Saturday, June 30, 2007


When I left my apartment this evening, a cover band was keeping adults entertained in a church parking lot while their children painted the streets with sidewalk chalk, wandering into and out of mysterious inflated caterpiller labyrinths.

When I returned, everything was deflated. The band announcd their final song (then did an encore) while parents gathered their children and fireflies spotted the skies.

Here's what happened in-between.

I was midway through a 15-mile bike ride when I stopped for a drink of water and a spot of people watching.

Nearby along the lake, friends were playing soccer as a Jack Russel bit at their heels. I rested my bike against a concrete ravine and checked the time on my cell phone, the simple act of which invited a girl (who I'd noticed crouched with her face down) to approach me.

She was in her early 20s, wearing a baseball jersey (there was a game today) and reeking of major league beer. Her face was dirty enough that I could tell where tears had cleared a path down her cheeks.

"Do you have a phone I could use?" she asked, keeping her face askew.

In the split second between her question and my response, I imagined her trying to run away with it (but figured I could keep up with her). Imagined her dialing some sort of secret code into my phone that would later deposit large sums of money into a Nigerian bank account.

But I handed it to her all the same.

She dialed and kept the phone away from her face (which I appreciated for germ-related reasons) while she spoke, enabling me to hear both sides of the conversation.

From it, I was able to infer that she had set out to meet someone "at the ferris wheel," which was about a mile south from where we stood.

"It's still so far away," she told him. "I can see it, but I'm tired."

He was audily angry, and made sure to let her know she was "so f*&!ing stupid" before he said he'd come find her.

"I'm sorry," she said as she returned my phone to me, "He's a bit of a douchebag."

"It's OK," I said, considering the permutations of my full response.

"I know the type."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Five Lions, Two Alligators and a Herd of Cape Buffalo Walk into a Bar...

The Discovery Channel is well and good, but I'm the sort of person who'll change the station if I suspect we're going to see one animal eat another.

So you can trust me when I tell you, the pay-off on this one is worth it.

Network (Movie Review)

"I'm mad as hell. And I'm not going to take it any more!" ~Anchorman Howard Beale, Network

Social satire. Black comedy. And overrated.

They're all words used to describe Sidney Lumet's Network (1976) — a film that makes just about every top 100 list.

And I agree with the vox populi in this regard — it is a great film in that it eerily forecasts the direction of modern media: to a point that's actually spooky when you consider the pervasiveness of Jerry Springer, reality TV and the like. And it does this so subtly that a modern audience being exposed to Network for the first time is somewhat inclined to forget that shock jock broadcasts weren't always the norm. They might even fail to realize — egad! — that this 32-year-old film was intended to be (and still is, really) satire.

In Network, Peter Finch plays a washed up news anchor who just lost his wife. And then, because of a ratings drop, he also loses his job. This leads to a nervous breakdown on the air, which in turn leads to increased ratings.

So what, pray tell, is a Network to do?

They keep him aboard, exploiting his mental illness as a veritable reality TV show, all the while underscoring the (still current) trend for news stations as more and more networks (once independently owned) were purchased by corporations. The news, then, became a matter of profit — which thereby compromises the very credibility of America's intended watch dog.

The film also underscores post-Industrial rage, as precipitated by a fast-paced, traffic jam way of life. Regardless of whether or not it was on the rise then (don't ask me — I wasn't born yet), I have long had the nagging suspicion that that sort of desperate anger — that misery — is, sadly, inextricable from human existence.

And for all of these reasons, I loved the film. But it also seemed a bit unnecessarily long — or perhaps I was just unnecessarily tired (and so: impatient) when I watched it.


My Sentiments Exactly

...on both counts.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Heartbreaking Weekend of a Staggering Klutz

Friday after working out, I slipped in the shower, bruising my back.

Saturday, I:
  • Knocked loose (and shattered) a tulip-shaped bulb from an expensive lamp given to me by my mother (the only piece of furniture I had that wasn't purchased from a store that ends in "-mart" or "arget" or "kea")

  • Broke the glass of a 4x6 frame (inexpensive, luckily)

  • Dropped (and popped) the light that goes into my aquarium hood (yes, I have a fish — I never denied my geekdom)
And Sunday... in completing the simple act of returning a towel to the rack, I knocked an 8 x 10 frame off of the wall, breaking it in two.

