Thursday, July 21, 2005

On not being a completist

Richard Linklater's a gifted director of actors and a master of light comic timing. Billy Bob is one of the great actors. But why am I more motivated to plunk down $10 to watch the Butterscotch Stallion and his buddy crash weddings than to behold a collaboration of two modern American masters? Likewise, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are both visionaries, but the buzz does not make his new movie enticing.

Last few years, I've really stopped being a total zombie completist. Avoided Spielberg's crappy looking The Terminal, the Coens' unpopular The Ladykillers (first C Brothers pic I've missed, ever), Bertolucci's The Dreamers (though I've always planned that as a rental). Burton's last movie, Big Fish, was the first of his I've missed. Ever.

So the question is, is it my problem for not demonstrating more Bush-like loyalty to filmmakers who've brought me comfort and joy my whole life? Or am I right to not reward esteemed filmmakers for putting out obvious mediocrity, or for casting Tom Hanks? It's a question I'm pondering as I decide on what to watch this weekend. (Answer: Tropical Malady a 2nd time most likely, and maybe a couple of Don Siegel movies at UCLA.)

Could it be that the answer is neither? One problem with completism is that the older you get, the more fan-fetish objects you start accumulating, and they eventually end up swamping you. I own every R.E.M. album up to New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Before I purchased Hi-Fi, I hadn't been too impressed with the bits I've heard. But at the time, I told myself, well, I'm a fan. I gotta support. And it might grow on me, like Out of Time did. (It could still be the case, since I haven't spun that disc in 5 years.) But in retrospect, I realized my reasoning was pure rationalization. What compelled me to pick up the R.E.M. album wasn't so much dutiful fanboyism as trying to avoid that vague, irritating feeling of incompleteness, the kind of you might have when you discover that they're out of Daiquiri Ice at Baskin-Robbins, even though you'd planned on getting Rocky Road anyway. Or being displeased that the Oxygen Network is not on your basic cable package, even though you'll probably never watch that a minute of programming on that channel, ever. It's not that you need to experience what you're missing; you simply need it not to be missing. When you grow up collecting comics, as I did, the completism becomes hard-wired into you: you end up devoting way more time to plotting out ways to score that hard-sought near-mint copy of X-Men 121 to complete your Claremont/Byrne run of X-Men than is healthy for a fourteen year old. As with that R.E.M. album, you're bound to pick up the latest fill-in-the-blank simply because it'll gnaw at your insides if you don't have it.

That impulse towards completism hasn't quite changed. But it's just too damned hard to keep up. It's one thing to pick up all the Impulse-label original-issue Coltranes or watch every Bresson picture, since there's only a handful of those. But staying on top of contemporary pop culture is basically a full-time job, especially if you have to juggle following your old heroes *and* trying to discover new acts/directors/writers. I'm not really sure what R.E.M. is up to these days. I haven't seen the last four Woody Allen movies. I've dropped Abbas Kiorastami but picked up Claire Denis. And I'll probably drop Denis for someone else five or six years down the line. At some point you can't watch everything your 50 favorite current filmmakers put out and have time for that lesbian movie playing at Laemmle. One has to choose. And I guess I choose to drop Linklater and Burton for the time being.

Also: Adam, back from his trip, posed an interesting question for me down in the Pascal thread which I hope to answer soon. Thanks for waiting, Adam.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Dammit. Bush fucked me over again. Roberts instead of Luttig. Aren't these two the same guy, for all intents and purposes? As for the nominee, John G. Roberts, Supreme Court expert Jeffrey Rosen's piece (on potential nominees) makes him out to be someone tolerable, someone with a judicious temperament, and not someone likely to be a wild-eyed right-wing judicial activist or a constitution-in-exile looney. Obviously he's quite conservative, but it's not as if Bush is gonna appoint Laurence Tribe.

Today's one of those days where I'm reminded of the old pre-Bush days, when knee-jerk lefties would drive me batty. The majority of commenters on the Daily Kos are already girding themselves for a fight to death on Roberts, demanding a fillibuster. Do they not realize that Kerry lost the election, and that of the potential nominees, Roberts is actually not among the worst? You only torpedo candidates that are truly outside the mainstream, and given how far right this country is at the moment, Roberts, from what I can tell, is not in Freeperland. Unless he's got skeletons in the closet or completely botches the confirmation hearings, let him go. There's bigger fish, or rather turd, to fry. Will nuking this nomination help the Dems win in 2006? Somehow, I don't think so, unless a dead male Russian ice skater is found naked in his bed.

Addendum: Today's NY Times gives a triple blow job to Roberts. But taken together, Rosen's piece and this lengthy profile make Roberts sound like as good a nominee as any non-wingnut could've hoped for from Bush, someone who has a healthy respect for the limits of the courts, and who has no history of being a radical activist ideologue. But will someone please hand David Brooks a tissue? Thanks.


After missing out on the $20 Clement buy last night (she shot up to $70 before landing with a thud at $15 just now), I bought Luttig at $5 and Gonzales at $4, while the price was heavy on wingnut Edith Jones. (I am talking about possible Supreme Court nominees, which Bush will make tonight.) I can make a cool $200 if the pick is Luttig. Let it be so.

Tradesports. Day trading for info-junkies. Wishful thinking hot tip: Rove resigning by September 30th contract is at about $20.00.* If grand jury indictments are handed down by then, that'll be a smart buy. Another good gamble: 3rd party candidate winning the presidency in 2008. It's selling for about $1, meaning you can make about $1,000 on a $10 investment if McCain somehow makes a 3rd party run and wins.

* Here's how Tradesports works: It's like the stock market, except the contracts offered expire when the event predicted either comes to pass or doesn't. If it comes to pass, the contract will mature at $100.00. If it doesn't, than zero. For example, if Rove has resigned by September 30, you'll make $100.00 per share on a $20.00 per share purchase. If Rove hasn't resigned by then, it goes to zero and you lose your "investment". In the meantime, you can, of course, sell your contract for a profit if the price goes up. If rumors fly that Rove is about to be indicted, that contract will surely shoot up in price. I made a little money on Phil Ivey's WSOP contract when it went from $10 to $30 when I sold it on Day 5, but lost all of my profits when I used that money to buy John Juanda WSOP contract.