Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's All About the Fish

I was thinking about "The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir" by Richard Hugo earlier today and came across this interesting video. I love the pack of 100's in his pocket and I love that someone is smoking in class. I wonder what happened to the students in that class.

He doesn't read the poem until about four minutes in. The sound of his voice is so odd to me because it doesn't have any mean tones at all. I know recordings are different that hearing someone more than once, etc., but I was really struck by the way he didn't sound like he was the one who had written that poem. What is best is the floating fish superimposed next to the couple at the beach.

Friday, January 29, 2010

My Rally in Your Union

This week I walked in what is known as Outside for the first time since I came down with the flu last week. I made my debut upon The World at a noon-time emergency healthcare rally. Some other guy was coughing and sneezing behind me and I have to admit that I was coughing on the back of my own sign. There were speakers. They spoke into a microphone so we could actually hear them this time. One of them was a doctor. I have hope?

The State of the Union didn't exactly ramp anything up. Obama and others keep talking about how we have to go after Wall Street. (Obama is actually pretty soft on this, if you want to know. A tax on bankers who fucked our system and "earned" even more millions? They aren't fooling anyone). Now corporations can spend however much they want on elections. (How much is that exactly? They pay a great deal as is. They pay so much to fight healthcare that they could've funded healthcare already. Does this mean I'm going to be denied even more coverage so they can buy off the legislative branch?) Wall Street and corporations. We act like they're these huge, mysterious, monstrous, free-reigning beings and I guess they are since we always hear about them as such. (I actually live on Main Street--go figure). Don't we know that these giant monsters are the way they are because we refuse to regulate them? We have a deregulated market and that is why an elite few are running away with my savings and my dad's hard earned retirement money.

Here's where I'm confused. Republicans time and time again say that we can't have universal healthcare and other certain programs because they cost too much (although no one seems to talk about how much it costs to fight it) and our government is getting too big. They constantly talk about "the government" as though it were also one of those huge, monstrous, big thingies. Well, if everything is pretty much a big thingie, then who's going down first? Oh, right. The government. It's not that big. It's consists of the people you and I voted for, sitting somewhere with their thumb up their butts or not, getting bought out or not.

My wish, starting now, is for Republicans to tell the truth. They're Christians! They can do it! They are not worried about our government getting too big. They already know it can't because it is becoming more and more hollowed out. Last night, on national television, one of our Supreme Court Justices, someone sworn in for a lifetime to uphold the Constitution and nothing but, shook his head and pouted when Obama openly disagreed with the Citizens United decision. In his own mind, Justice Alito may or may not have embarrassed himself last night, but he sure did let us know our government--our oh-so-scary big bag government--starting with our highest court, with the exception of very few, is comprised of me-first, stop- progress, can't-think-of-anything-except-morals-they-can't-uphold, liars, hypocrites, and bought-out war mongers with, thank you Alito, even less integrity.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Do What My Fever Tells Me

Did you know that Freud used to paint all of his family members? How crazy is that? Maybe all psychoanalysts should paint all their patients? I only found this out while searching for artists who portray their mothers--a reaction I had to Aline Smithson's latest work. She painted a series of portraits of her mother in profile, wearing different costumes. The paintings are kind of campy, but I still kind of like them, especially the one of the mother dressed in equestrian clothing, holding the reins of a horse in a nearby painting. Pretty cute.

I think it's great that someone is depicting older women. Actually, my only compliment for that silly thing, Nine, was that two older women were featured in the film, holding just as much importance and weight as the other actresses. (Quite a sultry role for Judie Dench, eh?) I'll discuss one other film here, although it doesn't involve an older woman, but a strong women nonetheless. (These roles being less frequent these days). While sick in bed I watched Francois Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player and although the character Lena is a young woman, I was amazed by what a strong (literally) role she has. Just after one man says all women should use nice language and be fragile all their lives, Lena carries her passed out lover Charlie into a basement to hide him from the police. This act also comes after she is forced to laugh with Charlie and the two cronies (after Charlie's brother) over the statement: once you've been with one woman, you've been with them all. We know Lena can laugh loudly at that, being at how frank she is with her lover, Charlie/Edward, saying if you don't want to be with me, just tell me. I love that.

With a group of friends last week I watched another episode in the so-interesting series The Secret Life of a Masterpiece, this one about Whistler's portrait of his mother. I wanted to spit every time an American woman said how nostalgic the painting made her feel. Really? They found the painting so comforting! They think she's the ultimate grandmother! I'm being for real! In the constant celebration of Puritanism and misguided morals, people around me continue to elect Republicans who will do more harm than good for the sake of morals. Will we ever shake off our Puritanism? One of the talking heads described Whistler's mother as the ultimate "old biddy," a detestable term, but kind of the right one in this case. She's dressed in black, she's unhappy, her husband left her with hardship. Whistler very purposefully went against lush Victorian norms, going so far as to call the painting "Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fever 103 My Nothing Fantasy Feature

Goddamn the goddamn flu. You watched a movie about how shitty the food industry is. You didn't know Oprah was sued by the cattle industry for saying she didn't want to eat a burger during the Mad Cow scare. It cost her one million dollars to fight them. What does anyone's sick voice sound like. You wanted to call someone but it hurt to talk. You wanted to know if you're whiny or pouty. Your eyes are big and puffy. You hurt so badly. The old man brings you water. He cooked you matzah ball soup. You sweat through your hair. Your pajamas stuck to the floor. You have now made it through four of six Lone Wolf and Cub samurai movies. Today you may watch Baby Cart in the Land of Demons. Slight suspicion--you watched them in the wrong order. Maybe there will be ghosts of the slain in it. You want to go to Japan. You want to not be sick.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You Should Say Scary

If his first book The Man Suit sits on the borders of tender absurdity, Zachary Schomburg's newest book, Scary, No Scary, hovers on the borders of absurd and tender yet existential. The Man Suit explores costume and disguise, even going so far as to limit all man and woman names to Carlos and Marlene. (Both of which are so manly and so womanly; Marlene being particularly old timey). The poems pose a weird sort of ontology, discovering why things are the way they are and how things happen as reactions to other actions. Schomburg's, Scary, No Scary investigates smallness. Abnormally or obtrusively gigantic things dwarf small things that appear throughout the book--spiders (being stuck in between spaces like a wolf spider), hummingbirds, and eyelashes (piles of). There is also quite a bit of attention given to sex parts... pointing at them... wrapping fake intestines around them... and the sex that happens with those sex parts always takes place as a kind of reward. The sex seems to surprise, seems to happen in unforeseen places. I couldn't help but note the continuous references to babies and children, even a "pretend son," for that matter, and their nod toward thinking of oneself as adultish, as someone capable of taking care of someone else, someone with advice to give.

The poem, "The Black Hole," is a perfect example of how Zachary Schomburg's poems are composed of absurd, sort of silly action, at the heart of which sits painful tenderness and incredibly poignant language. Have a listen to "The Black Hole" here:

The poem's movement is so staggeringly precise yet informal. Feeling "as if our hearts had been switched" delicately and quickly moves into the moment after, an end-of-times scenario in which we pass each other with each other's hearts. This delicate balance happens moment to moment, at the start, recognizing that one would push someone else into the back hole, that one wants to jump into it oneself, wants to investigate mortality or something unknown.

I actually prefer this poem in its poem-film form, which Schomburg arranged himself. It's an incredible experience to read the words as they are given slowly on the screen (along with images and sound). It breaks up the boxiness of the prose poem as well as slows it down to it's inherent humorous heart break. You can watch "The Black Hole" as well as some of his other films here or watch it with me here:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Amongst the Bombings and The Carnival

What a cock tease, I so incorrectly thought while getting through the first thirty minutes or so of Luis Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire. And finally, some boobs. And at last maybe they're going to do it, but. I finally got what the whole thing was about a bit too late, which isn't saying much for my supposed contemporary sensibilities. Bunuel once said his films "would" reveal that we "do not live in the best of all possible worlds." In other words, we don't live so much as let social constructs control us. I felt so disgusted with myself for wondering when Conchita was going to give it up once I realized, why should she have to? How odd that a film made in 1977 was asking the same thing: just because a man wants something, just because that thing is coquettish, does he deserve to have it? (The title of the first version of this film, directed in 1935 by Josef von Sternberg and starring Marlene Dietrich, was The Devil Is a Woman). Mathieu wants to "possess" her so badly that he doesn't even notice that she's two different people, tries to buy her from her mother, and later beats her up and frightens her so badly that she urinates in her clothing. On the other hand, why does she ask for a home from him, why does she dance naked for tourists, and why does she pretend to fuck someone else in front of him, why does she constantly toy with him? Her mind games are quite difficult to engage and I was somewhat just as frustrated with her as Mathieu is. In the background are the apocalyptic explosions of terrorists' bombings.

