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March 31st, 2006


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10:07 pm - A Horse Is a Horse
Tonight, I saw a production of Equus, the play about a boy who blinds six horses. Oh, so provocative. I'm beginning to think that every play is about discovering someone's childhood trauma. I liked how said trauma was intertwined with sex and religion and horses, but even that seemed kind of...pedestrian.

The crux of the play centers around the idea that life is not worth living without passion. But do you really need a whole play to say that? Angelus sums it up pretty well in one short monologue. And yes, I know Equus predates Buffy, but that's not my point.

I think I'm becoming tired of art. Or maybe I'm just not getting it anymore. I saw V for Vendetta, and I really liked it as a movie, but it didn't really speak to me. I didn't grasp more than the superficial message of "Hey, totalitarianism is bad! Maybe we should do something about it!"

I don't understand. I'm supposed to be the intellectual type. This is supposed to make me think, make me feel. I have an English major. I read Glengarry Glen Ross and think, "This won a Pulitzer Prize? What the hell?"

If I want to write a great play, do I start with some simple, universal theme, and then surround it with psychological trauma? And have the characters repeat the theme of the play every two scenes? What is there left to be said? Why must we use stories to get across such simple ideas?

Do you know why people enjoy comedies? Because laughter is an eruption, it's creation, it's sound and air and motion and everything mixed together. Laughing, that's being alive.

Maybe it's the stories that don't say anything that say the most. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes to mind. Stories that don't tell you what to learn but instead tease the knowledge out of you. One of my college professors, probably Dr. Mitchell, said we were born with all the knowledge in the world and we spend our entire lives discovering it inside ourselves.

Is this why we need art? To provoke such self-awareness? To flick the switches we otherwise wouldn't even be able to see?

I haven't written a piece of fiction in nearly three years. I don't even know where to begin anymore. What stories do I have to tell? What stories does anyone want to hear? How am I going to make my mark if I can't figure out why those who have made their mark accomplished it?

I really do love words, you know. I just wish I knew what to do with them.
Current Mood: quixoticquixotic
Current Music: Sneaker Pimps - Low Place Like Home

(44 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:mrbroom
Date:April 1st, 2006 03:15 am (UTC)
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Have you read "V for Vendetta"? If not, that might explain your problem.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 1st, 2006 03:19 am (UTC)
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I have not read it yet.
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From:mrbroom
Date:April 1st, 2006 03:19 am (UTC)
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This explains your problem.
QED.
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From:the_partyman
Date:April 1st, 2006 03:40 am (UTC)
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Great post dude.

I like idea of what that professor said... it helps me feel less stupid!
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From:soleta_nf
Date:April 1st, 2006 03:59 am (UTC)
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You are a beautiful writer.

Is this why we need art? To provoke such self-awareness? To flick the switches we otherwise wouldn't even be able to see?

Yes. Art should inspire you, re-affirm your ideals and convictions, challenge your preconceptions and biases. Re-focus your thoughts on the things that are important. Provide escapism from the trials of everyday life by offering up an ideal world of either utopian or distopian proportions which offers us hope or at least solace...

I haven't written a piece of fiction in nearly three years. I don't even know where to begin anymore. What stories do I have to tell? What stories does anyone want to hear? How am I going to make my mark if I can't figure out why those who have made their mark accomplished it?

Don't overthink it. You don't need a Ph.D. in English Lit to write a novel that moves and inspires people. Just write about what inspires *you*, what *you* want to read, and hopefully there will be a legion of people who want to read that as well. Really, there are no new stories, just new ways of telling them. Tell them in *your* way, and they will be compelling. You already have a legion of fans, so that's a good start. :)

I really do love words, you know. I just wish I knew what to do with them.

I hear you. I feel like I have this well of talent sitting inside of me, impotent, not knowing what to do with it or how to do what with it, expectations choking me and drying up my well of writerly-ideas before they even start to flow...
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
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You are a beautiful writer.

Thank you. Also, for the rest of your comment. I like what you said.

I feel like I have this well of talent sitting inside of me, impotent, not knowing what to do with it or how to do what with it, expectations choking me and drying up my well of writerly-ideas before they even start to flow...

