Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Romance: Yin and Yang

(c) 2010 K. Smokey Cormier

Paper-white narcissuses, one hundred bulbs in shallow pools of moistened pebbles, their roots exposed, clinging, pale anchors steadying the blooms as they angle toward the sun. The windows are never completely closed because the sweet powdery scent would be unbearable. In those corners where sunlight is an unfulfilled promise, there are bowls of varying sizes holding hydrangea clusters, dried, the color of barely brewed tea. With no water to weigh them down, the blooms rattle against their china vessels whenever a draft sidles through the garret. The petals scraping lightly against the bone-enriched walls sing the song of a rainfall. I choose to remember these things only. The rest I will discard.

I will forget that you entered 27 rue de Fleurus as a "writer" among a sea of others who opened the studio door with a letter of introduction and a face handsome with talent and promise. You stood at the front of the studio listening to a man who had his back to me. I entered the room with a tray of sugar-dusted cakes for all the young men who sit and stand, a hungry circle radiating around GertrudeStein. After years of the imposed invisibility of servitude, I am acutely aware when I am being watched, a sensitivity born from absence, a grain of salt on the tongue of a man who has tasted only bitter. As I checked the teapots to see whether they needed to be replenished, I felt a slight pressure. It was the weight of your eyes resting on my lips. I looked up, and I saw you standing next to a mirror reflecting the image of a wiry young man with deeply set, startled eyes. I looked up, and I was seeing myself beside you. I am at sea again, I thought. Waves are coursing through my veins. I am at sea again.

-- from The Book of Salt by Monique Truong


Yin yang. Balance. Very important. The flip side to the excerpt above ...

Here’s a scene from one of my favorite shows right now -- PARKS and RECREATION. I just love Amy Poehler. She plays that mixture of incompetency + earnestness so well. Here's the scene ... Amy’s character is called Leslie Knope (love that name!), she’s with her friend, Ann, and is very nervous about going out on a first date. She’s asking Ann for advice and is now asking “what if” questions.

Leslie: What if he shows up with another woman? What if one of my sleeves catches on fire and it spreads rapidly? What if, instead of Tic Tacs, I pop a couple of Ambien and I have to keep punching my leg to stay awake?

Ann: Those are all insane hypotheticals and I promise you they won’t happen!

Leslie: They have happened. All of these have happened to me.


Leslie: No, there’s more. One time I accidentally drank an entire bottle of vinegar ... I thought it was terrible wine.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Glee: Teenage Dream

This is amazing and wonderful ... a valentine to all the young gay men out there ...

[If it doesn't stream smoothly, go right here.]

Ms. Manitoba has lived through severe homophobia. This video made me sob. I cried for sadness and joy. Sadness for all the young ones who have lost their lives because of homophobia. Joy that we have come at least this far. In my day, Lee Grant couldn't say "pregnant" on her TV show and now we have this. I am thankful. More road to go, however.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sharon Olds

Photograph by Catherine Mauger.

Happy Birthday, Sharon Olds.

Sharon Olds is one of my very favorite poets. I fell in love with her poems in the early 80's. This is one of her most beautiful, most devastating poems.

I Go Back to May 1937

by Sharon Olds

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

* * *

I once had the pleasure of reading this poem at a fund-raiser.

And from today's edition of The Writer's Almanac:
It's the birthday of best-selling poet Sharon Olds, born in San Francisco on this day in 1942. Her collections include Satan Says (1980), The Dead and the Living (1984), The Gold Cell (1987), The Matter of This World (1987), The Sign of Saturn (1991), The Father (1992), The Wellspring (1996), Blood, Tin, Straw (1999), The Unswept Room (2002), Strike Sparks (2004), and One Secret Thing (2008). Since she began publishing in the 1980s, her poems have appeared in more than 100 poetry anthologies.

She grew up in Berkeley, California, where she was brought up as a "hellfire Calvinist," she said. Though a nonbeliever from a young age, she said that she was greatly influenced by the "great literary art and bad literary art" of her church. Psalms were great art, she said, and hymns were not. She said, "The four-beat was something that was part of my consciousness before I was born."

She went across the Bay to Stanford for college, where she studied a bunch of different languages, including French, German, Greek, Italian, and Middle English. And then she moved to New York City to do a Ph.D. in literature at Columbia. She wrote her own poems, but she wasn't happy with them. She felt as though she were imitating the poets she studied for grad school. She was 30 years old, desperately wanting to find her own voice, and had what she calls a "religious experience" wherein she made a deal with the devil on the steps of Columbia's library. She once described it like this:

"I said to free will or the pagan god of making things, or whoever, let me write my own stuff. I'll give up everything I've learned, anything, if you'll let me write my poems. They don't have to be any good, but just mine." It was in the syntax of her prayer that came an epiphany. She explained: "What happened was enjambment. Writing over the end of the line and having a noun starting each line — it had some psychological meaning to me, like I was protecting things by hiding them. Poems started pouring out of me and Satan was in a lot of them. Also, toilets."

She started going to writing workshops at the local YMCA, and eventually she published her first collection of poems, called Satan Says (1980). She later realized that she wrote in the structure of the hymns of her youth, which is what felt comfortable to her, but that she "had to ride over the end of the line" to craft her poems.

When her first book was published, she was a few years shy of 40. Within a decade, she'd released several highly acclaimed, best-selling collections, and she'd also become the director of the Graduate Writing Program at NYU. She was so busy that she decided for one year she would not watch TV, read a newspaper or book, or go hear music, just so that she'd have enough time to do her job and keep writing poetry.

She was poet laureate of New York from 1998 to 2000. She still teaches creative writing at NYU, and she writes poems from her apartment on the Upper West Side, in a rocking chair with a view of the Hudson River. She uses different colored ballpoint pens to compose poems, and sometimes puts stickers on the pages of her drafts, which remind her of the stained glass windows of her religious youth. She said that she loves "odd" or "strange" words. She said: "By the time I see that it's a poem, it's almost written in my head somewhere. It's as if there's someone inside of me who perceives order and beauty — and disorder. And who wants to make little copies. Who wants to put together something that will bear some relationship to the vision or memory or experience or story or idea or dream or whatever."

She once described poetry as coming from her lungs, and said that to her, "Poetry is so physical, the music of it and the movement of thought." She said that over the years, she has noticed that ideas for poems will come to her when she's dancing or running, and that these ideas seem to come to mind with the act of breathing deeply, with the intake of oxygen. She said, "Suddenly you're remembering something that you haven't thought of for years."

