Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nails + Oven Burn

 
My nails haven't been this long since I was 13 years old (35 years ago).

Shelf Rescue

The black shelf on the right was set out by my apartment dumpster a couple of days ago. Luckily, my brother and nephews were able to come over and help move it within an hour after I called (before some other dumpster-diver snatched it up).
 
Stuff IS getting kinda squushed in this one-room apartment; but I'm planning ahead for when I have TWO rooms! :)
 

 


Oh, Vienna

I can't stop looking at this GIF -- Joan as Vienna in "Johnny Guitar" is incredibly cool and sexy to me. I love the panther-y way she moves here. And the way her expression goes through about 3 subtle changes in 3 seconds -- I have never seen another actress able to do that. (I like also, cinematically, how the light darkens as her expression does.)
 
I've been in bed most of the weekend not just recuperating from my tense Friday but also mulling over about 4 scenes of a new screenplay that're still in my head. It's been over 10 years since I wrote my first and only screenplay, but for the past several months these 4 scenes have kept replaying themselves -- I can tell it's almost time to stop embellishing mentally and get around to writing them down and then fleshing them out. That's exactly how the first screenplay began -- with a sex scene, to be honest, and then trying to work out why those two people were in bed to begin with.
 
This new one has Joan-as-Vienna as Muse. Also takes place in a Western saloon (this one also a whorehouse in addition to a gambling den), but no other characters or plot are similar to "Johnny G."
 
 
 
 
 
And then there's this video from YouTube accompanying the 1980 Ultravox song, "Vienna"... I have no idea what movie this is from, but this is how it feels. (Whatever this is, I'm guessing that it's famous and that "Johnny Guitar" director Nicholas Ray must have seen it -- the rope-pulling, the ending images...)
 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Hell hath no fury...

...like someone who just stayed 2 hours late for work on a Friday, afterward hoping for nothing more than a less-crowded (and thus slightly more pleasant) bus-ride home.

The #3 Austin bus down Burnet SUCKS. Other bus routes are mainly fine, but on the #3, something shitty happens maybe 50% of the time. That percentage is way too great. (I think 10% is within the realm of reason.) This afternoon, after being at work for 10 hours, I just wasn't in the mood for it. A couple of stops after me, one of the usual plethora of fucked-up homeless people got on. I can handle the smells, I can handle the tilting over, I can handle the muttering to themselves... And I have usually been able to handle when they're loud and obnoxious. But maybe the conversation I had a few days ago with the young guy on the bus asking me why I didn't report the obnoxious guy pestering me was still fresh in my mind...

This 40-ish white guy today gets on, sits a few rows behind me at the very back of the bus, right next to a group of 3 foreign students, two guys and a girl, who had been busy chatting amongst themselves. At first, he starts loudly bellowing lyrics from some song (I have no idea which, but the lyrics involved being "MAD" and "BAD.") And then he turns his attention to the kids: "Am I BOTHERING you?" (They hadn't stopped their own conversation to pay any attention to him whatsoever.) When they don't respond to his "bothering" queries, he starts loudly asking them for $20. Since they must think he smells, they should give him $20 so he can go to CVS to buy some socks. Just give him $20, man. He knows they have it. Where are they from? Huh? (Switzerland, as it turned out.) He don't care where they're from, but he does know that in Texas in the summer, people's feet sweat and stink and so he needs new socks. Give him the $20.

At this point, the kids' chatter has petered out. When none of them volunteers any money, he then addresses the girl: "Are you fucking one of them?" (gesturing toward her 2 male companions) No answer. "You know they just want to fuck you, right?"

I'd been silently stewing up until that point, pissed at yet another goddamn disturbance on the same bus route. And feeling bad for the foreign kids who probably took buses all the time back home, sans incident -- and now Austin and Texas were looking like stupid, backward fucks for allowing this kind of crude behavior on their public transportation. (And as the Indian kid a few days ago asked me, "Why didn't you do anything about it?")

Once the guy started in with the sexual comments, I snapped. (Also shades of a couple of years ago when I lost it--on a different route--with the 2 gang-bangers bragging loudly about what all they'd done to some "ho" that weekend.) When the bus came to its next stop, I marched up to the driver and said at the top of my lungs, WANTING everybody to hear me: "See that guy in the back corner?" (pointing) "He has been bothering people the whole time he's been on the bus. He's bugging people for money. He's making sexual comments. I'M SICK OF IT!"