YES. Exactly. I can't even start because I'm too afraid.
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From:soleta_nf
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:32 am (UTC)
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AW. *hugs* LJ kind of terrifies me because it splits open all of my fear-of-failure(-and-success?) insecurities and lays them right out there in the open. And then by my way of thinking, the huge blinking 'YOU HAVE NO COMMENTS, LOSER' LJ-thing just re-confirms my fear and makes me not want to take my LJ to the levels I know I need to - in order to practice my writing and produce a decent body of work for whenever I am ready to publish or whathaveyou (the stated purpose of my LJ). Kind of a self-perpetuating catch-22 with no real exit. Except for the small bursts of emotional bravery when I get the gall to write and post something that actually means something to me and hopefully provokes a response. I don't know. This is something that has really been bothering me a lot lately, too.

If it would help, I would be happy to read your writing (if you want feedback and share my intimidation of LJ-posting, or something). Just drop me an email. :)

That icon makes me giggle.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:46 am (UTC)
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I'll send you my best story. Mostly because it means one more person will have read it, and I'm very proud of it.
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From:soleta_nf
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:50 am (UTC)
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Awesome. :)
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From:electricmonk
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:16 pm (UTC)
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Is it the grocery one? I love the grocery one.
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From:soundingsea
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:07 am (UTC)
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You're intelligent and articulate. There are no new stories -- just new voices. I'm confident that yours will be unique in whatever way you use it.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:16 am (UTC)
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Hey, Veronica is giving me a V for Voice.
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From:beathen
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:15 am (UTC)
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[My post is too long so I'm breaking it into 2 parts.]
PART 1

As someone who loves to read and has studied music (one of the arts) let me offer my comments on what you wrote. Maybe it will give you a new perspective...

1. The crux of the play centers around the idea that life is not worth living without passion. But do you really need a whole play to say that? - If this is the point of the play, then yes! Think of it this way - in elementary school when we learn any subject, the teacher presents the material in (usually) one particular way. Not everybody can understand how the end product came about with just one method. For example... I never enjoyed history class because the way it seemed to me was just a jumble of random dates and facts that needed to be memorized for a test. Other people, though, see history as a story - a more concrete timeline of events. I might have liked history more if it were presented more like a story. The point of this - some people might need a whole play focusing around one subject to get the point to sink in by presenting it in a variety of circumstances.

2. I think I'm becoming tired of art. Or maybe I'm just not getting it anymore. I saw V for Vendetta, and I really liked it as a movie, but it didn't really speak to me. - If everything spoke to us, as it were, we would probably go insane from sensory overload. Not everything has to have a deeper meaning that we comprehend right away. A lot of what we experience and take in just lays the foundation for future understanding and epiphany. Then again, sometimes a change of view will allow you to appreciate this more. If you've immersed yourself in one particular thing there is a chance that you become somewhat immune to the effects, so to speak. Go to a movie or read a book for entertainment value and let your mind rest a bit. When you come back to the "intellectual" movies and/or books it's possible that the message will have more of an effect.

(continued in PART 2)
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From:beathen
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:39 am (UTC)
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(sorry about Part 1 being all bold - I didn't mean for it to be that way!)

PART 2

3. I read Glengarry Glen Ross and think, "This won a Pulitzer Prize? What the hell?" - Many people will say that Catcher in the Rye is an amazing story and praise it to the heavens, but when I read it, I pretty much thought it was crap. I haven't actually given it another go since I first read it years ago, so maybe my perspective will change, but it's not a bad thing to have a differing opinion than someone else. Not everything speaks to every person the same way.

4. [A]If I want to write a great play, do I start with some simple, universal theme, and then surround it with psychological trauma? And have the characters repeat the theme of the play every two scenes? [B]What is there left to be said? [C]Why must we use stories to get across such simple ideas? - [A] Don't think of it in terms of writing a "great play", because generally people who say this produce crap (I'm generalizing here - don't kill me!). Instead, start by asking yourself why you want to write the play - do you want the audience to experience pain or joy? do you want them to walk away with a new perspective on a situation? or do you want the audience to learn something about themselves through the story the characters portray? As for the characters repeating the theme of the play every two scenes - you don't have to as long as the main theme is still the primary focus - if it's not, you're wasting your time with that scene. Instead of being so obvious about "THE MAIN THEME" bring it across more subtlely that way the audience isn't getting smacked upside the head with it. [B] What's left to be said - I think it's more about the presentation of a topic than creating a new topic. Look at how many horror movies are out there - all designed to scare us. Or stories about overcoming adversity. We can say the same thing many different ways and all we can do is hope that the way we present something will affect at least one person - ourself. When I write fanfic or play piano I do it for my own benefit first and other second. If these two are reversed, the result is uninspiring and dull. [C] Why we use stories - it's an easy way for our mind to accept information, especially when it is complex or hard to deal with. But also, it's enjoyable. If I have a choice to read a fact list about, say, the history contained in the Harry Potter books or actually read the books and discover the history gradually, I'd choose reading the books every single time. We have to find some sort of enjoyment (whether it be painful or happy).