Her advice to young poets is this: "Take your vitamins. Exercise. Just work to love yourself as much as you can — not more than the people around you but not so much less."

She once said: "I'm not asking a poem to carry a lot of rocks in its pockets. Just being an ordinary observer and liver and feeler and letting the experience get through you onto the notebook with the pen, through the arm, out of the body, onto the page, without distortion."

And, "Poets are like steam valves, where the ordinary feelings of ordinary people can escape and be shown."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Crazy Heart: Mini review

I tried to watch Crazy Heart -- I really did. What a lousy unbelievable story! A wet dream for white male sixty-somethings. Here's this 57-yr old, has-been country singer. A terrible drunk. And this barely-30-yr-old woman (Maggie Gyllenhall) falls in love with him. The guy is a wreck!!! And broke! AND ... *she's* got a kid. Maybe there is a woman in this country that would fall in love with this character and take him in -- but all her friends would be talking about her behind her back: "She's gone absoFUCKINGlutely nuts!!!" There are no women I know who would do that to their child -- I don't care how cute this guy is when he plays with the kid. Nobody I know would bring a train wreck into their child's life. (Okay, maybe lots of us start out when we're young with train wrecks and then have kids with them -- that's different.)

Really ... this is fantasyland for older men (executive producers who give the green light to screenplays like this!!).

I am a Jeff Bridges fan from waaaaaaaaaay back. And he is very good in this. It's the premise that is so wrong. And Jeff Bridges has done much better work in my opinion: The Fisher King, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Fearless, and the-not-well-known film - The Amateurs.

The other acting is very good too. But I just kept shaking my head.

I loved Jeff Bridges' singing and the songs are quite good. But, I just kept shaking my head.

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton: Dark Shadows

Ms. Manitoba is behind in the news ... but I just heard that these two will be working together on a Dark Shadows feature film. I'm so excited!

I was really into Dark Shadows the tv show back in the day. I had a night job (Ms. Manitoba has told you before -- I've had a million jobs!) as a switchboard operator ("one ringy dingy, two ringy dingy" ... to quote another favorite of mine) in New Jersey. So, I'm really looking forward to this one!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Michael Pollan talks to moths ...

Michael Pollan says that moths should: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Pants.”

[once again Ms. Manitoba's brain strikes]

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gerald Durrell: Learn From Our Mistakes

(c) 2007 K. Smokey Cormier

Gerald Durrell wrote a letter to seal in a time capsule, and he said:
"The world is to us what the Garden of Eden was supposed to be to Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were banished, but we are banishing ourselves from our Eden. The difference is that Adam and Eve had somewhere else to go. We have nowhere else to go. We hope that by the time you read this you will have at least partially curtailed our reckless greed and stupidity. If we have not, at least some of us have tried. … All we can say is learn from what we have achieved, but above all learn from our mistakes, do not go on endlessly like a squirrel in a wheel committing the same errors hour by hour day by day year after year century after century as we have done up to now. We hope that there will be fireflies and glow-worms at night to guide you and butterflies in hedges and forests to greet you. We hope that there will still be the extraordinary varieties of creatures sharing the land of the planet with you to enchant you."

Gerald Durrell was a zoologist and writer Gerald Durrell and was born in Jamshedpur, India, in 1925. He loved animals. From the Writer's Almanac:
He worked for a while collecting animals for zoos, but his methods clashed with the zoology ideas of the day— he wanted to get rare animals and increase their populations, not just get the showy animals that people would pay a lot of money to see.

His dream was to open a zoo of his own. His older brother, Lawrence Durrell, was a successful novelist, and Lawrence suggested that Gerald should write an autobiography in order to raise money. So in 1953 Gerald published The Overloaded Ark, a huge success in Britain and America, and he went on to write 32 more books, mostly nonfiction, many of them best-sellers, including A Zoo in My Luggage (1960), A Bevy of Beasts (1973), and My Family and Other Animals (1956), a memoir of his childhood.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This is so Canadian - Quality over Quantity

(c) 2010 K. Smokey Cormier

From Yahoo news ...

TORONTO (Reuters) – Book lovers seeking a copy of the winner of Canada's premier literary award are out of luck, unless they're ready to settle for an electronic version.

"The Sentimentalists," a surprise winner of the C$50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize this week, is trickling only slowly into bookstores as its tiny publisher cranks out copies.

The book, by first-time novelist Johanna Skibsrud, is sold out across Canada.

Nova Scotia-based specialty publisher Gaspereau Press can produce only 1,000 copies a week of their finely bound books, using an old-fashioned press.


Indigo has sold all four of its hardcover copies of the prize-winning book, which is based on the story of Skibsrud's father, a Vietnam War veteran. It has thousands more on order.

Canadian media said Gaspereau Press has received offers from a few large publishers, including UK-based Random House, to print more, but it has so far refused, sticking to its mantra of quality over quantity.

Giller winners often sell tens of thousands of copies, a huge multiple of original sales. "The Sentimentalists" had a first run of 800 books and was reported to have sold around half of that before the novel was placed on the longlist of nominations for the Giller nomination.

But Silver said Indigo has sold hundreds of copies of its electronic version, up from just a handful before the prize was announced...

(Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Janet Guttsman and Rob Wilson)

I'm proud that I spent some of my youf in Canada.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book List 2010

Sadly behind on everything this year, except dealing with medical crises and lawsuits. Wevs, as y'all might say.

This is the list for 01/01/2010:

