June 30, 2007

A Microbe Speaks

{Two 'test passages' from a projected novella I'm thinking of getting back to work on called Hello, This is Your Virus. The speaker is a microbiotic specimen that has been gifted with long life and articulate intelligence. Won't go into the specifics, might keep 'em just a little shady in the story itself, but keep in mind the voice in the following is that of a loquacious viral infection}

{This passage will link to a description of the organism's 'birth' as a conscious entity, in the bloodstream of a soldier in the great war. The argument connecting disease and war as natural phenomena will be considerably extended}

The influenza outbreak that followed (partly overlapping) the end of the First World War caused more deaths than every other battle of the war. Which suggests that if you were a miltary commander seeking true bang for your buck, you'd hire germs instead of people to fight your wars. Certainly they're a whole lot less demanding when it comes to wages and medical benefits. The only real disadvantage is that your true epidemic never knows when to quit. Try showing a deadly bacterial strain two rival armies sometime, and see how well it distinguishes friend from foe. If you lay much emphasis on the distinction yourself, the result is bound to disappoint.

The military efficiency of the 1918 epidemic is surprising in one sense: your average influenza strain is dumb as two posts, and this particular variety was dangerously inbred. It could lead you to wonder if military success is a function of intelligence at all.

{The virus's opinion of smart bombs}

Some of the terms you use puzzle me. There are whole nations whose bloodstreams my progeny are entirely ignorant of, so I have no firsthand knowledge of how suicide bombers are viewed in the parts of the world where they proliferate: I gather more admiringly than they are hereabouts. You tend to regard them as cowardly, which makes no sense according to any definition of the word I've ever come across--and the definitions you carry in your blood are truer than the ones you put on paper--or as mad, and that seems a good deal more plausible. Then you turn around and describe a bomb that acts exactly like a suicide bomber as smart: where's the logic in that? I have no idea what the quality of life is of your average bomb: maybe they're in a state of permanent depression or diffused impotent rage. But if these bombs were really smart, wouldn't they refuse to explode?

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 28, 2007

Speak for Yourself

Drifter: I thought I was among civilized men.
Dobbs: Who are you calling uncivilized? (Flattens drifter with a punch.)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Now Magazine has been running ads for some time reading Free. (Caption over one picture) Speech. (Caption over the next one in sequence). The most archetypal of these (and if memory serves, the one most often deployed) shows a pretty Asian-Canadian girl, demurely posed in the first photo. In the second she's in attack stance, her facial expression half between a jeer and a snarl, giving every Now reader (or city passerby in the case of hoarding and mini-billboard ads scattered about our fair city) the finger.

I won't deny this is an admirably direct example of truth in advertising--and Now readers quite an impressively masochistic bunch. But it's curious--there are dissenters among them, but I'm sure the majority opinion of Now editors is in favour of Canada's new hate speech laws.

I'm certainly not going to bring them up on charges of expressing hatred and contempt, not only for their own readership, but for Toronto's drivers, bikers and walkers en bloc. I think the hate speech law has as much coherence as the obscenity statutes. It might not be clear who is guilty of murder, fraud or embezzlement when these are alleged, but there's a reasonably solid understanding what acts consitute commission of these crimes. There may be questions of interpretation in a given case--was this a murder or an act of self-defence? is this embezzlement or a legitimate ATM fee? But it can be said with reasonable definiteness what would qualify as an instance of most genuinely criminal acts. There is nothing resembling universal agreement on either hate speech or obscenity. To call a snuff film or a child porn movie obscene is to trivialize the gravity of its offence. The relevant charges in these cases are murder, rape and child molestation. To call a murder a hate crime seems tautological, though twisted love is almost as often the motive. But if hate is an aggravation of the crime of murder, wouldn't the indifference of a professional hit man be an extenuating circumstance? But as for saying "I'd love to kill that little motherfucker"--which might run afoul of both hate speech and obscenity legislation--I doubt there's an instance in ten thousand where a remark like that is a legitimate threat or prophecy, or anything much more than blowing off steam. The courts are clogged enough already.