I didn't know what the hell the driver would do. I felt like The Crazy Person at that point. The driver immediately got up and went to the back of the bus, me following and pointing: "THAT GUY! RIGHT THERE!" I just Did Not Care what the repercussions for me would be. Luckily, the driver was very authoritative, addressing the man: "Do you have a problem? What's your problem, Sir? Either you get it together, or you get off right here. Which is it?" VERY luckily, this particular loudmouth wasn't completely psycho -- he surprisingly, and anticlimactically, answered, "I'm gonna get off." And he did, without punching me on his way out. Whew. (When the adrenalin's flowing, you don't give a shit. Afterward, though, reality kicks in: "Jesus. I could have been punched in the face, or worse." Honestly, though, at the Time of the Adrenalin, I was almost WILLING him to DARE touch me. I know for a scary fact that I would have gone off on him physically in response, I was that pissed off.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Paul-fucking-McCartney, 1976

I initially posted because I love the song. But the utterly sweet smile he gives his wife (@ 1:43) in between trying to look cool also gives me great hope for love/humanity.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sally G (1974)

I'm a Paul McCartney fan, but I'd never heard this song until tonight. (It is, indeed, authentic Nashville/LA 1974, which was then briefly in the throes of "Gram Parsons, Poster Boy," who had just died.) Here's McCartney writing a song just to prove he could write such a type of song.
 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Keep the Lizard

In the office I just moved into, there was a crushed baby lizard stuck to the wall. (The guy before me had been in there for 30 years; lord knows when/how the lizard got crushed.)

I wanted to leave the lizard there. A co-worker who was helping me clean stuff out wanted to scrub it off of the wall. My argument for keeping it:  "When I lived in a 1930s house for 7 years, a vine decided to grow in through a crack in the wall. I let it be, just to see where it would go." By the time I left the house in 2007, the vine had stretched across the room.

The woman helping me didn't know what the fuck I was talking about. She actually said, re my vine story that I so helpfully shared with her, "What are you talking about?"

Don't think about it. Keep the Lizard.

Illusion never changed into something real



Union City, '09: Trudging blocks inland to Bergenline at 7am in search of more beer after a long night of drinking alone and someone at dawn e-mailing me that she didn't want to see me for 6 months. This favorite song from '97 surprisingly spewing out of a Bergenline shop at that hour... I was post-drunk and horribly drained, but then all of a sudden... "I'm wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is... torn." Such exhilaration in the midst of my momentary misery!

Friday, June 20, 2014

"I am the sheet...

...that makes the ghost look normal."

The bus-system that I soon will no longer be a part of had the above line as part of their student poems posted publicly on placards.

"I am the sheet that makes the ghost look normal."

I can't get over how REALLY interesting/profound that is...

With a Little Luck

Sometimes, shallow things can bring you very up or down if you're feeling that they're "representative" of your whole place in the world at the moment. (See The Doors: "People Are Strange.") For instance, a couple of initially negative eBay buying experiences I've had in the past month. (Full disclosure: I've got 100% positive feedback on eBay, after maybe 500 buying/selling ventures over the past 11 or 12 years. So I'm a regular, not a flake, etc.)

In the first case, I ordered a print on photographic paper. The seller sent it in a tube that was nearly, I swear, as thin as a paper-towel roll -- you could easily squeeze the tube with your fingers. The tube was (not surprisingly) crushed during shipping, the photo torn and dented and undisplayable. I checked eBay rules: Even if the item is damaged during shipping, you get a refund. (In this case, it wasn't just the PO carelessness, though; it was also the flimsiness of the tube.) I e-mailed the seller , explaining the condition of the photo and offering to pay the new postage (but not my original $25 for the print) if he would send another copy of the print.  (The picture wasn't an original, just something he was selling copies of.) He initially admitted how much it cost him to make the copy/mail it --- with what I'd already paid + the extra postage I was willing to pay, he still would have made a small profit. Both of us would have been satisfied. But NO. When he asked for, and I refused to pay, another $25, I said I'd have to take the case to eBay to get a complete refund. The response? In brief, I was "what was wrong with America today"!! And if I took the case to eBay, he would sue me for libel. Etc. etc. (I kept getting increasingly nasty messages from him for the week or so it took eBay to review the case.)

