Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday Night Haiku: Week Two

Risk, is saying "I
feel foolish," while noticing
that you said "I Feel."

Grace, is when your risk,
(telling the truth), let's someone
else do just the same.

Million Dollar Baby Haiku:

Clint Eastwood- Am I
also protecting myself
out of a prize fight?

I wish Morgan Free-
-man would narrate my life so
I could know what's next.

Sometimes I wish I
could take my boxing gloves off.
Then we could hold hands.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Funnier Out of Context

In celebration of a day spent not writing a research paper, here are some favorite chapter titles from books I've read for classes this term:

1. “The Cross, the Self, and the Other”

2. “Love and Foreplay Aren’t Blind, Unless You Insist on It”

3. “Eating the Word”

4. “Carmelite Spirituality and the Post-Modern”

5. “Clay and Karen: The Couple Whose Sex Life Was Dying”

Draw what conclusions you will...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Done, With 46 Hours to Spare!

One of the most feared (or procrastinated) events of the Mars Hill education, appears to be the gender/abuse/marriage research paper for "Marriage & Family Counselling" and shucks, if I ain't finished with it. Will I get an A? Most likely not since my topic is way too broad and circumspect for a psychology research paper, but I at least like what I wrote and enjoyed writing it.

<- Studdy Buddy. I spent today (and am still here presently) doggy-sitting for Joann Badley, my Interpretive Methods professor who lives a few blocks from me. So I've had a whole day free of the distractions that seem to orbit my desk at home (should I re-organize my DVD's by color instead of by studio distributor?), and with Toby, the scruffiest terrier on earth by my side, so I've got companionship without the temptation of conversation.

When I was down to my final papragraph, Toby and I took a long walk 'round the neighborhood, and fortunately, since I couldn't take Toby into a coffee shop or restaurant, I live blocks from a bone-fide Seattle hamburger landmark, Dick's, where I could walk up to the window, get my food, and stand there at the counter with Toby free to scour for french fries on the pavement.

It's been a lovely day, and actually, a pretty enjoyable paper writing process, considering I didn't get to mention Jane Eyre or Henry V. And I can now stop reading these! --> Huzzah!

Oh, and if you care, my topic was "In Search of Safety: Dissapearance of Self in the Authoritarian Household". Hilarity!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday Night Haiku

What is this I hear?
Oh yeah, the "I Told You So"
I'd been expecting.

"Crestfallen". There are
some words you never tire of
wanting to avoid.

I'd put my heart out
There, but then what would be in
Here to pump my blood?

Irony helps when
You don't want to say what you
really want to say.

Sometimes its easy-
-er to write four glib haiku
than admit you're hurt

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Love Language: DVDs

Going out to mailbox this evening, and what do I find, but an box. "Surely, this is for a roommate" I think to myself, since it's been months (okay, weeks) since I've ordered anything. But still, my heart holds a glimmer of hope before I read the address label, because there is truly, no more beautiful sight than that of an box in the mail. Especially when I have no idea what it is or whom it could be from.

A similar incident occurred last fall when a mystery package appeared for me which turned out to be the 20th anniversary edition of Moonstruck, which I immediately knew must be from Richard, because what other person on earth did I spend countless adolescent hours quoting Cher and Nicholas Cage with, but Richard, and of course Erin, (our 14 yr old Moonstruck threesome- does that sounds weird? Come to think, I meant that we were 14 at the time, but it also holds true that it was 14 years ago. Good Lord!). Also, I had just mailed Richard my OfficeMac software so he could get Excel, so that was a pretty awesome pseudo-surprise thank you.

Well, I opened the package today, yelped out loud as the bright yellow DVD packaging revealed itself to be Little Miss Sunshine, and read the note from Kim's Mom, the incomparably loving and thoughtful, Toni Hamlin of South Paris, Maine, who sent it to me as a belated birthday, Xmas, pneumonia recovery present.

