Tuesday, May 31, 2005
I wish I hadn't seen it, because it scared the shit out of me:
MR. RUSSERT: Not trying to alarm the American people, but to talk straight to them this morning, I'd like to go around the table. Chairman Kean, let me start with you. Based on everything you've learned during the course of your work as chairman of the September 11 Commission, do you believe it's a distinct possibility that you could witness a nuclear bomb in the United States of America in your lifetime?
MR. KEAN: I believe that, and we talked to nobody who had studied this issue who didn't think it was a real possibility. And if we don't perhaps head Lincoln's advice and, at this point, think anew and act anew, I worry very seriously.
MR. HAMILTON: Oh, yes, I think it's a distinct possibility. This technology is spreading. It's no longer confined to a few people or one or two countries. We've been fairly fortunate with the non- proliferation regime over a period of several decades now. We don't have nearly as many nuclear-power countries as might have been predicted 30 years ago. So the technology is spreading; terrorism is spreading; radical Islam is spreading. You've got an explosive mix here.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Nunn?
MR. NUNN: I agree. I think, though, that the message ought to be: It is certainly possible, but it is also preventable. There are a lot of things we can do that we have not done. I think the public can get involved by getting their leaders to put this on the front burner. Lastbestchance.org will get you a copy of the film. We believe that getting the public involved to help people like Dick Lugar, who are over there every day trying to explain to people why the Nunn-Lugar program is not foreign aid--and that goes on constantly. He and Joe Biden and others who support this program need help, so we need the American public involved, and also, we haven't gotten this formula yet. We've got to get a way to get this message to the Russian people. They've got to put pressure on their leaders, also.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Lugar, a distinct possibility?
SEN. LUGAR: Yes, but I have the optimism that Sam has, that it's preventable. And I would just say: The need for more effective diplomacy in which we get together with the Russians so they help out our seven partners in Europe to spend this money that Lee Hamilton's talking about. Or are we--really work with great people like Jim Reed and Andy Weber and others who are there in the Pentagon now who have been instructors to us about what happens with chemical weapons, which we haven't talked a whole lot about and which may be a threat, or a dirty bomb, in which you don't have a nuclear bomb explosion but you pretty well ruin a city--these are all aspects that are preventable but more likely.
Not three hours earlier I'd caught part of the goofy Tom Clancy Ben Afflected vehicle The Sum of All Fears, in which the Baltimore Inner Harbor is blown up by a recovered Isreali bomb. It was strange to see a Sunday roundtable chat without Dems and Repubs bashing each other. They were all in agreement that we're fucking doomed to endure a nuclear attack, and probably soon.
Saturday evening we went to M and M's new house in Rogers Forge. Newlyweds who just spent a month moving and painting without doing any socializing=truly hyper folk. We played board games as usual (Balderdash, some Lego version of charades) and finished lots of wine.
Sunday Cha had a booth at the SoWeBo Festival and made several hundred dollars selling her political buttons and T-shirts and henna tattoos. Meanwhile I stayed home and did LESS THAN NOTHING all day.
Monday we went to the Khumari buffet, walked around Mt. Vernon for an hour, then ate dinner with Julio and Yo! Adrienne at Saigon remembered. Then, Cha again defeated me at Scrabble, 259-238.
Have I mentioned I hate Scrabble?
Now I'm back at work. Several daytime positions are popping up in Tech Services, and I hope I can land one of those. I was completely unable to drag myself out of bed this morning, and kept going back to sleep until noon when I finally jumped up and went for a three mile run before work.
While certainly less visceral than Noe's criminally intense Irreversible, Seul Contre Tous is nevertheless painfully engaging. Noe is brash and unafraid of taboo, and is audacious enough to put a warning on the screen in giant block text: YOU HAVE 30 SECONDS TO LEAVE THE THEATER before dragging us further into his deranged butcher's depravity.
Strangely, by the time he warns us it's already too late, because the worst has happened. Noe's first film is more interesting than Irreversible because there's some humor here--sick humor to be sure, but the butcher's thoughts are as intricate and surprisingly funny at times as those of Dostoevsky's Underground Man. Irrervrsible is completely devoid of joy, fun, or humor.
At least I thought so. I strongly caution you against I Stand Alone or Irreversible unless you're a sick bastard like me. If you're up to them, though, these are challenging, technically superior films.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Friday, May 27, 2005
The headline should read US Soldiers Killed when Helicopter Shot Down. I guess all those troops killed by IEDs are actually killed when their Humvees "crash" after being blown up?
I do love Baltimore, but is it worthy?
