Friday, June 06, 2008

On The Web: Ellison Unbound

The AV Club serves up the first half of an interview with Harlan Ellison, coinciding with the release of the documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth. (UPDATE: Part two is now available.)

For better or for worse, Harlan was a big influence on me when I was growing up. I remember catching him on TV and thinking, “Wait a minute – adults can act like that?” He was cantankerous, but funny about it. I started reading him, primarily his essays, when I was in high school, and promptly became unbearable.

As an adult, I don’t match Ellison’s vitriol. Partly because I don’t have the stamina, and partly because when the Catholics get their hooks in you early, your anger is sublimated into incipient alcoholism and bizarre sexual fetishes. And the truth is Ellison’s antics and his tone often seem childish and self-aggrandizing to me now.

And yet ... I, too, “get very annoyed at the potential that is in everybody, and how little people will settle for.” I’ve got a head full of quotes thanks to Ellison; the Pasteur one he cites is a personal mantra. Here’s another favorite Ellison taught me, from the poet G√ľnter Eich: “Be uncomfortable; be sand, not oil, in the machinery of the world.”

Ultimately, Harlan is on the side of the angels. I’ll always remember one of his appearances on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect. Ellison, talking about Nixon’s funeral, used the word catafalque. Maher gave him a hard time about it and Ellison gave it right back, essentially saying, “I know what it means and I’m the asshole?” In a world where college students think it’s elitist to expect people to know information they can look up on the web, we could all stand to let our inner Ellisons out.

Miscellaneous: Filmmaking Links

Screenwriter Larry Gross is publishing his diaries from the production of 48HRS. at Movie City News. They’re already up to part three. Start reading here.

Karaoke with Tori Spelling, crying when the monorail doesn’t come through. All part of making an independent movie in Seattle.