Thursday, December 21, 2006

Amazing Movie--Go See It

Long time no blog. More on that another time.

Felt I must write to say that The Children of Men, the new movie from director Alfonso Cuarón of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban" is amazing. Rush to see it. It's based on a novel by British myster writer, P.D. James. It is, to my knowledge, her only science fiction novel. I read it about 12 years ago, and from just glancing at it last night after I got home, they changed it radically, but in many ways for the better. James has always suffered from a distance from her characters, similar to what I described below in Margaret Atwood. There is an intellectual coolness there which limits how emotionally involved the reader can be. This movie had none of that. It was visceral, and angry and agonizing and painful. It was also funny and tender. My husband and I both sobbed and very nearly whimpered towards the end it was so well made. Unfortunately, it is not a movie that everyone will get as it does not have a resolved ending. It is not neat and it is, as I said, angry. I was going to write more about it, but I am afraid of spoiling it, so I may come back to it when it opens. It's that good.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"Why does there have to be people like Heather in this world?"

That's a paraphrase of a line from Blue Velvet. I’ve changed it to Heather because of the movie Heathers. In case you don’t know Heathers is about the destructive power of a high school click. Three of the members are named Heather. They are cruel and manipulative and arrogant. I was thinking of this in regards to a couple of Blogs that I’ve read in the last few weeks.

Part of the reason I haven’t posted for over a month is that I was both in a play as an actress and designing sets and costumes for the same play. The play closed last night. About a week or so before we opened, a very young reviewer for a local free, “hip" rag posted the blog below on the webpage of the magazine (not a personal blog).

Now it is in fact a criticism of a line in our promotional material, which she has used to take all of Boston Theatre to task, but of course, as the prodigious comments beneath it indicate this is not at all clear on first read, and she only mentions OUR company and production by name, and uses our press release photo making it seem that the title is a comment on our show which she had not seen as of the time of writing because it HAD not opened! She then did come and review the show at some point last week (here) but it is hardly an apology and appeared after three older and more experienced reviewers had already praised our show. Rather hoping on a bandwagon as opposed to being as fabulously clever and original as she seems to think herself. All of her reviews are equally full of trendy terms and expletives. I did not comment as I felt that most or the other comments said everything I wanted to say quite well and well, I doubt it affected our box office much either way.

What really caught my eye about this incident was the fact that her ‘voice' was so similar to that of another blog writer I’ve read. This a the blog of a woman in Washington State who writes about J-Pop on a regular basis. She annoys me quite a lot, and I always resolve to not go back to her site, but curiosity draws me back. I’ve now gone a week without looking—one day at a time as the 12 steppers say. She describes herself as enjoying ‘making people feel stupid.’ What kind of person is proud of that? She also describes herself as arrogant and she’s proud of that as well. I’ve commented a few times occasionally to agree, but most often to disagree with her conclusions regarding taste and talent. She prides herself on her knowledge of Japanese culture and slams most fans of J-Pop as having no idea about it. Now, I’m not an expert by any means, but I do have some knowledge and I felt the need to point out that an assumption she was making was not supported by actual beliefs in Japan. She closed the comments after mine. I was vaguely off topic which was ostensibly about what makes a good singer, but she had certainly opened the floor to my point. This is about the third time that she’s declared herself bored or annoyed and “over” the topic when I’ve questioned her.

I certainly don’t believe that these are the same woman, and I’m sure that there are other blog writers with similar voices—the same number in fact that write in the maudlin and self-pitying tone on ‘goth’ and other adolescent blogs. What bothers me is the need we seem to have for this kind of person. Now a critic is supposed to be harsh, and must needs be a little arrogant. Certainly some of the greatest critics/writers are quite acerbic—Dorothy Parker and Frank Rich spring to mind, but theirs is a clever voice, an unusual voice, and in the end they were very concerned, not with making others feel stupid, but with promoting better art. Supposedly our young Dig reviewer is concerned with better theatre, but she seems to be too in love with her own voice to be sincere. She is very young. Is it merely enough to forgive because of the certainty that we have when young that we are right and that we know so much? I would like to believe that I was never so arrogant; that I always knew that there was more that I had to learn, but I am not so sure. As to Miss-JPop who is in her late 20's according to her own profile, she is not paid to spout vitriol, she just does it for fun, and unfortunately or fortunately with the web she has an audience.

What bothers me too, and this is the connection with Heathers that has me worried, is the voices that seek to praise these arrogant little shits. "Oh, oh, you’re so clever. Oh, oh, you say it like it is." I am annoyed with myself for my efforts to talk to Miss J-Pop as though she had something worthwhile to say. It is only J-Pop after all. Hardly worth the time it takes to type. Note, I am not saying that entertainments are worthless, but they are a worthless thing to debate when the world is in the state that it is in. Do I need or rather think I need her validation? Am I experiencing the same hubris in trying to show off my own knowledge? Nothing I say will change her mind one whit nor impress her. Am I (and most of the others on her site) looking for a Heather? A click leader to make us feel connected? God, I find it dispicable, but powerful people often get ahead in life by making scapegoats. We are all so relieved that it is not us on the receiving end of the tirade that we suck up to prevent the evil eye swinging our way.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On self-editing

Realized a few posts ago that I mispelled the word pedantic. Now that's comedy!

Too busy to do this--designing and acting in a show. The show is very hard on the actors--feeling very overwhelmed. Want to write about it and don't have time... Blech.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Valentine, George Sand

In light of all the fantastic fiction I'd been reading I decided to read something guaranteed to have nothing supernatural about it. I picked Sand because I've never read her, only seen Impromptu. I'd heard both that she was the French Austen, and that she wrote bodice rippers for her time. Well, both are true. Underneath the flighty romance is a keen observation of French social structure post Napoleon. What I loved was that the observations could be identical to observations today--the young hero is described as having a particularly new ennui of over intelligence. She despairs of it--as we do today. The love story is interesting in contrast to English novels in that it is in fact consummated (discretely), lips meet, passions so long denied could no longer be ignored, yada, yada, next sentence is the next day, while Dickens had real trouble with actual sex. If two people were known to have had sex it would always be revealed that they had been secretly married. However our hero and heroine still die, because it is not possible that they should sin so and live--they can't have a happy life. Our fallen woman who bore a child (but is not the heroine) is allowed a sad spinsterhood.
The most frustrating thing about this novel has nothing to do with the novel. It was a library book and 8 pages at the very climax about two-thirds of the way through) were blank!!!! Suddenly there were two blank pages in the middle of a sentence, then two pages, then two more blank pages. I've looked for another edition in both library systems (no luck, hardly surprising). Project Gutenberg only has a French edition. So if anyone ever finds a copy, let me know.

Three Days to Never--Tim Powers

Speaking of writers who write best in certain landscapes. Tim Powers writes most strongly about LA and the outlying towns, which is not to say that he can't write about other locations, my favorite book by him, Declare, is set in Europe before the second world war, but LA is where his strongest stories are set. This however is not one of them. It's not a bad book, it's just a little simple for him. Tim is another writer who writes about a world alongside this one. His world is inhabited by ghosts and the people who manipulate them and those who would live forever whatever the cost. Famous people routinely wander in and out of his novels--Shelley (The Stress of Her Regard), Guy Burgess (Declare), Edison, Einstein, Bugsy Siegel. Unlike your Dan Brown he actually does a lot of research and makes his explanations fit the facts, not the other way around. In the afterward to Declare he states that the times and incidents he mentions all happened to Burgess--he just puts a supernatural spin on them.
To avoid death--be vague about who you are (have aliases, have a twin), be vague about when you were born (have a twin, fudge the birth certificate, have someone else baptized with your name and make sure key events in their lives match yours). Well, I've got some of that going for me! No definitive birthdate, no definitive birth name, born under the sign of the twins (as far as I can tell). Cool, hunh? And do important deals on water because ghosts can't cross water. It's why so many ghosts end up trapped on boats.
This one has Einstein and time travel, and psychic resonance and alternate time lines. And a blind woman who can see through other people's eyes. My husband is reading it now.

Perdido Street Station

A month ago, when I read this series of interesting "Fantastic" books I was all set to write long and lovingly about each of them and Fantastic Fiction in general, but now time has passed and the need is no longer there. Just in passing this is a very good book. He creates a completely new world where science and thaumaturgy run side by side, where our rules of evolution do not apply and chaos apparently runs through uninhabitable regions, possibly because of the actions of the inhabitants. Yet, like all good fiction, it is in some ways our world. The rich and powerful get richer and more powerful. The slums exist to catch the dregs. Good works give way to squalor because the inhabitants are too tired to care and the higher ups use that as an excuse not to bother. Central to the story is the partnership between big crime and politics and how a quest for power and money leads to a very dangerous creature being set free. The ideas are soaring--great bat like beings that mesmerize their victims by the Rorschact patterns on their wings. A little Lovecraftian (the author admits this) in it's belief that there are things beyond this dimension who drive us mad simply by their otherness. The punishments are particularly cruel and unusual. Thaumaturgical flesh manipulators can "Remake" the criminals into monstrosities--let the punishment fit the crime. Criminals have their crowbars replace their arms, and so on. There is also a race of bird like men who only recognize one crime--the theft of choice--in degrees and with or without respect. As it is described in the book--to steal the cloak of a loved one to hold is a theft but with respect. Rape steals not only the initial choice--to have sex or not have sex, but all others after, to have a child, to be free of fear and so on. It is an interesting way of looking at things. A long time ago I read a book that had the great line, "All commandments can be reduced to theft, what is adultery but theft of a wife, what is murder but theft of a life." I wish I could remember what it was. It might actually be a Neil Gaiman to whom the author, China Mieville has been compared. Both are writers who write best in urban landscapes.

