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Like a detuned radio

It's too hot for coherent thought.

It's not the clean kind of heat, it's more as though the city has drawn in a great heave of air and is now holding its breath like a sulking child.

In quarters other than this one, Wimbledon trundles along merrily, the half-wits on Henman hill yelling loudly as the rest of us swelter in indifference. I could easily waste all day watching Wimbledon and I don't care a jot for it. It's the chronological equivalent of standing in the middle of the street, tearing up tenners. I've not got that much time to waste now.

None of this stops me from wasting *hours* watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Should I be worried that I have a favourite team now?

I think so.

I know exactly what the appeal of this show is. It is pure emotional pornography, a quick and dirty way to hit the emotional zenith without actually having to go through any hard times yourself or listen to some poor bugger bang on about their misfortunes.

Instead, you get their story practically in blipverts, Ty reassuring you that you're not going to end up sympathising with some arsehole, because everyone is vetted for worthiness and any awkward, ungrateful personality traits or signs of mental illness will be edited out -- just like the models are plucked, tweaked and airbrushed into perfection in genuine pornography.

After the first 15 minutes of "you poor sods, your house is completely shite", the viewer can go put the kettle on, maybe tidy up the kitchen or read a magazine while Ty and his merry minions get up to lame stunts and actual construction, then you can come back for the last 15 minutes and *BANG* you get real estate porn *plus* totally unearned catharsis at the reveal. It's the perfect show.

On the plus side, I'm cancelling the cable come July 7, so I should enjoy while I can, no?

I've found that the things I like in fiction (and by extension fanfiction) and TV have these things in common -- hard times/angst to make your toes curl, followed by a cheery ending, or else something that could be interpreted as a happy ending.

If the story ends in pain, degradation and misery, I'm not interested. I can get that sort of thing from my bosses at work. I want a bit of uplift in the end. The Playtex theory of story satisfaction.

Another example of emotional pornography, this time the kind that appeals to men: Liverpool's victory in the Champion's League. It wasn't so much that they won and became the champions of Europe, it was the way they did it -- they beat Juventus, 20 years after their fans' behaviour during the Heysel disaster got English clubs thrown out of European competition for five years, then they beat the English champions, then they went three-nil down by half time to AC Milan, only to equalise, then beat them at penalties.

Two days after watching that, I found myself reading reports from Spanish and French newspapers because I'd read all the reports in English and I still, somehow, wanted *more*, to relive it again. A totally unearned high.

* * *

I went to see Batman Begins today because the cinema was air-conditioned. I found it perhaps the most pleasing superhero gig I've seen. I was pleasantly surprised by Katie Holmes' character because I'd read so many LJ reviews asking 'why are all the women in superhero/action flicks such cyphers'.

I thought her character was very underwritten but the bare bones of it were so bothersome as MJ in Spider-Man, to pick one example. I didn't read the end as her absolutely rejecting Batman, more her saying that he had a job to do and she would be there when he was done with it.

One of the things I very much liked, which many of the critics did not was the very fragmented, fast-cut violence. In a film which was all about fear -- how it is induced and experienced, and overcome -- what is not seen is as important as what is seen.

And anyway, I'm sick to bloody death of these films which fetishise beatings; the stylised punching and crunching and butting that never seems to hurt as much as it would, and the hero who takes a punch then comes back kicking and quipping, as though the first thing that would be on your mind is "Hey, let me come up with the wacky oneliner" rather than "My God, that fucker broke my cheekbone and it *hurts*". Not to mention the Artistic Dribble of Blood.


* * *


I've been reading a lot lately. Airport fiction, which is almost as much fast food for the brain as fanfiction, though often less satisfyingly crunchy.

I read the new Michael Marshall book The Lonely Dead, which I believe was published as The Upright Man in the United States. It's a sequel to his first venture into the grand pool of serial killer novelists, The Straw Men. As Michael Marshall Smith he wrote the science-fiction books Only Forward, Spares, One of Us … all of which begin with brilliant ideas and whip-smart dialogue and witty descriptions and then just lose their way about two thirds of the way through. I should say that I like his writing and his characters usually and he often pulls it all together by the end (in an unlikely fashion)

The The Lonely Dead doesn't even make it that far. It's incoherent from about four chapters in and this time the fractured narrative doesn't work at all, it's just a reminder of how lazy and out of control this book is, how much it smacks of contractual-obligation-to-write-sequel-fast. It doesn't even have the joie de vivre of his previous somewhat flawed works.