Book List 2010
  1. A Ceremonial Death - B.J. Oliphant
  2. A History of Cambodia - David Chandler
  3. A House in Gross Disorder - Cynthia B. Herrup
  4. A Journalist, A General, and An Army in Burma - U Thaung
  5. A Mercy - Toni Morrison
  6. A Novel Bookstore - Laurence Cousse
  7. A Point of Light - Zhou Mei
  8. Agnes Smedley - J.R. & S.R. MacKinnon
  9. Among the White Moonfaces - Shirley Lim Geok-lin
  10. An Advanced History of India - Majumdar, Raychaudhuri & Dutta
  11. Ancient Roman Feasts & Recipes - Jon Solomon
  12. Asian Dragons & Green Trade - Simon Tay & Daniel Esty
  13. Beating the Blues - Thase & Lang
  14. Before Kampuchea - Milton Osborne
  15. Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
  16. Black Dog of Fate - Peter Balakian
  17. Buddhism in Vietnam - Minh Chi, Ha Van Tan, Nguyen Tai Thu
  18. Cambodia Silenced: The Press Under Six Regimes - Harish Mehta
  19. Captains of Consciousness - Stuart Ewen
  20. Chinese Customs - Henri Dore
  21. Christmas Island -
  22. Colonial Masculinity - Mrinalini Sinha
  23. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot
  24. Death for Old Times' Sake - A.J. Orde
  25. Desis in the House - Sunaina Maira
  26. Finnegan's Wake - James Joyce
  27. Fire in the Lake - Frances Fitzgerald
  28. First Person Singular - Joyce Carol Oates
  29. Flashbacks - Morley Safer
  30. Flower of the Dragon - Richard Boyle
  31. Folklore of Tamil Nadu - S.M.L. Lakshman Chettiar
  32. Gandhi's Truth — On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence - Erik H. Erikson
  33. Grasshoppers & Elephants - Wilfred Burchett
  34. Hero And Deity - Pham Quynh Phuong
  35. In Pursuit of Mountain Rats - Anthony Short
  36. Incursion: From America's Chokehold on the NVA Lifelines to the Sacking of the Cambodian Sanctuaries - J.D. Coleman
  37. In The Woods - Tana French
  38. Into Cambodia - Keith William Nolan
  39. Isvar Chandra Vidyasagar - Subhal Chandra Mitra
  40. Juliet, Naked - Nick Hornby
  41. Khmers Stand Up! - Justin Corfield
  42. Looking for the Aardvark - A.J. Orde
  43. May 13 - Kua Kia Soong
  44. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson
  45. Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan - Melody Ermachild Chavis
  46. Minorities of the Sino-Vietnamese Borderland - Maurice Abadie
  47. Murder and Mayhem in 17th Century Cambodia - Alfons van der Kraan
  48. Myths About The Ethnic Chinese "Economic Miracle" - Go Bon Juan & Joaquim Sy
  49. Nakshi Kantha of Bengal - Sila Basak
  50. Nonsense - Robert J. Gula
  51. No Cowardly Past - James Puthucheary
  52. Offerings: The Ritual Art of Bali -
  53. Orientalism - Edward W. Said
  54. Outwitting the Gestapo - Lucie Aubrac
  55. Pearl S. Buck, A Cultural Biography - Peter Conn
  56. People's War, People's Army - Vo Nguyen Giap
  57. Pham Xuan An, General of the Secret Service - Hoang Hai Van & Tan Thu
  58. Physics and Philosophy - Werner Heisenberg
  59. Pol Pot - Philip Short
  60. Primitive Art - Frank Boas
  61. Reading Lolita In Teheran - Azar Nafisi
  62. Rosie - Anne Lamott
  63. Sapphires & Garlic - Ruth Reichl
  64. Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye (The Biography Of A Master Film-Maker - Andrew Robinson
  65. Screenwriting 434 - Lew Hunter
  66. Self Censorship: Singapore's Shame - James Gomez
  67. Shanghai Refuge, A Memoir of the WWII Jewish Ghetto - Ernest G. Heppner
  68. Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts
  69. Sherpas Through Their Rituals - Sherry B. Ortner
  70. Shirin Fozdar: Asia's Foremost Feminist - Rose Ong
  71. Singapore:Journey Into Nationhood
  72. Singapore The Air-Conditioned Nation - Cherian George
  73. Singapore & The Many-Headed Monster - Joe Conceicao
  74. Singapore Women Re-presented - Constance Singam and Audrey Chin
  75. Singapore's People's Action Party: Its History, Organization and Leadership - Pang Cheng Lian
  76. Sisters in the Resistance - Margaret Collins Weitz
  77. Sisters of Heaven - Patti Gully
  78. Square Foot Gardening - Mel Bartholomew
  79. Still Life - E.E. Horlak
  80. Strangers Always A Jewish Family in Wartime Shanghai - Rena Krasno
  81. Stress and Mental Health in Malaysian Society - Tan Chee Khuan
  82. The Art of the Novel - Milan Kundera
  83. The Birth of Vietnam - Keith Weller Taylor
  84. The British Humiliation of Burma - Terence R. Blackburn
  85. The Devil Finds Work - James Baldwin
  86. The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barberry
  87. The Emergence of Modern Turkey - Bernard Lewis
  88. The Emperor - Ryszard Kapuscinski
  89. The Enthusiast - Charlie Haas
  90. The Gift - Lewis Hyde
  91. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
  92. The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson
  93. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson
  94. The Hatchet Man of Singapore - J.B. Jeyaretnam
  95. The Hungry Tide - Amitav Ghosh
  96. The Likeness - Tana French
  97. The Lives of Agnes Smedley - Ruth Price
  98. The March of Folly From Troy To Vietnam - Barbara W. Tuchman
  99. The Mind's I - Hofstadter & Dennett
  100. The Mother Tongue - Bill Bryson
  101. The Narrow Strip of Land - Tran Mai Nam
  102. The Pantropheon - Alexis Soyer
  103. The Penang Po Leung Kuk -
  104. The Plague - Albert Camus
  105. The Political Economy of Social Control in Singapore - Christopher Tremewan
  106. The Remembered Village - M.N. Srinivasan
  107. The Rise & Fall of the Knights Templar - Gordon Napier
  108. The Singapore Council of Women and The Women's Movement - Phyllis Ghim Lian Chew
  109. The Singapore House - Norman Edwards
  110. The Syonan Years I - Lee Geok Boi
  111. The Syonan Years II - Lee Geok Boi
  112. The Tin Drum - Gunther Grass
  113. The Triads in Singapore and Malaya - Leon Comber
  114. The Ugly Chinaman - Bo Yang
  115. The Unexpected Corpse - B.J. Oliphant
  116. The Way of All Flesh - Samuel Butler
  117. Time Bombs in Malaysia - Lim Kit Siang
  118. Victims and Perpetrators - Ea Meng-try & Sorya Sim
  119. Vietnam & America: The Most Comprehensive Documented History of the Vietnam War - Gettleman, et al
  120. Vietnam Cultural Window
  121. Warsaw of Asia: The Rape of Manila - Boni Escoda
  122. Who Killed Aung San? - Kin Oung
  123. Women in the Holocaust - Dalia Ofer, Lenore J. Weitzman, Eds.
  124. Writers' Workshop in a Book - Cheuse and Alvarez
  125. Yogini Cult & Temples - Vidya Dehejia

  126. Your Memory: A User's Guide - Alan Baddeley

Go ahead. Tell me I overdid it. See if I care.