The "best" part being, this weekend was intended to do chores. But all I really accomplished was making more work for myself.

All a long way of saying: if you really loved me, you'd send flowers.

Or at least super glue.

Misery Won't Let Company Use the Litter Box

So I'll be cat-sitting for the next couple weeks and Maude — who's quite territorial, as it turns out — is being everything but a gracious host.

Sure, I didn't expect them to hit it off; I know cats aren't the least bit like dogs in that regard, but I did hope that by Day 3 she'd at least let the poor guy "do his business" in his litter box without her glaring eyes and guttural growl just inches from his face.

Instead, she frequently chases him out of his own box, refuses to let him near hers, and then makes use of his facilities just to spite him.

In which case, I'm quite convinced that if my guest cat (a neutered 10-year-old male) had a temperament at all like Maude's, they'd have engaged in an actual fight by now (he could take her... she has youth on her side, but he's twice her size and has talons of steel that've never been trimmed). Luckily, guest kitty is mild-mannered and — though he'll growl and hiss right back at Maude — he's generally quite content to ignore her and (I'm sorry to say) he frequently submits to her hen-pecking.

This has been brutal for me, as that means I'm awoken frequently throughout the night with sounds of Guest Cat being chased away from his litter box, his food dish, and his water on 8 out of 10 attempts (Maude occasionally "lets" him get what he wants). The sound of cat claws against the floor is often preceded by, and then followed with, a variety of growls and hisses by both parties.

Maude often won't even let him leave my bedroom, where he's spent most of his visit hiding under the bed.

And, no, she doesn't let him stay under there in peace; rather, she joins him at the opposite end; eyes glaring and tail flipping. I feel terribly sorry for them both; Guest Cat because he's made visible attempts at "making nice" (unlike Maude — who's only sweet to people she knows — Guest Cat is sweet to everyone).

And Maude because being a hateful [expletive noun omitted] is clearly quite exhausting. She's less inclined to be picked up and/or petted, as her now sporadic purring is almost always interrupted by hissing and crying once Guest Cat comes into view. The only time any of us get any rest is when she drifts off to sleep, fighting Morpheus with every ounce of her growling, angst-ridden being.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Grey Gardens (Movie Review)

Reviews of this 1975 documentary give it a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes — and though I certainly think the kudos is well-deserved, my fascination for the film dealt more so with what the two women represented individually, rather than the mother-daughter relationship (the focus for so many film critics) or even their connections to American aristocracy.

Grey Gardens chronicles the life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis' aunt (Edith Bouvier Beale) and her daughter, Edie. The two lived alone in squalor in a dilapidated 28-room mansion in East Hampton for over 20 years; at one point in the early 70s, the health board even threatened to condemn Grey Gardens — Jackie O. paid some $32,000 (a lot more when you consider inflation) to have the house restored to a living condition so that the Beales could continue to occupy this once breathtaking estate.

After the repairs, the Beales still did little to maintain their home. In fact, they'd dump bags of cat food onto attic floors to feed the local raccoons, and failed to do normal household chores even when guests were imminent.

Suffice it to say their living situation (which made national headlines) — coupled with their bloodline — caught the attention of directors Albert and David Maysles.

The Maysles style of direction was initially difficult to get used to. They didn't want to intrude on the Beale's way of life, so no other members of the "crew" were ever admitted to the house. Additionally, the brothers themselves function neither as flies-on-the-wall nor as active participants conducting interviews. Rather, they're somewhere in the middle, never introducing themselves, and yet sometimes responding to comments from Edith (79 at the time of the filming) and Edie (then 56) from behind the camera.

I eventually grew to appreciate this technique when I realized just how rare it was for the Beales to welcome anyone into their home.

Now before you assume the Beales are nuts — as I did prior to watching this — allow me to say I found them to be perfectly normal. Given their circumstances, that is. Rumor has it they lived on a pension of just $300 a month, and were only able to make ends meet by regularly selling off furniture and family heirlooms... a burglary in the late 60s served only to exacerbate this already difficult situation.

However you look at it, I was fond of them both — Edie in particular. She sings and dances for the camera; laments her past; and even shares her religious beliefs, revealing herself to be a devout Catholic with an affinity for astrology.

