Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Formatted

Marshall McLuhan wrote that when you speak on the radio you have no face and no body. This is a big part of why, as a youngster, I enjoyed radio drama; I would listen and imagine all the performers and myself folded together in a cozy abstract environment. Radio drama enthusiasts rhapsodize about how radio allows the listener to imagine the visuals; I would add that they allow the listener to NOT imagine any more visuals than they want. I like to imagine the radio drama world as a series of warm, quilted beds in dark rooms, with the actors all snuggled up together (this is very much a pre-sexual holdover from my childhood) in the comfy dark.

Stop laughing at me!

* * *

I've read and enjoyed the novel Ragtime, but never seen the movie or checked out the musical. I suspect the musical format is a better medium for a Ragtime adaptation. The novel has multiple storylines and is saturated with information; in the movies it's hard to do justice to that without compressing it, being confusing, or being offputtingly arty and abstract. In a musical (particularly post-Sondheim) songs can provide that richness of detail and information while being entertaining, rather than seeming like an infodump. Set it to song and it's entertainment as well as information. Movies tend to thrive on saturation of sensuousness rather than saturation of information.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Why Can't You See

I just had my first vision exam since maybe infancy, and tried to get some contact lenses set up. I need them so I can get around stage, but moreover, it's hard to act off someone if you can't tread what they're communicating facially. Without my glasses I'm blind, so it's time for contacts.

Sadly I'm flunking Contacts 101. I have been sentenced to take some eye drops home and practice touching my eye. I've always believed that nothing should touch an eye except an eyelid, so this will be quite the trial.

I'm such a nerd that I'm steeling myself for this by telling myself it's like the self-improvement trials the heroes and heroines of my favorite fantasy novels have to go through. That actually comforts me a bit. Learning to wear contacts isn't that different from learning to, say, cast a spell. Yeah, that's the ticket. Ya nerd!

"Faerie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons, it holds the sea, the sun, the moon, the sky, and the earth and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, when we are enchanted." -J. R. R. T.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Second Post of the Day

Our latest production lost an actress because her job scheduled a business trip right in the middle of the performance. We lost a possible replacement because she wasn't comfortable with all the profanity.

The other day I was discussing the production with our sound/music guru, and he expressed astonishment that someone would drop out of the show because she was expected to swear onstage. "I understand if you don't want to talk that way in your personal life, but it's not like these words will hurt you!" I responded that once upon I time I firmly believed that these words do hurt users and hearers; cursing was like maliciously sneezing on people. I had a hygienic attitude to profanity; "dirty" words were actually dirty. No doubt our lost actress shares this view. For those of you who don't understand why some people are SO very upset by cussin', that's why. For some of us Calvinist types there's a real "compulsive hand washing" attitude about Sin, and Dirty Words really are Dirty.

Scattershot

Per this morning's NPR News, Kellogg's is planning to stop advertising their more egregiously unhealthy cereal to kids, at least until they can rework the recipes to be less awful for you. I'm the kind of person who is filled with despair whenever someone wants to waste precious time talking about a funny commercial, but I confess to a deep-rooted nostalgia for the cereal ads that kept my Saturday morning toons in the air. I'd as soon eat something I found in a parking lot as put froot loops in my mouth, but you show me a picture of Toucan freakin' Sam and I'm a happy camper. It's totally Pavlovian. And those weird New Wave ads for Bubbilicious bubble gum stir fond memories of cute people turning into flying, dancing neon signs. I'm sure these ads would look way less cool to me today; I resist going onto Youtube to check this stuff out. I wonder how today's slicker ads are shaping and warping today's kids?

* * *

When I was in second grade I had a crush on a pretty girl in my class; let's call her Debbie. I didn't know a thing about her except she fit a conventional prettiness template that I hadn't yet thought my way past. A year later she moved away. And although I'd never spoken to her or gotten to know her, I prayed "Dear God, please let me meet Debbie again and have one more chance with her."