Now that the summer is here I work the same Mon-Thurs schedule, but I have to come in Fridays early because we're not open late on Fridays and we're closed Sundays. Yes, this is better, but it still sucks. I left work at 10:05pm last night and was back here at 7:30am this morning.
And, as if by design, I had insomnia for the first time in two months last night. In bed by 11:30, I actually fell asleep shortly before 1am, only to wake up 20 minutes later, and then I remained awake until 5am.
I hate all the varieties of insomnia, but my least favorite is The Tease, when I fall asleep perfectly and for some unknown reason wake up almost immediately and find myself unable to get back to where I was, like a diving bell with a ballast problem blasting back to the surface too quickly. Suffering lockjaw and REM decompression, I lie in bed too tired to read or think but mysteriously incapable of dozing, my eyes dry, my muscles zapped, my mind whirling away on a dozen simultaneous annoying riffs. Knowing I've got a limited amount of time to get much-needed sleep before heading back to work intensifies the buzzing absurdity of sleep slithering just out of reach, mocking me, playing the unattainable coquette. She's seduced me, I'm hers, but no! Ever fickle, sleep cavorts with others in a playful gangbang and I'm outside the club beyond the velvet ropes, my name not on the list.
As a result, I'm more goofy than usual today, playing air guitar at my desk, unable to concentrate on call numbers and cataloging, easily distracted by Bolton's ridiculous moustachios.
I should, I suppose, be grateful to have had two months without what has been a much more common curse in the past [knocks wood].
Thursday, May 26, 2005
I forget how I discovered Stanley Elkin--perhaps at random on the 'net? All I know is this is the third novel of his I've devoured at a rate comparable to Gramma Hilda with the fried chicken at the Bonanza Buffet after church. When I read
I was shocked, appalled, amazed, and amused--my favorite combination(ok, a black comedy featuring a charity trip to DisneyLand for a dozen terminally ill British kids? How does he come up with this shit?). Muthafucka can write like the burning hand of God on an ancient stone wall, and he spins tales like Sheherazade hustling for crack money near Lexington Market. In The Dick Gibson Show he tackles talk radio, and the stories his characters tell within the novel are better than most novels. Feckin' brilliant I tells ya! Imagine a chapter about a war reporter on the tiny Island of Mauritius killing the last dodo so the Japanese can't use it for propaganda, or a nurse having an affair with her patient because he gets a hard-on during enemas. It's too much! Philip Roth meets David Sedaris.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
The Sacrifice blew me away. I'd seen Tarkovsky's magisterial B&W icon Andrei Rubilev, which is powerful, mysterious, and beautiful as a glacier--and whose narrative moves at about the same pace as an ancient field of boulder-chewing ice. The Sacrifice is a completely different film, and manages nearly to out-Bergman Bergman (the film is in Swedish and features Erland Josephsen [Cries and Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage]). We pinball from the beautiful and sublime to the bleak and hopeless and back again, and there's not merely the typical cinematic Swedish madness of a repressed familial sort, but a madness that threatens the entire Earth. God does play dice with the universe, and Tarkovsky allows his camera lovingly to linger amongst grass and trees while Erland as poet/actor/innalectual Alexander waxes indignant about the abuses of Man.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Daniel Bouchard's second book, "Some Mountains Removed," meditates on questions of social responsibility in a larger world. Thoughtful, and sometimes full of rage, Bouchard is interested in cognitive dissonance, the way in which the America we inhabit feels strenuously alive and yet seems built on illusions. Bouchard himself admits, "I have the poet's dual instinct to say/on the one hand it doesn't matter and/the other to set everyone straight." He's at his best when he incorporates frustrated fatigue and rant into his richly descriptive poems of landscape and place. The well-hewn and prescient "Actors House at Wellfleet," a gentle satire of the crumbling site of an earlier version of the entertainment industry (and its patrons, the very rich) deserves comparison to Robert Lowell's meditation on the losses of history, "For the Union Dead."
When Bouchard isn't busy criticizing consumerism he's drawn to nature. As he himself points out, it still seems a place of refuge, where a friend's impeccable directions can find you a few moments of relief from culture, but Bouchard isn't interested in pleasure and doesn't let himself linger in sensuousness because, quite frankly, he doesn't really think the current state of culture allows us to feel it. What he does appear to feel is an excess of frustration, and in "Idle Music Is the Devil's Band" he only barely stops short of claiming that whether or not to hate people in what he calls "Suburban Ubiquitous Vehicles" is the greatest moral problem of his generation. This seems a bit hyperbolic, even for our nation of excess. Bouchard seems to risk more--and earn his audience--when his satires collapse into an uneasy sincerity, as at the end of "Knives of the Poets":
I can't commit
My heart to where I thought once
It would be, always open, honest, free
From fears, not braced by
Slim, trivial regrets or
A fool's anxiety about the future.
