Thursday, April 28, 2005


When I was about 14 or 15 I went on a field trip to Washington DC. I don't remember if we stayed in a hotel, but it would have been a really long trip if we didn't. What I do remember is giggling every time we noticed the phallic symbol of the Washington Monument following us in the skyline, going through security at the White House, and tulips. Lots of tulips. I took pictures, mostly of beds of tulips. The difference between where we lived and DC was enough that tulips, those first burts of spring color, were not close to blooming back home.

Here I am many years later and I keep buying tulips for my apartment, drawn to the simplicty of their shape and color in the same way I guess I've always been. This particular bunch lasted long - none of that wilting or petal dropping that sometimes comes before the flowers even open fully. These burst open and hung there, wide-eyed, bold, daring. I took too many pictures of them.

Then, on the walk home from the Bridge on Sunday, I saw more in a park and naturally my camera came out.


Just read Roger Ebert's review of The Interpreter.

Note: I don't want to get Politically Correct, I know there are many white Africans, and I admire Kidman's performance. But I couldn't help wondering why her character had to be white. I imagined someone like Angela Bassett in the role, and wondered how that would have played. If you see the movie, run that through your mind.

So I wasn't alone in thinking that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

You can be a radio star!

I came to a strange realization today - I am not the independent thinker I believe I am. I starting downloading podcasts onto my iPod, and ran across one that I just can't figure out if I like or not. I sorta think they (what do you call them? If we had deejays followed by veejays, are these people peejays?) are funny, yet they are offensive in a way I don't usually like, and so I am not always comfortable in finding them funny. I keep thinking I want them to say something that bothers me so I can write them off - something racist or homophobic or super-religious - but not yet. And then I actually thought, wonder what other people think of them? And it's been bothering me that I would think that way. Do I really wait to form my opinions based on the opinions of other people? Do I need approval from someone else before I can relax and enjoy some harmless juvenile humor? Or am I astute enough to sense that beneath the surface of shit and fart jokes there is something that will eventually turn me off them completely? (Did they vote for Bush?)

Yet I am finding the podcast experience really interesting. And bizarre. Imagine if you simply created your own basement radio show and then managed to convince a bunch of iPod owners to download your ramble. It's like get there first, grab the audience - we'll worry about quality content later when the market is crowded and those things matter.

When I was a kid (okay, I must have been 12-13) I had a cassette recorder and used to make up radio shows. Somewhere we still have those tapes - I really would like to find them and preserve them digitally. The one I remember most clearly was when my youngest brother was 5, and I interviewed him about what he wanted to be when he grew up. Even then, he was very verbal and liked to use big words. He told me he wanted to be a baseball player and when I asked what team he'd like to play on, he answered, "Certainly, with I can get a Reds cap, I would be on the Reds." I must have listened to that 100 times, and can mimic the exact tone of that beautifully enunciated "Certainly." He doesn't remember any of this, and now that he has a son of his own, I think he would find it funny.

A few years ago, my grandmother took a box of old reel-to-reel tapes and had them transferred to cassettes for her kids. I figure I must have been mimicking my slightly older aunts and uncles, because there are similar "shows" which they put on and recorded around the same time. Theirs were much more dramatic, usually sci-fi or mystery related, with sound effects, actual plots, etc. Mine usually just ended with giggles and one or the other of the participants growing bored and turning off the tape recorder.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


I have walked across the Bridge the past three Sundays. The weather wasn't as nice this week, but it was the only time I brought my camera. The picture actually makes it much more blue than it seemed in person.


don't you ever see baby pigeons?

The Interpreter

This wasn't a movie I especially wanted to see, although it wasn't on the avoid-at-all-costs list, either. Having seen the trailer a few times, I pretty much felt like I'd seen the movie. Trailers that highlight plot points in sequential order are super-annoying to me, partly because of what they give away, but also because they imply an intentional dumbing down of the film to attract spoon-fed audiences.

But a friend wanted to go, so I went along, and really, it was pretty good. The plot is intricate enough that most of the crowd in the post-showing bathroom line was trading theories on what had happened. Good, intelligent theories, too, I might add. So maybe, the studio marketing team was right - the movie is too smart for the masses, so a bit of advance plot spoilers will only lay the groundwork so that the less able to keep up don't actually walk out, completely confused. I'm not sure, but for once, knowing that a, b, c, and d were going to happen didn't detract from my overall involvement, because just getting from one to the other involved all the other letters of the alphabet.