Her apathy for the caretaking of Grey Gardens — and her absolute disdain for the property itself — was to me indicative not so much of insanity, as it was a resignation for her life. She's obsessed with her dreams, past and present, and is altogether absorbed with regret.

She takes after her mother in this regard, as both reveal (through bickering) all they had once-upon-a-time hoped to become (and the people/circumstances they blame for holding them back).

I don't know what this says about me but I, for one, felt a bit uncomfortable when I realized just how easy it was for me to relate to the Beales.

Probably for the best there's no family mansion for me to retreat to.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Knocked Up (Movie Review)

This movie is cute. It's funny. And I recommend it to anyone who can tolerate stereotypes about relationships — particularly as they pertain to women.

The irony of Knocked Up (2007) is that it entertains even as it subtly offends, a contrast that was just powerful enough to actually make me feel ashamed to have otherwise enjoyed the newest comedy from director Judd Apatow (40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman).

Knocked Up is different from previous Apatow hits because it's significantly less slapstick than, say, Anchorman (which, just for the record, I enjoyed immensely). That is to say, it's not deadpan comedy, insofar as it has it has a more serious undercurrent.

The film is about a celebratory one-night-stand that leads to an unlikely mixture of DNA between a jobless stoner (played by Seth Rogen) and a rising star of the E! Network (played by Katherine Heigl). The two make a difficult "go" at transforming their obvious mistake into a sustainable relationship, thereby giving rise to much of the film's humor.

But what bothered me was primarily the way Apatow directed his real-time wife, Leslie Mann. Mann plays the part of the older, unhappily married sister in Knocked Up. Her laid back husband, played by the always charming Paul Rudd, is the recipient of nagging, spying and all-out irrational behavior. And even when Mann's character does have a reason to be upset, she's portrayed in such a way that serves only to increase the audience's sympathy for the husband.

And by that I mean: we're only casually made aware of how the husband has neglected his family and his wife, as he's generally made out to be otherwise ideal on both counts. The wife's nagging, by contrast, is consistently over-the-top (and so perpetuates a negative female stereotype). And even as we casually realize there might be a reason for her behavior, Apatow's direction still clearly favors the husband.

This prejudice bothered me all the more when Heigl's character — herself upset for viable reasons — betrays her own logical emotions by shouting a line that was most definitely written by a man with an ax to grind:

"You're supposed to side with me, even if everything I say is crazy!" (paraphrase)

Granted, I've seen women live up to this stereotype. But in this particular scene — and in this particular instance — the line served only to undercut the film's strongest character. She had a valid point, and that Rogen's character was disagreeing with her should've served to highlight his immaturity and not her pregnant state.

But instead, her emotions were explained away as illogical and hormonal.

And that, Mr. Apatow, really bothered me.

This grievance aside, the film does a fair job painting the differences between men and women, ultimately leading me to wonder why, on earth, we even bother with the difficult business of procreation.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Good German (Movie Review)

This new take on the old film noir — reminiscent of films like Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon — really didn't do much for me.

The characters of The Good German (2006) were flat and only moderately compelling. And only George Clooney's WWII Army Press Corps captain was even the least bit sympathetic.

Regardless of whether or not director Steven Soderbergh intentionally created unsympathetic characters (perhaps in an attempt to show how war negatively impacts its participants), the end result was something interesting to "look" at, but not so much to watch.

The film centers around Berlin, after the collapse of Hitler but before the veritable destruction of two Japanese islands. Berlin was divided into sectors, and the action of this film centers around the mysterious search for the German logician, Emil Brandt. His wife Lena (played by Cate Blanchett) is a proverbial shell of her former self, who seems disinterested in whether or not her husband is dead or alive.

And while this film attempts to underscore various failings of war (treatment of purported enemies, the "future" of battle, etc.), it lacked the poignancy needed to make this Oscar hopeful into an award-worthy film.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Camera, Old Problems

After months of relying on wishes, fortune cookies, and Magic 8 Ball predictions, I determined that my camera wasn't going to fix itself.

Sure, it still worked SOMETIMES. But "sometimes" seldom coincided with those proverbial Kodak moments. So a couple weeks ago I broke down and purchased a camera that — I hoped — would suddenly transform my photos into artwork, like magic.

Turns out moderately hi-tech cameras don't take good pictures unless you know how to use them. Bummer.

Back to the drawing board. Or in this case: the owner's manual.

