I wish I’d never read the Game of Thrones books. There. I’ve said it. Partly because it was a lot of hours from my life that could have been better spent, but mostly because they’ve slightly spoiled the show for me. And let’s be clear about one thing: the show is INFINITELY better.
To be fair, I’m not one of those people who always prefers the book. There are films I love that have no resemblance to the books they’re supposedly adapted from (Blade Runner, Die Hard). There are films based on books that are awful (No Country For Old Men — Sorry, but Cormac McCarthy is an overrated hack). And then there are films where both the book and the film seem to serve their own purpose, and have equal merit (Catch 22, The World According to Garp).
But, buy and large, the book is usually better. By a wide margin. A Song of Ice and Fire is very much the opposite situation. The simple fact is, those books are a mess.
I think there are a lot of reasons. George R. R. Martin has been writing these things forever. The first book came out in 1991, and as we all know, he doesn’t exactly write quickly. Over the decades it’s pretty obvious that the plot has simply gotten away from him. I honestly don’t believe he knows where he wants the story to go, and it shows. In the later books, the characters become unfocused, and be the end of the most recent book, there’s virtually no one left in Westeros actually fighting the war that was supposed to be the whole damned point in the first place. In fact, most of the characters aren’t in Westeros at all.
If ever there was a central storyline to this series it, like the history of the First Men, has been lost to the mists of time. By the time I finished A Dance With Dragons, I felt like I was reading a fantasy soap opera. Nothing was relevant to the story I signed on for anymore. Now, I was just reading about a handful of “perspective” characters, all of whom seem to have completely lost interest in the main story themselves. There are dozens of loose ends and unresolved storylines in every book, and when you becomes an experienced Martin reader, you learn to just let it go. George might have planned for that little plot thread to go somewhere, but he’s forgotten it now. Best for us all to just move on and pretend it never happened.
In addition to the pointless narrative tangle, the books are a structural disaster as well. You can tell, as a reader, that Martin couldn’t be bothered to go back and re-read what he’d written before continuing a particular storyline. He reiterates the same information, sometimes in slightly different ways, over and over again. He gives you details presented as new information four, five, six times. Occasionally, with slightly different specifics. It’s maddening.
Then there are the damned characters. I’m not the first person to mock his use of a thousand characters to tell a story, but I’m hopping on the bandwagon. It truly is ridiculous. SO MANY characters, and the vast majority of them are simply irrelevant. Places in the narrative that could, and often SHOULD, be served by characters we’ve met before, but no, we get some cousin of a retainer of a bannerman who once shook Eddard’s hand a tournament in… After a while, it all degenerates into noise.
Finally, I really got tired of being the butt of Martin’s obvious food & clothes fetishes. We get only the slightest sense of what people or places look like; primarily notes about hair color or weight. But we are treated to a full and ample description of EVERY dish served at EVERY meal, and what EVERY GODDAMNED PERSON was wearing when they ATE IT. It’s fucking exhausting. At Joffrey’s purple wedding, there are literal pages of description just for the food.
The writers of the show seem to have made smart work pruning Martin’s meandering story into something like a cohesive narrative, and I’m grateful for every extraneous character and unsatisfying subplot they’ve excised. Unfortunately, having now read the damned books, I can’t stop myself from analyzing the differences as I watch it, which is distracting. I also suspect that the major beats of the story will probably not change much, and I regret knowing what happens so far into the future of the show (because god only knows how much ground they’ll be able to cover this season).
If you’re a fan of the show, do yourself a favor: stay far away from those massive doorstop novels. They will only serve to spoil one of the best shows on television.
A lot of things seem to keep me from blogging. For one thing, I have a list of jobs and projects that are all late, all time-critical, and all require hours, and often days, to complete. For another thing, I have this amazing, smart, gorgeous creature living with me and I know I’m a workaholic. One of the big things that broke my relationship with K was the way I withdrew into work as a survival mechanism. I’m not going to allow that to happen this time, so I force myself to stop most nights. Call it a day, and curl up with her on the couch.
Has that made it even harder to get some work things done in a reasonable amount of time? Yes. Is it worth it? Undeniably.
The fact is, I just blog less when I’m happy. And with only tiny exceptions, since about, oh, August 15th of last year, I’ve been happier than I can remember in a long time. Look at that. It’s only taken me 46 years to start getting my priorities in order.
So, yeah, keeping up with the blog usually falls by the wayside. I should just start micro-blogging. Posting a line or two every day to see if my brain is still functioning. Bob knows, I think of things in the car all the time. I just fear that they’ll expand, like goldfish, to fill the time available to them. Maybe I’ll give it a shot, and we’ll see.
In the meantime, I thought I’d post one of those neat catch-up blogs that list all the things I could have written about, but didn’t (in no particular order):
- This girl. Crazy about her. Never experienced anything like it. Don’t be jealous; just sayin’.
- I’m incredibly happy with Cowboys & Engines, and proud of my amazing cast and crew. Ya’all are gonna love it when it’s finished.
- Which is going to be a while yet, so calm down. There are a LOT of FX, and I want them done right. Takes time.
- Monuments Men. What a huge pile of shit. No, really, really awful.
