Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fun Home

I started Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel on the subway on my way to work this morning and could not put it down all day. I had a two hour break between presentations where I sat in a Starbucks completely absorbed in it. Then I spent another couple of hours with it on my couch.

It's a graphic novel memoir about a woman's strange family life. He father ran a funeral home and was a closeted homosexual. The story is very much about the pall that his shame and unhappiness cast on his family. The way they lived with something that was never said or understood but that which effected them all very much. It's also about how the daughter reconstructs her own and her family's past, how she begins to understand her anxieties and her relationships with her parents. It is interspersed with the unfolding of her own gay sexuality as well as her and her family's reading of literature. Joyce, Collette, Fitzgerald and Camus are very much entwined in the story. I thought it was excellent. It was incredibly sweet, and creepy, and fascinating, and moving.

Richard Siegal & Fang-Yi Sheu

Last night I went to an other performance at City Center. This time I sawBeijingdance/LDTX: The Cold Dagger (excerpt); Houston Ballet:Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux; Richard Siegal/The Bakery: The New 45; Fang-Yi Sheu: Single Room (excerpt); and The Gentlemen of Halau Na Kamalei: Kahikilani.

I really loved the Richard Siegal and Fang-Yi Sheu performances. Richard Siegal/The Bakery consisted of two men doing very charming tap-like or soft shoe type jazz dancing. I'm not sure what the term is, but the choreography was very playful, the music very lively, and the dancers very charismatic. I was blown away by the Fang-Yi Sheu piece, which was just her and a long table. She was incredibly lithe, small and strong and was able to undulate beautifully in an unearthly way against the table. I found it very emotional and haunting. Riveting. I was literally at the edge of my seat, holding my breath. It was very erotic, but also sad. Kind of lonely. The music was somewhat industrial, and it added this inhuman or inhumane element to it.

The other pieces were okay, but didn't quite do it for me. The Hawaiian troupe was kind of fun but also nothingish. I once saw a performance of Hawaiian dance on PBS that was much more involved and layered. This was kind of simple seeming tribal dancing. Or maybe I'm missing something. Or maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

In any event, I hate that I wasn't able to find a photo on line of any of the pieces I saw. I'm sick of this festival picture, but it's all I have.

Monday, September 22, 2008


This weekend I read Overexposed: Perverting Perversions by Sylvere Lotringer. A friend of a neighbor had recommended it to me and it's awesome. It's a strange account of a form of therapy for sex offenders in the 1980s that involves making clients' deviant fantasies as boring to them as possible. To do this, they use a couple of techniques to measure penile arousal to deviant and normal stimuli, and more fascinatingly, they have offenders tape record verbalizations of their masturbatory fantasies while they masturbate and then go over the tapes with them. They encourage the clients to masturbate beyond satiation, that is, after ejaculation, to the deviant fantasies for a couple of hours a day, until they are just so sick of it that they are done.

This book is brilliantly presented. It presents a very French Theory overview of the topic -- which I'm a little bored by, actually. Then it is mainly the text of interviews with the behavioral psychiatrist who runs the clinics. These interviews, the things that come out of his mouth are truly bizarre. It also includes long excerpts from the sessions reviewing the masturbation fantasy tapes, a long monologue from a client (who basically says everyone "cheats" on the penile measurement things and on the tapes as well), and a list-poem type section of quotes from people's fantasies.

It was very disturbing and fascinating and I'm very glad I read it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fall for Dance matinee

Today Tits! and I saw a matinee of one of the Fall for Dance programs at City Center. It was truly excellent, although are seats were truly, truly sucky. We were so incredibly high up.

The pieces we saw were: Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal: Les Chambres des Jacques; Oregon Ballet Theatre: Rush; Madhavi Mugdal: Odissi: PRAVAHA (world premier); Sheron Wray: Harmonica Breakdown; and Hofesh Shechter Company: Uprising (pictured). The two solo pieces (Mugdal and Wray) were the least interesting to me. I would like to see the Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal piece again. It was very quirky and fun, but I had trouble concentrating because of personal stress. Uprising was incredibly intense and powerful about agression and war. The music was loud and industrial, the corps was all male. It was just intense. Everything was great, really. I was also moved by the pas de deux (Rush); the dancers were like liquid.

Sorry, Tree

I read this recent book of poems by Eileen Myles, Sorry, Tree the other day. It was wonderful, reading a book in more or less one sitting. Getting immersed in the poetry and the voice. These poems seem different than her previous work, but I'm not sure how exactly. A little more interior, a little more probing of language. Really great. I read everything she writes because everything manages to hit just the right spot.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

I started watching The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit last night, and finished it tonight. It is very interesting. It takes it time developing conflict and character and relationships and is very introspective and thoughtful. It's about a man who suffers PTSD from WWII trying to live an average life, and goes into all the frustrations of that average life. That makes it sound simple and cliche, which of course it kind of is. But the slowness and methodicalness of it created this kind of quiet restrained feeling. Gregory Peck was very dignified and cold. In fact, there was much missing from all of the performances.

I think it should be remade. I think a new director would create more narrative tension. The war flashbacks would be scarier and more intense. And they would do away with the cheesy music and stylized acting...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

In the Line of Fire

You know, I don't know what to say about movies like these (In the Line of Fire). They are kind of gripping and suspenseful, but so riddled with cliches and predictable. It's like, while I'm watching I get tense and scared at parts, but am rolling my eyes and flipping through a Land's End catalogue during most of it. Resenting all these obvious tropes -- the failed agent who has to prove himself: do you doubt for a second he will be vindicated. Then again, the dialogue was rather good in parts. Malkovich as the crazy was riveting. It was worth watching. Not worth losing important writing time over, however...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Double Indemnity

I watched the noir thriller Double Indemnity last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Aside from the cheesy noir rhetoric, which rubs me the wrong way, I found the cynical lack of love throughout the film to be quite gripping. It was sexy too, and suspenseful.

I know I'm alone among my friends on this score, but watching old movies I always think about how they could be remade. I just don't like the rinky-dink sets and the old-fashioned way tension and suspense are created. Although, I don't like it when remakes update the time; things make less sense that way and don't quite work.