Obviously I'll never finish this fucking buttload of books before January. Stay tuned for the book review.

2009 Final Book Review

This is it! The final review of books on my reading list for the year.

2009 Final Book Review
  • A VietCong Memoir - Truong Nhu Tang

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A very, very interesting look at the VN war from the inside. The writer, who now lives in France, was a member of the "middle" - neither pro-Viet Minh nor pro-American, initially. He describes how his sympathies turned towards the Viet Minh (later derisively termed by the Americans "Viet Cong"), and the resulting power shifts and political ideologies created by the long battle by VietNamese nationalists against foreign occupation, colonization, and all the ills attendant thereupon. He suffered for his ideology, and is understandably somewhat bitter as a result, but his memoir is well worth reading.
    Reread? As time permits.

  • Armed Communist Movements in Southeast Asia - Lim Joo Jock, Vani S., Eds.

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A series of scholarly papers on the nature and capabilities of the armed factions of the Communist party throughout Southeast Asia. Technical. Requires a reasonable familiarity with the history and politics of the region. Only for those with real interest.
    Reread? Probably not.

  • Comet In Our Sky: Lim Chin Siong in History - Tan Jing Quee and Jomo K.S., Eds

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A must for anyone with any interest in the history of Southeast Asia. A revealing look at the machinations of the British and the puppets that they used in order to hold on to the last vestiges of their crumbling empire. It will change your outlook on history and politics, regardless of your current ideology.
    Reread? Yes.

  • Kranji - Romen Bose

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Only for those with any serious interest in the WW II as it played out in the Pacific Theater, and the commemoration of the individuals who lost their lives therein. Light reading, despite the heavy subject matter.
    Reread? No.

  • Lavinia - Ursula K. LeGuin

    Borrowed? Bri. Blame him.
    Recommended? Interesting, but only to SF fans, feminists, and those with an interest in the classics. Not her best effort, but readable.
    Reread? No.

  • Musicophilia - Oliver Sacks

    Borrowed? Bri. Blame him some more.
    Recommended? Highly. Few scientists are as enjoyable and thoroughly readable, in fact, delightful, as Dr. Sacks. La Casa de Los Gatos has never read a book by this author that didn't cause a neuronal tingle, and lots of "Aha!" moments as his skillful hand draws the skeins of various observations into a magical tapestry with the underlying scientific theories. An utter joy for anyone interested in the human brain.
    Reread? Pleez. We begs and begs.

  • Niels Lyhne - Jens Peter Jacobsen

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A pretty book. Not sure that I liked it much. It's lyrical. The author is skilled. Had the same feeling as when reading Virginia Woolf. Skilled writer, subject matter not very interesting. Nevertheless, the literary world swoons over both writers. We are willing to accept blame for being an eccentric curmudgeon with unlikely, as it were, likes and dislikes. Feh.
    Reread? Nope.

  • Sisterhood: The Untold Story - Joash Moo

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Not really. Interesting only if you have prurient attitudes about transsexuals, or if you want some anecdotal information about transgender life in Malaysia.
    Reread? Nuh-uh.

  • Slaughter and Deception: Batang Kali - Ian Ward & Norma Miraflor

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Oh boy. This is one of the incidents that will never be forgotten by the people who experienced it, and that the British Foreign Office has done their best to cover up for decades. Post WWII, Malaya was ready for independence, but the British (who fled like chickens when the Japanese came bicycling over the Burma road) were not ready to give up their colonies. As a result of their wartime Lend-Lease agreements with the US, the British needed resources to repay their indebtedness, and the colonies were their resources. Needless to say, the natives did not agree, having lost many of their number in the fight to defend their nation (after the British, assuring them for decades that they were protected, turned out to have lied, and fled to evade the consequences), and during the terrible war years that followed. This book is the description of one of the post-war crimes that occurred, when British troops massacred an entire village for the "crime" of being, apparently, unable to understand English. Britain's My Lai. Ward and Miraflor have done a fine job of documenting the incident. A must-read for anyone interested in the history of WWII, colonial history, Southeast-Asian history, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and British history.
    Reread? Ah, yeah, sure. Soon as I need to lose some more weight or something.

  • The Communist Struggle in Malaya - Gene Z. Hanrahan

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Hanrahan is a "cold warrior." 'Nuff said. Nothing in this book that you couldn't find elsewhere in a more objective presentation.
    Reread? Puh-leez, as in, never.

  • The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

    Borrowed? Ms. Manitoba, of course.
    Recommended? Highly. Frankly, I didn't expect to like this book much. Any time a book is raved about by all and sundry, you can pretty much bet that it appeals to the lowest common denominator, cough, cough, Dan Brown. Ondaatje is, of course, worlds above the likes of Brown. Not sure if I'm ready to put him in my pantheon of Great Writers (Kafka, Garcia Marquez, Rushdie, Zola, Mo Yan, Tanizaki, Tagore, Sharat Chandra, et al). Must read more. Excellent book, highly recommended.
    Reread? Groan. As soon as there is time.

  • The Mak Nyahs: Malaysian Male to Female Transexuals - Teh Yik Koon

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? This book is actually the result of research into issues affecting the lives of the transgender/transexual community in Malaysia. The author is sympathetic, yet objective. For those interested in gender issues, social issues, transgender/transexual issues in Asia.
    Reread? Not really.

  • The Queen's Gambit - Walter Tevis

    Borrowed? That wretched Canuck, at it again.
    Recommended? To chess lovers, Tevis fans, and anyone who needs a fun read. Not a weighty tome, although as chess-impaired, we have to admit that a lot of it just went Whoooosh! right over our heads.
    Reread? No.

  • The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Tea - Bret Hinsch

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? A good guide for beginners. The writer is quite the Sinophile, and clearly knows his stuff, but if you're not into Chinese tea, this book is a little too too for you.
    Reread? No.

  • The Worst Album Covers In The World Vol. 2 -

    Borrowed? The offender shall remain nameless.
    Recommended? Sure, if you want to guffaw at teh Tacky. Enjoyed it. Good break from reading about war crimes.
    Reread? No.

  • The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon

    Borrowed? The Canadians have infiltrated this blog as well as our heads. We welcome our new Canadian overlords.
    Recommended? Highly. Never liked Michael Chabon before, but this book set that right in a big way. This is a writer who, if he keeps producing stuff like this, is going to win some big-assed fucking prize, and you heard it here last. Love the Yiddishkeit. Read it. You'll love it. Nu, what have you got to lose?
    Reread? Oh hell to the fucking yeah.

