Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Of Walking In Ice by Werner Herzog

I hate to admit to being underwhelmed by anything Herzog, but Of Walking In Ice just didn’t do it for me.  In 1974, Herzog walks from Munich to Paris, presumably because he feels that if he does so, he can help keep alive esteemed German film critic Lotte Eisner, who has fallen ill in France.  In and of itself that’s great.  Plus the weather sucks.  That adds drama.  Along the way he keeps a journal.  It is a diaristic ramble, to be sure.   He breaks into houses along the way to sleep.  That’s kind of cool in a 70s way.  There are definitely some prime Herzogian philosophical nuggets, but for me, it was pretty darned unfocused.  What kept me going was the scant page count.  I know I will be hated and hunted down by the lovers of cinema for this review.  But I’ll take my chances.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Black Hole by Bucky Sinister

Bucky Sinister is one of my all time favorite poets, both on the page and at readings. After years slugging it out in the poetry trenches, he’s just published Black Hole, his debut novel. Exciting stuff. 

Black Hole is fantastic.  Sinister would be the first to admit that it owes a debt to Philip K. Dick.  A Scanner Darkly jumps to mind, as Black Hole is drenched in drug-fueled sadness as we bear witness to a character losing his mind, and quite disturbingly, his hold on time. Black Hole features an ageing hipster, Chuck, with an insatiable appetite for drugs.  But the drugs that he dabbles in are new designer drugs, the side effects not quite known. Chuck has not quite figured out how to grow up. He’s a 40 year old drug addict who hasn’t given up the party. His friends are either dead or have grown up, shedding their punk rock leathers for family man garages. On top of that, his beloved Mission is undergoing a rapid change. In with tech, out with warehouses, squats, and Mission eccentrics. He's at a loss how to move into middle age. He's become the weird old guy at the party. 

Chuck is at loose ends, and as he dabbles with new designer drugs, he spins in and out of control. The drugs are making him black out.  When he awakes he seems to be skipping through time.  He time travels to the near past, forced to relive the mistakes and trials of his youth over and over again. He gets opportunities to fix his mistakes, but he’s not that smart or lucky.

Black Hole is at its best when it addresses how we approach middle age, especially for those who cut their teeth in the punk universe. What happens when you recognize that the world around you has changed, but you can’t figure out how or where you fit into the new order of things? Worse yet, what if you realize there is no place for you? 

How we approach change is central to Black Hole and as Chuck grapples with change at the personal level, he is confronted with a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco. Black Hole becomes a great vehicle for exploring the current changes in the Mission.  No worries though, Black Hole is not shrill or didactic.  It’s equal parts funny and melancholy.  Sinister has been honing his chops as a stand-up comedian for the last ten years and Black Hole is full of funny.  It features a world where the nouveau tech crowd are clamoring to buy mini whales, the hottest status symbol pet on the market. It also laments a world where a crazy person, running around the Mission covered in feces, is no longer acceptable. 

Ultimately though, Black Hole is filled with longing and sadness. It’s a toast to a time gone by, a time that is being brushed under the carpet of history. It’s not a condemnation of the new Mission, but a rumination on how we experience change and stagnation.