Few young voices in American poetry are as capable of as many moody variations.
Hmmmm: "Thoughtful, and sometimes full of rage..." That indeed was The Poet at Dirty Franks in the early '90s! I think the reviewer is wrong to note "an excess of frustration" in these poems, particularly when she notes we live in "a nation of excess," and most particularly after she writes that he's "at his best when he incorporates frustrated fatigue and rant...," but for the most part I'm tickled pink to see this review in a major daily. I've had his book on my nightstand for months, and wrestle it often.
Yeah, right. And when we returned after a month they'd have a zillion excuses for why things were not finished and why the project had reached 140% of the original estimate, which should be delivered next week.
Tomorrow Wayne from Company B is visiting at 11am. He says he'll only need 30 minutes with me at the house and then two hours at his showroom later.
Monday, May 23, 2005
I hated this movie, and could waste time telling you why, but I have more important things to attend to. I'll let Anthony Lane tell it like it is:
The general opinion of Revenge of the Sith seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Last night we saw a bonus Move Like Seamus show at Mick O'Shea's; 'twas supposed to be a solo Earthdgragon gig but some rich fucks hired the joint for a Loyola College graduation party and Mick's management asked for the Full Monty. Good thing, too, because it was packed with wealthy 21 and 22 year olds who wanted to dance, and dance they did, to all those '80s songs which to them are as old and interesting as The Beatles were to me when I was their age and attending Loyola Collge.
Today I must go to market and call more contractors who won't respond.
Dear Mr. McEwan:
You are a tremendously gifted writer of unparalleled sensibilities, and an unrivalled prose stylist to boot. But this book is bullshit from the get-go, and you have to know it. Your main character (the controlling consciousness of Saturday} simply makes no sense. He hates reading poetry and yet makes nuanced and perceptive remarks about verse? He has never read more than 40 pages of What Maisie Knew and barely finished Daisy Miller and yet finds himself comparing Henry James' "fussiness" to William James' "knack of fixing on the surprising commonplace"? These are only small samplings of the incoherence of your creation.
Unfortunately I find myself pulled along by your sinuous, gorgeous sentences--without them I would have thrown this novel out the window yesterday. I'll go back and re-read the marvelous Atonement after this to make sure you are actually good at what you do. I suggest you do some atonement of your own.
I'd been warned away from Kinsey by people who'd seen it, but I rather liked it, particularly for the actors (Neeson, Linney, Curry, Redgrave}. The biggest problem is the pacing, which, for the first two-thirds of the film is akin to a six-hour TV miniseries with its abundance of detail. Unfortunately, in a cinematic release, one can't do 6 hour marathons, so the script rushes through a bunch of negatives: questionable research methods, political repurcussions, disastrous experiments amongst Kinsey's staff and family. And then we rush to a redemptive scene and end.
But the first two-thirds I really liked. Moose-hung Dr. Kinsey gives up studying bugs when he and his wife find out the reason they can't fuck is simply addressed by a specialist. Kinsey thinks there might be many more problems out there and decides to study human behavior in the bedroom, the haystack, the backseat, the bar bathroom stall, the confessional, etc. Worth a viewing, particularly now as the Christers may once again begin legislating our sexual practices.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Porn actress Mary Carey
Also, my favorite news story of the day.
Links via Fleshbot.
Took a half day today and tomorrow in order to maximize bedtime in hopes of getting better without antibioticals. Now I sit at the Service Desk and watch beautiful women study.
Met Julio for lunch today at India Palace in Cockeysville. Hadn't been up there in a while, and the food wasn't as good as it used to be. Still, an ok buffet. Julio's in a bad way, and feels stuck in his art and can't get in gear. We talked about past foolishness in and around Cockeysville--he got thrown out of the Giant that's now a Food Lion for doing whippits and going nuts with the Twins. That unremarkable region of strip malls and groceries is where Cha and I had our first apartment together.
I told him that when I left the house this morning I found sawdust on the porch and I saw a bee hovering there and thought, "oh, shit." Sure enough, when I bent down and put my ear to the railing I heard the busy boring of wood-boring bees, and jammed a stick up in the hole I found, then felt guilty for it. Julio said he first started huffing ether when he tried to kill some wood-boring bees by spraying it at them.