A year or two later my family and I went to Pops in the Park, an orchestral Pops music concert they held every year at the foot of an pseudo-medieval tower on a battlefield (why a medieval-style tower on a Civil War Battlefield? Ya got me). So we spread out our picnic blanket, and there on the blanket in front of me was... Debbie. I sat there and quietly stared at the back of her head for the whole evening. She never seemed to notice me, and I never uttered a word to her. I think God just gave up on granting my requests after that. Maybe that's why He didn't burn that comic book I mentioned a while back.

* * *

Speaking of comics, I got a thing called Elvis Road recently. It's in book binding, but open it up and it's a 24-foot long sheet of paper with a big doodled mural on it. It's pricey at twenty-five bucks, but it's richly rewarding. It's basically a picture of a fantastical street with lots of cheerless strip malls and such. Weird cartoon characters run and drive around, getting into wrecks, getting attacked by monsters; it may sound trivial, but the density and variety of it makes it hypnotic. It's a small triumph of world-building; every page is crammed with detail. It's like Richard Scary on an ether binge.

Friday, June 22, 2007

More Golden Notebook

Well, poo. I wanted to post some more about Golden Notebook, but I went and left the book at home. This makes it tough to dig up specific quotes I wanted to address. At any rate:

The novel is built up from a nested series of overlapping narratives; there's a five-chapter novella, "Free Women." Each chapter is interspersed with several color-coded notebooks presenting more or less factual ruminations from Anna, the protagonist/author of the novella. There are multiple intriguing cross-readings available, but one in particular came at the end. Saul, Anna's "unsuitable" lover in the final fifth of the novel, is presented in shockingly negative terms for most of the sequence. His anger, nastiness, mean-spirited infidelity, is most of what the author presents. She tells us he can be wonderful, but shows us only his nastiness, although at one point she acknowledges that she's mostly scoured all traces of his goodness and kindness out of this account. (Wish I could pull the quote! Maybe I'll edit this post with book in hand later.) Then we get the final chapter of Free Women, in which she finally reveals what was in those narrative gaps; his kindnesses are genuine, and deserve to be revealed after all. It forces us to reevaluate Saul. She's shown us that the relationship was sick, bad craziness, but then she reveals why she stayed in it, and why it was a net gain for them both.

This ties in with a remark she makes earlier in the book, about why "good women" take up with "unsuitable men," which is something I intend to explore a bit more later.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Golden Notebook

Okay, enough goofin' around. I'm almost finished with The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, and I'm finding it awfully useful.

In the final fifth or so of the book, the protagonist Anna starts a crazy affair with a guy named Saul. Saul seems to have a fragmented personality; he shifts abruptly from one mode of engaging the world to another, and Anna never knows if he's going to be the thoughtful and kind man she loves, a hectoring jerk, a compulsively lying sleazebag... and the aspects of his personality don't flow together naturally; it's like they're distinct persons functioning in one body. This concept isn't unfamiliar; fragmented or split personality is a bit of a chestnut nowadays. But it's one thing to understand a problem at a conceptual level; it's another thing to understand how it plays out, day by day, hour by hour. Lessing does a splendid job of describing what it's like to live with such a person, and leads us to understand the variable ways these personality fragments can manifest, one after the other, in dizzying sequence.

This is useful because I'm rehearsing a show in which I play a character who makes some really, really abrupt transitions, and I find it difficult. I guess I make more gradual emotional transitions. Lessing has almost written an instruction manual in portraying out-of-control fragmented personalities.

I have many more thoughts on this book, or thoughts which have been triggered by this book, but I'll need to get back to it later.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Barely Remember the Future

I recall that when I was a child in the 80's I saw a book in Waldenbooks, a book that made a brief splash before disappearing beneath the waves... it was book of scientific or pseudo scientific speculation about how humans might evolve in the future. I think it was a coffee-table book, although I was young enough that most books seemed pretty large to me at the time, and it had color illustrations showing scary freakish future humans. There was one image I recall as a two-page spread showing a barren landscape, with a large God Emperor of Dune type worm or slug... with a human-like face. Creeped me out.