It is no small coincidence (aw shit, am I always saying that? Art is connected to timing!) that I watched That Obscure Object of Desire, Bunuel's last film, a few days after watching Fellini's late period City of Women. Both films host their confrontations of gender politics in strange settings, the first under the threat of constant terror bombings and the second in a burlesque-type of carnival. (Could we say one man's embrace of Socialism and another's fear of facism?) The carnival setting depicts, both graciously and gratuitously, the changing role of women. The carnival setting is perfect for the lead role, a womanizer, who finds himself trapped in the middle of a feminist convention. Where Bunuel is dark and heady, Fellini is playful. The lead, played by Marcello Mastroianni, talks to himself throughout the film; at the convention the women are having provocative discussions as well as putting on plays and trying to create positive words to describe the vagina--just to name a few examples. One thing Fellini's films almost always show is how easily available sex for men, and how remorselessly so. We cannot deny that Fellini's carnival and circus settings hint at nostalgia, with indirect undertones of rascal jocularity, but the carnival setting offers the exuberant chorus of many women speaking out together and it couldn't be anything but beautiful, funny, interesting, weird, and loud.

If I never get to the bottom of what exactly both films were trying to say, I'm more or less cool with that. Both films created unforgettable cinematic moments and accomplished what I can't do for you here... they made me feel what it was like to witness women vibrantly changing the entire social landscape.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

You Don't Watch Antonioni. Antonioni Watches You.

I finally finished watching something I'd fallen asleep to: L'Avventura, which itself is an allusive Italian word meaning both adventure and fling. The old man and I joked about the big brotherness of falling asleep during a film, the little life that is always always, hovering on the walls and your eyelids, telling you what to dream and to dream with great camera work. What played on after I fell asleep: two friends (Claudia and Sandro) become lovers while searching Italy for their friend Anna who disappears earlier in the film. You'll know they're driving around northern Italy because of the mountains.

I liked how the melodramatic affair between two friends (his girlfriend is the one who disappears) is set against their friends who represent the disenchanted members of the idle upper-class. None of them becomes overwhelmingly upset or affected by Anna's disappearance and they even go so far as to scold themselves for making a joke of it. All the while the two lovers drive throughout Italy, their selfless motivations succumbing to their passion for each other, which kind of means Anna's return is unwanted after all. Mine mine mine, Claudia tells Sandro. Those who think they feel so much often realize they feel so little. Who feels anything anyway. Is it embarrassing and beneath you to let yourself be taken by melodrama? While I was watching, I couldn't help but think of Laura Marling's song, "New Romantic." This is a pretty cute video I recommend checking out. (I love the floating "sorry" on the floor).

While the authorities search for Anna, a police captain tells a smuggler, in order for information about her, that he'll get the smuggler set up with state services because he's obviously been stealing to help his family. I know it was tongue-in-cheek (where the hell did that phrase come from anyway), for Antonioni's films were not subsidized by the state. I however can't help but acknowledge that if this were an American film, the smuggler would've been offered a lesser sentence and not social services.

Antonioni has a delicate style of filming, featuring perplexing sensual cuts. For example, just after Sandro and Claudia are fooling around outside, they drive to a strange town where Anna may have stayed. Sandro leaves Claudia outside with every man in the piazza. It used to be a thing that Italian men would stand around outside at night. This was true even in the '80's when my family lived in Sicily. (My mother had quite a time getting my sister and I to our nightly piano lessons and orthodontist appointments, without the three of us being cat-called or asked where my father was). As Claudia becomes more and more surrounded by fiery men, she realizes she's in love with Sandro and darn if she isn't ashamed he's her best friend's boyfriend. I couldn't help but think about Ruth Orkin's photograph, An American Girl in Italy and what women think about when they are in those sorts of situations. A friend of mine had the photo framed and hung in his living room and we often discussed whether or not the woman wanted the attention, if she was trying to cover herself, and the overall pressures women have to be constantly beautiful even if it garners unwanted attention.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fantasy Feature No. 7

If garlic were tongues. The night after you cooked with garlic you sit with your fingers nearly up your nostrils on the subway. None of the other passengers know what you were doing the night before, roasted vegetables. Poor vampires. Definition of a hangnail: you were cooking not talking. You'll give up garlic like you'll give up booze. Is it time for soup yet. Research shows you should eat at least two cloves of garlic a day. With you. The family had an important meeting; someone was turning older. You were slicing avocado, looking at the garlic. Once it goes in it becomes a thing. If a bit of garlic fell on your leg would you eat where you found it. You had to cut off your nails to get the smell out. Someone said to rub your hands on steel.