My recommendation would be that you don't bother. I notice that the third one is out in hardback. I don't think I'll be continuing to read

The second thing I read last week was "The Rule of Four", which was billed as "the smart Da Vinci Code" on the back, whereas if we were going for honesty in publishing (a ridiculous concept), it would be billed as "vaguely like the Da Vinci Code, but in truth inspired by The Secret History, and about half as good as either"

It's nowhere near as claustrophobic and well-plotted as The Secret History. Whereas the arcane rites of the Greek class in TSH were intriguing and by the end, sinister, here I was left exasperated by a pair of authors who seemed to think I should give a flying fuck about what bicker is. I'm sure that these time-honoured rituals of Princeton life are very important when you're actually there, but to outsiders, they seem like the pointless posturings of a bunch of over-privileged twats who have so few cares in the real world that this stuff actually seems significant.

In TSH, I actually cared about the characters -- I didn't much like Richard, Bunny, Charles, Camilla, Francis or Henry but the fact that I remember their names, four years after last reading the book indicates that they made an impression. By contrast the characters in this book were ill-drawn, and in the case of the narrator, just exasperating in his listless self-regard. I loathe characters who are all "look at my *angst*". Give me a conman like Richard Papen every time.

The central mystery In The Rule Of Four, culled directly from Renaissance History 101: the Simpleton's Guide To Florence, doesn't go anywhere or do anything. Lots of people became very aeriated about it and people were killed and maimed in relation to it, but nothing much had changed by the end of the book, except some people I really was never made to care about were dead. Possibly.

At least The Da Vinci Code has its own thesis, which it sets out with a kind of joyously loopy momentum. It's compulsively readable even as you're saying to yourself "these characters make the Carringtons out of Dynasty look like masterpieces of reasoned psychological study"

So anyway. Yes. Avoid. This book is *toss*

* * *

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
ch1pper
Jun. 22nd, 2005 02:00 am (UTC)
yes. Rule of Four. Much boring. It was so so vague and full of ennui. Even when they were in danger in the tunnels I was yawning.
cofax7
Jun. 22nd, 2005 02:27 am (UTC)
Hey. I owe YOU mail now, but I'm off to spend 2 hours angsting through the last 2 hours of Veronica Mars. See you when I come out. *g*

infinitemonkeys
Jun. 22nd, 2005 12:40 pm (UTC)
Enjoy it. It'll be nothing like you expect. I'll be interested to hear what you think
loveanddarkness
Jun. 22nd, 2005 02:53 am (UTC)
All of those books are toss compared to Foucault's Pendulum.

I hear it's hot there. Come visit. It'll feel homey, except we have loads of air conditioning.



infinitemonkeys
Jun. 22nd, 2005 12:40 pm (UTC)
Well, yes, but I remain a hopeful book buyer and keep thinking I'm going to find a gem among the cowpies.

If only the British could get their heads around air conditioning. When global warming comes to bite us in the backside, we're going to need it
k2daisy
Jun. 22nd, 2005 03:01 am (UTC)
It is pure emotional pornography

You say this like it's a bad thing.
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 22nd, 2005 12:43 pm (UTC)
I know. How censorious, given that I just set a reminder for tonight's Extreme Makeover ten minutes ago *g*
k2daisy
Jun. 22nd, 2005 12:48 pm (UTC)
Hee!

Do you get the "after" second weekly episode of it too -- the one called "How'd They Do That?"

Basically, it's just a rehash of the previous night's ep (one airs on Sunday, the other on Monday here) with a couple of extra unaired scenes thrown in, but it doesn't matter. I watch it anyway, and cry and cry and cry. Hubby doesn't even mock me for my tears -- I think he secretly gets a little verklempt himself.

Pennington is a sneaky, manipulative bastard, and I love him.
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 22nd, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)
Do you get the "after" second weekly episode of it too -- the one called "How'd They Do That?"

NO. I feel all deprived.

Pennington is a sneaky, manipulative bastard, and I love him.