Does anyone have a clue what book I'm talking about? Cursory Googling turns up nothing.

Edit: Man After Man by Dougal Dixon. Long out of print, fairly pricey on the old book market. Not to be confused with After Man, also by Dougal Dixon and more easily available.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Face Full Of Coolant

Yesterday I was a bit stressed because traffic was STOPPED on the way home. I was stuck on a curving ramp from Highway 459 to 65 North, hoping to get to Fuddy Meers rehearsal on time.

Then I was even more stressed because steam started puffing out from under my hood. I pulled onto the grass. Slowly, slowly, gently, I opened the coolant thing, letting the hiss of pressure die down.

Then I was greatly stressed because the lid came off and I got a faceful of coolant.

Everything worked out okay and I got to rehearsal, but I had to run to the restroom and scrub a bit first. This reminds me; on the first night of rehearsal for How To Succeed a cast member's car got stolen. New theatre tradition: car problems on the first night of rehearsal mean a good show.

Rehearsal, reading through a funny script with funny and friendly people, was exactly what I needed after that experience.

Before going to bed that night I noticed my facial skin had a little more luster. I wonder if it was because I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed with hot water and Oil of Olay, or because the coolant burned off some skin cells.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Eros Cinema

I've been thinking about representations of sex in movies that really get close to the reality of sex, rather than using sex as a modular treat for the audience. Off the top of my head the movies I've seen recently that got closest to communicating something like my (shockingly limited) experiences of sexuality are The Piano Teacher, The Sacrifice and L'Avventura.

Norman Mailer wrote that Last Tango In Paris fell short of being a real cinematic revolution because it didn't have real and explicit sex. I thought that was nonsense, and I still do. The three movies I've mentioned have nothing close to actual sex, but for me they say so much about sexuality. David Mamet wrote that when we see a movie about, say, a pianist, the filmmakers break faith with us if they show the actor sitting at the keyboard, then shift the camera to show us that the actor is REALLY PLAYING THE PIANO! Movies are about storytelling; we've accepted that the actor is playing a part in a story; to show us what amounts to a stunt betrays faith in our willingness to accept the story on story terms. We know it's a movie; we know it uses artifice to get at truth. Trying to make it more real by reducing the artifice is misguided.

It's much the same with portraying sex. Experientially sex isn't about the biomechanics of what's going on; it's about what's being experienced and communicated. That's why I don't list any porno movies as movies that get close to the reality of sexuality; they're like industrial films, and miss the real point.

I also have some thoughts on another kind of erotic cinema, inspired by my viewing of Baba Yaga last night, but I'll save it for later...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Foreplay

I want to comment on this editorial, but I'll let it simmer over the weekend.

Slowly inching my way through some movies.

Last night I watched the middle third of Pervirella and the first fifteen minutes or so of Lovers of the Arctic Circle. Obviously it's not fair to presume to review films one's only partially watched, but I think it's fair to offer some provisional responses.

Pervirella gets rather lewder in its middle section, but the lo-fi spectacle and cheeky subversion of banal adventure storytelling keeps things perky. One of my favorite bits is a brief shot where a cheap forest model has a crude digital superimposed shot of two characters to make it look like they're walking through the forest. It's crudely crafted, which seems to be the point; the equivalent of letting us see the strings on the spaceship models (which this movie also does). The movie's inspiring in a "look what we can do in our garage" way. I'm amazed by the negative reviews this thing gets on the Netflix website; dissing this movie for the acting is like criticising a Twinkie for not having enough riboflavin.

