Live Segundo Interview on February 28!

marshallklim.jpgPlease note that Our Young, Roving Correspondent will be conducting a live conversation with the writer Marshall Klimasewiski on Thursday, February 28, 2008, at 7:00 PM.

The event will take place at McNally Robinson, located at 52 Prince Street, New York, NY. The event is free, the conversation will also be available later as a podcast, and we will also be taking questions from the audience. Thankfully, we have managed to duct-tape Mr. Segundo to his chair to prevent him from disrupting the discussion. (The idea was kindly provided to us by the gentlemen behind The Signal.)

For more details on this event, go here.

To listen to our previous conversation with Mr. Klimasewiski, go here.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Signal (BSS #182)

David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush are the writer-directors of The Signal. AJ Bowen played exterminator Lewis Denton, Scott Poythress played Clark, and Chad McKnight played Jim Parsons. The film opens on February 22, 2008.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Resisting the suggestions of broadcast signals.

Guests: Cast and crew members from The Signal: Writer-directors David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush; actors AJ Bowen, Scott Poythress, and Chad McKnight.

Subjects Discussed: Setting down the rules for a dystopic horror film, maintaining a dramatic consistency with three different directors, being dependent on actors, thespic accountability, Lewis and Clark, the origins of Terminus, the original city names of Atlanta, mythology and character names, the profile shot of Mya driving, reality vs. illusion, humanism and independent horror films, varying levels of psychosis encouraged within the actors, encouraging pre-existing character conditions, the Jim Parsons character and “nascent colonialism,” how much one should read into The Signal, putting entertainment first, Stephen King’s The Cell, George Romero, ripping off a narrative to kickstart an allegorical horror film, being inundated by media, The Exorcist, horror as the last realm for commentary, Lewis’s resemblance to Ash from Evil Dead, being intimidated by cinematic influences, the use of everyday household goods in a disaster, wardrobe decisions, why everybody in Terminus has the same plasma screen television, the advantages of limitations, the importance of beating up actors who are friends when there isn’t a stunt team, finding the location for Terminal 13, and shooting in a blood-soaked hallway while apartments were being shown.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: Were there varying levels of psychosis that were encouraged in the actors here?

Poythress: (uncomfortable laughter)

Correspondent: Maybe they can respond. Were you encouraged to get in touch with your inner id in any particularly innovative or intuitive way? Or did this just come natural? The murder. And strange, also, the decorum of still eating a pretzel at a party while, simultaneously, the whole atmosphere is blood-soaked.

Gentry: (laughs)

Correspondent: And now you’re eating almost a pretzel. Now a bagel.

Bowen: You know, there was some slight nodding and prodding. But for the most part, it was such a hands on experience that it wasn’t very difficult for me to get angry at Justin Welborn, because of how many times he hit me.

All: (laugh)

Bowen: But there were moments where — I remember specifically. This is AJ, by the way.

Correspondent: So soft spoken. I’m shocked.

Bowen: Very mellow. Wait till this cup of coffee’s gone. Dan pulled me off to the side in the middle of shooting a very important moment and said, “Hey, that guy’s fucking your wife!” And I was like, “What?” And I guess he was trying to motivate me to get me really excited.

All: (laugh)

Bowen: And I was like, “Oh, you just want to do more acting. I’ll act more, Dan. You don’t need have to go tell me that my wife’s having an affair.” I don’t think that answers your question!

Categories: Film

Toby Barlow (BSS #181)

Toby Barlow is the author of Sharp Teeth.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Distrusting of certain types of poetry.

