Sunday, June 29, 2008

Proust II

And then I went back to Proust.

One of the great things about this apartment is the little porch. We share it with the other half of the house, but we've never seen them out there and it's really only large enough for a few chairs, but it's still perfect.

I rushed home the Friday before last--put some pickles and cheese on a plate (having a salt craving apparently), set up the folding lounger I bought for this reason, the umbrella I got on sale from Pier 1 years ago and can finally use and read. Bliss--well, until the big raindrops came down--and I was only a few pages from the end of a section--spent a moment trying to decide if I could finish the section and had to decide that I couldn't. Oddly enough, in the book the narrator was describing being so moved by nature on his walks that he felt that he needed to find the space to put down in words a description of his feelings, but always, by the time he got home other things would intrude and the moment would be lost.
Having reached home I would begin to think of something else, and so my mind would become littered (as my room was with the flowers that I had gathered on my walks, or the odds and ends that people had given me) with a mass of disparate images--the play of sunlight on a stone, a roof, the sound of a bell, the smell of fallen leaves--beneath which the reality I once sensed, but never had the will-power to discover and bring to light, has long since perished.

On recognizing an idea (as I do in Proust):
...if I happened to find in one of his books some thing which had already occurred to my own mind, my heart would swell as though some deity had, in his infinite bounty, restored it to me, had pronounced it to be beautiful and right.

Its (rain) drops, like migrating birds which fly off in a body at a given moment, would come down out of the sky in serried ranks--never drifting apart, never wandering off on their own during their rapid course, but each one keeping its place and drawing its successor in its wake, so that the sky was more darkened than during the swallows' exodus.

On the sound of church bells on a hot day: order to squeeze out and let fall the few golden drops which had slowly and naturally accumulated in the hot sunlight--pressed, at a given moment, the distended surface of the silence.

...--oh, marvellous independence of the human gaze tied to the human face by a cord so loose, so long, so elastic that it can stray alone as far as it may choose--...

A musical phrase (and I have felt this):
It had at once suggested to him a world a inexpressible delights, of whose existence, before hearing it, he had never dreamed, into which he felt that nothing else could initiate him; and he had been filled with love for it, as with a new and strange desire.

I was intrigued by and even somewhat confused by a passage on what is clearly a lesbian relationship by a daughter of a friend in which he speculates that some people must, in fear of physical desire, cloak it in a form of sadism--must label it as bad and themselves as bad as well in order to enjoy it.

I have at last moved into Swann in Love, the story of Swann's bad marriage which so shaped the first section without ever being its topic.

Movies vs. Books

Since Wanted came out this week, it seemed like the time to write my belated article on Nightwatch, Daywatch, Twilightwatch.

I was trying to find the post I thought I'd written on seeing Nightwatch, but couldn't find it. Maybe I didn't write it down...

At any rate, we watched Daywatch recently and it was directed by Timur Bekmambetov who directed the new Angelina Jolie/James McAvoy vehicle--Wanted. Nightwatch and Daywatch are the two highest grossing films EVER in Russia. That's why Timur got to helm an Angie project--but more on that later.

After watching Daywatch I felt the need to go and read the entire trilogy (although there is a 4th coming out in English translation in one week) in a mad marathon of about 4 days.

I enjoyed the books very much--great humor, fascinating story line. I also enjoyed the movies very much--great visuals, quirky humor, fascinating story line. They are not, however, great adaptations of the books. That is, they are not particularly faithful to the books despite the fact that the author was directly involved in the scripts. Some things are nearly verbatim, many things are shuffled--given to other characters, occur in different order and the conclusion of Daywatch, the movie, could both be a solid ending (Hollywood has optioned the chance to mess up the last film) or a precursor to the "final" battle. It should also be noted that Nightwatch and Daywatch, the movies, are primarily drawn from the first book. But in the end, the basic premise is the same and the underlying themes remain.

This is rather the same thing that my husband and I note about Blade Runner vs. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep." The plot of Blade Runner is radically different from DADES, but in the end the themes are the same--what is sentience, what is quality of life, what future are we building? Blade Runner is an amazing and (dare I say it) seminal film. DADES is a great story. Blade Runner just isn't the same story, but it really doesn't matter.

Film and books are not the same medium and what makes a great film is a combination of things that might or might not be in a good book.

