Saturday, December 30, 2006

[[[Apologias are inevitable, and the hall of mirrors they create endless! The more you say, the more you saysaysaysaysaysaysaysay. Rather like a habit one could always break--and yet]]]

[[This is one of those times when I feel that bloggin' makes me one of millions of rubber ducks all rising up and down on the edges of the same waves, eyes forward blankly open in unison, bobbing gently in the water, sometimes a little out of line, all fundamentally the same direction...little quacking sounds making a cacaphony.]]

[Not to mention that it's so tired to indulge in softie, sentimental, slightly revionist, de mortuis media talk.]

But I haven't been able to shake the sense that I underestimated Gerald Ford a bit, especially when you compare the man's rhetoric to Bush's. He seems more genuinely religious, but more humble, more honest, more straightforward. He just seemed boring to me as a kid, I think. I think. I remember a lot of excitment about Carter (in my house? in general?). We went to his inaugural parade--I had the sense of it being really important, a new beginning of some kind.

I don't know that (I have ever thought) Jimmy Carter's presidency was a failure. I can see that his win was probably inevitable, that Ford's defeat was too, but it is interesting to note how hard-working straightforward people can't/aren't rewarded at the tempo of public opinion. I think Ford pardoned Nixon too fast--tactically--but maybe that was the point? Maybe doing it any other time or way would have synched up for further, worse reverberations, but this way he absorbed the effects at his own costs? I don't know that he "healed the nation"--that presumes weren't not in a state of dissention and dislike and fairly well house divided right now--but maybe he did something that had to be done regardless.

I will say this: his wife rocks. I certainly didn't know much about her then, but it's a very short hop from him to her, to admiring him for having and loving and supporting an outspoken, interesting, smart, strong wife (who studied with Martha Graham!). I also admire him for being accessible to the media.

[Everything here has been said, in every case, earlier, nothing's new. I'm just catching up with some of the rethinking of the last ten years, itself already in its 700billionth layer of back and forth.]

[[But it is a relief to just...not hate him. Know he tried. This is really a personal rejiggering of thinking more than anything. That should have happened already but was triggered, obviously enough, by the obituarial deluge! I am very proud that he was a Midwesterner. What about that.]]

[[[Maybe PDJames was right, that modern politics are dangerous as they replace religion. Can never get out of our leaders what we want.]]]

quack quack

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Well, that was about the sappiest lil blog entry ever (the previous), in lots of ways, but do 'scuse. Emotion of the late-night, insomniacal moment. There's more here, plus please note that really--although I adore that version of "If I Ruled the World"--the best song would probably have been "I Don't Mind," the version off Live at the Apollo:
... But I know, I know
You're gonna miss me

I don't mind
This is my song
I don't mind
Goodbye, so long

I know, I know
You're gonna miss me...
- - - - -

Boxing Day film choice? Life of Brian, of course. Hadn't seen it in a long time. Had the expected probs (sometimes dragged on, quite uneven) but oh does it ever seem relevant. Rele-fucking-vant! In these days of global fundamentalism...oh my gosh am I boring. And the documentary that comeswith (Criterion!) is interesting for how beautiful and young they all look. Especially Palin and especially Graham Chapman, who (paradoxically) did really have a slight spark of divinity about him, if you ask me. He was a very beautiful man.

BRIAN:
I'm not the Messiah!
ARTHUR:
I say You are, Lord, and I should know. I've followed a few.
FOLLOWERS:
Hail Messiah!
BRIAN:
I'm not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand?! Honestly!
GIRL:
Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
BRIAN:
What?! Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
FOLLOWERS:
He is! He is the Messiah!
BRIAN:
Now fuck off!

Monday, December 25, 2006

R.I.P.

Sex Machine: Recorded Live at Home in Augusta, Georgia, With His Bad Self (1970)

If I ruled the world
Every day would be the first day of spring
Every heart would have a new song to sing
And we'd sing of the joy every morning would bring

If I ruled the world
Every man would be as free as a bird
Every voice would be a voice to be heard
Take my word, we would treasure each day that occurred

My world would be a beautiful place
Where we would weave such wonderful dreams
My world would wear a smile on its face
Like the man in the moon when the moon beams

If I ruled the world
Every man would say the world was his friend
There'd be happiness that no man could end
No my friend, not if I ruled the world

Every head would be held up high
There'd be sunshine in everyone's sky
If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world

Thursday, December 21, 2006

You want six dollars for what?

A writer at our paper I really like posited an interesting, and I think, very significant question in her blog the other day: what would Obama's campaign song be? There is something about that question that is larger than itself, that kind of wraps up all the political issues at bear (generational age, class, coalition-building, race, term agenda) in this potential campaign into one package. (My very cynical, political strategist suggestion was Staples Singers. I can see that working. Wouldn't like that, though. Because I *like* the Staples Singers. And I like Obama! I just don't want it to get overkilledededed.)

I've thought a couple times recently though that the real campaign song right now is "Can't Do Nuttin For Ya Man" -- Bush's song I mean. It squeals through my head when I see him on TV backpedallin and floundering.

. . . It was you that chose your due
You built a maze you cant get through
I tried to help you all I can
Now I cant do nuttin for you man

I cant do nuttin for ya man
You got all these people on your back now
I cant do nuttin for ya man
Flavor flav got problems of his own
I cant do nuttin for you man

Go lean on Shell's answer man
I cant do nuttin for ya man
You jumped out of the jelly into a jam

Make ya love the wrong instead of right . . .
For some reason, TCM chose today for a wham-blam of serious, intense, ne plus ultra romance films, which made for very interesting viewing during a hazy early-morning, err...recouperation from, errr...annual social events that may or may not be connected to the Christmas 'oliday and / or certain cliches about the ability of newspaper personages to embrace the pursuit of pleasure with greater avidity stemming from perhaps the greater vocational challenges, um....we had a departmental Christmas party. I don't drink often. Anyhow -

TCM is showing these in this order today: The Kissing Bandit, Love Affair (1939 version), Brief Encounter, The Clock, The Enchanted Cottage, Penny Serenade, The Last Time I Saw Paris and The Way We Were. ! I wish I had time today today to do the whole cycle (I love heroic thematic movie-watching, although I might be so awash in seductive Western romantic ideals from this lot that I'd never recover), but I did see part of Brief Encounter, one of me all-time favs, which was on when I woke up. That was strange. It's The Clock, though, that I watched most of, that I'm really in love with these days. That is one astonishing heart-rending movie. Really coming to love it, especially for the things around the romance: the complete snapshot of how war-based urgency was affecting things then, all the details of everyday life, its meandering quality, Judy's naked performance, crowded New York, the look in Robert Walker's eyes... Combined with the TCM year-end film about those who died in 2006 (they have an amazing graphics department) it was all very weepy. But satisfying.

- I was listening to somebody snark in the usual way about Penn Jillette naming his new kid Zoltan (other child is named CrimeFighter)--saying that he's going to have a hard time on the playground, other kids will make fun of him. And I thought--I'm not so sure that's true anymore. That argument doesn't seem so convincing. Some huge sea change there. Linguistic dams/dykes broken.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

minutiae round-up

The title of that last blog entry? Sounded like a Christian kids book. Or a bad e.e. cummings ripoff. Not intentional.

* Finally caught up with my newsletter of the Dorothy Sayers society (conference comin' quickly!). The newsletter is sooooooo Barbara Pym. I don't mean that in a casual way--British, sort of academic--I mean, in all its very small particulars, attitude, focus. The trivial round, the common task, the nerdfully responsible...sort of hard to explain if you're not a Pym fanatic, but trust me, it's all so deliciously there. Very No Fond Return of Love, certainly, topically. Adorable.

* Speaking o' which, I see that Excellent Women is being Penguin Classics-ed, which is a first for her--her books have hiccuped through strange reprints over the years: pre- & post-wildness, pre- & post-her death. Interesting that EW is always the central Pym, the one that (as people say) they recommend to people first. Anyhow, I guess she's officially part of the canon now? Odd. Interesting. I think she'd find it so too. This is a major step. (!)

GAWD, is there a lot of academia surrounding Pym. I love her dearly, but can any author support it? That's a dumb question--look at how lit crit works, count the number of disserations about ____ (anything)--but still. I dunno...

* In other literary news, the collected hard-to-find works of MKF Fisher, A Stew or a Story, was just published (by Avalon in Oct). The book was anthologized and edited by (dare I call friend) Joan Reardon, who wrote the Fisher bio that I ended up doing a little research work for (I got to know Joan when I interviewed her for an article before the book came out). There's no way that doesn't sound like bragging, I suppose, but I'm quite proud to have been involved with that book--it was an example of a decades'-long personal obsession flowering into an actual connection, involvement. Those things still amaze me. Plus it was incredibly fun.

I was looking at the table of contents--I've read at least a few of the pieces, xeroxes I got from Joan and from a Fisher acquaintance whom I know was instrumental in collecting all these Fisher pieces that got flung to the publishing winds as she tried to support her family. One of them, strangely, which was held for publication because of anti-Japanese sentiment during/after the war, made its debut in my alma mater's miscellany (have always wanted to know why). I'm really glad they went with that Fisher caricature on the cover--a little tired of the classic Pym glamour shot. Think this might serve her a little better.

This book arrives at a time when I have to say that I am more than full--surfeited, glutted, gorged, stuffed, bursting, over-laden--with food writing. To the point where I'm not even reading it much right now (all these new books!!). The only thing I've really wanted to read was Fisher or Pepin's Apprentice, which is definitely making a place on my serious Re-Read List.

* Insomnia/overwork has created a lot of strange late-night viewing, including:

- Doing Time on Maple Drive (or Ordinary People-Lite). Lori Laughlin: good actress! What the hell. I'd seen it before, but it was kind of interesting to rewatch--NOT, exactly, as ye might think at an easy guess, for how our attitude towards gayness has changed, but just because...all of a sudden it seems like everything has changed. Is that quite what the uptight upper-middle class (forlackofabetterterm) family is working to uphold these days? All of a sudden it just seems like things are different.

I do miss funny ol Bibi Besch. I've recently been noting how tiringly typecast actors are these days, but boy was she good at being the suburban wife. Brought a lot of oomph to it.

- The Mystery of Love on PBS. This program was completely fascinating. The interstitial graphics were distractingly awful! But the program--I think my mouth was hanging open the whole time. Really interesting, thought-provoking. Want to see again.

- Too many other things to remember or mention, but I did finally watch Old Acquaintance and sweet jebus! It's very boring to call things gay all the time (everything is) but BLEAGHOILKJI! It's really gay. It's mostly Miriam Hopkins' fault, for being such a melodramatic spazz, and turning it into farce (not to mention making Bette look completely sane), but it's just so...hammy. Campy. And I just can't get all excited about the ending--if I liked Millie at all, I could have, but even having marginal sympathy for that character it was just a limp conclusion--damn, Kate should have gotten Preston back! I'm a sucker. This was another movie (like my recent Ross Hunter obsession) that made me think--duh. We think of camp, of queer, as a quality that is visible in movies only in retrospect, now that it's safe to see the imprint because enough time has passed--but--no way. Somebody knew what they were doing here. Elizabeth Taylor was right when she said that Hollywood couldn't have been built without the gays, and not just the hopelessly closeted folks.

* I have a headache and a half reading about 1) the current Dream Girls movie and how whatshername is "big" compared to Beyonce and 2) the plot of the story, the original inspiration for it, and how whatshername was "big" compared to Diana Ross. Nobody...repeat...NoBODY in this scenario was ever big, or ever even pudgy. Judy Garland? Never pudgy. The differences in body size that drive all this shit are--VERY VERY SMALL. Our definitions and ways of looking at this stuff gotta change tout, but fucking suite. I'm so sick of it. This is related to the fact that EVERY fat girl I know has looked at pix of herself when they were young and said, "Wow--I was never as fat as I thought--I was never that big." Those differences that are seen as so huge when we're young/unformed...they're not. Of all the little platforms to built eating disorders and lifelong obsessions on...this ain't it. Really makes me mad. Leave people alone. Let them grow up.