What's in a blog

Several people in my life seem to be examining things--what blogging is, why we do things (like go to college), what is meaning in life, what is purpose--in interconnected ways. Which has led me back again to what am I doing here? What do I want from the blogosphere? A few good correspondents. I'm not really looking to get thousands of hits, because I can't discuss with a thousand posts. Also you run into the bitter who are out to argue. I'm not out to argue. I'm not out to be pedantic--you get a few facts wrong about things I'll let it slide, because I get sloppy and make mistakes too. I sometimes correct people, but only if I think it's relevant to the discussion at hand. One of the posters on the Vietnamese adoptee network wrote a post that seemed to indicate that she thought that Tarzan, The Rescuers and others were Disney stories instead of stories that Disney appropriated. My gut instinct was to write and say, "Excuse me, Tarzan is by Edgar Rice Burroughs and The Rescuers is by Marjorie Sharp and Disney made very silly movies loosely based on these books," but the discussion wasn't literary attribution or the quality of Disney films, it was whether there are good role models for adoptees in the world and what it means when there seems to be an upsurge in adoptees in fiction (like the resurgence in Superman interest, or Finding Nemo). My comment wouldn't serve that topic. It would serve no one but my own ego. I know posters who would have said it anyway but I don't want to be like them. I'm not sure how to get readers beyond my circle of friends and even my friends don't come and discuss as much as I'd like. Then I wonder if I even want to bother with promoting the blog. I've been busy for the last few weekends and I'm getting underway designing a show for the fall and the busier I am during the day, the less inclined I feel to come here and blog about it. Things to ponder.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The end of Cloud Atlas

Feel I must write this--promised it to myself, can I finish before midnight (when I said I would go to bed at 11)?

Where was I?

Oh, yes, section 5, where it gets interesting--because it's the future, at least 25 years, hopefully more. I say hopefully, because I don't want to be living in this future. The section is called "An Orison of Sonmi-451." An Orison (I had to look it up, proving I don't remember my Shakespeare) is a prayer, but in this future world where language has taken as many turns as in Orwell's 1984, it is more a confession or final statement. Sonmi-451 is a clone (as the name might suggest). The section is not entirely original. It owes much to Brave New World and Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (made into the film Bladerunner). I find it interesting that 40 or so years ago--when Dick wrote his book he believed that future slaves would be Androids, replicants. Now we are much more likely to presume they will be clones, fabricants here--we've seen the limitations of imitating the human form in robotics, but cloning has moved faster than we ever supposed--yet we still agree that with the ability to "make" people, will come the decision to 'make" a slave class. Like Huxley's novel, the lower orders are "genomed" to believe that their lot in life is the best (I am glad I am a Beta because I don't have to think as hard as the poor Alphas) in order to prevent uprisings. In high school I wrote an entire essay on the fact that Brave New World really WAS Utopia because the discontent of desiring that which we cannot have is removed--we are happy because we are MADE happy. My teacher was alarmed, but had to give an A for the quality of the argument. And like BNW, chaotic nature will always win out over man's order. Sonmi-451 ascends--that is she becomes aware of her surroundings and desires to learn more than how to be a cashier in a McKimChi establishment. That's right, Korea is a superpower. At one point Hokkaido is referred to as "Eastern Korea." Subtle and frightening--that is Mitchell's brilliance as a writer. It's a throwaway line, and yet it says it all, no needless exposition. Remember, Mitchell has spent the last 10 years teaching English in Tokyo studying the cultures of Asia and this book is nearly three years old!
Added to the mix is the modern sci-fi concept of planned sabotage, of conspiracy within conspiracy. This theme is popping up everywhere--and that means it's in the zeitgeist--this is what we really fear, that the disasters of the world are created IN ORDER TO PRODUCE SCAPEGOATS AND FEAR! "To generated the show trial of the decade. To make every last pureblood in Nea So Copros mistrustful of every last fabricant. To manufacture downstrata consent for the Juche's new Fabricant Xpiry Act." Think about that for a moment. That 9/11, if not actively planned, was at least allowed IN ORDER TO JUSTIFY THE SCAPEGOATING OF THE MIDDLE EAST! Try to sleep now! I'm not convinced, but I'm willing to consider and just considering is scary. Think of the movie Syriana. Give them the weapons and then use their use of weapons as a reason to wipe them out. Oh, dear.
One depressing development in Sonmi's world is the micro-chip under the skin--called a Soul (and clones don't have them) but it turns out that a Soul is just a credit/ident chip so money gives you a Soul in the future, spending is mandatory, perhaps now as well...

Section 6 is even farther forward in time--a wold like that in Mara and Dann where the last remnants of all that we know, of civilization in any form is dying.

In Section 5 Sonmi's last wish is to finish watching the film of Section 4 that was interrupted by her arrest. In Section 6 the narrator (English degraded to another language--I love writer's who do this well, Russell Hoban in Ridley Walker for instance) sees a hologram (magic to his eyes) of Sonmi's Orison. A child, for instance, is named F'kugly. And betrayal is Judasin. "My parents an' their gen'ration b'liefed, somewhere, hole cities o' Old Uns s'vived the Fall b'yonder the oceans, jus' like you, Zacyry. Old-time names haunted their 'maginin's...Melbun, Orkland, Jo'burg, Buenas Yerbs, Mumbay, Sing'pore." Oh, how important we think we are, Ozymandias, don't we.

And then the stories fold themselves up. We flee with Sonmi--here's a terrible line, "Think of the disastrous Pentecostalist Coup of North America." Is it coming? "Once genomed moths spun around our heads, electronlike. Their wings' logos had mutated over generations into a chance syllabary: a small victory of nature over corpocracy." In the end, chaos will always win.

Note: the brand has become the noun--all computers are sonys, all shoes are reeboks, all entertainments are disneys. Thus the line, "[Our retirement paradise] is a sony-generated simulacrum dijied in Neo Edo." Sonmi writes Declarations before her arrest, "My fifth Declaration posits how, in a cycle as old as tribalism, ignorance of the Other engenders fear; fear engenders hatred; hatred engenders violence; violence engenders further violence until the only "rights," the only law; are whatever is willed by the most powerful." Sound familiar?

In the second part of Section 3 we get this:

"Exposition: the workings of the actual past + the virtual past may be illustrated by an event well known to collective history, such as the sinking of the Titanic. The disaster as it actually occurred descends into obscurity as its eyewitnesses die off, documents perish + the wreck of the ship dissolves in its Atlantic grave.. Yet a virtual sinking of the Titanic, created from reworked memories, papers, hearsay, fiction--in short, belief--grows ever "truer." The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming + ever more problematic to access + reconstruct: in contrast, the virtual past is malleable, ever brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/expose as fraudulent. The present presses the virtual past into its own service, to lend credence to its mythologies..."

He goes on to talk about the virtual future that we imagine (two of which he--the writer--has just presented to us) and how that imagining may or may not influence the future that actually comes to pass. I am reminded of Bradbury's The Toynbee Convector where a man effects change by telling people that he's already been to the future and seen it (very optimistic Bradbury) or of Belamy's Looking Backward which attempted to actually do that (prior to Bradbury). Can Science-Fiction/Fantastic Fiction help us become better by showing us terrible futures that my come to pass from the world we live in today? Can it show us an ideal to work towards a la Star Trek's Federation?

What is memory? Is there any truth (that we can access) that is not ever disappearing Rashomon like in personal bias, need and ego? Do we remember events or do we remember photos of events? In the future will all of these little blogs stand as remberances, Orison's of the great unknown masses?

Section 2--the letters of a composer explores the problem of artistic creation--the author believes he must die upon completion of the Cloud Atlas Sextet because he will never again create anything of such value in his life--the creation itself is killing him, Mozart like. And if he dies, then it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, see above.

Section 1--the end of the diary--a little sorrow amidst the global tragedies, that man is monstrous to man because he can be--yet the hero is saved and still believes in the good in man.

So we are full circle. Some 20 years ago when I first read The Jewel in the Crown and the rest of the "Raj" quartet I was staggered by the perfect structure that Paul Scott had created. The parallels he drew--quite literally starting with a British masacre of Indians and ending with an Indian masacre of Indians. History repeats. What mastery and control, and patience and persistence to write so well.

Took me an hour to write this (the time seems to be from when started). Tired and will be even more tired tomorrow but glad I can say I did it and did not let it slip by for mere practicality.

What's in a date indeed...

Haven't blogged anywhere in over a week and one friend called to ask if I was Ok. Fear you may be my only reader, Red Queen. So why do I blog? Back to that question again. Is it just to get me writing? As a more positive alternative to game playing in the hopes it will lead to real work? I do feel more verbally grounded (as opposed to visual where I start to be aphasic) when I'm trying to write more--and I think of things to write 2 or 3 times a day and write most in my head, even if I don't get the down, a good, I think. And yet, I would like readers who question and discuss--not sure what to do about that. Fear I have too little time to see the few close friends I have let alone write long conversations with people I will never see who could just be yanking me along for their own enjoyment. Hmmm...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What's in a date?

Worked late last night, and now things are too slow.

A friend wrote in July about the Tanabata Festival in Japan. One celebrates by tying wishes to Bamboo and then burning them or floating them on the water (the Japanese are all about burning and floating on the water--preferably together) after the festival or the next day. Now the difficulty lies in the fact that this is supposed to be celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month or July 7th, right? But, NO! The Japanese Lunar calendar is closer to the Gregorian calendar and therefore a month off, so August 7th, but if fact, being Lunar is slightly different each year, so this year is closer to July 31st. So different towns in Japan celebrate it on different days. I found out about this last week and meant to remember not to forget to do it on the 7th, but instead remembered yesterday. So the question is, can I still celebrate this holiday since I would only be celebrating it with my husband and the day is clearly not the issue?
What is in a date after all? It is an arbitrary system by which we organize life, as is language. By that definition I should be able to celebrate anything anytime (and a very merry un-birthday to you!). Certainly the Christian Holidays are quite random--the dates of Christmas and Easter (and even the name Easter) were appropriated from pagan religions in an attempt to cover over and eradicate the earlier holidays. The difference being that ritual requires a repeating and community. It is the coming together at the same time that makes the occasion--the knowledge that elsewhere others are doing the same (as obviously my wishes are no more or less likely to come true for being made on July 7th, August 7th or any day of my choosing--if wishes were horses...; no more or less likely than wishing on a star and then discovering it was a plane or satellite invalidates the wish). This is why C. S. Lewis believed in the act of church going while not endorsing any particular church. The focus of ritual helps reinforce the belief (and in Lewis's case, the CofE certainly is full of ritual). In the same sense attending a concert of even an indifferent band can be quite remarkable because of the essence of the crowd.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

As Advertised--David Mitchell

Finally, time to write about some amazing books that everyone should read who enjoys good fantastic fiction or even good fiction.

