Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Movies I've Walked Out Of, No. 1 & 2: Eat Pray Love and Damage

Yesterday I walked out of Eat Pray Love , which makes it one of less than a dozen films I've gone to a theater and paid money to see, and then gotten up and left the theater to avoid having to.
(I've turned off or skipped through many more DVDs, but that's a more casual, less intentional relationship.)

Eat Pray Love was an animated amalgamation of Gourmet and Travel magazines. That is, it was boring. It was so boring, it gave me time to dwell on what narcissistic nincompoops Americans can be, believing the world exists to help us work out our relationship issues, intimacy issues, food issues, lack-of-self-esteem issues, etc. and to show us our higher selves.

Julia Roberts's character is struggling with all these issues, and she's facing them by traveling around the world for a year. Not the Peace Corps or anything. This is tourism as therapy. She does not have a boyfriend, for the first time since she was fifteen! Wow! She's, like, choosing celibacy.
Isn't that brave?
She sits eating gelato on a bench in Italy next to a couple nuns in habits also eating gelato. She glances at them and smiles to herself: we're all celibate! Sisters are doing it for themselves!
Isn't that cute?
Then she goes and buys a pair of size 2 jeans instead of size 0 to show her newfound acceptance of her body! Shopping as liberation! YAY!

Really, this movie is more like Eat Prey Love, as it depicts this woman shopping around the world for self-fulfillment.
"Live from your heart," the world says. Thank you world!

The most despicable part comes in the first few minutes:
in the opening voice-over, J. R.'s character tells us about her psychologist friend's work with Cambodian refugees. The friend had been worried about how to help these boat people who'd managed to survive and flee Pol Pot's regime of terror.
But guess what?
The refugees just wanted to talk about their relationship issues too! Turns out dating in refugee camps and on overcrowded boats on the open sea is just as bad as dating in the affluent USA!
I feel so much better now. The Killing Fields had me all worked up... for years! But now I know everyone who wasn't murdered was fine afterward, pesky love troubles aside.

Possible moral? Send relationship counselors to Darfur! Burma! Arizona!

God, I hated this movie.
Anyway, I thought I'd write up a few of the other movies I've walked out on. I'm curious. Will any themes arise?

I'll start with Damage (1992) because the reason I left was incredibly simple:
I couldn't stand to watch Juliette Binoche get her head banged against the floor or wall in simulated throes of passionate illicit abandonment with Jeremy Irons (her future father-in-law) ONE MORE TIME.

The amazing thing about this particular walk-out was that I went to the movie with three other women--two friends and a near stranger from out of town--and we all of us leaned in toward each other at the same time (as Juliette's head was thumping against the floor for the nth time) and whispered, "Do you want to go?"

You may know, it's hard to get people to agree to leave a movie. In fact, that's probably one reason I haven't walked out on more--I haven't wanted to leave my companion. A four-way walk out is quite an achievement.

The theater staff happily gave us our money back, as if they were in cahoots with us, and told us what happens at the end. (Nothing good.)

I had the pleasant experience of being further vindicated all these years later when I just now found Janet Maslin's original NYT review of Damage.

She says:
"It must be noted that the film's sexual episodes are very strange. The staging is so arduous that the actors never appear comfortable or unself-conscious, which would seem to be two prerequisites for making their encounters work. On the simplest level, they often knock into things [Juliette's head especially!], and are forced into painfully awkward postures. One bout finds them seeming to be experiencing simultaneous seizures while attempting a difficult yoga position."

Only Japan chose to emphasize this in their movie poster, which is why I've chosen it (above). Reminds me a bit of the Japanese film In the Realm of the Senses (1976), another movie about uncomfortable sex (to put it mildly), but one I managed to sit through somehow. (I think because I didn't want to offend a friend, whose favorite movie it was.)

But as ridiculous as Damage was, if I had to sit through it or Eat Pray, I'd choose it.

[Other movies I've walked out of.]

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Aunt Else's Aebleskiver

(This is me.)
(Pans and squeezy bottles, etc. too.)

Aunt Else's Æbleskiver is named in honor of Else (Andersen) Jacobsen, who passed down her Danish family recipe.
Chad Gillard (aka Aebleskiver Daddy) started the company with Else's nieces Lisa (Henriksen) Timek and Linda (Henriksen) Engwall, and grand-niece Sarah Engwall.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Grown Up Shows Up

Walking home down an alley, still warm in the evening, I see someone flat on their back ahead.
A handful of people come gather round: a woman fallen off her bicycle.
Great! I think. I don't have to get involved.

But as I approach, I see the dynamics are wrong. The helpers have stepped back. They form a wary circle around the fallen woman.
She's acting like a raccoon might, if you tried to help it: spiky and sideways and spitting out lines about past lives.

Damn, I think. One of mine. This is the third time this summer I've stopped for someone whacked out and down.

The helpers stare at her, visibly dismayed. She obviously isn't working from the same script they are.
They're young and clean, and I suspect their script is the Good Samaritan from Sunday School. (You'll remember, the injured guy in that story is half-dead, and so, we presume, unable to bite.)

I've reached them now, and the woman is accusing her crowd:
"Do I look like I need help? Well? DO I?!?"

She's only scratched up, but, in fact, she looks like she needs a lot of help, of various kinds. So I step up to her and say, "Actually you do. Look, you're bleeding..."

"My blood is MINE!" (all wild-eyed). "It's from my soul life! As a farmer!"

I crouch down, level with the knees of the gathered.
"Yeah, it is," I say, "but I wonder if we should go wash it off so you don't get infected."

"My blood is MINE!" she barks at me.

I note the knees have suddenly disappeared from view. It's like they've been raptured.
I'm on my own here with raccoon lady.
Thanks, guys, I think.
But I know how that goes. They're off the hook because the grown up has shown up.
What I don't know is, when did the grown up become me?

So, OK then. I'll act like I know what to do in this crazy world.
I sit down next to this woman, whose dark hair is mixed with gray, like mine.
The concrete is pleasantly warm on my butt,
and the evening light bounces pink off the parking lot of the laundromat across the street.

I rest my hand behind me. On a bit of broken glass.
I show the woman. "Look, now I'm bleeding."

She's looks at me, ring-eyed. "You won't want to sit with me," she says.
It sounds more like an invitation than a fuck-off, though.

"So, you were a farmer?" I ask.

She tells me about it. About how angry guys in bars are nothing compared to angry farm animals, because the animals are bigger. And about how she wonders, how did we get so distracted and ugly? And how have people lost the ability to do one thing at a time (she doesn't like call waiting), and to wait.
"Wait," she says.

It's really calming to talk to her, after a while.

She looks at me with clarity, after another while, and says, "Why are we sitting here on the concrete?"

I think about that. "Why not?" I say.

"Good answer!" she says.

And after a further while, she says she has to go. She stands up, weaves around, and promises she'll walk her bike home.

Then she thanks me for being with her and gives me a hug,
so it turns out to be a Sunday School script after all.
The sort that reminds you there are stories that glue the cracked world together, even if, god help us, you're the grown up in them.

Painting at top: "The Good Samaritan," by Lucinda Naylor

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Writer on Her Work

I set the unripe green milkweed pod I'd photographed last week on my bookshelf. Now the seeds want to fly. I photo'd it again and set it outside.

I. Sending Off

Just recently, for the first time I've felt ready to send some writing out, for possible publication.

In the past, when I've thought about submitting something to be judged, inner defenses have roused themselves to send troops of sharp-teethed antibodies into my bloodstream, where they battled and defeated any idea of acting on such a risky idea.

Upping the "just do it" quotient simply upped the antibodies, until it was Rambo VIII in there.
So, I've never sent anything out.
Anything in print with my name on it got that way because friends or family facilitated it, not me.

But just lately, I haven't felt so anxious at the idea of rejection slips. Blogging more than four years now has helped. The practice, the encouragement.

Probably what helps most is that usually publication is met with... nothing.
I find this very comforting.
There's no need to worry so much what people will think about my writing, when mostly they think nothing.
Or they don't tell me, anyway.

There's just the one gatekeeper to face: the editor. And since I've worked in publishing for nine years now, I know that editors are mostly English majors exasperated by too much bad writing, not dragons. (Although the two might be related.)

I don't know how to send stuff off, so I asked Deanna, who does this regularly. She sent me a PDF listing places that publish essays. They even pay money. (I could send the list to you, if you want. E-mail me.)

So far, so good.
I'll see how far I can get with this process without unleashing the inner Green Berets who think risking rejection is opening the gates to the barbarians.

II. Asking for Help

Since some anxiety does, of course, attend this step, who can I call up for help?

Tomorrow, August 28, is the feast day of Saint Augustine, one of history's least fearful writers. Maybe he'd help, though I don't really want to be a thumper like he became.