He asked me about my "writing," and I recalled the last time I wrote a worthwhile story was based on an idea he'd given me in 1996 or 1997 about a hallucination he had, ironically enough, while huffing ether in the late '80s. That story came about because I was trying to come up with anything to work on and I picked up a box of junk and a journal fell out open to a page where I'd written this Julio/ether anecdote. Funny how that same ol' shit recycles again and again. His hallucination involved falling into a labyrinth and running into the Hereford High mascot, which is a cartoonish bull, all the while his heart was almost stopped and he thought he was dying, but once he saw the bull he found his way out. Shortly after he got sober and has been since. Our friendship resumed around that time (of course that bull couldn't have anything to do with the fact I'm a Taurus) and Julio's dad was the one who found another friend of mine dead on the side of the road.
KILL ME NOW! MY GRAD ASSISTANT JUST CALLED OUT AND I HAVE TO STAY UNTIL MIDNIGHT AGAIN!
I'm pissed now.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Robert A. Heinlein
There may be more but I can't think of them now...
I've never seen him ANGRY before, however. There are moments in this speech of beautiful indignation, and I recommend you download it from C-SPAN because reading it won't be the same:
Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle-class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq's oil. I mean the people who turn faith-based initiatives into a slush fund and who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy.
That's who I mean. And if that's editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it's OK to state the conclusion you're led to by the evidence.
Go, Bill go! [The entire Newsweek "scandal" proves that Moyers' concerns are all the more vital at this time, BTW.]
Also a blast: Galloway's priceless ridiculing of that weasle Sen. Norm Coleman today. Take that, Asshat!
And, of course, Tom Tomorrow rules.
A couple weeks ago I met Francis for drinks at The Golden West in Hampden--he's taking his Yale PhD away from TU and is off to teach French at Mt. Holyoke in MASS. During our wide-ranging discussion of politics, history, academia, and film, he mentioned Millennium Actress and praised it lavishly.
I can see why. This is perhaps the best animated film I've ever seen (no, not the best animated film I've seen, but the best animated film). A magical journey through a thousand years of Japanese history and the history of Japanese cinema, a film about regret and guilt and memory and art. Lovely.
Francis turned me on to many cool things the last two years; the advanced French lit classes I took with him were most excellent. There are simply not enough students in the program at TU to keep three full-time faculty going. He'll be missed.
Monday, May 16, 2005
- I feel sick. I thought Saturday I was just lazy, then yesterday I felt like I was getting sick, and today I am. Some kind of lung/sore throat thing that I initially mistook for allergies. Conniption was just here and told me he's got it too, and has for four days. Ugh. According to BroJ, with whom I spent a tedious hour on the phone last evening, Pork Heaven was sick with the same bug for six days.
- I just read Harper's and The New York Review of Books. Both contain excellent reporting on our 2 major domestic problems: a fervent societal belief in irrational "free market" ideology and the growing Christian fascism bent on media and political dominance. Harper's has a great article by Chris Hedges, whose book War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning will change your life. NYRB has a very interesting review of William Pfaff's The Bullet's Song: Romantic Violence and Utopia, which goes immediately into the 500-deep stack of books I need to read. I've been worried about this problem since I was a teen, because I grew up in scary Christian churches and read Robert Heinlein's "Future History" novels. Heinlein's once-ridiculous vision of the USA as a fundamentalist theocracy looks more possible by the day.
- I just read Jane's fine postings over at firedoglake; as is often the case, she sums up exactly what I'm worrying about with facts and figures and such.
- Because it's exam week my grad assistant can't work, so I'm here at the Liberry until midnight tonight and tomorrow night, and it's fucking busy right now.
Reasons NOT to be depressed:
- Yesterday was the last Sunday I have to work until September.
- It's finals week, which means all the fucking students will be leaving Towson soon, and my neighborhood will be much quieter for three glorious months.
- I'm going to drink beer when I get home, and I don't have to wake up tomorrow until 3pm if I choose.
So I've been reading this book on Tibetan "dream yoga" and one of the practices recommended in order to achieve lucid dreaming is to continuously say to oneself throughout the day: THIS IS A DREAM. I did so yesterday every 30 minutes or so, and when I fell asleep last night I had a dream that I was in my paternal grandparents' house in Stewartstown, PA. Strangely, I said to myself THIS IS A DREAM in the dream, and then sat down and made a list of my sins on a yellow legal pad. I sat in that tattered old Laz-y-Boy Grandma used to lounge in whilst smoking her pipe and watching people drive by on Main Street. When I woke up I had no memory of dreaming at all, but remembered the dream later in the day when I sat down to make a list of things I had to do today.
