Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Reign over me

We went to see the movie Reign Over Me on Saturday, mostly as an exercise to see if we could find a theater and get used to the idea of driving and parking, as opposed to taking a train and fighting the crowds. Anyway, the film was one of those “Adam Sandler, but serious” things, and he did an okay job, except that him either yelling or crying reminds you too much of Happy Gilmore, and his mumbly, disconnected role reminds you too much of Bob Dylan. The rest of the cast was good (except Jada Pinkett Smith; for some reason I would like to see her head on a stick) and Don Cheadle was excellent. The film had some inprobability, but it wasn’t bad.

The thing that was weird is this was the first film that intimately featured New York as its setting that I’ve seen since I’ve left, and that was weird. It was by no means the dose of Bloomington I get from Breaking Away or even the Seattle reverie of Singles (great setting, horrible movie, but you can see my old apartment in it.) But the film was really a mini-test of “do I miss New York at all?” and I guess it was a bullshit test, because even though this movie dealt with death and despair, it was a pretty glossy version of the city. His apartment, depicted as this total shithole, was probably twice as big as my old one and would have cost at least $3500 a month to rent. When you want to go eat Chinese, you don’t go to eat in my old neighborhood on Grand Street, as depicted, unless you’re a pathologist looking to sample some new unheard-of strain of a bird flu for a study. It was very much the Friends syndrome, and I guess that didn’t have me pining for my previous digs.

It was still weird, though, watching the film not as much for the story, but to see if any places I used to go or eat or shop would flash by in the background. Aside from the Chinese place, I think the dentist’s office was close to my old shrink’s office. And oddly enough, the Liv Tyler character vaguely reminded me of a psychiatrist I had once. Other than that, it was a bizarro New York, the Law and Order of the city that’s selectively gritty, and otherwise could be shot in Newark or Vancouver.

I switched email clients, which is sort of a big deal. I’ve been using the emacs editor to read my mail since 1991, for a year with rmail, and the rest of the time with VM. It’s a complicated way to do things, and nobody ever understood what the fuck I was talking about, except every once in a while, I would find one person per company I worked at that also used it or at least knew what it was. It was powerful in that I could read my mail with the same interface at home or anywhere remotely, as long as I could connect to my machine with ssh. All of my mail was in flat mbox format, as opposed to some proprietary bullshit formula. If I wanted to search, a simple grep could do it. And all of the keystrokes I used to move around a file were the same in email.

VM had huge problems as time went on. Attachments were a bitch. There was nothing to control, mark, or train for spam. (My ISP does server-side spamassassin, but that doesn’t work great.) I used bbdb for years, but that became yet another address book to mismanage in my life. And I found I could almost never get an ssh connection from a toyified internet kiosk while on vacation, and ended up reading new mail on my ISP’s webmail page (and not reading anything at home).

Last week I finally gave up, and started using OS X’s Mail.app. I thought at first this would be a horrible toy, like Outlook Express, but I’m actually liking it a lot. Like most Mac stuff, it Just Works, and doesn’t involve a lot of screwing around. Attachments work. Links work. Integration with the Mac address book – perfect. Spam control – I’m still training the filter, but the controls are nice and easy to use. It imported all of my old mail, no problems. If and when I need to bug out and export everything to flat mbox format, there’s a Save As that works. So it’s been good sofar. But still, after using a program for 16 years, it’s hard to not feel nostalgic or whatever.

Last week I also took a field trip to Wings Over the Rockies museum. It’s built on the last little bit of Lowry AFB, which is mostly condos and strip malls since the base got cut in the late 90s. (John Sheppard went to art school there 20 years ago, when he was “a PFC in Uncle Sugar’s Campin’ and Shootin’ Club.”) Anyway, many photos are here. They don’t have a ton of planes, but they had three I was really interested in: an old B-52, a B-1A, and an F-111. There were also lots of static Hydrogen bombs and Eisenhower memorabilia for the whole family. My favorite part was seeing that huge B-52 out front; from one direction, you saw these 1930’s hangers with a monster bomber in front, and from the other direction, you saw the 1950s strategic nuclear bomber with a backdrop of brand new loft apartment style condo townhouses next to a strip mall with an Albertson’s and QDoba, everything shotcreted and painted pink and yellow to look like fake southwest adobe.

I enrolled in a cooking school yesterday, but a few hours later, I got an email saying they were full, and the waitlist was full. I am not sure why I want to go to cooking school. Part of it is reading too much Anthony Bourdain; part of it is wanting to go back to school and meet new people, but not wanting to try and get an MFA and have my writing ripped to shreds by housewifes. And part of it is I like to eat.

Nothing else. I’m working on a short story for AITPL #12. I need to get my story done before I can really gear up the zine, otherwise I will be too busy beating people up to send in writing, and won’t be motivated to write. So, there. I have two short stories owed out, then I can start working on the book again. You would think not working would make me have tons of time, but it seems like now I am way more conscious of every minute I spend during the day, and it feels like I never get anything done. I think that’s the cue for me to stop working on this and start writing writing.