5. I don't even know where to begin anymore. What stories do I have to tell? What stories does anyone want to hear? How am I going to make my mark if I can't figure out why those who have made their mark accomplished it? - Try not to look at it in such a large scale - start small and begin with "what story do I want to tell? what story will effect me?" If you focus on yourself, you will probably be able to do your best work. The problem with trying to please others and tell stories other people want to hear is that you will never be able to please everybody and this is what your question sounds like. Make a mark on yourself first, and others will hopefully follow.

I know this post is extrememly long, but the reason is because I've had these same questions/doubts/concerns in my own life in regard to writing and music. I hope my perspective in this situation is helpful to you. Good luck on your writing!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:45 am (UTC)
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Thanks for taking the time to give me your perspective, beathen. It really does help.

Focusing on myself seems so self-absorbed and pointless. I'm just me, after all.
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From:beathen
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Focusing on myself seems so self-absorbed and pointless. I'm just me, after all.

When you write a story no one else has to know who you're writing for or how it affects you - that's the beauty of it. When you write something truly amazing no one is going to say "that guy is so self-absorbed"! And "just me" is an incredible person and awesome friend - don't sell yourself short!

*hugs*
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From:alannaofdoom
Date:April 1st, 2006 04:39 am (UTC)
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Stories that don't tell you what to learn but instead tease the knowledge out of you.

I was reading this entry and trying to codify exactly why I love the movies/plays that I love, and I think you've hit the nail on the head here. (I almost wrote "hit the head on the nail." Two strong margaritas and I'm incoherent.) In a lot of my favorite scripts (or books) it's not so much the theme as the revelation of the theme. Or event, or whatever it happens to be. The journey is more important than the destination, blah blah blah.

Also I find character very important. If the characters are well-written, many other errors are forgivable.
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From:electricmonk
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:17 am (UTC)
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Really? I thought the crux of the play was that it's a bad idea to let your kids think horses are Jesus. But I haven't read it since high school, so.

Virginia (we're on a first-name basis) says we write to "set up some stake against oblivion." I don't think that helps any with figuring out where to start, but it sure is pretty.
From:vandalisimo
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:24 am (UTC)
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A really good production of Equus can be totally crazy, dude. But there are also a LOT of really bad productions of it out there that manage to highlight the, as you said, somewhat pedestrian (although maybe not so much in the 1970s) issues of sexuality and god -- certainly psychiatry, while also managing to completely miss the Brechtian elements that made the play awesome in the first place. I think the brilliance of Equus isn't so much in the writing as it is in the staging and all that jazz. A good production of it should have everyone in the audience having a solid cathartic reaction even as they're sitting there wondering why the hell, logically, they're having that reaction. Anyway, I dig Equus, but I've also seen some real crap versions of it. But, I love the staging and the actors with horse heads and the violence and all that stuff that also makes me love Marat/Sade. It's very Classical to me, for some reason.

Sounds like you're having an existential crisis, PC. It's a way of life for me, which is why I go with the bargaining technique. Remember, PC, you CAN have that muffin if you just write a few pages. :)
From:vandalisimo
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:27 am (UTC)
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Oh, and I prescribe season 1 of The Sopranos in addition to that muffin.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:30 am (UTC)
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I think the staging was pretty well done with the horse heads and all, really. The end of Act I especially, when Alan recreates his night ride with Nugget, I liked a lot. I think it came close to that cathartic reaction you're describing. The Alan flashbacks were the best parts for me because they're when everything kind of comes together properly in a very fucked-up way.
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From:tibicina
Date:April 1st, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
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Mmmmmm. Marat/Sade. When you really need to break out the theatrical terms. It's Brechtian! It's Artaudian! Now picture this as shouted by the people in the old 'tastes great'/'less filling' commercials.

Also, have you ever read or seen Dance of the Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings? I should really look up the playwright on that. Hrmm... is Japanese.
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From:zenkitty_714
Date:April 4th, 2006 01:49 am (UTC)
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Marat/Sade changed my life. Mainly by making me rethink my choice of friends, none of whom understood one single thing about that movie.
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From:thetheatremouse
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:30 am (UTC)
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You need to read some Beckett. A whole lot of it.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:31 am (UTC)
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I've read Endgame and seen Waiting for Godot.
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From:thetheatremouse
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:53 am (UTC)
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You need to read and/or see it all. Krapp's Last Tape, Rough for the Theatre (I and II), Act Without Words (I and II), A Piece of Monologue, Ohio Impromptu, Play, Happy Days.

