Archive for June, 2012

McCarthy and the Coens

You are hereby ordered to read the conversation between author Cormac McCarthy and filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen published by Time in 2007, when the Coens made a film adaptation of McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men.

My favorite bit is about the scene where Josh Brolin is chased by the dog.

J.C. It was a scary dog. It wasn’t a movie dog.

C.M. It was basically trained to kill people.

J.C. It was basically trained to kill people.

E.C. The trainer had this little neon-orange toy that he would show to the dog, and the dog would start slavering and get unbelievably agitated and would do anything to get the toy. So the dog would be restrained, and Josh, before each take, would show the dog that he had the toy, he’d put it in his pants and jump into the river …

Third Week: Bleah

The first two weeks of my summer vacation have been excellent. I hung out with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, I had lunch with Redditors, I played games and read and rode my bike around the lake.

Week Three was supposed to be the point at which I got back to work on The Novel. Alas, Dawnguard arrived yesterday (Tuesday) and so much for that idea. Now I’m deeply enmeshed in that adventure, and everything else is on hold. (And yeah I feel like a slacker and a video game addict, but what else is new?)

The bigger problem I’m having is insomnia. I keep waking up at 5:15 AM with headaches and groggy confusion. I took a nap yesterday and the woke up in a Twilight Zone, which lasted for the rest of the evening.

We turned on the window AC unit for the first time this morning and it made a hideous bangbangbang noise. Diane tried to get the front panel off, but apparently this is impossible without destroying it. (That pronoun at the end there is deliberately ambiguous.)

I’m not really sick but I have a headache. I read somewhere recently that we often wake up somewhat dehydrated, so drinking water is a good idea in the morning. (Usually it’s just coffee, so this seems plausible.) So I’ve been drinking water in the morning. Today it’s not helping much. I took two Aleve but they’re not doing much either, so far as I can tell.

It’s not a lie-on-the-couch-and-do-nothing-except-watch-30-Rock type of headache, but neither is it the type of ache which is easily ignored. The AC repair dude (a nice and very capable guy who repaired our washing machine once) said he’d come by “later in the morning” so I can’t really take a nap (and besides, napping this early in the morning always seems silly to me, even though I’ve been awake for four hours). Meditating seems risky, since it could at any point be violently interrupted with knocking and dog scrambling.

So instead I’m just writing, mostly because I don’t know what else to do. I don’t feel like playing Dawnguard, but I feel like I should, because The Novel isn’t going anywhere and I need to finish with Dawnguard so I can get to work on it. (Meanwhile I’ve got two other projects sitting on my virtual desktop that I haven’t touched in days. Then there’s the new INS project that’s 3/5 done and I want to get finished this summer, and the fantasy story I started last month and want to work on and blah blah blah.)

Deep breaths are good. Maybe I will lie down. This feels like the most purposeless thing I’ve ever written for public consumption. Apologies to those who expected something more profound or intriguing.

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RIP Alan Saunders

One of my favorite podcasts is The Philosopher’s Zone, a weekly half-hour program from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Today I learned that the host, Alan Saunders, died earlier this month.

Mr. Saunders (seen here with a dingo named Wollemi that he co-sponsored at a conservation sanctuary) did an amazing job with the show, making deep philosophical concepts available to ordinary people in language that was comprehensible but never simplistic. He spoke in a rich baritone about philosophical figures and movements, interrupting his guests only when necessary to provide context and background. He asked intriguing follow-up questions and dropped little pieces of humor where appropriate (and leaving out the inane puns so common to “intellectual” broadcasting in the US).

Perhaps my favorite thing about Mr. Saunders is how committed he was to exploring the vast diversity of ways in which philosophy exists in our world, and all the ways different people set out to explore its core questions. Most guests were academics, but he also brought on primary school teachers, government workers, and folks from other walks of life. He did shows about Islamic philosophy, philosophical currents in sub-saharan Africa, and various forms of Asian philosophy (all of which, fascinating and rich though they are, usually get short shrift in popular philosophy media).

The news of Mr. Saunders’ passing saddens me, in part because it was so sudden, and in part because I feel like I got to know him. After all, I spent a half-hour with him in deep conversation every week. I suppose it’s fair to say that I thought of him as a teacher, helping me as he did to understand and interrogate the world around me.

Thank you for your work, Mr. Saunders. You will be missed.