Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Edward St. Aubyn: At Last

"At Last" is the final book in St. Aubyn's quintet "Melrose" series.

I'd never heard of either the writer or the series until I read a review in the 2/27/12 New Yorker. Wry, witty, at-least-semi-autobiographical fiction from an upper-crust Brit who'd survived being raped by his father and ignored by his shallow, enabler mother.

The review ends with a quote from near the end of the book:

"Most of his time had been spent in reaction to his conditioning, leaving little room to respond to the rest of life. What would it be like to react to nothing and respond to everything? He might at least inch in that direction."

I wonder, indeed, what that would be like.

New Yorker review of At Last.
Amazon.com page.


Speaking of the above, was pleasantly surprised to read my horoscope from Rob Breszny's "Free Will Astrology" for last week:

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Veterans of war who've been wounded by shrapnel often find that years later, some of the metal fragments eventually migrate to the surface and pop out of their skin. The moral of the story: The body may take a long time to purify itself of toxins. The same is true about your psyche. It might not be able to easily and quickly get rid of the poisons it has absorbed, but you should never give up hoping it will find a way. Judging by the astrological omens, I think you are very close to such a climactic cleansing and catharsis, Leo.

I say "pleasantly surprised" because the "poisons-coming-to-the-surface" is EXACTLY what has been going on with me for at least 2 years now, and it corresponds with how strongly I reacted to only the review of "At Last" (without yet reading any of the books in the series, which I now plan to do). I've never had anyone to talk to about such things. I've never had anyone I could lean on or trust emotionally. When I read, second-hand, of the possibility of recovery from such past emotional horrors, I'm very grateful. And hopeful.

Like when I was a kid: books and movies were the only sources of hope I had in the face of all of that hatred.

Here's to catharsis.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

You know you're really old when...

... you buy your first "lip-plumper"! "Plumping age defense lift cream for lips and lip contours." When those smoke-lines can be ignored no longer!

I still had money left over from my Marshalls Christmas gift card and decided what the hell. Only $7.99 at this discount store. When I looked up the same product online, found it for $39, so I guess it was kind of exciting to find it for so cheap. But STILL! A LIP-PLUMPER! Jesus. Thus far, I've managed to make do with only minor help-meets like hair dye and moisturizer. It's kind of weird to advance to a "specialized stage"! ;p I guess next will be the eye-cream, the neck-cream, the "breast-lift" cream (! -- kid thee not, this company makes such a thing! It's all friggin' downhill -- literally -- from here!) ;p

And I'm actually scared to use the stuff! How "plumped," exactly, are said lips going to be?? I don't want to end up looking like Taylor from "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" or Big Ang from "Mob Wives"!

The Artist

I haven't seen a movie at the theater for the past two years. At least since I've been home in Austin. Ongoing money problems, plus most theaters in town are up north or down south and involve an hour-or-more bus ride (and are all multiplexes, which I don't like). Today, though, I finally had a bit of spare cash, AND I wanted to see "The Artist," AND I finally figured out that there's a relatively new theater downtown (the Violet Crown, which opened in April 2011) that shows art films and is only a 15-minute bus ride away.

Spent $20 on a ticket, popcorn, and Coke -- too much! -- but it was a nice thing to do on a sunny Saturday! I really like walking around downtown Austin, and hadn't yet been able to explore the newly renovated W. 2nd Street. The area used to be kind of junky and warehouse-y, with one music venue (Liberty Lunch) that I used to go to 15-20 years ago before it closed in '99. Now, though, the area's kind of SoHo-y: lots of boutique shops and eateries. A bit too yuppie for me (for instance, it would have more character if it had maybe a book store, a record store, some more funky rather than upscale bars/cafes), but the area was hopping and interestingly landscaped, which made it fun to walk around there. It was like being in a real city!

The movie itself: Eh. I hate being a naysayer since it's a unique film (silent, black-and-white, gentle) amid today's generic mass-marketed stuff. But... There wasn't much to it. Seems like people that rave about it might be doing so to congratulate themselves for going to a silent, black-and-white film! I first read about it before Christmas, in an online interview with the director, who said his leading lady watched Joan Crawford silent films to help prepare her for her character. Being a huge Joan fan, that of course initially piqued my interest. And I was then excited to see the film garnering more and more praise and awards as the months went on. But... it was pretty cliched, actually. "Singin' in the Rain" and the first "A Star Is Born" were skillful, clever, emotionally moving tales of the coming of sound to Hollywood and of the stars who were destroyed, and created, in the process. The plot of "The Artist" was the same story, but done in a very rudimentary, by-the-numbers fashion. Nothing very surprising or interesting, other than the reactions of the cute little dog and the period-echoing facial expressions of the leading man.