This: stories that don't say anything that say the most is what brought me to my initial conclusion, by the way.
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From:tibicina
Date:April 1st, 2006 06:21 pm (UTC)
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Nooooo! No Beckett! Be kind!

Especially not Happy Days. Just say 'no' to Beckett!

Though it could be worse. I was vaguely thinking of suggesting India Song, but then I am generally acknowledged as being evil.
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From:thetheatremouse
Date:April 2nd, 2006 04:33 am (UTC)
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Clearly, you're more evil than I ever could've imagined someone I know not-at-all to be.
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From:tibicina
Date:April 2nd, 2006 05:06 am (UTC)
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It's not my fault. I used to be sweet and nice and innocent. And then I was horribly traumatized by being in a production of India Song in college. Actually, not just a production - a whole class studying the rest of Marguerite Duras' work as well. At least I got a pretty dress.

Actually, the 'techno dance remix' of the recorded voices was also particularly amusing.

Plus it allowed me to terrify my professors by suggesting that I could do a production of 'The Malady of Death' for my senior project.
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From:glasseseater
Date:April 1st, 2006 05:56 am (UTC)
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Sean made a knowing chuckle when he read the title of the play, I'm not sure what that means.

Some days I want to shove art down the toilet, but I'm not sure how someone shoves a urinal down the toilet.

Anyways, even though it's not a in great play or a pulitzer prize winning novel you already connect, entertain, and engage with your words. So I mean, that's something, I think.

It was good to hear about you again.
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From:iheartbridges
Date:April 1st, 2006 06:06 am (UTC)
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Just saying hi. And that I like horses. Preferably not blind ones.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 1st, 2006 06:11 am (UTC)
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I thought of you during the play. Heh.
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From:iheartbridges
Date:April 1st, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)
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Well, you should have. Because you should think of me ALWAYS.
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From:incidentist
Date:April 1st, 2006 06:31 am (UTC)
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I agree with Alanna, but also: I think a big purpose of art in general, but especially art involving stories, is to help intellectual concepts like "totalitarianism is bad" or "love is a wonderful mess" cross from your head down into your guts. I don't think you should think of a play as "saying" those things, but rather proving them. Because they're not self-evident -- at least, not the way they need to be.

Mamet's a playwright you gotta see to appreciate. I tend not to find his scripts too compelling until I see them onstage. Have you seen the film version of Glengarry? I love it.

But I think I have the same reaction you do when it comes to visual art. Like, a lot of concept art seems silly to me. I understand that putting a urinal in a museum makes an important statement about the nature of art. But I'd have gotten that just the same if Duchamp had told me, "hey, think about what would happen if I put a urinal in a museum." He doesn't actually have to do it, because in this case, the point is driven home the same way whether it actually gets implemented or not.

But I think stories are different.
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From:mutinousmuse
Date:April 1st, 2006 09:01 am (UTC)
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I'm weighing in with the person above who suggested that you read the V for Vendetta comics. They're much more ambiguous, and also more politically extreme. The creator actually successfully had his name removed from the movie because the original anarcho-political message was reduced by the film industry into "liberal = free = good, conservative = oppressed = bad."

Anyhoo, nutshell... comics. Better. ;)
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From:tibicina
Date:April 1st, 2006 06:25 pm (UTC)
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Well.... no. He had his name removed from the film because he was upset about previous films made from his comics, because before the film went into production he'd told DC that he didn't want his name put on ANY future film made from his comics, and because he was upset about his lack of creative control over what was made from his comics whether or not it ended up being something that he thought was good.

It wasn't that he looked at this particular film or even the script for this particular film and said 'take my name off'.
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From:mutinousmuse
Date:April 1st, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC)
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There is an interview with Alan Moore wherein he talks about his thoughts on this particular film and the process he went through to have his name removed from the credits here.

While he asked for his name to be taken off of all future film adapdations of his work subsequent to the release of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, his request was ignored. He did indeed have to fight to have his name removed from V for Vendetta specifically, and his critiques of the film in the interview I linked above are very specific. Here is the quote I was thinking of when I wrote my previous comment (which can be viewed in context in the linked interview):

"This was one of the things I objected to in the recent film, where it seems to be, from the script that I read, sort of recasting it as current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism. There wasn't a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. " - Alan Moore
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From:lonesomepioneer
Date:April 1st, 2006 09:15 am (UTC)
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To flick the switches we otherwise wouldn't even be able to see?