Lovers of the Arctic Circle is shaping up to be a tasty romance; the camera swoops around, capturing the vertiginous feeling of young love. The editing is crisp and brisk, the shot compositions precise. A confident storyteller wants to remind us of what romance can be, in life and in the movies. Good. I'm looking forward to finishing this one.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Get to Know the Notebook

As I've mentioned before, I'm reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, and it's a richly rewarding read. In one of her introductions the author mentions that most commentators at the time of publication (1962) would choose one or another of the novel's facets and act as if that one facet were the whole novel. The book has many facets; it's deliciously saturated with close observations of gender relations, of Marxist disillusionment, etc. The fact that any lucid reader could possibly be so reductionist as to overlook the richness of this novel is a peculiar commentary on the human desire to simplify matters. The Golden Notebook is my kind of novel: brainy, but a page turner.
Last night I began an intriguing film: Perverella. Troma Gilliam; Lo-Fi Steampunk. So far the perversion promised by the title is more a matter of goofy suggestion than anything more overt; it's R-rated, no more, no less. Unsettling gross-out humor as the evil Queen continuously gives birth to shriveled, lumpy potential heirs. Groovy miniature city shots with marvelously Flash Gordon serial-style spaceships. Narrative so far is just reprocessed pulp nonsense filtered through a modern camp sensibility. I've only watched a half-hour or so; I suspect it's the same sausage all the way through, but it's amusing, with stylish costumes and props to boot.

Preliminary Post

Per Site Meter, the first person to look at my blog to day was Googling "The nakedest photo ever." I wonder what exactly the seeker had in mind.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Second Post of Day: Nothing You Need To Know

Per Site Meter, I just got a hit from a truly odd Google search: "Catfight Wigs." Go figure.

Also, I'd like to point out that my Obscurantist Nerd side tried to come up with a title for the previous post that punned on the title of either Jirel of Joiry or Skyrealms of Jorune, but the Counternerd side of my mind intervened. I think we can all be grateful.

Say kids, what time is it? It's Jury Duty Time!!!

Jury Duty was uneventful. I was called for a jury, but while we cooled our heels in the jury room it turned out there was a mistrial and we had to disassemble. We were soon dismissed, and I had a lovely afternoon at the Birmingham Museum. It's too bad about the mistrial; it was a case that didn't hit any hot buttons with me, so I could walk into it completely impartial, and I was looking forward to seeing which side I'd eventually come down on.

But one interesting thing happened while they were choosing the jury. One of the lawyers asked if we had any bumper stickers. I mentioned that I hadn't actually put them on my car yet, but I had a Bright Blue Dot sticker and an Amnesty International Denounce Torture sticker. I just haven't put them on my car. Obviously I'm ambivalent; not about the message of these stickers, but about becoming the kind of person who has bumper stickers. I'm like the guy in Angels in America who wrote a check to Jesse Jackson's campaign, but "I'm ambivalent. The check bounced." I feel kind of wierd about mentioning it at all; from then on everyone in the room who looked at me saw the Strident Liberal Guy.

If I may swipe and rewrite a line from Doris Lessing's novel The Golden Notebook (of which I read a big, delightful chunk while hanging loose in the jury pool): in my head there's a Liberal, and there's Aaron. The Liberal spends a lot of time criticising Aaron, and Aaron returns the favor.

As it happens, the Birmingham, Alabama chapter of Amnesty International is apparently ambivalent as well; I met a few of them at the Politically Incorrect Cabaret, and they've stopped meeting when and where their info sheet sez they do. (I know cuz I tried to attend a meeting, but the coffee shop in question was closed. I emailed them and asked for an update, but got no reply. Too bad; some cute women in the group. I'm Nasty, International.)

Dope Movies of the weekend: The Old Dark House and The Love God.

Old Dark House was an obvious influence on The Addams' Family and Rocky Horror. It's directed by James "Bride of Frankenstein" Whale, and the film is a fever dream of homoerotic sublimation. Whether it meant to be or not is beyond my ken. As for The Love God, it's a Don Knotts vehicle that unjustly flopped; apparently Knott's fans weren't ready for him to make a racy comedy. Here's a summary in dialogue form (not actual dialogue, but it may as well be):

Gangster: Here we are, goin' inta tha dirty magazine bidness togetha!

Knotts: Oh no, there's been a misunderstand-

Gangster: And we're gonna have the foxiest dames!

Knotts: Really, I don't know anything about-

Gangster: The nakedest photos!