This gift arrived as I was already riding a wave of joy and relief from numerous events of the day, not the least of which being, the removal/postponement of a giant homework assignment that was gonna be due Friday. And a new DVD to boot! Hallelujah! This, my friends, is why I have a 120 item public wishlist. You never know what DVD of your dreams will show up in the mail.

Thank you Toni! You've made my MONTH!! I love YOU!

Vintage Nudes

My brother shared this at our poetry gathering last month, I LOVE it. The poet wrote it after rummaging through old black and white "erotic" photos, and as I daily read about sex, eroticism, differentiation and emotional fusion in the context of marital counseling, this poem just rings so sweetly and innocently of, golly i don't know what.
But I like it so here it is.

Vintage Nudes

Hard to imagine them now as someone’s
guilty pleasure—
these corn fed pixies and teasing vamps
cavorting in jazz age boudoirs.
We want to avert our eyes,
slip quietly out Desire’s half-open
door, abashed to have glimpsed
Grandma, young and half-naked
In there.

Here one sits in baggy satin drawers
at the edge of the bed, cradling
her kitten, waving its paw
for the camera. And here,
a “Parisian Beauty” demurs on a couch
behind a fan of peacock feathers,
its hundred eyes blue
as the Georgia dusk.

Even the Egyptian slave girl
with the serpent arm bands, hands
raised, fingers pointing backward
and forward; or these turbaned
bathers, artful in Attic poses,
now look to us as innocent
as “Spring,” arrayed here
as a disheveled shepherdess.

So intent is she on plucking
daisies from the field,
which seems to stretch out forever
beneath her flimsy satin shoes,
that she has forgotten
her blouse.

What can you do but unbutton
your coat and place it around
her shoulders? Come along, Dear,
you say, put down your basket,
and we’ll have some tea. Come in
with me now, all of you,
for night is falling, and soon
you will be cold.

-Jennifer Maier

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saturday Night Haiku

Sometimes its good to
Walk alone. Like when your shoe
is squeaking loudly.

The Commute

It used to be that my ride to work involved sitting on a gray plastic bench underground that travelled underwater until I got off that bench, transfered to a different (orange and red) bench and sat next to at least one Hasidic man and usually a Chinese woman and sometimes a Mariachi band would walk through and we'd all groan because 9:30am is never a good time for a Mariachi band to try and get tips. During this underground ride, I'd read about 19th century women in novels who, when rejected by their husbands who find out they had once been raped, are forced to wander the countryside of Southern England alone, burrying their dead babies and wishing they could be forgiven. I read these stories even as I walked off the train, headed up the three flights of stairs into morning light and walked as carefully as I could up Lafayette Street without bumping into any hot dog stands or bike messengers.

I loved my commute.

Now it's different. I'm always the first one on the bus, because I'm the second stop, and if anyone gets on at the first stop, it's usually Joanne Badly, my Interpretive Methods professor and she's awesome and sometimes we've sat and chatted and sometimes we both gesture to the book we're holding or the papers we're grading, and we smile and I take a seat near the back door where I prefer to sit.

My music moods have changed about every three months, and it's probably the low clouds and cool but not freezing winds that have me listening to sad folk music from the 60's or over-earnest folk music from the 90's. Sometimes, after I get on, the bus driver pulls over to Crown Hill Lutheran Church, one of the apparently designated bathroom stops approved by the transit board, and he/she gets off the bus and leaves me there alone for a couple minutes. I guess they can tell that I'm not going to try to drive the bus away, but rather, will enjoy the time alone to sing outloud while no one can hear, just like I used to do in the car when whomever was driving ran in to the gorcery store and I would sing "The Carpenters" or some Balkan folk song at the top of my lungs making sure no one was standing near enough the car to hear me.

But my favorite part of my bus ride is crossing the Ballard Bridge and looking down at the fishing boats. So many fishing boats. And as we near the end of the bridge, we cross the area where one boat at a time is brought in for repainting and repair. Every week and a half or so, a new boat appears and I watch it day by day as it's red lettering fills out and the rust dissapears under new paint. The last boat I saw down there was the Resolute, and before it, Augustine and the St. John. The boat there now doesn't have a visible name, but there's some Norse-looking desings painted on the front where a naked lady would be if it were a pirate ship.