Not every threat to free speech is external; the most persistent ones in any of our lives tend to be internal. If you define free speech as free-floating omnidirectional anger, what's any censor in the world going to do to you that you haven't already done to yourself? In that mood it's impossible to think straight or speak coherently. Good luck contributing to the wider debate either locally or globally if you can't do that.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 25, 2007


Noam Chomsky said in an interview once that the style of his polemics is, as numerous critics contend, turgid--because in order to get a hearing, he has to check and double-check his facts and footnote them meticulously--his critics are able to ignore facts at will, because they're writing from an accepted consensus view, and that leaves more latitude for spriteliness of style.

This is too harsh a self-judgment. Actually Chomsky's a far better than average stylist. Certainly he's a far more than averagely concise writer, though I recollect the opposite being alleged by a newspaper columnist once. It's an odd complaint to come from that quarter--I can count on the fingers of one hand the newspaper columnists I've read who are not tediously verbose, and this columnist was by no means one of those fingers. Even odder was the sentence he quoted to demonstrate this fault. It was a remark made in an interview, and few of us are as concise in speech as in writing, but I tried three times, and failed, to rework the sentence so that it said all that Chomsky had said, in fewer words. I wonder what the columnist thought concise actually meant?

There is one serious weakness in Chomsky's style, which he's acknowledged, but only by projection. A couple of times I recollect him saying that some recent move in the giddy whirl of power politics with its casual exterminations and cynical justifications "would have been too much even for the irony of Swift." They're certainly too much for Chomsky in one respect; he's able to apprehend these killing ironies comprehensively enough, and detail them. But he's certainly not able to make his indignation stand out unforgettably through persistent savaging wit, nor to sum up an enormity in one sharp sudden epiphet that pops the vanity of its perps. This is a weakness Swift conspicuously lacked.

(A weakness he lacked; I seriously need a coffee; ah well, let it stand.)

Swift said of the one Lord Lieutenant of Ireland he personally esteemed: "No one ever ruined a nation with greater reluctance." He could drop into a paragraph, as a throwaway line, the rhetorical question: "Is this an age of Man to consider a crime improbable merely because it is great?" With that gift for slashing wit he combined as meticulous a habit of checking, re-checking, cross-checking, double-, triple- and quadruple-checking his facts as any journalist or historian could ever boast, though he never did himself--simply regarded it as the bare minimum of integrity serious writing required.

Michael Moore, in relation to Swift, has roughly the opposite balance of weaknesses and strengths. While I'd certainly never accuse him of Swftian irony at the top of his form, he's able to give a vivid comic shape to his indignation. What he conspicuously lacks is Swift's passion to attack as vigorously and directly as occasion warrants, but never at the cost of fuzzy thinking or avoidable misrepresentation.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 21, 2007

Just So We're Clear

I've read just enough of Salman Rushdie's work to know there are things I like about it and things I don't. I've promised myself I'll tackle Midnight's Children, which I'm told is his best, someday, but I'll leave debate on the merits or otherwise of The Satanic Verses to anyone who's actually been able to finish reading it. (Which would not, I suspect, include most of its Islamist critics, who like the fundamentalists that despise Life of Brian rely exclusively on divine revelation. It's popularly supposed that God, or Allah if you prefer, has read and seen everything.)

But yo! clerics: could you chill just a little? Comedians kill, reviewers don't, and even comedians don't usually kill literally. When they do it's rarely job related.

I know Harold Pinter's ouevre fairly well. Solid enough body of work--shame he gave up writing in 1975. Who knows what he might have produced in his later years if he'd kept at it. I thought a Nobel for Pinter was ridiculous and deplorable when to the best of my knowledge Peter Barnes and Dennis Potter were never nominated, and for a dead cert never R.A. Lafferty. Alasdair Gray? he's still alive, so there's time to rectify the omission in his case. But Nobel Committee! This is a man in his 70s in a country where the life expectancy of males is somewhere around the mid 50s. Time's a-wasting!