Author: Toby Barlow

Subjects Discussed: The appeal of free verse, genre distinctions, the concern for lycanthropic physiology, Terry Pratchett, deviating from the rules in the werewolf canon, Brian Francis Slattery’s Spaceman Blues, a hyper-giddy version of the New Weird, Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Donald Barthelme, Homer, James Ellroy, “Pay attention,” pop cultural references, purposeful wordplay, water as a love metaphor, pulp and Los Angeles, Chandleresque metaphors, Gun With Occasional Music, odd statistics, the possibly apocryphal idea that 38% of the homeless population living in Los Angeles, dog population statistics, the Santa Ana winds, mining the Interweb, verbs that reflect nouns, the dog world beholden to alliteration, Aristotle’s “prime mover,” Godel’s incompleteness theorem, the Ukan way, DC “straight edge” punk, ways of reading text, lawyers, carne asada tacos, bridge columns in the newspaper, Alfred Bester’s “Hobson’s Choice,” the desire for community, and balancing narrative elements of a quest with free verse.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Barlow: I knew I wasn’t writing poetry. So I was not looking at in that style or strict formal style. But I did want — I did create breaks most of the time. There were a lot of line breaks in it. But most of the time, I was creating breaks when I wanted the ear to kind of catch twice. So the phrase had its own meaning. And I wanted to break up that phrase, and break the way that you were going to hear it or see it. So there would be a kind of constant tumbling over process as you went through the book. Because again, I think that that added a lot of drive to the piece. Even lines that felt cliched. If you break them in the right way, they’re suddenly not cliche anymore. They’re suddenly a little — there’s just a bump in the road where you didn’t expect it. And I just wanted to keep people guessing and thinking and moving through it.

Categories: Fiction

Steve Erickson (BSS #180)

Steve Erickson is most recently the author of Zeroville. He returned to the program for a second conversation with The Bat Segundo Show #447.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Confused by floating point integers.

Author: Steve Erickson

Subjects Discussed: Approaching a novel with fewer fantastical elements, following the narrative laws of movies, Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Walter Murch and Michael Ondaatje’s The Conversations, catchphrases from movies that enter into the vernacular, “God, I love this movie,” John Cassavettes, Chauncey Gardener, Vikar “speaking more than four words for the first time,” criticism and annotations as the contextual panacea to Los Angeles, Vikar as the anti-critic, John Milius, the model church and architecture, ambiguity, reenactments, Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, on not tying up loose ends, the burglar, blaxpolitation, Hollywood incongruities, Vikar’s tattoo, flesh as a marker, social flotsam, flamboyant press conferences, the parabolic chapter structure of Zeroville, Chuck Palahniuk, single frames of film, symbols with multiple interpretations, pronounced purity, continuity, anti-context, other settings representative of the pervasive nature of Hollywood, and repetitive sentences as a narrative guide.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about approaching this particular book with less fantastical or abstract elements than your previous books. I’m wondering if it was a way for you to live up to Godard’s maxim — that cinema is essentially truth 24 frames per second.

Erickson: Well, I think that, in the case of this book, because it is a book about the movies, and because I wanted the book to reflect my enthusiasm for the movies, and to reflect to some extent the obsession of the main character for the movies, I wanted to follow the narrative laws of the movies. So I kept it in the present tense. This is a pretty linear book compared to my other books. And it cuts from short scene to short scene, and it never gets too internalized. Things are told in the externals of dialogue and action. So because of all of that, I think it had the effect of grounding the book in a way that the other books may not have felt as grounded. And also, it was fixed in a very particular period of time, which is to say the 1970s in Los Angeles, when a lot of things about movies were changing.

Categories: Fiction

Charles Baxter (BSS #179)

Charles Baxter is most recently the author of The Soul Thief.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Vengeful towards literary ransackers.

Author: Charles Baxter

Subjects Discussed: Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand, intellectualism and the academic community, reductionist dialogue, being a grad student in the 1970s, Baxter’s recurrent water motif, placing a novel in Buffalo, getting the setting right, conversations in Volkswagen Beetles, Lucas Samaras’s Mirrored Room, manufacturing images, The Feast of Love as film adaptation, whether or not Los Angeles has seen better times, pretentious words, overly precise details, Tolstoy, occupying a place without people, The Twilight Zone, antipodean characters, William Maxwell, “The Chaos Machine,” whether the written word is permanent, the revelatory ending of The Soul Thief (sans spoilers), fundamentalist readers, novels as models of lives, sponging off experience, playing by the rules and objective narratives, real-life burglars vs. soul thieves, Steve Erickson’s Zeroville, and plots as chessboards.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Baxter: I don’t mean to interrupt your question, but I think it is very much a process of the last thirty years. It’s been the time — the last three decades — when it’s been most noticeable. That cities have become museums of what it was they once made. And that’s not true for Los Angeles. But it is true for Minneapolis. If you go down to where I live, you go down to the Mississippi River, you’ll see grain mills that once were there. You will see the Mill City Museum. What you will see is a simulacrum — another pretentious word — of what was once there and isn’t there anymore.

Correspondent: By the way, you can throw as many pretentious words here as you like. It doesn’t matter.

Baxter: Okay, thanks.

