Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WC: Van Gogh quote

From a letter to his brother Theo, January 1884
. . . find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful.
You can read all of his letters online at the fabulous vangoghletters.org. The site includes translations, notes, facsimiles, and more.

I'm reading a few a day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

WC: My Condolences, Whoever You Are

Getting dressed this morning, I had half an ear on the radio. The report was about an explosives expert in the Marines who had been killed in Afghanistan after two tours of duty in Iraq. I had my usual mixed response: sadness for him and his family, an inability to quite understand why someone would want to be in the military, and confusion about whether we should be in Afghanistan at all. And then I heard something along the lines of "He was 34 and never married."

And suddenly I could see his boyfriend, mourning and distraught, with no recognition from the military or the Marine's family, no inherited benefits, no flag folded into a triangle. I hope he is at least surrounded by his own group of friends and family, but if he is in the military too, it's possible that he is isolated, deep in a dark, lonely, miserable closet.

Yes, it is possible that this particular Marine was a straight guy who just never married. But the scenario I describe above has happened to dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of people. The military should be ashamed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WC: Barney Frank PS

Many people have pointed out that Frank could have handled the exchange better, that he could have been more politic.

I agree. All those people are right.

But there is something incredibly pleasing in seeing an articulate, from-the-gut, honest response.

WC: Thank You, Barney Frank

Friday, August 7, 2009

WC: Here's the Thing

After finishing a Saturday NY Times crossword puzzle--the hardest of the week--I realized why I find crossword puzzles so satisfying: the opportunity to be perfect. I entered the final word, and there it was: done, correct, my neat little printing filling the neat little boxes, each letter in its right home.

Pretty much everything else in life is annoyingly squishy. Work, writing, exercise, eating, dealing with people--none of them offer simple perfection.

But crossword puzzles do.

It's a beautiful thing.

Friday, June 26, 2009

WC: Michael Jackson, Idol?

It seems to me probable that Michael Jackson was a child molester. He was acquitted in a court of law, yes, but he also paid tens of millions of dollars to make other accusations go away. I imagine the children he molested must feel very lonely and furious today as they see their molester extolled as an idol and an icon.

In our society, it is often seen as rude to speak ill of the dead. And the idea that someone is innocent til proven guilty is profoundly important. And all the celebrities who are celebrating his life may have genuinely loved him.

But I'd like to ask them one question: Would they have left their children alone with him?

Monday, June 22, 2009

WC: I'm Trying to Figure Out iGoggle

And since I have this habit of just using programs and tools without actually reading the instructions, I'm not totally sure what I'm doing.

But . . . if I did this correctly, this will show up on my iGoggle.

Here goes.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

WC: So Much For My Memory

I've kept calendars since 1970. Since the mid-70s, they've been quite detailed.

Since my memory has become kinda lousy, I decided a while ago to go through my calendars to make a chart of the movies and plays I've seen and the books I've read. I'm curious to see the lists--I think they'll be interesting.

Well I finally just started this project and I've discovered that I can't even place the titles of some of the things I've seen and read. Did I ever really see a play called Debutante?

On top of that, I can't even identify who some of my friends were! That feels particularly weird.

And, in light of the blog entry I just wrote about seeing All the President's Men for the first time, it's galling to discover that it wasn't the first time. I saw it on August 15, 1976. I gave it two stars. (I saw it with someone named Charlie. I knew three Charlies when I was younger--Schwartz, Kazajian, and Famous--and I can't remember ever going to the movies with any of them!)


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

WC: The Weirdness of Writing Reviews

I've been enjoying reviewing plays over at Show Showdown, but I find myself frustrated by the customs of criticism. Reviews are supposed to be written without much reference to one's self, but, to me, the lack of the "I" makes it sound as though I am pontificating from on high. And who am I to pontificate? I'm just one person, and I'm often in the minority (eg, I disliked the generally adored new production of Our Town and was impressed by The Singing Forest, which my three co-audience members fled at the first intermission). Yet when I succumbed to writing in the "honest I," as in my reviews of Everyday Rapture and Mary Stuart, the reviews seemed unprofessional and less well-written. When I went back to the "omniscient know-it-all," as in Our Town and The Singing Forest, the reviews came across as, well, real reviews.