But let me make this perfectly clear: I do not think suicide bombing would be a reasonable response to the extreme and tactless provocation of honouring an inferior writer with such a prize while ignoring so many others who are manifestly his superiors. I think a few symbolic shots, fired from a tower, not aimed to hit anyone, into Oslo's main square would be quite enough. In all things I favour moderation.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 20, 2007

Rasoir Barbe du Jour Miroir Trop Intime


Shaving methodically each day, leaving accidental patches of beard which vary with the irregularity of the light. Then at a friend's house in Lille he is confronted by a make-up mirror, attached to the wall on an accordion stand, which displays to an uncomfortable degree his bristles. Reversed, the image magnifies, showing every hair disconcertingly black, nestling in its pore. It makes for a formidably close shave, even with a dull blade, since the mirror obliges him to cover the ground more than once before it'll show a smooth reflection. The view it gives of flesh contours is terrifyingly close up and personal. A bubble of blood beneath his nose, another when he whisks the hair off his chinny-chin-chin, resemble gashes across the chests of startled hussars in battle scenes lately viewed at the Louvre.

C 2005, 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 13, 2007

A Different Kidney

From an article by Matt Hartley (Globe and Mail, June 13 '07) concerning people seeking kidney donors online:

"Hugo Rousseau, 63, was diagnosed with progressive renal kidney failure almost two years ago and has been waiting for a transplant ever since.
. . .
He is now trying to get approval for two potential Canadian donors he met through the website.
'Why not use a stranger?' he says. 'If I get a kidney from my brother-in-law, and he breaks his leg or loses his job four years from now, the first thing he's going to do is come looking to me for help.' "

I can certainly see where it would be a nuisance having somebody come pester you for help only because he'd donated a kidney to you and kept you alive, but I have to wonder how M. Rousseau imagines he'll be able to negotiate the acceptance of a kidney from someone, go through a lengthy and intimate operating procedure, and have the donor still remain a stranger. Or does he just figure it would be easier to tell somebody in his hour of need, 'Buzz off--so you saved my life, who cares?' if that person weren't family?

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 12, 2007

The Last Time I Saw Paris

A word or two more on Lynn Crosbie's column pluralizing pity(Globe and Mail, June 11 '07), which I quoted from yesterday. The grand conclusion of this think piece on the media piranha feeding on Paris Hilton's prison sentence? Lynn doesn't know if Paris Hilton is a bad person, but she does know her reader is, if (s)he takes any pleasure in Paris Hilton's pain. Excuse me? If one bad action is a final proof, how can Lynn Crosbie claim not to know whether Paris Hilton is a bad person? She describes her as serially taking pleasure not simply in the pain of others, but in pain it's been her pleasure and privilege personally to inflict. That's rather worse than what Lynn accuses her hypothetical reader of doing. But Lynn surely knows that if one bad action makes a bad person, she and I and everyone we know are terrible people, well deserving the crackling eternal roastie flames of Hell. Because all of us act badly often.

I bear Paris Hilton no particular ill will, but she more than earned the jail time she's serving, unlike the people doing five and ten year stretches in Texas for shoplifting. I can sympathize with her fear that paparazzi might somehow snap candids of her peeing, but somebody shuffled into place on an assembly line scaffold in Iraq after a twenty minute trial, staring at the knotted noose the nice American major at the prosecutor's table was so good as to insist on, has loads more to worry about. And if Paris keeps on talking herself up as the heroine of her own soap opera, but vocalizing and carrying on like its principal villain, she'll earn more and worse. To my mind Paris is too young for any coherent judgment to be passed, whether she's a good or bad person--but she's long overdue to make a good start.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 11, 2007

What Were They Thinking?

Is mechanical proofreading or authorial ineptitude principally responsible? You be the judge.