I like my new commute. Even if the one time I saw someone with a yarmulke get on the bus I got so excited, only to realize it was just his cowlick making his hair look like he was Orthodox. At least there's still a Chinese lady next to me.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My New Favorite Song

I keep hitting repeat on my Ipod when this comes on, and when I say repeat, I mean I listened to it four times in a row on the bus going to class today. There's something about the way Simon & Garfunkel turn the sweetest emotions into sad songs, and make sadness sound like a jaunty tricycle ride, that just has me feeling them right now. I'd never heard "Blues Run the Game" till I borrowed (burned) my brothers' copy of the Columbia Recordings Boxed Set which has "Blues" as a bonus track on "Sounds of Silence. I just can't get enough of this one.

Listen to the whole song
Blues Run the Game
Written by Jackson C. Frank

Catch a boat to England, baby,
Maybe to Spain,
Wherever I have gone,
Wherever I've been and gone,
Wherever I have gone
The blues have run the game.

Send out for whisky, baby,
Send out for gin,
Me and room service, honey,
Me and room service, babe,
Me and room service
Well, we're living a life of sin

When I ain't drinking, baby,
You are on my mind,
When I ain't sleeping, honey,
When I ain't sleeping, Mama,
When I ain't sleeping
Well you know you'll find me crying

Living is a gamble, baby,
Loving's much the same,
Wherever I have played,
Wherever I throw those dice,
Wherever I have played
The blues have run the game.

Maybe when I'm older, baby,
Someplace down the line,
I'll wake up older,
So much older, Mama,
Wake up older
And I'll just stop all my trying.

Catch a boat to England, baby,
Maybe to Spain,
Wherever I have gone,
Wherever I've been and gone,
Wherever I have gone
The blues, they're all the same.

Monday, March 12, 2007

No Chance to Judge the Book by its Cover

There's a disturbing trend in home decor marketing, and its spread beyond just The Pottery Barn. In the past 15 years, stores like the Pot Barn, etc have begun convincing Americans that they need more furniture to store the vases and over-sized LETTERS that they purchase at the decor store, and thus, new furniture must be designed to hold these nonsense items that only serve to convince the consumer they have a personality. "Look at all my candle sticks, reproduction telephones and balls made of wicker!" Theses knick-knacks and the furniture that store them bother me just about as much as the concept of people buying art at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

But it's one thing to brainwash us into thinking we need mudroom benches when we don't even know what a mudroom is, but it's another, when you take something as real and functional as a bookcase, and deconstruct it's purpose to being soley decorative. The photos here are from more than one magazine, and all employ the gimic of turning books page-side out so that you see a nice wash of yellowed, ivory paper bricks on the shelf, instead of book titles. This is INSANE!!!! If bookshelves, and more so, books, now serve only decorative functions, what's left, wall-mounted toilets?
And It's not that I'm against knick-knacks. I practically AM a knick-knack. It's the idea of buying them on a mass-produced level so that everyone has the same "vintage" wine poster and tiny bicycle sculpture on their wine rack that holds backwards books instead of wine bottles. Get a personality, people! Don't let the catalogues tell you it's pretty to turn your books backward, and that bookshelves are merely headboards for your bed! This, my friends, is why I pick artwork up off the street and furnish my room with rusty railroad nails. I will not be brainwashed! (though I think the backward-books as ivory paper bricks is kind of appealing to the eye. Curse you evil POT BARN!!)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My Attempt to Celebrate Spring...

...though I'm a Siberian winter storm at heart. Just as Shakespeare's Benedick complains that Claudio no longer wants to hear "the drum and the fife", but would rather hear "the tabour and pipe" because he is in love, so would I rather hear the blustery winds of autumn and the concaving crunch of snow underfoot than hear the cooing of birds in blossoming trees or the flip flop of people wearing flip-flops again - the heralds of Spring. I can't help it. I love the austerity of Winter and the hearth-warming homecoming feel of Fall. Maybe it's my Minnesota roots or the fact that San Diego had no real seasons, but I've never been excited about Spring, and I know this makes me an outsider. So, in an effort to be a little less moribund in my tastes, here's one of my favorite poems, and I dedicate it to Seth who has forever linked this in my memory to images of him dancing in a green sweater vest for paying audiences.
My love to all you crazy spring lovers...