It wasn't, however, a "lucid" dream, because that wasn't actually "me" taking control of my actions during the dream. Rather, it was me dreaming I was having a lucid dream. I mean, yeah, of course, all the stuff that happens in a dream is ME somehow, but not the conscious ME I am when I'm awake, whatever "awake" is.
Were I to actually have a "lucid" dream in my grandparent's house I'd explore it instead of sitting down and writing up a list of my sins. The first things I'd check are:
- Is that old push-botton lightplate from the teens still in the hallway?
- Are those paint spatters on the wood floor under the bookcase still there? Grandma G. used to freak me out by telling me they were "spider poop"
- Is that outlet under the telephone table still blackened from the time I jammed a skeleton key in it?
- Is the barn converted to a garage still out back, and is there still hay inside the tiny door where Soupy the dog used to live?
Sunday, May 15, 2005
R.I.P., Chester. Show St. Peter the Happy Pee.
George S. brought the memo to the attention of Senator John McCain, who sputtered, denied, and changed the subject as quickly as possible, saying something along the lines of:
Saddam was shooting at American planes! Every day!
McCain then said he was "guardedly optimistic" about the outcome of W.'s adventure.
Normally I'm one of those who likes to read the book before seeing the film; it didn't work out that way with Remains of the Day, and simply by chance. I know several people who loathe the film because they read the book first, and any fidgeting with the story was in their view execrable. Because the film is one of my all-time favorites, I was concerned to read the book because I might find something objectionable in the Merchant Ivory treatment, and then where would I be?
But I didn't and I don't. The novel is simply spectacular and is perhaps one of the most perfectly balanced I've read. The character Mr. Stevens is so pitiable, so damnable, so worthy of contempt and compassion--Ishiguro's achievement is marvelous.
There are small deviations in the film from the novel, but I don't see that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala could have done any better. I love them both. You can read this in four hours, and you should immediately.
Still worth a visit; I particularly like to see the suspicion rural, conservative folk used to have about the government, which appears to have been abandoned in far too many counties across the US because W. wears a big belt buckle and "clears brush." The Ward brothers' case is a sad one, but their lives aren't sad--there's a brief documentary of them visiting Manhattan included on the disc.
Cute. I like the sequel Mon Oncle un peu plus que Les Vacance de M. Hulot, mais c'est neanmois un film superior et tres interessant. The scene with a spare tire in wet leaves is fantastic.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Birfdays was the worst days
Now we drink champagne when we thirstay
I don't hate birthdays, I simply don't care about them. It's rather arbitrary to choose May 13 each year to celebrate as "my day" just because 36 years ago I popped out and wailed me first wail then and whatnot. We should always celebrate ourselves, no?
But I do like those occasional Friday the 13th birthdays. Big plans? Hell, no. I may take myself out to lunch at the Khumari buffet. Maybe I'll get off my keister and do the long-overdue mulching and spring cleaning. Perhaps I'll open a fine red and sit in the yard with Kazuo Ishiguro. Having no plans are my favorite plans of all.
Today I had my first Cook Liberry birthday bash. It's a sweet tradition the old-schoolers here insist upon; when a member of Tech Services has a birthday, everyone gathers round in the common area upstairs and we eat homemade cakes and other goodies. I was fortunate enough to get fantastic Ferocity dirt cupcakes (no, not REAL dirt) with gummy worms poking out of them. The Bus, Damnyelli, and Earthdragon apparently helped in their construction. Delicious, with pudding in the middle.
I just realized that I had one of those at 2pm, and a cookie, and two strawberries, and it is now 10 and I've eaten naught else today.
Woke this morning with an urge to speak with Julio. As I set up the coffee pot to brew I picked up the phone, then nature called, so I put the phone back in its cradle and had just situated myself on the john and unfurled Updike's Max Ernst musings when the phone rang downstairs. It was, of course, Julio. I called him back minutes later and we chatted while I drank my coffee. He was playing Led Zep IV and I teased him about it, but had to admit I'd been hankering for some Zep myself lately. I wore that shit out as a teen to the point that hearing Zep on the radio would induce rage. Now, I'm ready to listen again after a decade off. I think this craving came from seeing Robert Plant on Charlie Rose last night. He's fucking old, man. The bands I grew up with (Zep, The Who, The Stones, etc) are OLD, and most of them are on car commercials. I had no idea Plant had a new album. Rose asked him if he still had any pain over John Bonham's death, and Plant said something very interesting:
"Of course it's American television, so always 'the pain.'"
