Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dancing About Architecture

So I watched Julie and Julia last night and came away with two impressions. The first is that I could have watched an entire movie based on the story between Julia Child and her husband Paul. They were played so effortlessly by Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci that you just wanted to be their friend and soak up their absolute love and devotion. Swoon.

The second is that writing is, in itself, the ends justifying the means.

Let me explain. So, in the movie, Julie is a woman adrift in life looking for a purpose. She decides that she will create each recipe out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and blog about it. Obviously, I don’t have a problem with the blog aspect, but what I did have a problem with was her idea that the only point of writing was to be read. (In her case, to be read, published, and become a “Writer.”)

I disagree.

If I play the piano, does there have to be an audience in attendance to make the performance worthwhile? Or, can I simply enjoy the act of playing and the music that I create? Does the sound have to be shared to be appreciated?

Blogging is like playing piano in an apartment complex. If your neighbors want to listen to your music, they keep their windows open. In my case, if you want to read my posts, you have to open my link. A good neighbor does not pound the keys at 2am, but may try to play Brahms at nap time. I write knowing that there are neighbors who can hear through walls.

How many people write in a diary? I expect a very large percentage would never, ever like that diary to be read aloud at a book store, or in a classroom, or even in a living room. Those people do not write to be read. They write because they have words that must be purged from their head. They write because they get incensed, frustrated, amused, or titillated about a topic. Same here, except I am a social creature and when there is no one around to whom I may express my thoughts I head to the web, write a blog, and send it off into the void. The words are out of my head. If they go into someone else’s, then that is just fantastic. But if not, well, at least they aren’t stuck in mine anymore.

I write because I enjoy it. I write to get better, to better define myself and my world view. And much like playing the piano, I need constant practice. Have you ever heard someone who practices music just enough to get through? As a listener, you can hear almost every note struck, every chord sounded because there is no flow, no tempo. I write because the percussive sound of all the consonants and vowels, plosives, and plurals sing to me. The more I write, the better I can follow the song, the more voices I can bring in on the chorus, and the better my rhythm. I write so that I reach the high notes and hit the low notes. I write because words are the music to my soul. And while I claim not to have a soul and that I keep my heart locked up in a metal chest buried in my backyard for safe keeping, even I cannot deny the words of the Bard (cough, cough, Whedon),

“Life’s a show and we all play a part/
And when the music starts/
We open up our hearts.”

Words are my music. Won't you like to sing along?

(My next post will resort back to my regularly scheduled snarking, rudeness, cursing, dirty thoughts, and ridiculousness.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Get Out

With my husband working lots of late hours, I have started to watch some truly terrifying television. And no, I am not talking about the Jersey Shore, which is terrifying in a completely different way. Nope, I’ve started watching Ghost Hunters.

Is it real? Is it fake? Damned if I know. But what I do know is this – If I hear someone walking in an empty room, I do not run up the stairs to investigate, I run down the stairs to get away from it. If I hear a disembodied voice, I do not ask the voice to repeat itself; instead, I “la la la” as loudly as I can until it goes away. I do not wander about in pitch black rooms with a teeny tiny flashlight. I do not wander the bowels of basements or the rafters of attics hoping something from the other side decides to go “boo.” That way lays madness.

For the record, I am a believer. In fact, I have seen thing with my very own eyes. Even my parents will admit that the house I initially grew up in was haunted. Very strange things were seen and heard by every member of my family at many different times.

The attic of the house was finished and filled with lots and lots of noises. My dad always said the house was just “settling.” My mother simply refused to go up there – so of course, that is where the kid bedrooms were located. Yes, people, my mother sent her children to sleep in rooms she would not willingly enter. Anyway, I once saw something so terrifying that I refused to sleep in my bedroom for two full years – instead choosing to sleep on the sofa in the family room. Of course, my parents never asked me what it was and I apparently blocked it out. Sounds stupid? Yup, but surely, it had to be something truly disturbing since I readily chose to sleep in a room that had, what I like to call, a funny window. It was a window that you could watch a sunrise out of in the middle of the night. One that was at least eight feet off the ground, but you could see people walk right by. When it was open, you could hear noises that were singularly petrifying, yet absolutely indiscernible from the other window in the room.

To avoid the attic, I once even chose to sleep in the basement, which had been renovated into an apartment for my grandparents. It was a hot night, the basement was cool, and my sister said she would join me down there. The wall connecting the bedroom and the living room was mostly bookshelves, so you could see right through. While I lay abed, I watched my grandfather stand up, stub out his cigarette, walk over to the TV, turn it off, and then turn to start to walk toward the bathroom. Since he was dead at the time, you’ll forgive me if I didn’t wait to see if he managed the light by himself and instead, ran upstairs as fast as my little legs could carry me.