Knotts: I'm just a simple Sunday School teach-

Gangster: The most revealin' poses!

Knotts: I couldn't soil my family name with such-

Gangster: But it's gotta have CLASS.

If you've ever wanted to see crowds of women lusting after Don Knotts, you must see this movie.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Spin Against the Earth

Maggie Gallagher is a columnist whom I find endlessly fascinating for reasons I'm not sure I can explain. I occasionally agree with her; she recently wrote about how a recent Italian sex scandal centered around simple flirtation, and was resolved in a courtly, charming and sophisticated fashion which we would do well to emulate. I am grateful to her for that column. But I think the real reason I read her every week is that I usually disagree with her, but even when I think she's off base, I think she's usefully off base. There's something to be learned from the distance between her perspective and mine. With the right-wing hacks, phoneys and outrage-fakers, there's not much to be gained, but Ms. Gallagher is recording her genuine responses.

Her new article is about global warming, and she writes this:

"I am not qualified to evaluate the scientific case for global warming. But three things about global warming give me pause.

"1. It transforms the United States, as the world's most successful economy, into the chief evildoer in the world;

"2. It justifies a massive extension of government power to regulate all aspects of our lives;

"3. It makes having children a sin against the Earth. (Indeed, China recently justified its coercive one-child policy on carbon-reducing grounds.)"

Well. I am also unqualified to evaluate the scientific basis of the global warming, but I suppose I know a bit about loaded language, and points 1. and 3. certainly have their thumbs on the scale. "Chief Evildoer in the world" and "sin against the Earth" are pretty heavy-handed terms. A more nuanced version might be "It emphasises the United State's responsibility to correct or compensate for the environmental impact of its economic activities, and it requires potential parents to carefully weigh the decision to bring another human into the world." That's just off the cuff, and it reveals something of my own biases, but feel free to find your own rephrasing.

As for point 2. perhaps Ms. Gallagher would prefer it if the government only regulated polluters who are homosexual or have had abortions. She's made it clear throughout her career that she favors government regulation in matters of homosexual families and abortion.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Muddy Sacrifice

I'm going to say a bit more about The Sacrifice by Tarkovsky. Your patience is appreciated.

Okay, summarizing from memory, Alexander prays to a God he hadn't believed in, asking to make a bargain. Assuming my memory and the subtitling are fairly accurate, the terms of his prayer shift in the way our prayers tend to do; he offers a bargain, but is it his request to save the world, to save his family, or simply to be rid of his fear? How much, or how little, does he really value the things he's trying to save or offering to sacrifice? It might have been interesting if God had called Alexander to sacrifice his son, Little Man, like Abraham and Isaac, but that's not the deal God seems to strike here. Instead Alexander's friend, who seems to be a sort of Wise Fool, instructs Alexander to go to his maid Marta and lie with her. He presents this as the solution to their problems. People often sacrifice their families by engaging in adultery, but this is a novel twist on the idea!

An interesting thing happens on the way to Marta's house; Alexander's riding his bike along a muddy dirt road, and he falls off, dirtying his hands in a mud puddle. As soon as I saw that I thought "I'm the kind of goober who'd turn around, go home and wash up." So is our hero; he turns around as if to go home. Then he hears a witchy cry, perhaps of distress, and he turns again. He continues on to Marta's home, muddy hands and all.

When she takes him inside she pours water from a jar into a basin; he washes. It's filmed with subtle sensuality; the water flowing from one vessel into another, washing him clean, carries both an erotic and a spiritual charge. The scene does a marvelous job of sublimating the erotic into the spiritual, or vice versa.

Alexander tells Marta a story about how he tidied up his mother's beloved but messy garden, essentially changing the garden's character from Dionysian to Apollonian, and the result was that the garden lost its tangled beauty, becoming sterile and ugly. Perhaps he realizes that he's made a similarly tidy ruin of his life. Alexander and Marta both weep, and he asks her to love him. I'm sure that in real life there's a slew of domestic workers who'd be much happier if their employers would keep their hands to themselves, but this brief encounter has the fate of the world riding on it.