  • Vietnam: A Long History - Nguyen Khac Vien

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? For a history of VietNam from a VietNamese viewpoint, by an eminent and highly respected VietNamese scholar, look no further. Sad to say, the post-revolutionary period to the present is somewhat lacking in the fine detail of the earlier periods, but this is the definitive tome if you want VietNamese history uncoloured by colonial prejudice.
    Reread? Geeze, when? Love to, but WHEN?

  • What is the What - Dave Eggers

    Borrowed? Blame those damn Canucks. They're taking over the world, eh?
    Recommended? Highly. Dave Eggers is another writer that I never could get into before. I'm told I need to read Zeitoun to appreciate the full magnificence that is Dave Eggers, but if you can read this book and not think that the writer is simply effortlessly brilliant, well. Dave Eggers, I used to fucking HATE you. I'm converted now. The trick to writing someone else's story is to become invisible, to allow the subject to have their own voice, yet to be the master of that story, to patch it and polish it and put it in order so that someone who doesn't know the protagonist can form an idea of just who that person is, what shaped them, their pains and griefs, their triumphs and losses. Eggers does this masterfully. Zeitoun next.
    Reread? Let's see, was it "Hell to the yeah?"

  • Who Won The Malayan Emergency - Herbert Andrew

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Um. Herbert Andrew was, like, some low-level gunny in Malaysia sometime after WWII, during the period called (euphemistically) the Emergency. He has opinions. Not all of them seem to be grounded in fact.
    Reread? This book would totally be a candidate for "Hell to the No."

  • Women Against The Raj - Joyce C. Lebra

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? For historians, feminists, military buffs, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indians, Southeast-Asians, and the curious. The book describes the women of Malaysia (of Indian origin), who bravely armed themselves, formed the Rani of Jhansi regiment, and fought against the Japanese. The stories of the women who survived are interwoven with the historical background in which they lived and fought. Fascinating book. Highly recommended.
    Reread? Time, time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jon Stewart at the 92nd Street Y

Here's an excerpt of an interview ... Terry Gross (from Fresh Air) interviewing Jon Stewart back in September at the 92nd Street Y in NYCity ...

GROSS: I'm going to read some questions from the audience.

Mr. STEWART: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: What role does Judaism play in your professional life? How about your personal life?

Mr. STEWART: I can't believe that came out of 92nd Street Y.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEWART: You know what's great? Look through that. I bet they're all that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEWART: What role does Judaism play in your day? Next question: Judaism, does it play a role?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEWART: Next question: your roles and Judaism, what do you think?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEWART: The - I mean I don't know even, so what is it again? What is it again?

GROSS: It is again, what role does Judaism play in your professional life? How about your personal life?

Mr. STEWART: What role does Judaism play? Wait - let me, I don't know who asked this question, so let me just direct it to the audience, what do you want me to say? That it forms my...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Let me focus the question for you. I think maybe what they want to hear is did you ever practice? Was being Jewish ever significant to you, other than culturally, the kind of humor and...

Mr. STEWART: I think I am genetically, I don't know what tribe I am from, but...

GROSS: The Henny Youngman tribe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEWART: Yeah, I mean I'm not a - I don't prescribe, necessarily, to - I don't, you know, there's so many different things that go into Judaism and the cultural aspect of it. I feel like an outsider. So, to some extent, I guess, Diaspora is in my wheelhouse. But I don't know if that's Judaism or other things, or just the way my brain is wired.

GROSS: Well, you probably feel like an outsider among Jews, too.

Mr. STEWART: That's right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEWART: I would consider myself reform in the sense that, for instance on Yom Kippur this year, I had a bacon, egg, and cheese Croissanwich.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

But, folks, it's waaaaaay more fun to listen to it. If you wanna, go here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Obama and Devil with a Blue Dress On

(c) 2010 K. Smokey Cormier

Keeping things in perspective: I'm very unhappy about the recent announcements by the "Justice" Department -- that they're going to appeal the judgement about "Don't ask, don't tell" and that they will, indeed, enforce U.S. law and arrest marijuana users in California -- no matter how we vote. I'm unhappy. So, I'd love the calacas in the blue dresses to bite Obama's neck. Fantasy. However, what I really want is for Obama's administration to succeed. Why? Because the alternative IS SO MUCH WORSE!!!!!!!! So, what's a girl to do? Create a photograph.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Lennon: Rest in Peace and ...

Happy Birthday.

Sending peace and love to his friends and families.

We are big John Lennon fans here at TPC-CultureVultures.

Thanks Google for that great John Lennon Logo!!!

There's a great show devoted to John Lennon at Fresh Air. Check it out: Cynthia Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr remember John in interviews. Historian Jon Weiner talks about the FBI files on Lennon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thank you, Jennifer Aniston!

Bill O'Reilly recently attacked Jennifer Aniston for her comments in support of women who use artificial insemination to become mothers. But Jennifer Aniston didn't go quietly into that good night ... she fought back. And with a sense of humor ... which is Ms. Manitoba's preferred method of vengance ... although not achieved as often as she'd like.

O'Reilly claimed that her remarks were "destructive to our society." He also accused her of "diminishing the role of the dad." (Isn't it really the philandering dads and the deadbeat dads who abandon their families -- isn't it their fault that the role of dad has diminished? ... if it's even true that their role has been diminished.)

He ranted: "Dads bring a psychology to children that is in this society, I believe, under-emphasized. I think men get hosed all day long in the parental arena."

Aniston told, "Of course, the ideal scenario for parenting is obviously two parents of a mature age. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs on earth.

"And, of course, many women dream of finding Prince Charming (with fatherly instincts), but for those who've not yet found their Bill O'Reilly, I'm just glad science has provided a few other options."

LOL, here at TPC-CultureVultures. And, thank you, Jennifer Aniston for saying "two parents" instead of "a husband and wife."

Note: Ms. Manitoba supports equality of opportunity for all. But she also greatly supports Zero Population Growth ... 'member that old philosophy? So, she'd prefer if people, if at all possible, would adopt.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Visiting San Francisco 2010

All photos by K. Smokey Cormier who holds the copyright thereof ... or some such thing

Howdy, folks.

If you're visiting San Francisco in the summer and fall of 2010, here are some suggestions. Don't be afraid to explore. It's a great city to explore!