A Contemporary

What if I came down now out of these
solid dark clouds that build up
against the mountain
day after day with no rain in them
and lived as one blade of grass
in a garden in the south
when the clouds part in winter
from the beginning I would be
older than all the animals
and to the last I would be simpler
frost would design me and
dew would disappear on me
sun would shine through me
I would be green with white roots
feel worms touch my feet as a bounty
have no name and no fear
turn naturally to the light
know how to spend the day and night
climbing out of myself
all my life

-W.S. Merwin

Friday, March 9, 2007

Do You Want Help Breathing?

They say if you have a healthy sleep pattern, it should take about twenty minutes for you to fall asleep. Since coming to Mars Hill, those twenty minutes have become really difficult. My mind uses that “on the way to sleep” time to traverse the things I have pushed out of my memory: old ghosts of my past that I’ve wanted to forget. But along with those old phantoms of chagrin and sin, the place my mind most often takes me back is to that hospital room I was alone in for ten days last June. After my hospitalization, I was so happy to have two months of rest and being taken care of, that I really spent no time looking back at what I had gone through. (RE: Photo: Woodhull Hospital was originally built to be a prison-more on that another time...)

When I first got to Seattle, the pneumonia came up a bit more often because I was still dealing with my health- not being able to walk quickly up hills or carry heavy stuff, or whatever, but even then, I still felt sort of ashamed to bring it up, like I was bragging or something, rather than actually needing to give some context for how radically my life had changed over the past few months. It’s still hard for me to talk about.

Well last night, a new memory flashed before me as I was starting to doze off, and it sort of terrified me in the remembering. That first night that Kim took me the hospital, and they finally rushed me upstairs when they suspected I had tuberculosis and they had to get me away from people in case I was contagious, they put me in a private room while they ran tests. They had to stick a tube down my throat to check if I was bleeding from my lungs (I don’t know what the actual procedure was) and that was one of the most horrible experiences ever. But that wasn’t the scary memory. It’s what they asked me when they were through:

“Do you want to be intubated?”

My lungs were so overwhelmed from the pneumonia, that they gave me the option to have a machine help me breath. “Do you want help breathing?”

I said no, not wanting anything else stuck down my windpipe. But the return of this memory was just so jarring last night. I can’t believe I was once at a point of practically not being able to breathe on my own.

I’ve also been remembering that those first few days, anyone who came to visit had to wear masks because I was quarantined. That is crazy! Not only was I totally out of it from getting no sleep for 36 hours, and having a week-long fever, and barely being able to speak, but everyone I looked at was wearing a mask. No wonder I have pushed this stuff so far back in my mind. Disturbing…

(Kim took these pictures for me of my hospital-needle-induced bruises - for the historian in me, despite my pushing it out of memory)

A lot of the deconstruction and reconstruction I’m experiencing at Mars Hill, feels like someone suggesting intubation again: “Would you like some help breathing?” but here, my answer is always “Yes, please, oh God bless you for asking.” I need it now more than ever - breath.

Ruach (Ruah): Hebrew for 'breath,' and represents spirit- literally, the breath of God, synonymous with life.