And it got nominated for 10 Oscars! (Second only to Scorsese's "Hugo"'s 11.) I can see "The Artist" getting nominated for Art Direction and Cinematography (barely, but not even, Best Score -- I could have come up with those 4 or 5 songs myself). But Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, and Director??? Worst of all, BEST SCREENPLAY??! Not because it's SILENT (screenplays are still responsible for who does what where and when), but because the plot was extremely trite. I HATE knowing exactly what's going to happen 10 steps ahead of time. The argument for the film is that it's an "homage" to the Silent Era. I haven't seen that many silent films, maybe 8 Joan silents, plus 10 or so others. But even the lighter silent films I have seen were much more interesting, full of unexpected quirks and/or humor. (Not to mention completely off-the-wall, freakily dark psychological stuff like Tod Browning's "The Unknown.") "The Artist" was good-natured and pleasant, but just not very interesting, other than the interest that came with seeing a silent/black-and-white film done today!

Still, glad I went! Like I said earlier, fun to go to a movie on a Saturday afternoon and stroll around downtown before and after. Fun to break the movie-going drought and learn about this new downtown theater and 'hood.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Simen Johan

Catching up on old New Yorkers while at a not-too-demanding day job, came across this picture and couldn't stop LOOOOOKING at it. It's by photographer/artist Simen Johan, from his earlier exhibit in NYC, "Until the Kingdom Comes." At first I thought it was an actual photo: "How did he capture that creature in that pose? So like women in old portraiture!" (well, from the waist up!) After a search, saw other shots from his exhibit, and STILL was awed by his seemingly uncanny ability to catch animals in JUST the right settings... "This guy's a GENIUS!" Well, turns out, of course, that they're not straight photos at all. I was mildly disappointed at first to learn that he does manipulate images. But not disappointed for long after spending time looking at his work: Beautiful and eerie and brilliant -- and one of his themes is anthropomorphism, which was exactly my reaction to the first photo. What an interesting, exciting find for me!

Milo Gallery exhibit Nov/Dec 2011.

Marie Colvin

Before the news of her death Wednesday in Syria, I'd never heard of this war correspondent. What a life! I didn't know they made 'em like this any more. It's sad, of course, that she was killed. But knowing that a woman extremely brave and principled (and dashing) like Colvin existed in this day and age is also inspiring -- to me, and surely to other women younger than me who are looking for an alternative to the vapid, passive, must-get-married-or-I'm-nothing women who seem to be presented to us nowadays as all we should be or aim for.

Marie Colvin remembered in the New Yorker.

BBC tribute to Colvin.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Robyn Crawford Photo

Since I first wondered on this blog a week ago what Whitney Houston's girlfriend Robyn Crawford had to say about Houston's death, hits to this blog have increased 10-fold because of people doing "Robyn Crawford" searches. Since people are so interested, here's a picture/article I found of Houston with Crawford on UK's Daily Mail site. (Robyn Crawford is on the far right.)

My post just below this is about "Determinism" --- how our experiences in our younger years determine our behavior in later life... I do think that Whitney Houston's religious background and family influence and, finally, desire to prove to the media that she wasn't a lesbian, encouraged her to marry a man, Bobby Brown, that she didn't particularly want to marry. (Brown says the same in his biography: That Whitney married him primarily to assuage her media critics who were accusing her of being a lesbian and of having no soul..., not because she loved him.)

I'm sick of actual lovers being deleted from the "official" biographies.


A recent article in The Atlantic re how your behavior may be determined by organisms in cat poop(!):


Aside from biology, was also just thinking about how childhood psychological experiences stamped people for life:

My first girlfriend, M: Arrested at age 19, while on drugs, for robbing a bank. In jail for 7 years. Ever since then, only interested in teenaged girls, however old she got. (Classic case of "arrested development." Ahem.)

J: Didn't get her sex-change 'til she was over 40. Because she lost all of the formative years in the wrong body, fixated on teenaged boys even after the operation at 40.

S: Sexually abused by a middle-aged man -- friend of the father's -- as a young girl. Passive Dad, who at the time did nothing about the abuse, and died soon after. She, even in middle age, still desires old "Daddy" men.

ME: Finally understood, around age 12, that both of my parents were sadists and didn't like me very much. Was stuck with my dad 'til age 13, when my mom kicked him out after he tried to shoot her. My mom and I maintain a respectful, but completely unconnected emotionally, relationship to this day. What this did to me growing up: I don't trust people. At all. Every decision in my adult life, I've had to make on my own, with no concept of "mercy" figured in. It's ground me down, made me paranoid.