"In the role as villains, Tekatch's Mayella Ewell is a seething cauldron of tortured venom, while Wayne Best definitely limns her father Bob's cretinist penchant for violence." (Michael Posner, Globe and Mail, June 1 '07, review of To Kill a Mockingbird.) Okay, anybody, best guess: possible meaning? Likeliest hallucinogen involved in composition of sentence?

"If plots were people, this obese thing would be cuing up for liposuction." (Rick Groen, June 1 '07, review of Mrs. Brooks.) Have they started using pool tables instead of operating tables when performing liposuction now? Bad idea, IMHO. Even worse if they're using pool cues instead of scalpels.

"And wags, the pampered wives and girlfriends spending their partner's cash, take their places after a sterling performance accompanying the England football team at the 2006 World Cup." (Agence France Presse.) In this case I suspect inept translation had muddied the meaning of a sentence that in French was reasonably clear. A similar translation back into French (a Frenching of this Englished version as it were) might turn un peu surreal.

"The star appears always to have known that pity, in addition to stars, are blind." (Lynn Crobie, Globe and Mail, June 11 '07.) Are pity blind? Is our children learning?

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 10, 2007

To Our Friends in the South

I hope the Democrats are aware that 2008 is not only a crucial election year, but potentially a golden opportunity.

President Bush has about the lowest popularity rating of any standing president in history, and it must be a gratifying surprise to him--after all the talk about what a spoiled rich lad he is, the one thing in his life he's rigorously earned by the labour of his own hands. Bush couldn't win even a rigged election this year if he could legally run--you could never conceal the number of votes you'd have to disqualify, or graveyards you'd have to hunt in at midnight for eligible voters. A miltary coup is out--he's no more popular with the generals, maybe less so, than he is with the people. And any Republican running in the next race will be running in Bush's shadow.

So--do the Democrats this time around find a candidate who's a true Democrat--or do they nominate a moderate Republican as they did in '92? Whoever's elected the Republicans will go after tooth and nail, so there's no point throwing them sops in the hope of mellowing political discourse.

Eighty years on, what Chesterton said in the late '20s is just as true. Democracy hasn't failed except insofar as it's failed to be tried. And Plutocracy hasn't succeeded, except in ruining whatever's within its reach. A President without a drawer chock-a-block with stock options is very likely an impossibility at this point; what the Democrats--and more crucially, the people of the United States of America--need in the next election is a candidate whose soul isn't kept in the same drawer.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 7, 2007

Punk Rock Politico Slashes TorPorn

Pretty fair column (tad overheated) by Warren Kinsella (Nat Post, June 7 ''07) on Torture Porn. You'll have to read the column if you want explicit details concerning the films surveyed. I'm not giving the moviemakers concerned that sort of publicity. I have to say the descriptions given don't sound more repellent than a production of Titus Andronicus that adhered strictly to Shakespeare's scenario. Willy over time developed a modicum of subtletly and so might some of these young filmmakers.

Eli Roth (director of The Hostel, Thanksgiving and a few other entries in the TorPorn sweeps) is quoted by Kinsella as saying this: "What's worse, my movie or Dick Cheney? Nobody actually died in my movie. People actually die because of Dick Cheney, and he doesn't allow you to see it."

I disapprove, morally and aesthetically, of TorPorn for the same reason I disapprove of formulaic (which is to say 99.99% of) RomCom. Art is a complex balancing of connection and disengagement, and it's impossible to achieve either emotional connection or critical distance when a story is nothing but a steadily escalating gorefest, or an upward spiral of aw shucks and predictable giggles. Whether RomCom or TorPorn is more dangerously antisocial I wouldn't like to try to determine, since the ultimate effect of bad art on society in general is nebulous, underground and incredibly hard to track.

