"...give all for love... but this love must not be that of ... schoolboys and German ladies....

[in Paris] I saw you, with all your knowledge and your imagination and all your literary reputation, living in bondage worse than a servant. You have persuaded yourself that all you need is to express your feelings and ideas in books. You existed like a ghost that whispers to the living its plans and desires, no longer able to realize them itself....

I tried to make you understand that you should not confine your life to books and reveries. You have pleaded the liberty of woman in a masculine and frank style. Live and act, as you write."

- Polish dissident & poet Adam Mickiewicz to Margaret Fuller, Spring, 1847.
If I were to describe the bare bones of this film---a depressed romance writer's husband is leaving her, she gets a job at a newspaper to trash her own books---you might not want to see it. You might also miss the point of the film altogether. In Almodovar's own words, this is a film about abandonment. The theme was powerful and palpable, though the film never seems to decide how seriously it wants to take itself. There are many funny moments to this movie, and though it concludes with a happy ending, the ride along the way is, indeed, rocky. Leo, clearly has a melodramatic flair, on one level the viewer is not surprised that her husband is leaving her and that her friends and family have largely abandoned her: who could live with someone who walks in the world without any skin? But when her husband accuses her of being selfish as he is leaving her---which she unquestionably is---one might wonder how she or anyone else in her situation could be anything else? It does not matter if bombs are falling in Bosnia when one's marriage is falling apart.

The technicolor tragicomic melodrama of Pedro Almodovar... )
There is a scene midway through Deborah Weisgall's The World Before Her in which Marian Evans (later to be known as George Eliot) attends a party thrown by Franz Liszt at which he plays a duet with Clara Schumann. She describes her sharp feelings of envy watching these two musicians play. Despite the fact that Clara's husband (the infamously insane composer Robert Schumann) is in a madhouse and Clara is supporting their eight children, (later someone corrects this supposition, "Seven, one of them died,") Marian envies Clara. She has what Marian longs for especially the legitimacy she possesses in her marriage and her children. Liszt, who was a great admirer of Evans even before she became George Eliot, motions to Marian to come turn pages for them, "She understood that he wished for her to turn pages for them, but she could not. It represented too closely what she feared herself to be: an amanuensis, invisible, ignored, though she might be standing before an audience." (p152)

An imperfect overview of a deeply affecting book... )

Leap Year

Jan. 16th, 2010 07:44 am
Most of you know that I am generally antagonistic to romcom. Often times I watch these films and think, "Quit lying to me!" Especially if the heroine is particularly stupid, manipulative, or worse, pretty pretending to be plain. However, there are always exceptions to the rule, and one of the things that's occurred to me is that: these are still films about women, and beloved by women, and offer a good opportunity to bond with the other women in my life.

Leap Year is about an obsessive compulsively inclined woman who has built herself a 'perfect' life down to the cardiologist she's been dating for four years. She is ready for the ring and invoking a family superstition she 'confirms' on the internet, she sets off for Dublin where he is staying for a medical conference, because apparently Leap Year is the Sadie Hawkins day for proposals.

Fate intervenes in the form of weather and a surly Irish taxi-driver who is surely the love interest in this film. They fight like cats and in their trek across Ireland complete with requisite disasters: dung, mud, missed connections, and puking on each others shoes, they fall in love.

Few surprises in the film or in this post. )

Anyway, it is very standard, romcom fare. Essentially inoffensive. You will know whether or not you like this movie without my advice. But even if you aren't a romcom fan I highly recommend seeing:

* Frank Capra's It Happened One Night
* Powell & Pressbergers I Know Where I'm Going (with fantastic b&w phantasmagoric cinematography from German expressionist Erwin Hillier)
* Hitchcock's The Thirty-Nine Steps

Also, there is a strong tradition of romcom's about American going to Ireland for love. This film put me in mind of The Matchmaker a 1997 (remake?) starring Janeane Garafalo as the primary love interest.
Cristina Nehring's A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-First Century might be better titled: A Vindication of Women in Love: An Polemic for Pro-Love Feminism in the 21C since the central argument is the right for women to love passionately, disastrously, and in any way their hearts might lead them without damage to their intellectual clout or moral character.