In the second case, I ordered a tube of liquid hair product. I had various small packages arriving at the time, and this one showed up in a small padded mailing envelope. Not knowing what was inside, I cut the very top of the envelope off, no more than a third of an inch from the top. Well, there wasn't any extra room in the envelope, so when I cut the top of it, I also cut off the top of the tube inside! Hair product spewed everywhere! Had I been carelessly slashing away at the package? No, I had not! Was it stupid to pack a liquid in a padded envelope? Yes, it sure was! I e-mailed the eBay seller and told her what had happened; and I asked for what I thought was a completely reasonable partial refund of $5 (out of the $17 total) for the product spilled and the odd packaging for a liquid. Initially, the seller was quite honest: "I've been mailing my stuff that way because it's a lot cheaper." (!) And she said she'd refund $5 if I FIRST left her a positive review...  Whoa, Nellie! When I got that "offer," I checked with eBay policy... which said in black-and-white, "Don't leave a review until you receive your refund." By instinct, I KNEW that if I were to leave a positive review (which I didn't believe in), I'd have no leverage whatsoever if the seller decided to subsequently ignore the refund. So I e-mailed her back, citing the eBay rule, asking again for a $5 partial refund to officially "close the case." And then things changed from her end: I was careless in how I opened the package, there were a lot of untrustworthy people on eBay and she couldn't trust me since I wouldn't leave the positive review as a "gesture of good will." (Me: "My gesture of 'good will' was e-mailing you first before opening a case with eBay. And I in good conscience can't leave a positive review since this whole experience has been such a huge hassle!")

So both of these had been hanging over my head lately. I was actually low-levelly DISTURBED by the reactions from each of these sellers on eBay. A crappy mailing tube, a crappy envelope for a liquid --- while neither method had ever, apparently, "gone wrong" for these particular folks in the past, in my particular case, they DID go wrong. And once I called them on it, and asked for only a partial refund in an attempt to be fair, I started getting weird stuff like "You're what's wrong with America today" and I'm "untrustworthy."

Long story short: I got full refunds from eBay in both cases. A small thing, but it made me feel happy, like there's some sort of order and fairness in the universe...

And here's something else nice that just happened earlier this week: I've been ordering cigarettes from Eastern Europe for the past few months. The first time was a pure gamble, finding a random site online and then paying via PayPal for one carton. I had no idea if the carton would ever arrive. It was an experiment, and if I lost, I lost. I was prepared for losing some money. But no, the carton arrived in a couple of weeks. So the next time I ordered TWO cartons. They also arrived in a couple of weeks. But then... I ordered THREE. Thinking, "Hey, they've been completely reliable so far; I can trust them in the future with my monthly cig orders..." Over a month passed this time, and no cartons. My first e-mail of inquiry went unanswered. I was bummed out: I'd just lost $100. It had been a scam all along, as various message boards had warned. (The $100 loss was bad enough, but then there was also the worse future prospect of having to pay $70 a carton here in the US -- just as bad a ripoff, except PERPETUAL, since I haven't been thinking about giving up smoking.) But then, a week or so after I sent my first inquiry e-mail to the Eastern Europe company, I received a kindly, human response -- apologizing for the non-reception ("sometimes the mail is bad") and offering to re-send 3 new cartons. (!!!) I haven't yet received my replacement cigs, and I may never. But at the moment I feel hopeful. I could have heard nothing from the random online company. I could have been told in so many words, "Well, sorry, sometimes the mail is bad; you'll have to send us a new payment if you want us to try sending new cartons." But I wasn't told that.

And one last thing:

On the way home from work on the bus today, I got caught next to a "Crazeee." When he first got on, he sat at the back, and I only HEARD him bragging about his roll of money and bitchin' about how slow the bus was. He quickly got into a loud argument with another guy in the back and then moved up to the seat next to me. I was reading my "New Yorker." In response to his immediate insistent questions: "Yes, I like to read. No, I'm not from New York. Yes, it's called 'The New Yorker' but it's not necessarily about New York -- it's about art and books and politics and whatever. No, I haven't seen anything about Obama in this issue..." At this point, he starts going on about Obama, and I said I didn't care one way or the other, and he said he'll leave me alone to read, and I said "Great." Silence for about 10 seconds. Then he said he's sorry for bothering me and I said "Yeah, I really AM trying to read." He got out his roll of money again and said he was going to show some girl a really good time tonight. And I said, "Great." And then he started reading aloud from the New Yorker page I was looking at. At this point, I snapped and YELLED: "Are you REALLY going to start reading over my shoulder? Are you KIDDING ME?!"  This apparently freaked the Crazeee Guy out and he immediately moved to an empty seat across the aisle where, for the next 10 minutes until my stop, he muttered loudly about how fucking slow the bus was.