My Team

Fantasy Board of Trustees

William H. Macy, Chairman
Kevin Kline, President
Emma Thompson, Vice President
Bono, Treasurer
Madeline L’Engle, Secretary

Dan Akroyd***##
Mikhail Baryshnikov
Jack Black***
Cate Blanchett
Toni Collette
Judy Collins
Sofia Coppola***
Carrie Fisher
Alison Kraus
Baz Luhrman
Ewan McGregor
Steve Martin
Charles Mee***##
John C. Reilly
Maya Rudolph
Paul Simon
Tracey Ullman

Bill Irwin
Meredith Monk

***denotes new members since 2004
***## denotes members added since original post date

Some explanation: it started somewhere around 2002, the idea of taking Fantasy baseball or football teams to the next level- Fantasy Teams of any kind. Rules for your team depend on the individual, like whether or not you can have dead or fictional people on your team, but a major rule, is that if someone else has a team member you want, you can’t share. You have to trade players. Notice that Christopher Walken and Dolly Parton are not on my team? They were already taken. And I gave Donna Murphy to Scott a couple years ago, but I don’t remember if he traded someone in return.

In 2004, my team moved from the general sporting format to become a Board of Trustees. Your team can take whatever form you want. Kim’s is a TV show, and Niegel’s is based on ASB. I think Queen Latifah is his Sergeant at Arms.

My rule is that anyone dead is already on my universal team, and since it’s a fantasy team, no one I’ve actually worked with can be on the team, thus the Emeritus status for Bill and Meredith who had to resign from the board. What your team does is entirely up to you. My team obviously has regular board meetings where we discuss collaborative projects.

Any other teams out there?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Fortune Cookie Forecast

thank goodness...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Sure on This Shining Night

I've been looking for a decent recording of Samuel Barber's setting of James Agee's poem "Sure on this Shining Night", and God bless Itunes, I just found the most obscure and spectacular version ever. The song is sort of standard fare for many vocal recitals and boring choir concerts, so it's hard to find a recording that captures the intimacy and the vastness inherant in a poem and song which, to me, has always been about looking at the stars alone, feeling connected, then feeling even more alone in the universe. That's kind of just my take. I think it's about love too. Isn't most good poetry about love?

Anyway, the version I found is by Norwegian artist Elg (that's a guy). I really wish I could put the whole song on here somehow, but that's beyond my ability, so I've included a clip. It's a bit awkward to have a clip in the midst of the song, so you should probably just come over to my house and I'll play it for you. (That's Van Gogh up there, "Starry Night over the Rhone" 1888)

First, James Agee's poem:

Sure on this shining night
Of starmade shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.

Hearts all whole
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

The clip is where, in the song, he sings
All is healed, all is health, High Summer holds the earth. It's my favorite part, but you really need what comes before and what comes after. I just love the gut this guy sings with, and there's also a real sense of reaching: reaching out towards the night, towards the stars, towards someone who isn't there.

"I Weep For Wonder Wand'ring Far Alone"

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Color of Numbers

I Heart Savants...

So I just learned about Daniel Tammet, a young Brittish savant who, unlike most number geniuses, is fully functional despite some genius compulsion issues. But besides the fact that Tammet succesfully memorized and recounted Pi to 22,514 digits, and spoke it aloud in only five hours, or the fact that he succesfully learned to speak Icelandic in only 7 days, here is what truly has me in awe of Daniel Tammet, in his words:

"I see numbers in my head as colors and textures, so when I see a long sequence [of numbers], the sequence forms landscapes in my mind."

He sees numbers as richly-colored landscapes! This is AWE-ing to me! When he calculates or memorizes numbers, its not a matter of him scanning over the memory of computer-print-out numerals, its an orangebluegreenpurpleyellow bumpysharpbillowingtoweringsloping vista. WOW. He actually has unique colored images that he sees in his mind for each number up to 10,000. I can't locate an image online, but on 60 Minutes, they showed his water color rendering of how he sees Pi.

How would our world change, if we raised our kids to Imagine Pi? To Imagine numbers? When I told my roomate Carrie about Tammett, she was equally awed, and expressed her desire to see things his way because she sees the world with so much color, but numbers have always been black to her. Isn't this so true?

It made me wonder about the numeric system we currently use that seems pretty universal (well, planet Earth, anyway) and how is it that for the most part, no matter where you go on Earth, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 mean the same thing. (I would have said 2 means two but 2 does not mean "two" wherever you go. "dos" "due" "do" "deux" "zwei" etc).

