oh. my. gosh. caroline: day seven

well, here we are again. it's day seven. join me as i limp to the finish line.

the great and powerful caroline had mercy upon me to start the day. up first was chris metzler and jeff springer's interesting and endearing documentary, plagues and pleasures on the salton sea (2004).

i've always been sort of fascinated with the salton sea. in 1905, what was then the salton basin, after a number of poorly thought-out engineering decisions, basically became the new terminal point for the colorado river after a season of particularly heavy rainfall and snowmelt. at 227 feet below sea level - one of the lowest points on earth - once the water was in the basin it had nowhere to go. as a result, where a number of towns once stood there was now an enormous inland sea standing on top of what was, essentially, a salt mine. in the early part of the twentieth century, developers attempted to turn the salton sea into a resort destination, "the california riviera", based upon its climate, fishing and water recreation. that worked for a while until significant floods in the fifties and sixties did such damage that most people abandoned the area. the environmental degradation has continued unabated to this day. since agricultural irrigation runoff is the only source of water aside from rain, the saline levels have increased to a level that is saltier than seawater and the resulting environment is incredibly toxic. millions of fish die off at a time and the botulism epidemics that follow amongst the avian population are always a danger. the area resembles a salt encrusted, post-apocalyptic wasteland, routinely covered in dead fish and fowl, populated with only a few stubborn stragglers, eccentrics and people who can't really afford to live anywhere else. this documentary tells their story. a peculiar and catastrophic corner of american history, fortunes rising and falling, an isolated last outpost where misfits raise their fists against fate - i was already in, hook, line and sinker and then i discovered john waters was the narrator. they couldn't have made a better choice. his voice conveys just the right tone of amazement that anyone continues to try what is generously called "living" on the salton sea without ever being condescending or pitying. his genuine love of the type of lunatics you find here is hard-won and absolutely sincere. in 73 short minutes he takes you on a guided tour of this puzzle of a place and introduces you to a number of the natives. it really is an odd and compelling story. the place is simultaneously an environmental disaster area and one of the most important wetlands in the united states. it's a place where some come to be free and some come knowing full well they are coming there to die. its unholy waters both spawn and kill outrageous numbers of fish with unnatural speed and regularity. it is truly like no other place on earth. i recommend seeing this and taking a look around the place while you still can before everything is covered in salt and rots away. it's a fascinating story, well told.

we stick with the documentaries for a story that is near and dear to my heart (and a lot of yours), alex beckstead's paperback dreams (2008).

this isn't actually from the film. this is a picture of our store, which i love. i work with great people that i love doing a job i was born to do. i am fortunate beyond words. i put the picture here because, in a way, the movie is about us and how important it is to support your local bookseller. it tells the story of two landmark independent bookstores, cody's and kepler's, and their radically divergent fortunes as they enter the age of big box competitors and monolithic online retailers. the story actually picks up at the genesis of the two stores, which happened to coincide with the paperback publishing boom in the sixties. with the introduction of affordable paperbacks, a wealth of information, literature and progressive ideas were suddenly available to everyone. these things were no longer the province of academics or people who could afford the princely sum it previously took to build an enviable library. the paperback put ideas in the hands of the people and cody's and kepler's were in the vanguard of disseminating the stuff, in the thick of the action. they were integral to their community, providing a place for people to meet, think, talk and read. they were hubs of thought and activism. flash forward to present day and they are struggling to keep up with a culture that can get it cheaper online and that no longer seems to have the patience to read. i am biased here, i know, but i loved it. i recommend it if you love books, bookstores, mom and pop places and you like david more than goliath. in fact, here it is. you can watch the whole thing here for free, if you are so inclined.

but, if you've been paying attention you had to know that caroline wouldn't let me go out like that. in keeping with the dispiriting events of the past week i give you ivan reitman's my super ex-girlfriend (2006).

the more i see of luke wilson, the more i am convinced he doesn't know where he is about half the time. this movie takes the crazy ex-girlfriend premise and completely turns it on its head by giving her super powers! hoo boy! i'll bet she is going to wreak super-havoc on his life. he probably has it super-coming to him, though. am i super-right, ladies? it super-sucked. i am so goddamned sick and tired this week of putting on a movie and sitting and watching people just cashing checks for an hour and a half. the only thing notable about this exercise in somnambulism is rainn wilson, and not for a good reason. i may have never seen a more concentrated, distilled and vile version of an archetype that i despise maybe more than any other in cinema - the romantic comedy best friend. he couldn't have been less subtle or appealing if he was a 6'2" CG animation penis with glasses (i think i saw one of those in yesterday's film which shall not be named). i really don't think people like this exist. at least, fortunately, i've never known one. if they do exist, i blame movies like this. it has to be a case of life imitating art. if anyone out there has a best friend like this - constantly talking about sex, constantly pursuing sex, constantly dispensing advice about love, which to them is sex, all probably without ever really having any sex - i'd be grateful if you would introduce me to this person so i can see one in the wild. for me, it would be akin to seeing unicorn or a leprechaun - a shitty, annoying, misogynist, probably impotent leprechaun. oh, and eddie izzard does that funny thing where he rolls his eyes a couple of times.

well, much like boyz II men, we have reached the end of the road. as always, thanks for following along and thanks to caroline for being my guest programmer for a week and for some wicked peaks and valleys. see you next time. i'm off to watch the least romantic and comic thing i can find.

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