Sunday, August 29, 2010


Last night Meridita and I saw Tosca in HD outdoors at Lincoln Center.

It was wonderful! We had sandwiches from 'Snice and delicious wine and cookies.

I enjoyed the story, the intensity of Tosca's emotions, and the beauty of the lead singers' voices. But somehow I didn't feel as emotionally drawn is I wanted to be. Gorgeous and tragic, it left me dry-eyed.

This was a new Met production that premiered last season. The set was actually booed! I'm not sure what the audience's issue was. I didn't have a problem with the stark fortress like structure, although the design choices for the interior of the castle seemed off to me, and I couldn't figure out what era the piece was supposed to be taking place in...

Karita Mattila sang Tosca, Marcelo Alvarez was AMAZING as Cavarodossi, and George Gagnidze sang the villainous Scarpia. Joseph Colaneri was the conductor.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Believers

Zoe Heller's The Believers is a deliciously mean-spirited novel that scathingly satirizes the dysfunction of a high-minded socialist family.

Zoe Heller is disturbingly adept at capturing the nuances of social interaction. She does so in such away that that every moment is weighted by social strain, insecurity, and egoism. It's a wonderful quality, actually, and her intelligence and nuance makes up for the fact that the characters are not likable.

In spite of the surface viciousness of much of the novel, there is a lot of heart there, and insight into the human yearning underneath intellectual/ethical contradictions. I was surprised by how moved I was at the end of the novel.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hold Tight: The Truck Darling Poems

I feel emotionally spent, uplifted, transported, hollowed out from reading Jeni Olin's Hold Tight: The Truck Darling Poems in one afternoon.

These poems have so much fucking heart, so much beauty and pain and utter, complex, unequivocal brilliance. She is such an incredible, singularly talented poet.

As usual, when someone's work totally blows me away I find myself at a loss for words. Her poems are so packed with gorgeous phrasing, smart and surprising references, and from this beauty emerges a strong, undeniable, poetic persona that any sane person has no choice but to stand in awe of, if not love.

I was aesthetically and emotionally stricken by every poem in the collection, but some that particularly stood out for me (in no particular order): "Sigil", "Tashi Delek", "Default", "Prematurely Gay", "Anyhoo", "Birthday Poem", "Artist's Statement:" and, "Aftermath" which I will quote in its entirety:

(for Todd Colby)

Something ethical is moving me
away from your beauty. For serious.
You rage like swollen math & allergies
in my brain. In my dreams I am hatching
the hot eggs of black oceanographers.
The massive animal flu of love
has run me down. I am running
the temperature of a star in a ditch.
I inherit other people's dreams
when I'm crushed out on them.
Are you so strong or is it the Black Russian in me?
Can I french you where it hurts one more time
this time with apathy?
Sushi'd out & despairingly acoustic, you
cannot bring sexy back without a receipt.
Hot little animal, hold tight.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Kissing Jessica Stein

The problem I have with romantic comedies is that they rarely (if ever) strike me as particularly romantic or particularly comedic. At their best they are cute. Or sweet. Or bittersweet. With a touch of intelligence.

And, for those reasons I really liked Kissing Jessica Stein.

It's about a youngish woman (28) who is smart and charming and neurotic and who can't seem to meet a man. Largely because of what other people judge to be her high expectations. One day she stumbles on a personal ad featuring a Rilke quote which had coincidentally recently moved her. The ad was placed by a woman.

The two meet and they are both very appealing, attractive, smart, talented woman and they have a very sweet (although not too passionate) attraction that they explore. It's very well done and everybody, including Jessica's Jewish mother, is very likable. There are no bad guys.

Annoyingly, Jessica goes back to men. Which just frustrated the fuck out of me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Budos Band and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Last night I went to a fabulous concert in Prospect Park. The opening act was The Budos Band, and they were fucking awesome. Really big soul/funk sound and long, enthusiastic set.

Then Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings performed for two hours and they were incredible. The energy level was unfucking believable.

It was a really great concert and I want to buy both groups' music.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

The other night I saw Tamra Davis' Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child at Film Forum.

The documentary uses extensive footage of Basquiat and the downtown art scene in the 80s to chronicle Basquiat's career. It really brings out the power, beauty and brilliance of his work, and does a great job contextualizing his life. It doesn't overly romanticize or overly pathologize his heroin use, and it is a very strong, tight film.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Taylor 2 & Paul Taylor Dance Company

Last night I got to see Taylor 2 and Paul Taylor Dance Company perform for free at Lincoln Center out of doors.

The lines were long, the sun unforgiving, the heat oppressive, and the seats rather tortuous, but, it was TOTALLY worth it.

The evening started out with two dances by Taylor 2. I am not sure how this company differs from the main one, but the dances were very good, although not great. I enjoyed the lovely, pretty, "Esplanade".

The Paul Taylor Dance Company was utterly spectacular. "Airs" with music by Handel was so beautiful, very classical and balletic. The dancers looked like sparkling moving water. The second dance, "Syzygy" was totally incredible. The music was by Donald York and it was very modern and exciting. The way the dancers moved was surreal. I think it was my favorite. I would love to see "Airs" or "Syzygy" again. The third dance was called "Company B" and it was performed to music by the Andrews Sisters. It was very wonderful and entertaining, but by that stage in the night I was a little tired and my attention wandered...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Torture: The Guantanamo Guidebook

Torture: The Guantanamo Guidebook presents an experiment wherein the filmmakers subject seven volunteers to a recreation of the experience of being held in Guantanamo. The producers explain: According to George Bush, 'torture is never acceptable'. The interrogation techniques used in Guantanamo Bay have been calibrated to fall short of a legal definition of ‘torture’. However, legal experts say they do still constitute torture. The Guantanamo Guidebook reconstructs the regime at the US's Cuban base. For 48 hours, seven volunteers are subjected to interrogation techniques known to be used in the camp, ranging from harassment and abuse to sensory deprivation – with shocking results.

This documentary was very difficult to watch. But, this brought home the fact that the practices which the US engages in and which are not tolerated by the international community, are deeply unjust.

The Weather Underground

The Weather Underground (2002), directed by Bill Segel and Sam Green, documents the rise and fall of the 60s era revolutionary group. The filmmakers present the anti-government radical activities in the context of a culture of protest and civil unrest. The Weathermen split off from other activists groups who were using mostly peaceful means to protest the war in Vietnam. The Weathermen instead went underground and bombed several offices in response to government violence. They worked in hiding and were largely isolated from other protest groups who publicly distanced themselves from the Weathermen. However, by the time the US withdrew from Vietnam, the group had begun to lose internal cohesion, and the end of the war left them without a central focus. By the eighties most of them had turned themselves in. Because prosecuting them would expose many ways in which the FBI broke the law in pursuing them, many of the group did not serve sentences. Many of these members are still involved in social activism.

I thought this was a great documentary. It really provides a sense of who these radicals were and what motivated them, and it was fascinating to listen to them now and hear them reflect on their involvement.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project (2002) tells the story of the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard. Directed by Moises Kaufman, the narrative interweaves the process of playwrights interviewing people in the town of Laramie so that the film is layered.

All the people were portrayed by actors, many who I admire (Christina Ricci, for example; and Steve Buscemi). But I have to say, the acting was spectacularly, unbelievably bad. I have never seen anything so cheesy in my life.

In spite of this major flaw, and the director's tendency to overdramatize emotions, this film tells an important story, and it explores the role of community and societal hatred that informs individual acts of violence.