Their actual coupling is shown as levitation, and that comes closer to the sensation of sexuality than anything I've ever seen in a film. It could easily have seemed like a bad joke, but Tarkovsky invests the scene, and everything that leads to it, with such gravitas that I found it overpowering rather than comical.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Apologies to my readers who doesn't care about The Sacrifice

With the invaluable help of special Tarkovsky correspondent Diane, I've managed to puzzle out some of what I found confounding about The Sacrifice. As better film thinkers than myself have long ago discovered, The Sacrifice is a syncretic story; it melds elements of Christianity and pagan thought, to jarring but intriguing effect. Apparently Tarkovsky had intended (in a different film) to tell a story about a man who goes to a witch for some healing (which would turn out to be sexual healing). Tarkovsky didn't get that essentially pagan story told as originally planned, so later he just kneaded that story into the otherwise Christian film Sacrifice. Which is really jarring if you're trying to put the movie into a rigourously orthodox Christian framework!

This kind of sycretic stuff is of particular interest to me right now because I'm reading Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur. It blends overtly Christian stories and themes with various pagan tales, to confusing effect. Chivalric love between knights and married women is glorified and romanticized, until suddenly the story switches gears to the quest for the Sangraal, and formerly awesome knights like Lancelot find themselves dropping all the balls because they're only good at worldly valour; their adulterous sin-sickness makes them worthless for Grail-Questing. Which sounds pretty logical summarized like that, but in the text it seems that the author wholeheartedly approves of Lancelot and Guenevere's love. Then suddenly he doesn't. That's what happens when one editor tries to patch different tales from different authors into one overarching continuity.

Getting back to the Sacrifice, I suspect that one reason Tarkovsky chose to have God's will work through adultery is that it serves as an objective correlative of the many ways God in the Scriptures surprises His own followers and violates their expectations. It's a recurring motif throughout the Bible; God makes demands on people which they find incomprehensible. And in The Sacrifice, God makes a demand which seems to violate any reasonable expectation for the Christian God's methodology. I don't think Tarkovsky would ever expect God to work this way either, but he would expect God to work in mysterious ways, and this narrative choice communicates that quite effectively.

I have many more thoughts about this film; for all the fine movies I've seen since joining Netflix, none has gotten me puzzling so much. I'd better get to work, though.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sacrifice

Things are less hectic than they seemed, so a few jottings on Tarkovsky's Sacrifice (Decades-old Spoiler Warning!)

I'm still wrestling with the fact that God's healing power manifests through an adulterous act. That's not hard to reconcile if one isn't wedded to the rigorous laws of sexual purity that are part and parcel of the Christianity I know, but perhaps Tarkovsky's beliefs (which I've read were Christian) were less indebted to such rules. He's obviously of a more mystical frame of mind. Maybe it's a Russian Orthodox thing. As a Unitarian I'm surprised that the adultery thing should be as big a snag for me as it is. I've skimmed a few online commentaries on the film, and no one else even mentions it.

Outside of a Christian-law context, though, it makes perfect sense. Sexuality brings us closer to an all-embracing sense of a power and a joy beyond ourselves. The scene in question would be hard to describe to someone else without making it sound corny beyond words; they embrace and actually levitate off the bed and slowly spin in the air? It's like an R-rated '30s musical. But when it happened it seemed so right; I don't think I've ever seen a sex scene that got so close to the real experience before.

I'm still thinking about that picture of Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi, always shown with the glass reflecting the characters who are observing it; I'm also puzzling on the archaic map's significance. I don't want to jump to any facile English-class symbol-hunting, though. I may need to watch the film again to put the pieces together.

Cozy

Work, like love, is a battlefield today, so no time for any real posts.

I would like to point out that my new bed is awesome and I hate to leave it. I feel like a rat that's moved from a dumpster to a bakery.

I've been thinking about things which I find inexplicably soothing. Here's a couple:

When a genial, articulate person explains a nonthreating topic (how wines are made, a history of the detective novel, how cellos work) in well-informed detail. Unless I'll be tested on it.

