Monday, June 2, 2008

King of Smut

No, your eyes do not deceive you. You are looking at a life sized, anatomically incorrect inflatable man. And yes, his crotch is autographed.

Recently, cult-favorite author of "Fight Club" and "Choke", Chuck Palahniuk visited The City on a book tour for his newest page-turner, "Snuff". The new novel is the story of aging porn star Cassie Wright, trying to break a world record by having sex with 600 men on film in one day. The story is told by various participants up and down the long line, starting with would-be record breaker Mr. 600. The story shifts to Mr. 72, a young man who may or may not be Cassie's son. But there is a twist: Cassie is planning a much darker ending to her record breaking day.

The evening with Mr. Palahniuk started with a quick contest: The person who can blow up an inflatable sex doll the fastest wins a book. We got the doll, not the book. He continued with a conversation with an NPR talk show host whos name at this moment completely escapes me. The questions posed to Mr. Palahniuk seemed a bit rehearsed, but Chuck seemed genuine in his answers and was very funny and frank in telling tales about his life and growth as a writer.

A highlight of the event was Chuck reading a story he had written just for this tour, something that has yet to be published. It was a short story titled "Loser" about a fraternity pledge who finds himself on stage for an episode of "The Price Is Right".

This man must spend days on end signing things. For instance: Each person in attendance received a signed copy of "Snuff". Then came the autographed blow up dolls, maybe several dozen of those. Then, he threw out personalized "autograph hounds", a stuffed dog signed and raising his hind leg. Then at the end of all of this, he took the time to personalize the books of 150 attendees.

As a personal touch, the books personalized for the women in the audience got a few spritzes of Stetson cologne. The personalized message scribbled inside my copy of "Snuff"? Let's just say that while very appropriate for the tone of the book, it is probably not appropriate for a family blog. It was, however, very complimentary.

Thanks Chuck.

Check out "Snuff" in bookstores now.
A couple of videos from the event can be found on YOUTUBE. The first is the conversation with Chuck, and the second is a short interview with a few audience members. FYI: I'm in there somewhere, but I'm not saying where. Here are the links:

Audience Interview


Friday, May 23, 2008


Yes. That title was me squealing like a giddy schoolgirl. A giddy schoolgirl who is giddy about the return of Indiana Jones. INDIANA FRICKIN JONES is back, people!

Unless you have been living under a rock in the Sonora Desert you probably know that the new Indiana Jones movie was released last night, and I can barely contain myself. The trailers for the movie just keep getting cooler and cooler. Despite the fact that Shia Le Bouef is co-starring, just the fact that Harrison Ford is stepping back into his second greatest role of all time (1st? Han Solo. No Question.) is enough to make me twitch with giddy excitement. Giddy schoolgirl excitement, no less.

So just because I can't get enough of watching these trailers, I am going to place the newest one here for all of you to watch. That is if you haven't watched it already. And, really, even if you have, why not watch it again? Enjoy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Things To Do, Books To Read...

San Francisco is a truly cultured city; a city of music, film, art and of course, literature. There are so many events celebrating literature around San Francisco each week that it would be impossible to describe them all here. But I want to give you a few of the events I found around town coming up in the next few weeks and months. There is plenty more where these came from, so take a look yourself and see when your favorite author is coming to town. See you at the show.

Augusten Burroughs
Monday, May 12th, 7:30 pm
BOOKS, INC., 2275 Market St., San Francisco

On his second stop through the bay area on his book tour, Augusten Burroughs will be at the Books, Inc. location in San Francisco's Castro district on Market Street to sign and talk about his newest memoir, "A Wolf At The Table". The book focuses on a topic not touched upon since "Running With Scissors", his abusive, alcoholic father. Be prepared for Burroughs' witty, dark humor, and a story that will keep you laughing.

Michael Chabon
Tuesday, May 20th, 7:00 pm
BOOKSHOP WEST PORTAL, 80 West Portal Ave, San Francisco

Michael Chabon, author of The "Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" and "Wonderboys" is coming across the bay to visit the lovely West Portal neighborhood to talk about and sign his most recent novel, "The Yiddish Policeman's Union". The novel, one reviewed on this very blog, is a noir-ish mystery set in a world where the Jewish Diaspora settled in Alaska, not Israel, after World War II. Chabon is a great story teller and a fun author to hear read. The shop is small, so get there early.


This one here is the big one. This is the one that doesn't come around but every once in a long while. This is like The Rolling Stones coming to town. This is Chuck Palahniuk. Chuck Palahniuk is a genius. Chuck Palahniuk is twisted. Chuck Palahniuk is a rock star. And he is going to be in town promoting his new book, "Snuff". The author of "Fight Club", "Choke", "Invisible Monsters" and "Survivor" is back to share more of his brilliant yet deeply disturbed imagination. I won't go into any details, but since it's Chuck, it's gonna be a wild ride.