It depresses me to see Sean Penn as an old man. I know he's done a lot of movies, but it seems like he just leaped from Jeff Spicoli teenager to old-guy, never stopping at hero-in-his-prime. Or maybe it's just that, knowing he's close to my age, I expect him to look the way I feel - and we're not that old, dammit.

I am freaked out by how pale and thin Nicole Kidman is, but her character was that very fragile, dainty, tightly wound soul that she is so good at playing. Nothing about her performance particularly struck me, until the end, when she referred to "my Africa" (her character was raised in the fictional African country the movie centers around, born to a "white African" father and a British mother.) Yes, there was something striking about a super pale blonde woman calling home the country whose other residents (as seen throughout the film) are dark-skinned, and maybe it's that jarring feeling that is supposed to make you think. But really? I would have loved to see this movie with an African American lead actress (hell, an African lead actress, although I admit I don't know any) because it would have had a whole different feel, and I think, a more resonant one. Fake-blonde Nicole working at the UN, living in a fictional African country - neither of these is especially real or believable. Or that interesting.

Oh, and Nicole? Have a sandwich. The photos of you at the premier were ghastly. Just because you were playing an African doesn't mean you have to look like a poster child for one of those feed the world causes.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Why is it that the New Yorker stuffs two loose subscription cards in every issue - on top of the two already bound in the magazine? I am a subscriber. I already have a subscription. If I want to renew or give a subscription to someone else, I can easily find and the bound ones. The others are just annoyances. They fall out at the most inopportune times, like when you're standing on a crowded subway holding onto the bar with one hand and the folded magazine with another, and you finagle a page flip to continue that really interesting article about twin-memory and a little piece of light cardboard goes sailing down to the floor, impossibly out of reach, even though you're the kind of person who can't fathom people who just drop garbage as they walk down the street, and now, just because you are reading the New Yorker on a crowded subway, you are one of those people. And, for what? Are the New Yorker target subscribers people who look for reading material on the subway floor?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Luck & The Forgotten

I recently won a raffle at a tradeshow I attended - the only raffle, I might add, that I entered. I hadn't meant to, unlike some of my colleagues, who made it a project to make the rounds of booths with a stack of business cards. But there was one booth that had this very cool big interactive video game, and whenever I needed a break from our own booth I'd wander over and play. Once they said, hey, don't forget to drop off your business card. I completely forgot about it until I got a call when I was back at work that I'd won a portable DVD player and a year's worth of Netflix. I thought it was a joke at first, but no - the package came a few days later. Now, with a brand new laptop computer that I specifically bought for its widescreen for DVD viewing, I don't need a portable DVD player. Any significant trip (business or writing) I'll have my laptop, and for shorter trips (trains up north to see family) I'd rather just read a book. I wracked my brain but nobody in my family really needed one, either and it's a rather extravagant gift (list price $399) for a random gifting. So I just sold it on e-bay. It went for $280, which is par for similar items, and of course is all free money to me. Also, the Netflix is worth another $200!

I suppose that I am lucky, or that at least luck strikes me fairly easily if I don't put a lot of energy into wanting something. Last fall I organized a number of employee events around the corporate United Way campaign, one of which was selling raffle tickets for gift baskets. I didn't have many volunteers, so I was the one sitting outside the cafeteria most days hawking tickets. At the close, I brought the tickets to one of the execs to draw, and with a handful of others as witnesses, we began. My name was the first drawn. I had to put it back, since I thought it would look bad if I won, considering that most people associated me with the thing in the first place. Besides, I didn't want to win - I'd only bought tickets to encourage others to.

It seems I should buy lottery tickets, no? But I believe the luck wouldn't follow me, because the act of doing it would mean I'd really want to win, and that would negate the luck. See, I never have bought one. Partly because I think it's a waste of time, and partly because of the way they market them to the people who can least afford to buy them. Seriously, let's market the American dream as job training and education and personal pride, not the nearly-impossible chasing of a free-pass to wealth. Okay, soapbox off.

All of this was just meant to explain that I have Netflix now. The problem is that I see a lot of movies in the theater, and have been pretty diligent at renting the others at a local video store, so there's almost no backlog of things I want to see to put in my queue. I made a half-hearted attempt to fill it, got three DVD's a couple of weeks ago, and two of them are still sitting there. My queue has weird things like "The Big Lebowski" and an obscure Doris Day movie and a MST3K movie.