For example--the concept of the trilogy is that there are "Others," magical beings who can choose to follow the Light or the Dark. There is no God or Devil, just these two sides. Each side has a bureaucracy devoted to monitoring the other side and maintaining the balance. One of the descriptions of the books calls them Harry Potter meets Gorky Park. I'd say it's more Harry Potter meets MI5, the British show about the secret service (in fact I kept picturing Peter Firth, the head of MI5 as the head of Nightwatch). The Others have access to "the Twilight" called "the Gloom" in the movies. A level beyond, beneath?, above? ours where they can move about unseen by us, but it takes a lot of power. In the book they step into their own shadow--but in the movie they put on sunglasses--more visually interesting. There's a lot of differences like that--fights obviously become much more dramatic. What's funny is the little magic of the books (essentially their expellarmus) is downplayed in the movie.

The fascinating thing about the books for me is this idea of balance--light and dark in perpetual watch--the ultimate Cold War, hotter in the past, but settled into a detente--how fitting for a Russian author. The story is about choices--both sides want to win, but if they take an action they must yield an equal action to the other side. For instance the Light has the power to remoralize a human but they might have to give a certain number of humans to vampires or werewolves in return. What they want ultimately is to really turn humanity as a whole to the light, but how to do that without direct action? Their actions have already cost humanity--communism was one of theirs (of course). The dark on the other hand, need only wait--humanity will role to the dark if simply left alone. It's a different way of looking at the state of the world.

I also read the Wanted graphic novel--from what I can tell (I haven't seen the film), the film is a radical departure from the comic. In the comic it's a band of criminals--a brotherhood who control the world. They have no morality but their own desires and they can get away with anything. I'm not sure I like the comic. I understand what they are trying to get at--the unexamined life in modern terms, but I think they make the dark life a little too exciting. In the movie, as the commercials tell us, it's a brotherhood of assassins who make the world better by killing the bad guys. Wanted, the comic would never have been made as was. In some ways I can see the through line for the director--the idea of choosing to live, really live, with all it's responsibility, vs. letting other decide for you.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Venus--Peter O'Toole

I fell in love with Peter O'Toole when I was 10 and he was 49. He was Flavius Silva in Masada and he had already had some rough decades in the bottle behind him. But with my already developed Biseinen sensors, I knew that he was or had once been exquisitely beautiful.

Already something of an obsessive, I saw every film I could find that I was allowed to see, good, bad or mediocre. From the near perfect Lawrence of Arabia and Becket, to the fluff of How to Steal a Million to the perfectly dreadful Goodbye Mr. Chips (the musical!). Much was off limits to me and I would wait years to see the cult classics like The Ruling Class or What's New Pussycat. It's hard to describe how stunning he is in Lawrence and the pictures I can find do not do the action justice. Tan, tall and blonde--not my usual MO, but he looks like sculpture in that film. Noel Coward allegedly said, "If he were any prettier in that film, he'd be Florence of Arabia."

In glorious technicolor his eyes are electric blue. I can't even imagine what it must have been like to see that film in theaters. A recent acquaintance went to the screening when it was recently remastered and rereleased.

His eyes are very pale now, but the tour de force performance is still there. My mother told me that she'd always heard that he was gay, but I believe he was a serious womanizer. In Venus he is just that, a very old actor who loved and was loved by women. And he has fallen in love with the 20 year old grand-niece of his best friend, a fellow actor who has probably been in love with him for years.
Venus is that great small English film about growing old. About things we have done and regret, but will do or would do if given the chance again. It is a loose Pygmalion story. The crass 20 year old girl is shown to be wounded deep inside and well, simply young and she learns that wisdom is not in putting on a shell, but being true to yourself. And the ending is inevitable. There are films that must end a certain way and you would be angry if they ended some other way--and there are films that can end a certain way but would be better if they didn't. This is one of the former.
O'Toole's character is old and like most of us, angry at being old. He is also an aging actor--reduced to playing corpses or the near death--except in one spot when he takes on a role he is really too sick to play to earn the money to impress the girl. Interestingly it's a period piece--late 18th century like the last thing I saw him in, the David Tennant Cassanova, which I did not like. And that too was about being old and thinking back on decisions we have made. I know that he is currently playing the Pope in The Tudors.
He is surrounded by a great cast--Leslie Phillips as his friend, Vanessa Redgrave as his long suffering wife (an interesting stand in for the real long-suffering ex-Mrs. O'Toole Sian Phillips), Richard Griffiths in a small role, but it is young Jodie Whittaker's movie really. When she comes on--all brutal accent, slouch and attitude, thinking she can come to London and be a model, or that Kylie Minogue's "I Should Be So Lucky" is on a par with Shakespeare, she is painful to watch and you wonder how he can be charmed but what he sees and what we come to see through her performance, through moments where she is wounded and even more where she begins to hope and care, is a startling and fully-formed character. It is the sort of performance I would have liked to have seen from Natalie Portman in Closer and didn't.
Several times in the film the others make reference to how beautiful he was (spoiler) and in his obituary they show the picture from the cover of his auto-biography, Loitering With Intent. He receives nearly a page bio--I wonder what O'Toole will receive.