Note: Dress in layers. Bring a warm sweatshirt or jacket with you every day… unless the San Francisco Bay Area is having a heat wave, then you don't have to. The weather can change dramatically during the day. It can get quite cold there … especially around 5:30 pm when the fog rolls in during the summer. The fog is preceded by cold winds. And don't think I'm nuts. We have a totally different weather zone here in the Bay Area. Actually we have many weather zones. Because some places in the East Bay are very hot.

Here are some fun things to do when you come here ...

Take the ferry to Alcatraz or Angel Island.

· Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market (on Tues, Th, and Sat – check their website before you go)

· Pier 39

· Embarcadero Center -- shops

Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re not into walking, you can drive and stop at the rest stop/outlook area – and view breathtaking views (if there’s no fog). DRESS WARMLY … even if it’s sunny. Because it’s very windy there.

This is a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Sausilito side (north).

Academy of Science building – new building; supposed to be the best in the world right now.

Visit Chinatown. Very interesting. Then you can have Dim Sum for brunch at City View restaurant – one of the best dim sum restaurants in S.F.

If you go to SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), walk around Yerba Buena Center – beautiful landscaped grounds, there are shops, restaurants, a tea shop, nice places to sit outside, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, butterfly garden, fountain and waterfall. Also in the Yerba Buena center – METREON. Metreon is the first-of-its-kind entertainment center in the heart of downtown San Francisco. This 350,000 square-foot complex features an eclectic mix of restaurants, shopping venues, theatres, and entertainment destinations, including the West Coast's largest IMAX theatre.

Have you been too busy? Have you been doing too many urban things? Want to see something stimulating and also relaxing? Go to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.

If you have kids ... San Francisco Zoo

****** Art in the summer 2010 ******

25 Years at Pixar – till Jan 9, 2011 Oakland Museum

[see my previous post about the re-opening of this wonderful museum]

this is a great museum – near a BART station.

From the museum's website:
The Oakland Museum's newest exhibition celebrates 25 years of Pixar animation, displaying the East Bay studio's unique visual style and extraordinarily vivid digital animation that brought the world Toy Story, WALL-E, and Finding Nemo. Written on the front wall of the exhibit is a quote by the Emeryville animation company's chief creative officer, John Lasseter: "Computers didn't create computer animation any more than a pencil creates pencil animation. What creates computer animation are artists."

Pixar Animation Studios, which is now owned by The Walt Disney Company, is famous for its innovative take on the artistry behind its animation. Rather than bubbly cartoons, Pixar uses a semi-photorealistic style. Instead of stories based on pre-existing fairy tales, Pixar comes up with tales set in the modern age that feature unusual characters such as garbage-cleaning robots, cooking rats and grumpy old men with houses that float away by balloon. Among its films are Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, and Up, all of which have won Academy Awards.

After a five-year, 14-stop worldwide tour that kicked off at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2005, the exhibition that covers Pixar's entire lifespan is coming home.

* * * * * * * * * *

Shanghai - Asian Art Museum, till Sept. 5

* * * * * * * * * *

Calder to Warhol Introducing the Fisher Collection - SFMOMA, until Sept. 19

* * * * * * * * * *

Contemporary Jewish Museum StoryCorps StoryBooth October 12, 2008 - November 7, 2010

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is the first museum in the country to host a StoryCorps StoryBooth. StoryCorps is a New York-based oral history project.

>>>> also check their web site for the latest exhibitions

reflecting pool in front of the Contemporary Jewish Museum

* * * * * * * * * *

de Young museum The Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musee D'Orsay, until Sept 6.

* * * * * * * * * *

And remember:

Dress in layers

Dress in layers.

Dress in layers.

Dress in layers.

Dress in layers.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Baby by Ken Nordine

photo (c) 2010 K. Smokey Cormier

[Setting the scene ... a record playing ... very tasty cool jazz is playing ... High Top, saxaphone, fingers snapping ... A man with a very velvety deep voice sing-talking -- "Word Jazz" as he calls it]

Wantcha to know that I love my baby
And my baby loves me
Short time ago, we went out
together, to a place called Far Out -- up in Limbo
The rhythm was there.
Something special was in the air.
I reached over and held my baby's hand.
She gave me a little squeeze.
I knew we were in the same key.
Everythings's beginning to swing!
In a quiet, cool, warm way.
My baby didn't say anything.
Just looked at me with that special look she has.
I looked back with that special look I get when my baby looks at me with that special look she gets.
I couldn't help myself!
It was love for sure.
I picked my baby up.
Danced over to the stage.
And I told the leader: "Leader, this is my baby."
He just said "Crazy!"
My baby gave him a special look like my baby does.
He could see my baby had eyes to swing.
So he adjusted the mic and he simply said in his complicated way "of course."
And my baby's shy
So I gave it the first try.

[piano and some scatting ... and to find out the rest, go here or here]

-- My Baby featuring Ken Nordine

Little tidbit about Ken Nordine: he was Linda Blair's vocal coach for The Exorcist. For more info about Ken Nordine, visit this site on Wikipedia.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A gondola in Oakland? Oaktown? Oaksterdam?

Yes. And here's proof.

You can catch one at The Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill right on the shores of Lake Merritt.

(Okay, maybe I overplayed it saying "the shores of Lake Merritt" as if it were Chicago and Lake Michigan. But I do *love* Lake Merritt.)

Mini review of The Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill: The food is quite good. Service excellent. The environment is very special.

[Disclaimer: Ms. Manitoba is not affiliated in any way with this restaurant. I don't know anyone who works there or owns the place. Ms. Manitoba just likes to get around town and try restaurants. And give kudos where appropriate.]

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, President Obama!

President Obama, you had a wonderful victory followed by a very rough year and a half. I would not like to be walking in your moccasins. I hope you will have some fun today. Forty-nine! You only have this year left in your forties ... use it wisely.

From today's Writer's Almanac ...

Today is President Barack Obama's 49th birthday. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on this day in 1961, despite whatever you've heard of the contrary.

He's the author of the New York Times best-selling books Dreams from My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chuck Lightning responds ...

Photo by Rina Prussin

Remember just the other day I blogged about this song "Self" by Deep Cotton that I liked very much? 'member, bunkie?

[official site for Deep Cotton: go here.]

One of the founding members of Deep Cotton and the writer of the song -- he commented on my post ... take a look ...


Chuck Lightning has left a new comment on your post ""Self!" by Deep Cotton":


This is Chuck Lightning of Deep Cotton...

Loved the post!

You did a really, really great job with your transcription, but I thought I'd give you the full lyrics, so you could understand the parts that were unintelligible...

And keep listening...we have a lot more music coming soon...