It's odd, really. Reviewers and critics can, and should, give reasons for their opinions, and certainly a knowledgeable writer can bring a particular insight to the table. But, ultimately, isn't it all just "I liked it" or "I didn't like it"? Is there any real difference between Ben Brantley and many other audience members other than he's in the Times and we're not? Yet his opinions, his preferences, can seriously affect the future of a show and will remain accessible for decades in the archives of "the paper of record." In our culture, we appoint people as experts--or they appoint themselves--but too often rather than being genuine experts, they're just well-located and/or well-connected.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WC: All The President's Men

Just saw All the President's Men for the first time. (I missed many movies in the '70s. First I was in college, then I was doing theatre, and then I was--finally!--getting laid.) It's a fascinating movie, well made, but it relies on the viewer bringing a certain amount of knowledge to the table, which makes me wonder how long people will actually be watching it. But even without knowledge of Watergate, the viewer would still get to see many interesting things, such as these two:
  • How much work everything was pre-Internet. To try to find someone, Woodward goes through phone book after phone book. Every article is painstakingly typed and then painstakingly input into, what?, a linotype machine maybe? No interviews are recorded--notes are taken by hand. The lack of cell phones slows down communication immensely.
  • How much work is involved in investigating reporting. Yes, there's less grunt work now, but it's still a labor-intensive 24/7 project requiring imagination, communication skills, a willingness to manipulate, the ability to figure out a puzzle without having all the pieces, and incredible stamina. I hope it doesn't become a lost art.
The film features a wonderful array of actors in supporting and bit parts. I caught, for example, Steven Collins, Lindsay Crouse, Nicolas Coster, and Meredith Baxter but failed to identify Polly Holiday and Penny Fuller. (Victoria Clark and Alice Ripley were not in it, but I'm mentioning them so that my sister and my best bud will get Google alerts on this review. Hi Holly. Hi Susan.)

I thought Robert Redford was wonderful (I'm not usually a fan), as was Dustin Hoffman (I am usually a fan). Jason Robards, who I always think of as relying on his gravelly voice too much, and also mumbling too much, relies on his gravelly voice too much and mumbles too much. At one point, I put on the closed captions to see what he was saying, but they hadn't understood him either, and the screen remained blank while he spoke.

On a serious level, the big take-away for me is the reminder that the current despicable dishonesty of the Republican Party is nothing new. Sometimes I wonder how low they can possibly go, but this movie reminds me how low they have already gone. As David Byrne and Brian Eno wrote, "Same as it ever was, same as it ever was."

Monday, April 20, 2009

DW: The Reckoning

I did go to the funeral last week, and I am so glad that I did. It was wonderful to connect with my past and see people who I haven't seen in about 30 years. Time really does bend.

The best part was hanging out with my friend's dad, who is the last parent standing. It was like being able to speak in a tribal language that you rarely have the chance to speak. I'm seriously thinking of going down to visit him in Florida with a video camera and just ask him questions for 3 days straight and see what comes out. I realized the other day that he is Burlesque's version of Robert Evans and "The Kid Stays In the Picture." The only way I can describe my delight is imagining yourself in a wax museum and seeing William Powell suddenly coming to life.

Thanks AV for all your encouragement!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

AV: PSAs from the underbelly

Thanks everyone for your support for my personal endeavor of my own blog. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank you as well for your indulgence of my three-part-harmony conversation in my recent post to this site. We all appreciated it.

That said, I'm writing on my personal site: http://thiseffingblog.blogspot.com/ and keeping you posted here on that. I've got a few things out there and my goal is to post (almost) daily.

Interestingly enough, some of what's showing up there amount to PSAs for the FoB (Friends of the Bereaved). I figure if I don't know what the hell I'm doing, you probably don't know either. So, yeah, I'm here to tell ya (in a teaser-go-visit-my-blog sort of way) ...

"There's Good News and Bad News
It occurred to me sometime during the last months of Aida's life that, in general, we just don't pay attention to the obvious: That "till Death Do Us Part" means that one of us is going to die before the other one. One of us is going to go first.
"

And another thing. Life's interesting paradox continues: today I bought three wonderful little bunches of yellow and white daffodils ($1.29 a bunch at the local Trader Joe's). I came home, tended their little green stems with fresh cuts and fresh water, and placed them in a vase. Then, their thirsty bodies swelling in the deep of the vase, I finished the survey for the good folks at San Diego Hospice. The cable radio station was playing an old disco tune .. "If I can't have you, I don't want nobody baby."