Saturday, November 15, 2003

I indulged myself in another twenty minutes of extra sleep this sabbath morning. I think the mishap with my alarm clock planted the idea in my head and I wanted to recreate the experience.
In the shower I sang Sondheim tunes, realizing that I don't sing nearly as much as I used to. I used to sing all the time and I loved it. I was happy when I was singing. But then I was told some things about my singing that made me self concious and I stopped doing it as often, even when I was alone, until I gradually quit singing in general.
There's another thing I love that puts me in a special category of freak. I love to wash dishes when I'm home alone. Coupling these two and thinking about Zero Mostel for the past few days (the Forum review is coming soon) I dug out my old Fiddler on the Roof tape and sang while I washed and dried the dishes. It was a five star morning. Maybe I'm a simple man, but that really was a good time for me.
I went out and got Charles' Christmas present. My goal is always, always too be finished with my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. Then, because I think it's important to expose myself to such things, I usually make a trip to South Coast Plaza the week before Christmas and observe. Every year I have a problem getting people to do that with me.
My mother stopped by just after having been at a work retreat in San Diego for the past few days. She has a card for a DVD store in which she accrues points with each purchase she makes. So, she got herself Finding Nemo, my brother's wife Anne of Green Gables, and me, as a gift for going along with her, the collection of Weird Al videos. Then we went out for Thai food.
Tomorrow is the Van Nuys art salon that Jason puts on. A group of us are carpooling up there.

Friday, November 14, 2003

THE UNTOUCHABLES

I'm going to indulge in a little exposition before I get into this.
I started my habit of watching films nightly (or a good portion of a film nightly) back at Chapman. It hit me one day that there were a couple hundred films that I could borrow for free from the library. It further occurred to me that people were constantly saying things like "I can't believe you've never seen..." and name some canonical film. So, I started out to see the films I thought I'd ought to see. Over the years it's shifted to seeing films that I'd like to see or that interest me. I learned that canons, like Harold Bloom himself, are steaming piles of excrement. For example, why is it nearly impossible to find a copy of F for Fake, but you can walk a mile in any direction in any major city and find a copy of The Untouchables?
Another thing you need to know before we dive in is that, like any human adult, I've a particular and well protected set of prejudices. I'm not saying that's a good thing by any means. I'm just saying that it exists. For example, I don't tend to like cops or military people. I also tend to dislike anything that David Mamet has anything to do with.
David Mamet wrote the script for The Untouchables.
I had a bad first impression of David Mamet because in high school and college most people I knew were swoony weak kneed in love with Mamet. At that point in my life I was suspicious of anything most people expected you to like. But I gave him a chance, read his writings, saw a few of his plays and films. I'll concede that he's a great writer of dialogue. But I'm hard pressed to think of another living writer with his same brand of bad storytelling. It's like a ride in Fantasyland, where you're sitting with a bar over your lap and things are presented in front of you in a very easy and predictable way. You don't effect it and it sure don't effect you.
So, at the opening credits I'm already groaning because I know what to expect.
Then up pops "Brian De Palma" and I'm eyeing the two other films I've borrowed. He painstakingly sets out shots where he seems to be nudging us in the ribs and saying, "Arty, isn't it?" This seems to be his way of misdirecting us from his sweet tooth for cliches. Almost instantly we're introduced to the handsome, dewey, and inhumanly wholesome Ness and his wormy accountant friend. The latter immediately begins to solve the case. He has to hurry because somebody that wormy and lovable is bound to be the first to die (hope I didn't ruin it for anybody.)
There are two good reasons why I'm very happy to have seen this film. The first is that De Niro is having a blast playing Capone and we get to wave a cheery goodbye to De Niro as we watch him just about to sink into the quicksand of poor film choices. The other performance that I really dug was Connery. He makes a very human and flawed character who just happens to live in a world a half step from the then forthcoming Dick Tracy film. In two years Connery would make The Last Crusade. This may have been the last great period for Connery. We'll see.
But back to The Untouchables. Of course there's the scene with the baseball bat, but there's the perennial problem of escalating violence. I've seen Reservoir Dogs, among other violent films, and now a guy getting hit many times (four by my count) with a bat and watching the blood ooze on the table had no effect on me in spite of what the sickeningly intrusive soundtrack kept insisting on (I'll spare you my film score rant for now. I'll just say that just because it's Morricone doesn't presuppose quality.) Also the converse, when I see The Black Cat with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, there's a scene at the end done all with shadows, sounds, screams and insinuation that makes me crawl off my chair.
I guess my point on all of this is that they had a few great actors putting in the work for a good performance, they had the dude what directed Scarface, they had a writer that, should you believe what east coast critics tell you to believe, all of western civilization is lit by what shines out of his posterior. And yet the movie falls on its face and splits its chin open on the concrete. So, maybe some bad films should make it into Bloom's tedious canon as an abject lesson in the effects hubris. Lest we get too lofty.
In spite of how negative this review might come off, I'm very glad I've seen this film.

The next film is Forum, so I'll get to do one that I really liked. That should be nice.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I kicked my alarm clock plug right out of the wall while I slept. Sometimes my subconcious gets out and gets some exercise! Luckily I've whipped my sleep patterns into shape and only slept in an extra 20 minutes.
Busy morning of shipping, getting inventory and getting the oil changed in the Purple Potato.
After inputting the new books and shelving them I finished watching The Untouchables during lunch. Get ready for the review because I've got a big one brewing for that movie.
This evening I took a long walk and thought about moving to Chico. I'm questioning why I'm planning on doing this. I should probably talk to somebody about this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I thought I'd take a moment to do something that should be so obvious for me to do, but I haven't really done here yet. I'm constantly seeing films, but I never review them aside from the occasional "Everyone should see Bubba-Hotep."
The past week I had three films. Clash of the Titans, Hannah and Her Sisters and Surviving Picasso. That's the order in which I watched them.
Clash of the Titans was a blur of special effects from my childhood and I wanted to see how Olivier did in it now that I was grown. And Professor McGonnagal. Olivier is late Olivier, which is to say showing up on set, saying his lines and trusting the the name Olivier will complete the illusion of having given a performance. But it's a fun romp with a story that goes all over the place just like the Greek myths.
Hannah and Her Sisters I should have watched last. It was the best of the three. But I'm going to give it a backhanded complement. It's, in my humble opinion, the best film out of the beginning of Allen's decline. I don't want to say what Glenn Gould said about Mozart, that he died too late. Deconstructing Harry was good and I like Bullets Over Broadway. But Hannah comes right in his hit or miss period (as opposed to his current miss or miss period.) This one's a hit. The dramatic tension is so well distributed and it has such a seamless ensemble that it's simple to lose oneself in the story. It's a straightforward morality tale that also raises some questions it doesn't answer. The only other one of this type of Allen film I liked was Crimes and Misdemeanors. I think Hannah is a better film.
Surviving Picasso was another one of those films that isn't great but isn't bad. Natascha McElhone is the reason to watch it. She's a heck of an actress who, for some reason, seems to get cast in second billing to very hammy actors with very specific bags of tricks. Anthony Hopkins is a typical British actor in that he's got a mechanic's view of acting, knows which strings to pull, doesn't need to invest his internal life into it, and the American public thinks it's great acting (for the same reason a lot of people think somebody's sophisticated and intelligent because they have a European accent.) McElhone knows how to do nothing in a scene. She knows how to listen and to react simply and realistically to what's going on in front of her (even when it's Hopkins dancing about like Zero Mostel.) I think she's fantastic and terribly underrated. She should be the next Emma Thompson, but get more work than her.
The film is based upon Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington's book about Picasso (which I have in stock and can be purchased either through Alibris or, at a discount price, by emailing RPM Books at fixyrhash@juno.com.) There was a film I saw in high school through my parent's church called "A Thief in the Night." The film was about the Rapture and how a girl wakes up one morning and all Christians are gone. Then the Tribulation starts. Surviving Picasso gave me much the same feeling as A Thief in the Night. I knew that there was an ideology behind the film, but I found myself resisting it, which makes for an exhausting viewing experience. It's funny because Norman Mailer, that stone monument to slipshod writing, wrote another revisionist Picasso biography around the same time. They said the same thing about Picasso as a person but one said that it was a good thing and one said that it was a bad thing.
For me, I think that Picasso was a very good artist and a terrible human being. I think that what that means is that he was a very good artist and a terrible human being. If you want to put deep meaning and heavy handed morality into the story your writing, write a fable, not a biography.
There you go. Three film reviews of films that aren't in theaters.

Next time: Goddard's Breathless, The Untouchables and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (which has Zero Mostel dancing about like Zero Mostel. A vast improvement!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

GOALS

I had two things that got me thinking on goals today. The first was an email to Niss where I wrote very generally about my goals for my business for the next two years. The second was a ten second snip of conversation while eating with friends tonight where I said, "You know, there were about 400 hot girls in the Chapman theater department and in my five years there I only dated one." Which is true and I probably could have dated many of them.
So, the thing I'd like very much to happen, but I don't know if I'd call it a goal at this point, is to find somebody fun to date. Somebody to go ride the elephants at the zoo with or go see the Tibetan crap at the Bower's with or watch sunsets. That stuff. Somebody who looks like Kennedy from her MTV days except with multicolored hair. Or Thessaly from Neil Gaiman's Sandman with multicolored hair.
But I'm getting silly now. Or, at least, distracted.
The goal is that I'd like to find myself in the not too distant future in a forward moving, positive, loyal relationship. Not nessicarily with the person I'd like to be casually dating right now, but not nessicarily not either. Dig?
To be honest, this has the potential to make me rethink my moving plans. But I'm not even going to think about that right now.
As for the business, my goal of being able to completely support myself financially with the income from my business alone and quit dipping into savings by the beginning of next year is a very real possibility right now. In a year I'd like to be moving it into a storefront. Opening the RPM Bookstore. I don't know where, but that's not really important. Around the top of 2005 is where I'm aiming for that. I've already realized in this past week that I've grown way too large for the space I'm operating out of right now.
Mentally I'd like to be sleeping better and I'd like to be able to cry when I need to. Physically, I'd like to lose a few pounds, but not many. Maybe about 10 pounds. I'm pretty happy with my body actually. Spiritually I'd like to figure out if I'm a Five Point Calvinist or not.
So, there you go. The last time I thought about my goals was around the time I stopped shrinking. It's good to set them down every once in a while so I know what I'm charging towards.

Monday, November 10, 2003

I've been shipping and inventorying a huge load of books that came in over the weekend all morning. I just went out to get a pear & gorgonzola pizza from the freezer in the garage. In the backyard, by the windmill, is a cement birdbath. The sun was shining bright on it. There were eight to ten finches in the birdbath shaking and spinning and rolling over one another in the birdbath. Water was shooting off of them like a sprinkler.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

I had a strange morning. There was a commotion in the backyard. Boingo went running under the pomegrante tree. I assumed a finch had fallen and Boingo went to eat it. But I went to look and many crows were swarming around a hawk that was swooping around the neighbor's garage roof. The hawk landed on a useless pole that sticks up out of the ground in my backyard. I was looking out the new, clean window and the hawk was staring at me with those dinosaur eyes about ten feet away.

The artist salon went smashingly. The Ahmish played very well in my humble opinion (of course, I tend to only listen to Yod's bass.)
My presentation was accepted much more readily than I expected. I spoke on the lack of form in modern poetry as being a "baby gone the way of the bathwater" situation and expounded on the value of well formed poetry. Seeing as to how this goes against modern convention I was expecting a little more opposition. I was happy to find that there seemed to be simular sentiments in my audience. I used a few examples of my own works. I also got to use Glenn Gould and Alton Brown as examples. The crowd really liked it and asked some great questions. Paul, the older gentleman, told me that he really liked my presentation, but that he thought that I should refrain from apologizing for my poetry. He said it was good and I had nothing to apologize for. I thanked him and told him I was sorry but I didn't realize I was doing that.
Well, he laughed anyway.
Phish had us all go around and introduce the person next to us as an artist or layperson who influences our art. Charles read a poem and talked us through his thought process in writing it. Daniel and Lori McGuinn read an awesome set of poetry. A girl I'd never met before named Taryn read some great poems in form. And there were paintings throughout the joint for us to look at. It was a swell afternoon.
We went out to eat afterward. I'm very tired as I haven't been sleeping again.