it was that in the week before christmas, myself and the madame alison took off for a week burying our heads in the deep interior of New South Wales, on the eastern flakes of the Australie. peaceful as soldier-dead in the shaped-sloped flat landscape, and I took a microphone and recorded some shavings off my brain broken loose on the railway-bones. a small sampling:
blind – oh mrs dog.mp3 (52 seconds, 1.4mb) Recorded with a stick and a wooden letterbox. Oh Mrs Dog
I’m sorry to inform you
your children are drowned
in the septic tank
oh Mrs Dog
it’s never easy to lose children
but in the septic tank
is the worst of all
Nothing will make the grieving process easier
not even a beat
IT IS TIME to hold a competition between Michael Crichton’s 1990 best-seller Jurassic Park and Universal Studio’s Jurassic Park: The Junior Novelisation with colour photos from the film. How do the two novels score against one another? Whose vision of the dinosaur-theme-park-gone-wrong will prove definitive?
Already, having read no further than the titles, the first points are awarded. While Crichton’s front-cover says things like ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Michael Crichton’, the Junior Novelisation author avoids the conceit of putting her name on the cover (I’m sure Gail Herman was given a choice) and replace it with the words ‘with colour photos from the film’. Mr Crichton, let me make one thing clear: COLOUR PHOTOS = GOOD.
The hero of the novels is paleontologist Alan Grant, played in the film by Sam Neill (who’s since been trading on his authority as someone who once played a scientist to provide narration for the Space Experience at the London Planetarium and lend legitimacy to a moronic advertising campaign by the Australian meat industry). Crichton’s introduction takes three pages. We learn what Alan’s wearing, how much his knees ache, what he sees when he looks at the Appalachian hills (imaginary Cretaceous landscape) and all the while there’s an offstage voice yelling “Alan!” getting presumably nearer and nearer, so when he finally stands up and starts interacting, we’re well prepared for the entrance of other characters. Bland, overlong, uninteresting.
The Junior Novelisation cuts right to the goddamn chase, and I’m pleased to say that the chase is well worth cutting to. Let me quote the book’s introductory paragraph in its entirety: ‘The sun beat down on Dr Alan Grant. It was hot, and there were no trees to give him shade. There was just the dust and rocks of the Montana Badlands. But Alan Grant was a palaontologist on an archeological dig. He didn’t care about the heat. He didn’t care how scruffy he looked with his stubbly chin and dusty clothes. He was interested in only one thing – dinosaurs.’ FUCK YES. I for one feel like punching my fist in the air and shouting RIGHT ON BROTHER at the end of that. Winner: Junior Novelisation
2. Introduction of sex object
The inclusion of a female love interest in the story is so hamfisted and second class everyone should be ashamed of themself. Ellie Satler is a paleobotanist who follows Sam Neill around making doe-eyes at him and constant hints about how much she wants babies, whose sole memorable function in the story is mothering a sick Triceratops (every shot of Laura Dern in the film says ‘give me the money and colour me gone’). That said, Crichton is at least upfront about what a creepy old pervert he’s created: ‘Grant was amused to see Morris gaping at the sight of Ellie. She was wearing cut-off jeans and a workshirt tied at her midriff. She was twenty-four and darkly tanned. Her blond hair was pulled back.’ (Sorry: ‘She was twenty-four and darkly tanned’? What kind of a fucking pretense at a sentence is that?)
The Junior Novelisation is a little unsure about how to express the raw sexuality of Ellie in a book ostensibly for Juniors. The writer takes a cryptic approach, preferring to hint at rather than explicitly state Ellie’s sexual role: ‘Ellie, a slim, blond woman, leaned closer to the fossil. She studied the bones, too.’ ‘Studying the bones’ is a horrible euphamism. I hate to do it, but: Winner: Crichton
3. Chaos Theory
I remember being impressed with the complex detail of the maths and science in Crichton’s novel when I was in Year 5. In retrospect, the inclusion of Chaos Theory and the mathematician character (Jeff Goldblum wears a leather jacket, stands behind the main characters in a few shots, does not much else) was a mistake, not just because it was already dated by the time the film came out as because it was such a hamfisted insertion in the first place. Here’s Crichton introducing his wildcard MATHS-BOY:
Ian Malcolm was one of the most famous of the new generation of mathematicians who were openly interested in “how the real world works”. These scholars broke with the cloistered tradition of mathematics in several important ways. For one thing, they used computers constantly, a practise traditional mathematicians frowned on. For another, they worked almost exclusively with non-linear equations, in the emerging field called Chaos Theory. And finally, as if to emphasise their emergence, they dressed and spoke like rock stars.
Ellie said, “Isn’t it a little warm for black?”
“You’re extremely pretty, Dr Sattler,” Ian said. “I could look at your legs all day. But no, as a matter of fact, black is an excellent color for heat.”