Years ago when I was 20-something, at the University library that I worked at, I debated with a co-worker about "Determinism" versus "Free Will": At the time, I was young and full of verve and what I thought I could do... I voted for "Free Will." My older co-worker voted for "Determinism." Today, at age 46, I must say that I now agree with the latter. Hate to admit it, but it seems we're stuck in our traumas.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

from Whitney Houston's funeral on Saturday

A change did have to come.

Bobby Brown really showed up at the funeral with an entourage of 9 other people. He was then escorted out after plunking himself down on the front row with his entourage because there literally wasn't room for all of them on the row reserved for family. Why 9 other people with you at the funeral, Bobby? Not man enough to show up by yourself?

Come to think of it, Bob, why did you sue for spousal support when you and Whitney divorced in 2007? Not man enough to make it on your own, even despite your past success? Had to scam off of Whitney's money? What a weak male. There's nothing worse than a man who can't take care of himself.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Madness and Modernity

From this 2009 book about art and mental illness in Vienna circa 1900, RE Arthur Schnitzler's 1902 story "Die Fremde" ("The Unknown Woman"):

"In 'Die Fremde' Albert awakes on his honeymoon... to find a note from his bride Katharina saying she may not return. Albert's recollections, which comprise most of the subsequent narrative, explain why this comes as no surprise to him.... [Katharina] began to show immediate and passionate attachments to men she hardly knew, as well as signs of a mental disorder that gradually increased to the point of of the deepest depression.... After Katharina seemingly recovered, Albert met her and fell deeply in love. He recalls instance after instance in which she strayed from him to unknown men, and became obsessed even with artistic images. Finally he realised that he meant no more to her than these casual but passionate affections. Still, they married, though she remained as unknown to him as on the day they met. When she leaves him on their honeymoon, Albert kills himself. In the last paragraph we read that Katharina is pregnant by a man she casually encountered..., from whom she never hears again. This is a tale of two pathologies -- Katharina's obsession with strange men and Albert's obsession with the unknown woman. His deluded love causes him to compensate for and forgive her disorder, but he cannot live with it, and so he becomes its victim as well."

Whoa! :) You know what's first funnily surprising and then really sad and then boring to me? Case-study pathologies played out at the turn of the LAST century that I have been hooked into for the past 10 years! AAAARGGGGH! I've been a stereotypical "Albert" to the proto-Freud-women!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I feel like it's written all over me...

There was an article in the January 30 "New Yorker" that I just read -- "Groupthink" -- that basically shot down the whole feel-goodness of group brainstorming, giving precise data on how lack of any criticism leads to poorer results: "Criticism allows people to dig below the surface of the imagination and come up with collective ideas that aren't predictable." And "exposure to unfamiliar perspectives can foster creativity."

While reading the whole thing, I kept thinking of S.... Completely uber-passive and blank when it came to me, which was deadening, since there was no feedback whatsoever. But HER thought processes! While she was personally passive, her mind was certainly an "unfamiliar perspective" that fostered my own creativity. For instance, she once posted one line only on her blog: "I feel like it's written all over me." That triggered my:

I feel like it's written all over me
In hieroglyphs, bar-code, graffiti
Scrawled across stars, set in stone
Under which I, and all words, lie.

She's not good to me in real-life, but her "unfamiliar perspectives" are decidedly GREAT in the ether!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

RIP Whitney Houston (1963 - 2012)

Life is short.

I was never a huge personal fan of either Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston. They weren't SPIRITUALLY important to me the way, say, The Beatles were, but both were part of the soundtrack of my youth. Their music is ingrained in my mind when I think of myself in college in the mid-'80s, listening to the radio, going to clubs. Although I was often sad in my early college years because of a personal loss, I still felt excited and happy whenever I heard some of their music. Despite the hype, there was definitely something THERE besides the production and the hype.

Aside from inspiring nostalgia, their deaths spook me because they themselves were so personally haunted despite such superior surface achievements. I'd hate to think that "the inability to intimately connect" kills, but...

At this time, I wonder about the reaction of Robyn Crawford, the woman who was perceived and castigated (by fans and family alike) as being "too close" to Whitney for years before Houston married Bobby Brown...

In 1992, Whitney's family had an "intervention," in which they told Whitney to get rid of her "girlfriend" and find a man. The "man" that Whitney picked was Bobby Brown.

In hindsight, who was worse for Whitney? Robyn Crawford or Bobby Brown?

I don't know what happened. I'm so sorry, Whitney.