Everyone's talking about these little guys — the 17-year cicada. This particular species emerges out of the ground every 17 years, sings a rather notable ditty to woo other cicadas, hooks up, makes little cicada babies... and then dies. All within 2-4 weeks. Those who don't have the pleasure of mating — losers that they are — are generally hit by cars. When I bent down to take this particular picture at a gas station, a cicadian Army (literally) jumped on my back. Creepy.

I may or may not have taken this photo. Probably not, since I actually like it. This camera, though it's not a Digital SLR, has the ability to blur out backgrounds while focusing in on objects — that's one of the reasons I purchased it, though so far I've seldom used it successfully.

Tiny little toad. I used to love catching these things as a kid. And, no, those aren't my phalanges — so please don't think I have man hands.

See what I mean? I successfully blurred out the background, but even with the macro on, I can't get the foreground to be as sharp as I would like.

I lost clarity on this one by using the digital zoom to capture this bullfrog in all its glory.

Back in the city — believe it or not. With an A/C support system that redneck, you'd think I took this photo in my hometown. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Zeit // Geist

I'm not saying my new pad is haunted, but if Maude could talk... she probably would.

Starting with a couple weeks ago — coincidentally, the same day I hung a full-length mirror on the hallway wall — she's been, shall we say... intermittently spastic.

Granted, she's an odd cat anyway. And for a couple days I excused her elevated neuroses for a fascination with the mirror (which never seemed to intrigue her at the old place). But now that it's up at this place, she'll look into it, all wide-eyed, and then run screaming, back arched at first (and then quickly dropping low to the ground) for no apparent reason.

And while a part of me wants to say that this just means "cats" have no place on the list of mammals that appear to have some degree of self-awareness (alongside humans, chimps and elephants), I'm starting to think it's a bit more complicated than that.

From about 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. every night, she dons an entirely new persona. She'll cry and moan, sometimes insisting on walking between my feet every step of the way. If I try to pick her up, she'll purr in delight for a second or two before she sticks out her claws — pupils dilated — and turns her head every which way staring at imaginary images swirling over and around my shoulders. She'll cry until I put her down, at which point she resumes her position between my feet.

When I first told Washington about this, he discounted it as usual Maude shenanigans — and then he happened to stop by around 10 one evening. Here are some resultant quotes:

"You're really creeping me out, Maude."
"It's like she sees something that we can't see."

and my personal favorite:

"You'd think there was a poltergeist here or something."

Prior to this, I had referred to Maude's behavior as "tweaking" and had hypostheised that perhaps she was tripping on Murphy's Oil (or whatever) that she licked off of the floor. I even considered that perhaps a tiny bug had caught her attention, though she's usually much more pleased (rather than terrified) to chase after them.

However you look at it, things took a turn for the worst this past Friday, when Washington was trying to reach for a cat toy under the radiator, but returned with a damaged photo instead.

It was of a wedding (or perhaps a prom), circa 1982. A man and a woman were standing next to each other, hand-in-hand, smiles big on their faces (though you couldn't see all of the man's face -- the photo had been damaged by some spilled liquid, and time).

Washington handed the photo to me, and my arms started to shake. I thought it was just nerves at first, but then my apartment lights went out, and my body turned cold. My spine ached.

Next thing I knew, the photo was on the floor, and I had burn marks on my fingers.*

*Just kidding about that last part. Everything up to, and including, the discovery of the photograph is true. Any "reasonable" explanations about Maude's behavior that do not involve the paranormal are VERY MUCH appreciated.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Of Secrets & Slytherin

The first book in the Harry Potter series was released sometime between my junior year in high school and my sophomore year in college (go ahead — do the math... you've probably already guestimated my age with some accuracy, anyway).

I don't recall the exact year, as I refused to read it. I figured a book that received so much press was likely to be pulp, and so I snubbed my nose and read things like Melville and Shakespeare in-between Calculus exams.

Yes, I was that kind of girl.

The mere mention of wizards and muggles and Rowling and — yes — even the utterance of the letters "J" and "K" would send a shiver of disgust down my elitist spine.

But then I changed my major from Biology/pre-med to English, and took a class in children's lit as an elective.

I cannot begin to explain to you the horror I felt upon seeing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on the syllabus. I mean, sure, Alice in Wonderland, Tuck Everlasting, Wind in the Willows — these are books I expected to see on there. But not, for the love of God, not Harry Potter.

