Johns

Exhibit 1.5.13

Kansas


I tried to take the most cliched picture of rural decay I could. Do try to hum a John Cougar Mellencamp song while looking at it please.

1 Comment / Posted in Johns, States, Trucks

Exhibit 27.23

A Canonical Poem Adapted into a Control Scheme

for a Sega Game Gear

Up: The rising world of waters dark and deep
Down: The void and formless infinite
Left: Revisit’st not these eyes, that rowle in vain
Right: Re-visit now with bolder wing
1: Purge and disperse
2: Shine inward
Start: Seasons return, but not to me

Comment / Posted in Control Schemes, Johns, Poetry

Exhibit 24.19

On Editing A Novel #19

REWRITING YOUR NOVEL AFTER STUMBLING UPON A JOHNNIE LeMASTER BASEBALL CARD.


O man O man O man. The Master? What? No? Yes! That’s just an awesome name. I’ve got to use this. Yes. Yes. Yes. Maybe I should just make that my pen name? No. No. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Calm down. O, good lord, LeMaster. First things, first. This novel is now about Johnnie LeMaster. Goodbye, Cornelius Buttons. Obviously, he can’t be a butler anymore. He’s got to be a, I don’t know, the best at something. What was the real Johnnie LeMaster the best at? I guess the back of this baseball card will tell me. Jesus, nevermind. Okay, my Johnnie LeMaster is going to be completely different. First of all, he would hit higher than .220. Not that he needs to in his line of international espionage/mixed martial arts competitions but come on, no one named Johnnie LeMaster should be a light-hitting infielder. I will keep the mustache. Yes. Tagline: He bats 1.000…with the ladies! Yes! No! He can’t be a baseball player. Or can he? He’s definitely not a reticent butler tormented by missed opportunities. Which means he doesn’t have a meaningful relationship with his Lord Windermere. Or maybe that’s his nemesis? Yes! He’ll need some kind of physical deformity then. Easy enough to do a find and replace green eyes for robot eyes. Great. Is Master even French for ‘master?’ I don’t know. O, man, I forgot about Miss Farraday. Obviously Johnnie LeMaster isn’t going to keep his feelings bottled up. No, he’s going to… knock this one out of the park! Ah, that’s no good. He’ll just have to seduce her than kill her when he discovers she’s a double agent working for the evil robot Windermere. I mean, she’s his housekeeper, but she’s also, I don’t know, his assassin or something. She “dusts the shelves” could easily be she “dusts off a few agents.” Good. Now let’s pull back a bit. So we’ve got Johnnie LeMaster. He’s the best at most things, including Bolivian judo. There’s the nemesis. There’s the mustache. He can actually hit a fastball but he’ll choose not to. He’s an undercover butler. But it’s all for naught if I don’t get a cooler pen name than his. Maybe somebody else on the 1985 Pittsburgh Pirates can help. Frobel? Foli? This explains why they lost 100 games. Well, Johnnie LeMaster could be both of our names, I guess. Memoirs are in. Holy hell everything is going to be so easy now that this novel is titled Johnnie LeMaster in The Remains of Farraday. Tagline: This summer, the butler did it. Yes!

Comment / Posted in Editing, Johns, Masters

Exhibit 17.25

Characters Played by John Wayne (1934-1926)

Chris Morrell
John Tobin
Rod Drew
U.S. Marshal John Travers
Randy Bowers
John Weston
John Carruthers
Ted Hayden, posing as Gat Ganns
Jerry Mason
John Brant (using alias John Smith)
Student greeting Phil
Singin’ Sandy Saunders
Captain John Holmes
Jimmy McCoy Jr.
Dick Wallace
Smith John Bishop
Co-pilot in Wreck
Lt. Tom Wayne
John Trent
John Mason
Deputy Sheriff John Steele
Football Player
John Drury
Larry Baker
Buzz Kinney
Duke
Steve Pickett
Craig McCoy
Dusty Rhodes
Clint Turner
Richard Thorpe as a corpse
Lt. Bob Denton
Gordon Wales
Peter Brooks
Breck Coleman
Bit Part
Lumberjack
Extra
Radioman on surface
Extra
Bill (midshipman)
Pete Donahue
Extra
Extra
Flood Extra
Horse Race Spectator/Condemned Man in Flashback
Extra
Extra
Football Player/Extra in Stands Extra
Extra
Guard
Yale Football Player

2 Comments / Posted in Iowa, Johns, Posing As Gat Ganns

Exhibit 17.20

The Searchers

Someone requested my thoughts on The Searchers and since I didn’t see anything interesting while driving to work today, I figured why not. I’m here to please.