The mind-bogglingly idiotic point which Crichton thinks he’s making with his garbled mix of Chaos Theory and misogyny is that Jurassic Park is bound to fail because it’s unpredictable. Apparently, even the simplest of systems (such as an island tourist resort / massive bio/ecological experiment / zoo full of reanimated megafauna sampled from 225 million years of saurian dominance) can exhibit unpredictable behaviour. Using Chaos Theory, Jeff Goldbum proves that unexpected things happen and therefore the Park cannot succeed. It’s interesting that the mathematician character doesn’t apply this superb logic to any other systems, and refuse to get in the helicopter to the island on the grounds that it is guaranteed to fail.
Naturally, this shit is too complex for even the most senior of Juniors, so the Junior Novelisation summarises this tedious crap thusly: Ian Malcolm was a mathematician. Tall and thin, and dressed all in black, he seemed as if he found the whole situation funny. “The park won’t work,” he was saying, “because of Chaos Theory. In the end, everything is unpredictable.” Alan and Ellie didn’t know what he was talking about. So they kept quiet. Notice how the Novelisation makes the point clear without ever saying outright that Crichton is a moron. Winner: Junior Novelisation
4. Tyrannosaurus attack
Equally bad on both counts. Crichton’s account, as per usual, is 8-9 times as long as the Junior Novelisation and for no particular benefit. The only difference I can spot is that Crichton emphasises action moments with italics (The tyrannosaurus was looking him in the eye.), where the Junior Novelisation prefers capslock (SMASH!)
In both cases, no amount of quality writing could patch up the fact that this is an incoherently stupid sequence of events. Apparently we’re supposed to believe that the park is undergoing its first ‘quality test’ by members of the public (including two young children), and the keepers have not at this stage (a) counted the number of beasts in the park or (b) got the computer system which controls the security system online. I know it’s a delightful adventure romp, possibly 65 million years in the making, and I’m totally willing to go along with the fantasy, but I literally cannot suspend my disbelief high enough for this crap. Winner: Draw
5. Velociraptors in the kitchen scene
Let’s have a sample from each and decide. Crichton: The velociraptor stopped. It bent over slowly. He’s found the steak. The raptor raised its slender head, and looked around. It saw the second steak. It moved forward. It bent down. Silence. The raptor didn’t eat it. The head came back up. Why hadn’t the raptor eaten the second steak? A dozen ideas raced through Tim’s mind – it didn’t like the taste of beef, it didn’t like the coldness, it didn’t like the fact that the meat wasn’t alive, it smelled a trap…
Junior Novelisation: Tim made it to the freezer. He ripped the door open and stumbled inside. The floor was icy. So icy, Tim went sliding across the floor. The Raptor was right behind him and skidded, too – right past Tim. There was a moment of confusion in the freezer and Tim saw his chance to escape. He hurried out the door, the Raptor at his heels. Slam! Lex flung the door closed just in time. The Raptor was trapped inside.
Winner: Close, but I have to give it to Crichton here – his raptor-steak sequence really gives us an exciting (and plausible!) glimpse of the inner workings of the velociraptor mind.
6. Last line of the novel
Crichton closes with a dreary, functional dialogue between Grant and a hitherto unseen Costa Rican in a hotel a few weeks after the story’s climax. Dreary, functional prose closes an arbitrary and pointless scene: ”None of us is going anywhere, Dr Grant,” Guitierrez said, smiling. And then he turned, and walk back towards the entrance of the hotel.
Now our second contestant: I know what you’re feeling – instinctively, you’re certain that the Junior Novelisation will close on a high. You’re absolutely correct. A glorious, exhilerating, fist-in-the-air finale: Tim looked out the window, too, then grinned. He understood. In some ways, dinosaurs would always live on. Winner: don’t be thick.
Unless the calendar ticks over to 1993 in the future, neither you nor I will ever bother to re-read or re-watch any incarnation of Jurassic Park ever again. My research shows that THAT’S FINE.
Excitingness. As part of the promotion for the Donut Gringo Avenger Boys‘ recent studio album Harsh and Synchronised, a special once-off live performance took place on two radio stations simultaneously. On New York radio WBRE 106.7, The Fun Who Hates Man (myself) was interviewed on the Musonicon program while hooked up to a lie detector. The results of the detector were transmitted live to The Man Who Hates Fun (senor Mute) who processed the signal in a simultaneous performance broadcast live to ships in the Southern Ocean (Drake Passage and Ross Sea).
The performance, which took place on opposite sides of the planet Earth, was financed by BMI Music and Bride To Be Magazine. For a transcript of the interview and a limited edition CD-R of the performance, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope and a money-order for (AUD) $116.35 to:
The Man Who Hates Fun
71,770 Sinner’s Lane
Naked River VIC
I am dwelling for the next seven weeks in Spanish Harlem, a couple of blocks east of Central Park in New Yorks. Landed in the city 6 minutes before new year, after a pleasant 19 hour surprise delay in Fiji thanks to “major engine trouble”, which is a good thing to figure out in Fiji.
About to start work in a few days at the HERE Arts Center in Soho on the Culturemart Festival. Checked out the space today and reading over the brochure for the Festival – looking very cool. Have a butcher’s at the sight and read the various beserk artist manifestos, if you so desire.