I forgot to note the other night a tremendous occurence. Yahtzee failed to beat me at pool a majority of the games for the first time ever Tuesday night. We tied, 4-4, before some punk ass hipsters tried to take our table, only to be soundly defeated by ME, with no help from the normally superior stickman. Then, we lost to some rich guy and his girlfriend twice before beating them finally.
Only one more Sunday to work before I get them off all summer...
Mr. Horsely proves all blue-stater stereotypes of red-staters are true!
The Rude Pundit, in his own enthusiastically perverse manner, mentions several right-wing fundie darlings who engage in questionable erotic practises before putting everything in tidy context:
Somehow a blow job under the desk seems so quaint, you know? Next to the throbbing perverse desires of the right that explode in destructive behavior against those who love them and those they want to fuck, the simple placing of consensual lips around a consensual cock is so comforting. It recontextualizes everything, doesn't it, all this crazed fucking. No wonder the right wants to destroy the legacy of the old and new left. They're jealous that they never got to enjoy it. And it's going to send them over a cliff. Rome burned because the leaders were so busy giving in to their sex drives run amok that they never saw the barbarians coming.
One of my earliest memories is of Grandmaw M. forcing me to go into a trailer with some greaseball preacher at the South Mountain Fair in Southern PA. He'd asked if I'd accepted Jesus as my personal savior as we walked by and I didn't answer so Grandmaw told him "of course he will now!" Once inside, said fathead tried to put his hands in my awful green plaid pants as we knelt in front of a Formica altar with a paperback Bible open on it. I was all of 7 years old, but knew enough to high-tail it out of there before the preacher could sacrifice my cherry to his Saviour. Then I was scolded for having a "lack of faith" by Grandmaw; her naivite has rarely been achieved even in that bass ackwards region of the USA.
Fucking weirdos--kinks are one thing, but when the 'consensual' tag doesn't apply we're talking right criminal bastards who need therapy/jail, especially when said bastards are bloviating hypocrites to boot. And even adult mules can't give consent.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Shortly after finishing his latest (The Overnight), I discovered that Ramsey Campbell had written yet another novel I'd not seen--missing new titles is the worst thing about no longer working in a bookshop.
The Darkest Part of the Woods is a classic in Campbell's most Lovecraftian vein, and ranks with The Hungry Moon, Ancient Images, and The Doll Who Ate its Mother amongst the finest of his Cthulu Mythos stuff. I read it in two days at the Service Desk, and typically I can't read novels here because I'm continuously distracted.
Here's an interesting interview about the book on Suicide Girls. Yes, the Lovecraftian pastiche (an eldritch, malevolent force from beyond time and space attempts to break into our world using humans as pawns) has been done and re-done, but Campbell's absolutely unique descriptive style is such a pleasure to read that I don't care about the all-too-traditional plot underpinnings. Good clean fun.
And speaking of horror,
I'm not sure why I revisited Henry after a decade--the film had little impact on me last time. But it's better than I remember--quiet, creepy, banal, and merciless. Henry, Otis, and Becky remind me of my south PA cousins.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
This is it, I think, stopping to scent the air. Lots of cat. Lots of dust. Nothing else. There's a powerstrip on the floor, its switch glowing orange, and in the front room there's a lamp burning a low red bulb. "Nance!" I yell, and then regret it because yelling only makes the silence that much heavier. "Ok," I say, aloud. "Upstairs first, or downstairs?"
I move left and into the kitchen. Typical kitchen stuff--cat food cans on the counter, several notes Nancy left herself: Deepak Chopra book notices, an advert for a six-week bipolar study (a clue?), a stack of library books from the Towson branch of BCPL due in November on the stovetop. The kitty litter box is clean and filled with fresh litter, but there are no food or water dishes nearby (another clue?). I look at the basement door, I move to it, I look down into the darkness. There's the sound of what must be a dehumidifier, but I'm reluctant to go down there with no light, and the switch by the door clicks with no result. "Upstairs it is!"
The front room is somber because Nancy has put a large bureau with an ornate antique mirror in front of the only window. Some light seeps in around the edges, but not nearly enough. There's a new smell in here, kind of like that old-age home smell. There are carpets rolled up to my right and I lift them and then feel morbid for checking them. Nothing looks amiss. On a stereo speaker by the front door are three piles of mail from the fall. One pile of unopened BGE bills, one pile of unopened water bills, one pile of unopened solicitations. So someone since the fall has at least gotten her mail and gone through it--perhaps Nancy herself? To my left are the stairs carpeted in thick blue shag. I know from previous visits that none of the electricity works upstairs, and grasping the railing I pause because I can just barely make out something like a claw reaching down in the darkness, but of course that's simply the disabled wiring from what used to be a hall fixture. I think of steps in movies: the staircase in The Shining, the staircase in The Haunting, the staircase in The Exorcist, and I take them three at a time.