The thing about crazy (or semi-crazy) guys on buses (and this happened to me, or I've witnessed it, at least 8 times in the past 4 years): They see a white chick -- either young or, in my case, middle-aged -- and assume that we are going to be too polite to call them on their bullshit. So they feel that they can just continue to do their psychotic schtick, thinking they're scaring us or something. This time, you picked the Wrong One, you dumb fuck: Mean German/East-Texas Redneck who's been around the block a few times? G'head.

All of this wasn't the "With a Little Luck" nice part of the story. THAT came once I got off at my stop and was waiting for my connection to the next bus. A 20-ish Indian guy and his bike got off at the same time as me. I retreated the required 15 feet to smoke a cig (Austin bus-stop cig rules), and the Indian guy stayed for a couple of minutes at the curb, and then dragged his bike over to me...

HIM: Excuse me. Why would you let that man talk to you like that?
ME: [puzzled look]
HIM: I was sitting in front of you the whole time. Why didn't you tell the driver?
ME: That loud guy?
HIM: Yes! I couldn't believe you would just take that. Why didn't you tell the driver?
ME: Oh, I've seen so much worse! That wasn't even really a problem.
HIM: If the Austin transportation system wants to get professionals to ride, they're going to have to watch out for that kind of disturbance.
ME: [in short: No, really, I've seen a lot worse --- relaying the time last year that the gang-bangers were going on loudly about their sexual exploits the night before and I yelled at them to shut up, leading to a scary bus-standoff, where the driver finally had the guys get off]
HIM: Oh, I see.

We ended up chatting for several more minutes about how Austinites and Texans come from a car culture and don't yet know how to act on public transportation (as opposed to NYC residents, who for the most part view the public transport as a way to get around, not make personal statements). And how the #3 bus was so much worse than the #21 we were about to get on. Etc.

This conversation was a very good thing psychologically for me, because I'd previously just taken for granted that there were going to be creeps on the #3. If I felt that my space was invaded either physically or verbally by guys in seats nearby spewing out "Fuck this/Fuck that," then it must be something about ME that couldn't handle riding a public bus. What this young Indian guy helped me see from a fresh perspective was that it was the obnoxious people who were in the wrong, not me just sitting there reading.



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A "Break in Service"

My freelance experience over the past 7 years hasn't been that great. I don't like it. I don't have a middle-class safety net (i.e., a male partner with a tech job) or an upper-class safety net (i.e., a sugar daddy) and so freelancing has been stressful for me.

My "7 years" means the 3 years I lived in New York City (2007-2010) and the years since I've been back in Austin (2010-2014).  During which I have done nothing but freelance and temp jobs -- excitedly so in NYC until the market crashed in '08, and ever since then, desperately.

Since 2007, I've written about my temp woes online. Some online creeps I know (like Bryan Johnson, for instance) made a point of publicly telling me what a loser I was for not being able to "get a job."

Aside from the online creeps, I also felt embarrassed whenever my nephews asked me why my apartment was so small. Unlike the creeps, the kids were just asking me out of honesty -- their own parents had a house, and so why didn't I?

Long story short: I'm now an Editor II. After 7 years in the wilderness of temping/freelancing "because I wanted to go explore," kiddos. The 10-year-olds will understand one day. I'm sure the bar-back never will. Below, again, is the Paul McCartney song that's been in my head for the past 2 weeks and that is right now my soundtrack for feeling absolutely GOOD.



Monday, June 16, 2014

Ibsen on the Bus

The last New Yorker issue was a double one, so I've read it by now and as of last Friday have had nothing to read on the bus. (Friday afternoon at work, I desperately printed out articles from Vanity Fair, et al -- any online place that would let me read and print so that I wouldn't be forced to stare blankly into space for the hour trip home after work.)

Today, Monday morning, there was still no bus-reading material... oh, well, except for the thousand books that I have in my apartment. Grabbed the paperback of Ibsen's "Four Major Plays: Volume 1." I was jazzed up after just the foreword, reading the editor's puzzlement when trying to discern why Ibsen painted, at age 17, the biblical prophet Elijah, entitling the picture: "The Prophet Elijah under a juniper tree in the wilderness, I Kings, 19, 5."

The foreword says: "The text referred to reads: 'And he lay down under the juniper tree; and behold, an angel touched him, and said to him, 'Arise and eat.'" And then the text dumbly asks, "What is there in this passage, we wonder, that Ibsen should want to paint it?"