David Mitchell, author, two time Booker Prize nominee. British.

I can't remember how I first picked up his first book, Ghostwritten. I really thought it was an advanced reader's copy but I have it in front of me and it clearly isn't, so either I got it from the library and then picked up a copy, or I bought it in one of my rare random buys from a bookstore. I read so much and in so many varied genres that I become overwhelmed in bookstores. So much sounds good; I can't afford much so I buy nothing rather than choosing and then run to the library with a list so long I can't carry it. What I do remember is that about half way through I looked at my husband and said, "This belongs on the shelf," and "You MUST read this."

He did and was as blown away as I. It's a first novel which is so confident and sure of itself it's staggering. It's a book of ideas, but it's never heavy handed. As the blurb by A.S. Byatt says on the back, "...never clotted by its ambitions. It easily covers the global village but there's no sense that it's striving for multiculturalism or spectacular effects--just that Mitchell knows what he's doing." It's told/experienced by several narrators all with their own distinct voices and worlds. An Okinawan terrorist, a Tokyo orphan, a Chinese peasant, a Russian tour guide and a ghost, to name a few. It is a story of the world and progress, and human emotion and loss. And the pieces stand alone and weave together. Breathtaking. Mitchell is an Englishman who taught English in Japan for eight years before writing this novel in his early 30's and returning to Ireland and his details are perfect.

When we were in England two years ago I saw that his second novel was in paperback and his then new novel was in hardback. I picked up the paperback and made a mental note to get the hardback when it came out. The second book, number9dream for which he was short-listed for a Booker is slightly more straightforward (one narrator) but still in a world of it's own. The protagonist is a poor clerk in Japan who is looking for his father but he slips effortlessly into a fantasty world as real as Walter Mitty so the reader is left wondering what is happening, and what is illusion. As he gets closer and the world gets darker, again his knowledge of Japan is rich and fresh in detail (including very, very disturbing Yakuza violence). I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first, but still astounding.

Which brings me to Cloud Atlas. Where do I begin... This was the book I was supposed to remember to buy when it came out in America in paperback and didn't. Then as I was leaving San Francisco I stopped into a book store for a book to read with dinner and on the plane (passed out cold on the plane as it turned out, but what I read at dinner was enough to have me desperate to return to it). I went in to buy Umberto Eco's book in paperback which I had seen at the airport bookstand on the way out, but found this. (Great bookstore, by the by--Cody books--you know you're going to like a place when you have all the books from the staff picks wall) Finalist for the Booker. Because I knew that I was going to want to write about this I kept a stack of post-it-notes next to me while I read (most of the Sunday afternoon after I returned) and marked pages. Like Ghostwritten it's got 6 voices/stories (I say that rather than narrators because not all sections are in first person) and this is the shape A, B, C, D, E, F, E, D, C, B, A, moving forward and then back in time. Each section gives birth to the one after--that is B is reading A's diary, C knew B, D has the manuscript of C, E is watching the film of D and F sees a recording of E. Got it? Then the stories are closed in the second half. E asks to watch the rest of the film, D gets the rest of the manuscript and so on. In a way it is frustrating as the stories in the first half will just end--reminiscent of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Calvino--sometimes mid-way through a sentence though their is some conclusion in the second half (as opposed to the Calvino which is painfully frustrating even now). Michael Chabon compared it to nested dolls.

And what is it about? What we are doing to ourselves as a people, what we do to ourselves personally, the act of creation, lies that are told by governments. Things like that.

Listen to this line from the second section set in the 1930's--"Faith, the least exclusive club on Earth, has the craftiest doorman. Every time I've stepped through it's wide-open doorway, I find myself stepping out on the street again." Wow--doesn't that just sum it up--the confusion of the agnostic in a world of relgions, the problem of wanting to believe but not actually believing--you'll find yourself outside again.

Elgar wanders through this bit; it's about a muscian writing the "Cloud Atlas" piece. The stories are interwoven that way too--and linked with a crescent shaped birthmark on their shoulders, so it's about reincarnation too, only it isn't, not really or no more so. So he has Elgar say (and maybe he did--I don't know enough about Elgar to know), on Pomp & Circumstance, "Oh, I need the money, dear boy. But don't tell anyone. The King might want my baronetcy back...I always say, Ted, to get the crowd to cry Hosanna, you must first ride into town on an ass. Backwards, ideally, whilst telling the masses the tall stories they want to hear."
So this character finds the diary that the first character was writing but just the first half, ending mid-sentance, just as we have read it. He writes a friend (all of his section are letters) to scour bookstores for the second half because he questons whether it is real--too styalized. So here we not only have a contrivance, you have read a book this character is reading, but also the suggestion that it's fiction when you are obviously reading a work of fiction. It's a dangerous balance--to remind the reader that they are reading a book but it's also bold and daring when it works.

The first section was the diary of a clerk in the Chatham islands in the 1840's. He writes about the Maori and the whites wiping out ANOTHER aboriginal tribe that lived in peace on the Chathams. True peace, no murder, for to spill another's blood renders you non existant to the tribe--truly do unto others here among the "Godless heathen." And of course they are slaughtered by the somewhat bloodier Maori who don't view them as people. The human way, no matter how low you are, there's someone lower to kick! So the Maori fled the white man and pretty much commit genocide. This is mankind.

Third section--1970's. "Hey, metaphysics seminar is on the roof. Just take the elevator up and keep walking until you hit the sidewalk. Anything is true if enough people believe it is." The main character of this section is left the letters of the second section by their recipient. Got it?
They quote a joke that I vaguely remember hearing, "What's a conservative? A mugged liberal." Someone on another board discussing the death penalty said that lots of people say that they don't believe in it, but if something terrible happened to someone they love then they are all for it. Yes, but some how, some time we must transcend that. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind as they say. I'm bucking the trend--becoming more liberal as I grow older. I don't know if that's a sign o' the times or just me. Another little note which kind of ties into the next thought, and kind of doesn't. The main characters name is Luisa Rey. Her father is Lester Rey. Lester Del Rey was a golden age of sci-fi author. She's writing about a possible safety hazard at a nuclear plant. Lester Del Rey's first big story was about a disaster at a nuclear power plant. That's another thing about the authors on "The Shelf." They've all read what we've read and they've all read each other. They are all well read, like Neil Gaiman who weaves the myths of a dozen cultures into one new whole.

Fourth section--now or near future. "You would think a place the size of England could easily hold all the happenings in one humble lifetime without much overlap--I mean, it's not ruddy Luxembourg we live in--but no, we cross, crisscross, and recross our old tracks like figure skaters." Yes, the world of coincidence. I think of this one all the time, of how small the world is sometimes. How a fellow actress is working with a cousin of mine when the cousin and I grew up in KC, MO and ended up here. Little things. How Hyde is Hyde and Hyde is the name of where the detective of "Life on Mars" worked, my new favorite show. Stupid and small and yet somehow they feel like they should add up to a pattern, but they really don't.
"Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage." Oh, my God! Is that not just a brilliant sentance? The greyhound of language does not do it justice.
The character in this section, he of the razor wit is reading a manuscript of the third section. So once again we play with reality. If the third section is a novel, then so is the second and the first, but we are clearly reading a novel, so the fourth is not real either, so what is real? Alice like it folds back on it's own reality but always with perfect control.

I'll stop now and post this. Then come back for the last two sections of the first part--this is where things get really weird.

Three Chinatowns

Above--Chinatown, San Francisco
I've been in three Chinatowns in a month. Pretty cool. Went down to NYC yesterday to see a show that I designed in the spring be part of a Play Festival. So I've had costume design in NYC--Woohoo! It's my set too, but they really couldn't take many pieces so it wasn't really much of a set by the time it got there. One of the actresses had strep this week and I wondered if they might ask me to step in (I did once before for a read thu, and I know they respect me as an actress), but she took antibiotics and recovered and I'm glad. It's her role and she's fantastic in it, plus I'd have to still be there and not getting back until midnight tonight and I have a mammogram in the morning--blech. TMI, TMI! But still, I'd have been acting in NYC. Once upon a time (at about 18 or so) I thought that would be my life, but in college I realized I couldn't live with that poverty and constant uncertainty so instead I've vascillated through 10 years and am still poor and only moderately in theater and I don't know what lesson to impart from that--do it with all your heart? embrace being poor? don't do it (as I was told). I met the aspiring actress daughter of a friend recently and I didn't know what to say to her. I didn't want to discourage her but I didn't want her to have vague pipe dreams as I did at her age--that hard work is enough. It's not. All of the actesses in this show I designed are very talented, reasonably attractive and some have worked damned hard at marketing themselves as actresses (as opposed to me) and none of them has ever been able to support herself as an actress for more than 6 months at a time or without a loving and wealthier partner.
We stayed in the apartment of a friend of one of the actresses--a former Bostonian actor who married the man of his dreams and they live in a studio in Chelsea. I kid you not--I have a good apartment, an amazing apartment for Boston and for the rent I pay but nothing staggering--and their entire apartment could fit in my kitchen plus my laundry room. Welcome to NY.
I found New York walkable (well, until I tripped in the road and skinned my knee trying to get to my bus out) but like San Fran. I was really only in mid-town not trying to get from uptown to downtown on a regular basis. Took the fabulous Fung Wah bus home (rather than staying until after the show tonight and riding with them). The Fung Wah bus runs from Chinatown to Chinatown--New York to Boston and back every hour on the hour, approx. four hour trip for $15.00. Pretty damn good. Unfortunately I had to run through the New York Chinatown to catch the bus and made it, dripping sweat with a sore knee with a minute to spare so really only had time to register the table upon table of knock off junk lining the streets, home of the $10 Rolex. Arrived in my Chinatown (Boston) at the tail end of some festival likewise with tables of stuff. Welcome to America.

Not sure what this one is about, but felt it worth noting.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The things I promise

Ah, I said I'd write about the magical books I've been reading, didn't I? And here I am out of time--though I have had a pretty productive day for me.