Three doors closed, one with a chair in front of it. The fourth is open, and there's a bit of light coming through there because it's the bathroom and there's a dim skylight. I can see the entire bathroom and the shower curtain is open. Nobody. I reach for the knob immediately to my right, then pause, and knock at the door. Nothing. I open the door to see your standard disused guest room, filled with the lonely detritus of a lonely life. Boxes, papers, magazines, clothes, a closet spilling shapeless junk into the gloom. I close the door and move to the next. A twin mattress on the floor, presumably where she sleeps. A large water stain on the ceiling and some plaster down in the far corner. No sign of life, no sign of not-life. Nothing. I close the door and turn to the final one; I have to reach around the oddly positioned lounge chair to get the knob, and when I push it open there's resistance low and behind the door.
Oh fucking Christ, don't let it be what I think it might be, I think, and yet I keep pushing anyway because I've come this far, and yet if it is somebody lying behind the door, and if she has been there for quite some time, what will be the state of her after I slide her across the floor by opening this? Of course it can't be her because how would she have possibly positioned the chair in front of the outside of the door after dying behind it? Unless someone did something to her...
The room smells and is very dark. I can see nothing for a few seconds and then realize there's nothing much to the room excepting significant water damage. What I've been pushing the door against is simply the ceiling collapsed onto the floor. The smell is moist wood. I close the door and take a moment to gather my wits. The basement is next, after all, and...
Monday, May 09, 2005
While we were doggie sitting Saturday Cha and I walked Chalupa up to the Burkleigh Square Community Park. One of the local community association busy-bodies was there and asked if we'd seen Nancy recently--Nancy's our next door neighbor in #3, and she's really nice but is also, quite frankly, not firing on all synapses. Her house, which she owns, is falling down around her, but she has neither the inclination nor the money to fix it up, and she refuses any and all help (though I do cut her grass and shovel her snow and allow her to use our trash cans because she doesn't have one). Her gutters have all fallen down, her plumbing is a catastrophe, she has no refrigerator, her windows are broken. The house is an eyesore.
"I have not," I told said busybody as her new Doberman puppy tried to eat my right shoelace, "seen Nancy in months. Nor her cat, nor her boyfriend. I assumed she'd moved in with her boyfriend because her pipes burst again this winter and there was a glacier on her front porch for much of February." I'd actually spoken to Cha a few times over the winter about her curious absence. When we returned from Honduras in January there was a week-old snowfall frozen on Nancy's sidewalks, and no footprints in either her front or back yard.
The busybody informed me that Nancy's boyfriend had stopped by and knocked at Nancy's door for an hour just last week, with no response. It's not atypical for Nancy to ignore people knocking. She's a bit of a recluse, and tends toward wackiness:
- Last summer she got a library book wet and put it in her gas oven at 500 degrees to "dry it out." I smelled something burning and after tearing around my house in a panic I saw smoke coming from her kitchen window and went in via an unlocked window to find a singed and mutilated copy of a holistic healing tome baking away. Nancy was upstairs the entire time I'd been knocking on her window and door shouting--she simply ignored me until I climbed through her window. She was apologetic but mostly amused by this incident.
- When we first moved in she told me the deceased previous owner of our house liked me, and that she often saw him smiling down at her from the upstairs window of our house.
- I often heard her wailing and yelling to herself in the wee hours of the morning.
- She often left us small gifts on our back porch, including a frog candle holder, a blue glass, a gauche daub featuring a bullfighter portrait on black velvet, some parking meter tokens from 1960s Towson, a small iron table, etc. Her cat Monkey has left me headless birds and mice as well.
- Her dog Happy died last Spring and she covered his grave with impatiens and then stopped doing any yard work--the only upkeep she'd ever done in the nine years we've lived next to her was to tend her plants.
Today before work I decided to call the police. There's mail in Nancy's box from March, and before that I'm sure the mailman simply couldn't deliver anything because of the ice cascading out of burst pipes over her front door. Two young musclehead cops showed up and banged on her door, opened her window and shouted, and asked me a bunch of questions. "We can't enter the property despite its delapidation unless we, uh, you know, smell something. Or, if there's some upkeep issue damaging your property, or if a family member calls."
I told them she has no family, and mentioned that she keeps a key in her yard under a seashell that she showed me to use if she accidentally almost burned down her house again. "Would it be ok for me to enter the property to see if she's ok?"