Geek that I am, my snobbery for current popular literature was no match for my drive towards a decent GPA, and it was with a sigh and a smirk that I first cracked the cover.

What happened from there is the stuff of Hogwart's history.

I was little short of in love.

I couldn't read fast enough and yet however fast I read, it was too fast, as finishing the book likewise meant my own journey down Privet Drive was over.

When we discussed the book in class, I had to contain my excitement, for fear that my peers might discover (and thus hang me for) my newfound fascination. And yet, still, secretly I hurried on to other books in the series, eventually catching up with everything that had been published, and then anxiously awaiting every subsequent release.

Skip ahead a couple years to grad school, where I discovered a few other closet fans — we seemed to find comfort in numbers and so would proudly stack our copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix betwixt Lolita and The Taming of the Shrew (this is blaspheme to some of you, I know).

We discussed characters, analyzed plots, and yet — somehow — managed to do all of this without spoiling the fun of reading what some academics condemn as being "escapist" literature (which it is in a way, sure, but if a story is nevertheless well-written, why is "escapism" necessarily a bad thing).

We watched the films with a similar sort of zeal, indulging in the literature and the movies — and even the occasional board game — without taking it much further than that.

And I must admit, I expect this July to be the highlight of my 2007, with the final book (number 7) and the fifth film both slated to release this summer.

When I e-mailed a couple friends suggesting we have a reunion in Orlando in 2009 — and further lamented, with a humorous nod, that having two big Harry Potter releases in the same month wouldn't leave me with much to look forward to for the rest of the year — one friend e-mailed this back to me.

OK, OK. I get the point.

I have a problem. But this is one indulgence I don't mind giving in to.

(Besides, comparing myself to those losers* gives me a reason to feel a little better about myself.)

And for those of you as yet unconverted: go ahead, make fun of me. Judge me.

I'll be so busy planning my Hermione costume for the midnight release of the next film, that I won't even notice.**

*Irony not only noted, but intended more so for sarcastic purposes
**Just kidding. —I'll notice.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Giving (Up) Tree

Sure, all the hipsters love him. And his love affair with another noted writer was the stuff of narcotic-laced fairy tales.

But I can't help it. Try as I might, I can't bring myself to finish his masterpiece.

I first picked up Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer several years ago, at the recommendation of a friend. But I was a literature student at the time, and if there's one thing we know about literature students, it's that they never have time to read the things they want to.

So after "re-checking" it out of the library three or four times, I eventually gave up. But I was somewhat tormented by that sense of failing to complete an objective, and I felt compelled to give it another try. But rather than go through the library fracas, I opted to purchase the text. And not only that, but when I packed up all of my possessions for my most recent move, Tropic was the one book I left out, thinking I'd read it on my "spare" time.

And read I did.

Or, rather, I read until about page 80 — at which point the rest of my books were unpacked, and I decided to abandon the Mr. Miller altogether.

I realize this makes me a philistine. I realize my giving up on Henry is an indication of my waning affiliation with academia — perhaps even a symptom of intellectual decay.

But I can't help it. Miller's narrator is so unlikeable — his disregard for women so intense — that I don't care about the philosophy inherent in this blatant display of ex-patriot nihilism. I don't care that the spiritual and emotional decadence is somehow parallel to social collapse.

I wasn't at a good place in my life (when are we ever?) while reading it, and Cancer seemed to only make things worse. Along with other grotesque passages, expletives were too often used (by men) to describe females (and their sundry body parts), which served only to temporarily increase my own disgust for the opposite sex (stupid boys).

So I returned it to my shelf, and plucked Jonathon Franzen's How to Be Alone in its steed.

Not only does Franzen seem to be more appropriate for the times, but if there's one thing grad school taught me, it's that life is too short (and reading lists too long) to trudge through things that don't sustain your interest.

Still, I can't help but wonder if the simple act of closing the door on Henry Miller (for now, at least) means I'm undoing years of education. I wonder if it means I've knocked a couple of points off of my IQ.

But a part of me really doesn't care.

Next up: Why I Love Harry Potter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Highlights from the Recent Past

When the going gets tough, the procrastinators finally stop blogging.

