Posted in Current Events, Film, Uncategorized

Making A Difference

As mentioned previously, Bill commented on my Mardi Gras post and was very complimentary. I wrote back to him about making difference, and he blogged about it. Bill mentions me in his blog–so much so that I feel celebrated! Thanks, Bill!

One of the things I didn’t say in my e-mail: I know people who did not go see Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth because they were afraid they would be depressed. They figured they knew about the whole global warming thing anyway, so what’s the point of sitting through a downer?

I saw the film, and the take-away message that I got? That one person CAN make a difference, DOES make a difference.

So that’s my kick in the butt to those of you who have been avoiding the film!

Posted in Current Events, Film, Uncategorized

China’s Muscles on Display

So China can shoot down satellites.

“The organizing princple of any society, Mr. Garrison, is for war. The authority of the state over its people resides in its war powers.” – “X” to Jim Garrison in Oliver Stone’s film, JFK.

So it’s not just a message to the rest of the world after all.

Nothing like technological prowess to make you feel good about your country.

By the way, if you haven’t seen JFK, or haven’t seen it lately, check it out. Enduring relevancy.

Posted in Film, Green & Pleasant Land, Uncategorized

In the parking lot of Ralph’s

I went to see The Queen yesterday, and afterwards I was feeling all nostalgic about England. It was the first evening after the time change, so it’s just about 5 pm we’re on the way to darkness. From somewhere, from nowhere, it got cooler and the breeze whispered, “This is as close as it gets to autumn in southern California, so you’d better enjoy it.”

I took a detour on my way back to the car and stepped into Book Alley, a fine used-book establishment. I leafed through a volume of George Herbert, found a book with a lot of poet’s pictures in it, and wondered how I would pose if I were ever being photographed as “poet.” Everyone in the book looks wizened, or scholarly, or both. I decided that crossed-eyes, or a balloon creation on the head, would be the way to go.

So I’m in the car, and I decide to stop at Ralph’s on the way home. Not one of my favorite stops, but my husband is having dinner with a friend so it’s a chance for me to make pasta for dinner (he’s a potato guy), and I need parmesan cheese. I pull into the parking lot and wow–I see a friend of mine…a new friend who is English and who’s just returned from a trip home to promote her one-woman show (she’s in the midst of writing it and had a good nibble from the folks at Really Useful Group.)

She doesn’t live in my town…just happened to be here for a meal and shopping. It was so fun and affirming and great to bump into her…what are the chances?

Happy autumn, everyone.

Posted in Film, Poesy, Writing

This Day in Literary History

I am a huge fan of Garrison Keillor, something for which I sometimes feel the need to apologize. I’m not sure why. Too white, middle-class, mid-Western? Not hip enough? Hey, if Robert Altman makes a film based on your long-running radio show, that’s about as cool as it gets.

I’m also a huge fan of The Writer’s Almanac. Here’s a bit of today’s edition (14 October 2006):

It’s the birthday of poet E. E. Cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings), born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1894). He was a man who wrote joyful, almost childlike poems about the beauty of nature and love, even though he was actually a conservative, irritable man who hated noisy modern inventions like vacuum cleaners and radios. He spent most of his life unhappy, struggling to pay the bills, ostracized for his unpopular political views.

He had published several books of poetry, including Tulips and Chimneys (1923), when he traveled to Russia in 1931, hoping to write about the superior society under the rule of communism. He was horrified at what he found. He saw no lovers, no one laughing, no one enjoying themselves. The theaters and museums were full of propaganda, and the people were scared to talk to each other in the street. Everyone was miserable.

When he got home, he wrote about the experience, comparing Russia to Dante’s Inferno. Most of the publishers at the time were communists themselves, and they turned their backs on Cummings for criticizing communist Russia. Many magazines refused to publish his poetry or review his books. But the attacks only made him more stubborn. He said, “To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

He tried to write a script for a ballet, but it was never performed. He tried writing for the movies in Hollywood, but found that he spent all his time painting humming birds and sunsets instead of working on screenplays. He had to borrow money from his parents and his friends. He said, “I’m living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.” A few years later, he decided to make some extra money by giving a series of lectures at Harvard University. Most lecturers spoke from behind a lectern, but he sat on the stage, read his poetry aloud, and talked about what it meant to him.

The faculty members were embarrassed by his earnestness, but the undergraduates adored him and came to his lectures in droves. Even though he suffered from terrible back pains, and had to wear a metal brace that he called an “iron maiden,” he began traveling and giving readings at universities across the country. By the end of the 1950s he had become the most popular poet in America. He loved performing and loved the applause, and the last few years of his life were the happiest. He died on September 2, 1962.
In the first edition of his Collected Poems, he wrote in the preface, “The poems to come are for you and for me and are not for most people—it’s no use trying to pretend that mostpeople and ourselves are alike. … You and I are human beings; most people are snobs.”
It’s the birthday of short-story writer Katherine Mansfield, born Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp in Wellington, New Zealand (1888). She’s the author of short-story collections such as Bliss and Other Stories (1920) and The Garden Party, and Other Stories (1922); and she is known as one of the originators of the modern short story in English.

Her father was an incredibly successful businessman in the growing economy of New Zealand, and he sent her away to school in England. After her 18 birthday, when her parents came to pick her up from her English school and bring her back to New Zealand, she found that she no longer had anything in common with them or their values. She wrote in her journal on the boat ride home, “They are worse than I had even expected. They are prying and curious, they are watchful and they discuss only the food. … For more than a quarter of an hour they are quite unbearable, and so absolutely my mental inferiors.”

As soon as she got back to New Zealand, she became one of the wildest members of the small artistic community there. She had affairs with men and women; she traveled deep into the countryside and lived with the indigenous people; and she published a series of occasionally scandalous stories under a variety of pseudonyms. In a letter to an editor, asking for money, she wrote, “[I have] a rapacious appetite for everything and principles as light as my purse.” Eventually, her parents gave her an allowance so she could move to London, and she never returned to New Zealand.

Mansfield lived so freely in the London bohemian scene that she eventually had to destroy her own diaries for fear of incriminating evidence. At one point, she married a man she barely knew, but left him before the wedding night was over, because she couldn’t stand the pink bedspread and the lampshade with pink tassels in the hotel room. She had to settle down a bit when her mother came to London and threatened to put her in a convent. She said, “How idiotic civilization is! Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle?”

She wrote sketches and essays for various newspapers and journals, but she didn’t begin to write the stories that made her famous until her younger brother came to visit her in 1915. They had long talks over the course of the summer, reminiscing about growing up in New Zealand. She hadn’t seen him in years and found that she had more in common with him than any other member of the family. He left that fall to start military duty as a soldier in World War I. She learned two months later that he had been killed while demonstrating how to throw a grenade. She was devastated, and she dealt with her grief by writing a series of short stories about her childhood, including “The Garden Party,” which many consider her masterpiece. She died of tuberculosis a few years later in January 1923, at the age of 34. She wrote, “How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you—you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences—little rags and shreds of your very life.”

Rock on, all you writers out there.

Posted in Film, Uncategorized

Voyeurs of Warriors

Simply having too much fun this Labor Day weekend.  Some brilliant people at Cinespia came up with the idea of showing films at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. We went for a screening of The Warriors, something of a cult classic. Our friend Eric Schurenburg was an extra in this epic about the gangs of New York ca. 1979.

It’s great to sit outside on a nice summer evening with several hundred people, snacking and drinking wine, and then watch a film with a bunch of film lovers. Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who played Mercy, was in the audience with us celebrating her birthday. We all sang for her…we were close enough to see her smile in the candle glow. Happy Birthday, Deborah!

Posted in Books, Film, Food & Drink, Tennis

Making a List

Stuff I’ve done lately:

1. Watched Crash – only it was David Cronenberg’s Crash and not Paul Haggis’ Crash Ugh.  Who needs that much dysfunction?  Besides, the movie had very little structure, it was just an endless loop–a conflagration of sex and violence.  Still have Haggis’ Crash waiting in the wings…thanks to Netflix.

2. Watched a lot of tennis at the Pacific Life Open.  One of the most fun matches was Knowles and Nestor vs. Bjorkman and Mirnyi.  Knowles plays World Team Tennis in Sacramento, and a bunch of fans came down to give “Knowlesy” support.  We also walked right by Rod Laver…a nice sighting for any devoted tennis fan.

3. Started to read Kindred by Octavia Butler, the current pick for the City of Pasadena’s One City One Story program.  My book club is talking about it tonight…I won’t finish by then, but it is a good read.

4. I balanced the checkbook.  Someone’s got to care about the checkbook…it might as well be me.  Balancing my checkbook feels like my secret revenge–or perhaps it is just recovery–from all those math classes I really sucked at.  Ha ha, teacher I can balance my checkbook.  To the penny!

5. I walked three miles this morning.  The best thing about that is that I can spend the rest of today saying, “I walked three miles this morning” to myself whenever anything goes wrong.

Finally, a Random Observation:

Everyone complains about the price of gas, but has anyone besides me wondered why milk is more expensive than gas–even now?