Turns out the preceding biblical verse (what I pretty much suspected was about to come) was: "But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he asked that he might die, saying, 'It is enough now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers.'"

And all this before 8:30am! :)  What a great, mind-blowingly intelligent way to start the day! Reading nothing but the New Yorker for the past few months, I've missed this kind of REVELATION (as opposed to mere "upper-middle-class Conventional Wisdom"-- the New Yorker is smart, but it's usually completely "of the moment" as opposed to "of the ages"; there's very little depth there, more often a compendium of social trends. I didn't used to know this).

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The World Tonight



I saw you sitting at the center of the circle
Everybody, everybody wanted something from you
I saw you sitting there

I saw you swaying to the rhythm of the music
Caught you playing, caught you praying
To the voice inside you
I saw you swaying there

I don't care what you want to be
I go back so far, I'm in front of me
It doesn't matter what they say
They're giving the game away

I can see the world tonight
Look into the future
See it in a different light
I can see the world tonight

I heard you listening to a secret conversation
You were crying, you were trying
Not to let them hear you
I heard you listening in

Never mind what they want to do
You've got a right to your point of view
It doesn't matter what they say
They're giving the game away

I can see the world tonight
Look into the future
See it in a different light
I can see the world tonight
I can see the world tonight

I saw you hiding from a flock of paparazzi
You were hoping, you were hoping
That the ground would swallow you
I saw you hiding there

I don't care what you want to be
I go back so far, I'm in front of me
It doesn't matter what they say
They're giving the game away

I can see the world tonight
Look into the future
See it in a different light
I can see the world tonight

Look into the future
I can see the world tonight
See it in a different light
I can see the world tonight
I can see the world tonight

Saturday, June 14, 2014

World Cup

On my bus to the supermarket this morning, I passed a large blue "Forza Azzurri" banner hung on the front of a neighbor's house. I actually got goosebumps, happy that someone was so excited about the World Cup (and loyal to their "Old Country"). The picture below is just one I found on the Internet, after searching a while to figure out WHO EXACTLY the banner was referring to: Italy! I'm not at all a big soccer fan, but I do pay attention when the World Cup comes around--rooting for my own "Old Country," Germany! USA? Eh. I never feel anything for the soccer team. Kind of bland and personality-less. It's the other countries that are the funnest to watch. I also enjoy hearing the style of their national anthems. And seeing the country-personality-quirks of their FIFA slogans this year:
 
Algeria
Desert Warriors In Brazil
Argentina
Not Just A Team, We Are A Country
Australia
Socceroos: Hopping Our Way Into History!
Belgium
Expect The Impossible!
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dragons In Heart, Dragons On The Field!
Brazil
Brace Yourselves! The Sixth Is Coming!
Cameroon
A Lion Remains A Lion
Chile
Chi Chi Chi!, Le Le Le! Go Chile
Colombia
Here Travels A Nation, Not Just A Team!
Costa Rica
My Passion Is Football, My Strength Is My People, My Pride Is Costa Rica
Ivory Coast
Elephants Charging Towards Brazil!
Croatia
With Fire In Our Hearts, For Croatia All As One!
Ecuador
One Commitment, One Passion, Only One Heart, This Is For You Ecuador!
England
The Dream Of One Team, The Heartbeat Of Millions!!
France
Impossible Is Not A French Word
Germany
One Nation, One Team, One Dream!
Ghana
Black Stars: Here To Illuminate Brazil
Greece
Heroes Play Like Greeks
Honduras
We Are One Country, One Nation, Five Stars On The Heart
Iran
Honour Of Persia
Italy
Let's Paint The FIFA World Cup Dream Blue
Japan
Samurai, The Time Has Come To Fight!
South Korea
Enjoy It, Reds!
Mexico
Always United, Always Aztecas
The Netherlands
Real Men Wear Orange
Nigeria
Only Together We Can Win
Portugal
The Past Is History, The Future Is Victory
Russia
No One Can Catch Us
Spain
Inside Our Hearts, The Passion Of A Champion
Switzerland
Final Stop: 07-13-14 Maracana!
Uruguay
Three Million Dreams ... Let's Go Uruguay
U.S.
United By Team, Driven By Passion
 
