26 June 2008

DVD Special Features: Interview with Director Joachim Trier

Don't ask us how we got our hands on this DVD Special Feature before the DVD even came out... just be glad for our ninja-like skills here at Bottom Shelf Books. So, without further ado, here is an excerpt from an interview with the director of the critically acclaimed Reprise with a surprising shout out to a beloved children's book classic.


Question: Where did you get your idea for this story?

Well, you see, the story is about two young boys who submit their novels for publication. We thought that this would speak to a lot of people because, pretty much everyone we know has a novel that they are working on. So it's not autobiographical in a literal sense, only in the sense that we all have that urge to reveal our creative side to the world, it is what I call a universal biography. As I tell my friends, it is The Unauthorized Biography of a Basic Human Condition.

That didn't sound too pretentious, did it?

And yes, the internet rumors are true.... the idea for this story did first come from the children's book The Monster at the End of this Book (starring lovable furry old Grover). I used to read this book all the time as a kid. I found it absolutely fascinating and it played a large role in shaping my artistic and narrative style.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of reading Monster, the book is about Grover who is terrified about finishing the book because there is a terrible monster waiting at the end of it. Every page he tries to deter the reading, trying to convince him or her not to turn the page, anything to get them to not finish the book.

I reread this in college and it really struck me on a personal level. As someone with his own aspirations as a novelist, I saw Grover as the manifestation of all those internal roadblocks that were preventing completion. He was the sharp toothed monster of self doubt, the nebulous beast named procrastination, the debilitatingly strong giant's grip of writer's block... and any other of the millions of reasons why most of us never finish that book that we're working on.

However, at the end of Monster, we realize that the monster waiting for us was Grover himself. The real monster was the self-doubt and fear that was causing us not to push towards the finish line. Phewf!

I even wrote about this phenomenon for my final paper in English 420: Critical Thinking and the Author. The paper was called, Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself: How the Grover Complex Undermines the Creative Process Before Conception.

I won't tell you what I got on the paper, but let's just say that, pretentious titles aside, there's a reason I'm making movies instead of writing.

So at the time, Grover represented the internal stuggle to realize one's creative potential. But then, as some of my friends began to finish their novels, I realized that I was wrong. There is something to fear at the end of the book. That finishing one's torturous first novel is not the cathartic experience that everyone thinks it will be.

So many people fixate on the journey to completing their first novel that they don't realize that this is only the beginning. Writers don't realize that once they give birth to their first book, there is often something sinister waiting for them at the end... Reprise is a movie about this realization, about the journey after the journey. It is a movie about the real monsters waiting for you at the end of the book.

Because once you finally do finish, you come to the sobering realization that you are not completely self-actualized, that you have not reached the mountaintop, but are standing at the edge of a gaping canyon that will swallow you whole if you are not careful. Failure, Success, Fame, Obsolescence, the Publishing World... indeed, there are many monsters at the end of your first book. And unfortunately, these monsters are neither lovable nor furry.

Did I mention that this movie is a comedy?

22 June 2008

In the News: Pig in Boots

Talk about a kid's book that writes itself:

"An English piglet that was scared of mud has gotten over her fears, after being equipped with some miniature Wellington boots. Cinders, who lives on a farm in North Yorkshire, apparently suffers from mysophobia, a fear of dirt; she refused to join her siblings as they wallowed in the muck. Then owner Andrew Keeble's 12-year-old daughter, Ellie, suggested outfitting the pig with the tiny footwear, which had been adorning some key rings. 'Lo and behold, they fitted her like a glove,' said Ellie's father. Keeble, who runs a sausage company, said that Cinders would be spared the grinder. 'She's more of a pet really, now, and she's going to live a very long and happy life." (-from The Week)

04 June 2008

No! That's Wrong!

Authors/Illustrators: Zhaohua Ji and Cui Xu

No! That's Wrong! is a lot of silly fun with wonderful illustrations... and a brilliant underlying message about the steady democratization of information.

Plot summary: A passing wind lifts a pair of underwear off a clothesline and sends them flying onto the head of a rabbit. The rabbit immediately thinks that this is a hat and goes off to share the fancy new accessory with his friends. The rabbit's friends all agree that it is a fabulous hat, but an invisible chorus keeps calling in from the borders of each page to correct the wayward bunny. (No! That's Wrong!) A vagabond donkey even comes up to correct the rabbit by showing him a men's underwear catalogue. The rabbit tries to conform to conventional wisdom, but in the end decides to rebel against the chorus and wear it as a hat... if he says it's a hat, then by golly, it's a hat! And a fabulous one at that!

The passing wind that serendipitously lifted that pair of underpants? That wasn't just some randomly mischievous breeze... those were the winds of change.

It is clear that Rabbit represents the current information revolution that is drastically altering the way in which we view the world. We live in a world where we no longer need to be confined by the definitions that are handed down to us from on high.

Look around you and you'll see the signs all over the place. The mainstream news media is being undermined by bloggers. CNN runs regular segments about the latest video on YouTube. The encyclopedia is being supplanted by Wikipedia. We no longer collect information, we create it.

All of which are signs that we no longer need to rely on the establishment for our information and that we are looking at the eventual demise of the traditional concept of authority. Case in point: The character of the donkey is an especially targeted attack on the waning reputation and crumbling prestige of Academia.

The donkey (or jackass) appears in thrift store suit like so many disheveled college professors in their ratty corduroy jackets. The donkey attempts to assert his authority on the matter of the underpants, but ultimately it is in vain. Academia, which for so long had the power of authority and an almost monopolistic claim over knowledge is slowly losing it's edge. The ivory tower has lost some of its sheen.

(Question: Is the fact that the donkey pulls out a men's underwear catalogue meant to represent the conservative accusation of the uber-liberalization of the academic elite and its alleged disregard for "traditional" family values?)

By refusing to kowtow to the naysayers of the establishment and tearing down the borders of the page, Rabbit is releasing himself and his compatriots from the arbitrary confines placed upon them by the power elite. As noted linguist Noam Chomsky wrote:

"Unfortunately, the act of 'definition' is the most widely accepted form of oppression in the world today. By assigning arbitrary 'meaning' to arbitrary words, restrictions are being placed on the very way in which we are allowed to think. Limiting our ability to think limits the ability to communicate, which in turn limits the ability to act as a group, which ultimately limits our ability revolt. It is precisely these types of deviously subliminal mechanisms that undergird all modes of oppression. Now, this is not to say that Merriam and Webster are the worst tyrants of our time, but they may just be the most effective." (Language and Mind, p. 137)

However, this form of oppression has been slowly eroding over time. Jumpstarted by the advent of the printing press and continuing through with the rise of the internet, the spread of information has exponentially gained in speed and in breadth. Information is now so readily available that the classic vestiges of authority have lost their stranglehold on knowledge and meaning--the consolidation of information is a relic of the past. The world is no longer exclusively defined top down, now it is being defined bottom up as well. And when bottoms are up, the only sensible thing to do is to wear underpants on your head.

Viva La RevoluciĆ³n!

Surprising Underpants on the Head News Update: Just when you thought Washington couldn't get any more ridiculous... during a Congressional hearing on possible violations of the Geneva Conventions regarding torture, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) hones in on the phrase "panties on someone's head" in an attempt to undermine the Inspector General's argument. Unfortunately, by distorting and making light of the situation, he only succeeds in demeaning himself and his office.

Though he's certainly not the first and he certainly won't be the last.

03 June 2008

BSB Flashback: I.Q. Gets Fit

Note: They obviously got the idea for the Wii Fit from me, but I am still waiting for my royalty checks from Nintendo to arrive in the mail...

9 July 2007

Author/Illustrator: Mary Ann Fraser

I.Q., the class pet, decides to join in on the school's Health Month. Determined to show how fit he can be, I.Q. develops an awesome fitness plan that makes Richard Simmons look like a pudgy hobbit in short shorts. (Oh wait...)

I.Q. is a great spokesperson for fitness and does an admirable job trying to stem the rising tide of childhood obesity. Unfortunately, inspiring though he may be, it is going to take more than a doggedly determined mouse to get today's kids to change their poor nutritional habits and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

If we are truly committed to getting kids in shape, we’re going to have to think outside the box and adjust to the times. In fact, our greatest hope in the battle against childhood obesity comes from the last place you would expect: video games.

Video games are often considered one of the culprits responsible for our decrease in physical activity and deteriorating health. And it’s true, sitting around twiddling your thumbs while staring at a television screen isn't going to do much for your cardiovascular system. However, it is much too late to cut video games out of the equation. So what can we do? Simple. Harness the powerful appeal of the Nintendo and trick kids into being more active. Enter the Nintendo Wii.

The Wii is an innovative new game system that incorporates actual movement into the control system--instead of just pushing buttons, the game actually requires that you get up and move. This interface gets us off the couch, engages more muscles, and gives our poor worn-out thumbs a much-needed rest.

This is not the video game industry’s first attempt to merge with the physical realm. In the mid 90s, Nintendo introduced the Powerpad, but unfortunately it never really caught on… probably because it was really just a poorly conceived rip-off of Twister (without the crossover appeal of being a drunken party game for grown-ups).

Physical video games didn't truly break into the mainstream until the success of Dance Dance Revolution, a maniacally paced game that allowed nerds to turn their video game obsession into crowd-pleasing and sometimes awe-inspiring displays of goofiness. It also took a lot of jumping around, which was great for the cardiovascular system and your quads.

With the recently released Wii being one of the most sought after items on the market, it is only a matter of time before the video game industry is in a full blown arms race for physically challenging game systems… producing video games that are a viable form of exercise. And just like that, the extra pounds will come flying off and obesity will be a thing of the past. Problem solved.

As the technology advances, the games will become more and more lifelike. At which point, thirsty for the most realistic experience possible (and addicted to the endorphin high that comes with actual physical activity), gamers will have no choice but to unplug and go outside in order to experience the ultimate in wireless entertainment.

...unfortunately, it had been much too long since we'd all left our living rooms. Having been neglected for so long, reality has been hijacked! An all-powerful monarch named King Bowser is now ruling the planet with his vast army of Goombas patrolling the land. But there is still hope. Luckily, you've been training for this your whole life... and finally, it is time to kick ass and take names.