Last night I watched "The Forgotten" because even though I'd heard it was really bad, they had filmed in my neighborhood which sparked my curiosity. (Of course, that bad movie with the dying Wynona Ryder and the old-man lover Richard Gere was filmed here, too, but I never succumbed. I have standards.) But I'd actually walked past Julianne Moore's trailer a few times, and was really disappointed when the reviews said it sucked. But as a free Netflix rental, with nobody (not the video store guy, not the ticket seller at the neighborhood theater) to know my shame, why not give it a shot?

As it turns out, it's really set in DUMBO, the neighborhood between the Brooklyn/Manhattan bridges. There are a lot of scenes where the camera swoops down from the skies along the tops of buildings to the rooms or streets where scenes take place. (The movie is so bad that I just figured out what that was meant to symbolize.) I think the only scenes shot here were early on when Julianne leaves her building and runs into a neighbor, or tries to find her parked car on the street. The rest of it is just dumb. The initial premise is interesting, it might have been a nifty psychological thriller, but it just falls apart. There were scenes meant to be frightening that I imagine caused entire theaters to burst into laughter. Yeah, that bad. Sorry, Julianne. But you looked pretty (though why, when you were on the run from the feds, did you not cover up your long bright red hair? It's called a hat or a scarf.)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Fever Ad Pitch

It no longer surprises me that after I read a review of the movie "Fever Pitch," there are hyperlinks to Red Sox memorabilia sites.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Upside of Anger

I went to this movie torn - something about the trailers intrigued me, but Mike Binder? Yuch. I really disliked his HBO show, and the thought of 121 minutes of similar drivel was spooky. But Joan Allen looked so fierce, and the addition of four really interesting young actresses as her daughters - well, who could resist? Maybe it would be mindless happy drivel, along the lines of "Something's Gotta Give" (which, in honesty, is about what the trailer seemed to be promising.)

Well, it's not that kind of movie, thankfully. It's a tremendously better one - funny, sad, moving, real, and wonderfully unpredictable. Joan Allen is fierce - and fabulous, as a complicated mother figure who you just want to hate but she's so multi-layered that you wish you could just hug her (without crushing her brittle skinny bones.) Kevin Costner - well, I have to admit, I'm not that much of a fan. In fact, I just read his imdb profile and the last film I saw him in was "JFK" in 1991. He has morphed (at least in this role) into the same guy Jack Nicholson has been in "SGG" and "About Schmidt": aging, out of shape, scraggly, barely recognizable as a former heartthrob. And yet, or maybe because of his absolute ordinariness, he was really sexy.

What I really loved about the film was, yes, I'm going to say it, the writing and direction. There were so many fresh scenes with unexpected dialogue, the plot moved in ways that defy all formulaic romantic comedy convention, and the movie jumped over some possibly pivotal scenes in favor of minor moments that really resounded. For example, (slight spoiler ahead), Allen's character has a fight with Costner's and they aren't speaking. We see some scenes of them apart and then don't actually get to see how they start up again - but we see, vividly, the followthrough of the event that brought them back together.

It also eerily dealt with some themes I've been chasing in a short story I'm revising - anger vs. grief vs. guilt, which is probably a big part of my connection with it, although I think that would be true if I'd seen it at another time.

One side note is that I became obsessed with figuring out the ages of the four daughters. One is in college, one in junior high (according to a sign at the school she is dropped off at in one scene), and the other two confused the hell out of me. In real life, Alicia Witt is 29, but she managed to pull off a college senior; Keri Russell, at 29 was, I think, supposed to be a high school senior. (She gets accepted into a dance school and her mother wants her to go to college.) Whatever. Each had a minor storyline, and only one didn't work for me. Evan Rachel Wood (who I really like) was fine as the youngest dealing with a maybe-gay boyfriend, but it was the only plot that didn't include the mother. To me, the whole film was about Joan Allen's character. The other three daughter stories were there as elements of her relationship with them; in each, the primary force was their mother's influence on their lives and how they balanced that with their own wants and desires.

I liked the way the film looked, too - not bright and pretty, but muted and a bit fuzzy. (Although it's hard to soften the colors in an Evan Rachel Wood shot without calling up memories of "Thirteen.") But it all just worked for me - it's hard to explain, but I feel like I want to see it again. That's not a usual reaction for me.
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