Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Syllabus: Fellini and A Half


La Dolce Vita
La Citta Delle Donne
Le Notti di Cabiria
I Clowns
La Strada
Giulietta delgi spiriti
Ginger e Fred
8 1/2


Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung
Various Fellini scripts written for Roberto Rosselini
Fellini's drawings are key here

Field Trips:
I heart Roma
Cemetery of Rimini, where Frederico, Giulietta, and their son are buried

Course Objectives:

Why not start big. The circus: say something. Say more. Features of a face: Giulietta Masina. Acting with the face (and not the body): Giulietta Masina. Catholic imagery: explain. Find hope. Find peace. What is sexual freedom really. I once met a man who told me some stories. Screenwriter turned director. Is the dream world the dream world. How does one direct actors who don't speak the same language. On the far side of neorealism. What is immoral. I'm starting to hate the term art film: discuss. What can't you do that your religion won't allow. To what does 8 1/2 refer. Acting with the body. Circus Nostalgia. Nostalgia for Italy. Childhood Nostalgia. Was he remembering, wanting to remember, thinking back. Opening scene: by the sea. A man wonders around Italy "looking for the film." Now you are in color.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

You Ain't Lyin' About Milkwaukee

This is the Milwaukee glow coming off my cheeks and slight beer belly. Milwaukee gets the vote in our house. We stayed there an extra day because our home away from home host was in an art fair just off the steps of the Milwaukee Art Museum--a pretty damn fine museum. We slept in a room just beyond her downstairs studio and in the morning we walked around her paint splattered soft table and admired the walls of print cut-outs that she designed.

If that isn't lucky enough, someone packed Milwaukee with cute bars and artisan beer. And the bartenders know how to pour beer. (The whole place is like a pre-corporate Denver.) The do it yourself, artisan, artsy, and crafty atmosphere was warm and, well, plentiful. The Sparrow Collective was really cool and I bought some wall decals for my bare apartment, all the while wishing that we had a collective like that back home. Today I breakfasted at Alterra, a massive coffee shop, where I overheard some elderly folk talking about health care.

Look, if you're looking for a fun weekend place to go, go to Milwaukee. Look, if you're looking for a fun brewery tour, take the Lakefront tour. Look, if you're looking for a place to start over, a place with thriving industry, a place where you could find all the poets hanging out in Woodland Pattern, go to Milwaukee. Local artists attend poetry readings, held in one of the most beautiful apartments I've ever seen. Milwaukee is mystically unique.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fantasy Feature #407

It's a disappointment that doesn't mean anything. You walk into a hotel room with the lights off and your eyes closed, knowing that they aren't there. Only two hotels in your life had cotton balls. You don't even know why you look for them, but you do. Why do you need them. You don't do you. Salsa passes through your same test. If the salsa is good, so is the restaurant. But cotton balls. It's only every so often that you have to dab a doo on one and rub something on your face. You wish you rubbed a cotton ball on your face more often. When you were a child, you used to stick your hand inside the bag of cotton balls that lived under the bathroom sink. When you were a child you told your art teacher that you wanted to paint with a cotton ball and she said that's silly. The next day she said you could make clouds with three cotton balls but I'm warning you you'd better not be playing around. It hurts your ears to pull a cotton ball apart so it's best not to do that.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Frank Wheeler v. Leroy Moffitt

The old man and I have listened to recorded books as we've made our way across the country. The first book was Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. The reader was fabulous, truly a compliment since the book houses some incredibly brutal fights between a husband, Frank Wheeler, and his wife, April Wheeler.

We also listened to a short story that I recorded myself--a poo-poo recording filled with blanks and sorries--called "Shiloh" by Bobbie Ann Mason. Interestingly enough, both the short story and the book contain narrator husbands, men who don't want to be and never meant to be who they are, what they became. Both characters watch their women slip away and, somehow simultaneously, their manhood. Frank Wheeler drinks the kool-aide of suburban life: this way of life is easier, cheaper, you don't have any friends and hate your job, and life is easy because someone is at home raising your kids. Leroy Moffitt is in trouble for never really knowing his wife because he was always on the road as a truck driver until a recent accident. Leroy can't accept that his wife would want to leave him, that she'd want to take classes at the community college, that she'd rather be alone than be with him. When she says, "I want to leave you," he can only stammer, "No you don't." Likewise Frank Wheeler can't reconcile that he's a strangely terrible parent, that he doesn't let his wife abort their baby because he can't admit that he has a wife who doesn't want to have his baby. When April Wheeler says, "I don't love you anymore," Frank yells, "You Goddamn love me!"

Both "Shiloh" and Revolutionary Road maneuver around the corners of narrative point of view. Although it's written in third person limited from Leroy's perspective, Bobbie Ann Mason tricks her readers into feeling sorry for Leroy. But you realize his sits around doing nothing while his wife is body building and learning the organ. (Their break-up in the middle of the bloodiest battlefield of the Civil War is an excellent touch.) Revolutionary Road has a beguiling, unbalanced omniscient point of view. The characters are marvelously rich and if the book weren't written in such a macho, chest-pounding, I AM FICTION sort of way, I wouldn't have noticed that I was listening to a novel. The reason why I say this is that April Wheeler doesn't get tracked like the other characters do. You don't realize how far gone she is, how sick of the suburbs she is, how desperate she is to move to Paris until it is too late. Maybe I say this because the old man saw the movie and said that the movie was more balanced as far as she was concerned.

One point I'd like to make in Frank Wheeler's defense is that Revolutionary Road is a tale about veterans as much as it is one of suburban disillusionment. The one friend Frank Wheeler has, the one in love with April Wheeler, is also a veteran who exchanges war stories with him. New York City was probably a very different place in those days and there's something to say about being old before your time because of war. It's frightening to think about the boom and boom and bust of the mid '50's, what awful things were happening in such prim houses.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Former House #1

A few days ago I didn't have time to tell you that I passed by the first house I ever lived in. It's in Cheyenne, Wyoming and is surrounded by a gate that my father built. One of my first memories is of my father watching a tornado, wondering if it was going to digest the fence.

When I graduated from college, some friends and I took a road trip from Denver to Seattle. I happened to be driving while we passed through Cheyenne, my first time back since I was three years old. The landscape is truly lovely, windy, flat yet hilly, dry yet grassy, thundery. Just as I was basking in the open spaces, the beckoning frontier, just as I was imaging myself wearing dust-coated jeans everyday and carrying a sheep over my shoulders, two men in a beat up truck drove up next to us. I was probably telling my friends what a great town I was born in when one of these men hung out of his window, parted two of his fingers into a V, and commenced flapping his tongue between his two fingers, cunnilingus style.

My friends said that something about my personality was explained that day, but I think it's rather generous that he offered such a tremendous service to three traveling women. Did he know that he was propositioning a former local? There's a photo of me, after all, hanging in a bar that may or may not still exist. I was a baby, playing with a can of beer.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Former House #2

There is a place in Omaha, Nebraska frozen in the '70's. It has small windy roads that snake and stretch over hills, hills!, a rarity in Nebraska. Golden Hills is a suburb outside of Omaha and this is the second place my father took my family after I was born.

We lived in this house, sadly run down after our time there. I desperately wanted to go inside, but the man who lives there now barely allowed me to photograph the outside. My dad wanted to know if the rock he brought with him from Wyoming is still under the porch. A tornado came through once and blew the chimney over. The house is the last on a street of similar houses and our elementary school was at the top of the hill. After school, we would watch kids ride their bikes down the hill and since my mother was a nurse, she would patch them up when they fell.

We were lucky to be able to walk to school everyday, but it was really difficult in the snow, especially after the sidewalk was covered with ice. We used to have these cool gloves that would change colors when you stuck them in the snow.

To teach me how to ride a bike, my sister left me in the middle of this road, gathered all the neighborhood kids at the playground, and told me that I couldn't play with anyone until I rode the bike. The circle was massive and I thought I'd never be able to make it all the way around.

What I wanted to show you here, what the windows bright with sunshine prevented me from showing, was a pit in the floor of this room. Our teachers would bring us there and read to us. I love being read to. My sister used to read to me all the time, even when I was sixteen. The old man reads to me, most recently Joseph Bradshaw's chapbook while I was driving, and he also reads to me at home while I'm knitting.

I used to have a cubby like this. Cubby is such a neat word. I wonder what I stored in there.

The tether ball court, where I was constantly schooled, is some of the original playground equipment, besides the swings. The really fun old tractor tire jungle-gym had been taken down and replaced with some plastic crap that kids are too fat for these days. We were always careful to check the tires for tarantulas because they like to sit in warm places.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lend Me Your Music

The old man and I are driving across the country with the top down. It's awfully windy and when we're not listening to books, more on that later, we're having trouble hearing our music. I would happily drive to Department of Eagles and Sunset Rubdown, they have a new album after all, but the rockiness of the guitars gets lost in the wind.

We've had some success listening to singer/song writers, folksters such as:
Alela Diane, Mariee Sioux (which I listened to while passing Sioux City), Laura Marling, Bob Dylan--some of these go without saying like Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Bon Iver, Johnny Flynn, Iron & Wine, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, & Young, Olaf Arnalds, Nanci Griffith, Sam Amidon... you get the idea.

Do you have any recommendations? Something that can compete with wind? I'll download it right away as long as it's not too late when I get to Reno.

We Killed All the Buffalo to Make Room for Roadkill

I haven't been on a road trip since my late twenties and am currently very tired and almost in the west coast, in Utah. I'd forgotten what death machines cars are. As we make our way out west, the old man and I talked about how the plains were plains and buffalo used to roam them. (There was even a cute cardboard buffalo on top of a rolling hill near the Wyoming border.) But the buffalo had to be killed in order to make room for the railroad. I have been completely horrified by all the roadkill I'm seeing. I can't help but look, no one can help that, and the worst is making eye contact with a face that has guts hanging out of its mouth or is contorted with pain. Most of the dead raccoons look as though they are sleeping, as though curling up on the side of the road were the same as a real warm shoulder or family. Raccoons are weirdly private, you know, in the way they look like burglars, and I image that they turn over in their last moments. What can we all do, really. The speed limit it 75, so most of us are going 80 or so and there's no way to slow down if a little critter suddenly crosses your path.

I saw a huge deer with huge antlers, dead, practically wrapped around a mile marker. I saw a porcupine (a porcupine!) with its nose on its paws, quills flapping in the wind. I think about what it would be like to be hit by a car, to be really hit by a car. I think about this all the time in the city while riding my bike, but I usually think about what I would say to the person who hit me. (Why weren't you watching where you were going; where did you get those shoes.) What it would be like to die alone on the road, bleeding to death and broken. I saw a coyote splayed on the ground, completely flattened. That our roadsides are sprinkled with dead creatures says the worst about us. I don't know what the alternative is to, uh, roads, but it's real damn shitty that an innocent animal would pay the consequence for it, something like an armadillo that was made with protective armor, a live panoply, but apparently not enough to protect it from us. Don't get me started on the thousands of dead bugs all over the windshield, side mirrors, and front of the car.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Syllabus: A Way Into William Faulkner

Texts, in this order:

The Sound and the Fury
Light in August
As I Lay Dying
If I Forget Thee Jerusalem (The Wild Palms/Old Man)
The Reivers
Absalom, Absalom!
A Fable
Go Down, Moses
Soldier's Pay


The Big Sleep
To Have and Have Not


1949 Nobel acceptance

Field Trip:

William Faulkner's house--Rowan Oak, Oxford, Mississippi

Course Objectives:

If you read them in this order, you'll get Faulkner. Is Joe Christmas not the best name. Anyone who pronounces Yoknapatawpha on the first day of class gets a really large pencil. No really, what is the South really like, the post Civil War South. (Did you know FDR spoke at the funeral for the last Civil War veteran?) Is it still in shambles. If you see your sister's underwear while you're holding her up to peak in on talking adults and her underwear was soiled, what happens when you fall in love with her. There are three ways to tell a story and you've never used one of 'em. What is a sentence. Be mindful of this dialogue, honey. I bet you didn't know about all those outlines hanging on his office wall; someone may have wanted us to discuss stream of consciousness, but that's bullshit. We could look at the original covers all day. You know what a swamp rabbit is. Fine, we'll read Mosquitoes. Novel as form: novel in parts, parts mixed up, holy cow nonlinear story telling, novels that switch with other sections of other novels within the same novel. You've never been to a horse race, have you.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My Name Is Now Your Name

I guess you may have heard by now that my namesake, Farrah Fawcett, passed away last week. I watched a few episodes of Charlie's Angels when I was a kid, The Burning Bed, and her small role in The Apostle, and I always thought it was funny to see her poster hanging in John Travolta's room at the beginning of Saturday Night Fever. The most I spoke of her was when I said her name on the telephone. On the phone, the S and F sound alike and most people think I say "Sarah" when I leave messages. So if I said "Farrah, you know, like Farrah Fawcett," then people knew what my name was.

I've known two other Farrahs, one who spelled her name with one R (the Arabic spelling) and one from my small-town high school. I've really liked my name. It's weird having your namesake pass on, however, because then you know that it really will someday happen to you too. The name has been unique, I guess not enough to escape death, but I've enjoyed typically being the only Farrah I know. When my sister and I collected Garbage Pail Kids, I was very proud to come across Farrah Fossil. It felt as though it was made for me.