Read more... )
One of the very best things about yesterday was driving. I know this sounds silly, but since I've been unemployed I've avoided driving almost entirely. I require a half-tank of gas every other week. (I've made a habit of topping up whenever it goes below a half tank. This is a survivalist thing, but it also means I will have enough gas to get me to and from an interview regardless of financial circumstance.)

I LOVE driving. I'm not so keen on traffic or lengthy commutes; but driving is great. Yesterday's trip to Denver and back (via Broomfield) was the most I've driven in weeks and it felt wonderful to race down the highway with the windows down and the tunes playing. Since I haven't been required to drive for a long time, it felt marvelous to get the chance to do it. An extra bonus treat to my day out. (Which also included a trip to the Bookworm and tacos at La Casita.)

So, I'm at a light in Broomfield and I pull up behind a big truck. I nostalgically notice it's a big truck, a Dodge, though not quite as old as the one I used to borrow from my neighbors in high school. I loved that old 1968 wreck. I could barely reach the pedals, but this wasn't a problem since it was a three-on-the-tree shift and the engine was so powerful it tended to siphon it's own gas even when the pedal wasn't pressed. It rumbled along in a way that made you bounce on the spring seats even on the flattest stretch of highway, and it's generous cab not only had the sofa seat up front, but two jump seats in the back, which was my favorite place to sit when I wasn't driving. I loved sitting up above the rest of the traffic and the way I had to use my arms to pull myself into the cab. I loved hauling crap in it and fitting the most friends and relatives I could manage in the cab.

Ever since that truck, I have always loved trucks. I know how people get attached to them, though I haven't been able to justify buying one. I like to say that a man with a truck has his priorities straight because there's only really room for him and two other things in that cab. It will be a combination of the following: him, his best buddy, his dog, his best girl. Any of these three things important, so if he makes room for you, you know that YOU are important.

So, I'm sitting behind this old Dodge truck in traffic having these nostalgic thoughts when I realize that there is a sticker smack in the middle of the gate reading, "Got biodiesel?" Then I notice there is an 'Veterans for Obama' sticker on the rear bumper. And Cornhuskers decals on the back of the cab. I realize I am in the presence of the rare red-state, red-blooded, red-minded, liberal.

"I wonder if he's good looking?" I thought, and pulled around the side as we came through the light. Sure enough, it was your clean-cut all-American sitting in that cab with his mid-size mutt and just enough room for a friend or a girl.

I nearly followed him down the road introduce myself and tell him how much I liked his truck; but I was in a turn lane and let traffic dictate my fate. The man loves his planet. Loves his country. Loves his truck. Someone who is able to hold onto all those contradictions in politics and policy might have room in his life for someone like me.

I am still a sucker for the red-state, red-blooded, man. I notice this every time I cross into Weld or Larimer county. It's like my libido spikes and suddenly I'm finding my head turning everywhere I go. But the most exciting thing about the surge of desire was that it could still happen. I'm unlikely to run into this red-state, red-blooded, red-minded, liberal, again, but it was a heartening reminder that I am still capable of feeling attraction. Or as they like to say, "I'm not dead, yet."
Living Out Loud with Holly Hunter )

We're having a rainy day today. The sound of the rain splattering on the sidewalk and roof, a constant hush. Added to the cigarettes I unearthed from the back of the freezer and all my old jazz tapes I decided to pull out the closet.... I'm having one of those deliciously introverted, hot cup of tea and warm sweater kind of days.

Yesterday was the last time I'll see my intern. She brought me some Japanese candy and a very sweet card (with a horoscope! something of an inside joke) thanking me for being such a great boss. I'm really going to miss her. I gave her my card and told her not to hesitate to contact me as a reference.

I also hosted beer:30 yesterday afternoon and the turnout was amazing.

