One has the word “world” in the title and the other has a big ass picture of the world. We’re told that there are no such things as simple coincidence and so I must infer meaning in the supposed coincidence. I’m more than willing to conjecture wildly, as I think I’ve established in prior posts on this damned bl-g. So, let’s do that.

I’ve reached a point in my adulthood that the things to which I clung to as a young man are fading. I’m not even speaking here of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a chronic virus that can never truly be escaped. Every time we long for a measure of our youth, of the way things used to be, that’s nostalgia chipping away at your heart with a tiny, but painful, rock hammer. I’m thinking again about identity. (Yes, again.) I’m thinking about the way we face the world, the ways in which we divide our personalities to conquer the days and weeks and months that slip the cracks in our trembling hands.

I’ve got James Bond on the mind lately, if you hadn’t noticed (#Bond_age_ project going in full swing now) and so the imagery from the title-sequence from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service sticks in my head as I discuss the passing of “time.”

Of course, if you’ve seen OHMSS lately you’ll recall the final line from the film, uttered by James Bond (George Lazenby) as he watches he newly wedded wife die in his arms, murdered by Blofeld’s assassins. “There’s no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world.”

If you haven’t seen this film, it’s a profoundly moving scene in the context of a Bond film. James Bond. He who supposedly has no personal feelings but love for queen and country, mourns. Lazenby is not an actor per say (he’d only done one chocolate commercial prior to this fleeing gig as Bond) but the way he plays this role — happy accident or not — speaks to how we mourn the inevitable passage of our own time and our own worlds. With distance. Bond is out of body here, removed from the horror he’s experiencing. The repetition of the time motif in OHMSS sets this James Bond movie apart from all the rest and thus, perhaps, makes this moment that much more powerful.

Does it speak to me because there’s a timelessness to James Bond? A timelessness that this scene interrupts? 50 years after Dr. No, James Bond is still jumping motorcycles onto trains. At the same time isn’t that why many of us are fans of 007? Interminable youth? Yet, here we are in OHMSS taking that notion and just stomping all over it. In terms of Bond, OHMSS should have represented a “brave, new world.” The first new Bond. A new, more personal direction in the series. But audiences did not warm to new Bond. They didn’t take to the more somber, personal tone of the film.

Isn’t that natural? To avoid our reality? I’m getting a little glum here. And I apologize. But I’m spewing notes and ideas culled from the intersection of James Bond, Bill Bryson and Aldous Huxley. Something weird was bound to happen. The producers of the Bond series of films immediately abandoned the James Bond burdened by feelings and retreated to pure escapism. They brought back Sean Connery (at GREAT expense) and ventured forward, undaunted by the brave, frightening new world of the 1970’s. Audiences agreed. They flocked back to Bond, making Diamonds Are Forever (a certifiable stinker of a motion picture) a great success compared to the lackluster return from the much better OHMSS.

So, with all that said, I’m looking at these things in front of me and I’m noticing a change in myself. For the first time in many years. I’ve always feared the moment that I took stock of my life and said, “Well, that’s what it is.” But just recently I looked around and said that very same thing. House. Wife. Two kids. But I wasn’t afraid of recognizing limbo. I wasn’t afraid, not right now anyway. Because I’m looking at everything and I’m thinking “I have all the time in the world” with equal measure James Bond-inspired melancholy and hope.

Are you ready for the deus ex machina wrap up of this mindless ramble? Here goes.

I’m looking forward, but not with pervasive fear. And now that I’ve come to terms with where I am in this world. I indeed see the potential of the time I have, the “brave, new world” at my fingertips. Nothing will ever be the same, but, at the time time, my short history of nearly everything suggests that I don’t necessarily want it to be. I’ve struggled with mental health and doubt and misplaced anxiety. I want not to do that again. I want to embrace time. Because as James Bond has taught us, the time we have left is all the time in our world. I might slip back into depression, succumb to my fears and anxieties tomorrow. I never really know. But I never did. I just know that I’d always prefer to watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service rather than Diamonds Are Forever. And that, clearly, means something.