Better is the Hindu Remover of Obstacles and Patron Saint of Writers, Ganesh(a).

He broke off the tip of one of his tusks to write the Mahabharata:
"Poets have told it before, poets are telling it now, other poets shall tell this history on earth in the future."
(The Book of the Beginning)

_________________________And then, there's Thomas Merton.ABOVE: Thomas Merton's photo of his worktable at the hermitage. Via.

I always find his prayer for the wobbly encouraging:
“My lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."
--Thomas Merton

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Lessig Is Cool"

. Then, Austrian art-pranksters Monochrom-- " an art-technology-philosophy group having its seat in Vienna and Zeta Draconis"-- sing a song of love for Stanford law prof and famed copyright reform advocate Lawrence Lessig

From Boing Boing TV

"Lessig ist lässig" = "Lessig Is Cool"

A Harvard professor and founder of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society, Lawrence Lessig chairs Creative Commons, a nuanced, free licensing scheme for individual creators.

Lessig Blog
born 6-3-1961

TED Talk Lawrence Lessig: Re-examining the remix:

About this talk
At TEDxNYED, former "young Republican" Larry Lessig talks about what Democrats can learn about copyright from their opposite party, considered more conservative. A surprising lens on remix culture.

Julian Sanchez: Copyright policy isn't just about how to incentivize the the production of a certain kind of artistic commodity; it's about what level of control we're going to permit to be exercised over our social realities, social realities that are now, inevitably, permeated by pop culture. I think it's important that we keep these two different kinds of public goods in mind. If we're only focused on how to maximize the supply of one, I think we risk suppressing this different and richer and, in some ways, maybe even more important one.

So the point is the Republicans here recognize that there's a certain need of ownership, a respect for ownership, the respect we should give the creator, the remixer, the owner, the property owner, the copyright owner of this extraordinarily powerful stuff, and not a generation of sharecroppers.

And the question I ask you is: Who's fighting it? Well, interestingly, in the last presidential election, who was the number one, active opponent of this system of regulation in online speech? John McCain. Letter after letter attacking YouTube's refusal to be more respectful of fair use with their extraordinary notice and take down system, that led his campaign so many times to be thrown off the Internet.

Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Star Trek & '60s Design, #20: Tight Trousers and High Heels

[See also post on Star Trek Women's Boots, here.]

The [Partial] Genealogy of the Star Trek Heeled Boot for Men

In the early 1960s, the Beatles wedded the Victorian-era riding boot, called the Chelsea Boot (left) to the Flamenco Boot (right), with its high Cuban heel.

Their offspring was the Beatle boot.

I can't find anything on the subject, but it looks like Beatle boots hooked up with some high-top boots (riding boots? wrestling boots? go-go boots?) to produce Starfleet's uniform boots for men.

The Beatles' pants were also scandalously tight, for the era.

Captain Kirk (1966) runs into A Hard Day's Night (1964).

The Beatles and Kirk Twist and Shout (1963).

Below: The Boots, wrapped around Khan (Ricardo Montalban), in the episode "Space Seed."

In answer to a query, yeah, they're really functional boots--you can see the captain pulling them back on in "Wink of an Eye," after going to bed with Deela.

And, finally, while we're on the subject: Kirk's "Boots of Sex" by Brittany Diamond.

More posts on Star Trek and Sixties Design

Another linking Trek and the Beatles: "Cream and Pepper"

As always, Star Trek screencaps from TrekCore.com. Thanks!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blogging Goodness Sidebar

I finally added a Blog List that shows most-recent-posts, as you can see to the right here. I like seeing them on other blogs.

It's super easy.
Here's how:

1. Click on "Design", way up top on your blog page, to the right of "New Post".

2. A mock-up of your blog page will show up. Click on "Add a Gadget" to the right.

3. Click "Blog List" from the many options of doo-hickeys you can clutter your blog with.

4. Click "Add a blog to my list". One of the options is to add all the blogs you follow, which I did.
You can also choose just to show 5, or 10, etc.

Et, voilà.
So many handy-dandy litttle tricks out there. But I don't know how to add the accent to the "a" in "voilà" except by copying and pasting. Do you?
"The "option" key gives me a little Swedish circle, like so: "å"
I don't even know its name.

P.S. I have not cluttered up my sidebar with blog awards because, in the almost-three-years I have been blogging, no one has ever given me one. *small sigh of self-pity*

Star Trek and Sixties Design, #19: Easier Living

For more on Star Trek & design, see my Starship & Museum posts, taking off on wondering why the Enterprise looks like the Guggenheim Museum.