*Tickets for the event are $35. Ticket price includes admission to the show, along with a pre-signed copy of the new book, "Snuff". For more info, please visit the Booksmith website.

These are just a few of the many, many upcoming events here in The City. Keep watching for more events on books, film, etc. I'll scan the calendars out there and keep you updated on what's coming up. Enjoy the show.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Seeing Double?

It is not very often that someone from my generation gets to see a film of my parent's generation on the big screen. Thankfully, there are some people out there in this great big world who see fit to restore and archive some of these movie masterpieces for the enjoyment of future generations. And then there are the beautiful old movie theatres that have it in their hearts to show them.

Such is the case with San Francisco's Castro Theatre, a magnificent old movie house from the 1920's, where the missus and I had the rare opportunity to see Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 classic, "Vertigo". The film, probably my favorite of Hitchcock's, stars Jimmy Stewart and the beautiful Kim Novak in a tale of deceit, fear, treachery, murder, and of course, love. Sort of. I won't ruin any of the surprises Hitchcock is famous for, but it is easy to say that all is not as it seems, and Hitchcock leaves you biting your nails until the very last seconds of the film.

The Castro Theatre has developed a reputation for showing a great many restored classic films, and is the home of the annual Noir City Film Festival, a week showcasing some of the best old noir films, many of which have never been seen anywhere since their original theatrical release. The theatre keeps a steady schedule of programs, mostly single day releases, ranging from Opera to silent films, dramas from years past, and totally geeked out sci-fi double and triple features.

Highlights of the upcoming programs include: A "Blue Velvet" and "Something Wild" double feature, an "Explorers", "Aliens" and "Dark Star" sci-fi triple feature, a silent film triple feature of "Sherlock Jr.", "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", and "Nosferatu" accompanied by the Club Foot Orchestra, and my personal Can't Miss, the double feature of "The Great Escape" and "The Magnificent Seven".

For all upcoming shows, show times, ticket information, and history of the grand Castro Theatre, visit The Castro Theatre Website.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jesus Christ: The Teenage Years

What was Jesus like as a kid? Or as teenager? Of course, we all know the story of how he was born, and many know the stories of him teaching at the temples. But what happened after that? What happened to basis of western theology between the ages of 13 and 30?

Well, these are questions we may never have answers to, but Christopher Moore has some interesting ideas. "Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" is a humorous, and of course fictitious account of the life of Christ as told by his best friend Levi who goes by the nickname Biff. The story follows Joshua, (Jesus is Greek for Joshua) and Biff as they search for direction on how Joshua is supposed to be the Messiah. Joshua knows, of course, that he is special, that his father is not Joseph but God, and that he is meant to be the savior of all man-kind. It seems to be kind of a tall order for a young Jewish kid.

Biff gives us this account after being resurrected himself and given the gift of tongues in order to tell his story in modern vernacular. He is forced to stay in a hotel room with an unpleasant angel while he writes his account, learning along the way how drastically the world has changed, and how far we have fallen. While he works on writing his story, Biff covertly reads the New Testament of the Bible, constantly questioning why the people who wrote it omitted so much of Christ's life, including omitting him.

Biff's story tells of his and Josh's journey from Nazareth into the east in search of the three wise men who paid him a visit as an infant. The two reasoned that if anyone would have the answers to how Joshua is meant to be the Messiah, it would be these men. These wise men, it turns out, are in turn a mystic, a Buddhist Monk, and a Hindu Yogi, each of whom have their own unique lessons to teach the son of God, and of course his best friend.

These lessons that take Joshua and Biff far into the east and keep them away from home for almost twenty years teach them, and us, one very important idea: That the true ideals of Christianity are not far removed from the philosophies of the Eastern world. From the mystic they learned the three jewels of the Tao: Compassion, Moderation, and Humility. From the Buddhist monk, they learned the value of losing the attachment to ego and the peace of silent meditation. From the Hindu Yogi, they learned spiritual and physical discipline, along with the search for the Divine Spark (later to be renamed the Holy Ghost by Joshua.)

Along the way, the pair find themselves in countless situations crafted by Moore to pepper the stories with humor, and they are all genuinely funny; although a childhood spent attending church and Sunday school each Sunday helps you get the irony of many situations. A couple in particular stand out: While with the Buddhist monks, Joshua and Biff are taught Kung-Fu, which Biff masters quickly and becomes a finely tuned killing machine. Joshua, however, forbids himself from learning how to hurt people, so the monks create a martial art just for him, a system of defense and counter attacks they call Jew-Do, or the "Way of the Jew".

Anyway, you get the picture. For those of you out there that might be gasping in horror and thinking this is blasphemy and how dare someone write a funny story about the life of Christ, don't start sharpening your axes just yet. This is fiction, a story, the creation of some one's vivid imagination. To be fair, when it counts, Christopher Moore gets it right. But the author does admit in his afterward, probably as a preventative measure, how much of a work of imaginative fiction this book really is.