Verse 1:

I’m getting ridiculous!
I’m getting ridiculous!

Always feels like I
Playing games and I
Losing all the time
Maybe it’s just my mind

And the guitar says to you:

Self! Extra points now if you refuse to take your medication!

Self! Extra points if you’re black and dance white or are white and talk black now!

Self! Bonus rounds if your own girlfriend thinks you’re gay! And you think she’s right!


Doo da breakdown do the game right now just lose and die and don’t forget it!

I’m getting ridiculous!

Doo da breakdown do the game right now just lose and die and don’t forget it!

I’m getting ridiculous!

Verse 2:

Who will help me with the mirror?
Who will help me with the beat?

Son, Take out the trash!

“There are maggots in there, dad, there’s maggots!”

Doo da breakdown do the game right now just lose and die and don’t forget it!

“There are maggots in there, dad, there’s maggots!”

Doo da breakdown do the game right now just lose and die and don’t forget it!

Self! Extra points if your shadow has applied for a transfer!

Self! Extra points if the lyrics have just stopped making sense!

Self! Extra points if you wonder where these gray hairs came from!

Raise your hand if dancing is your therapy!

Self! Extra points if you thought this game was going to end differently...

With two children, a house, and an electric car…

Raise your hands if you would like to buy a new body or just a little more time!

Always feels like I
Playing games and I
Losing all the time
Maybe it’s just my mind

Self! Extra points if you do not know how to put your heart back together!

Raise your hand if it all sounds like science fiction and it’s just your life!

If you have memories for sale, please see the ushers in the yellow suits…

They can help you now…

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tom Waits Quote

"You really can't be too concerned with what people think of you. You're on your own adventure of growth and discovery. Like Charles Bukowski said, 'People think I'm down on Fifth and Main at the Blarney Stone, throwing back shooters and smoking a cigar, but really I'm up on the top floor of the health club with a towel in my lap, watching Johnny Carson.' So, it's not always good to be where people think you are, especially if you subscribe to it as well ... which is easily done, because then you don't have to figure out who you are, you just ask somebody else."

-- Tom Waits to Barney Hoskyns, 24 April 1985

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Self!" by Deep Cotton

(c) 2006 Rina S. Prussin

Here are the song lyrics to a very terrific song ... song called "Self!" by Deep Cotton ... it's the first song on the compilation for this month's edition of the magazine The Believer ... the Music Issue ...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Getting ridiculous!
I'm getting ridiculous!
Always feel like I'm ...
playing games and I ...
losing all the time
Maybe it's just my mind

Guitar says to me:
Extra points if you refuse to take your medication.
Extra points if you're black and dance whiter
... Or if you're white and talk blacker
_ [unintelligible words] if your own girlfriend thinks you're game
You think she's right

Get right down to the game right now This fool is dying, don't forget it Get right down to the game right now This fool is dying, don't forget it

Who will help me with the mirror?
Who will help me with the beat?

Dad, there are maggots in there
Dad, there's maggots in there

Get right down to the game right now This fool is dying, don't forget it Get right down to the game right now This fool is dying, don't forget it

Dad, there are maggots in there
Dad, there's maggots ...

Get right down to the game right now This fool is dying, don't forget it Get right down to the game right now This fool is dying, don't forget it

Extra points if your shadow has a [unintelligible words] for a transfer
Extra points if the lyrics have just stopped making sense.
Extra points if you wonder where all those grey hairs came from

Raise your hand if dancing is your therapy
Extra points if you thought this game was going to end differently now
with two children, a house, and an electric car
Raise your hand if you'd like to buy a new body
... Or a little more timing
Extra points if you do not know how to put your heart back together
Raise your hand if it all sounds like science fiction and
it's just your life
And if you have memories for sale,
see the ushers in the yellow suits
They can help you now

-- Deep Cotton

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I wish I could upload the file!!! It is such a good song ... the beat, their voices, the instruments. The underlying subject is very serious but the music and beat makes it *sound* fun and lighthearted. This song reminds me of The Talking Heads ... that balance of very serious subject matter but sounds fun ... the lyrics ("... stop making sense" are the most obvious ones) and the instruments. If any of you subscribe to The Believer and listen to this song ... let me know what you think -- leave a comment.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Anton Chekhov's The Duel: Mini Mini Review

After hiking at Lake Laguinitas today, I went to see Anton Chekhov's The Duel. Yes, that's the correct name of the movie. It is based on an Anton Chekhov novella. I'd read Mick Lasalle's review in today's paper and that made me want to see it.

Here's my review: It was good but not great. Some of the writing was stilted. The acting was uneven in the three main actors. The cinematography was wonderful. The music was *exquisite*. (Unlike the music in Inception which was like a hammer to the head!)

If you want to read the review written by The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick Lasalle, go here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inception: Updated Mini Mini Review

No, my last review just didn't get it right... there was something missing ... let me try it again:

Boys go bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang. Girl watches. Lots of explosions and loud music. Great special effects. But I was bored often.


from today's edition of The Writer's Almanac ... to me this is a very dramatic story ... pay particular attention to the last paragraph ...

It was on this day in 1875 that the largest recorded swarm of locusts in American history descended upon the Great Plains. An estimated 3.5 trillion locusts made up the swarm. It was about 1,800 miles long and 110 miles wide, ranging from Canada down to Texas.

Swarms would occur once every seven to 12 years, emerging from river valleys in the Rocky Mountains and sweeping east across much of the country. The size of the swarms tended to grow when there was less rain, and in 1873, the American West began to go through one of its driest periods on record.

The land was still relatively dry on this day in 1875 when farmers just east of the Rocky Mountains began to see a cloud approaching from the west. Some farmers noticed the distinctive color of the cloud, glinting around the edges where the locust wings caught the light of the sun.

People there that day said that the locusts descended like a driving snow in winter, covering everything in their path. Some people described the sound of the swarm landing as like thunder or a train. The locusts blanketed the ground, nearly a foot deep. Trees bent over with the weight of the insects, and large tree limbs broke off under the pressure.

They ate nearly every living piece of vegetation in their path, as well as harnesses on horses, the bark of trees, curtains, and clothing hung on laundry lines. They gnawed on fence posts and railings, and they especially loved the handles of farm tools, which were left behind polished, as if by fine sandpaper. Some farmers tried to scare away the locusts by running into the swarm, and they had their clothes eaten right off their bodies.