Martin Scorsese's The Departed )

I've been on a real movie kick this year. For some reason I'm taking delight in all kinds of films. I also checked out The Fast Runner and North by Northwest at the library this week. I'm looking forward to both. (I haven't seen N by NW in a very long time and remember it being an incredibly sexy film.)
My last entry was about 12 hours ago, which means, yep, I'm up around 3 again. I haven't been able to sleep through the night for almost a week. Here's the worst part: I've been falling asleep with the light on.

3 AM is stress.

Light on means I'm worried about nightmares, even though I've been doing it unintentionally.

I treat these things like there is some kind of spiritual component; but the truth is it is likely chemical. People who suffer from seizures usually have 'tells' that let them know one is coming on. Heck, I have miagraines every now and then and usually get auras to give me an indicator that the spewing and pounding pain will begin shortly. I'm starting to wonder if dreaming is the same way. Part of me is thinking, "Maybe this is a medical problem." The other part would be sad if my dreams went away. And there's nothing really painful about it, just the weirdness of being up in the middle of the night.

I've been vascillating between gratitude and self-pity. But I have to tell you these middle of the night sessions are the one time I am really and truly glad that there is no significant other whose sleep is interrupted along with mine. I can get up, write, cook, do the dishes, and no one is disturbed. In fact this whole past year or so has been a time in which I have been profoundly lonely, but simultaneously grateful for the space and time I've been granted to myself.

The election made me feel really wealthy, even before the results came in. Voting on the minimum wage amendment made me realize that I am making about double what people on minimum wage have. I'm struggling, but I'm not indigent. Even zooming around in the Time Machine, which is in desperate need of a tune-up, I've felt so damn grateful for transportation. I'm also grateful for a warm place to stay, (a trailer) for the few people I still have in my life.

The self-pity mostly involves my job, the singular lack of male entertainment, and the loss of crappy friends who prefer the company of boring men to my eccentric self. And the occasional insight that even if I'm driving around in the Time Machine and getting up in the trailer at 3 AM to do the dishes that most people would not consider this, "Living well."

I have always hated the saying, "Living well is the best revenge," because even when I'm doing pretty well, very rarely does it look like anything anyone else wants. Having ones situation be revenge for someone else requires their envy, and my life has very rarely garnered much of that. No, I'd rather people have some sort of insight to the pain they cause others, which is something I'm overly aware of for myself at times. The only good part about not having very many people in my life at this time is knowing I'm not causing many of them any suffering.

Dad's symphony is playing Beethoven's 6th tomorrow night. (I mean, tonight.) I'm thinking about going. It's a childhood favorite, not because of Fantasia (which my parents viewed as a sacrilege and I did not see until college) but because I had "A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra" record which took the symphony apart to show how all the elements come together as a whole. I loved this record, and associate it with the symphony and all that was good about my childhood, even if the real reason I was drawn to it as a child was because it had a blue monkey toy on the cover playing the cymbals.
It probably comes as no surprise to you that I have been a long time fan of Gilmore Girls. My brother's been taping it for me these past few years, and even he's become a fan. But the show is changing, and the original creator/writer has left. A review today gets at the heart of what's changing, and has some uncomfortable observations about the show, which hit all too close to home:

...that was the charm of the old show: women, fundamentally women without men, were compelled to talk as fast as they could to keep their loneliness at bay. The virtue of Ms. Sherman-Palladino’s shticky style was that it created characters who were new to television. In their purest incarnations, Lorelai and Rory shared the witty woman’s challenge:to architect a wall of words so high and so thick that no silence, no stares, no intimations of mortality or even love could penetrate it.

And the more they — and especially Lorelai — did that season after season, and the more she relented only when overcome by real despair (as when she and Rory fought), the more Ms. Sherman-Palladino and Mr. Palladino seemed to have found a way to bring the pain of cleverness to the screen.

