Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I just finished Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

It's a short, taut, and wonderful read. It is written from the perspective of an autistic teenager, and as he narrates, his lack of empathy and isolation become incredibly poignant. The emotions of people around him seep through, and he tells a complex story about his family's problems and it is truly moving. The other characters in the book emerge as nuanced and multifaceted, in spite of the fact that they are described through the lens of someone who cannot read emotions.

It was a pretty great book, and a fun, easy read. I read it in about three sittings; it's perfect for a lazy weekend.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Road to Wellville

In spite of the fact that it ended rather chaotically and abruptly, I very much like TC Boyle's The Road to Wellville.

This is a somewhat satirical but very poignant historical novel about John Kellog's health spa in Battle Creek Michigan at the turn of the century. The story depicts archaic and bizarre health related treatments, such as electrode baths, and inhalation of radium. Not to mention daily enemas and milk-only diets. It mocks the intense self-righteousness of these zealous health freaks, while subtly commenting on current fads.

In addition to this historical "expose" there are several story lines, one involving the strained marriage of a couple who stay at the spa for about a year; another involving a newbie con man; and another involving the tension between Kellog and one of his maladapted adoptive sons. The interiority of the characters was brilliant, and Boyle's writing is superb. I can't wait to read something else by him.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Home Videos: Family Past Perfect

Tonight I saw a wonderful film screening at PS 122. Home Videos: Family Past Perfect presented a sequence of four short films by Sara Strahan. Shown on a continuous loop, and broken into three screens, the films were made of family home videos and found footage. They were spliced together in haunting patterns, and the use of repetition made really exploded a sort of collage effect.

My friend and I watched the sequence a few times, at first letting it just sort of wash over us, and then becoming more and more absorbed and taken with the rhythm of the piece.

The images included nostalgic glimpses of childhood juxtaposed with at times creepy black and white footage from the 50s and 60s. I found myself wanting to impose a narrative on the stream of images, just because I'm that kind of person, but, in resisting that impulse I was able to more fully experience the exciting, haunting, beautiful and complex work.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Shadowed Dreamer

Yesterday I had the privilege of seeing Stephen Hart perform his autobiographical monologue Shadowed Dreamer. This was one of the most moving performances I've ever witnessed, and I felt truly honored. Stephen Hart tells a horrific story of childhood abuse in a terrible family situation, just one of the most painful things I have ever heard. But so much warmth and compassion exudes from his person, that you feel like you are in the presence of someone truly special. His monologue was an offering and a testament. Again, I feel truly privileged to have seen him. A beautiful voice. Bravo.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sita Sings the Blues

Sita Sings the Blues is extraordinary!

Unfortunately, I watched this exuberantly beautiful movie in installments this week as I was preparing for the dissertation defense. I kept turning it on to try to take my mind off the defense, but I kept finding it hard to concentrate. However, in spite of the weird way I watched it, I was fairly enthralled.

The movie tells the story of Rama and Sita in Hindu mythology, and it is portrayed through several different styles of animation. These gorgeous cut out figures narrate the story, and that aspect uses collage. Parts are told through illustration/painting. Then there are extended sequences which are told through old fashioned blues singing (all one singer, Annette Hathaway or something like that -- no one I've heard of). Inter-spliced with this are bits of cartoonish animation depicting the film maker's present day break-up.

Somehow it all comes together, and the visual effects are just stunning. I found the parts with the blues singing to be a little boring, but other than that I was completely riveted. There are parts where the music is really techno and intense, and there are some wonderful graphic moments. It's glorious.

Opera on Tap at Freddy's Bar & Back Room

Last night after delicious fare at Le Gamin, Meridita and I and our opera-lovin' posse headed over to Freddy's for another raucous round of Opera on Tap, the worlds funnest opera troupe.

Last night the theme was dumb-dumbs in opera, and the lovely ladies and lone gentleman sang beautiful arias that nonetheless were penned for stupid characters.

Many of the players wore these OoT t-shirts pictured here (I scooped this image from their website) and I thought it was particularly fitting (ha ha no pun intended) that the board behind them says "I'm with stupid."

The singing was, as always, amazing, and anyone who has not checked out Opera on Tap is even stupider than the stupidest characters in the operatic repertoire!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In the Hairy Arms of Whitman

Oh, rock me, baby! In the Hairy Arms of Whitman by Bill Kushner is so fucking good! He is just an extraordinary, breathtaking poet. Passionate and pedestrian, beautiful. Wondrous, sad, and joyful.


The rain comes falling in patches, like love does
Or feels, oh you know what I mean, sexy thoughts
A long line like kicky Rockettes, is this getting too
Far-fetched? well welcome to my life, & oops a glass
Breaks, like my heart, & it was so pretty, & then you
Enter, carrying a leash, that a hot dog in it? (I almost
Said God) & although nothing perceptible changes
But it does rain harder, sizzling as it hits hot concrete
& you come and leave as quickly, & the young man with
The hair in the next apartment, he turns up the volume
Let's rock, let's roll! but no matter, for we love him so
& have decided to forgive everyone for everything
From the date of our birth to the aching present, yes
The Talking Heads, yes talk to me of head & of looking
Out, as the trees caress each other so gaily, are we going
Out there? but we'll get so awfully we! but indeed we are

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mother and Child

Tonight I got to go to a preview of a movie called Mother and Child at the deluxe Sony screening room on 55th and Madison.

It stars Annette Benning, Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington (who I had never heard of), Jimmy Smits, and Samuel L. Jackson.

First off, let me say that I was in tears throughout most of the movie. So it must have worked in some pretty important senses. However, it was actually rather tepid, rather meandering, and rather cliche. I mean, I liked it, but it wasn't much more than well done middle-brow melodrama. Sort of Oprah book-of-the-month-ish.

Two of the female leads (Benning and Watts) play somewhat tightly-wound, painfully independent women who are hard to get close to. Annette Benning plays her testy neurotic character with a heartbreaking vulnerability, while Watts' ice queen was just a little too overly-confident for me to relate to. The men in the story are just sort of props supporting the female performances.

The movie's narrative is about adoption, and the characters lives intersect in very predictable ways. It also (although perhaps not intentionally), had a screaming Keep Your Baby message (lest you and she be miserable for life). Like I said, it worked. I mean, I really fucking needed a tissue.