- Do people actually give a fuck about the goddamned Ninja Turtles movie? REALLY? What is wrong with you people?
- Malaysia Airlines 370. It’s gone. Don’t get distracted by the search in the Indian Ocean. It’s not there. Someone fucking stole it and landed it in Afghanistan. We’ll be seeing that thing again some day, don’t you fret.
- I swear religious people have gotten even stupider than they used to be. This bullshit about Cosmos… Do you REALLY expect a real scientist to give your little fairytale about the Big Invisible Man in the Sky EQUAL FUCKING TIME?!? Even Rupert Murdoch isn’t an evil prick to THAT extent. Shut the hell and fuck up.
- House of Cards is goddamned awesome.
- So was Newsroom season 2.
- I’m really starting to think the adult industry won’t survive long enough to be run out of California by AHF.
- Mike South. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
- As I’m editing the final episodes of The Money $hot for the first time, I’m remembering what a GREAT show it was.
- Have mentioned the Girl? Jesus wept…
- Grand Budapest Hotel was beautiful and tangy and ever-so-slightly evil. Classic Wes Anderson.
- The DC Universe is now completely FUBAR.
- Godzilla looks freakin’ AWESOME.
- Jupiter Ascending looks embarrassing.
- The new Spider-Man… BLAH BLAH BLAH Transformers BLAH BLAH BLAH Fast & Fury-something… oh, who cares?
- I want Fox & Sony to lose their rights to the Marvel Characters they own so badly it makes my teeth hurt.
- That being said, Disney has wrecked Pixar beyond repair.
- JJ Abrams will never be okay with me.
- JJ Abrams is a fucking artist compared to Zack Snyder.
- Richard Hatch might be just about the nicest guy I’ve ever met.
- Have I mentioned that she plays Magic? Plays it WELL? And she’s EXCITED about Winter Soldier?
- Oh, also, she’s as twisted as I am. No, really, and an even bigger sexual predator. You should see the things we send each other…
- An adult film I’m very proud of is finally being released here in the US. I’m kind of excited by this.
I could do this forever, but you aren’t being punished. Apart from that, let me close by saying there’s big stuff coming this year. On a lot of fronts. Keep watching this space, and I’ll try to find time to tell you about it.
I have a reputation in the industry for being bitter, angry & hateful. There are times when it’s well-earned, but I feel that the perception is somewhat exaggerated. I figured out this afternoon that a lot of people see me that way because they largely encounter me only in Las Vegas… and here are few places on Earth that engender bitterness, anger & hate in me like Las Vegas.
Often, people ask what it is that I hate about Vegas so much, and the simple answer is everything. I’m not being facetious or inflammatory; I cannot think of a single good thing about this city. I’m here with The Unicorn this year, which takes the edge off pretty significantly, but I still despise everything outside our room. The disdain is so pervasive, I can’t even decide where to start.
Driving here is a nightmare. Whatever shitty excuse they have for civic engineers have decided the best way to keep traffic moving is to make it utterly impossible to get from Point A to Point B following anything like a straight route. Need to get from the airport to the Hard Rock? Easy! Just take the side road through the college and the rest is all illegal left turns because we decided Paradise Road should be one way for a mile for no discernible reason. Need to get from the freeway to the Sands Expo? Easy! Just get off at Spring Mountain and follow the access road through the shopping center parking lot until you can make an illegal U-turn to head East!
What a bunch of fucking idiots. This is the only town I’ve ever been in where two miles as the crow flies means ten miles on the ground.
Not that anywhere in Las Vegas is that exciting to get to in the first place. Everyone seems to agree that the Strip and its surrounds is a soulless gate of Hell; a tasteless, heartless, artless festival of bland, tedious greed hidden behind a flashy, mind-numbing facade of fake glitz, garishness and mock-indulgence. And yet, people flock to it of their own free will. The Strip is the reality television of municipalities. A Financial Engine Devoid of Merit. And I despise every. Single. Thing. About it.
“Oh, but it’s different when you get away from the strip.” Different, yes, but just as bad. Get out into North Vegas, or head East from the Strip and you find yourself in my old hometown. A land of strip malls, pawn shops, liquor stores and chain restaurants, all made from brown brick, and every bit as soul-crushing as the strip. It’s just Arizona Light.
Then there are the people. I’ve heard complaints for decades about how fake L.A. makes you. We’re all bullshit artists. Well try Las Vegas, motherfucker. The locals here are nothing but shitfaced, cigarette-reeking con-artists who think they deserve a fucking tip for simply existing, and you’re a piece of shit if you don’t roll over. Every cocksucker here expects a handout. Basically, they’re homeless people with uniforms.
And the tourists are worse. The fattest and most ignorant core of fat, ignorant America come to wallow in institutionalized sin. “We don’t need t’go ta Paris, they got an Eiffel Tower right here just as good as the real thang! Better, even, ‘cuz this one’s in Muricah!” Las Vegas is everything that is wrong with this country distilled to its essence, fermented, and squirted out into the desert like a lump of shit to attract flies in overstuffed stretchpants.