Somerwhere in May I jotted a note to myself to read some Lessing; went to the library and found a new Doris Lessing that was a sequel to Mara and Dann, so had to read Mara and Dann first. After I tried to read the sequel immediately, but a major character DIES about 15 pages in and that was so heartbreaking to me I couldn't continue for a while and read some other things in between. Among them I read A Call for the Dead by John LeCarre because we had gotten the old BBC series of Smiley's People from Netflix. I was going to write about that too at some point--this was in that strange, sad draught of mid to late June where I stopped posting. I was going through a video game addiction at the time. They wax and wane with me depending on how much of life I can face. Anyway when we watched Smiley and then it's PREQUEL Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy I realized I'd never read the FIRST Smiley book even though I'd picked up the original paperback free somewhere so stopped to read it. Very thin, but dense. Actually got H to read it two weeks ago because the first chapter is just amazingly written.

Lessing as I mentioned isn't on the shelf because she writes soooo much in so many different fields and genre's so I actually own very little Lessing but she's there in spirit. As a side note, the very first Lessing that I ever read was Particularly Cats when I was about 9 or 10, a bit early, but my parents never stopped me from reading anything I wanted. I remember being amazed by her sometimes graphic detail, but also by her extraordinarily clear eye. It was never self-pitying, never merely anecdotal. It was as near to objective as one can be in autobiography. I aspired to that kind of writing.

Anyway, finally returned to General Dann. It's not as satisfying as the first. It's only about a third of the length for starters. Where the first one was an exploration of survival in this future world, the second is a character with not much at stake (generally less interesting) but what he is able to consider and worry about is the loss of knowledge. When all that we know and have is reduced to broken machines and fragments of books, even though there may still be humans living, will we still be able to call it a civilization? Empires have risen and fallen and much knowledge has been lost over the last 5,000 years, but overall there's been a progession towards more knowledge (not all of it good), what we call progress. What will happen when it starts to regress? When each generation knows less than the one before overall. I know that many feel that this has already begun as we lose knowledge of nature and old ways, but again it's like the stock market, things dip and rise, but I would say that knowledge is expanding. We know more about the brain and the body than we did 100 years ago. Again, whether that knowledge is always for the best is debatable, and whether human instinct can keep up with human intellect is also a difficult question, but I would still say progress is generally positive. Those who are touting a simpler way of life really wouldn't want to do with outdoor plumbing, unpasturized milk, and no medicines at all but herbals if it came right down to it.

General Dann ends with a very positive image, though. Dann manages to make a peace of sorts and one city becomes a Mecca for the last of civilization. At the gate to the city is a great white wall and on one corner is a little square (like 3" x3", like I said, I don't have the book now, I returned it to the library) that represents what they know compared to what there is to know and what the ancients (us) knew. They have an appeal that anyone who has come across or been passed down some knowledge that might not be known to others bring it to the government for the betterment of all. Wow! What a dream...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

More on Crash

The morning after, I think it is somewhat manipulative and the cuts (one character going through a doorway to another character coming through a doorway) quickly became annoying. We were set up to feel, as it were. Which is not to say that it is a bad movie, just that one should be aware of being manipulated.

The Shelf! or how our books are arranged

Recently read a very funny passage about the overuse of the ! in films of the 60's (Hitari!) and how obviously today's audiences are not going to go see "Million Dollar Baby!" Anyway, I've been meaning to write these comments on some books I've read recently for awhile and this is the best way to start.

I've been reading a lot of books from "The Shelf" lately and it's making my head hurt. First, you should know that my husband I have a lot of books. A LOT of books. As in I had quite a few books when I met him and he had a staggering amount and now we have more books than some branch libraries. I'm not kidding. Friends are boggled. We once passed on an apartment because there wasn't enough wall space for the bookshelves. Our dining room is really just a library with bookshelves all the way round. Two of the walls have brick and board that H (Husband) constructed so they go up to the ceiling. We moved 51 banker's boxes of books when we moved in here 10 years ago and we've added lots since then. Like I said, most are my husbands and most are fantastic fiction. He worked in bookstores for years so we've always ordered what we want.

In our family room there is an entire bookshelf of vinyl albums (yes, my children, those strange black plastic discs) which are waiting for us to buy the equipment to burn them to CD (and some we will keep because of the cover art. Then the couch. Then there is a double bookshelf of graphic novels and comic books and books about comic books and graphic novels, and art books by artists and writers of graphic novels and comic books. It runs the gamut from Fantastic Four to Love and Rockets Locas. Note, these are just the bound comics and graphic novels, actual issues are in plastic bags in comic boxes under our bed and in our closet. This is where the book of Neil Gaiman's MirrorMask ended up. Oh, and we have lots of toys and figures as well. I try to keep them loosely near where they belong, so there's a Golden Age Batman on top of the bookshelf (of course, there are so many Sandman figurines that they are in the other room--I said loosely.)

Then on the next wall are three bookshelves. The other two walls have the chair and window and end tables and then the TV, stereo system, speakers and CD's. CD's--that's a whole 'nother story. The two side bookshelves are the cheap kind you can get at Target or Walmart. The one on the left has books pertaining to TV--companion books on The Twilight Zone, The Prisoner, The Avengers, Babylon 5, Star Trek, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Dr. Who (including my collection of Dr. Who novels, my Tardis shaped bank and my Sonic Screwdriver pen) and British Television in general. The shelf on the right is mainly children's books--Moomintroll, The Rescuers and Miss Bianca, Eloise, Harry Potter, chronicles of Narnia, Tolkien (I know not really children), George MacDonald, Dunctan Wood--and collected cartoons like the reissues of Peanuts and the Edward Goreys.

The shelf in the middle is special. I'll come back to it in a second. First just a quick cap of the shelves in the library/dining room. There are also three bookshelves on the wall behind. They contain mainly sci-fi anthologies, some good fantastic fiction by excellent writers who generally write things other than sci-fi and fantasy--Atwood, P.D. James, Lessing, Eco--some historical fiction--The Sunne in Splendor--and writers we once thought were cool, but like less now--Anne Rice for instance.

One entire wall is brick and board to the ceiling. This has the masters of science fiction and H has everything ever written--Azimov, Bradbury, Dick, Heinlein, Silverberg, Sturgeon, Del Rey, van Vogt, Kornbluth, Lem, Ballard--I'm vicariously proud of this collection. It also has the masters of horror, old horror--Lovecraft, of course, Dunsany, Lefanau (and if you like good horror and you don't know who these are, shame on you), and some lesser writers at the bottom who aren't quite worthy of The Shelf. Oh, and our encyclopedias and the tiny portion of "Fantasy" that we've brought ourselves to read--Zimmer Bradley for instance--and which we periodically decide to get rid of but then don't.

In the corner is also brick and board. This is actually frustrating to me because this is where our most beautiful books are kept and I would like them to be in the family room where people can look at them, but they are too heavy. They used to be across the tops of the three bookshelves, but then there were too many and we put them on the shelves and the shelves fell down so here they are. One wall has the Japanese collection. Novels by Mishima, Murikami and also Ishaguru, although he's English, he's also Japanese and his fist few novels, Artist of the Floating World for instance, dealt with Japan. His later novels are also part of a fantastic realm which puts him nearer to Murikami than say Zadie Smith. Some manga, although we are actually not big manga readers and lots of books on Japan. H was very fascinated by Japan for awhile. The other wall holds art books, fashion books, design books, theater books--in short, coffee table books, but enough for 40 coffee tables. This has the big reproduction folio of Shakespeare and Beardsley and Rime of the Ancient Mariner illustrated by Dore and The Bible illustrated by Barry Moser. My Erte books are here and books are Armani, Vionnet and Dior. The timeline of history and other large reference books. I'm proud of this corner too.

Ok, but what about The Shelf? The shelf is a real bookcase. I got it from a lawyer I was working for when he was going to throw it out. It's big and sturdy. H's added a shelf very close to the top where he's keeping a few manga titles that are under size, Lone Wolf and Cub and Samurai Executioner. But predominantly this is the bookshelf of our favorite authors and it's from these authors that I've been reading for a while. These are the authors who (to paraphrase Emily Dickenson) make me feel as if the top of my head has been blown off. They are writers of both staggering imagination and tremendous writing talent. To limit them by saying that they are sci-fi writers or even fantastic fiction writers is to miss the point. What's funny about the list is that they seem to be cross-referential. They all read and admire each other or so it seems sometimes. And in truth, that's how H (and I) find them--often. You read an interview and an author says, "Oh, I love this writer." So you go and find that writer and read him too. We don't entirely agree about everyone on the shelf but we have lively discussions about different writers merits.

First on the shelf is Harlan Ellison, and I actually would like Harlan to be moved in with the masters of sci-fi (Harlan hates that word) and fantastic fiction, but he's H's favorite writer and he's often listed as an influence on newer writers on the shelf, so he stays. Then, in no particular order are Neil Gaiman (a good friend of Harlan's), Tim Powers, Geoff Ryman, Ian Banks (also writing under Ian M. Banks), David Mitchell, John Crowley and some others, but I'll start with these. Stephen King has been on the shelf and then moved off for space reasons, and also because his output is so uneven--Dark Tower--yes, The Stand--yes, It--absolutely not. Likewise Clive Barker used to be on the shelf for Weaveworld and Imajica but then he got happy in his private life and his books have been terrible ever since. We disagree on Paul di Fillipo. I admit that his books are remarkably different and his voice unique, I just don't enjoy him that much. Kim Stanly Robinson probably should be on the shelf (though I have yet to read The Years of Rice and Salt, his novel of a world where China founded America from the west coast in.) His Mars trilogy is breathtaking in scope and detail. There are some writers with excellent imaginations whose writing style is bland--Connie Willis and Octavia Butler. I could go on, but I've been writing for awhile and you've probably all stopped reading.

Stephen King says that he feels that his novels all exist somewhere and he's just an archeologist uncovering them. Many of these books share a vision of another world side by side with ours, that throws ours in stark relief. Some show worlds that could be ours, but aren't. At any rate, I've been reading too many of them, and tomorrow I shall tell you about some of them.

P.S. In our bedroom are MY five bookshelves which has more straightforward fiction, non-fiction, modern poetry, theatre and plays and classics. We have combined books only where it makes the most sense in a very loose fashion after all these years together.

Crash and Syriana

We watched Crash tonight (the 2005 Crash--not to be confused with Croenenberg's film of the Ballard novel). Wow! I see why it won the Oscar, though I have friends who disagree. It felt like a very good novel. Actually, what it reminded me of was the short lived TV show Boomtown, also about interlocking lives in LA. (Yes, I know I never link things and that's frustrating to readers, but I barely write here at all--to look for and add the links is more than I can manage now). I screamed, I cried, I shouted F*&K! I felt for these people; I knew these people. Saying that, it also felt like a fairytale in some ways. I was prepared for it to be unredeemably bleak, but it was hopeful--that people can make the right decisions in the wrong moment even when bad decisions have been made before. Film wise it was a little choppy--felt like a first film, too much slow mo', too many lingering shots, or blurred shots, and just a hair's breadth (is it breath or breadth? English lit says breadth, but American usage says breath) too much coincidence, but like I said I was completely sucked in.
I said at the beginning that it was Not to be confused with the Ballard, but in some ways, the idea that violence both separates us and brings us together in these modern times is prevelant in both.

We watched Syriana about a week ago. Also wow. Was amazed that it wasn't directed by Soderbergh, definitely Soderbergh school--much out of focus, overlit (how has that become a style?). Scary, and to me, believable. Human action is about the immediate good of one's immediate cronies--everyone else be damned, looking after their own.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Red Queen's Blog

My friend J, Red Queen, wrote this and I am crying. I wanted to link to it to share it, although it's rather a closed circle as Red Queen is one of my few readers, but perhaps I'll get others, and perhaps I'll send some to her as well. It's just lovely writing and some of the things she says about her father could describe mine to a t (what does that mean, to a T--another time). She and I have talked a lot about our mothers, daughters and mothers, and some about our fathers. She met mine a year before he died at my wedding 10 years ago. In my father's euology I spoke of how he was (paraphrasing George Elliot's Middlemarch) a man not much noticed and yet for those who knew him, a remarkable unsung man, like so many in the world. It sound like J's was too.

Creating Sense Memories


Wetware is here, apparently. My husband and I have a long standing debate as to when wetware will hit--both in terms of the technology available and the public's willingness to use it. Wetware is a term in sci-fi for direct interface with technology--wet human brain straight to silicon one--eliminating that annoying gap between brain and fingers. (According to Wikpedia it's also a jokey term FOR the human user already, as in, "Oh, you got yourself a problem with the wetware." Or, "It's not your computer or your software, idiot, it's you.") I think the term has been around since at least the mid-80's (though the concept may predate it--we've always known that to maximize computer use we would need to maximize us) and I've been aware of it since the early 90's. So listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," today one of the questions involved a new system for direct interface to increase the human ability to recognize images--thus allowing police to view surveillance tapes faster and make the connections they need to make (or as the MC joked, "Allowing you to watch 50 hours of YouTube in one day.") So if they are willing to admit it's in development it's probably already in use in the government. I can't find any details in a quick skim of the internet as in how it's plugged in and how far along they are. So it's rapidly becoming clear that the technology is here. The question is who will be willing to have the jack put into their heads.
I think we are rapidly approaching a time when we will have a subcutaneous chip with all of our information and probably our credit on it, and I think that few, maybe not my generation, but certainly the one after which has so willingly been pierced and dyed for fashion, will have any hesitation. Paranoia aside, I probably have no problem with it. My husband has a big problem with it, but he's a) more paranoid than I am, and b) more afraid of needles. But this is not true wetware, as the interface is still computer to computer, chip to reader, only the iPod is in you, not carried in a stylish pack. I think of all the housewives I've waited on in retail who despite voluminous purses have forgotten their frequent buyer cards, but certainly demand their benefits. They may be squeamish at first, but the ease of passing a finger over a reader will overcome their hesitation.
My husband thinks that people (even the pierced and tattooed) will still resist a jack in their heads that links them with their computer. I am amazed that it hasn't been demanded already. As each new generation has more and more choice--more customization of themselves and the products around them, and as technology becomes ever more personal, I think that they will welcome wetware as the NEXT experience. Films in your head, sound direct to the processing centers of the brain without the weak eardrum getting in the way. My only question is, "What comes after?"

Kurosawa's "High and Low"

Just watched this. WOW. It's almost two films in one. The first is like a play, all set in a living room where the amazing Toshiro Mifune (many have commented on how weird it is not to see him in samurai garb) must come to a difficult moral decision. He has just mortgaged everything he has to buy controlling rights in the company where he works when he receives a phone call that his son has been kidnapped and the ransom is almost the same amount as the cost of the shares. Then he finds that the kidnappers have mistakenly taken his chauffeurs's son, not his. If he pays the money he's ruined. If he doesn't... The police are brought in and stand impotently like some Greek chorus while Mifune struggles with the decision. The most agonizing character is the chauffeur himself. He brought in his son's sweater before they realized that he'd been taken and he stands helplessly clutching it. His body language conveys such grief and defeat. Mifune (I read after) was 5'9" but he has such presence. The chauffeur is the shortest, slightest man in the room. The story is based on an Ed McBaine (aka Evan Hunter) novel of the 87th precinct called King's Ransom which would be more clever if the character were not actually named King. By all accounts it's a straightforward detective novel, but in Kurosawa's hands it becomes a study of Japan and of all human nature. In the mix are the pieces of Japanese culture. The movie was made in 1963. The men are dressed as I have pictures of my father and uncle dressing at that time. The wife, at the beginning, is in kimono because she was entertaining her husband's business friends but with western hairstyle. Later in the film she is entirely in western clothes. Even though he's made this gamble with their fortune he has not consulted her and the decision to pay the ransom is all his. The chauffeur begs for the money at one point, bowing down to his knees and finally falling to the floor. Then later he tells Mifune that Mifune must not ruin himself for his son--trying to put on a brave face and "Be in his place." He is the lesser man--he must not ask for favors, but when he walks out of the room he slumps with grief. It's agonizing. Mifune decides to pay the ransom, climax of that section. Then it becomes a much more straightforward police drama--like an early CSI, we watch them work with their limited technology, step by step--hand held movie cameras held above their heads trying to catch a glimpse of the kidnapper. The child is returned and Mifune clutches him weeping, but now the hunt is on for the villain and the money. They follow clue after clue, the sound of a trolley car in the recording of the kidnapper on the phone, payphones located where they can still see Mifune's house on the hill, etc. The kidnapper kills his accomplices, but the police manage to hide the fact that the accomplices are dead to lure him out. They track him as he buys more heroin (the accomplices were addicts). There is a scene where he goes to the alley where the junkies hide that could be straight from the recent "Sin City" except that it's all just excellent camera work, not CGI. The lights glint off of his glasses, his victim trembles in the throws of the drug. Amazing visually! And then he's caught, and the reason that he targeted Mifune is finally revealed--freezing in his hovel in winter and boiling in summer he would look up to the great house on the hill and hate whoever lived there in heaven while he lived in hell. But the irony is that Mifune's character is good--standing against the greed in his corporation, paying for his chauffeur's son, a self-made man himself. Brilliant social commentary by Kurosawa, slightly manipulative, but not too heavy-handed. The particular class struggles of Japan woven into this American story, and yet made universal. There is an interesting scene in an American bar that is instantly louder and brighter and wilder than any other scene--America.
I haven't watched a lot of Kurosawa's domestic pieces (I think I've seen all of the Samurai epics) but everytime I do I am blown away by his skill. It frustrates me to speak with Anime and Japanese horror fans who've never seen a Kurosawa--the master. It also makes me crazy when I speak to supposed film fans who haven't seen his work. They are superb.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bread and circuses

Tonight I did something I'm ashamed of: I watched two episodes of Project Runway. Well, I read while they played on the TV, but I looked up a lot. Bless me, Readers, for I have sinned and I feel unclean. I hate reality television, even something as "positive" as this, someone will get a lot of money and a start in fashion from it and no one has to eat bugs or cheat on their loved ones or set fire to themselves. For every supposedly positive thing that reality television promotes--rooting for a fan, an underdog, rewarding some talent--there is something dark and horrible, because in the end we are all waiting for someone to crash and burn on national tv, and we all know that the most talented (whatever that means) is not going to walk away with the prize (Clay Aiken, anyone?). I got sucked in because of the first challenge which was to make dresses using only material that they had ripped from the dorms where they are staying. I love a good challenge esp. of materials, and in my mind I was imagining what I would make under the same restraints. On the one hand it seems unfair because they have so little time and in the real world they would have a staff and time to make these things, but sometimes the most imaginative work comes from the limitations (view my other blog) and in life you do have to judge your own skill, your time and your budget and decide what can realistically be made, not just what you'd like to make given a perfect world. My college had a pretty good endowment and we had fairly luxurious budgets to work with as designers and good shops with a kind and experienced costumer (love you Red Queen!) and a good wood shop staff. Then you hit the real world. I've been in shows designed by new college grads who aim too high--forgetting that they don't have the time, support or budget of school. I like to think that I have a pretty good grasp of budgets and time and what I can do. I always joke with small companies that I make three designs--the design I'd like to do had I time and staff, the design I could do with some help, and the design I can do if I get no help whatsoever. Oddly enough, I've only gone over budget when I had the most money. But I digress. The judges are not designers I admire and I didn't agree with their assessments, but the prettiest dress did win. The one that lost really lost because she ran out of time and I felt sorry for her, but I did understand. She was also the least interesting person, if you know what I mean and that really brings us to the crux of the matter. THESE ARE NOT REAL. Decisions are made based on ratings and sometimes someone quite terrible and talentless is left on the show to "Spice it UP." Crash and burn time. The ratings come with conflict and if they were all just really nice people with really good sewing skills then who cares. They milk it sooooo much. Dear God, it could be 20 to 30 minutes shorter if they didn't play for the suspense. Is the step forward line going to be in or out this week. How much humiliation and stress can we pack in? I thought Miss America pageants were sad, but at least you counted down the losers and there you were. The last two standing were number two and number one, not the winner and the loser. Oddly enough the second challenge was to make a dress for Miss USA or America (I forget which) to wear at the Miss Universe (but I'm still not seeing Venusians represented there!) pageant. This time it was partners and the two most horrible people ended up with each other. I think the one's designs have consistently been awful and he is an arrogant jerk, but she and he stayed on despite Bravo running a viewer poll in the middle (for something that was filmed and in the can months ago) and the loser was one of the best designers who overstretched himself. He had a tall model and Miss America was short so his hemline was raw BUT he would seldom if ever face that kind of problem in the real world, what a growth spurt? He was sweet and sad and needy and of course they had a clip of him saying how his mother had thrown his designs on the floor when he was 14 and he was trying to prove himself to her just minutes before he lost so that we would really SEE his pain and humiliation PLUS he probably wouldn't give the great fireworks that the other two will give in the weeks to come. And that's what it's really all about, isn't it? Watching HUMILIATION. Watching another human being squirm and being glad it's not you and feeling safe and smug and secure on your sofa while someone SUFFERS. I can't stand it. Not in any medium. I'll watch gory films, violent films, tragic films and poignant films but I can't watch humiliation because I FEEL for them. I know what it's like to feel so embarrassed you wish the earth would swallow you and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. The loser said he felt shame. Isn't that the saddest thing? Why should he feel shame? We should be ashamed for wanting to see it. We don't shame our prisoners. We didn't shame Ken Lay or Tom Delay for that matter but we shame these poor idiots on tv. I can't even watch The Office because the embarrassment factor is too high. I feel for those characters too. And that brings me to what kind of person goes on these things in the first place. What kind of need is there to do that to yourself--because if you really believe in yourself then you certainly don't need this show to tell you your good and you'll be happy whether you get a show in New York, or simply sew for friends and get compliments on the street. Yes, being handed a show in New York for a few weeks of no privacy and possible humiliation sounds like it's easier than slogging for some horrible boss who'll steal your work but it's not. And it's no more guaranteed than the slogging way. Talent alone will never get it and neither will hard work, despite the lies that we tell our children. There isn't a guarantee anywhere but there are ways of trying that don't require your soul and your dignity.

Is Running Man far behind?

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Mad random thoughts again. Will I have time to get them down? Will I make time?

One thing that occurred to me while writing the massive post below was tense in English. For awhile I was writing in present tense--I land, I walk, I see--but that becomes distracting esp. jumping about as I do and I went back in and changed it. There are so many tenses in English. It's part of what makes learning English very difficult. Past perfect, past imperfect. Japanese as I recall has only two. How different that must be and how difficult then to try and learn English and get all those strange endings right.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

My trip to San Francisco to see Hyde

Travel broadens the mind but thins the wallet.

I love to fly, and yet I was stressed about this trip--perhaps leaving my husband, perhaps such a fundamentally foolish mission; I envisioned earthquakes and plane crashes (seeing X-Men III the day before I left didn't help), but nothing more untoward than extra baggage searches, leading to a last minute dash to leave my multi-purpose tool with my husband before they confiscated it, occurred.

Flying out over Boston harbor (during ascent) I watched the islands recede. Landing in San Francisco and I was again watching the ocean give way to curved shore lines. They are such similar cities after all. San Francisco is still bright and shiny yet sadder too, perhaps because I am older and am seeing it with my own money and my own time--before I was in a comfortable car with my aunt and uncle, on their dime. My hotel was small and neat, as I wanted. I rested briefly in my room and then walked, yes walked, all you fools who attempted to drive, to Japantown to meet friends. It would have been a fine walk had I not been lugging a laptop, but even so, the hills were relatively mild in the center of town and I arrived with perhaps an hour to spare. Wandered a bit--bought a few gifts, a Totoro T-shirt for husband, etc. And yet, I was unimpressed. We import books all the time--our house is littered with foreign book catalogues so this was not as exotic as I wanted it to be. The internet and globalization makes the world small and mediocre. Union Square was full of the same old stores, and Japantown has nothing that cannot be bought on-line. The colleges in Boston bring enough Japanese to warrant a lot of good stores. I saw Moomin giftware, but if I cannot afford them online then I should not buy them here.
Met friends from cyberspace--that tentative, "Are you who I think you are?" both literal and figurative. Had dinner and chatted about other things than Hyde (but mostly Hyde). We went back to their room and watched the L'Arc~en~Ciel videos for which I lugged said laptop--then it's all L'Arc discussion. I took a cab back to my hotel as the fireworks died down. This was the first 4th in a long while where I did not in some way watch a fireworks display; I saw one explosion high one over the tops of buildings while I waited for the cab and then failed to tip the doorman and felt like a rat. Strangely I do not miss the fireworks as much as I thought I would but still, tonight, feel dreadful about the doorman. Left my hat in the cab as I feared I would.
Woke ludicrously early--still in Boston, apparently--and tried to doze to a more reasonable hour; it's going to be a long day after all. Walked again down Market from 4th to 11th and was struck by true city blocks as opposed to Boston blocks, but persevered. As I approached the location I saw that we had been lied to, or at any rate, mislead. There was already a line of 50 people. A few spent the night! Found my friends and the woman to whom I was selling a ticket. All was well and we hunkered down to wait. Sans chapeau I did have a parapluie. We were the ones under the pink umbrella for anyone who was there. I bought the umbrella a few days before in case of San Francisco rain, pink because I knew everyone else's would be black. Despite it's protection I still find later that I have sunburned the part in my hair and my hands are brown. I tan easily but since discovering Goth in high school have tried for pale. Hyde, after all, likes his women pale (though of course, he would have just been joining L'Arc when I was in high school and college, so hardly affecting my decisions). This is fandom--we were there at 1:30 for a show scheduled to begin at 9. People drove, walked and biked by asking, "Who are you lined up for?" "Hyde," we screamed. They were puzzled. I told some men unloading beer that he's very short and that's why we need to be need to be in the front or we won't see him at all. Scoping for public bathrooms, taking breaks in turn for food. The hours passed. We were joined by a startlingly confident girl of 16 who joins our group, thus jumping the line, but I didn't have the heart to tell her no--mostly because I knew she would simply find someone else further forward (which she did eventually), and because watching her non-fan father was fun. Around 7:30 things started to happen, which was good as a sharp breeze was blowing. More people seemed to find "friends" near the front of the line--I was annoyed at the time, but now find it easy to forgive--had I been on my own, I might have tried the ruse. Once got to the second row of a David Bowie concert by walking confidently up to sit with friends (poor ex-boyfriend who suffered for my presence, I found out later). Sat on the ground until the show started and then nobody noticed a (small) extra person in the row.
We peered on tip toes to see the doors opening. We then crawled forward to have our bags checked, cameras confiscated and hands stamped. Once inside, I saw they were selling two colors of wristbands that I had promised for B back on east coast. Frantic texting--using text speak which I try to avoid. "Wt clr wristbnd? Blk r rd? Dd U wnt 2?" Phone vibed minutes later, "Yes Blk" but by then I dared not leave my place, so after the show she was left with red. We were about 5 "rows" back slightly to the left facing the stage. More waiting and repetitions of warnings about cameras and camera phones in English and Japanese. The opening act was more funny than good. The ballads awful, the tongue-in-cheek "Love/Hate Relationship" amusing but nothing to run out and buy. The lead singer reminded me of Nick Rhodes as surfer dude. At one point an audience member who had apparently seen them at the earlier Hyde shows screamed, "You're hot." "Of course I am, I'm the lead singer," he replied (or something like that). They go off after repeating the mistake that Hyde is a band, not a singer. Knew I would read about that on boards.
BEGINING OF HYDE PART Classical music (can't recall the piece) played over the change--with much crescendo and cymbals--different, kept expecting Hyde to appear in a puff of smoke with the timpani. And then, at last, drummer, masked keyboardist, bassist, guitarist entered and at the last, small figure with bandana over face. It's real. That's Hyde, less than ten feet from me, in the flesh. And am bowled over by a wave of sound. Damn, that I didn't stop for earplugs on the way down. I was so sure I would have time. I stood resolutely against the crush like a stone in a stream to maintain some personal space and quickly realized that there were now more people between me and the stage. The stream rushes past the stone and fills the pool (or something like that). Decided that that would not do--let myself go with the crowd, not actively pushing, but letting the crowd move me into empty spaces. To hell with personal space. This is rock and roll after all. So if I trod on you, bumped you, crushed you, stabbed you with my purse, or otherwise impeded your enjoyment, I am sorry; it was not intentional. At one point near the end I was only three rows of people back.
In person he is still beautiful. I can't decide if he was wearing foundation or not, but either way, his skin is lovely. He looks (to me) closer to his age than the photoshoped pictures will allow, but in a good way--biseinen. Like Bowie in his early 30's, his face all sharp planes, sculptured bones. He was wearing artfully shredded jeans--at first I thought it was just a pattern, but I think now that it was tufted or textured in a design, a brownish or plum colored long sleeved shirt (with the lights it's hard to tell) with reverse seaming and a leather vest with misc. straps and dangly bits, typical of his taste (or his stylist taste) these days. At his hip he had a sort of flat leather bag or holster, apparently holding nothing. Once he pulled down the bandana (with his signature sigul) it stays around his neck through the whole show. What I remember most are his eyes, lined in a thin ring of black, wild whites, and the deep dark pupils that seemed to be looking at each of us individually, (but was probably just seeing the spots left by the changing lights). A master showman can make each person in the crowd believe that he is talking/singing to them alone and Hyde fulfilled that. He did "crazy" eyes to convey emotions--like way back in the Claustrophobia days.
His voice has all the things that I love about it, with few of the things that annoy me. It is full and resonant without too much vibrato. I fear I will leave the instrument review to others as I was pretty deaf pretty early on--I am out of practice. It was, as I've said, a wall of sound. This is my fundamental problem with Faith as an album in general--just a roar of sound without detail. In the end I do prefer Ken's delicate, and varied finger work, but a concert is in part about the group gestalt. How we all wanted to be there with Hyde. The louder songs that I like less on the album worked best live, more than "I Can Feel," for instance. As often happens when I see a concert I walked away from it with a new found love for the album and a need to listen to it--to lock the image with the sound. Like all concerts, I swear to myself that I will remember the set list for Mesmerized, but I don't. So stealing from others set lists (and remember, this is my opinion and my taste, backed by nothing but my opinion and my taste):
I'm really glad he opened with "Made in Heaven" rather than "Jesus Christ" as he did at the other concerts. It's just a more fun song than the wailing angst of "JC" even if I like the concept of "JC."
Still don't like "It's Sad." Just rolls off of me on all levels.
"Jesus Christ" was fine for 3rd--we were all warm then and needed a small spacer
"Season's Call," "Dolly," and "Prayer" all rocked along although, again the softer parts of "SC" were lost for me. I liked "Dolly" much more live--the "Build a tower tall and strong. It will be beautiful. Using our technology. Babel will stand anew" really lifted the roof live.
In between the little chats--"MC", presumably after the English master of ceremonies. His amusing Japanese intonation on "Why do I see my name everywhere (in San Fran)? Are you welcoming me?" 'Welcoming me' rising an octave like the mother in "My Neighbors the Yamadas." He said something we all failed to understand about the slopes of San Francisco, and our misunderstanding sent him scrambling back to the cue cards at his feet. I wonder if they let him rollerblade on Lombard Street? When the crowd misunderstood his intro to "I Can Feel"--"...that perfect moment when love becomes one with the universe," which of course everyone thought was going to be "Perfect Moment" it seemed to surprise him--as did the gifts tossed on the stage. A startled look crossed his eyes.
"Faith," again, I enjoyed more live.
Then "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Now I had heard the download of this and actually deleted it--just what the world didn't need, another Beatles cover, but sung live, in Engrish by a small Japanese man and his fans it was more surreal than John, Paul, George and Ringo could have imagined. The luminous eyes were rolling for the verses--"Kaleidoscope eyes" indeed, then we were all nearly head banging on the screamed chorus! When I got back home I requested it from friends to listen to again and again.
I like "Hello" and "Masquerade" which I know puts me in the minority--for "Masquerade" at least, but I saw the lyrics first and I love them--the IRONY. The bands I love are ironic--never take yourself too seriously. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, maybe he doesn't even know what he's singing (I hope not) but it's ironic when I sing it.
"Hideaway" not one of my favorites because the pronunciation on the album is cringe making, but fun in concert.
He asked us to sing with him on "Unexpected." How could we refuse. Ending with him nearly disappearing as he jammed to the floor.
Then they left the stage and when he returned he was wearing all the same clothes. Very disappointing--unexpected indeed.
Before the show I had seen the roadies set up the acoustic guitar and I was hoping for "Mission" but he hadn't played it at the other shows, so you can imagine my delight at hearing the notes begin a predictable song, but I love it. We counted backwards with him on "Countdown" and ended with his intriguing lyrics to "Midnight Celebration." (That song still puzzles me, but I fear to question it's meaning too much is to be fangirling.) He made a brief reach into the audience for hands, and I hoped he'd repeat it on my side but he seemed to not enjoy it much and escaped quickly.

And then it was over--every normal sound came down a very long tunnel to me. Bought B's wristbands, poured into the night with Musing and Ikuni and parted quickly for cabs.

Riding back to the hotel, what did I feel? A weird mixture of sadness and elation, and I am mad at myself for my own ability to rob myself of present happiness by wanting something more. Happiness is in wanting and anticipation. Eating the cake is seldom as much fun as thinking of eating it (although likewise the dentist is seldom as bad as thinking about the dentist). What did I want--transcendence? A life altering experience or a very good concert, which it was. I like to think of myself as unique--we all do, I suppose. I avoid things that the pack clamors after which is why, when I find myself in fandom I am alarmed. What does this mean for how I see myself? When I find myself as part of any mass I am alarmed. I am a fan of Hyde's--it's all any of us are, and Hyde is what each of us needs because he is a "star" and not really real (not the Hyde in each of our heads). Perhaps this is why some try to become uber-fans, and feel justified in bitch-slapping anyone who doesn't know as much as they do, or appreciate in the ways that they do. It lets them feel unique in the midst of the mob. I certainly don't want to be that, but I'd like to be the kind of person who can simply say, "This is this silly, expensive thing I've decided to do for myself because it's fun--in and of itself--it's fun to go to a concert of a person who's voice and music you admire, and if he's eye candy, so much the better." What's funny is that now, over a week later I can look back and say, "What a great concert. That really was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I went." Like I said, listening to the album helped recapture in slow mo' the crazy rush of the concert. Life is always like that, and I am always sad as the ephemeral moments whiz by. You can't put them in jars, and to try too hard to do so is to lose them faster or not enjoy them as they are happening. You can put the memory in jars of sorts, by writing things like this, until the memory is the reality. As I tell people how exciting it was it becomes more exciting for me. A partial trick for me is to always something else on the horizon to look forward to. (Obviously not as exciting as Hyde) but the next show I'm designing, the next event I'm going to, etc., like I'm building ladders to happiness.

My uncle picked me up around noon the next day and I had to explain that I was speaking very precisely because everything sounded like my head was in a bucket. He said I wasn't screaming--which was good. He also found it funny to think that one should take earplugs to a concert (you probably didn't have to for Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman). He drove me around a little to the spots in San Francisco that I hadn't visited like Coit Tower where we looked out over the bay. I pointed out that I don't think the Golden Gate Bridge would stretch to Alcatraz as Magneto makes it do in X-Men III, which I said just negates the whole film for me. My uncle (not a science-fiction fan) says as opposed to Magneto moving the bridge in the first place? I started to point out the internal logic of fantastic fiction, but decide not to bother. I played Roentgen for my aunt who says it's nice background music. Played a part of "Season's Call" for her but decided that that's not really worth it either. Enjoyed their company for what it is. On Saturday my uncle drove me back to San Francisco at 3 for a 11pm flight (they had a party to attend). My former hotel graciously allowed me to store my luggage and catch a shuttle from there, so I went around the block to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The museum was showing an exhibit of the photographs of Shomei Tomatsu. Tomatsu took pictures of the hibakusha, the survivors of Nagasaki after the atomic bomb. They are beautiful photographs of horrible things. I had used some of these photos as source material for a paper design project in college--the melted skin. It was a very difficult project to do and it was all my own making--I wanted to face my own fears. Other people were bringing in images of buildings, or sculpture and one woman was doing a design for a Japanese house and had lovely pictures of screens and fans. I had pictures of growths, tumors, survivors of Civil War battles, scars and autopsies--my fellow classmates dreaded my presentations. It was strange to see them on the walls of the museum after all this time. I wondered if Hyde knew they were on exhibit or if he had seen them before as they tie in so much with his themes both on Awake and Faith. There was another exhibit at another museum that I saw advertised around town about the fascination that east and west have had on one another. Bowler hats on kimono'd men in turn of the century photographs. The Japonisme that was so prevalent amongst the fin-de-siecle. And yet what does it mean--this co-mingling of cultures? What did it mean then, what does it mean today? Another of Tomatsu's series was called "Bubble Gum and Chocolate" for the GI's stationed in Japan after the war (of which my father was one) and their continued presence on Okinawa up to the present day. Again--a love/hate relationship. It can sometimes turn ugly. One of Tomatsu's photos is of a fumie, the religious images that suspected Japanese Christians were forced to step on after the ban on Christianity in the 1600's. Reluctance to do so revealed Christians who were burned to death or crucified upside down. I would say the strange relationship between east and west after the Meiji restoration certainly led to much of Japan's actions of World War II. If you ape another culture, what does that mean for your own cultural identity? Or your nations?

One last incident--I bought a book for the trip home (and then slept the whole way instead) and treated myself to very good sushi outside Union Square. Then I caught my shuttle and arrived at the airport 2 hours before loading. I was reading and listening to Faith when there seemed to be some confusion about the gate. A young Asian woman asked me in heavily accented English if I knew what was going on. I broke the cardinal rule of airports (ah well) and asked her to watch my luggage while I went to check. Lo and behold we had to go to a different gate in a different wing! So she and I walked together. I asked where she was from (that awful question) and why she was going to Boston. Yes, she was Japanese and was going to Boston to talk to grad schools in Environmental Engineering: Harvard, Tufts, Boston College. She was rushing through and was then going back to Tokyo until her classes began again in the fall in San Francisco (one year to finish). I gave her tips about Boston and then, laughingly told her about coming across country to see Hyde. She barely knew his name but had vaguely heard of L'Arc~en~Ciel (maybe I should have called them Laruku), had heard of Gackt (but only because his name was everywhere). Then I took a gamble. I thought she looked older than an average college student. I told her that my husband and I were big fans of Ryuichi Sakamoto. That pleased her no end. She thought he lived in New York now with his wife, musician Akiko Yano. I sadly told her that they had divorced, but we spoke of his old band the techno group YMO. We were sitting far apart on the plane, but I promised to meet up with her at the other end and gave her my card on which I carefully wrote my name in Katakana for her amusement. She gave me her address in Japan and email. I mention this because when I was in college and asked Japanese friends if they had heard of Sakamoto they dismissed him as pop that their younger sisters liked--posters on the wall, etc. Sound familiar? Now he is a highly respected musician who composed the opening music for the Barcelona Olympics. The lasting question for me will not be whether Hyde can break into the west, but whether he can break into serious musicianship.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Way the World Works

There's this game I play called "Diner Dash." I'm not sure what genre it would fall under, although I've heard it called an RPG and a point and click, but that makes it sound more complicated than it is. In it you are a waitress (RPG) and you are working towards a goal by waiting on tables. You have to seat customers, take their order, bring them their food, bring them their bill, and bus the table by clicking on things in order (point and click). You have limited time to do this, shown by little hearts beneath them--take too long the hearts go down, seat them next to loud customers, hearts go down. No more hearts and they leave and you lose money. I had played nearly to the end making the standard goal, but never the expert. Now the trick to making the most money is not, as you might think, keeping the heart gage full--thus the happiest customers. No, the trick is to do things in groups. Take all the orders at once, bring all the food at once, give all of the bills at once and bus all at once, EVEN IF IT MEANS SOME CUSTOMERS WAIT and lose hearts. As long as they don't lose all of the hearts you're good. Oh, and they are dressed in different colors (red, yellow, blue, green) and seating them in the same color seat will get you points too. Not sure what that means. At first this realization annoyed me because it just made me think of my days in corporate retail. A store would get more penalties if it had happy customers, but wasn't selling what the big bosses thought it should be selling, than having slightly unhappy customers, but selling whatever the product was. My husband's book store for instance outsold everybody on Mystery and Sci-Fi, because he and a co-worker cared about those departments but they didn't match the quotas on best sellers because my husband and the others weren't into pushing a title they thought was stupid (Dan Brown anyone?) Never mind that the numbers matched--the regional directors would come down and make them send back the good sci-fi and mystery in favor of the best sellers. The fabric store I worked in had trouble getting enough flannel because the parent company was in southern California and couldn't believe we needed flannel all year long, so that's what I thought was going on in this game--teaching us to do it one way, happiness be damned. But then I began to realize that by being "proactive," instead of "reactive," sort of saying, "No, I won't take your order until the table next to you orders as well," actually helped you guide the course of the game. It became less frenzied and more rhythmic. Can life be like this as well? I actually think that I'm pretty good at grouping things in my life and helping others see the value of it--proactive, not reactive. This is the time for me to do this--don't let anything interrupt you, but I'm not a master at it. I don't, for instance, know how to do it for people, to guide people to the conclusion I'm looking for. It's why I'm not a salesperson. I can't seem to sacrifice the little happiness for the bigger picture. At the same time, I'm not sure if it really is the best way to run things if happiness, not money or efficiency is our goal.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I didn't realize I talked about them quite so much

This was a birthday present from N, the friend who wanted to see the DaVinci code. She told me she saw it and knew I had to have it. I was opening it in her car and peeling back the brown wrapper. I saw the Folies Bergere part and thought, "Oh, how nice, she knows I like poster art." And then she said, "Did you READ it?" Hoorah! When my husband saw it he just slapped his forehead and shook his head.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Happiness of the Katakuris

Just watched very possibly the most absurd film I have ever seen, and I have seen some strange films. Japanese musical/horror/comedy/family/live-action/clay-animation (claymation is a copywrited term for Will Vinton--geek rant) film. This is from director Takashi Miike who normally does serious horror--well serious splatter. Now I really am taking the Japanese thing too far--I recognized the cop as the actor in a commercial for L'Arc~en~Ciel's Tomarunner game. I can spot actors in 4 languages! Sweetly heart warming, utterly cheesy. Very fun

This has been quite a Japanese week. Watched "47 Ronin" on Saturday. Caught parts of "Kagemusha" and "Rashomon." Watched the last part of the "Hama Mike (Real Name)" trilogy Wednesday and now this. The last part, "The Trap," was actually very hard, very dark and disturbing. I enjoyed the first one the most. There's a dual casting in TT that was so subtle my husband didn't even catch it. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be symbolic or literal.

Bubble Tea

I'm posting in the middle of the day! Wahoo!

Totally random post because I'm on lunch break and I feel like it.

Just had bubble tea for the first time. You'd think being interested in Japan I'd have had this before, esp. since I like Tapioca, but it's rather expensive and I was afraid I wouldn't like it. Well, I don't LOVE it, but I don't hate it either. The flavor was Earl Grey and the tapioca was flavored with Raspberries. It gave the tea a milky flavor and it was disconcerting to have the tapioca come up the straw periodically (could have been solved with a smaller straw, I realize), but the flavors worked well together and the tapioca was well done instead of being hard (which I kind of expected. What's funny is it DID NOT go with the crispy eel sushi I was eating for lunch. Fish and raspberries--not so much. Should have had plain flavor, or drunk it after the sushi.

I do love Newbury Street in Boston though. I only work in town one day a week now which is unfortunate in summer as there is so much going on, but there are SOOO many people as well. Like the fact that working in town is nice because you don't have to drive, but then you have to take the T... Enjoy what you have.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Driving in Boston

Inching along in a log jam of traffic yesterday on the Mass Pike I watched an Audi a few cars in front of me weave in and out of traffic determined to find the lane that was "moving" and yet for the whole half an hour that we sat there he ended up still only a few cars ahead of me. Sure there were times his lane pulled ahead, but then mine would catch up and he would switch back. The only thing he accomplished was to make the line that much slower. There was a great article that a friend sent me years ago on the physics of traffic and it has been determined that weaving in and out of tight traffic will really gain you nothing and in fact cause the very blockages that you believe you are defying. (Sidenote--an unfortunately side effect of so much of interest on the internet is that it is impossible to store all of the articles that interest you over the years in the vague belief that you will someday want to reference them to others) The article also pointed out that if all drivers maintained a reasonable distance between their car and the car in front of them, many traffic jams would be alleviated or avoided all together because the traffic would move as an inchworm does, in ordered segments. The problem is that that Audi driver (and his ilk) believe that beating others by those one or two car lengths is worth it. What do they care for the poor, cowardly driver at the back of the line who will never be able to change lanes and will thus simply get pushed further and further back.

Attaching an older blog on driving:
On driving

Sunday, June 11, 2006

On a much lighter note

My husband found this. I love science in action!

Or to paraphrase Bill Nye (not to be confused with Bill Nighy), "The Mentos of SCIENCE!"

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Talent for Life

In 15 minutes it will no longer be my birthday (well, I'm not sure it really is my birthday, but I've beaten that dead horse with my friends, so I'll let it lie). Warning this may be a little rambly and it may pass into the next day before it goes up, or not.

I've always felt too old. I was sad at 18 that I could no longer be a child prodigy. At 24 I actually wrote a poem called, "On Turning 24 and Feeling it is Too Old." I looked for it to put it here, but I am glad to say I don't seem to have it on this computer. (Read an amusing line, I think in a link from Mirror up to Life that said that everyone writes adolescent poetry and that bad poets publish it, and good poets destroy it). In it I did berate myself for intellectually knowing that 24 was not too old, or even old, but emotionally not being able to see it, and the last line was the realization that I would probably feel this way for a very long time. And I was right. Every year I try to think, it's only a number (I think I used the term nearer to death), and quite meaningless. That comparisons to others is a pointless exercise--I can think of others more together, I can think of others less, and everyone has their own path--I would not want their choices. But I don't feel that I've done anything worthwhile in my life--so I should go join the Peace Corp., but I don't.
I had a therapist who made me graph my life as I saw it--high points and low points--to see how many things I had accomplished. I can console myself with it, but should I console and accept it, or should I berate myself to do better. Unfortunately berating myself just makes me want to stay in bed forever. So I really should try harder on that acceptance thing, shouldn't I? Or is that berating too. Accept that I don't accept?

Mirror up to Life has a great metaphor from football (and from theater) about talent. That it is not that the talented do not make mistakes, but rather that they are able to recover faster and better from the mistakes. On stage when someone forgets a line I am very good at improvising back to a semblance of meaning. I am very good at taking the low budgets or left over things and making art out of them, but when something serious goes wrong in my life, it is not that I never recover, it is that it seems to take me so much time.

I took time off from college. It was supposed to be a semester, maybe two. It became two and a half years, thus when I went back I already felt too old.

In the end of 2000 I had some problems in my marriage. I didn't really recover from them for about 3 years. Only now do I feel that we are back financially where we were in 2000 and I pray every day that nothing new will happen, that we can be stable for awhile, all the while listening to a clock somewhere that says, "You must make up for lost time! You're too far behind." Mentally I even feel three years younger, like I was in a coma. Can I just say that I am three years younger? That my husband is as well? That we have three more years to do better?

I feel as if I have no talent for life--for the fumbles of it, but I know that is silly. There is no such thing as a talent for life. We are all alive, therefore we are living, muddling through. There is no plan, no guideline, no should of or way it should have been or should be (see the previous post). I believe myself too clear eyed to believe in all the crazy plans--to believe in the secret. Maybe I have bigger blinders on than anyone because I desperately want there to be a secret, an answer but won't look because I know it will disappoint. Afterall if I have learned nothing else from literature, I have learned that. Maybe I shouldn't read so much. I know I shouldn't think so much. A good friend (who is also a therapist, but not my therapist) once said in a sort of free therapy session, "Boy, you've got a lot of should'ves to keep up with." At the end of Pleasantville, the mother says, "It wasn't supposed to be like this." Toby Maguire's character says (paraphrased), "It isn't supposed to be anything." I know that and I don't know it, if you know what I mean.

All of my life has been spent in the dual sides (Gemini after all, another belief system to make us think that there is order) of desiring stability and desiring adventure. Even now, when we are finally stable I keep thinking what will the next thing be--should I go to grad school, I want to move, I want to change, there has to be more/better than this.

These are things I've written of which I am rather fond. They aren't that original, but I like my language:

There is no Answer

Life has a way of happening
Whether we watch or not
And sometimes it will
Backhand you, just to see
If you're paying attention.
Life goes on; what else can it do?

Time slips past like an errant dog
Dashing between the legs
Laughing at your call.

Overheard in Passing

Life: Why do you linger, when your work is so transitory, a moment, less than a moment?

Death: I linger for the living. I have nothing to teach the dead

Life: Living is the surest and hardest way to die

I had a moment, driving last week, a moment of clarity when I realized that my 20's were spent in the 90's. That doesn't sound like much, but it seemed startling to me as if I thought of myself as an 80's child and that was all, but I lived through the 90's and I'm living now, my 30's in the first decade of the new century. Affected by it, different moment to moment. It all seemed so clear in that instant, so, dare I say it, Zen, in the moment, all the things we strive for. Having seen it, I know now a little better what I am looking for, even though I have lost it again. I remember once saying to my husband that I felt like I had ruined his life, as if had he never met me he would still be 23 with his life before him. What vanity, as if time moved with me, but we are all the centers of our own universes and it is only by the effort of will that we can see anyone else's. And what power I ascribed to myself--to create or destroy lives. I know and I do not know, simultaneously.

Well, it's a 45 minutes later. I have no better answers. Welcome new year.

(And it's my 50th post--how apropos)