Archive for August, 2011

I Saw, and Now I Think

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Until Friday night, I had never seen Dr. Strangelove. That’s now been remedied, and . . . it’s growing on me. My first impression was: brilliantly outsized direction, gorgeous cinematography, hilarious and haunting script, and still, as my friend M would say, not my cuppa cuppa. I just . . . boring? It was a little bit boring?

Also, I tend to file anything that is both political and war-ry under “Ow.”

I think I’d like it more on a second viewing, now that I know what it is, basically. Even putting a few days between my first viewing and my apocalypse-addled brain has made me like it better.

In other film news, we saw The Future. My favorite thing about it is that it made John mad. Why? Because almost nothing makes John mad, and I enjoy seeing him get a little riled up. (Since I essentially exist in a state of pique, I figure he can hold the Angry Bucket every once in a while.)

I did find certain elements of the film annoying, but I liked much of it, and I’m not a Miranda July fan. I’m not a hater, either, just a skeptic. She seems to have interesting ideas, and I like that she keeps working on those ideas, putting them in front of a public that has not always been kind to her. I like her courage to do things that are minimal and alienating and even anti-audience.

On the other hand, must she be so gamine? She seems to be working a kind of perpetual baby-doll angle that drives me batty. I wouldn’t mind seeing that character once, but once is enough. Now I would like to see someone bigger and wilder (particularly in a film where wildness is an explicit concept) and altogether more powerful.

Breaking Up with Breaking Bad

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Not that we had any kind of real relationship.

I watched the first three episodes. Actually, I watched the first, braved most of the second, and skimmed the third, with the aid of FF.

I’m disappointed, because a lot of people think very highly of the show, and I had hopes. Plus, BB has so much going for it: 1) rich premise; 2) excellent acting; and 3) some smart dialogue.

But here’s where we part ways:

1) Why must the action ratchet up into violence in the first episode? It would have been so gratifying to see Walter’s meth lab succeed handily for a few weeks, rather than slamming into a wasp’s nest of irreversible trouble before he sells an ounce.

Don’t the writers want to stretch the conflict over an entire season—and, ultimately, multiple seasons? There’s no need to empty the bag of tricks as soon as the curtain rises.

2) Speaking of conflict, here’s something I’m really bored with: the not-telling-the-spouse device. It’s become yawningly common in TV drama (and comedy, too, I suppose), and it’s just a trick.

Character gets Big News. Character does not tell his/her spouse about said Big News, despite the fact that almost anyone in real life would, and fast. Conflict ensues.

Please try harder, TV people.

I would also like to request that the female characters have roles, plans, and desires other than wife/mother. Nothing wrong with being those things, of course. Those are beautiful and important roles (for men, too—i.e., husband and father). It’s just that there’s a very, very rich history of representing women as wives/mothers in media, and it’s 2011, and I’m thinking we can show women doing maybe one or two other things.

Just a hunch.

And it’s . . . Chlöe the Hedgehog!

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

A sweet little addition to a chilly Monday morning:

Pleasingly Pink

Pleasingly Pink

As some of you may know, in recent years I’ve been moving away from pink and toward orange as my ironic accessory color of choice. But I still feel the siren call of my historic obsession, particularly when such glorious hues of pink present themselves in wool-roving form.

In other news, I came up with a new (to me) technique for Chlöe’s quills, and . . . they’re not particularly quill-ish. But I think she still has a hedgehog-y look.

Here’s a bird’s-eye view. Or, perhaps, a fruit fly’s-eye view. (It’s summer, we eat scads of produce, and we compost. Ergo, we are living with fruit flies—John in harmony, I in agony.)

From Above

From Above

Here’s what’s on the bottom side of all those “quills.” My three favorite words: pink nubbin tailio!

Underside

Underside

And here’s Chlö-Chlö with something that may or may not be a friend.

Friends-ish

Friends-ish

Happy Monday, felt fiends!

Movie, Book, TV, Play

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Yes, folks. I was able to get all four into a single weekend—avec parental visit! Here’s how it went:

The movie: Beginners. Far lovelier than it’s been given credit for in the reviews I’ve read. A wistful, lugubrious mood-movie about grief, intimacy, and the difficulty of both. I found it mainly very charming, with an excellent and piercing ending, and also just a smidge too Miranda-July-twee for my tastes. Mike Mills appears to have married her between Thumbsucker and this film, and boy, is her influence apparent. Still, I will see The Future, because supposedly it has things to say.

The book: The Finkler Question. My experience of reading this book was initially polluted by a guy (the proprietor?) at Walden Pond Books in Oakland, who tried to prevent me from buying it. He kept saying “It’s British Woody Allen” (nope) and “You either love it or you hate it” (again, nope), while redirecting my attention to this book, in which I have no current interest. (As I said to my friend C, I don’t like historical fiction. The only thing I care about is relationships. Or at least feelings.)

Don’t try to dissuade people from buying books, Walden Pond guy!

ANYway, I’m now halfway through Finkler, and it’s mostly an amusing thought-puzzle. I’d like for it to go somewhere, but I don’t think it will.

The TV: Pilot of Big Love. And . . . no. I think I could have stomached the premise if the pilot had taken its time in developing the characters and hadn’t rushed to telegraph who they are. I’d also have preferred to have been kept from the melodrama at the original family compound until later episodes (or to have avoided it entirely). As it is, I can’t stomach it. Also, did anyone else notice the almost creepy similarity between the structure/premise of Big Love and that of The Riches, the FX show which had a mostly fantastic first season? (I couldn’t watch the second due to shark-jumping.)

The play: Shaw’s Candida at Cal Shakes. Not my favorite Shaw play, but well acted and amusingly directed. And boy, can you not beat the environs. If you want to give your parents an echt-NorCal experience, I recommend a picnic and then a play in those lush hills. We had two of our three sets of parents there, to excellent effect.

That’s it, folks. Back to Monday!

Mother-in-Law Rattie Sesh!

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I have three mothers-in-law.

[Head-scratching.]

I invite you to figure it out. It’s a fun logic problem! Or blindingly obvious, perhaps?

Anyway, one of them loves garanimals as much as I do. It’s such a pleasure to see her light up in the presence of anything furry.

On Sunday, we took her to Point Isabel, which I tend to think of alternately as Dog Heaven and Melissa Heaven. The dogs, there are so many! And they are off-leash! Jumping into mud puddles, or the Bay, or chasing after things!

I wasn’t sure whether this MIL would like the rats, though. Some people are against rats (for shame). But not she! She loves them. And she spoiled them rotten with lots of play time while she was here. Witness:

Two Happy Garanimals

Two Happy Garanimals

Joy to the World

Joy to the World

Ear Tickle!

Ear Tickle!

Love on the Shoulder

Love on the Shoulder

Rat Back!

Melanie the Intrepid, Michelle the Slinker, and MIL the Happy

Could you DIE?

A Beautiful, Beguiling Book (with Which I Have One Niggling Quibble)

Monday, August 1st, 2011

I’ve been reading this fantastic book of short stories by Christine Sneed, a writer I discovered in The New England Review—the same issue of NER, you’ll want to know, that featured a story by my friend Sarah. (Hi, Sarah!)

Thus far into Sneed’s collection, I’m a big fan, particularly of its emotional sophistication. Not only am I fascinated by each of the stories’ conflicts, but I love the way Sneed plays them out—both logical and surprising, always deeper and richer than expected. A very chewy meal, and I want to keep eatin’.

There is one unfortunate smidge-sized practice that nevertheless has an impact, so I’d like to discuss it. And that is this: intentional geographical vagueness. Sneed doesn’t use it all the time, but she employs it frequently enough that it jars my suspension of disbelief; it’s a kind of kink in the authority of the narrative voice.

For example, she’ll use a term like “the city” or “that place on the West Coast where movies are made” or “the Midwestern college town she’d once worked in,” when anyone telling the story honestly, without trying to hide something, would obviously name the place. And in the case of “that place on the West Coast where movies are made”—which, just to be clear, is not verbatim but is an approximation of what she does—is almost insulting. And distancing. Who would ever refer to LA in that way, except as a joke?

I admit to having fallen prey to this trend, back in the 90s when I was writing (not publishing) fiction. And it was a trend. I suppose it came in with Minimalism and the stylized, intentionally distant and druggy-vague voices that were so popular then, and I guess I thought it was cool, or necessary. But it’s neither. In Sneed’s case, it’s just dishonest and unfair to the authenticity of the rest of her work.

Again, it’s a wee little thing.

Otherwise, the book is marvelous and generous and intelligent and very enjoyably perplexing, I can’t wait to read whatever else Sneed publishes.