So I've been in my new apartment for six weeks now, and I'm wholly convinced I should've been comped the first month's rent to make up for all the time I had to spend cleaning (i.e. not being settled into) the place. I even had to repack, reclean, and then unpack (again) the kitchen and bathroom, on account of work my landlord needed to do to those rooms AFTER I had "finished" them.

There have been other delays, too. Primarily: I've been so frustrated with the whole ordeal of even needing to move, that I feel moved to inaction.

And by that mean: every time I looked at the boxes around me, I was struck with such a sense of futility, that some days I couldn't bring myself to touch them.

I'll probably just pack them all up again in 11 months, right? I mean, what's the point in doing this over and over again, particularly in a city that treats tenants like three-week-old meat? Making changes here, as I've come to realize, doesn't really change a thing.

Not to mention, it's hard to want to clean that mysterious stain in your hallway closet when your mantra is anything but self-affirming.

"I don't care. It isn't worth it. There is no point."

So you do what you can in-between bouts of depression, only to realize four weeks in (after you've finally cleared most of the boxes from your dining room, where they'd previously been stored) that the folks who live upstairs are actually noisier than your previous neighbors.

It was so bad, in fact, that just sitting in my dining room / office was an act of self-inflicted aggression. To do anything other than leave my apartment was torture. The music was so loud, in fact, that I could make out the lyrics to songs. I could even sing along if I wanted to.

I allowed this to continue for a few days before one afternoon — heart pounding — I made the bold move up the stairs and knocked on my neighbor's door.

Their music was so loud, however, that after 2-3 minutes of intermittent knocking, I was able to confirm that they simply couldn't hear me over the the sound of Narles Barkley's "Crazy."

So I wrote them a nice letter — and I do mean nice — and tucked it under their door.

And wouldn't you know it, but one of them stopped by all apologetic — admitted they had speakers feeding directly into the floor, without a rug to muffle the sound — and within a day or two, the situation was mostly resolved (I can still hear their television at times, but I can deal with that better than I can the constant sound of a stereo).

In which case, I'm starting to (finally) feel better about the place. But that doesn't mean that old sense of futility doesn't creep up every time I go to hang a picture, or measure the windows for curtains.

I'm at a point where, quite simply, I care less and less. Whereas once upon a time I made an effort to make every place feel like "home," there's an unquestionable air of homelessness that increases with every subsequent move.

Some Call it Stalking. I Call It Love.

Friday, June 08, 2007

This Is What Happens When George Clooney Comes to Town the Same Night as the Blues

•Carbon emissions radiate from standstill blacktop
•Middle fingers flourish like tulips in Michigan (sans the aromatic benefits)
•Yelling increases ten-fold
•A choir of horns mutes lingering cicadas
•Cars circle in search of parking spots, bypassing empty lots blocked off for no discernible reason
•Cameras flash at they-might-be-famous limos
•Men in street-wear camo unload saxophones and drum sets from double-parked cars
•After 90 minutes spent driving 35 miles in a car with no A/C and only one window that rolls down, girl does loops around the city for an additional 60 minutes in search of a parking spot, only to arrive late and play 15 minutes in a softball game — lost (to the other team), compliments the slaughter rule

There's always next week.

P.S. I still love you, George.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Magdalene Sisters (Movie Review)

This isn't an easy film to watch. And yet: I'd recommend it to just about anyone.

The Magdalene Sisters (2002) is based on several first-hand accounts of Ireland's "Magdalene Laundries" — an asylum of sorts that existed for over 150 years. They were founded by the Roman Catholic Church as a means to reform prostitutes, but over the course of time they became institutions where parents and priests alike would send wayward daughters who became pregnant out of wedlock. Even developmentally delayed women would be sent there, or girls whose only "lustful" crime was a simple matter of flirtation, or — get this — women who were raped.

At these laundries, women were subjected to harsh physical punishment even if they spoke. There was no touching, only limited amounts of talking, and absolutely no contact with the outside world. Many women were sent to these asylums as teenagers, and stayed there until they died.

But that's not to say their lives were spent in vain — they did get to do the laundry of townsfolk, who paid the church (not the women) a decent wage to have their linens washed by the supposed strumpets.

[This is the part where I smirk.]