So I'm no more than minimally defending Eli Roth when I acknowledge he has a point. A shotgun blast to the face in an Eli Roth movie would most likely not even give the actor a rash. The effect of terror bombs, cluster bombs and military tribunals dispensing McJustice at the end of a rope is in no sense virtual, and has scarcely a tangential relation to violence however gruesomely simulated onscreen.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 5, 2007

LH&R Redux

Great concert at the Distillery District Sunday night. Pricey tickets but never mind: figured this might be our one chance to see Jon Hendricks, 85 now, who in 1958 teamed up with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross to form the unsurpisngly named, but otherwise consistently surprising Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. He's touring with his daughter Aria (taking Annie Ross's part) and Kevin Burks (standing in for Dave Lambert)--not simply redoing the LH&R hitlist but arranging new material in the same style. (Aria Hendricks did a remarkable solo based on Wes Montgomery's angular instrumental transcription of Gershwin's 'Summertime'--reintroducing the vocal, interpreted according to Montgomery's transcription, which replaces the usual lush romanticism with a hard staccato edge.)

It would have been a remarkable enough night if it had featured only these three singers (with their backup trio. Peter Mihelich on piano, Neal Miner on bass and Andy Watson on drums). "Jumpin' at the Woodside" is the same miracle of harmony it was when first recorded, and the recorded version didn't feature extended scat solos by each of the three, linking up to a duet and then a trio before rejoining the intricate harmony of the song's main lyric. I imagine Lambert, Hendricks and Ross did that kind of thing live, but to the best of my knowledge no recordings that extended and freewheeling exist.

Then there were the instrumental vocals. Kevin Burks made his vocal chords a trumpet for one extended solo, with mute and vibrato effects. He also did an extended, hilarious solo (with mime fingerings) as a bass, which Hendricks replied to before they merged into a duet. Sounds you might never in your life have expected would clear customs at the tonsils.

Then there were the special guests. This was the last night of a five day festival and a lot of performers were in the audience. Hendricks invited them up, and I gather most of the fine music that came from this was totally unplanned. Clark Terry, who needed a wheelchair to get to the stage and two assistants to climb the three steps, contributed a breathy whisper of trumpet to two songs--one of which, according to Hendricks, he knew, and one he'd never heard before. "But you'll see, he'll play just as good on the one he doesn't know," which Terry soon did, "because jazz musicians know everything. A jazz musician should be president." Oh right, try and squeak that past the Dems or the Repubs, or any of our parties up North either. All of them have tin ears and consequent prejudice against people who can hear.

(Dave Lambert once said "Anyone who goes to see a psychiatrist should have his head examined." I don't know if Annie Ross was thinking about that when she wrote 'Twisted', but it's certainly one of the ideas alluded to in that tuneful composition. He also said "I want to start a new veteran's association: the veterans of future wars.")

Even more remarkable were two interludes where Clark Terry and John Hendricks jive talked at each other, the first time in English which, because of poor miking at that moment, I only caught in snatches--"He told you that? He was lyin'." "I know he was lyin'! I told him so." etc. The next time they repeated the gist--cadences and rhythms--in scat. Both routines were hilarious. I would have liked to have picked up more of the words, when there were words, but more than we think of humour--of meaning generally--is conveyed by cadence and rhythm.

Jimmy Sly, who needed one helper to get to the stage and up the stairs, tapdanced. Probably in his prime he could have twirled and leaped more, tired less soon, but there was still visible genius in his moves.

When Aria did the Gershwin-Montgomery piece I mentioned, her father introduced it thusly: "For her solo my daughter is going to do--whatever she wants to do!" and scampered off the stage. That mood of comedy and generosity dominated the evening. When Kevin Mahoggany, another guest soloist, fanned Jon Hendricks during an extended scat riff to indicate it was hot! Took the chill out of the Fermenting Cellar--which is not a heated building--that cool night of rain. Shows far less generous in spirit are considerably more common, but not necessarily to be prized more on that account. And this one wasn't over when we left. All in attendance were invited to stay on for an all night jam, probably featuring all the musicians we'd just seen and as many again. Saturday night and I'm there if I can persuade my wife and sister-in-law, but Sunday? With a six-thirty wake up for work? I hope the people we'd seen filming kept at it--I'm talking official, not bootleg filmmakers--maybe there's the chance some day we'll get a look at what we missed.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

