28 November 2011

Life is What Happens When You're Busy Making Other Plans So Plan Accordingly

"Sensitive. That killed me. That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a goddamn toilet seat." - From Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

"The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it." From A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

On the bus ride home from the gym there was a young couple speaking an East European language. They were in love and didn't care who knew it. The notion of a time and place for everything had no meaning to them. Ditto the woman towards the back of the bus who was chattering away on her cell phone. Loudly. I couldn't tell whether it was more or less annoying that she wasn't speaking English (Arabic, I think) and decided it was a push. There was an obese woman on the bus taking up two seats. She was fanning herself vigorously despite the fact that it was chilly outside. There were a lot of college students on the bus with suitcases. They were returning from four days back home. Finals are coming up for them.

It had been to crowded for me at the gym. But I got in my workout so who's to complain? On the treadmill next to me was a very, tall slender blonde woman who must have been about 20 years old. She had strong, gorgeous legs and a tight, fairly small ass. I pegged her for a volleyball player. Later I passed by her and saw that she was wearing a tee shirt that said UC Davis Volleyball. Called it! My oldest was a volleyball player, so I spent a lot of time at tournaments and know my female volleyball players.

At home I worked. I miss scratching things out with a pen on a legal pad. Now it's straight to the computer. There's a kinestetic aspect to it that's missing. Get a little bit of that feeling if I'm typing furiously.

Thought some more about the movie I watched the previous night. I'd started to write about it. Guess I'd better finish. Here it is:

Life is full of pain and suffering and misery and for all of us it ends in death. This is a rule absent of any exceptions. It is from this understanding that art springs.

Artists, whether writers, filmmakers or painters, try vainly to make sense of the human experience. Those efforts to create sense often create beauty. Or understanding is never complete -- progress not perfection -- but it brings comfort to feel closer to truth.

Ingmar Bergman's To Joy (1950) is about the death of a spouse. We meet a man at the beginning of the film who is a violinist in a Swedish orchestra, evidently one of some renown. He is summoned home where he is informed of the tragic death of his wife in an accident that has also badly injured one of his twin children.

Most of the rest of the film is a flashback telling the story of the man and wife and how they met and married and loved and hated and separated and re-united and loved some more. It is a rather thick slice of a life. A rich one that most anyone can identify with. Chock full of all that life has to offer. The pain, the joy, the growth, the richness of experiences deeply felt.

Then we are back to the grieving man and the utter desolation of a premature death. But the story does not end as a melodramatic tragedy. I'd rather encourage you to see the film for yourself than reveal the ending. Suffice to say it offers, if not exactly hope, a sense of the spirit that life must go on and despite the worst happening can be appreciated, must be appreciated. Our time on Earth is to be savored, however and whenever and to as great a degree as possible.

Beethoven's Ode to Joy is a way to express and to understand this.

Bergman's To Joy is another.

14 November 2011

Odds and Ends Again? Already? But Ultimately With a Focus on Two Terrific Films: Le Havre and Ivan's Childhood

I overheard a conversation in which one person described being at a party where turducken was served (that's chicken and duck cooked within a turkey). She said it was "sort of a f*ck you to vegetarians." Yeah, I can see that. We've got it coming for sure. We walk around not eating meat all the time. The nerve.

I've come across people who do not own TVs. Bully for them. If you can get by watching movies on your computer and don't give a fig about sports it's doable. But what I find interesting is how many of them watch TV shows, entire seasons of them, on their computers either via Hulu, Netflix instant, the show websites or rented DVDs. So let me get this straight, you're proud of not having a TV but you watch the shows that originate by and for that media.

I was on the bus the other day and I was like hearing college students who were like over using like this one word. They were all like saying like all the time and they were like really getting on my nerves. I was all like please stop, like saying like every other word. If I'd liked actually like said something they'd be all like, whatever.

Hey did you just google me and come across my blog and decide to have a read? There's no mystery about me. Some people you google and there's virtually nothing. But idiots like me with a blog in which we pour out our heart and soul (and the minutia of our day-to-day existence) we're easy to catch up on. Hey, why not shoot me an email? What, we went to high school together? College? We did a stretch in the slammer at the same time? Maybe were in the same mental institution. Maybe we were co-workers. Or your a former students or teacher or lover or hater or rival or doppelganger or dentist or deviant or dog catcher or neighbor or teller.

I watched two terrific movies this past weekend: Ivan's Childhood (1962) a Russian film from director Andrei Tarkovsky and Finnish director Aki Kaurasmaki's latest, Le Havre. Ivan's Childhood is like a rich hearty meal that leaves you sated but somehow wanting more. Le Havre is simpler fare but no less appetizing or satisfying. There is a sensibility to Kaurasmaki's films that I can relate to as a fellow Finn. Yet he has a broad appeal. Kaurasmaki is an internationally recognized director and in fact this latest work is set and spoken in French. There is a decided lack of flamboyance in both his story telling and his characters. Actually that is understating it. In a typical Kaurasmaki film the characters are as emotional as oil paintings, which is remarkable in light of the trying  and sometimes tragic circumstances that constantly befall them. The trials also lead to humor that is of the deadest deadpan you can conjure. To turn a phrase: you chuckle, you frown, it becomes a part of you. It also has the feeling of reality. Not real. Just the feeling of it. Some things that are too real are like rifling through the trash. Kuarasmaki's films are like the best yard sales ever. Le Havre is his most hopeful film. For him it is a veritable romp through the tulips. The first of a projected Harbor Trilogy, it concerns a wise and earnest elderly shoe shiner married to a devoted and stoic wife. He stumbles upon an African illegal trying to make it to London. Our hero aids and abets the refugee with the help of other locals (and his dog). Meanwhile his wife enters the hospital with a seemingly fatal illness. Yes, Le Havre deals with issues of immigration but it is more than that by half. For at the real heart of the film is the heart of people desperate to do their bit in the service of good. They are not heroes, just heroic.

Ivan's Childhood is one of those coming of age stories. You know, the kind where you come of age during WWII and your lost innocence transforms into blood lust born of a desire to seek revenge to those who....Anyway. This was my introduction to Tarkovsky and suffice to say I'm hooked. With IC he tells a non linear story wrapped in dreams and not so much the fog of war as the mists. For such a brutal, sad tale it is beautifully told. The cinematography, in glorious black and white, is sumptuous. This is a film in which Bergman meets Antonioni and Kurosawa drops by. There is nothing beautiful about war, but there can be and is in this kind of exquisite film. 

02 November 2011

Yes, It's Time Again for Odds & Ends

Can I get everyone's attention, please? 
Thank you. I'd like to get us together on a few things. Please, no more saying "these ones" or "those ones." You sound like a little kid when you say either of those. A simple "these" or "those" will suffice. Also, and this is important, the word is anyway. There is no s at the end of it. When you put the s at the end you sound like a middle school kid. A poorly educated one at that.

I'm trying to sort out what it is about those people in the early 20s who are so totally self absorbed. You know who I mean? People who share their opinions on everything and  never hesitate about stating their preferences and sharing stories of their "experiences." Their favorite topic is themselves and they almost never shut up. I believe that they suffer from terrible insecurity. They're at the tail end of their college days or done completely. They have become aware of who they are and how they fit into the world. They have just started venturing out into said world to forge a career. They are scared shitless at this prospect. They thus find security by wrapping themselves within the cocoon of their own egos. By always talking they never have to face the horrible silence.  They don't have to look squarely into the face of destiny if there's mouths are going non stop. So us older folks are stuck listening to them prattle on endlessly. The only relationship we can have with them is as a sounding board. Maybe if they had to work in a coal mine for a few years they'd come back humble and quiet....

Hey that whack job Ann KKKoulter said that "our blacks are so much better than their blacks" referring to conservative African Americans by the possessive pronoun. She is often excused by those who assert that she says these things for shock value and to sell books. What, so that makes it okay? Of course her comment, indeed her very being, exemplifies the growing chasm between the left and right in this country. She's the type of blowhard who makes political divisions solidified. The whole mentality has changed from two groups with different views of how to improve conditions for everyone to us versus them. They bad we good. Fox News has contributed mightily to the notion that "the other side" is bad and our side is good. Compromise is seen as weakness, not a staple of politics. Good luck getting anything done, America....

I'm going to cop to the fact that sometimes after a long hard day of work I will flop on the sofa and turn on the idiot box. Fortunately 30 Rock re-runs are all over cable these days and likely will remain so for eons to come. 30 Rock is one of those extremely rare sitcoms that actually makes you LOL. (Aren't you sick of the way people will use LOL for things that barely make them titter, let alone laugh out loud? Me too.) The shows "work" because of the unbeatable combination of a great cast and great writing. The humor is timely, wise and non-stop. A disturbing trend afflicted sitcoms starting in the 1980s. I speak of the dramatic storyline ala will they get married? Will they break up? Will he quit his job and become a trappist monk? That sort of diversion is fine as long as laughs remain the priority but not when there are long periods of out and out drama. You never saw Jackie Gleason, Carl Reiner or Bob Newhart bog down a show with a lot of tension. You don't see it in 30 Rock either. The show will be producing new episodes again in January. Can't wait....