 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Getting Through

One thing that's gotten me through my really, really dark past week is continuing with the Paul McCartney bio by Barry Miles. Paul is really an Innocent, a Dork, like me. Here's what Paul had to say about a conversation with John Lennon in the last days of Apple, when John was charging too many expenses to the company:
Someone warned me that he was going to get into a real problem and I remember saying to him, "Look, I'm not trying to do anything, I'm really trying to help you..." and as I said it I heard my devilish voice, like "I'm trying to trick you!" I said, "Look, John, I'm right." And he said, "You fucking would be, wouldn't you? You're always right, aren't you?" So to be right was wrong! He admitted I was right but to be right didn't bring any rewards, it brought scorn...
That's pretty much how I usually feel! :)

Later in the book, Paul talks about living with Linda in NYC for a few weeks in '70. He gets to walk around incognito in beard and army jacket in Harlem, until one day...
I was watching a playground full of little kids through the railings. They were skipping rope and playing all their games and whereas we would have done "Salt, vinegar, mustard, pepper...," theirs were all like rhythm and blues; they sounded just like lyrics to me! I was beguiled. I was watching it for just a few minutes, really loving it, but this black guy just happened to be walking past and he said, "You a teacher?" I said, "No." He said, What're you watching those children for?" I said, "I'm from England, this is fascinating for me." He said, "If you ain't off this block in a quarter-hour I'm going to put you off."
So now I'm walking alongside him like Ratso out of "Midnight Cowboy," trying to keep up with him, and he was walking stronger and I was walking, trying to keep his attention, saying, "Look, this is what gives you guys a bad name." I said, "I'm a tourist, I've come here, I love this whole place, I love the Apollo, I love these kids. I'm not a pervert, don't you try making me out a pervert, don't go jumping to conclusions..." He said, "Just get off the block, man, just get off the block." And he peeled off.
Paul goes on to complain to some nearby shop owners about what the guy had just said to him! :)  (1) I thought the local guy was great for protecting his neighborhood kids. (2) I thought it was hilarious that it was "Paul McCartney" being taken for a pervert. (3) I thought it was even more hilarious that Paul McCartney ran after the guy, trying to convince him that he wasn't a pervert, and THEN went and complained to local shop owners! :)  INNOCENT! DORK!



Heavy, heavy

The utter heaviness I felt Sunday night drained into Monday, unfortunately. I got enough sleep, but I woke up Monday morning on top of covers with whole face swollen from crying. While I usually sleep on top of covers in the summer months, this time when I woke up, I still felt so barren and desolate and grief-stricken, I knew I couldn't handle the whole trudge to the bus-stop, etc., and needed a whole lot more time to myself, this time UNDER protective covers. So I called in sick to a job I really like, then turned up the AC and got more sleep under sheets and a thick comforter. Stayed there all Monday.

On Tuesday, I, out of guilt at being absent the day before, really kicked some editing ass! :) The stuff I've been doing is academic and difficult. Usually about 10-15 pages per day is the norm on a regular day. Today, I did 34 pages! Not only being "laser-focused" out of guilt at missing yesterday, but also because of a conscious decision to not LOOK at ANY personal online stuff: no e-mail, no Facebook, no Amazon, no eBay... no bullshit! Amazing how much you get done when ALL you are thinking about is your work.

Also today, my boss beckoned to me an hour or so into the day. "Oh, jesus," I thought. "She's going to yell at me about how I can't be absent if I want this job..." Instead, she led me to my new office. I'm no longer in the supply room! :)

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Lonely

When I was a kid, my idea of marriage was formed by my parents' mutual psychosis/hatred and then things I read as a teen, like the below, by Sylvia Plath, who confirmed literarily the utter awful absence I was witnessing in my daily life:

How the elements solidify! —
The moonlight, that chalk cliff
In whose rift we lie

Back to back. I hear an owl cry
From its cold indigo.
Intolerable vowels enter my heart.

The child in the white crib revolves and sighs,
Opens its mouth now, demanding.
His little face is carved in pained, red wood.

Then there are the stars - ineradicable, hard.
One touch : it burns and sickens.
I cannot see your eyes.

Where apple bloom ices the night
I walk in a ring,
A groove of old faults, deep and bitter.

Love cannot come here.
A black gap discloses itself.
On the opposite lip

A small white soul is waving, a small white maggot.
My limbs, also, have left me.
Who has dismembered us?

The dark is melting. We touch like cripples.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I witnessed "starkly lonely" in real life and then I read about it in literature. There's been no escape from it.

My father continues to call my mother every year on her birthday even though they've been divorced for 37 years (and even though he doesn't speak to either his kids or his grandkids). And Ted Hughes wrote "Birthday Letters" for Sylvia Plath.
 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

With Cats

As per the previous blog entry, this is from my catching up on an old "New Yorker" magazine from Jan. 13. The premise of this "Shouts & Murmurs" column, entitled "'Downton Abbey' With Cats," is: "Look, I never want to tell stories about my children, because it always seems a little lazy. Children tend to be sort of dumb, and, in the end, the stories are always the same: children say hilarious things, and I am old and dying. So when I tell you these stories about my children let's just pretend they are about my cats."

The schtick goes on for a page, but the insight at the end is what got me:
"Downton Abbey" and "Upstairs, Downstairs" are the same thing. They are the exact same television show: about an aristocratic family living through the early twentieth century, their lives entwined with those of a plucky, makeshift family of servants below them.... And it made me understand: no matter what you do or make in life, it will be forgotten. And then people will just make it again and pretend that what you did never happened.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Social Pathology

Catching up on old "New Yorker" magazines, have been reading the last leftover from months ago, from Jan. 13. Specifically an article called "The People Who Pass," about the "Roma problem" in France. By "problem," I mean that a small percentage of the country's population is causing a disproportionately large percent of the crime. And even the liberal French are starting to get sick of it.

The writer, Adam Gopnik, interviews many Roma representatives who bitch that "France is the worst place for Roma to be born" (!) and "Nobody should try to integrate himself into a society that is entirely sick" and "We are no longer even allowed to claim the right to wander that we have always had. That is the essence of our history. Why should we integrate?" And then there's the cause celebre of the left in France of "little Leonarda," a Roma girl who was, with her family, ejected from the country when it was discovered that they were all there illegally.

OK. So far, so knee-jerkedly, frustratingly illogical. But then, thankfully, the article also fairly explores the other side. Starting with noting a French "respectable weekly" publishing a cover story on "The Roma Overdose," outlining "all 'the things we're not allowed to say'--that the Roma are a public burden and a social nuisance."

Gopnik also quotes France's Socialist Interior Minister (today Prime Minister), Manuel Valls (whose parents were also refugees to France, from Spain): "The Roma should return to Romania or Bulgaria...Our role is not to welcome all the world's misery." Valls also says: "France has been a country of immigration for a long time...and that's been France's good fortune. But the idea of integration remains distinct here, where each keeps his identity but shares in a set of common values: secularism, the idea of the Republic, the rights of women, the language...That's the French model, and it remains strong... I'm naturalized, I was born in Spain, and I think it's fantastic that you can be born elsewhere and become a citizen of this country, and then that I can become Minister of the Interior, just as a Moroccan-born citizen can become Minister for Women's Rights. Those are my politics. Firm, balanced, respectful of persons and of the law. A policy that integrates by naturalization, following rules that are clear and transparent, where people understand why they're legalized, or not, and why some must be sent back to the border... If there are no rules, it is always the weakest that suffer. As a man of the left, I find this essential. For me, respect for law is completely linked with our ideas of humanity and generosity. I reject the idea that order and democracy can't go together, that firmness and generosity aren't compatible. We must have both."

Says the article: "Valls supporters thought that the sentimental cult of Leonarda was a form of 'angelism'--meaning a refusal to face unpleasant realities, in this case the truth about the self-evident (if historically rooted) pathologies of an underclass. They insist...that this 'angelism' is part of a larger, enforced cult of the 'Other,' a compulsory act of celebrating difference that is undermining the French state, so that defenders of little Leonarda insist on embracing the Other, even as the Other picks their pockets."

And the article again, from the liberal standpoint (yet with a starting point of reality): "Recognizing that a social pathology persists within a minority group is not the same thing as imagining that the social pathology is natural to the minority group." I completely agree with this. Yet... here in America, no one seems to want to publicly ADMIT that there IS a "social pathology persisting within a minority group."

This article COMPLETELY describes what's going on in America, albeit in a roundabout way, filtered through the current Roma/French experience. But where's our humane truth-teller Valls or our version of "The Roma Overdose" in the mainstream media? This blind political correctness can't continue.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Maleficent

About 15 years ago, I first became aware of Angelina Jolie and saw her in "Gia" and "Girl, Interrupted." I thought these two performances were mildly moving, nothing profound. (It's easy to "play crazy and/or drug-addled.") What was even more interesting to me at the time was her public persona: Deep-kissing her brother, giving an interview while all sexed-up after intercourse with Billy Bob Thornton in their limo. She was, indeed, interesting: bordering on train-wreckish, but also very bold and daring.

Since then, she's apparently calmed down, and I haven't seen another performance of hers, other than the public media pronouncements about her "stealing" Brad Pitt, and the multiple kid adoptions, and her double mastectomy. YAWN. I can't think of three things that are less inspiring to me than (1) winning Brad Pitt, (2) adopting a bunch of kids, or (3) getting a double mastectomy when you don't even have cancer just 'cause you're paranoid about possibly getting cancer in the future.

With all the current publicity about "Maleficent," though... OK, so Jolie was initially interesting to me because of her "dark side." And I've always been interested in psychologically dark women. But then it's kind of trendy recently to do "The Madwoman in the Attic" and "Wicked" and such. And I hate "summer blockbusters from Disney"-- surely anything psychologically profound about the concept of the Evil Queen is going to be dumbed down.

Reviews I started reading about "Maleficent" initially confirmed my doubts. The fact that Peter Travers of "Rolling Stone" hated it was all over the web. So I had to go to the RS site to read what Travers had to say. And there I came upon this cogent response to Travers by reader Amy Luna Manderino, which is now also getting much attention:
Let me translate Travers' review for those of you who like a bit of objectivity and depth in your movie reviews...

"classic evil b*tch"
translation: I only see characters in terms of their gender tropes.

"soulless" "untouched by human hands" "empty inside"
translation: I am too numb to recognize that this is the deeply profound story of anyone (male or female) being physically violated and emotionally betrayed by someone in whom they placed their deepest love and trust and the healing journey back from that devastation to conquer the inner urge to become evil yourself."

"The idea..is that Maleficent is really a secret softie."
translation: I am too obtuse to realize that the idea is that people are complex and nuanced, sometimes Princes (or Princesses) turn into Frogs and Villians turn into Heroes and we shouldn't be quick to judge the..uh…what was that term?…oh yes…the "evil b*tches" of the world.

"She's been done wrong...Men-those rat b*stards!"
translation: I'm too defensive to realize that any person, male or female who displays psychopathic values above their humanity is a rat b*stard but it's also true that socialized masculine culture normalizes psychopathic values over humanity and that pointing this out helps women AND men.

"three incompetent pixies"
translation: I'm so used to the same old five female tropes in my films that I didn't pick up on the passive-aggressive codependent mother role the pixies were meant to deliberately symbolize in contrast to Jolie's true and unconditional mother love for Aurora.

"Aurora is ready to join her spirit mom Maleficent in revenge against Big Daddy."
translation: I so wanted to hate the b*tches in this film that I didn't even notice that Aurora were and Maleficent were simply TRYING TO LEAVE THE CASTLE (not extract revenge) when they were ATTACKED. And that, in the end, Maleficent does NOT take her revenge when she can.

"The twink of a prince is little more than an afterthought."
translation: I am so used to the entitled male tropes in films that I can't wrap my brain around the idea that a significant other can be one of many aspects of life that a man or woman indulges in and loves and that doesn't make them an AFTERthought, it makes them an ALSOthought.

"Even the true love's kiss that can awaken Aurora takes a feminist slant."
translation: Any love that doesn't involve sex between a man and a woman is "feminist."

"Maleficent is still one long, laborious slog."
translation: This movie is way ahead of my ability to comprehend its beauty, subtly and innovative universal themes on the human condition.

Rolling Stone, it's time to get a new movie critic. The world is passing Travers by in leaps and bounds.
Holy fuck and amen, Amy Luna! :)  And I haven't even SEEN the film. But now I certainly WANT to! Closing the deal (re my indecision about seeing this movie) was this excerpt by Matt Zoller Seitz on the rogerebert.com site:
The scene of Maleficent waking up on a hilltop with huge scars in her back, then weeping with rage, is the most traumatizing image I've seen in a Hollywood fairy tale since the Christ-like sacrifice of Aslan in 2005's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." It strikes so deep, and its impact resonates for so long after, that it makes the film's numerous missteps seem less like deal breakers than irritants. The assault transforms Maleficent from an unabashed heroine into an anti-heroine—a straight-up bad guy, as far as the story's terrified humans are concerned—and warps Disney's vanilla 1959 film into a conflicted revenge story with an unmistakable feminist undertone. It's the deepest betrayal imaginable. Every subsequent action Maleficent takes—including casting a spell on Stefan's daughter Aurora (played as a teen by Elle Fanning) that will send her into a coma at age 16 after a finger-prick by a spinning wheel needle—is driven by the trauma of that betrayal.