Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Festivals

The last weekend in April, every year, UCLA hosts the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Now, I’ve made my fair share of snide comments about how no one reads in Los Angeles, which, I will tell you, is completely unsustained by facts. In fact, L.A. reads more per capita than any other city in the U.S. (sorry San Francisco and New York, get off those high horses), except for whatever hole that Iowa Writing Program is based in.

Every year, the Festival reinforces this in my mind. As tens of thousands of people descend on UCLA and I run around like a crazy woman trying to organize four separate booths, I draw a year’s worth of inspiration from the fact that people are excited about reading. That they get upset if we sell out of a particular title. That they get excited about their favorite author talking to them about something completely inane, or totally inspirational. Some bring their well worn, well loved copies of books for an author that has touched them to inscribe something meaningful on the page. Some simply come to find a new story, a new love, a new escape. Some come for Giada, some come for Bradbury, some come for the experience, but they all come for books. And how thrilling that is for someone in an industry that has faced so much struggle in the past fifteen years.

My absolute favorite thing this year was this canvas wall that the L.A. Times booth had. It read simply ‘What Are You Reading?’ across the middle and throughout the weekend people wrote thousands of titles all over the wall. Books from Twilight (which had the biggest showing on the wall) to the Qur’an, The Giver to Columbine, all scrawled across the wall. Parents lifted their kids on their shoulders to get room at the top, people wrote over each other’s books, and by the end of the weekend it was a black wall of hope for readers. Hope for people who love a great phrase, a great story, a great sentence.

Awe inspiring, that’s what it was. And this morning/afternoon as I trudge off to work after a week of working no less than twelve hour days to go reconcile the accounting (my least favorite part by far), I am inspired for the next year to continue selling books and writing books and dedicating my life to the pursuit of a higher truth through books.

Peace, Love, and Graffiti Walls,
Julia

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April 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Don’t Dream It’s Over

I watched Adventureland last night. And aside from it being one of the best and surprising movies I’ve seen in a very long time, it was also one of the only recent movies set in the 80s that is not completely ridiculous. Now I understand that the 80s were a completely ridiculous decade – the amount of neon alone worn by everyone, myself included, was absolutely astonishing, not to mention the presidents (Reagan and Bush, seriously?), the dancing, the cars, and, of course, the music. Still, most movies about the 80s just ham it up a little too much. Movie’s like the Wedding Singer are pretty perfect, but even one of my favorite movies, 200 Cigarettes, gets a little heavy handed with the weird Flock of Seagulls haircut comedy. The best of this new oeuvre comes when the 80s are a backdrop for a great story, where the story isn’t the 80s, but merely an extra layer to paint a full picture.

The thing I realized as I was sitting in Adventureland was that 80s music is the only kind of music that really can’t be used as a background to any other time period. If I’m watching a modern romantic comedy and a Crowded House song comes on, all I’m thinking about is how funny it is that they’re using this song. I feel the 80s, more than any other decade claims this trophy of its music being so totally of the time. A romantic scene in a movie can use a Cat Stevens song or a Joni Mitchell song and you, the viewer, aren’t automatically transported to another decade. However, the same scene, with Duran Duran or Pat Benatar over it is automatically just going to pull you back to the 80s.

This is not to say that particular bands from each particular decade don’t have this same effect: Jefferson Airplane will always be 70s and can really only work within a 70s context. The Smashing Pumpkins will always be 90s, more so than Nirvana or Pearl Jam, and will always pull an audience into the 90s when used in film. But no decade even comes close to being as recognizable as the 80s. Perhaps it’s the overuse of synthesizer or keytar, perhaps it’s the fact that video and music were married in the 80s on MTV and we’ll always match those songs with their videos (I mean, can anyone listen to Take on Me by Aha without picturing the crazy half-animated video?).

But when a movie is set in the 80s, when it uses music right, there’s a kind of magic that happens. Maybe it’s only magic for me, for whom those songs are completely intertwined with major childhood and young adult experiences, but I think this may not be the case. Perhaps, the magic comes from the fact that we don’t hear those songs under every love scene, that for once we’re not hearing Norah Jones while the two main characters are getting together, and the relative newness of hearing an old song after so long of not hearing it brings us back to a more innocent place. In any case, my love of 80s music has been rediscovered thanks to Adventureland, and in all honesty, it’s pretty damn sweet. Well, with the exception of Rock Me Amadeus.

Peace, Love, and Big Hair,
Julia

April 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment