Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight

Last night I saw Woody Allen's newest movie, Magic in the Moonlight. It was really delightful! Set in the 20s in the south of France, it's about a cynical ultra-rational magician (Colin Firth) who sets out to defraud a charming young psychic. Colin Firth was so great and funny. He had so many great lines. The dialogue in was really very clever.

Unfortunately rather early on I guessed an important plot point. But it didn't take away from my enjoyment of this cute, intelligent, and fun movie.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Snowflake/different streets

Last night I read Eileen Myles' Snowflake/different streets. Two wonderful collections of poetry! Her work just shimmers and lingers. Always a pleasure to read.

I'm going to copy a poem here, but I just know that blogger will fuck up the line breaks. Sorry, world.

the birds

I sort of like
myself each day
as you express
your longing looking
out the window
I witness your back
I groaning and
waiting for the
grains to soak their
reading some stray
thing eight years old
you pounce: oh.
Everything does its
work. Bold or hidden?
I enthuse to under
lining     moving you
again. Bigger more
insistent desires
remind me of the
friend I must call
and what remains
of last night
me to a
surprising wet
street. Returned
the formula & some
of the work's
done in my absence.
I will call you.
Like the book
your gift has arrived
inside me daily
now the underlining
to hold onto and be
heard now in the
wake of the new
knowledge. Just before
finishing I interupt
to say. Confident
in my relationship
to some sentence
some thing. And when I
thought your sweetness
would be left
you are gone.

I also want to share the last lines from her poem, "Like":

the night's a little devil
I hold in my hand
petting holding
his head
learning his
loves. Liking
him. Digging his heat.

Monday, July 28, 2014

sex, lies & videotape

sex, lies & videotape is fascinating. It takes a close look at a repressed woman, her relationship with her husband, and his affair with her sister. The story unfolds as an odd man who videotapes women talking about sex enters their lives.

Each scene has an incredible amount of tension, and it can be uncomfortable to watch. The acting and character development was good, as was the dialogue.

I found most of the characters to be unlikeable (except for Andie MacDowell) and I think I had been turned off by the whole movie when I first saw it decades ago. But I had a little more sympathy and less judgment this time around. Although I still had trouble sympathizing with James Spader's Graham. He just gave me the willies.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

 What an exhilarating concert! I just got home from seeing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds perform at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park. They were phenomenal. His style is both intimate and dramatic, big and small. There were smashingly loud numbers, and mournfully slow ones. And in both styles he was fiercely present. I wasn't familiar with a lot of the songs, as it's been quite a while since I've listened to him, but I'm definitely going to download his new music! It was a beautiful and invigorating evening!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dayna Kurtz at Barbes

Tonight I was privileged to hear the amazing Dayna Kurtz perform at Barbes. It was so incredible enjoying this arena sized talent in such an intimate venue. She has a beautiful, deep, rich voice, and performs her music with so much heart and feeling. Her songs deal with longing and loss and are deeply sorrowful, inspired, and haunting. I can't wait to hear her again!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Nickel Creek and Secret Sisters

Last night I saw Nickel Creek perform at Celebrate in Prospect Park. It was a lovely night and their music was so pretty and fun. I have been listening to their 2000 album for 14 years, and it was great to finally see them live (they even played a couple of songs form that album!). The singing was great, but I think my favorite parts were the instrumental sections.

Opening for Nickel Creek was the Secret Sisters a sweet country duo from Alabama. Their music was very fun and I thought how great it would be to hear them at a smaller venue, like a bar. They reminded me of all the great music I stumbled upon when I briefly stayed in New Orleans.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

John Wieners Selected Poems 1958-1984

Over the last week I've been reading John Wieners Selected Poems 1958-1984. These are beautiful, lyrical poems about loss, longing, and loneliness. They are wonderfully crafted, sad and haunting. And graceful. I was most drawn to the earlier books; the first half of the collection spoke to me more than the second half. But all is marvelous.

from "A  Series"


There is dirt under my nails
and my hands are hard and caked
with the abuses of lust,
     despair and drugs.

The night is a foreign place
without sound or shadow
as we lie abed waiting for the pills to take effect.

There are no poems or romance
left int he soul, only a churning
     in the belly.

Without image
we are bereft.

The soft syllable is denied us

and we reach, grasp for the word
as a life-preserver
     that sinks and bobs in the churning waves.

The walls are alive with pictures.
Faces haunt the dark.

There is nothing I can do
but go on led by the flickering of a flame
I cannot name.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Orange is the New Black, S2

This week I watched all of Season 2 of Orange is the New Black. As much as I really loved S1, I think the show got even better during the second season. It is still very soap opera-y, and I still have an issue with the idea of a prison being used as the set for a dramedy; it seems to trivialize and sensationalize a terrible experience and massive problem in our country -- turning it into something to be consumed as entertainment.

That said, I truly love this show and think it does a lot of good things. It portrays many complex and varied female characters; there are several portrayals of lesbians -- not fitting them into one box of a caricature; it portrays Latina and black and white women, again, in many different characters so there is no token stereotype; there are many older women; it deals with class; it deals with power and corruption; it explores numerous types of relationships: heterosexual romantic, gay romantic, female friendship, female rivalry, inmate-staff, etc...

S2 Orange is the New Black continues the Piper/Alex storyline, but it takes more of a back seat as many of the other inmates in the prison become even more fully developed. The backstories continue to be interesting, but a central drama develops over the power dynamics between two older women who are each head of families. V the head of the black crew and Red the head of the white crew. At times this began to bore me a little bit, but that may be because I watched the show in two or three episode chunks. Both these over 50 women gave remarkable stand out performances and the multiple dramas that surrounded this conflict were very interesting, particularly the relationship between Tasty and Poussey.

I love this show and can't believe I have to wait a whole year for the next season!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Re: Collection (at MAD)

Although I was disappointed with the MAD Biennial, I did enjoy the Museum of Art and Design's exhibition from their permanent collection, Re: Collection. There I found many objects that had the complexity and ingenuity and beauty that I usually encounter here, and which I respond so much to. Just about everything grabbed me. Pictured are details of a number of my favorite pieces.

NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial

The Museum of Art and Design at Columbus Circle is one of my favorite places in NYC, and it might be my favorite museum in the city. Their exhibitions are always full of lovely, fascinating, exquisite creations.

Because of so many wonderful experiences at MAD I am sorry to say I was a bit disappointed with their biennial, NYC Makers. Overall this two floor show seemed sort of garish and bright, and many of the pieces lacked the intricacy or delicacy or uniqueness that I was looking forward to. On the other hand, there were a number of pieces that stood out for me. This table of white sculptured objects; this wunderkammer type display of glass treasures, jewels, and curiosities; and this bright crunchy bead like rainbow sculpture are just a few. (My apologies for not noting the names of the artists; I found the printed catalog a little hard to follow).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys, the movie about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is chock full of cliches. There's nothing there you haven't seen before in some biopic or other -- the early days before the career took off, the rise to fame, the problems around fame (family drama, corruption, substance abuse, in-fighting between artists). And yet -- I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. First, the music was really fun. Second, there is comfort in cliche's; they don't tax you. Third, the two-dimensional characters were all more or less likable and the actors gave pleasant performances, with no one really hamming it up. Christopher Walken, as the early mafia supporter of the guys, was particularly great, and the scenes with him in them were my favorite.

He Who Gets Slapped

Last night I saw a silent movie at Celebrate Brooklyn. He Who Gets Slapped is a 1924 picture adapted from a Russian play. It is about a struggling scientist whose ideas are stolen by his wealthy benefactor. Humiliated in public in front of the Academy, he gets slapped by the Baron. Then his wife slaps him as she leaves him for the Baron. These experiences obviously imprint him, and later he becomes a clown famous for his act where other clowns get to slap him. The vicious crowds love watching the spectacle.

There are many surreal images in this film, which totally works the creepy clown cliche. The undertones of masochism are a bit disturbing, and it is ultimately a tale of abject spite. But enjoyable nonetheless.

He Who Gets Slapped at Celebrate was accompanied by FANTASTIC music performed by The Alloy Orchestra. They were really great. And the evening started with the amazing virtuoso guitar playing of Stephane Wrembel.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Magnolia is a mesmerizingly dark movie with an ensemble cast of intersecting characters. A number of the plot lines involve the people surrounding two men who have cancer, and death, resentment, regret and alienation are large themes.

The different scenes all take place in the same day in LA, and it has a wonderful, orchestral feeling, like you are watching different movements from a whole piece. It is not always great, but it comes together very well, with the mood sustained throughout by the music (mostly Aimee Mann) and the dramatic intensity of each scene.

Some of the acting was a bit over the top (I wasn't crazy about Julianne Moore or William H. Macy in this, although usually I think they are outstanding; here they seemed to be overdoing it a bit). Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance as the tender nurse, Phil Parma, was incredibly moving; and Tom Cruise as the alpha male self help guru pushing a course called Seduce and Destroy was also a stand out.

Magnolia is three hours long, and it never drags. There are some lovely and strange moments, such as when a song is playing in the background and one by one each character is singing with it. I also very much liked the raining frogs, which I know some people didn't care for at the time the movie was first released, in 1999. I thought it added a surreal and marvelously ugly element to the beautiful whole.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Auguries of Innocence

"I felt the lantern of your arm
the pageantry of your breath
the source of an exquisite wound."

Patti Smith's 2005 book of poems, Auguries of Innocence is a beautiful, incantatory, and elegiac offering. Her voice is powerful and earnest, lamenting and invoking. This small contains exquisite moments and lyrical lines.

Here is an excerpt from the poem "Mummer Love":

"Once I awoke and heard your voice. I caught bits of nature in truth, our whole natural world. I heard the dead. They were calling to me. I felt my powers. Yet I did not go out into the night. I did not go out into the world. I did not use my powers but I wrote what I wrote. My heart cries but my eyes are dry as a salt bed."

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Queer and Pleasant Danger

I just finished reading Kate Bornstein's A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is Today. And I'm wiping tears from my eyes. This memoir is kind of a fun romp -- Bornstein's prose is breezy and her tone conversational. She experiences many loves and much pleasure, and recounts many adventures. But ultimately she is reaching out to her daughter and grandchildren with whom she can't have contact because they still belong to the Church of Scientology. A Queer and Pleasant Danger is really written to them, with the hopes of connecting.

There are so many interesting elements to this story, from her conventional middle-class suburban upbringing to joining the Scientologists in the 70s where she became top ranked and worked for years on a ship. I confess that although I enjoyed her writing here, I found this part to be kind of puzzling. I just had a hard time relating to what lead her to join the Church, and I find nautical stuff in general kind of alienating and baffling.

After leaving the church, "Al" Bornstein begins to find his way to becoming Kate. And from there she becomes more creatively engaged with writing and performance art in San Francisco and Seattle. During this time she happily explores her sexuality as a trans lesbian masochist. She writes Gender Outlaw and emerges as a significant part of the queer community.

There is a lot of sex and a lot of love in this book, and although it is certain from parts of the narrative that there was real suffering through many stages of her life, what I came away with was a sense of joy. I felt like I read the memoir of someone who lived and lives fully, generously, honestly and without regret. I hope her daughter and granddaughter get a chance to meet her.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Microcosmos is a wild, beautiful, fascinating, and at times horrific documentary that zooms in on the lives of insects. Using macroscopic photographic techniques, the filmmakers capture the intense minutae of these strange lives.

Visually stunning, the film depicts small and smaller creatures that in real life I would run far from. Looking at the intricacies of their bodies and the complexities of their actions, I felt like I had stepped into another universe.

Microcosmos is slow. There is very little narration and many scenes study movements of insects and flora in such steady detail that it can feel like nothing is happening. In fact, sometimes I couldn't tell what was actually going on. For instance, why was a beetle so diligently trying to move a tiny piece of earth? I wouldn't have minded watching this with a science teacher or someone more informed than me, to help fill in the gaps.