Monday, June 09, 2008

An apolgy

I have fallen into the trap of the internet. That what one writes is not the same as a private journal or a letter to a close friend. It is public. And if you write something unkind about someone, thoughtlessly or deliberately--chances are that person will see it. My aunt and uncle recently read my blog which was very kind of them, but they found a line that I had written in November of last year where I said that they were deaf and right-wing. They are not deaf, although they are hard of hearing, but they are both sharp and relatively active, and they have written to tell me that they are not right-wing. They have revealed mixed and nuanced views on a variety of topics, but I had never taken the time to have those conversations with them. I have been guilty of making the kind of broad generalization that I would not want made about myself and I am genuinely sorry.

I have asked them not to tell my mother about some of my posts--to view these posts as the same as a private conversation that I might have with them that I would not want repeated to her--that I use this space to work through my conflicted feelings for her with my small circle of readers.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

At last!

You may note that I have changed the background for my Avatar--because she at least gets to travel in the Tardis even if I never will.

You really can't imagine how much it thrills me that Meez added the Tardis as a background. In the full animation I run into the box and it takes off through the Vortex! I'm even more excited than when I realized there were Hogwarts robes (well, not called Hogwarts--they skate a thin line {is that a mixed metaphor?}) or an FMA arm.

Doctor Who is such an important piece of my life--it's part of why/how my husband and I are together.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Time off

I was off from half day on Wednesday to today. It wasn't enough--especially with my poor husband sick and a variety of apts. that had to be taken care of, interviews, vet apt., dentist apt. But I did do some things--though never as much as one would like.

Two things I did finally take care of. I retrieved a box of props from the woman I did the one woman show with and I framed my father's flag. The flag thing wasn't something I was dreading--the proverbial, "Now, he's finally gone," thing. I know he's gone. I've known for 10 years, thank you. I just couldn't decide which flag box to get. There were one's with room for the medals and some with rooms for the pictures and some more expensive, less expensive, etc. I finally got just the triangle--on sale. It's not the best quality, but it's better than being in a cardboard box. The pictures I have of him receiving the Bronze Star Medal wouldn't have fit in the other frames, and I don't actually have the medal, just the certificate. I remember seeing it as a child, along with his bars, but I don't know what's become of them. That would be something I hope to find when I go through my mother's things.

The other thing, getting the box of props, was harder. It seems to say that we will never do that show again.

I shortened some curtains badly. I washed $26 by accident, and made my old cream colored bathroom rug a really lovely pink by washing it with a burgundy chair cover. Not my finest hour.

Other than tidying and laundry I did not clean at all in the dusting, vacuuming, mopping sense. Take that "Should'ves" in my head!

I did not renew my license at the RMV which I actually should have done while I was off during the day. Oh, well.

I DID, however, clean my desk (thereby finding the RMV notice) and my in-box, which some of you benefited/suffered from. I've let my bookmarks get out of control, so I had things in my in-box that I didn't want to lose by just bookmarking them and never seeing them again, but couldn't decide how best to sort/save them. I've added some to the Fun Stuff links, including the Six Sentences Blog which is stories in six sentences and the blog of the guy who made the Creative Whack Pack which my father gave me when I went to college. Sidenote: one of the newsletters I get for work had a contest for stories in exactly 140 characters--the link of a twitter post. I've stored some others in a folder. And some I passed on. I'm trying to do what I always advise people to do--if you haven't looked at it by now, then you probably never will. Let go. Move on.

Updated my resume... did some quick sewing projects. All-in-all, probably a B/B+ as my old behavioral therapist used to encourage.

Proust--an ongoing tale

And I have begun, rebegun "Remembrance of Things Past," (ou "A la recherche du temps perdu.") I started it in high school and had to return it to the library (like I thought I could read it in a month). Started it when I was taking time from college, but the edition that I had was falling apart so carrying it was difficult. I threw out the set when we moved and resolved to buy a new one.

I love Proust. That's my problem. I want to sit and ponder each sentence for awhile. I always said I would take some vacation and just read him, but when is that going to happen??? So I have begun it again. A few pages each night or lunch, pencil in hand.

