Archive for June, 2011

Gleep

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

I don’t watch Glee. In fact, I find Glee unwatchable: From the few minutes I’ve been able to endure, it appears to be a catalogue of unearned emotional grandstanding, both cringe-inducing and dull.

(Sorry.)

The Glee Project, on the other hand . . . I’m watching it. And I have mixed feelings. The kids are fantastic—incredibly talented and hard-working and vulnerable (at least after the third episode, whose theme was vulnerability, about which more in a moment).

The adults, on the other hand? Suck.

In particular, the host is pudding-bland and almost totally affect-free, when I need him to connect with the kids in a supportive way. And Glee creator Ryan Murphy just seems like a snotty princess. He keeps saying, “I can’t write for this person.” Or “This person you are right now? I can write for that.”

I get the concept: They’re choosing someone to make a 7-episode guest appearance, and they need to develop a character around that person. But isn’t it a writer’s job to . . . develop the character? Why does he need the performer to do that for him?

As for the “Vulnerability” episode, here’s what I have to say: Oy. Because it was a very cheap trick, and the very cheap trick worked, and now that I know everyone’s deep secrets I love them all, just like I’m supposed to. I’m glad to have my defenses peeled away, but I hate how it was forced upon us, kids and audience both. That’s so Glee: lacking in the patience and trust to allow things to unfold.

Plus, these are young people. Some of them are still in high school. And they have to go back there when the show’s done filming.

I know this is obvious, but I hate being reminded that the show is a show and cares only about its showyness. I want it to care about the kids and their massive and shining hearts.

French Teen Drama, You Own Me

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

I watched Water Lilies. And it’s really, really good.

Many times I have wished I’d been born in France, because in addition to everything else (epoisse, croissants, pommes frites, literature, film, labor strikes), they don’t think artistic subtlety is an elitist crime against the populace.

In other words, even their teen films are smart.

True, I don’t like neck scarves. I feel I would have found a way around that.

Photo Wall Complete

Monday, June 20th, 2011

You remember the cartoon photo wall.

We left it up for a couple of weeks. And on Saturday, with three hours of characteristic patience and very impressive geometrical calculations on John’s part, we replaced it with the photos.

Here’s the new look:

Photo Wall

Photo Wall

Sorry about the glare.

Here’s another angle:

On Your Way into the Dining Room

On Your Way into the Dining Room

And another:

On Your Way Out

On Your Way Out

Pretty pleasing, no? Even better in person, naturally. And I think it’d be even better on a colored wall. I’m not a fan of mustard, but the room came with mustardy silk curtains, and I can see a rich, orangey mustard working behind these frames. Or a deep saffron. That won’t be happening in this house, but maybe in the next one.

For easy comparison, here are both versions:

Cartoon Wall

Cartoon Wall

Photo Wall

Photo Wall

All in all, a successful design project. Thanks, Johnny!

David Grossman, You Just Blew My Soul to Smithereens

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

I read To the End of the Land.

And . . . in some ways there is no adequate response to this book other than open sobbing. Even that, of course, wouldn’t acknowledge its genius but only its vast, vast pathos.

I think what is most impressive—even beyond the marvelously crafted plot, the gorgeous and pulsing language, and the virtuosic intimacy with human feeling—is Grossman’s capacity to hold pain. HOW, HOW, HOW? I want to cry. HOW CAN YOU HOLD SO MUCH PAIN?

Grossman walks straight into the fire and burns there, really burns, for 600 pages. And when as a reader you are desperate to veer away, he goes even deeper into the pain. And stays. And stays. And stays. I have to admit: There is a long, torturous sequence about 75% through the book (Kindle, sorry) that I had to skim. I was already feeling shredded far beyond comfort, and I needed to protect myself.

I felt I owed it to the heroic bravery of the book, however, to hold as much of it as I could. So I did try.

Years ago, as I was filling out the application to study the Rosen Method, I read a sentence in the descriptive materials which applies to this book: This training is not recommended for people who need to maintain a rigid defense structure. I would add that if you’re a parent, a military family, and/or you live in Israel, it’ll be even tougher.

That said, I may have to write Grossman a letter of personal thanks. His courage to feel is astonishing.

Two Memorable Sports Movies

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

I’m not exactly a sportive lemur, as many of you know. But pretty much any good film uses its content as a vehicle to get at larger themes. So even if I find sports wearyingly boring (except for the Olympics!), I still enjoy a sports movie every now and then.*

To wit:

1) Big Fan. I resisted this one for a while, suspecting it’d be bleak. And it is bleak. But it’s also kind of great, thanks to Patton Oswalt’s unflinching performance and the tight, dark, and very committed writing. This is a movie about somebody who lives for one thing and will die for that one thing, and nobody and nothing can take it away from him.