Despite what you may be thinking based on some recent posts, this is actually the first John Wayne movie I’ve ever seen. I had to look up some of his characters’ names for a project, posted the character names, was told to watch The Searchers, watched The Searchers, was told to write about The Searchers, and now I’m writing about The Searchers. This has all taken place within a week or so. Like I said, I’m here to please.

Here’s the trailer if you’d like to watch it, but I should tell you it gives away maybe the best scene of the movie and, if you know what to look for, the ending.

Lusty slice of history? Sign me up.

So it’s not in any way lusty, but it is a great movie, sort of an earlier, American Southwest Lawrence of Arabia in visual style and something much more modern in its dark, somewhat meta conflict which rests entirely on antagonizing the audience’s expectation of John Wayne-the-guy-who-plays-heroes with John-Wayne-the-guy-playing-a-racist-jerk. I know nothing about film, so I’m sure this kind of against-type casting existed before, but I can’t think of an earlier example. I certainly can’t think of a time it’s worked this well since (it usually ends up lifeless [see Hanks, Tom, The Road to Perdition] or silly [see Carrey, Jim, The Number 23. Actually, don’t. I certainly didn’t]).

What’s so great about it here is that Wayne seems completely unaware his character is a bad guy. Obviously he did know, but it’s clear that Wayne sympathizes with him to such a degree that it would be uncomfortable if Wayne weren’t so damn likable. As I said before, I’ve never seen a John Wayne movie, hate the guy’s politics and his behavior during the Red Scare, and don’t have a lot of interest in his vision of America or masculinity–I’m, you know, a wimp–but there’s undeniably something big about the man and it’s something that seems to exist outside of what he says or does. And believe me, I hate buying into this guy. I’d love to be contrarian here, but it’s true. John Wayne had me at his first, “That’ll be the day.”

It’s his presence outside the character that greys the movie, and it’s almost impossible to imagine a movie with the same mechanics today. It’s maybe as simple as the fact that the studio system doesn’t create stars in the same way–although god knows they try every so often:

Movie Executive #1: Shia LaBeouf?
Movie Executive #2: Shia LaBeouf!

Or maybe it’s something Marlon Brando did. Certainly The Searchers is riding the anti-hero wave:

On the Waterfront – 1954
Rebel Without a Cause – 1955
The Searchers – 1956

Thankfully, we just haven’t been living in an era that wants Superman for a long, long time and in The Searchers John Wayne is Superman turned bitter after choosing the wrong team (in this case, the South in the Civil War). And so it’s not just that Wayne is playing against type, it’s that he’s playing the death of his type. A once great man reacting to the end of his era with violence and hate.

For some reason, John Ford sought to soften the blow of this portrayal with laughter. There’s a lot of comedy in The Searchers and it’s all very broad–a cartoony simpleton, pratfalls, misunderstandings with (hilarious) consequences. There’s absolutely no reason for any of this to be in the movie, but it’s there nonetheless. The only thing odder than its existence is the fact that it’s actually funny more often than not. Still, it’s completely disposable and unwanted, scenes that most people probably forget when remembering the movie.

(The Searchers is apparently the AFI’s greatest Western of all-time. Fair enough. It is quite awesome and I don’t know anything about Westerns. But I do know it would be hilarious to take some of these comedy scenes and insert them into, say, Unforgiven. Watching Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman have a surprisingly girly fight played for laughs? Yes. Yes indeed).

Last thought: And maybe it’s just because of how inherently unassailable Wayne is, but I think there’s an argument could be that the character Ford objects to most is Ward Bond’s Reverend Captain, who is both the local priest and the local marshall. While he’s as complex as the rest of the characters here, even Wayne seems to hate the power and hypocrisy at work when these two roles combine in one man. Considering the movie was made at the end of the McCarthy-era, it’s easy to see Bond’s character, and not Wayne’s, as the real anti-hero. Wayne is going to die and take his character flaws with him, leaving behind nothing but a son-figure who represents the opposite of what Wayne believes in. But men like Bond and their “good-intentioned” facism aren’t going anywhere.