* The main reason KH should never have married Tom Cruise? She looks terrible, just terrible in those ginormous Bono/Jackie-O/celebrity-hiding sunglasses. Just awful. Like a stick insect topped with big googly eyes. Her face is too small, too midwestern, too flat, to carry them off. Terrible. At their worst, they make her look like a little girl playing dress-up, infantilize her. All contributes to the creepitude.

* Since you asked: actually, somebody did ask what my my favorite Christmas "songs" were the other day and I realized anew that I don't believe in them as such. I mean, I guess I like some of them pretty well (secular Christmas songs), but that's not Christmas music to me. When did Christmas music move from something we sang to something we listen to? I am officially an old stuffy fuddyduddy, but I know the difference with this and I'm stickin to it.

* Uncool thought #398,201: I am starting to wish I had a few....housedresses. Schmatte. Muu muus. Those things. Long coaty-dresses you can throw on for puttering around the house--the absolute opposite of contemporary yummymummy wear. Not even zippers, just - thrown em on. The kind of garments perhaps that others fought for us never having to wear again...esp fat girls! But for puttering around the house?--they seem incredibly handy. Esp. for someone like me who (excuse) hates to wear clothes sometimes, I think they'd be darn handy for housekeeping, puttering around--for taking out the trash, not necessarily being seen naked by your neighbors when you are tottering around the appartmente and alternately caring and not caring about that. Nobody ever seems to wear them anymore (my mom certainly never did) except people in SNL sketches wanting to make fun of Italian grandmothers, but I dunno, I think I might indulge. Hmmm. Hmmm! It's very hard to even think about this without worrying that I just put a cautious toe on a fast slippery slope to major middle-age, but I'm not sure I care.

* Using YouTube like my jukebox these days, esp for all the songs I can't iTunes! Like the "Human Nature" remix of "Right Here" by SWV, the radio remix with sung chorus of "Ladies First" by Queen Latifah/Monie Love, "Keep Ya Head Up" by 2Pac, that jenniferlopez-Big Pun/Fat Joe song I can't quite bear to buy... Fun.

* Showing on our local PBS this week? Documentary about the Christmas windows of Marshall Field's, complete with sound-bite in the preview: "Chicago is Marshall Field's--Marshall Field's is Chicago." What the )*$*#(&%)(@*&.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

i wonder how many fingers god has

I was thinking
today
as I zoomed around
behind my life
that
God--to coin a cliche--1) must have a sense of humor 2) must have anticipated the need for representational art--understood that humans would need to try to draw the world around them.

I thought this because I was looking at an illustration that had a four-fingered hand on it, and I was thinking about Homer with his four fingers, and Peter Griffin with his four fingers, and then I thought about that art-class cliche that you can tell how good an artist someone is by how they draw hands, then I thought about Da Vinci's sketchbooks full of hands.

And I thought about how hard it really is to draw hands (there's a reason Homer has four fingers). It's not how you expect the extremities of the human body to end when you are trying to represent them, trying to follow the energy of the shape (of the human form). You almost have to shift gears. Crank back. Cram all that long, stretched-out energy from the human limbs with a screeching halt into these too-small, mutable, individually yet collectively expressive bundles of digits that are like whole exponentially complicated bodies unto themselves, that deserve a separate drawing for each. Subjugate them.

We know when we're in the human body how neccessary our fingers are, how they work, how the strength of our bigger limbs works with them. Viewed from our head they feel more like appropriate ending punctuation for our limbs rather than strange, disproportionate fringes, but when you're on the outside looking in, you think...hands. HANDS. How can I ever draw hands? Why do I have to slow down and draw these? On a good day, a hand can be an easily-rendered, simple, sensible shape, but most of the time: rather than finishing the flourish of a limb with an organic gesture, you have to tie it off in an incredibly complicated knot.