Lorelai’s out-of-touchness with her own emotional life — her conviction that to swoon, even once, would be to forfeit her verbal power and thus her reason for being — has only grown more extreme as the show has aged. That process has had an incredible poignancy and even suspense, as when a single friend becomes funnier and more self-aware even as she stifles her need for romantic love.

Lorelai’s internal life — her desperate loneliness (come on, have any of these forgettable guys even come close to matching her?) coupled with her untenable reliance on her daughter as the one true thing in her existence — is clear to longtime viewers. But no one of her fans would really want her to face that suffering, and turn soft. To force some kind of psychological reckoning on her would be sadistic.

Her humor, her style, her neuroses, even her quicksilver physicality were all contrivances that served to shut out existential truths. If she were in therapy, or a character on a show with a dumber audience, maybe she would have to embrace her weakness. But like Elizabeth in Stephen Frears’s movie “The Queen,” Lorelai has a humanity that is perfectly apparent precisely in her unwillingness to betray her stoicism in favor of a therapeutic catharsis.

For all these years, Lorelai in “Gilmore Girls” has been painful and surprising and exciting to watch — a marvelous high-wire act. How cruel that the new writer of the show wants to rub her face in conventionality, strip her of the speed that was her reason for being and transform her into another banal television lead.
Okay, guess how I spent my day? Doing absolutely nothing and absorbed in the nasty world of Fay Weldon.

She May Not Leave by Fay Weldon )

Abandoning Erica Jong's 'Fear of Flying' )

A partial list of least-liked books. )

And if that weren't enough criticism for one day, now I have to go find a way to find a way to write a positive book review about a crappy book by an author I like. For some reason I don't find British Imperialism amusing on a solar system level. We are supposed to root for the Queen, and boo for the spiders, while the other alien civilizations are given status with Nesbit's Irish cooks and cannibals. At least she was LIVING in the British Empire when she wrote it. There is no excuse for creating this imperialist nonsense in this day and age. It seems especially dangerous when it's cute-ified for children to read.

Oh well, I didn't find Pullman's anti-religious rants easy to take either, but I still liked elements of His Dark Materials, though as an answer to Paradise Lost it was still a stretch. Why can't anyone understand that the key to Paradise is Lucifer's longing?
It turns out that if your household earns more than 25K and you have a college education, your odds of getting divorced, once married, are about 20-30%, which are about the same odds as in 1950.

People susceptible to higher divorce rates are young, poor, and uneducated.

On a personal level, I am becoming more and more convinced that it is not only possible to meet the right person at the wrong time, it is also possible to meet the wrong person at the right time.
Has anyone else noticed that the 'How Shamu Saved My Marriage' Modern Love column is still in the Top 5 at the NYT? It's been three weeks!

Anyone who's ever done potty training (or spent any time with someone under the age of 5) knows the value of positive behavioral reinforcement, but really, we're talking about adult men. Isn't it time they start behaving like adults? Isn't it time we start expecting them to?

The whole point of the article seems to be, "Get your mate [man] to do what you want," not what is really an issue in relationships when it comes to pet peeves and shared household duties: caring and control.

When people complain that their mate doesn't do their fair share of the household duties, they are very rarely complaining about having to do a specfic chore. (Case in point: the recent preview for The Breakup with Jennifer Anniston and Vince Vaughn. "I want you to want to do the dishes," she says.) The issue isn't about who actually does the dishes, but that someone would care enough to seek parity in their relationship and the working of the household. Fundamentally speaking the ability of our mate to listen to our demands, or to chip in without being nagged or complaining, helps us believe that they care about us and the day to day workings of a relationship.

Positive behavioral training addresses a behavior, or habit, not the fundamental challenge of spouses unable to communicate with one another. It is a useful tool, but to rely upon it to get ones (adult) spouse to behave in a particular way is in fact manipulative, and an indicator of the sad state of affairs in many partnerships.

Yuk! is all I can say, (though I did forward the article myself to certain women in my office, who might as well use it on their husbands, who otherwise behave like animals, or toddlers.)



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