Comment / Posted in Bond, Johns, Movies

Exhibit 17.16

Characters Played by John Wayne (1949-1935)

Sgt. John M. Stryker
Capt. Nathan Cutting Brittles
John Breen
Capt. Ralls
Robert Marmaduke Hightower
Thomas Dunson
Capt. Kirby York
Johnny Munroe
Quirt Evans
Rusty Thomas
John Devlin
Lt. JG ‘Rusty’ Ryan
Col. Joseph Madden
Duke Fergus
Rocklin
Lt. Cmdr. Wedge Donovan
Daniel F. Somers
Duke Hudkins
Pat Talbot
Charles ‘Pittsburgh’ Markham/Charles Ellis
Capt. Jim Gordon
Tom Craig
Roy Glennister
Captain Jack Stuart
Jackson Morgan
Young Matt
John Reynolds
Lynn Hollister
Lt. Dan Brent Olsen
John Phillips
Bob Seton
Smith
Stony Brooke
Stony Brooke
Stony Brooke
Stony Brooke
The Ringo Kid
Stony Brooke
Stony Brooke
Stony Brooke
Stony Brooke
Dare Rudd
Duke Slade
Johnny Hansen
Bob Adams
Biff Smith
Pat Glendon
‘Bos’n’ Bob Randall
John Blair
Captain John Ashley
John Clayborn
John Tipton
Capt John Delmont
John Middleton, aka John Allen
John Dawson
John Wyatt
John Wyatt aka John Rogers
John Mason
John Scott, aka John Jones
John Martin
John Higgins

1 Comment / Posted in Dare Rudd, Iowa, Johns

Exhibit 17.11

Characters Played by John Wayne (1976-1950)

J.B. Books aka John Bernard Books
Rooster Cogburn
Lt. Brannigan
Det. Lt. Lon McQ
U.S. Marshal J.D. Cahill Lane
Wil Andersen
Jacob McCandles
Col. Cord McNally

John Simpson Chisum
Col. John Henry Thomas
Marshall Reuben J. ‘Rooster’ Cogburn
Chance Buckman
Col. Mike Kirby
Taw Jackson
Cole Thornton
Gen. Mike Randolph
John Elder
Capt. Rockwell Torrey
Centurion at crucifixion

Matt Masters
George Washington McLintock
Michael Patrick ‘Guns’ Donovan
Sergeant-Umpire in Korea

Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort
Sean Mercer
Tom Doniphon
Ranger Capt. Jake Cutter
Sam McCord
Col. Davy Crockett
Col. John Marlowe
Sheriff John T. Chance

Townsend Harris
Joe January
Col. Jim Shannon
Frank W. ‘Spig’ Wead
Ethan Edwards
Temujin, later Genghis Khan

Capt. Tom Wilder
Capt. Karl Ehrlich
Dan Roman
Hondo Lane
Capt. Dooley
Stephen ‘Steve’ Aloysius Williams
Big Jim McLain

Sean Thornton
Narrator
Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby
Lt Cmdr. Duke E. Gifford

Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke

3 Comments / Posted in Capt. Rockwell Torrey, Iowa, Johns

Exhibit 15.11

I recently read or re-read these two books, and while I don’t feel like I have the critical faculty to say anything particularly illuminating about them, I thought I should mention them so you too can experience the goodness.

Novel Pictorial Noise – Which only has one bizarrely inconsequential customer review on Amazon.com (speaking of which, if you’re looking for the best customer review ever, it’s definitely here. My mouth is permanently agape after that. Be warned: that review will cost you your wonderment).

As in Every Deafness – So, so good. I think I bought the last of Amazon’s copies when I gave it away as a gift, but you get it from Flood Editions. If you hide a prison shank in it, it will change someone’s life.

If you’re curious, and lord knows you shouldn’t be, I’ve been avoiding novels and watching movies/reading poetry while I’m doing this thing I’m doing. That’s why this blog has been so movie heavy the last few weeks. I felt like I was getting a little John Irving-y while reading Garp so now I’m only enjoying work that has creative syntax or car chases or, preferably, both.