2) The Damned United. When Peter Morgan and Michael Sheen work together (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), I am defenseless. And, happily, they deliver as always in this rollicking, spirited film. Great for a date! Particularly if your partner is made happy by really good performances and cheeky wit.

I would like to dedicate this paragraph to marveling at Michael Sheen’s massive skill. Also, doesn’t he seem so magnificently alive? We love you, Mikey!

*Exception: anything with Tom Cruise. Je le déteste.

Le Long List des Films

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

For a spell just now I had very little work. That spell has now ended, but while it lasted, I watched a few movies*:

1) Wedding Crashers. Sexist piece of insipid claptrap. BUT the first 15 minutes are a spirited and mostly compassionate send-up of weddings—the formula, the predictability, the joy. I recommend stopping there.

2) Wet Hot American Summer. Janeane Garofolo, Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, and STILL: really, really unfunny.

3) Muriel’s Wedding. I had seen it, naturally. In 1994. When it came out. 17 YEARS AGO. And it holds up! It’s such a great example of a comedy that takes itself seriously enough to be meaningful. I think in Hollywood, with this premise, Muriel’s Wedding would have been farce. So glad to see/remember that it respects its characters. Oh, and I love the unconventional structure. The plot arc is not so much an arc as a series of rolling hills.

4) The Taste of Others. A smart, compelling meditation on the idea of taste, in art and in people. It’s directed and co-written by Agnès Jaoui, who did Look at Me, one of my favorite movies of 2004. I can’t wait to see Let It Rain, her 2008 film. It’s in my instant queue, but since John wants to see it, too, I must wait until our moods and schedules align.

5) Queen to Play/Joueuse. A sweet little film about a Corsican woman’s empowerment via chess, with the help of a French-speaking Kevin Kline. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect given the premise. In a good way.

6) The Prodigal Sons. A surprising, memorable, and disturbing documentary that I’d never have seen if it weren’t for Netflix’s recommendation. (Thanks, Netflixbot.) It’s worth watching, though be forewarned about difficult emotional content. And while TPS purports to be about a transgender woman’s return to her Montana hometown for her 20th high school reunion, it veers away and stays away, mainly, from that.

*I also read some books. More on those in a later post.

Cartoon Wall

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Here’s how I feel about photo walls: I love ‘em.

First, they’re so much fun to see in other people’s homes. Photos are a great entry point for conversation, and I love seeing younger versions of people I know (especially if they involve giant 80′s hair). Second, I love a good photo wall in my own home. It’s warm and snuzzy all over the place. I get all “aw” just thinking about it.

I’ve been working on assembling a photo wall for our dining room for a while now. I’ve run into some obstacles—principally, that we have only a few great photos of family/friends and many, many photos of me and John. This despite having scanned a number of family photos from our mutual homes. So . . . what to do?

I’ve finally come to the conclusion that we can start with a Narcissism Wall and introduce more photos of others over time. And besides, it’s not that we don’t have any photos of others: It’s just that our wedding photographers went a little cuckoo with the bride-and-groom focus.

At any rate,  the photos are now in the frames, and it’s time to get them on the wall. Before we do, I remembered a strategy that worked really well when we were hanging art in our living room last year: Make paper cut-outs of the frames and place those on the wall first. That way, you don’t have to drill a bunch of extra holes if you don’t get the arrangement right the first time.

But with this wall, there are a lot of frames. And I wanted to know how X photo would look next to Y, etc. So I decided not merely to make the paper cut-outs but to sketch a quick cartoon of the content of each frame. Despite having made no effort whatsoever to cartoon well, the result was unexpectedly delightful. (If you’ll permit me.) (And I think you will.) (Because you’re nice like that.)

Check it out:

Cartoon Wall

Cartoon Wall

And a little closer:

Zooming In

Zooming In

And closer still:

Zoom Zoom Zoom

Zoom Zoom Zoom

Center

Center

Right Side

Right Side

Close-Up

Close-Up

Familia

Familia

Wedding

Wedding

Montage

Montage

John and Dave in the Himalaya

John and Dave in the Himalaya

Fun times, huh?

A Little Love for My Auntie S.

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

I have an auntie who’s going through treatment for cancer, and I wanted to send her hugs from Berkeley. More specifically, I wanted to send her a little felted item that would approximate a hug.

How’d I do?

Purple Hug

Purple Hug

She loves purple, so that was a natural color choice. It occurred to me only later that this is essentially a purple heart. I’m not really into military symbolism, but I give this one a pass.

Coily Tail

Coily Tail

I thought it’d be fun to have a little surprise in the back, so I felted a prehensile tail. She can unfurl it and use it to hang this little dude (or dude-ette) up in her place of choice.

Flowery

Flowery

Here’s how it looks in the middle of a giant blooming amaryllis.

Felted Friends

Felted Friends

And here it is chillin’ with some friends before making the journey to the East Coast.

Enjoy, Auntie! Now you have a portable hug.