He is. Wee Paul is my favourite though
corianderstem
Jun. 22nd, 2005 03:33 am (UTC)
Howdy! Your icon is giving me a slight case of the creeps. Just thought I'd share.
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 22nd, 2005 12:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It's all Icelandic. I think it might be giving me the creeps too.
marakara
Jun. 22nd, 2005 04:09 am (UTC)
It is pure emotional pornography

Highly rated, emotional pornography. Highly rated, inexpensive to produce, emotional pornography. Did you see the one where Ty winds up in the hospital with acute appendicitis. Three hanky episode.


Take Care
Mara
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 22nd, 2005 12:45 pm (UTC)
inexpensive to produce

Really? Even given all the construction costs and furniture bling they install?

Did you see the one where Ty winds up in the hospital with acute appendicitis. Three hanky episode.

It was on at the weekend, and yes it was. I can't believe how much I love that show.
marakara
Jun. 23rd, 2005 04:23 am (UTC)
More info than you probably would want
Even given all the construction costs and furniture bling they install?

Yes, the construction workers are all volunteers - even the contractors. The tools are provided by Sears, the show's main sponsor. Sears also supplies all the appliances, clothing for the families if needed and a lot of the supplies like cloth for curtains. The trips are always to Disney resorts - ABC, the network that airs the program, is owned by Disney.

The homes are almost always built with a U.S. home building or home repair company donating the materials for the homes. It is all charitable donations for the building companies.

This program is a feel good cash cow for ABC.

Take Care
Mara
se_parsons
Jun. 22nd, 2005 04:43 am (UTC)
Why are you canceling cable?

Also, glad you liked Batman. I thought it was fab, myself. And you're right about the violence. Because he's working on the not being seen vibe. It's better to not be seen and to scare folks, than to be seen and shot dead by folks carrying guns when you do not.
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 22nd, 2005 12:59 pm (UTC)
Because if I get an aerial and buy a freeview box, I can get most of what I want to watch for £8 a month instead of £25 a month. I'm not watching much TV these days and I need to economise anyway, ready for next year's "OMFG *how much* am I spending" adventure

It's better to not be seen and to scare folks, than to be seen and shot dead by folks carrying guns when you do not.

Or indeed to scare folks and have them run away because they are scared instead of having to beat the crap out of them. Deterrence. You were right about Batman Begins. I loved it .
se_parsons
Jun. 22nd, 2005 02:48 pm (UTC)
You were right about Batman Begins. I loved it

Now you should read all those comics I sent..
lilydale
Jun. 22nd, 2005 12:13 pm (UTC)
On the plus side, I'm cancelling the cable come July 7, so I should enjoy while I can, no?

But...but...all your beautiful music channels will be gone. GONE! How am I going to get to your place by July 7 to watch them? HOW?

;-)
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 22nd, 2005 01:03 pm (UTC)
Whisper this, but I am sick of all my music channels. They keep playing awful hip-hop about cars, guns and large-breasted women and my beloved Q TV has been swapped out for FHM TV, which is a TV station run by what is practically a jazz mag and features nothing but bad hip hop about cars....
lilydale
Jun. 22nd, 2005 01:13 pm (UTC)
With this additional knowledge, I am no longer aghast at the loss of the music channels. I still, however, feel the desire to come see them before July 7, but alas.
comice
Jun. 22nd, 2005 02:05 pm (UTC)
YES!! YES!! YESSSSSSSSS!!!
If the story ends in pain, degradation and misery, I'm not interested. I can get that sort of thing from my bosses at work. I want a bit of uplift in the end. The Playtex theory of story satisfaction.

:: lights metaphorical cigarette, 'cos I don't smoke the real ones anymore ::

Suzanne and I have discussed this a great deal, how we both hate the 'my miserable life: a craptastic journey' that promulgates so heavily in both lit and especially in fic. You know, the whole 'we learn things, but it never amounts to anything and we're never happy and then we die. The End.' stories.

???

Where is the fun in that?

:: blows kisses at you ::
thinkum
Jun. 22nd, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Extreme Makeover Home Edition -- phew, it's not just me! I don't watch the show regularly, but when I do catch it, it just sucks me right in...
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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