So I did some searching. This will not be news to some of you, but the numeric symbols we use are commonly referred to as Arabic Numerals, and originated in India somewhere around 400 BC. If you want to learn more, I suggest Wikipedia's article on Arabic Numerals, to get the history of how the written number morphed into what we have now. It's one of those "China Below Us-Constant Revelations of the Obvious" things that I never thought about again after kindergarten. You know, like the Blue Whale? I also recommend Wikipedia's short article on Daniel Tammet. Golly, I wish I could figure out how to make direct links in here. Anyone want to tell me how? If you want to see some Tammet interviews, and his rendering of Pi, just google his name, along with "60 minutes" and you'll get some pretty good stuff.

Besides my mind being blown by the idea of colored number landscapes, I was really touched when I learned that Tammet tends to avoid beaches because of feeling the compulsion to count the grains of sand. Isn't that beautiful? And frustrating? It's just like how I can never have fruit in my cereal because there's too much stress involved in figuring out the ratio per spoonful of cereal to fruit slice so that I'm not left with tons of cereal and no fruit, or worse, 3 slices of strawberry and no remaining cheerios. Needless to say, Lucky Charms have always been problematic for me.

But honestly, the relationship to what we see as color in our minds is so fascinating to me. I know that there are types of music and even certain albums that I subconsciously see as certain colors. Even thinking of my Itunes playlists, I know what color most of them represent to me.

What do you think in colors about?

Book recomendations: please read these and report back to me...

PS. The artwork in this post is by my homeboy Sean Scully. Albeit, these aren't very representative of color landscapes, but they're very close to how I see color in my head. Dig it.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Rhapsody on a Theme of Superficiality

In the half hour "Making Of" documentary on the DVD of Sofia Copolla's "Marie Antoinette", actor Danny Huston, who portrays Emperor Joseph, remarks "As Oscar Wilde said, 'Only superficial people can't be superficial.'" It's a fitting quote for the film and its aesthetic of candy colors and powdered wigs that decorate the surfaces of desperation, lonliness and futility. It reminded me of director Baz Lurhman and his wife/creative partner Catherine Martin's aesthetic Film theory of "Real Artificiality" as opposed to mere artificial reality: that in exploring human stories and truth, the audience's imagination and empathy can go deeper when surfaces are taken seriously in their surfaceness, instead of putting all one's creative effort into literalism. Mars Hill Graduate School president Dan Allender posites one of the foundational theories of the Mars Hill philosophy when he says "Metaphors Change Lives" or, better explicated, "Metaphor[s]...reveal new and deeper truths than nominative truth."
So I did some web browsing to locate Oscar Wilde's quote and found a host of varied versions, some harmonious with the idea, others just plain silly. I present them here in order of what I think is the original quote, to the ones I think are acceptable paraphrases, down the not-so-helpful.
1. "It is only superficial people who do not judge by appearances, the mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible" -- Oscar Wilde.

2. “Only superficial people cannot see that the most profound ideas are expressed in the most superficial things.” –Oscar Wilde

3. “Only superficial people do not judge by the outward appearance” wrote Oscar Wilde

4. “It is only superficial people who do not judge by surfaces” – Oscar Wilde

5. Oscar Wilde: "Only superficial people don't pay attention to appearance.”

6. But in the words of Oscar Wilde, "Only superficial people can't be superficial."

7. Oscar Wilde once remarked that only superficial people disliked the superficial.

8. Only superficial people talk about deep things." --Oscar Wilde

9. Only superficial people know themselves. -Oscar Wilde

And to close, here's thoughts from Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), from his "Summa Theologiae" on these ideas of surface, metaphor and revealed meaning in the realm of Scripture:

“Holy Scripture fittingly delivers divine and spiritual realities under bodily guises… Now we are of the kind to reach the world of intelligence through the world of sense, since all our knowledge takes its rise from sensation. Congenially, then, Holy Scripture delivers spiritual things to us beneath metaphors taken from bodily things.” Aw heck, let's take it to the next level: What are metaphors? Surfaces? Mirrors? To me, it's like seeing your reflection in a river; part of yourself is shown to you while gazing at the surface of something deeper that you cannot quite see the bottom of.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
1 Corinthians 13:12