Corgi Balls

A British artist ate a plate of meatballs made from a Corgi to protest animal cruelty--and this was kind to the Corgi how? In his defence, he did say, and I'm inclined to believe him, that the Corgi died a natural death. Most people who hunt Corgi in their wild state are more interested in the pelt and fur than the meat, which the artist confirmed had a terrible taste. Now we don't have to worry about any but fast food emporia moving in on the market on Corgie as snack food (fries with that?).

The reason a Corgi was selected--and this leaves a little room for doubt concerning the natural death hypothesis--is that it's Queen Elizabeth's favourite dog, and the artist was protesting the fact that Prince Philip wasn't charged by the SPCA--do they have legal authority?--in the recent premeditated killing of a fox. The Queen has owned more than 30 Corgis during her reign--more than thirty? Now wait a minute I know she's reigned a long time, but that still works out to less than a two year life span on average. What dark secrets, small animal yelps in the middle of the night, does the Palace conceal? No, I know what it is--she keeps them in batches. Maybe a different Corgi for each day of the week--who could tell one from another anyway? I'm sure no Corgi in Queen Elizabeth's care has ever met but a natural end.

I seriously hope no rival artist decides to try a hand at whipping up a batch of fox sausages.

This artist's next project, apparently, is to lock himself in a box, buried in mashed potatoes. Should somebody contact the SPCV?

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

The Mental Walk-In Closet

Some days you want to dress
Not so much in clothes as in costume
Maybe a pirate costume
Maybe a monkey suit
Maybe you want to change your whole life on the twirl of a thread

This makes you look like Sophie Tucker
This makes you look like James Dean
This makes you look like Daffy Duck
This makes you look like Heidegger as a young man
I know it makes you look old
Heidegger never looked like a young man

This makes you look like Marie Curie
It's that soft radium glow
This makes you look like Janis Joplin on speed
I know, it's a frightening thought

This makes you look like Claude Rains as the Invisible Man
Not only doesn't it show your best profile
It doesn't show any profile at all
Have you got the voice though?
Think Captain Renault in Casablanca

This makes you look like Rahab
This makes you look like Joshua
This makes you look like their illegitimate twins
Are we having an Old Testament day?

This makes you look like Kali
Wait, let's arrange the nest
Good! now it's more Medusa

This makes you look like Abraham Lincoln's running mate
I know, I can't remember the name either
But from History Channel I recollect the face

This makes you look like a troubled amnesiac
This you look like a paraplegic whose smiling countenance inspires us all
This makes you look like a psycho nobody suspects
"He was always the quiet type"
Either that or the third banana on a cop team
This makes you look like Joan Crawford's last thirty years
Let's get away from the stereotype hangers ok?

This makes you look like a Renaissance artisan
This makes you look like a hewer of wood and chopper of water
Chopper? I meant drawer, sorry
What's in this drawer?

This makes you look like death warmed over
Might get you sympathy scaring up change on a streetcorner
Might yield a nomination as best supporting actor
Won't get you sex though

This makes you look like Marlon Brando
Unfortunately late in his career
We're talking the role he played like a fat Truman Capote
What's the diff? You'd have enough money to buy sex
Or an island

This makes you look like St Sebastian
I'd get those arrow wounds looked at

This makes you look like the Coney Island Ferry
How the hell did you get that effect?
This makes you look like the Hubble Telescope
Snap a distant galaxy for me
This makes you look like an animated feature
Why you picked the receding chin I'll never know

This makes you look like a Flying Dutchman
It's a little known fact that one in 50,000 Dutchmen are born with wings
And one in ten of those
Grows into a workable pair
The ones that don't have to be
Surgically removed, otherwise they fester

This makes you look like you haven't a clue
Adding the deerstalker hat doesn't change the impression

