June 30, 2004

I Read DUNE While Traveling In Europe.

If you're around my age, when you think of Dune, an image like this comes to mind:

And you just know of it as David Lynch's film that failed massively, was supposedly incomprehensible, and features Sting in leather. Which means you can't really take it seriously.

Well, I hadn't given Dune much thought until two recent occurrences:
- Living with a woman who went very far out of her way to find the fifth Dune book, because she loves the series so much
- The Believer Issue June 2003 featured an essay which not only took the series seriously, but felt it illuminated some aspects of contemporary life.

So, I found a used copy, and read it on the trip.

It's pretty good. It's most impressive as a history -- the world that Herbert creates is remarkably rich and textured. It has a real presence. It's less impressive as a narrative/story -- the plot is pretty hackneyed (Christ figure story, very melodramatic good vs evil, some awkward devices to keep the story moving). But those shortcomings didn't prevent me from enjoying the book. And recommending it to you, dear reader.

Posted by peterme at 05:44 PM | Comments (3)

Rick and Ilsa Can Keep Paris

On our trip, we visited three cities -- Amsterdam, Paris, and Barcelona.

Of the three, Paris is the best known, the most lauded as a "world-class" city.

Visiting there, I couldn't help but have the impression that people "love" Paris because it's "Paris". Of the cities we went to, it resonated least with me. It's the least beautiful, charming, engaging. It's crowded, and filled with people, mostly tourists. I mean, it's not a bad place, but, really, it's not "all that."

We spent a few days there. Some photos:

baguette in front of Sacre Coeur
10 years ago, a I took a picture of myself eating a baguette in front of Sacre Coeur. So, I thought I'd do it again on this trip.

un front of Un Zebre a Montmartre
Our first night, we ate at Un Zebre a Montmartre, a hip little restaurant just down the street from our hotel. Reasonable prices (appetizers were 6 Euros, main courses 11 Euros), and good food.

Hotel Bouquet de Montmartre
We stayed at Hotel Bouquet de Montmartre, in the 18th arrondisement, right at the foot of Montmartre. It's crazy inexpensive (60 Euros a night for a double), well-situated (one block from the Abbesses metro station, a short climb up the hill to Sacre Coeur), and really teeny. The only drawback was that the bars in the neighborhood stayed active until late in the night, which was shameful, since there are a lot of just normal folks trying to lead their lives here, too.

peterme on Pont Neuf
peterme, excited, on Pont Neuf.

The European Parliament elections (which had the lowest turnout, and was overwhelmingly Euroskeptic) took place during our trip. This poster, on a wall in Paris, has a potent illustration. I really dug it, until I read the smaller type below "MONSTRES." Still, cool drawing.

Of interest to maybe no one I know other than Courtney and Sharon, on a walk through the 18e, we stumbled through the textile district, which included this store offering 4 floors of product. And it was just one of like three right in this neighborhood, and that doesn't include the innumerable smaller sellers.

Seen here are THE GATES OF HELL. Like the Van Gogh Museum, the Musee Rodin allows visitors to witness the evolution of a great artist in a beautiful setting. It and the Musee d'Orsay are my only two "must-see" museums in Paris.

Only one other note (this time without photos) -- for dinner one night, my friend Frederic introduced us to Chez Janou, a delightful restaurant near his house. I can recommend the magret du (de?) canard without reservation. They also serve crazy big bowls of chocolate mousse.

Posted by peterme at 03:25 PM | Comments (3)

This Napoleon Doesn't Have Much Of A Complex

Last night, had to choose between waiting in a long line for Fahrenheit 9/11 or walking right into and sitting down for Napoleon Dynamite. I chose the latter.

Describing the film's plot pretty much misses the point, but the setting is important -- barren Western town, and a lot of action taking place at the high school that the film's title character attends.

The movie is both resolutely normal -- dealing with the well-trodden miseries of small-town and high school life, and what it means to be a geek in those milieus -- and profoundly weird -- though set in contemporary times (as elements like mobile phones and online dating attest), the sets, clothing, and music all come from the late 70s and early 80s, as if Preston, Idaho was stuck in time. And the character's behaviors -- playing tetherball, rollerblading while towed by a bike, having hunks of steak thrown in your face, taking "glamor shots", etc. etc. -- are just so... odd.

This is not a great movie. I'm not sure that it's a good movie. But I enjoyed it, and laughed, and found myself surprised at some of the things I laughed at. The character of Napoleon Dynamite, as embodied by Jon Heder, is amazing -- eyes perpetually half-closed, mouth-breathing, shock of red curly hair, a combination of abusiveness ("You're a flippin' idiot!"), insecurity ("I went hunting for wolverines"), loyalty ("I'd vote for you, Pedro"), and a can-do spirit (pop-locking to Jamiroquai). All adding up to a surprislngly endearing persona.

The various subplots (the uncle's attempt at returning to his glory days, the tupperware sales, the chat room pay-off) weaken the film, but I suspect they're there because they simply didn't have a full movie's worth of Dynamite material.

Should you go see it? I don't know. If you're around my age (31), and a child of too much pop culture, with a taste for the absurd and ironic, it's definitely worth a look-see.

Posted by peterme at 08:51 AM | Comments (11)


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