A few posts ago I documented my bruise. Now, the point of that wasn't really because I think all of you, my dear readers needed to know my intimate details, but to get myself writing again. At work I have to strip writing down to simple, short sentences. I get caught up in the grammar and whether idiots can understand it. I wanted to try and write some metaphor, use some larger words and complex sentences. And nobody except maybe Henry James writes complex sentences like Proust, not to mention wondering about a bit: starting with the long passage, (longtemps) about bedtimes at Combray (14 pages), then a "digression" on Swann (15 pages) only to return to bedtimes (22 pages) in what he terms the Overture before the story of Combray actually begins which will somehow return to Swann.

I'll probably let you know how I'm doing with this periodically. When I can tear myself away from this:

"Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves and not anything else, by the immobility of our conception of them.

...I was convinced of the hostility of the violet curtains and of the insolent indifference of a clock that chattered on at the top of its voice as though I were not there...

But then, even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone and need only be turned up like a page in an account book or the record of a will; our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people. Even the simple act which we describe as "seeing someone we know: is to some extent an intellectual process. We pack the physical outline of the person we see with all the notions we have already formed about him, and in the total picture of him which we compose in our minds those notions have certainly the principal place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to flow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice as if it were no more than a transparent envelope, that each time we see the face or hear the voice it is these notions which we recognise and to which we listen."

Some time ago, Mirror had this clip up. It's fun to think of as one is reading, and in no way diminishes my enjoyment of the beauty of the language (which is, of course, partially Proust and partially the translators) or the depth of the ideas, but rather enhances both Python and Proust in a new mental thread, of which I am sure would amuse Proust were he alive and thinking today (take that clear and simple writing with your two line sentences).

Movies we have watched

Which is an easy thing to do now that the regular TV season is over:

The Matador--Pierce Brosnan both fulfills and surpasses Bond
El Orfanato--a little heavy handed at times, and a little obvious, but at the core, it is the two all too human accidents that will shake you, far beyond the supernatural.
The Golden Compass--I think I've written about Pullman before. It was very pretty--may need to refresh myself on the books.
Day Watch--the sequel to the very interesting and visually stunning Night Watch, deserves a larger post
Fido--Billy Connolly gives an Oscar worth performance with grunts and baring of teeth. Keep your own Zombie as a pet. Great fun, plus Carrie Ann Moss, mmm...
Sweeney Todd--a pretty film of a mediocre musical. Helena lacked the chops, but Johnny Depp really does look like Hyde when he sings.

Oh, yes, and we...

Gave the dog a haircut:

Guinness before

Guinness after

Duran Duran

Yes, went to see Duran Duran last Wednesday. My husband, alas, could not go as he came down with a terrible cold and so pretty much missed all of his vacation. In the grand scheme of things it's a very, very, very small tragedy, but like a papercut it seemed quite agonizing to both of us. The first we have not seen together since we met.

It was good, though not great. The crowd was smaller than the last time they played the same venue--perhaps because that was a Friday and this was a Wednesday. The opening act was rather like a mediocre Killers or The Bravery. There was no big screen--such a standard of concerts now. The best bit was towards the middle when they came down--the five, four original and one new--to the center of the stage and did a stripped down, remixed medley of "Last Chance on the Stairway," and "All She Wants Is," plus some extra bits.

Red Carpet Massacre and L'Arc's Kiss came out within a week of each other last year, and I disliked both on first listen. Red Carpet has grown on me--or parts of it have, but not my husband--but Kiss never has. Although they have done it in other shows, they did not play my two favorite songs. I was going to put them here, but eSnips seems to be cracking down on copyrighted material and I dare not jeopardize my standing as my demo tape is there and I've distributed marketing material around it. So I must send you to Amazon:
My two favorites are Box full o' Honey and She's Too Much. I've often found that Simon is best when he's writing about women--specific women or perhaps all women, the way that Sondheim always seems to have one song of gazing in wonder and confusion at women in every show.

In the program Nick Rhodes writes about the making of the album and the song that became the single, Falling Down. He said it always reminds him of his friend Izzy Bow who lost her grip on life.

Duran Duran Lyrics
Falling Down Lyrics

Was it in the air?

This is a pin I bought at the Duran Duran concert last week. It's a dagger dripping blood through a heart. The banner says RCM for Red Carpet Massacre.

This is the emblem from L'Arc~en~Ciel's concert tour towards the end of last year--the Are You Ready? 2007 tour--with a flaming arrow through a heart and a banner.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

I've often encountered it, but I'm also afraid that I might be perpetrating it. I do remember a friend saying to me in high school though, "You're always afraid that you're wrong and you're the person who's most often right." I cling to that.

Oh, now this is just too cool

Um, is it a bad sign...

when a link on a cutting edge site doesn't work? Like if a web company's site has glitches?

Since I'm looking for work, I thought I'd subscribe to the RSS--and this is what I got: