Saturday, December 06, 2003

Phish and I went to the Womanspirit fair in Long Beach this morning. It was, as far as I could tell, mainly tables of art and crafts by artisans in the local goddess worship community. I didn't quite catch a through line of belief system so I imagined it was a gathering of many under the heading of pagan. I could be wrong though. It may have been a very specific religious group and I just didn't pick up on it. That would probably be because they seemed so tolerant. I didn't feel uncomfortable being a Quaker in a pool of ubiquitous pagan. Also, they were very friendly(no pun intended), taking care to engage me in polite conversation, and dissolved instantly any misgivings about being in the small circle of the Vin Diagram depicting the one in every ten males in attendance.
The first table inside the door was gourd art. There was an amazing metal snake emerging from a gourd, two gourds hugging, a turtle gourd, a lamp gourd with crazy patterns, and so on. I haven't the time nor patience nor memory to go through all of the great tables in there. There was collage art, lots of jewelry, some painting, bumper stickers, blown glass, ceramics, sculpture, hats, all kinds of smelling things, fabric, belly dancing accessories, photography, a quilt booth (which featured a quilt of two crows flying that reminded both Phish and I of my rook poem) and much more. There was also live music and dancing, very little of which I paid attention to.
The highlight for me was finding the percussion booth. I went over because I heard finger cymbols and I've been itching to get myself a set. I was about to buy a set when the lady showed me something called Devil Chasers. They're like two pieces of bamboo (hollow like that but probably stronger wood) with an inch thick wedge cut out of either side down about 1/3 of the stick. The whole stick is about 2 and 1/2 feet long. The lady started slapping it on her knees and arms and this sound like a turtle jumping in space came out of it. I threw the finger cymbols over my shoulder and bought the Devil Chasers.
Phish bought a digeridoo.
I also bought a book. Toward the end of the fair I came up to a table with a stack of two different books on it and a basket with a bunch of rolled up pieces of paper in it. The ladies behind the table told me to take a piece of paper from the basket to see which "dark archetype" I was evoking at the moment. I stuck my hand in and came out with "Lucifer." That gave me pause. Then I had the choice of either buying their book explaining their hypothesis (or perhaps theories) on dark archetypes or a book of short stories. I bought the short stories but I plan on getting the other one as well in time because I must confess that they piqued my curiosity. They also said, after I showed them that my paper said "Lucifer", that I should seek out the woman who had "Lilith." I understood the reference but, being a child of my generation, instantly thought of Bebe Neuwirth. And I agreed that I should seek her out or somebody that looks like her. The other thing that went through my mind was that I probably shouldn't seek out Lilith because, being a biblical scholar, I know that will lead to her birthing mostrosities that will plague the earth forever.
Anyway, the book is "Lovecraft Slept Here" by Denise Dumars. I haven't read it yet. The other one is "The Dark Archetype" by Denise Dumars and Lori Nyx. They both appear to be out on New Page Books. They seemed nice enough and it's the zenith of cool to support non-corporate artists.
Phish and I left happy. I really enjoyed my journey into the Womanspirit fair. On the way back, Phish asked me if, as a Quaker, I had any misgivings or if I felt uncomfortable about anything. I thought about it and responded with something I'd heard a Trappist monk say (and no, it wasn't Thomas Merton. I don't remember what his name was.) He said that a Christian should be able to inform their prayer life by studying Buddhist meditation. One should be able to reflect upon the many aspects of God when one learns about the many gods of Hinduism. And so forth. I got a lot out of the day. And some cool stuff too.
The rest of the day I spent tagging along as my mother did Christmas shopping. This is some of the most taxing activity that humans can engage in. We went to the mall and the major toy store. Afterwards we felt a little like Frodo after the ring had gotten to him.
We ate at a corporate Italian style restaurant. Rather, we gorged ourselves at a corporate Italian style restaurant.
When we got home, it was beginning to rain and I was tired. Armed with the awareness that we're right into flu season, I decided not to go and wear myself out in the cold night. I'm not feeling sick at all, but I'm convinced that's got a lot to do with knowing when I shouldn't push it. So, I read for a while and worked a little more on getting through the long film that's next up for review. I might just shut off the alarm clock before bed.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Not much to report tonight because it's late.
I got a nice haul of books today. Spent most of the day with Chas and Phish, inputting the haul of books over at their place because this computer had a bit of a cold.
Tomorrow I'm going to a woman's spirit fair. I don't think it matters that I'm male. Phish and Jessica invited me and, along with the fact that it's sure it be an interesting experience where I meet interesting people, I hear that there's to be a really good tie dye vendor there.
The other news of the day is that Neil Gaiman is going to sign my sock monkeys book. The company that I bought my sock monkeys book were supposed to have signed copies available and they missed that when shipping (Being in the book shipping business myself I can totally understand how these things happen around this time of year.) So they said I should send it back and they'd have Mr. Gaiman sign it for me. Whee!

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Another double header.

TAXI DRIVER

For years I've avoided this film for a number of reasons. The main reason is that I usually watch films right before I'm about to go to bed.
It's strange that I've held off this long because I love Scorsese. I've encountered a large number of Scorsese fans who hold Taxi Driver to be his best work. I think that Bringing Out The Dead was his best work. Although Kundun is an awesome film. Last Temptation is also an awesome film. So's Raging Bull. So's Goodfellas. Heck, so is every Scorsese film I've ever seen. The guy might be our best living establishment film director.
Taxi Driver is his first mental breakdown picture. He's very good at showing you what it's like to have a mental breakdown.
As a personal note, I'd also like to mention that this film reminds me of every taxi driver I've ever known.
It's De Niro's first film after Godfather II which, as I always like to point out, he was up against Lee Strasberg for the Oscar and won. Talk about winning "best actor." The brilliance of De Niro is his ability to do nothing. His reactions are slight. He just lets the story tell its self. He doesn't mug or jump around to show himself off (even when he's jumping around in this film.) Because of this and because of how he looks, there's this dam behind him that you know could break at any minute. At least early in his career. I don't know what's up with him now.
The thing about Taxi Driver is it says a lot of things and I found myself left to take from it what I decided to take from it. Scorsese didn't lay judgement. He just presented the information. I appreciate that as well. It's very polite of a storyteller to let you draw your own lessons from a story. What I got out of the film was that people that society call heroes doesn't presuppose benevolence. Also I learned that I never want to go to New York City. In short, I think this was another great Scorsese film to survive through the ages, but not his best ever. I don't think anyone should take that as an insult. What I'm really trying to say is that he's possibly the only director from his generation who continues to grow as an artist. That's pretty high praise.

SUBWAY

I like a film that you wouldn't know which section to file it under in a video store. Edward Scissorhands has that quality too. Subway isn't a comedy, but sure doesn't fit in drama either. So most video stores would most likely cheat at my little challenge and just put it under Foreign.
I was nervous at first because the credits told me it was directed by Luc Besson. You might remember him from The Fifth Element. I didn't like The Fifth Element, but that might be because I spent years having members of the idiot community come up to me and say, "Hey, Fifth Element!" I didn't know what the hell they were talking about. Then I saw the film and found that Gary Oldman's "super-futuristic haircut" was just an industrial stripe, like mine and about a thousand other industrial music enthusiasts. I also didn't like the acting, the overdirection, and the pace. It was like the movie thought I was stupid.
Then I saw the Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. It was a better cast. Milla Jovovich did a better job although you could tell that she was working oh so very hard to be a great actor. Then Dustin Hoffman came in at the end to save the movie. That was neat.
But all of these are Besson's modern shortcomings. In the eighties he seemed to have had a much better grip on his talent. Subway shows a lot of restraint when set next to his more recent contributions.
It all takes place in a Paris subway. Highlander is running from the police and hiding in the subway. He falls in love with the adorable French girl who he stole blackmailing papers from. He meets a subway band and a guy who rollerskates everywhere and a guy who sells flowers that you can't tell if he's supposed to be gay or just French. The bumbling subway detectives can't figure out where all of these theives are living in the subways.
And yet it's a pretty good film. Anyway, it isn't bad. It's fun to watch and all of what the previous paragraph tells you about the plot doesn't seem asinine when you're watching it. Part of the reason for that is that every actor developed a great character for this film. It would be a good example for acting students of character work. The conclusion I'm drawing from this is that Besson might want to find a better casting director or rehire the one he used in Subway for his future films.
I really wasn't sure if I liked it or not until the end. I won't give anything away, but even in the last moments, even in the final shot they play with it either being a comedy or a drama. I like it when they screw with an audience like that. I also like it when I see a film that shatters my preconceptions of a director. I'm always happy to be reminded that I don't know as much as I think I do.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Since I haven't posted a poem for a while:

Beliefs, Pah!
for Charles and Phish Ardinger

Two rooks met on a razor wire.
One was told of snow.
Snow to bury valleys that one could walk from mountain peak to mountain peak.
Two was told of winds.
Winds to rend the heavens to bring the water suspended above down upon the rooks.
Of course, says Two, the mother rook is to blame
for growing too fat as to offend the Great Rook.
Fatuous blowhard, says One, it was the crow who called the snow
to bury all the rook's desire.
Then on to the deposing of mother rook and replacing her with a parliamentary system
versus bargaining with enemy wolf to have him destroy the crow.
And the differing storms and faults of others and solutions
baked hate into their very feathers.
They cracked their voices and pecked.
They ripped flesh from bone.
Two rose and descended upon One with all his speed.
Just before reaching him, Two hit the razor wire and sliced into two halves.
His beak pierced the eye of One, entering his brain.
Pieces and black down fell.
And the sun shown warm on the corpses all season long.
I woke up this morning chomping at the bit to go. I was going to ride my bicycle to the court house to pay off my ticket and then come back to tackle the piles of work I've got to do. I went out and found my back bicycle tire flat. The bike pump had a huge hole in the hose. So, pissed off, I started walking.
I also learned that the police don't seem to feel a sense of urgency in getting their tickets put into their computers. The lady at the window advised me to come back "in a week or two" and see if the ticket was inputted by then. Wow.
So, no longer pissed off after a half an hour walk, I picked up some inventory and went home.
I went to Trader Joe's, then to wash my grandmother's windows, then back home to do all the real work, the money making work I had to do.
Around two-thirty I began to drag. I sat down with a glass of water and fell deep into my chair, where I woke up an hour later.
I've been having strange dreams lately. I think it's because I haven't been sleeping very deep on account of my sinuses being ornery. The other night I had a dream that I was looking out the back window and saw a Cambodian baby from next door standing on the backyard fence when a possum came along and bit him. He screamed and I woke up. I didn't go back to sleep right away because I didn't want to continue that dream. When I did go back to sleep I dreamt that I was laying next to a guy I knew in college. He asked me why I was interested in a homosexual relationship. I told him that I was just lonely and couldn't get any other kind of relationship. I woke up a little scared, wondering about latent homosexual tendancies that I'd missed somewhere in my comprehensive exploration of my sexuality. Then I thought, "Having a dream that shows homosexuality doesn't make me a homosexual any more than having a dream about a kid being eaten by a possum makes me want to see a kid get eaten by a possum."
It's true. I don't want either. In fact, the dream probably came from a conversation Phish and I had the other day where we were talking about how my best friend in high school was a homosexual and my best friend (pre-Nissa) in college was a post op transgender. And in the course of the conversation it came up that I and most people around me see me as having complete confidence in my heterosexuality without any qualms about being around or good friends with people of other sexuality. Like I'm well adjusted sexually. So my dreams must have felt the need to make mischief towards that confidence.
The next night I had a dream that I was on Rodeo Drive. I've only been there in waking hours once. The looks I got made me feel like when Falstaff crashes Henry's coronation. I think much the same happened in my dream. So, I left in disgust and started back for my car. On the way I met a skinny red haired woman who stuttered. She was trying to ask me something but I fell madly in love with her and she with me. We went off to have adventures and solve mysteries together. So, in essence another "I'm lonely" dream.
Then last night I dreamt I was with Charles, Phish, Yod and Jessica at a Phish the band concert. We were right by the stage lip and Trey kept talking to us while he was playing. I know he was explaining to us each how the Gamehenge story was prophetic to each of our life situations, but I forgot what he said when I woke up. Or maybe it was Harpua.
I know that Trey was in the back of my mind because the other day when I was playing with the Ahmish, Yod let me play his guitar for a while. I had always noticed how Trey has bad posture when he plays. When I got the guitar on me I noticed that I was naturally falling into that same bad posture.

I don't know why, but I felt like getting that out here. And that's all I have to say. Sorry I wasn't really going anywhere with all of that... except maybe that I should go visit Rodeo Drive again.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I come from worrying stock. My mother's a worrier, my grandmother's even more of a worrier and so on reaching back through the ether of time. Written upon my genes it is.
By nature I am perhaps a worrier, but by choice I'm a rhinoceros who loves a challenge. Overcoming my worry and negativity is a challenge that I work with every day. I've worked myself into a head space where I'm pretty good at avoiding it, but I still slip up on occasion.
I tell you all of this to lead up to a small, real life parable that has played its self out in the past 24 hours. So, I was looking over the mail from Thanksgiving (one of my bad habits is that I'll sometimes let mail sit for days before looking at it) and I found a note from my student loan enforcement office. I had asked a month ago for them to lower my payment by a little and, after they heard how much I make in a month, they decided to lower it by a lot. I assume that they agreed to this because I've paid on time and the full or sometimes more amount every month. They sent me a form to sign. Then, yesterday, I received the form back saying that I needed to send a copy of my last pay stub.
I don't print myself up pay stubs. That'd be silly and a waste of tree flesh. And, adjusting for the new lower amount, I spent and factored in the car payment and the speeding ticket into my budget for December. If I were to still have to pay the full student loan amount in December because they didn't tell me I needed a pay stub in the first place, I could honestly tell my loan people that they ruined Christmas.
So, off I went to the Liquid Den, worrying about how I was going to tighten my belt to get this paid. Also going over what I would say to the loan people on the phone. Then a little voice said, "You're not on the phone, you're in the car going to a poetry reading. It's like breaking up with Nissa or the time a customer claimed they didn't receive the book they bought, it sucks but there's not a damned thing you can do about it right now. So right now enjoy the poetry reading."
And lucky for me it was one of the best darned poetry readings I've seen in weeks. Matthew Niblock blew the roof off the joint.
This morning I called Nelnet Ministry of Loan Repayment and they said, "No problem. Send us a letter assuring us what's average monthly income. Since there was a screw up, you don't have to pay December's payment at all at all if you don't want to."
So, the lesson for me is that I should really take notice when how much faith working is so apparent because that will help me through the times that faith working is not apparent at all at all.

Monday, December 01, 2003

I'm behind by two movies now, so I'll pound these out. Actually by three movies, but the first one sucked. I'll do the first one quickly.

EARTHQUAKE

This is the kind of movie that you end up over at a friend's house in the middle of the day on Thanksgiving weekend watching because you're full of food and have nothing better to do. And Lo!
What gets me is that this is an example of a movie that gets money upon money thrown at it by a studio and meanwhile (a year or two later actually) Coppola is chewing off his own limbs to get Apocalypse Now made.
Earthquake was one of those lugubrious disaster flicks that studios wanted us to want in the 70's and, forgetting and repeating history, again in the 90's. It has Charleton Heston, George Kennedy, Walter Matthau (working under a fake name), the remains of Ava Gardner, Lorne Greene, and Victoria Principle taking second billing to her breasts and afro.
The earthquake doesn't happen until about four hours into the film. There's long and involved plots that don't really have anything to do with each other except to give us a puritanical morality, dishing out comeuppances from the hideously amoral to those who made slight personal errors. When the earthquake comes we see giant hunks of building instantly turn into small pieces of foam when it cuts from the long shot to the close ups in the street. We see the senseless destruction of many models that some poor schmoe probably stayed up all night making. And all the camera shaking techniques known to man. Then there's another few hours of things about to break and fall apart on the survivors.
My advice is this: Don't see Earthquake unless you're in a room full of your funniest friends who are all intoxicated.

FINDING NEMO

Here's a happy surprise. My mother bought herself the DVD and, while watching their house while they were hunting over the holiday, I watched it. It reminded me that I don't watch near as many fun films as I should.
Pixar's got all the good writers right now. Disney keeps threatening to quit hand animating if we don't start getting into the theaters. They think that the animation is the reason we're really into Pixar and not so much into hand animation anymore. Granted, the animation is phenominal. I find Pixar's attention to detail thrilling and, frankly, spoiling. Ice Age looked like a turd after I saw Monsters Inc. But the real reason I like Pixar is that they're good story tellers telling stories that we haven't seen our whole lives. They also tell some new jokes. Disney seems to have that epidemic that afflicts those with way too much money. They are too far out of the people's reach to figure out what the people would like. Like when Oprah tells you that you need a PDA like it's something you can buy with the change in the bottom of your pocket.
Oh dear me, I've wandered off topic again. They make the characters so lovably and identifiably withly human. Marlin totally has my smothering-with-love-out-of-fear-of-losing-another-loved-one problem. His is the main lesson of the film and a good one for parents and kids to see. I wish I'd seen it when I was a kid.
Dory. Golly. I can't help but be in love with Ellen DeGeneres. She's so charming. Nissa got me into her standup a while ago and I was surprise to find that she's just a panic to listen to. In Finding Nemo she's the glue that kept me wanting to see the ocean parts (besides the fact that I knew a whale was coming and that Barry Humphries did a voice too.)
So, I had a great time watching this film. I don't have that great a time watching films enough. I mean, I love films so much that I feel the need to do this after I watch them, but I don't usually have this much fun. I thought it was best Pixar work I've seen (and I've seen all their films and many shorts.) Although the extras on the Monsters Inc. DVD are better than the extras on Finding Nemo in my opinion.

DEAD MAN WALKING

Nissa took me to the opera of Dead Man Walking for one of my birthdays. It was one of the better contemporary operas, right up there with Einstein on the Beach for me but different as night and day. So I finally watched the film. I still haven't read the book. Shame.
I was surprised by the differences. The film told the story from a much more spiritual point of view, which surprised me because Tim Robbins has professed his contentment with agnosticism on many occasions. I also liked that the film focused so strongly on the families of the victims. The opera brushed over the families of the victims and focused on why we shouldn't kill a human. In retrospect, that part of it was a little heavy handed. The film makes the issue a much more leveled one and a much less clear cut one, leaving it open for discussion. The film also doesn't shy away from showing the great faults and evils of the convict. That gives Sean Penn the opportunity for a character arch, which he takes like a pit bull.
The one thing I thought was stronger in the opera was the execution (I'm not ruining it for anyone. This is the most famous part of the opera and, in fact, implied by the title of the danged thing.) On stage they are silent for a minute and a half while they mechanically perform the proceedure. Go sit in silence while looking at a clock for a minute and a half and you'll get an idea of how long it really is when it's brought to your attention. The film has flashbacks and music during it which muddied it up for me.
Speaking of music, the score was great. So, sometimes nepotism works!
But the main reason I'm itching to read the book now is that the opera put so much social commentary onto the story. The film put so many spiritual questions onto the story. I wonder what the lady who lived through it put onto the story.
Unfortunately, as a Quaker, they were preaching to the choir. I didn't really need a film to make me opposed to the death penalty. It is a film that I'm glad I now own. I'm glad this message is out there for people to pick up.
Which reminds me of another small detail from the opera. When we were coming out of it they had a stand selling t-shirts and what not. I saw that they actually had "Dead Man Walking" coffee mugs. I looked around the lobby at the richest people in Orange County who had come out to see the show and thought, "What a perfect thing for them to have to look at when they wake up each morning."


Now I'm up to date on the film reviews.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Today was a full day. I went to play in the Ahmish over at Charles and Phish's. Dr. Oblivious was there and played with us, as did Phish and Jessica. We recorded around four hours, which probably means around three hours of music! We also talked about a band project that I don't know if I'm at liberty to discuss here, but it's pretty awesome. More on that later I'm sure.
Nissa called and I got to speak with her for about a half an hour. That was another wonderful treat.
We took Oblivious to the Thai place and he also got to try some of my mashed potato candy.
Boy, all that playing just wiped me out. I should totally drum more along with the walking I do. It would be a good daily workout.