Category Archives: Books

Shortest Possible Review™ Volume #2

Whether you think The Hunger Games (Ross, 2012) is:

A) a rousing critique on the way authoritarian regimes use gladiatorial mass media spectacles to foster public obedience, or….

B) a really depressing and effective example of just such a spectacle in action….

….here is your Shortest Possible Review™:

“The Hunger Tames”

Does Olmos Dream of Electric Sheep?

Get ready to start considering Blade Runner even more jaw-droppingly detailed and perfect than you already think it is. And believe it or not, Edward James Olmos gets all possible credit for this one.

Reportedly among the most diligent workers on director Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner set, Olmos himself came up with the Cityspeak language—a mixture of Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Hungarian, and Japanese—that is spoken primarily by Gaff, the origami-slinging, workaday blade runner who tails the older, crustier blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) throughout the story. Cityspeak intensifies and shades the Gaff character, who does much in little screen time. But Cityspeak also allows for a gorgeously complex moment, one I’ve never seen discussed elsewhere, that ends up forging an extremely sneaky bond between the film and its true father: sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick. Unless you’ve been living on Pluto for the last 20 years, I don’t have to tell you that Philip K. Dick wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the 1968 novel upon which Blade Runner was loosely based.

Early in the film, we are sitting inside the White Dragon Noodle Bar. Gaff approaches Deckard mid-noodle, to inform him that police captain Bryant needs him back on yet another blade-running case, like ASAP. Deckard’s eating but he’s not biting, telling Gaff “You got the wrong guy, pal!” Gaff’s response is sharp and extremely Hungarian: “Lófaszt, nehogy már. Te vagy a Blade … Blade Runner.” The authoritative documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner, included with a recent special edition of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, offers this stunning translation of Gaff’s first sentence:

That’s right. Gaff calls Deckard “horse dick.” And here’s the part where Philip K. Dick nerds start to maybe glimpse the 100%-mind-blowing place I’m going with all this.

See, in 1981, Philip K. Dick published a really great novel called VALIS. The main character in VALIS is a guy named Horselover Fat. Weird name, right? I thought so too. But let’s cautiously march ahead and quote wikipedia: “Even though the book is written in the first-person-autobiographical, for most of the book Dick treats himself and [Horselover] Fat as two separate characters; he describes conversations and arguments with Fat, and harshly if sympathetically criticizes his opinions and writings.” Over the course of the book, it becomes clear that Horselover Fat and Philip K. Dick are two versions of the same guy—or, to put it simply, Horselover Fat is an author surrogate for Philip K. Dick.

It’s right there in his name, in fact. As VALIS eventually spells out, “Horselover” is English for the Greek word philippos, meaning “lover of horses,” while “Fat” is the English translation of “dick,” the German word for “fat.” See how Horselover Fat = Philip Dick?

Was Olmos channeling P. K. Dick’s identity crisis? Did he just happen to be reading the freshly published VALIS? I really doubt both. But during principal photography in 1981, what Hungarian epithet—of all the Hungarian epithets he could’ve chosen—did Edward James Olmos just so happen to sling at Harrison Ford on the set of Blade Runner, a film based on a Philip K. Dick novel?

“Lófaszt!”…”Horse Dick!”

Folks, it’s finally official. Deckard is a replicant. But he’s a replicant of Philip K. Dick. Gaff uses Cityspeak to call him as much.

And we all understand by now that Gaff is a guy who would know, don’t we?

“Why Pancake Dominion?” I guess you’re probably wondering.

Well, it’s because of one of fiction’s great paragraphs, one that appears in Donald Antrim’s The Verificationist—no, it doesn’t just “appear” there, Donald Antrim wrote it, that’s why it appears there. It appears below because it makes me laugh. The dust jacket on the left side of the image, by the way, is the superior cover for this book (though I do like the “head floating away” one), and if you read the book, as you should, you should read a copy that has the dust jacket with the Brueghel painting.

But back to the paragraph: It’s not just because he wrote it or because that paragraph makes me laugh. It’s because that paragraph does something like what I want to do here, at this blog, named after the dominion pancakes enjoy over us. It (the paragraph) alerts the reader to an absurd and compelling truth: the inescapeable human need for pancakes and how pancakes turn on us upon their arrival and become something else, something much, much less. That even so we cling to them, the pancakes; we build them back up while we’re away from them, imaging them perfect and far more satisfying. We learn that they disappoint, but we never really learn.

Now, fascinating things occur to me sometimes, media connections that fleetingly become my world. I hope to put them here, then walk away from them, and see what they become, whether much more or much less than what they momentarily were for me. You’ll see.

Maybe I’ll come up with a more concise and catchy name for all of this at some point. For now, let’s you and I replace this whole confused concept in our minds with a picture of what Pancake Dominion looks like to us. There, I have it—an image is locked in. Syrup drips to the plate from the top disc of the breakfasty metaphor in my head. Syruping, though, the inner reaches of the pancake stack is what I want, now and then on this blog, to do.

I also want it to contain that very silly, very important paragraph:

I was not, at this point, making a very good showing as a flying man. I might have done better if I had not eaten the pancakes. We eat pancakes to escape loneliness, yet within moments we want nothing more than our freedom from ever having so much as thought about pancakes. Nothing can prevent us, after eating pancakes, from feeling the most awful regret. After eating pancakes, our great mission in life becomes the repudiation of the pancakes and everything served along with them, the bacon and the syrup and the sausage and the coffee and jellies and jams. But these things are beneath mention, compared with the pancakes themselves. It is the pancake—Pancakes! Pancakes!—that we never learn to respect. We promise ourselves that we will know better, next time, than to order pancakes in any size or in any amount. Never again will we be tempted by buckwheat or buttermilk or blueberry flapjacks. However, we fail to learn; and the days go by, two or three weeks pass, then a month, and we forget about pancakes and their dominion over us. Eventually, we need them. We crawl back to pancakes again and again.

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