Anytime someone pages through a book. When I watch a movie and there's a scene where someone spends twenty seconds paging through a book, I always want to rewind and watch it again. It's not just because I'm a bibliophile; the sound of turning pages, the sense of information being evaluated, and the security of knowing that whomever's looking at the book isn't evaluating ME all come into play here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Second Post of the Day: Swing, Swing, Swing

Here's Slate's cut of the aforementioned Clive James article on the alleged evils of Coltrane. At some point this week I'll sit down, listen to a few Trane albums with an ear to figuring out why I like them, and hold forth.

I must acknowledge that James knows more about music in general than I do; his learned discourses (or seemingly learned, anyway) on Bach, Schubert and Ellison offer much food for thought. Doesn't mean he's right in his assertion that Jazz actually don't mean a thing if it ain't got that etc. James' anti-Coltrane snark reads a lot like H. L. Mencken's anti-jazz snark; affective and reactionary.

Again, though, my disagreement with James should not be taken for dismissal. I am cherishing his book. He's sniffed out a boatload of witty and intriguing quotes, and even when I sharply disagree with his commentary, I find it worth engaging. He lays out his stances with clarity, even when the rationale for his stances are dubious.

Cultural Pursuits of Birmingham and Clarksville

I have a lot of kin in Clarksville Tennessee. I've never lived there, but I've got such a huge extended family congregation there that it feels like I'm related to half the town. So I was a bit excited when I saw (on my site meter) that someone from Clarksville looked at my blog! Then I got a bit creeped out when I saw that they had been doing a googlesearch for "dungeons and dragons cartoon Sheila naked." A blood relative may have looked at my blog in his search for naked cartoon pictures. Brrrr! Of course from what I remember of Clarksville, naked cartoon pictures is about as thrilling as it gets.

I owe Diane some comments on Tarkovsky's Sacrifice, but the film's still sinking in. This is one movie (Raul Ruiz's Suspended Vocation is another) that's going back into my Netflix queue for an eventual rewatch. It's so concise that unpacking it will take me some time. I'll have something to say soon, though.

The Magic City Actors' Theatre production of Evita was extraordinary. I don't know how they got the production to work so flawlessly. I really don't. I also saw a well-turned straight play, the Cripple of Inishmaan, mounted by City Equity Theatre. A few volume problems from the younger actors, but a majority of the performers offered rich character work and sharp comic timing. This, along with a crafty script, made it a show to remember. Both of these shows were operating at a semi-pro level, which surely has a lot to do with the high quality. Of course The Big Bang, a charmingly witty cook's tour of world history at Terrific New Theatre, was quite sharp. A 2-person cast and 1 person orchestra makes quality control a more focused operation.

I'm reading Clive James' Cultural Amnesia, and it's a rewarding book. Basically James offers essays about political tyranny and enriching art, unified by the pure Clive Jamesness of it all. Every page has an insight or rhetorical trick that I'll want to remember. It's also a book to argue with; James attacks John Coltrane and company for draining the swing out of jazz; I want to retort, but my love of Coltrane is so intuitive that I'm not sure I can mount an articulate counterargument. It's a bit like the Tarkovsky film; I adored it but can't talk about it yet.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Smootches

No real post today: after a big comment about L'Eclisse on Diane's blog Your-Russia, I'm done.

Go check Buenaventura Press's catalogue and see if you like anything. They sell art comics and such. I've already got Kramer's Ergot 6, Hunter and Painter, and Spaniel Rage. All are splendid. I covet Elvis Road, everything by Marc Bell, and the other Kramer's Ergots.

Last night I had The Actor's Nightmare. I was in a convoluted but generic musical, didn't know my part, and screwed up the luminous Carl Dean by not being onstage to feed him his cue to start singing his big song. He came backstage and thumped me on the head, which he would never do in real life. I woke up and thought "I guess this means I need to go see Carl Dean with Kristi Tingle-Higginbotham in the Magic City Actor's Theatre production of Evita." And so should you.