The Next Big Thing(s)

The Next Big Thing is a meme, like “Rick-Rolling” or “McKayla is not impressed.” As Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus—that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects.” The Next Big Thing is a circle of writers answering variations on the same questions about their next writing project. Mary Harwood tagged me in her blog, Deer Apples, which is also the title of her novel in progress. In my entry, I answer questions about two of my many ongoing projects (including a novel and a 007 essay series/Twitter film festival). All of my James Bond essays will appear here on my bl-g and on Sundog Lit Mag. Feel free to share with anyone you know! Virus and all.

 

PROJECT 1: MALE SECRETARY

What is your working title of your book?
The novel in progress is called Male Secretary. Normally I like to be cagey with my titles but this one hits right at the core of the thing.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I couldn’t get a job when I first moved to Boston. I’d been a gainfully employed copyeditor before the move. Going from full employment at a well paying job to nothing was a blow to my ego. I ended up working for a temp agency that placed me at the MIT Sloan School of Management. I was told that I was chosen because prior temps “had not lasted.” I knew that didn’t sound good, but it paid well (for a temp position) and I’d already had my share of terrible bosses. What could be so bad? I was called a “Professor’s Assistant,” but I was a secretary. And I was the only male secretary in the building and probably only one of five or six in the entire Sloan School. After only a few weeks I realized exactly why other temps and secretaries had not lasted. The job was to cater to the whims of four very different but brilliant (and often temperamental) professors. One of these professors made it his hobby to test his secretary by being intentionally, well, let’s say “candid.” I was picked for the job because my staffing contact at MIT thought my personality was strong enough to handle the cast of characters that had turned the position into a revolving door. As I told my stories about this job to friends and family, they all, unanimously, told me to write down these stories of eccentric academia. Which I did.

What genre does your book fall under?
I suppose this goes under Creative Non-fiction / memoir. My first draft fell pretty solidly on the memoir side of the fence, but I think, in order to get at some of the greater truths about gender in academia, I’m going to need to take some more creative liberties. The best part of it is that the most absurd elements of the story are 100% true.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This is too much fun. First you’re asking me who I want to play myself. And then who I want to play five insane MIT professors.
First the MIT professors, who I name by initial only.

S. is Australian, gregarious but highly intellectual. I want to say Guy Pearce, but worry the studio will overrule me and pick Hugh Jackman.

A. is tough. He’s the “difficult” professor. He’s also too smart to function and has no time for chit-chat, emailing or, really, explaining anything. Joaquin Phoenix.

Assistant Professor F.’s office hours are booked by nubile young post-grads. They laugh at his awkward jokes and pretend to understand all of the statistics spouts ad infinitum. I like Ryan Reynolds here, because we need someone to nail the attractive guy angle. But he’s got to be oblivious.

Dept. Head W. doesn’t really teach anymore, he merely writes books in his office and takes walks around the office to monitor progress. Easy. Alan Arkin.

Responding to the university-wide call to hire more female professors, the department hires B., played by Rachel Weisz. She is a British flibberdigibit with a ton of nervous energy and not enough time in the day.

