Skip to content

writers

List – Top 5 Desert References

I’m headed to Black Rock City for the weekend.  It sounds like something out of a videogame but for the uninitiated (a group to which I suppose I still belong) it means I’m going to Burning Man.  It also means subsisting in the open Nevada desert for more than a couple days.  In honor of these terrifying conditions, I present to you a list of my Top 5 Desert Pop Culture References that I will take with me to BRC:

5. The English Patient — An epically long and (curiously) epically lauded movie about some dude who gets his face burned off in the desert.  Overall I remember feeling pretty lukewarm about this movie — didn’t love it as much as the critics, didn’t detest it as much as Elaine Benes — but the sheer length of time it took to watch burned lasting images of desert sandstorms and Kristin Scott Thomas into my mind forever.

4. “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)”, The Simpsons — In this classic episode Homer finds himself hallucinating in the desert after eating a lethal pepper at a chili cook-off.  This may have genuinely been my first clue to comprehending the subversive potential of mind-altering substances; personally I’m thinking heatstroke might have the same effect.

3. Star Wars — Who could forget the desert planet of Tatooine, with its Jawas, Sand People and double sunsets?  Given the propensity for kooky costumes at Burning Man, I fully expect every camp to look something like Mos Eisley.

2. Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — Thompson’s classic travelogue of Vegas and the surrounding Nevada desert, ostensibly reported entirely from an altered state of mind.  I think it’s going to be pretty difficult not to channel Thompson’s prose (or Johnny Depp’s narration) during all the madness I expect to see this weekend.

1. Frank Herbert’s Dune — I have to confess that I haven’t actually finished this book.  But from the bits that I read last year I understood quite viscerally what it meant to be on a desert planet where any exposure to the elements could spell immediate death.  People going outside on Arrakis have to wear special suits just to harvest their sweat, for Pete’s sake.  And let’s not get started about the giant sand worms.  Here’s hoping BRC isn’t anything at all like Arrakis, but if it is, I feel a little more prepared for it.

I feel certain I’ve missed some other glaringly obvious ones (Wrath of Khan was #6 if you’re curious, though I don’t even remember if there truly was a desert), but that’s all I’ve got right now.  Did I mention that at night the desert is supposed to turn to Hoth-like temperatures?

See you on the other side

I’m headed to Black Rock City for the weekend.  It sounds like something out of a videogame but for the uninitiated (a group in which I suppose I should still count myself) it means I’m going to Burning Man.  It also means subsisting in the open Nevada desert for more than a couple days.  In honor of these terrifying conditions, I present to you a list of my Top 5 Desert Pop Culture References that I will take with me to BRC:
5. The English Patient – An epically long and (curiously) epically lauded movie involving some dude who gets his face burned off in the desert.  Overall I remember feeling pretty lukewarm about this movie – didn’t love it as much as the critics, didn’t detest it as much as Elaine Bettis – but the sheer length of time it took to watch burned lasting images of desert sandstorms and Kristin Scott Thomas into my mind forever.
4. The Simpsons – In this classic episode Homer finds himself hallucinating in the desert after eating a lethal pepper at a chili cook-off.  This may have genuinely been my first clue to comprehending the subversive potential of mind-altering substances; personally I’m thinking heatstroke might have the same effect.
3. Star Wars – Who could forget the desert planet of Tatooine, with its Jawas, Sandmen and double sunsets?  Given the propensity for kooky costumes at Burning Man, I fully expect every camp to look something like Mos Eisley.
2. Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – H.S.’s classic travelogue of Vegas and the surrounding Nevada desert, ostensibly reported entirely from an altered state of mind.  I think it’s going to be pretty difficult not to channel Thompson’s prose (or Johnny Depp’s narration) during all the madness I expect to see this weekend.
1. Frank Herbert’s Dune – I have to confess that I haven’t actually finished this book.  But from the bits that I did read last year I understood quite viscerally what it meant to be on a desert planet where any exposure to the elements could spell immediate death.  People going outside have to wear special suits just to harvest their sweat, for Pete’s sake.  And let’s not get started about the giant sand worms.  Here’s hoping BRC isn’t anything at all like XXX, but if it is, I feel a little more prepared for it.
I feel certain I’ve missed some other glaringly obvious ones (Wrath of Khan was #6 if you’re curious, though I don’t even remember if there truly was a desert), but that’s all I’ve got right now.  See you on the other side

Killing it: Fashion for Writers

Dear friends (Asian writer friends!) Jenny and Meggy started a blog last year called Fashion for Writers which has quickly become one of my favorite internet treasures, not only for its confessional tidbits, its extensive pictorials and its mind-expanding use of language and anecdotes, but also for the simple fact that these girls have been doing a fairly damn good job updating it on a regular basis – no easy feat in this modern day and age. Each packed post leaves me feeling one iota more knowledgeable about fashion, and several iotas more admiring of the fashionable lady who wrote it.

New Yorker Stories: Childcare by Lorrie Moore

Childcare by Lorrie Moore is hands down the best New Yorker story I’ve read this year.   It’s consistently surprisingly, deft and clever in its dialogue, descriptions and characterizations, and just damn fun to read.  I actually found myself dreading reaching the end, knowing that no matter when it happened it would be too soon.  The story is about a midwestern college student with the unusual moniker of Tassie Keltjin.  She’s interviewing for babysitting (“childcare”) gigs to support herself during her upcoming winter term when her inquiries lead her to one Sarah Brink, a working woman in her 40’s who has decided to adopt.  Sarah makes it clear she will actually be adopting two people: first, the as-yet-unborn child (of a spunky young woman on parole, whom we eventually meet), and second, the caretaker she is looking to hire.  Both will be integral parts of her expanding family.

Moore does a great job fleshing out Tassie’s easy-going midwestern demeanor, and the homely small-townness she finds herself (still) growing up in is truthfully rendered.  Tassie’s own observations of Sarah are subtle and more knowing than she realizes, and there’s a wonderful interplay between the two as we begin to wonder whether Tassie may in fact be observing a future version of herself.

Moore’s Wikipedia entry indicates she has a new novel coming out in the fall, Gate at the Stairs, which this story may or may not be an excerpt from.  Either way, I’m looking forward to reading more of her stuff.  Bravo!