Where these flies get the money, I’ll never know. Farm subsidies must pay well because this town is more expensive than drugs. The Vegas Visitor’s Bureau should issue lube when you drive in, because everything here is now geared to fuck you right in the ass. Once upon a time, they were content to take your money gambling, in exchange for which you got decent cheap food and lodging. Those days are OVER. Now, it’s like living in Disneyland.
They’ll give you the lube. But there’s a $150 Resort Fee to use it.
This is my 24th AVN show, and the road of coping with Vegas has led only uphill. So if you see me in the hallway of the giant, overstuffed ashtray know as the Hard Rock Hotel, and I look a little surly, understand that it’s really not me. It’s Vegas, baby. Vegas.
I’m torn; on the one hand, I’ve been remiss in writing about this absurd, wonderful, and constantly surprising relationship I find myself in. On the other hand, I can’t let the passing of my number one film icon go unremarked, so this post will be a bit schizophrenic.
I couldn’t possibly have chosen a better moniker than The Unicorn. Everything about this girl, and our relationship, is absolutely (in my experience, at least) unique. After only four months (and this number boggles both of us so completely that we’ve actually had to sit and do the math on several occasions to convince ourselves that it really is only four months) our lives have blended together into a seamless, effortless single entity that works in a way that’s completely new to me. It works.
I’ve always had great, strong, enriching relationships. My exes are mostly still my closest friends, and having someone who makes life fuller by being there than it could possibly be alone isn’t a new thing for me. This time, though, it’s all new. Where my other relationships (to stretch a sappy metaphor) always felt like we were two distinct halves of an awesome whole, with The Unicorn, we just feel like one entity. It’s seamless. And it’s stunning.
It really shouldn’t work; given the difference in age and background and upbringing and pop-culture zeitgeist, we shouldn’t get along at all. And yet, with zero effort from either of us, we’ve become that couple. It’s revolting, and we both love it.
This has meant I’ve had very little excuse to be my normal, miserable-bastard self. Recently, a shitty stretch of no work got suddenly worse with the latest moratorium, and I was looking down the barrel of serious, crushing poverty. The Unicorn would gladly give me money, but I just can’t do it; between my white trash pride and my age and my stubbornness and the simple fact that I’m a fucking man, I just can’t stomach taking money from anyone, much less my girlfriend.
The cloud has since lifted, but the money isn’t the point. Even at the depths of my financial despair, I was happy. In years past, I would have been near-suicidal. But rather than letting work rule my life, I’m setting hours, keeping them, and when we curl up on the couch to watch a movie at night (or make a mess out of the dungeon), everything is suddenly fine.
I really don’t know what to do with it.
Right after Thanksgiving, we took a little weekend trip to Seattle. She’d never been, and we both have friends up there. It was fantastic. we did all the tourist stuff… Pike Place, the Needle, the Underground Tour. We also wrecked our hotel room several times a day, and went to dinner with her friend Lew, and my friends Mike and Lisa (a girl I’ve had a crush on since high school who is still astonishing).
And all of it was fun and effortless. I really couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime. I just have to not fuck this one up. And maybe being happy (it’s strange to even type it) explains why I was hit so hard by the news of Peter O’Toole’s death yesterday.
It’s impossible to explain the scope of O’Toole’s influence on me. While it was Star Wars that gave me the acting bug, it was Lawrence of Arabia that made me want to be a filmmaker. David Lean’s masterpiece has always topped my list of best films, and when I’m forced to answer the inane question about what my “favorite movie” is, I often answer Lawrence. I first saw it as a child in the worst way possible; on a tiny television, in it’s destroyed broadcast cut.
And I was enthralled by it anyway. In the years since, I’ve devoured every restored and updated version, and it warms my heart that The Egyptian keeps a screening of Lawrence in its rotation. The film is a masterwork, but the real appeal is obvious to anyone: Peter O’Toole.
When I got old enough to start hunting down his other performances, O’Toole became the first actor whose work I would actively seek out. This lead me to wonderful crap like The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, and genuine works of art like Becket and The Lion in Winter. I’ve been obsessed with both, particularly Lion, ever since. I’ve done the play three times. It’s one of the only shows I still want to do, now that I’m old enough to properly play Henry.
And while Katherine Hepburn is radiant in Lion, the real light of that film is O’Toole.
To this day, I have a soft spot for several edgy, mediocre films simply because Peter O’Toole is fucking brilliant in them. The Ruling Class. The Stuntman. (Eli Cross… duh.) Creator. Lord Jim. What’s New Pussycat. Great Catherine. Man of la Mancha.
And while I cherish his last truly masterful turn in Venus, that film hits a bit too close to home. I knew while watching it that this film about an aging actor dying on his own terms was the last time we would ever see O’Toole in command of the screen, and it was bittersweet.
I sat with The Unicorn last night at watched My Favorite Year, resisting the impulse to quote every line of the movie (which I can easily do). When the final moment between Benjy and Swann came, I had tears in my eyes, because I’m ridiculous.
And so, in honor of the film icon who shaped my life, I’m going to spend the day quoting Alan Swann and Eli Cross and Henry II. And remembering.
Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes. ”
— Oscar Wilde