Correspondent: No judgment here. (laughs)

Baxter: I appreciate it.

Categories: Fiction

Charles Bock (BSS #178)

Charles Bock is the author of Beautiful Children.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Reconsidering the last eleven years of his life.

Author: Charles Bock

Subjects Discussed: Setting a novel in Vegas, writing about a city when living there vs. a more distant approach to learning about the location, Las Vegas and its suburbs as the fastest growing cities in America, plotting and linear storytelling, writing out of time, authors who break down barriers, staying with an idea and coming up with a “closer mess,” trying to live up to ambitious authors, limiting dating to two nights a week to write a book, characters with goals they can’t reach, disappearing children vs. those who run away, Cary Sayegh, embedding mashups of kids who ran away in Beautiful Children, on not wanting to appropriate real-life stories, downplaying the life-affirming nature of runaway stories, stand-up comedy, living in fear of having a novel in a half-finished drawer, working crappy jobs, working at a celebrity tabloid, the feeling of “building a bomb in my basement,” Axl Rose, Chinese Democracy, involvement with the text as “delicious torture,” coming up with a promotional website without getting music rights, and why Bock feels that too much attention is being paid to comics.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Bock: I had an idea in my head of someone who’s unhappy in their skin and they can’t escape, they have to escape their surroundings. Then I learned all these stories. I modified them towards what I wanted to do. I was just in New Orleans. And there’s a troop of homeless kids. And some of them, they all play instruments. Of violins, accordions, and whatever. And different members teach new members the songs so that then they can do street performances. That to me is an amazing, wonderful, life-affirming, great thing. I don’t know that that would have been — I would have had to twist that for my book and somehow make it not as life-affirming. But I had something in my head. And I had to match it.

Categories: Fiction

Charles Burns (BSS #177)

Charles Burns is the author and illustrator of Black Hole.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Avoiding conspiracy theorists.

Author: Charles Burns

Subjects Discussed: Responding to Vanessa Raney’s comparison between Black Hole and Sartre’s No Exit, anatomical closeups, World War II venereal disease films, intuitive artistic choices, the influence of postwar culture vs. personal experience, half-naked girls with tails, being an observer vs. experiencing something first-hand, the horrors of The Dark Side of the Moon, character judgment, keeping a consistency over ten years, drawing characters who keep their heads down, illustrating for The Believer, Alison Bechdel, avoiding reference shots, Dutch angles, the use of black, The Outer Limits, Conrad Hall, paneling, the split head on the page, the similarities between male and female characters, the static nature of Black Hole, characters occupying the same position over multiple frames, designing chapters with facing pages in mind, responding to Douglas Wolk’s observations, Burns on his strengths, the 1954 Comics Code and EC Comics, going to school with Lynda Barry and Matt Groening, the first moment when Burns realized he was a cartoonist, the relationship between writing and art, literary antecedents and narrative structure, adjusting Black Hole‘s structure over ten years, comfort food, narrative ambiguities, and not facing censorship.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Burns: There’s moments in there where, even though they’re pretty sedate, they are very horrific to me. To be sitting in a room for four hours listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon played over and over and over again — sitting around with a bunch of guys for hours and hours. It was horrific to me.

Correspondent: I wanted to touch upon how this personal experience relates to how people view your book, which is very much described as this allegory of sexuality in the United States. But it seems to me very interesting. Because people want to actually apply the “American” appellation to your book, as opposed to sort of look upon it as a depiction of real life. Do you think this is representative of them wanting to look onto Black Hole as a Great American Novel? Or is there something about the personal experience conveyed in American comics that calls for this…?

Burns: My intention was just to write a personal story. It was not to make some overall comment about America. I mean, that certainly comes into it. My opinions about American culture. That’s what I lived through. And that’s what I can talk about with authority. But I’m not making some — I’m not answering questions. I’m putting questions out there. Yeah, I have had people say, “Well, this is about American sexuality. American youth. Youth culture in the early 70’s.” It’s set in the 70’s because I can speak with authority about that specific part of my life.

(A lengthier excerpt from this program can be found here.)

Categories: Fiction

Eran Kolirin (BSS #176)

Eran Kolirin is the writer and director of The Band’s Visit, now playing in theaters.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contending with the inflexible language demands of the Academy.