Peter Mullan's Magdalene Sisters tells the story of a handful of women sent to one such Laundry on the outskirts of Dublin. The end result is a haunting film that really makes you think. Add to that you genuinely care about the characters, and you can't help but root for even the smallest little good thing to happen to these women. You want for someone to visit. You want for them to escape. You want for them to get presents at Christmas, or hold their newborn son.

And if you watch this film, there will most assuredly be a point where you think the drama has gone on for a little too long. You'll grow a tad weary of the darkness and hope that a happy ending is right around the corner.

Whether it is or not, you'll have to watch for yourself to see. It's worth it. I promise you.

The only downsides that keep this film from getting a solid "A" are things I shouldn't really fault it for: it is quite dark, with too few moments of respite. And it is rather one-sided (though with so many accounts of women from these asylums adding up to the same big picture, I'm not sure there's much else that could've been done here, from a cinematic standpoint).

I'll close with this: if you think women were altogether "liberated" decades ago. Or if you think slavery in the so-called "developed" world is a thing of the very distant past.

Then you should know the last "Laundry" didn't shut down until 1996.

Something to keep in mind when you watch the film.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Free as a Bird.

Never once in my life did I stop to think about how sad birds sound when they sing from tree branches.

Not until today, that is.

A co-worker and I were walking out to my car for lunch when something rushed into the thick in front of us. Though she only heard the sound of something large entering the foliage (and saw the subsequent thrashing of leaves), I actually saw the act.

It was a large brown bird — surely not a hawk — possibly a seagull with some brown tinting.

But as soon as she asked "What was that?" the thing emerged again, large beak and all just a foot from our feet as it leapt into the air, carrying a much smaller bird in its talons.

It was, indeed, a hawk. And the most up-close view I've ever had of one, at that. And though, yes, it was cool to look at (even if only for a flash), I spent the rest of my lunch break thinking about the horror I'd just seen.

I mean, I realize everything has to eat, and hawks are by nature carnivores. They can't help it. It's what they do.

Add to that they're one of the most interesting birds to behold, and it's hard to begrudge them their instinct.

But, still, there's a part of me that can't stop seeing that other bird — not much bigger than a sparrow — carried supine through the air. Can't stop hearing its mate crying, loudly, from a nearby tree. Or the other birds that chimed in, suddenly appearing from the tops of light poles and lamp posts, singing what may very well have been a funeral march.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

I'm sorry to say tumbleweeds are scattering across the fiber optic streets of Numb Benign in much the same way dust bunnies settle under lonely beds.

I'm not saying I excepted Simon & Schuster to contact me a day or two after that poetry blog (or "plog," as I like to call it) went public — but, I mean, would it have really killed them to call?

But I digress.

There are actually a few darn good poems on the site — just be on the lookout for anything posted by anyone other than this chick who goes by the name "thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy." Turns out her name is anything but a misnomer. And don't forget, you're all invited to co-author the site as well. Just let me know you're interested.

Still not convinced? How about a little improv trick I learned by proxy.

So, whatever you do — for the love of God! — don't click here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Transporter (Movie Review)

I watched Transporter (2002) more than two weeks ago, and I've been in anything but a rush to review it.

[Not that I've had the time, but you get the idea.]

Add to that I really don't want to waste too much more of my life on this writing nightmare, and you can rest assured I'll be keeping this short.

This isn't a good film. Though I'll admit to enjoying the action sequences (which are pretty to look at), the plot was full of bad aim & bullet holes. Not to mention, directors Louis Leterrier and Corey Yuen were clearing indulging in various fetishes and fantasies, with pretty girl Qi Shu having her mouth taped shut intermittently for the first 40 minutes of the film.

The man who plays her father looks like the caricature of an Asian villain, with a toupee sloppily placed and skin that wreaks of bad plastic surgery.

Must admit, though, that I did like Jason Stratham (the film's lead) well enough — he did OK with what he had to work with. Suffice it to say this is the sort of film that — in terms of dialog, and plot — is always 10 steps behind its audience.

I caught parts of Air Force One (1997) on television the day after I watched Transporter, and let me just say I didn't realize how truly bad the latter was until I had the former to compare it to.

Air Force One requires some suspension of disbelief, sure, but it also doesn't have all of these terrible lulls in-between action sequences. In short: Air Force One maintains a level of suspense without sacrificing the quality of writing. Transporter, by comparison, has a couple cool fight scenes but is otherwise separated by action movie cliches.