The axe for the frozen sea within us. *nods*

I need to read Equus. Actually I've needed to read it since I read this bit in The Solace of Leaving Early, an exchange between a little girl who believes she has visions of the Virgin Mary and her nanny, concerning her therapist:

"Also," Immaculata said, fiddling with the dial on the broken radio, "Lillian Poe doesn't believe us. She says that she understands why we might need to believe it, and that it isn't a bad thing, but that when we're better, later not right now, we'll let go of it. Of Mary."

Langston smacked the steering wheel. "She said that to you? Always always always it's the most dull and bereft who take money to tinker with our psyches. No one who really understood the soul would dare." She was so mad she felt a little sick. "I assume that Ms. Poe, who undoubtedly has a degree from an esteemed state university gracing the wall of her office, was never asked to read Equus, oh no. We can't have clinicians and behaviorists reading literature. She'll take Mary away from you, and when Mary goes she'll carry your intestines in her teeth."

Immaculata gasped. "Langston--"

"Oh, sweetheart, sorry, sorry." She patted Immaculata's knee. "I just paraphrased a line from a play. Mary would never do such a thing."
(Deleted comment)
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:April 1st, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
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I liked how said trauma was intertwined with sex and religion and horses, but even that seemed kind of...pedestrian.

Are you sure you don't mean to say "even that seemed kind of... equestrian"?

Sorry, bad joke.

But I do know how you feel, and I think other people hear have summed up what I wanted to say better than I ever could.

Sometimes I wonder if the ability to tell a story that really reaches people is just a fluke that randomly happens. You just have to kiss a lot of toads (or write a lot of crap) before you win.
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From:cosmicviolet
Date:April 1st, 2006 11:26 pm (UTC)
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The thing I like about art and writing and such is, it's totally subjective. What one person might think is a masterpiece, another person might think is garbage. But they're both valid opinions. So it's just a matter of finding something that matters to you. Easier said than done though, I know.
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From:warden96
Date:April 2nd, 2006 06:41 pm (UTC)
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Why must we use stories to get across such simple ideas?

Because you have to trick people. Like that Geico commercial when the talk show host asks him "why do the commercials? Just tell everybody what great savings Geico has." The Gecko replies that it's because people want to be entertained. They forget that while they are being entertained, they being informed of something important (saving with Geico).

Do you know why people enjoy comedies? Because laughter is an eruption, it's creation, it's sound and air and motion and everything mixed together. Laughing, that's being alive.

I think people can enjoy dramas in the same way. Not so much with the laughter but maybe with crying. Crying is an eruption, a creation, a mixture of chemicals emanating from the tear duct. Crying, negative connotations aside, also means you're alive. That you feel.

Is this why we need art? To provoke such self-awareness? To flick the switches we otherwise wouldn't even be able to see?

Be fortunate you have a switch to flick on. I don't think I ever had a fuse in my box.

I haven't written a piece of fiction in nearly three years. I don't even know where to begin anymore. What stories do I have to tell? What stories does anyone want to hear? How am I going to make my mark if I can't figure out why those who have made their mark accomplished it?

All the accomplished writers arrived at the same place though not all via the same path. You just have to find the one path that will lead (and work for) you to that place of accomplishment.

I really do love words, you know. I just wish I knew what to do with them.

Go back and read your letter to your mom after 9/11. It's obvious you love words, when you can write words that have emotion behind them, people will share your love of words by wanting to read more of your words.
From:mangopickle
Date:April 3rd, 2006 03:20 am (UTC)
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Sunil, I'm just gonna say this to be a prick.

Jane Austen sucks.

P.S. I loved last week's VM. LIttle nitpick that I noticed while watching some S1 eps with one of my housemates on DVD. Perhaps you can clear this up for me (or any of your smart cohorts!) In "An Echolls Family Christmas", Keith investigates some stuff that Sadie Casablancas arranged at her party, where Aaron allegedly met the waitress who stabs him -- so when does Big Dick and Sadie break up and Kendall enter the picture?

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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 3rd, 2006 04:03 am (UTC)
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We don't know; I don't think. And according to her WW bio, it's not even clear that she was a Mrs. C. She could have been simply a female Casablancas.

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