Believe it or not, scoff if you will, debunk if you must, but do not watch Ghost Hunters before bed. The night-vision, the musical cues, the matter-of-fact way the investigators talk about invisible little girls pulling on their pant leg, all of it combined will make the most stoic person get a chill. I usually try to cleanse my viewing palate with HGTV or Food Network afterwards just to put myself in a different frame of mind before I close my eyes. Last night, I was dumb enough to fall asleep during it and boy, did I have quite a rough night. Because, while I know any disembodied voices will undoubtedly be emanating from the baby monitor, and I know any mysterious presence by the bed will just be my stealthy five-year old, and I know any strange noises will simply be part of my husband’s snoring repertoire, it is the unknown that I really do not want to encounter at 3 a.m.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bedazzling is the Devil’s Craft

Ok people, I want you to listen very closely. There is such a thing as over-sharing. There is such a thing as too much information. There is such a thing as telling very private things to a very public audience. While your job may be to promote yourself and your project on national television, you are allowed to keep some topics off limits. Your personal life can remain relatively private if you allow it. For example, unless you are Robert Pattinson and in constant need of a bath, your grooming habits do not need to be shared. I do not need to know if you go Brazilian, landing strip, or shave hearts into your nether regions. And I do not, under any circumstances, need to know that you bedazzle your bits. Yes, ladies and gentleman (I assume my poor husband is the only guy who reads this), there is such a thing.

Thank you, Jennifer Love Hewitt, for sharing this with the world. And it wasn’t even a result of a bet gone wrong (speaking of which, green is really not Kiefer’s color.) While promoting her book (!?!), J-Love told everyone about how she put Swarovski Crystals on her “precious lady” and “it shined like a disco ball.” Oh my ever loving God. Really? Did it need to? Does your significant other need a homing beacon? Does he need a light to read the map to your g-spot? Because honey, if he does, he isn’t that significant.

Let’s discuss the practical aspects of what she refers to as “vagazzling.” What, per say, do you use to get them to stick? I imagine a Brazilian is needed as the first step. Then what? Elmer’s? Are they self-adhering like pasties? Once you have them on, how do you get them off? A potty break would require a little bit of, shall we say, wear and tear? Even a thong would dim the glow, so to speak. Plus, I assume the point is for your special friend to check out the view. Wouldn’t want to dance to the disco beat by yourself, right? So, then friction enters the equation and now you’ve brought new meaning to putting Swarovski Crystals where the sun doesn’t shine.

Only a rich idiot would even have come up with using high-end crystals. If ghost whispering pays that much, surely, she can throw some money my way because honestly, I imagine the plastic jewels and sequins sold in bulk at any craft store would do the deed just as well. Her book (?!?) is just the start to her marketing this idiocy to a mass audience. I can picture it now – a line of Swarovski beavers that are filled with removable crystals – for his and her pleasure. Sold exclusively at Macy’s.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shoot the Glass

Last night, I watched one of the stupidest action movies I have ever seen. It doesn’t even matter what it was, just fill in the name of almost any movie made in the past decade. It was loud, ludicrous, and totally devoid of common sense, logic, gravity, and the laws of physics. It featured a cast of bland actors, a script filled with unimaginative dialogue, and a plot a seven-year old could write – in crayon. National monuments were destroyed, the implied civilian death toll resulting from shootings, explosions, and car accidents was astronomical, and everyone knew kung-fu. There was no blood, no nudity, and one PG-13 allowed curse. Sigh. I miss the 80s.

The movies of my youth were filled with blood, boobs, and bad language. Men either shot each other or beat the crap out of each other, the way God intended. A bad guy was simply a bad guy. He didn’t have an emotionally /financially/ physically traumatizing back story that turned him evil. The plot, meager as it may have been, unfolded organically – one thing always led to another. There weren’t a whole lot of flashbacks, flash forwards, time travel, or alternate universes (Terminator being the exception to the rule.)

Sadly, all that has changed. Then, when someone went on a rampage, there were bodies and blood everywhere. Now, there is nary a wayward body part or a soot-covered, bloodied civilian in sight. Where’s the fun in that? And where are the boobs? I’m so tired of modern actresses discussing how nudity must serve the role. Oh grow up. They are just boobs. Show ‘em if you got ‘em. You probably paid enough for them, might as well get your money’s worth. Worst of all, in 1988, you got “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker." In 2007, all you got was the Yippie. No motherfucking allowed. Really? I curse under my breath if I stub my toe – if I have to shoot myself through the shoulder to save the world, I’m pretty sure I’m going to unleash a set of expletives that will make a sailor blush.

Women in action movies today are all based on Trinity – all black leather and blank faces. Ho hum. Sure, the women of the 80s were always just arm candy or damsels in distress, but they had pizzazz. Holly Gennaro and Marion Ravenwood were filled with piss and vinegar, and even Minnie Mouse-voiced Sarah Connor had enough brains to duck when necessary. The new crop of women may be Evil with a capital E, but they are boring, boring, boring. Yes, Lara Croft was a good-girl who could kick ass, but she never seemed to enjoy it.

Plus, I just really miss the slow build of a plot and characters that lead to relatable action. Hans Gruber did not step out from the elevator onto the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Plaza until the 23 minute mark. By that point in most modern movies, half the planet has been destroyed. We were shown, not told that Gruber was a charming criminal mastermind. I don’t think Gabriel of Live Free and Die Hard was cool enough to be Theo’s intern. McClane stuffed everything he found into his pockets (excluding the detonators, which wouldn’t fit). Now, everyone has a man-bag stuffed with the latest technology and can turn any household appliance into a weapon. There is just no thrill in watching someone work on a computer, no matter how fast they type.

Give me a lead who needs to shave more than once a week, a plot that can stand on its own, and madness and mayhem that actually serves the story. Throw in some good lines, good action sequences, and a solid ending that isn’t automatically set up for a sequel and I am one happy woman.

(Obviously, the Bourne series is above reproach because it has Matt Damon in it.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

When You Wish Upon a Star . . .

. . . you get stomped to death by an evil voodoo doctor. Welcome to the Wonderful World of Disney.

Last week, I took my daughter to see The Princess and the Frog. She already had the doll, the book, and had seen the preview a million times. She was ready. I, on the other hand, was not. You see, my daughter has no imagination – so, what she sees on screen, she believes is real. This led to her sobbing throughout the entire Clifford movie because the big red dog was separated from Emily Elizabeth. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that everyone lived happily ever after – but my daughter didn’t realize that. The poor little thing sat in that dark theater, with tears pouring down her face, occasionally begging me to make them get back together, and it was just heartbreaking. She was the very picture of abject misery and grief. So, you can imagine how much I was looking forward to the death and disillusionment of the modern Disney movie. At least Clifford had been part of the free summer movie series – this time, I was paying for the nightmares.

But, a promise is a promise and off we went. Now, I admit that I attended a grand total of two new releases last year (Star Trek and New Moon), but unless the running time of movies has changed dramatically, what on earth were people going to do with the feeder bags of popcorn? The recommended serving of popcorn is three cups. The kid’s size has twice that. The adult-size, without extra butter, has the same amount of fat as eight Big Macs. Yes, that will supersize my ass quite nicely, thanks. You could watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended versions) with that same amount of popcorn. Plus, we went to an 11:10 movie – so conceivably, everyone just had breakfast, right? The latest you would get out, with previews, would be 1pm leaving plenty of time to eat lunch before nap. Is that much popcorn really necessary? But I digress.

I liked the movie. The heroine was plucky and interesting, the prince had a voice like honey, and the songs were entertaining. I visited New Orleans years ago under extenuating circumstances that ruined any chance of it being fun, I have always longed to go back, and the movie helped remind me why I liked it so much. I giggled when John Goodman yelled out “Stella” in his best Tennessee William’s voice, and I thought the class distinctions were subtle yet clear. But of course, there were deaths.

[Warning, here there be spoilers.]

I am forever thankful that Tiana’s father was killed off-screen and we weren’t treated to an animated version of the 92nd Division heroic participation in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. However, Disney animators really need to get over their family issues and stop killing off the freaking parents. As a parent myself, I’m starting to find the practice a little disconcerting. Plus, did the Cajun firefly have to get, well, all right, there really is no other way to say it – squashed like a bug? And even if he did, did we have to watch the funeral? In all six rows of the tiniest theater in NJ, kids were asking their parents what was happening on screen, and in all six rows of the tiniest theater in NJ, parents were refusing to answer.

Then there was Dr. Facilier, whom The Little Golden book describes as a “bad magic man.” Considering that he brings forth the souls of hell to do his bidding, calling him merely bad is an understatement. When he got his final comeuppance, the kind woman next to me gently suggested that I hide my little ones eyes – and I certainly did. I am pretty sure the under-six age group doesn’t need to see a person dragged down to hell while still screaming. If I wanted her to see that, I’d rent Hellraiser.

Overall, the experience was positive. My daughter claimed she loved the movie, though I noticed that when she told her father all about it, she mostly focused on the clothes. He learned what Tiana wore in every scene, but not a whole lot about the actual plot. But no nightmares - so far.

I, for one, am thankful to Disney for allowing Tiana to be loved because she did actually have a great personality and not because she was naked. The prince fell in love with her because she worked hard and tried to be a good person, not because she had a very, very long tongue. Positive messages! I like that in a princess.