King Kong 2005

While it’s not my favorite Jack Black performance—like he’s making fun of the character he’s playing as he’s playing him—and the middle gets flabby falling in love with its own monsters, this is one of the best remakes ever done. This version is a bona fide love story, and you don’t get much more star-crossed than the pair pictured above. As long as he’s with Ann and Kong, Peter Jackson’s version has me captivated, and once Kong’s in a lovingly recreated New York this version delivers the best last act of the three. Kong’s death brings the big tears for me. One of the many things I like about the film is that Kong is made more sympathetic by making him more simian. Someone spent a long time watching gorillas. Ann and Kong’s relationship is deliciously complex and utterly persuasive, to me at least. (But then I do have a thing for beauty and the beast stories). I also like the way Jackson has used his predecessors, alluding to their best moments and making them his own. I’m a Kong slut. I love all three, though in future viewings of this one, I’ll pick and choose my way through the monster-muddled middle.

King Kong, 1976

The first and only time I’d seen this version before was with my stepdaughter Ginger in 1976 when it came out. We saw it at the Campus Theater in Denton, Texas. I remember we both liked it and had a great time. More than thirty years later, I still love it. Pauline Kael gushed over it, and I pretty much agree with everything she said. The image of Kong in the bowels of an oil tanker (above) is simply terrific.

For the Kael review and lots of other cool stuff, I recommend Kingdom Kong, a swell site dedicated to the film.

King Kong, 1933

That’s the original King Kong taking on a T-Rex who’s been hassling his girl, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) in the classic 1933 film, King Kong. I’ve begun my own film festival here of Kong and his remakes because the narrator of the novel I’m working on, The Best Lucifer Ever, has a passion for the story. Both Lucifer and Kong take a big fall and have controversial relationships with women. As a Creature Feature aficianado in my youth, I must’ve seen this picture dozens of times, but it still works for me.

God comes out for universal health care

While touring a local hospital (picture below) God declared the American health care system a failure. “For those of you who missed it,” he said, “the answer to ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ is yes, and I don’t recall the slightest suggestion that insurance companies should be reaping huge profits in the process.”

A spokesman for HMOs (seen below administering to a patient) said the Supreme Deity’s remarks were totally out of line. “Unless he wants the HORRORS of SOCIALIZED MEDICINE! People want to choose their own physicians, not go through pointless delays in receiving treatment, filling out endless forms, only to be denied life-saving procedures in the end.”

When asked about these very complaints being leveled at HMOs, he replied, “Yes, but the difference is we’re sound economics. We’re good for America because we make a lot of money!”

Great weekend

First, all my urban fantasy students wrote terrific finals. Next, I heard from Intergalactic Medicine Show that they will be publishing a story of mine, “The Angel’s Touch.” The incept for the story was Sarah teasing me when I was railing against one of the many angel tv shows that maybe I should write an angel story. Next, Sarah and I went on a rugged hike that included wading across the James near the railroad bridge—it’s that low. Then we joined friends to watch the Richmond Braves lose to a team called the Mudhens. (You’ve got to love a name like that). Finally we biked out to see Becoming Jane. (I was one of 3 or 4 males in the audience.) We both emerged dewy eyed and liked it a great deal.

Urban Fantasy ends

My tiny Urban Fantasy class comes to a close today. The favorite book turned out to be Kafka on the Shore. They suggested that two short story collections was one too many, though they were divided as to which one should go. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching this summer, but I’m definitely ready to get back to writing.

I have a new novel underway (in 1st chapter territory) called The Best Lucifer Ever. I’m rereading Paradise Lost and some of the more obscure passages of the Bible as part of the process and having a wonderful time.

A Richmond magazine called Boomer Life, a slick freebie for people my age, has a flattering profile of me by local writer Carrie Belt. She persuaded several nice people to lie about me. It’s available at CVS, Kroger’s, Ukrops, etc.

Kelly Link gets mixed reviews

Link’s stories were not a huge success with my class. They liked the most accessible stories, “The Faery Handbag” and “Stone Animals.” I love the truly weird stories in the collection that manage to be at their weirdest with barely a drop of magic—”Magic for Beginners,” “Some Zombie Contingency Plans,” and “Lull.” We take up Murakami tomorrow. This was my fourth time reading Kafka on the Shore, and I’m still in love with it.

Like a dog

This is a poem I wrote about my dog Carrie. As the poem describes, she adopted me in 1983 when I was teaching at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Virginia. I’ve revised the poem over the years, read it once or twice, and never considered publishing it. I don’t know how she died, but I feel totally responsible. I let her trot around the neighborhood on her own, something I would never dream of doing now. She didn’t come home. There were several cases of dogs picked up in the area for use in training fighting dogs. That was most likely her fate. So when I’m a little hard on God here, I’m not saying anything I haven’t said to myself—and worse. Not that I wouldn’t say it to Him too, if I believed. Without further confession or ado, the poem—

Like a dog

I watch with care
my dog moving across the yard.
She’s dead now, only a month,
resurrected by my memory—
the sideways drift of her hind legs
gaining on the front,
her eyes wide, expectant,
the soprano chatter of her greeting.

I took her in as a stray.
My students found her on a mountaintop
in a thunderstorm, her eyes wide with shock,
her tits gorged with milk and puss,
no sign of the pups
in the flashes of lightning.

They carried her down on a stretcher made from tent poles and a coat.
They cut the chain off her neck with boltcutters.
After three weeks of antibiotics, she rose from her bed
and inexplicably fell in step beside me.

She lived with me for eight years—
jittery when it rained,
cowering at the clink of chains,
good-hearted and gentle.
I often talked to her when we were alone.

I used to imagine her sufferings on that mountain.
Imagine I’d been her,
just as one might
imagine the sufferings of Christ,
to understand suffering.

I learned enough to marvel
at her ability to separate those
who’d chained her from those
who’d cut the chain.

Christ didn’t have to suffer.
gods don’t have to suffer.
They cause suffering.
Then ask for praise
or thanks
or bended knee
from the survivors.

Christ chained his own throat,
became a man to kill himself,
to pierce his own heart for a change,
to atone for his omnipotence.

Last night I knelt to pray
for the first time since my father died
ten years ago this February.
Then, I couldn’t say a damn thing.
Last night, I prayed to God—
“Thank you for dying,� I said.
“Now, I can imagine you
“alone in the wilderness,
“wind and rain and lightning all around,
“knowing soon you’d die like a dog—
“and maybe, just maybe, forgive you.�

How time flies when you’re working all the time

As summer school sprints to a close, I’ve been too busy to post, eyeball deep in Kelly Link and Jeff Ford stories—that’ll alter your reality—and poring over Donnie Darko. I can’t believe I actually get paid to do this. The most popular Jeff Ford story hands down was “The Weight of Words,” probably mine too. They beat up on “Coffins on the River.” The young, the young, I say, shaking my old head. I love that story. Most popular movie was equally divided between Being John Malkovich and Donnie Darko. Edward Scissorhands was voted off. They liked it, but there wasn’t that much to talk about. Gotta go read Murakami. There’s a guy in the next block who’s been catching cats. I wonder if he’s read Kafka on the Shore. What an incredible book. We start Link’s Magic for Beginner’s today.