As for this thing I’m doing, it’s building model airplanes, of course.

Comment / Posted in Books, Johns, Poetry

Exhibit 14.20

The World According to Garp

What an odd thing to write a book about a simmering war between the sexes and have most of its retribution and bitterness directed at women while the male protagonist, hardly a saint, is able to stand above and judge and have his comeuppance redirected to others. It’s certainly of its time, as in the 30 years since the book’s publication the long-anticipated gender war has failed to appear and Irving’s intention to use sex–both gender and the physical act–as a weapon seems fairly silly, like he’s brought a hand grenade to a schoolyard fight.

With the benefit of having a much looser morality without having to fret about it, Irving’s novel seems naked in its male-panic over women…and sex with women…and sex with women who were once men…and possibly sex with men (though this never comes up in the book which is actually quite interesting. There are plenty of men who turn into women and a great deal of worry about lesbians, but no actual gays that I can recall. The reasons for this conspicuous omission in a book otherwise wrapped up in its own “perversity” are probably worth looking into. There is a paper to be written there, Dave Madden). The heightened absurdity of so many of the accidents which befall the characters (which are, of course, not accidents to their author) might have once shielded the book from interpretation of its gender politics with humor, but I found very little funny about the book and a whole lot objectionable about the ways it’s written to protect its deified hero.

Garp is clearly an Irving stand-in or, at the very least, shares more than a few biographical details with his author (prep school, wrestling, his novels, etc.). Now, I don’t care one way or the other, and I agree with Irving that checking a book against a biography is a profoundly stupid way to read, but Irving says this–through Garp–constantly. Garp hates it when people think his books are autobiographical yet he also worries he’s lost his imagination and can only write autobiographically. For this reader, anything that might have been interesting about that meta-narrative is lost when it feels like the author is more interested in hedging his bets and protecting himself than in actually, you know, exploring that contrast.

So, too, Irving cuts off any charges of sexism by having them levelled preemptively at Garp who has ample time to defend himself. That it’s not a sexist book or at least isn’t a simple one, hardly matters when the author is openly daring you to call it one in the text itself. As a person unwilling to make this charge or to feel any anger when others unfairly make it, I thought Irving’s attempts to shoehorn it into every interaction cost the book a fair amount of its seriousness. At every turn Irving makes it so clear how he would like you to read his book that it is less The World According to Garp and more The World According to Garp According to John Irving (I totally wanted to say something pointless and mean like that since around page 300. Also, it would be very easy to wrap that whole argument up in a grand wrestling metaphor about defending oneself but I feel like Irving was daring the reader to do that, too).

Naturally, Irving isn’t giving up control of the book yet. In both the 20th anniversary essay in my paperback copy and in this BBC radio interview with him from this past summer’s 30th anniversary, Irving claims the novel is really about a father’s anxiety for his children’s safety. This is as much lie as truth, however, as the book is really about male anxiety for everything (which includes a fatherly concern for the safety of his children). Dropping the insane-feminists-versus-flawed-but-honorable-man’s-man angle is smart and reflects an awareness on Irving’s part on how the book has aged, but in the end we’re left with the book he wrote which is about nothing more than it’s about sex.

I liked it more than I’m letting on, though mostly I admired Irving’s skill with language and structure. At its best, it’s a haunting and charged book that’s comprehensive in a way that rarely feels heavy. It is also a book very much alive. So nobody here is saying the man can’t write–he’s very, very good–but there is one argument about the book that I don’t think Irving guarded himself against: it’s a cowardly novel.

From protecting the author by pre-articulating his defense to punishing the undeserving in order to provide catharsis for a different tragedy to–SPOILER ALERT THOUGH YOU WILL PROBABLY KNOW IT’S COMING DUE TO THE BOOK’S STRUCTURE–Garp’s martyrdom at the very Christ-like age of 33, it’s a book that thinks it’s taking chances without realizing the game is rigged. It’s not tragic, it’s self-flagellation that never leaves the writer’s control in order to become actually dangerous.

Comment / Posted in Books, Fiction, Johns