PS: Did you see the image parallels between Oscar Wilde's cigar and Thomas Aquinas' quill? I did that on purpose. If I were April Bernard, I'd have to draw out further allusions having to do with men, cigars and quills, but since I'm me, I wont.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Abby and Auntie Acting Coach

So Matt and Abby stopped by the other evening, and Abby was eager to get in front of the camera. We've all been playing with this idea with her lately about showing different expressions of emotion. It's pretty hilarious watching her pretend to fall off the sofa as if it were a mountain cliff and calling for help "Mommy! Save me!" then Rebecca will rescue her dramatically and smother her like an overprotective mother. It's hilarious.

So, with the help of photobooth, Abby and I did some acting excercises. Here's a 3 yr. old's interpration of some basic emotional states.

"Okay, Abby. Look really, really HAPPY"

"Now look really SAD"

"Now, can you look SURPRISED?"

"How would you look if you were really CONFUSED, like "I don't know?"

"Now let's see you really ANGRY"

"How would you look if you were IN LOVE?"

Eat your heart out, Dakota Fanning.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Killing the Bad Guys: reflections on LETHAL WEAPON

So, believe it or not, last night was the first time I’d ever seen “Lethal Weapon”. Albeit, I’ve watched bits and pieces over its many years of TV syndication, but I’d never watched start to finish or followed the plot before last night. And watching it got me thinking. From the very first drug deal crackdown, when Mel Gibson whips out his gun and shoots like three guys in one second, I actually thought “this is fake, we’re gonna find out it’s a training practice for the academy or something”. The shootings were so casual and instantaneous that my 2007 perspective just assumed it was fake. No movie cop is allowed to kill that many people that quickly without some serious back-story to support it. And on top of that, the scene was clearly supposed to excite and entertain the audience. Look at how good he is with a gun! Nowadays, that’s the last thing we’re led to believe about our film protagonists.

What a difference 1987 makes. Despite his anti-hero qualities- tortured past, suicidal tendencies, Mel Gibson’s character holds much more in common with Rambo than with contemporary “action” protagonists. And why wouldn’t he? 1987: It’s pre-gulf war, and the Berlin wall is still up, so of course bad guys are bad guys, so why would an audience be interested in a character’s moral struggle over casual killing. Cops kill bad guys. And we as the audience rejoice with Arnold and Sly with every commie or drug lord that they shoot. And boy, they shoot a lot. The weapons are big and sexy, and our heroes run through the middle of traffic, shirtless, chasing after the villain’s limo, until finally, they get to face off in hand-to-hand combat for the last seven minutes of the film, and when the final bullet gets the bad guy through the cranium, we shout “Take That!” and rejoice as if we’d been the hot shot behind the trigger our self. As my roommate Carrie remarked, the film was made when we still rejoiced in the idea of revenge. No irony needed or subtext, just kill the faceless evildoers then fall asleep at night knowing you’ve done your American duty. (I won’t draw out the contemporary political allusions, but you can do it for yourself if you want to).

Now, move ahead to today’s revenge or war films, like “Munich” where it is actually about assassins taking out the evildoers, but there is no celebratory, glossy kills as the heroes run through warehouses killing indiscriminately. Instead, the film is about the very ethical struggles inherent in planned murder. We see Eric Bana fighting off demons, not being cheered on by a circle of fellow cops watching him strangle Gary Busey on Danny Glover’s front lawn. For the most part, audiences today won’t believe that the antagonist is pure evil and has no soul (unless you go to the realm of fantasy. We’re not worried about Sauron’s childhood trauma). Not only is the bad guy not pure evil, but also our protagonists are far from perfect. Is this postmodernism playing havoc on our sense of good and evil, or is it truth emerging from the reality of a world where violence, and not the perpetrators, is beginning to be seen as the evil.