Moore writes in his afterward, "The book you just read is a story. I made it up. It is not designed to change any one's beliefs or worldview, unless after reading it you've decided to be kinder to your fellow humans (which is okay)..." and "While I've made some attempt to paint an accurate picture of the world in which Christ lived, I changed things for my own convenience, and sometimes, obviously, there was no way of knowing what conditions really existed in the years 1 through 33."

The book is fun, it is funny, and a worthy read. Especially for someone who grew up learning the stories in the Bible and wondering quietly what happened to the stories of when Jesus was growing up? It paints a full and heartfelt picture of who Jesus was and how he grew up to become Jesus Christ.

By the way, if you can get your hands on it, find yourself the Special Gift Edition of this book. It is bound to look like the Bible, complete with gold leaf in the cover lettering and around the edges of the pages, and even the silk ribbon bookmark attached to the books spine. The only thing missing are the maps of the holy land inside the front and back covers.

His Final Journey

Ladies and gentlemen, the world has lost a great mind. Yesterday, March 19th, 2008 Arthur C. Clarke died at the age of 90 years young. Clarke, best known for his book "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the Stanley Kubrick movie adaptation, was a prolific science fiction writer whose career spanned over fifty years.

Clarke not only composed an astounding body of work, but his imagination helped create many of the things used in space exploration today. He was a great believer in the fantastic; he knew that no matter how far-fetched his stories may be, some day they would be surpassed. Arthur C. Clarke's imagination and drive for exploring the unknown have been an inspiration to generations of science fiction fans, explorers, and star gazers alike.

Mr. Clarke, your beautiful mind and amazing imagination will be missed. Good luck on your final and greatest journey.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Waking The Dead

The laws of nature have been torn asunder as the dead walk again in Fatal Revenant, the 8th installment of the Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever legacy. The series, begun in the 1970's, has gathered an astounding following through two trilogies. Now, Stephen R. Donaldson has picked up the story again, beginning the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant with The Runes of the Earth in 2004 and continuing on with Fatal Revenant. This final Chronicles, a series of four books, will (with any luck) wrap up the long and harrowing saga of Thomas Covenant versus the forces of Despite. Not hip to the story yet? Let me try to catch you up.

Thomas Covenant, a leper, outcast and pariah in our own world, has become the savior of The Land, a world of amazing power and beauty that is constantly besieged by the powers of Lord Foul the Despiser. At the expense of many good lives, including his own, Covenant successfully defends The Land from Lord Foul on two separate occasions bringing to bear the unlimited power of his white gold ring, a material that in The Land holds power outside the limits of nature. In his death, Covenant becomes part of the structure of Time, locking his immortal enemy Lord Foul to The Land forever.

The Last Chronicles pick up in our world where the Second Chronicles left off. Covenant's friend and former personal doctor Linden Avery, who was brought to The Land with Covenant in the second trilogy, is pulled back to The Land after her adopted son, Covenant's psychotic ex-wife, and Covenant's estranged son, who is hell bent on hurting Linden. Linden finds herself back in the land, but a substantial amount of time has passed, and The Land is not exactly as she remembered it, and she knows that the evil Lord Foul has her son.

Fatal Revenant begins with Covenant having apparently rescued Linden's son, and escaped death in the bargain. Covenant takes Linden on a journey through time to accomplish some obscure and un-named goal, which Linden believes will get her closer to defeating Lord Foul and getting her son safely back to their world. (Covenant is part of Time, after all.) As it turns out, the dead may walk again but Covenant is not all that he seems. Linden is forced to make dire decisions that ultimately push her and the custodians of The Land to the brink of war with the forces of Despite.

Ok, I can hear all of the groans now. Another geeky set of books with giants and wizards, magical creatures, a powerful ring, and the eternal struggle between good and evil. Well, I won't lie, these books have all of those things. What make the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant so incredible and so much more worth reading than your average Dragon Lance novel is Donaldson's ability to show his characters internal struggles between their own despair and their need for hope. Many comparisons have been drawn to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, primarily due to the epic scale of these stories. (And, of course, the all powerful ring.) While Tolkien's stories are essentially morality plays, the triumph of good over evil, Donaldson focuses on the conflicts and struggles of his characters to find the strength to overcome their own human frailty and become something greater than they ever thought possible.

So, if this is your first glimpse into the world of Thomas Covenant, start at the beginning and find a copy of Lord Foul's Bane. If you have traveled to The Land before and are eager to see where the final chapter leads, take a look at Runes of the Earth and follow it with Fatal Revenant. If you are worried about having time to catch up, have no fear; the third book in the series, Against All Things Ending, won't be published until 2010, and the final installment, tentatively titled The Last Dark, won't hit shelves until 2013. It's gonna be a long wait.