(Below: Clive Davis of Arista when he first discovered Houston in the early '80s. Compare what she looked like when she dressed as herself to what she was turned into -- a drag queen.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

April 4, 1968

Was just thinking about Martin Luther King being assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, and the subsequent black riots and accompanying white fears... I was 3 and my parents lived in Charleston in 1968, and as I grew up, I heard stories of how my dad stayed up all night April 4 with a shotgun by the front door, fearing black marauders coming for revenge...

His sitting up all night with a shotgun isn't easily "racism" in this case. It's pure internal fear and drama.

I don't know that I'm intelligent enough, or a good enough writer, or a good enough historian to adequately explore what some lower middle-class Southern white people felt/feared on the night of MLK's death (and what led up to that fear in their upbringing). The dichotomy between King's obvious logic in his arguments for equality, and why exactly some could not accept it and feared it. The contrast between the historic assassination and the "official" national/world reaction with the one man sitting up all night by his front door to protect his family, and what was going through HIS head...


have you had enough excitement now? more than you ever did?
you never wanted to be treated like a woman
you maintained you was just a kid
well at least you were of age my dear- these days kids they grow so fast
you never wanted to be committed to the present
you're too busy believing in the past, oh

who then was your savior? Who then was your friend?
who is now committed to the present? Is it someone that exists?
what is life in God? A perfect vision of the self?
I always thought we was dealing with one thing
now we are dealing with something else

do you see my smokin' guns?
they're smokin' from shootin', smokin’ from shootin'
smokin' from shootin' at nothing dear
do you live your life on the run?
losing out on lovin'
asking for nothing
runnin' from something that isn't there

who makes my decisions? who reads all your thoughts?
what makes us how we are?
faith can't prove what science won't resolve
kumbaya my lord, c'mon row your boat ashore
the river's long. it is cold. it chills the body but not the soul.

do you see my smokin' guns?
they're smokin' from shootin', smokin' from shootin'
smokin' from shootin' at nothing dear.
do you live your life on the run?
losing out on lovin'
asking for nothing
running from something that isn't there

distance- coming or going? c'mon
what are you waiting for?
distance- growing or closing in on?


Every time I think she's abandoned me... she has not... quite.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Work it, girl.

By now all of my tax statements have arrived for last year... I had lost track, but it turns out that I worked (freelance and temp) for a whopping NINE different companies! I'd been bummed out by my lack of work lately, which always flashes me back to various other times over the past year that I'd, for lack of any calls from employers, been forced to do nothing but lie around, stagnating. Still feel bummed, but the NINE tax statements also made me feel a little better... They proved that I'd indeed been TRYING, hustling up work to the best of my ability.

That this concern about lack of steady work has been festering in my psyche is indicated by a dream I had earlier today: I was waving my bundle of tax statements in front of both my mother and father, yelling first at one then the other: "See, see!" I can understand trying to prove something to my mother, who's a real workhorse and big on non-laziness, but Daddy?! He put in his 20 years in the military, then retired at the age of 39 and hasn't worked a day in his life since! :)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Paul McCartney: Flowers in the Dirt (1989)

Here's another very good (and underrated) McCartney album. Not as gritty or flowing as "Ram" as a whole, but strong, still. I've already posted "This One (This Swan)" earlier. Below are my other favorites from the album: "You Want Her, Too" (with Elvis Costello); "Put It There"; and "My Brave Face" (a clip from which I put on my first-ever answering machine back in '89 -- back in the Olden Tymes when you had to hold the answering machine up to the stereo speaker to record your message!).

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Paul McCartney: RAM (1971)

This is one of my favorite McCartney albums. The below link is for listening to the whole album, if you've got the time to sit back and get into it.

Hear especially "Too Many People" (first song); "Heart of the Country" (at 20:30); and "Back Seat of My Car" (at 38:43).


I'm going to have a good spring, dammit, and here's partially why: These cheap canvas shoes! They were only $35, but they are padded and comfortable and they look cool, and I wore them today (when it was an ungodly 80 degrees on a February 1!) with khakis and a black T and felt really cute. I can see myself wearing these come April at an outdoor cafe, and coming home late enough so that I don't have to listen to the sloppy hippies next door haw-hawing in their backyard until 4 in the morning! One can always dream. At both ends of the spectrum, loud hippies and loud frat boys are usually only tolerable if you have someone of your own with you.

Until I find someone of my own to be with me...God bless Amazon! I've now ordered 5 pairs of shoes from their sellers since after Christmas (ranging in price from $35 to $99), and all of them fit just fine (no returns), and I've had a BLAST shopping from hundreds and thousands of styles rather than having to rely on the crappy selection in nearby stores. (Seriously, it's depressing when you have an idea of what you want and are unable to find it in a physical store -- especially with no car; I can't just jot randomly all over town!)