I thought today that God anticipated all that, probably found it funny, probably knew all the ways we'd try to get around drawing hands. Also that he knew how important hands are and that deep down we can't get around it.
"I've outlived all of my diet doctors. My first diet doctor was Dr. Atkins. And then I went through Dr. Stillman, the water diet. I think he drowned on his own diet. And I had Dr. Tarnower, and his girlfriend shot him. So I gave up dieting.."
(Merv Griffin in Esquire)

Monday, December 11, 2006

trashy mish-mash

1. Another media crush: Sean Astin. His voiceovers on "Meerkat Manor" make him very appealing! Why on earth is that?

2. If you haven't, you must try these cookies, Bahlsen Truffets. They have a little cocoa meringue as a base, cream on top, covered in choccy, with little sprinkles. They are just...devastating! And go very fast. Fantastische texture.

3. I know why I was meandering on for pages about Grey Gardens and "The Girls Next Door" the other day. I got close but didn't say it, which is: they ARE the same show. I was watching one of Hef's girlfriends totter bizarrely around the mansion grounds on her way to a dog birthday party and thought...oh yeah. Right. Same thing.

4. Out of a strong need for sweet yellowy vanilla cake, I made Rombauer's One-Egg Cake out of the Toy tonight. Not bad! Not bad 'tall. My life as a lactose-intolerant has gotten much easier with the arrival of rice milk in those little juice-box sizes. Can indulge in the occasional spot of baking without a lot of don't-have-milkangst (milk often an ingredient).

5. Those of us obsessed with Torvill & Dean were thrilled to notice a competition-filmed version of the Bach "Sarabande" they choreographed for Yo-Yo Ma on YouTube recently. Exciting because the arty-farty camerawork in the yoyoCD version makes it hard to even see what's going on. Really annoying though: the idiotic commentary over the heart-rending music! Sigh. I am working my way up to an enormous essay about my love of Torvill & Dean. It is going to be very complicated to explain.

6. Speaking of enormous ongoing internal essays, Doris Day obsession continues unabated and highlights YET another reason to move to the UK: they reallllly like Doris there. Many more movies on (pal) DVD that I've been looking for here recently and not finding...

7. I forgot that Clipse (reviewed in this week's R) is the group who did "Grindin'," which I always really liked in its funky spareness. New disc sounds good!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Great site.

This is a fantastic site. Over 4,500 title screens for movies, many of them old. For those of us obsessed with 1) titling 2) credit sequences 3) calligraphy 4) fonts 5) movies in general 6) graphic design 7) lettering 8) B&W films, it is a little piece of heaven on earth. Try scrolling down the page of new additions--it's rich creamy delicious death. Can hardly stand it. That title for His Girl Friday is one of my favorites...used it as inspiration for a design I did last year.

I think often that when I finally make a movie it will be for the sheer pleasure of putting letters on screen.

What the Queue Hath Wrought

Brought to the top of the Netflix queue this week: Old Acquaintance with Bette (hah! just typed Better) Davis and Miriam Hopkins. About time I saw this...can't wait. And Gig Young with a mustache! Etrange. As ever, I am hoping that all that Bette will rub off and do some crazy bitch-slapping and fierce enunciation in my humdrum ex.

Last week it was Walk the Line. There is definitely something to be said for watching a movie--any movie--once the cycle of hype has gone all the way around. Easier to like/not like. Maybe you miss some of the fever pitches, but I find those often misleading. Anyhow, I liked this one a little better than I thought I would, given that I had sort of lost my enthusiasm for it. It hit events and moments super-hard, of course (I was a sucker for the scene with Sam Phillips), but it also had a certain larger-scale narrative lightness of touch that I liked. Some movies are so afraid you won't understand a situation is important that they have to build too much structure around it...this just kept hitting spots and not bothering to give endless context, which was good. Can still convey the importance and/or assume people will get there.