Then there’s the sublime paradox presented in “Jarhead”; a clear anti-war film that succeeds in having the audience weep with a main character when he’s robbed of the chance to finally take a shot at his enemy. And it works because we’re not wanting to see an Iraqi get shot, we want to see Peter Saarsgard be validated for the sacrifice and suffering he’s endured as a soldier. It’s not about wanting to see death; it’s about wanting to see someone finally get their shot- to matter. And mattering seems to be what’s on all of our minds these days. Even if its cheesy action flicks like Michael Bay’s “The Island”, we want to celebrate the individual’s right to exist, even if it means we have to let the “evil” guy exist too. And I see this as progress from the revenge-orgy films of the 80’s. Who are we to corner the market on revenge? We’d be kidding ourselves to think we’re innocent. So, our celebrations may look more like mourning for the time being, but until we can truly celebrate “the other”, it is better to mourn our failure to understand “the other”, than to shout for joy and raise our beer bottles in the air every time a bad guy gets one in the skull.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for this is the end of everyone, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Reading Week

Today starts the next 10 days of having no classes; a time dubbed "Reading Week" by Mars Hill Graduate School; time to do all the homework you should've been doing the last month and a half and to prep for the last half of term. So of course, most people are using this time to go to Mexico and sunbathe. I'm actually gonna give it a shot. It's not that long ago that I fantasized about waking up in the morning with nothing to do all day but read; nowehere to go, no jobs, no appointments, just read. And that's exactly where I'm at, the only thing I have scheduled is to take care of Abby a couple hours next Friday. So why did I only read like 40 pages today?

Wednesday night was my last class for a bit- my counseling practicum, in which for 25 minutes I counselled a fellow student while the rest of the group and two faculty observe. Then we deconstruct it for an hour and a half. I walked out of the building really needing connection- basically, wanting a drink- with people, but everyone was taking off for the break. And the wacky thing is, the hard time about the practicum session wasn't because of critique, or feeling exposed. It's because I had to spend an hour with people telling me I did well, while I squirmed and tried to criticize myself out of their praise. And I feel ambivalent even typing this.

So, things I was thankful for in light of having to leave that situation alone:

-the snowfall as I walked home from my bustop
-"Helplessly Hoping" coming on my Ipod right when I needed it
-My sister-in-law calling me to ask if I could watch Abby next week, then calling right back to say she and my brother were coming down to pick me up so we could watch "Marie Antoinette" and I could stay over at their place last night
-Tonight, my roomate inititating week 3 of Thursday means "get Greek food and watch crime shows," though CSI was a rerun and we watched "Lethal Weapon" instead

So, I guess I'm still coming down off the "wha' happenned?" of practicum, and having trouble cracking open the books. It's been really hard to focus this term. I feel the lack of creative outlet in a big way, and don't know what to do about it. Which is a shame, because I love what I'm studying, I'm just lacking balance.

What a blessing to finally own "Marie Antoinette" though. Matt added it to his Amazon wishlist as soon as the credits were through. That movie ministers to my soul like few things I know of. I swear, watching it regulates my heart beat while calling me into deep emotion at the same time. Sofia Coppola is gonna be directing the opera "Manon Lescaut" in southern France for the 2009-2010 season, so maybe I'll do my 29th internship with her or something.

Okay, let the venting stop, for now.

PS: I'm assuming I'm not the only one who believes that Yankee Candles can cause brain damage. Perhaps that's the key to all of this.

PPS: I'll post some Abby pictures after she and I hang out next week. She loves posing for photobooth.

Curse you, O Monday Night Classes!

I can't believe I'm not gonna get to hear these two talk because I have classes both nights they're speaking. I'm so mad I could spit. I mean, yes, I don't really have the $50 a ticket I'd need to go, but that's what credit cards are for. My heart leapt when I heard they'd be in Seattle, and DAMN! it had to be Monday nights. How am I ever gonna finish building my time machine if I dont have an accurate perspective on our cosmological origins? Aaaaaaaaargh!