And now, me. At the time I was 26. Can I use John Krasinski from eight years ago? We are roughly same age. If not him, then we’d have to choose to play up the comedic insecurity angle (Michael Cera) or the out of place, over-educated writer part… perhaps Anton Yelchin, as long as he can pull off disheveled.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An over-educated twenty-something who can’t yet manage his own life and laments his current stagnation is forced to manage the academic lives of five brilliant lunatics and come to terms with his current identity: a male secretary.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? (if this applies – otherwise, make up another question to answer!)
This is the novel I hope finds representation. I’ve started but not finished other novels that never really offered much hope for broader appeal.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote the first draft in a month (approximately 80,000 words) but much was already composed in notes and ideas jotted down while I was working at MIT. So that’s a little misleading. I’ve just recently come back to this after three years on the shelf. The ideas are on the page. That’s the important part. Editing is fun, right?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Uh. It’s hard to admit, but I don’t particularly like reading books of this nature. I’m not naturally drawn to them. If we’re talking about borrowing tone and pace, I’ve looked to fiction, especially books set in university. Most recently, Harbach’s The Art of Fielding inspired me in its treatment of university life. I liked the way it handled the balance of characters living under the academic umbrella.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Everyone who told me I wasn’t crazy… that the escapades of these professors really were insane – it’s just that at MIT, they’re just a few intellectual nuts in a sea of eccentrics. The advantage I had, however, was that as all this was going on, I struggled on my own with my notions of “self” and identity. I had no idea who I was anymore. Two years before these stories, I was on my way to film school before deciding it just wasn’t for me. I was lost inside myself when I first started working there. When I left, I was still lost, but much less so.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think the feeling of being lost within yourself is a pretty universal emotion. We’ve all reached a point in our lives, some sooner rather than later, when we realize that nothing is going to plan, when we question what we’re doing and how we got here. I wanted to focus in on that while telling these stories from the inside of a segment of elite academia that most of us never get to witness.

PROJECT 2: Of [In]human Bond[age]

What is your working title of your essay series?
The 007 essay series is called Of [In]human Bond[age].

Where did the idea come for the essay series?
In the days before Skyfall was released I was talking James Bond on Twitter with a few Tweeples. One of them runs an online literary magazine. He suggested, perhaps facetiously, that I write a series of essays on the James Bond movies, one for each of the 23 films. After returning from Skyfall I asked him if he was serious, and if so, could I over-intellectualize to my heart’s content. He said yes. So I said I’d do it.

What genre does your book fall under?
Irreverent analysis of minutiae. Is that a genre?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
N/A

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I do hope to turn these 23 essays into a collection when all is said and done. I want it to be “Bondage from all different angles.” Is that too risqué?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? (if this applies – otherwise, make up another question to answer!)
While I love the idea of publishing a book about James Bond nonsense, I doubt this will catch on. So much has been written about 007, it would be nearly impossible to catch someone’s eye. I might self publish if I like the way it turns out.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I write one essay per week for 23 weeks. (We’re on week 6 now.) After that I’ll revise and add to the essays when necessary. While some of these essays are casual and rely on irreverence, I just wrote one on subtext and sexual politics in Goldfinger that would benefit from a more thorough conversation.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films is what I’m aiming for on the intellectual side. But I go lowbrow far too often with these essays to be taken all that seriously.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted a new challenge. Every Wednesday I host a live tweetalong. By next Wednesday I need a 1,000- to 2,000-word essay on the last movie. The people that have latched on to the series hold me accountable. I like that. I like that some of the same people tune in every week because they just love talking James Bond.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
First of all, the tweetalongs are just fun. Many people haven’t seen these movies before. They’re experiencing them for the first time. As someone who’d seen all of these movies as a kid, I love seeing what people pick up on, what they latch onto. The Connery Bond films especially have come to us from a different time and place, a time and place that was free of our modern cynicism. I don’t think these essays are necessarily just for James Bond fans. I think they’re about our ever-shifting sense of decorum and intense seriousness. We’re not headed in a good direction, and I want to show that through the ways in which the Bond movies have course-corrected through the years to entertain modern audiences and remain relevant.

—-

Phew. That was a lot of thinking about two things at once. I hope I kept my thoughts straight. I also hope some more people join us for the Bond tweetalongs (every Wednesday at 9PM! Follow my Bond twitter annex at @007hertzrumble. I also expect you to all purchase a copy of Male Secretary. By reading this, you are now obligated. If it never gets published, buy me a drink to drown my sorrows.

Here are some of my writer friends (all TBD), who are all working on this and that and some of the other. I’m sure whatever it is, it’s brilliant.

Oh, and remember…

…McKayla is not impressed.

 

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