This makes you look like a mirror
My guess? It'll make you irresistible
This makes you look like nobody's business
I doubt that'll have the same effect
This makes you look twice before crossing
A safe look but far from bold

This makes you look like the North Star
This makes you look like a master's thesis
This makes you look like a stoplight
This makes you look like a deep dark secret

A pentangle
A cashbox
A flying wingtip
An apple complete with twig
A representative minority
A woodwind section
An artful dodger
A horn of plenty
A Matterhorn
A tea cozy
A girl in a Freudian slip
A bank tower
A decree nisi
A mounted head
An avalanche
A bottomless fund for topless dancers
A four car collision at a five corner intersection
A race to the top
A game with chains and whips
A game with words and cluster bombs
I don't know how you look like all that
But isn't wardrobe and CGI amazing?

That makes you look like a perfect twat
You're right, I am exaggerating
Nothing's perfect in this life
That makes you look like an apple tree
Complete with worms
We may be reaching a point of diminishing returns here
At least insofar as dressing
How's if you slip into your birthday suit?

That makes you look like dynamite
Let's blow this place.

C 2007 Martin Heavisides

June 1, 2007

Production Values

Does anybody, including the proud possessors of the brains within, know what goes on in movie producers' heads? A dismissive box review of what sounds like a routine (but more than routinely inept) schlock horror film notes in passing the writer-director's main previous credit: Snakes on a Plane, which he co-wrote with a gaggle of anonymous internet script doctors, whose main suggestion was that Samuel L. Jackson in the lead should cuss a whole bunch. Not such a bad suggestion. Not to discount his other giftrs--it would be an interesting thought experiment to try to come up with something he couldn't do as an actor--but there are few performers in any medium with Jackson's fluent command of the intricate poetic cadences of obscene speech. Anyway, that part of Jackson's role mostly originated on the 'net, where the buzz from the beginning was about how superlatively bad this sucker would turn out to be. Apparently it didn't manage even that to a superlative enough degree to satisfy audiences, since in spite of the largest internet viral campaign the world has yet seen (a largely impromptu campaign) people stayed away in droves.

I suppose it's possible, near-unanimity of critical revulsion notwithstanding--they've been wrong before, they'll be wrong again--that the script of this new pic was so impressive as to sweep all reservations before it. But previous credits usually play a role when it coes to greenlighting a new project, and in this case producers knew two things about Snakes on a Plane: 1) it was sgenerally regarded as a bad film with an atrocious script even by the few people who saw it 2) it was a box office flop.

I can certainly imagine a producer giving the go-ahead to somebody who'd had a big box office hit, or several, even with dialogue that read as if it had been generated automatically in a spam mailing. I can cite examples. With a little more difficulty I can imagine one wanting to give a second chance to somebody who'd produced a remarkable film that had died at the ticket window. But a film that had been poorly written, clumsily directed and had bad b.o.? Where's the upside?

Producers! I have a few ideas you might like to consider, if the template of Snakes on a Plane still has such unexpected vestigial legs. I'd be happy to work up a script based on any of these ideas, if we can come to acceptable terms, or if you have an actual aversion to quality writing in a screenplay--I'm told it can get in the way of the special effects--I'd be happy enough in each case to sell the basic idea, and leave it to you how and with whom to develop it further.

Tarantulas on a Train
Frogs on a Funicular
Boars on a Bus
Squids on a Submarine
Eels on an El
Snacks on a Plane ("They didn't know what was coming. . . they didn't even know how to spell Ptomaine!")
Sharks on a Ship ("Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the on-deck pool.")
Tramps on a Steamer ("You'd like to get them on a slow boat to China.")
Toes in the Water
Hell in a Handbasket
Crabs on a Cruise (we can step that one up)
Killer Crabs on a Once in a Lifetime Cruise
Termites on a Trawler
Jellyfish on a Jumbo Jet
Pigs in a Poke
Soap on a Rope ("Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the shower.")
People on a Planet

C 2007 Martin Heavisides