LEFT: Mary & Russel Wright's (1904–1976) influential book Guide to Easier Living (links to RW Center), 1950: "our main thesis here is that formality is not necessary for beauty."

What's the point of well designed technologies from phones to dishware?

Margaret suggests it frees us from inconvenience, but points out that "Real Life is the ultimate inconvenience"--one day will we never have to get up off the couch for anything? And so, won't?

Another bit of Star Trek's--and some mid-century designers'--optimism lies in their belief that if technology frees us from petty inconveniences, we will leap off that couch and use our energies for bigger and better things.
I'm not sure if this is an accurate view of human nature or not...
BELOW: Russel Wright's "Residential" line was the first successful Melmac plastic dinnerware. The line won the Museum of Modern Art Good Design Award in 1953: "designed both for usefulness and good looks.” It remained popular for years after.
Is that plate Captain Kirk holds, below, in "The Trouble with Tribbles" a 23rd-century descendent of Residential ware?

In the 1930s and 1940s, Russel Wright also popularized household goods made from spun aluminum, a material that people had been slow to accept for home use.
BELOW: a scene from "Amok Time," and Russel Wright's spun aluminum cheese server.

As always, Star Trek screencaps from TrekCore.com.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Milkweed and Puritans

I found this milkweed pod on the sidewalk today.
It's too soft and green to have split open; perhaps some curious person opened it.

"Nothing yeildes more pleasure and content to the soule then when it findes that which it may love fervently; for to love and live beloved is the soule's paradise both here and in heaven."
--John Winthrop, from his sermon "A City upon a Hill", written aboard the Arabella traveling from England to Massachusetts, 1630

I've been reading about the Puritans, because they were big into communications.
They're fascinating, but they ruined their lovely ideals with their cruelty toward imperfection.

The year after he wrote "A City...," Winthrop recorded in his journal that Philip Ratcliffe was whipped and had both his ears cut off for "most fould, scandalous invectives against our churches and government."
(This poem doesn't really fit my photograph, but I like it.)

James Wright

While I stood here, in the open, lost in myself,
I must have looked a long time
Down the corn rows, beyond grass,
The small house,
White walls, animals lumbering toward the barn.
I look down now. It is all changed.
Whatever it was I lost, whatever I wept for
Was a wild, gentle thing, the small dark eyes
Loving me in secret.
It is here. At a touch of my hand,
The air fills with delicate creatures
From the other world.

--by James Wright from The Branch Will Not Break, 1992

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Let's Eat Fat Little Space Visitors!

Aren't they CUTE?!?!

via Stacia at Technoknob (Betty Crocker published recipe cards in a file box in 1971, when it was still legal to serve children food with toothpick antennae.)

Click on recipe to embiggen. Then make for me.
(Whoa: 2 teaspoons nutmeg? Maybe make that 1/2 t., and 1 t. cinnamon + 1/2 t. ginger.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Field Trip: The North West Company Fur Post

bink and I drove 60 miles north of the Twin Cities, through the cornfields...

to the North West Co. Fur Post, from 1804.

The British company (out of Montreal) hired French-Canadian voyageurs. They paddled canoes 12 hours a day, at 50 to 60 strokes a minute.

This was the farthest-south post of the Great Lakes fur trade. Door hinges, nails, and the like had to be canoed in.

Beaver pelts were the point, but they bought everything from skunk to bear fur.

Local Ojibwe men caught the animals. The women bound branches into circular frames for preparing the furs.

The Voyageurs were poorly paid laborers.

Their travel rations were corn and grease.

The company's officers were educated British men.

Trade goods included glass beads from Italy, ostrich feathers from North Africa, and rum from the West Indies.

English sheep and mill workers produced textiles for trade. The red marks indicate how many beaver pelts a blanket is worth.

During the winter trading season, the Ojibwe lived near the post in wigwams, which means "birch houses".

They sewed sheets of birchbark into housing material.

And stalks of cattails into mats.
Me, below, holding a beaver pelt, wearing a gentleman's beaver top hat. These expensive hats, made from beavers' soft undercoat, were the main driving force behind the whole shebang. I'd read copiously about these things for the French and Indian War book, but had never even touched one before. I was so hepped up being there, I didn't even mind the 94 degrees, 80% humidity heat.

bink twirling in a coat an Ojibwe hunter had bought from the British in trade.