In the wake of the swarm, settlers on half a million square miles of the West faced starvation. Similar locust swarms occurred in the following years, and farmers became desperate. But by the mid-1880s, the rains had returned, and the swarms died down. Most scientists predicted that the locusts would return with the next drought. Mysteriously, they did not. Within a few decades they were believed to be extinct. For most of the 20th century, no one knew what had happened to the locusts, but recent evidence suggests that the cultivation of the land on the Great Plains changed the geography so much so quickly that the Rocky Mountain locust was unable to adapt. The last two live specimens of the Rocky Mountain locust were collected in 1902, and those specimens are now stored at the Smithsonian Institution.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Inception: Mini mini review

Boys go bang bang bang bang bang bang. Lots of explosions and loud music. Great special effects. But I was bored often.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

When You're Strange: Mini Review

The other night I watched When You're Strange -- the documentary about The Doors written and directed by Tom DiCillo. DiCillo wrote and directed one of my favorite films: Living in Oblivion, which I highly recommend. I used to be a big fan of The Doors. Still am but just don't listen to them that often. So, I was really looking forward to this documentary. It also got good reviews. But, folks, I was disappointed in this one. If you want a walk down memory lane -- and only that -- you'll be happy. I wanted more. Joan Rivers said in today's Parade magazine: "I hate documentaries that tell you nothing about the person." I go further: "I hate documentaries that tell you nothing new about the person." And that's this movie.

Oh, it's enjoyable. But sometimes a little precious, sometimes choppy -- the transitions aren't smooth.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

John Waters' Art Exhibit: RUSH

I went to see John Waters’ art exhibition today at the Rena Bransten Gallery on Geary Street in San Francisco. It's called RUSH. The exhibit closes on July 10. Try to go see it. It's worth your while.

I’ll talk about my favorite pieces in a minute. Right now I want to focus on several of his pieces which were collages of photos taken from images on TV. I really liked many of them. The show is smallish so there aren’t that many of any one style. But you do get a sense of how he's using these -- and he definitely inspired me.

You walk into the gallery and there’s a beautiful collage of TV photos of Johnny Mathis. I loved that one very much.

I was drawn to these because I have taken photos from the TV for years. And they're really difficult to do because you get all kinds of distortions. One of my earliest ones was a photo of Elsa Lancaster as the Bride of Frankenstein -- she has just waken up from death and is all twitchy. I took the photo before she sees her lover-to-be and lets out a blood-curdling scream. Lancaster is in profile with dark lipstick, slightly bulging eyes, and that wavy hair -- she looks gorgeous!

[got this from the internet ... unknown photographer]

I took a silk screening class -- oh, this must be 1981 or 1982 -- and made a silk screen of this image. If you want to see a clip of the Bride coming to life on You Tube -- it's very trippy: Click here.

Tonight I made a crude version of my simulation of what John Waters did with his TV photos. It’s a photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Ice Man in Batman and Robin. I took these photos a couple of years ago.

Originally, I created a post card with one of Arnie's faces and text next to it that is a quote from Arnie: “I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman.” Actual quote, by the way.

Back to Waters ... John Waters also puts words very effectively between photos in the collage. I’m not sure if the words are photos taken from TV images or not.

And, of course, his humor is a big presence in many of the pieces. Maybe I should rephrase that ... his SICK humor is a big presence. For example, he has a collage of 12 or more photos of Audrey Hepburn ... in her elegant outfits and hats -- with hickeys all over her prominent neck. And, you guessed it, the last two photos are from The Nun’s Story.

Okay, here were the other ones that I really liked:
  • TV photos, about 6 of them - each photo shows the progression of someone opening a folded piece of paper ... about photo #3 you can read what the paper says: Lezzie ... so the last three photos the word Lezzie is completely visible. So simple. But it says so much. To me anyway.
  • Close up of a dog whose eyes are blazing with fury.
  • “Undertaker” - Collage of photos of various celebrities in movies where they are lying in a casket. The word “Undertaker” is in the collage several times.
  • A photo of a painting of John Waters -- at least I think it's a painting -- John Waters at about 11 years old ... the photo includes the frame. And the same wood is used to frame this photo of the painting! (He is so nutty-funny.) But the funny part is that he must have retouched the photo because this little young Johnny Waters has a pencil-thin mustache. (Love that mustache!)
  • A parody of those SMILE Foundation ads where you see photos of a lot of kids with cleft palates -- his version is a collage of photos of celebrities (retouched) so that all of them have cleft palates.
  • A collage of bums (booties) -- most of the photos are of TV photos being projected onto bare bums. Quite good. And erotic.
See my earlier post about attending the City Arts & Lectures event: John Waters in conversation with Kevin Berger.

Happy Birthday, Ringo!

Collection Alain Weill

Ringo Starr in a 1967 portrait by Richard Avedon.

Ringo -- thanks for all the fun and music over the years. You made my teenage years much more interesting.

Ringo turns 70 today. Yep, 70. Some younguns, smirking just a little, have commented on me wearing my Bob Marley T shirt and I just look them straight in the eyes and tell them that Marley was four years older than me so what's so weird about me being a fan?

For more details about Ringo's birthday and how he's gonna celebrate, see this article in the NYTimes. You just need to register, but it's free. Here's an excerpt from that article:

Q. You’re using the occasion of your birthday to give a message back to your fans.

A. Yes, I want to spread the word that at noon, wherever you are — in New York, in L.A., in Paris, in London — I just pray that you’ll put your fingers up and say, “Peace and love.” I did it two years ago, it was the first time, and I did it out of Chicago because I was on tour. This year, we’re playing Radio City, so we’re doing it in New York. In Japan there were little get-togethers and it went worldwide, so that was great.

Peace and Love, y'all!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - Warning Adults!

I'm writing this not for the tweens and teens that will be going to see this but the poor adults that will schlep into the theater with them because they read the reviews saying that this installment was so so so much better. It is not. The writing is abominable. And, if the writing's bad ... it's really hard to act well under those conditions, so the acting is pretty bad too. My adult friend and I went with my two teenage daughters and we found ourselves laughing uproariously at the wrong moments ... and, of course, embarrassed my daughters. C'est la vie. That's the life (and responsibility) of a parent -- to embarrass their children from time to time.

If you need to accompany your children to see this movie, go on a day when you need a nap. Unfortunately, I was well-rested when I saw it so I couldn't snooze. Years ago, I remember when we went to see The Cat in the Hat or Home on the Range (real stinkers) ... boy, did I get a good nap in!

p.s. I'm one of the adults that thought the first Twilight movie was pretty good.