Guest: Eran Kolirin

Subjects Discussed: Using a great deal of static shots, Antonioni, the influence of comic books, creating a cinematic fable, contending with too many extras in a shot, the story behind the film’s most striking long take, working within a fixed frame, how sound conveys the feel of a location more effectively than visuals, the technical aspects of topography, the relationship between political and personal choice, approaching a girl with the pickup line “Do you like Chet Baker?,” ice skating rinks in Israel, police orchestras, the curves of the hats, epaulets, designing the band’s costumes, and the visual use of mirrors and identity crisis.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: But I wanted to also ask about the most striking shot, I think. The moment where you have the three figures, of course. You have the ladies’ man essentially suggesting to Papi, who claims that there’s sea in his ears and who is just completely incompetent when it comes to women. And you essentially have over the course of this shot — which never moves, this three minute shot, maybe four minutes — where he’s basically instructing him on what to do. You know, he takes a flask of alcohol out. This is very much something that is essentially stripped down to its basic elements. And I’m curious about this. Was this really the only way to depict this particular area…?

Kolirin: No, you see, a lot of things, they evolve over the course. To begin with, we had the more complex shooting for this scene. I had several shots to break this thing down. And I knew that it was a very important scene in the movie and had to get this scene. But we started shooting it. And we do one take. And we didn’t have a lot of material. We ran out of film stock. And I look at my photographer Shai [Goldman] and he looks at me. And we say, “Let’s be sure to have this one shot work.” Because we don’t have the time, not the money, to have the other shots. So we have this. And this shot should work. So let’s now concentrate on only this shot. So we kick out all the rest of the alternative shots. We stay with that shot. You know, it’s also one of those things that you know when you shoot them, you have to make it one take. Because otherwise you’ll cut it along the way.

Categories: Film

Adam Langer (BSS #175)

Adam Langer is most recently the author of Ellington Boulevard.

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Condition of Mr. Segundo: Scurrying away from Duke-loving hipsters.

Author: Adam Langer

Subjects Discussed: Topographical narrative, characters that emerge from the environment, being a “method writer,” dialogue and perspective, the use of quotation marks, writing from the perspective of animals, dog science and memory, coincidences and multiple types of characters, older men and younger women, classical music, the history of clarinets, people who come to New York to find themselves, Langer’s experience as a theater critic, writing in the moment, the difficulties of trying to capture an ever-changing neighborhood in a book, pretentious actors, Old World vernacular, The Emperor’s Children, the sense of entitlement in relation to the New York novel, Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture, “A Novel in A Flat,” musical keys and sounds, similarities between character names and media names, using “sontag” as a noun, filtering a cultural obsession, sense of entitlement, Tarkovsky, solipsistic characters, Candide as a one-man show, stylish haircuts, indecisive people who avoid being pro-active, dissertations with bad titles, on not getting it, the disparity between calculating prices and getting lost in pop culture, imposition of ideology on other characters, working with Eli Wallach, and people vs. buildings.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I was also curious about The American Standard. Was this based off of…?

Langer: Five or six of them. I mean, I’ve worked in the magazine world. I’ve had friends who’ve worked in the magazine world.

Correspondent: Just as Nick Renfeld reminded me very much of Nick Denton. That…

Langer: Oh no! No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I actually know a couple of people who used to work for Gawker. But I think I was — unfortunately, I’m a little slow, out of the loop, on things. I don’t think I knew who Nick Denton was until a year and a half ago.

Correspondent: It’s very close though. Very close.

Langer: All right.

Correspondent: (laughs)

Langer: Well, Nick. Nick is close.

Correspondent: Well, Nick Renfeld, Nick Denton. Anyway…

Langer: Well, Renfield also eats cockroaches in Dracula and I wasn’t thinking of that either.

Correspondent: (laughs) Well, in terms of Chloe, what rules did you set down in terms of like…?

Langer: Chloe the publisher of the magazine?

Correspondent: Yes, exactly. Was there a specific media figure you had in mind for her?

Langer: No! No, no, no, no, no! It’s….

Correspondent: Or are you just being very careful with your answers? (laughs)

Langer: No! No! I’m not. Not at all. I just don’t — I don’t want to do that roman a clef thing, where you’re making fun of a particular. Because I think that that makes it very tied to a particular moment and a little bit shallow. No, it’s not. I don’t know. Who? Tina Brown? She doesn’t have a magazine now. I wasn’t thinking about any particular individual. I was trying to create a character.

Categories: Fiction