Johnny Cash may be one of the most distinctive looking/sounding people on the planet, though--I'm not sure I felt like I was watching him, to use that old test. JP was sort of a Cash manque...parallel universe Cash. He sure has an intense gaze, though. Cash's voice immediately makes me think of my childhood, because that's when I heard it the most, singing "Casey Jones" on my friend's record player.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

1) Astrology often: spot on. SPOT FUCKING ON.

2) Why, oh why, WHY are the upcoming new Doris Day releases all from the, shall we say, less than stellar late-Melcher era? I swear I didn't even know she had made a movie called Do Not Disturb, and I thought I knew Everything. Why can't they release the Warner Bros. musicals? Must be some nakedly commercial reason why not. Some backstory everybody but me knows about Jack Warner or something... Move Over, Darling wasn't going to bring anybody's career back.

3) Not the right place for this but: Today is the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a significant anniversary, as it will be the last survivors' reunion. It is a significant date in my world: the famous photo on the right is the USS West Virginia, which my grandfather was just leaving (his shift ended at 8:00) when Pearl Harbor was bombed at 7:55 a.m. My grandmother and one year-old father were living in Pearl Harbor too. They all survived, but I've certainly felt the weight of this date all my life, today not excluded.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gothick fun.

When I was a teenager one energy node of my literary obsessions was focused on historical novels and history, in particular the books of Anya Seton. They turn out, in retrospect, to have been fairly nutritious reading, given that I was scarfing them up primarily for the sex scenes. They were always incredibly well-researched, told good stories, were packed with history and atmosphere... I've not read one recently enough to be immediately remember what their weaknesses were, other than perhaps those common in the romance genre, but her books always made me interested in the eras and subjects at hand. And sexy historical nookie!

The book that I loved in particular was Dragonwyck, in an inherited tattered old edition, which I gobbled like it was crack the first time I read it. There is no way I'd know anything about feudal tenantry in New York State, patroons, or the anti-rent war without it, nor really that that kind of feudalism existed (outside of slavery) in America without this book. I've been thinking about it recently because it turns out there was a 1946 movie adaptation with Vincent Price and Gene Tierney that shows up on late night cable sometimes, as it did the other night. Price is good, really quite good as the dommy patroon Nicholas Van Ryn and Tierney's pretty well-cast too as the farmer's daughter who comes to live at Dragonwyck and gets caught up in the gothicktude. It's missing some of the sharp ups and downs of the book, since both Price and Tierney can be so dreamy-(weird/dreamy-evil/whatever), but it's good, and we get to wallow Price's undeniable sex appeal and menace. After all, what's a big B&W blowout historical film good for if not some serious shadows thrown on the walls for scary effect?

The story, though, especially the book, really is the most RIPPING YARN. It's such a good story that it has that kind of universal / abstract / parable-like / allegorical feel to it. You want her to sin, you want the unsympathetic compensatory-eating wife of no import (BUT IS SHE?) to be out of the picture so that Miranda, with all her imperatives of youth and beauty can have the patroon. Why shouldn't they be happy at other's expense? Then Van Ryn changes, our perception of him changes, the story blows up (yeah, gothickly) to be about why anybody should own anything (such as land) at other's expense and zow ping! War. The book gives a really good picture of the fierceness of certain kinds of Christian living at that time (1840s) through Miranda's father's reactions to all the luxury, which seem exasperating but prescient, yet not all easy-foreshadowing English 101 either. Even the man Miranda ends up with the end feels genuinely unlikely at first, in some ways.

Maybe the book doesn't hold up--I dunno (must rerererereread)--but I remember it as a really a good story, and I really admire good stories like that. And in that your-teacher-told-you kinda obvious way more of the history has stuck than I realized. (Turns out Anya Seton's (English) father helped found the Boy Scouts. Interestin.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Do I have to like the new, expressionless, iron skillet-faced Anthony Michael Hall? Who seems so determined to not be sixteencandles that he's verging into hyper-macho David Caruso deepvoiced non-acting, so very unconvincing and unattractive? Cause I don't.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Two major media crushes: Warren Brown and Ben Mankiewicz. Cakes and movies. Movies and cakes!