According to them it's not, but I might just do so this week anyhow to satisfy my curiosity. I'm worried about her. We used to chat over the fence every few weeks, and the last time I remember talking to her or seeing her was shortly after Happy's death last fall. Is it appropriate for me to enter her property, or an invasion of privacy? If I can't find the key she showed me, should I go in through her living room window? What would I find--and am I prepared to find something unpleasant?
Sunday, May 08, 2005
My folks came down around 5:30 and we took them to Ixia where dinner for four--including a bottle of wine, cocktails, and dessert--costs about the equivalent of a mortgage payment. I felt I had to spoil Mommie a bit given I hadn't seen her since Xmas, and of course that was the first thing out of her mouth when I saw her. But once the requisite guilt trip was out of the way we actually had a very pleasant evening, with no harsh criticisms of anyone, no destructive comments, no contempt. There was passive-aggressive baby guilt, of course, of the sort where she corners Cha and lectures her about how sympathetic she is about "your decision" and how she would "never dream" of guilting us about giving her grandchildren but we'd better seriously consider our decision given we're in our mid thirties now, etc. Bah!
During the afternoon we got to doggiesit Chalupa while Big Red and Leesha visited his mom, and it was insanely fun to have a dog in the house (Cha's dander allergies typically forbid it, though Chalupa is a Yorkie/Chihuaua mix and has hair instead of fur; the last twelve years I've had no dog in my life, and it's a miserable state indeed. As a youth I always had three or four dogs, plus all the other dogs in the neighborhood, and I miss that.). I got to play sock tug-of-war, throw the ball fetch, and find the leg-thumping scratchy tickle nerve with someone other than Cha!
This cycle of stories is written in a style so sparse and economic that it's hard to imagine the action covers tens of thousands of years, and yet Simak's City blasts ahead into an unimaginably distant future where Man is long gone and robots and genetically modified dogs are all that remain of his legacy. Faulty Landscape recommended this and after I began the first tale I remembered vividly one of my parents' Xmas parties from the mid-eighties where I was talking to one of their Westinghouse co-workers who'd also recommended City. Reading it gave me a powerful nostalgia for old Asimov and R. Daneel Olivaw and those other great books and characters and worlds visited as a teen. I blew through it in a couple hours and was left tingling with an odd remorse--there's too much good shit to read/watch/listen to and not nearly enough free time to do so.
Wow. I've been blown away by other Zhang Yimou titles; this is perhaps his most visually stunning yet. Is the story goofy/tiresome/cliched/awkward/pointless? Yes, but who the fuck cares? Turn off the subtitles and just watch The House of Flying Daggers for what it is; an old-school Kung Fu film crafted by one of the most gifted auteurs, a veritable feast of light, color, and design. Incredibly lavish, with sensuous fabrics against intricate landscapes and strange and effective CGI. I didn't like Hero much because Yimou was trying to force a Kung Fu movie to be an arthouse film; here, he makes a Kung Fu movie with arthouse skill, and it's much less pretentious. I still wish Yimou would go back to making serious films of smaller scale--I know he saw the billion dollars made by Crouching Tiger and thought "I can do that," and I can sympathize with his desire to cash in--but now that he's cashed in he can stop. BTW--will somebody for the love of God release The Story of Qi Ju and Raise the Red Lantern on DVD!!!?
I have Silenus to thank for recommending this excellent corrective to the saccharine sensibilities of Moonstruck. People in the Austrian suburbs don't "lead lives of quiet desperaton" according to Hundstage; instead, they lead lives of outrageous manipulative cynicism, banal sadism, and hopeless empty pseudo-eroticism. There's not much overt violence, but this is an exquisitely painful film to watch, and features an un-titillating orgy sequence one must see to believe. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I found much of it outright hilarious. Almost.
Yeah, it's good. I don't have much to say about it for some reason, perhaps because it's hard to watch someone portraying young Ernesto before he became the martyr Che, knowing all along his youthful idealism will be squelched as he's hunted down and shot full of holes by the CIA in a Bolivian jungle. Motorcycles Diaries is beautiful and touching, and yet I felt grumpy watching it. I also found my desire to visit Peru ratcheted up even further.
Friday, May 06, 2005
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Top 5 Lyrics That Move Your Heart
1. "My sense of humanity has gone down the drain/behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain." Bob Dylan Not Dark Yet
2. "The Beast in Me is caged by frail and fragile bars/Restless by day, and by night/rants and rages at the stars..." Johnny Cash [Leonard Cohen] The Beast in Me
3. "Your kisses are as wicked as an M-16, and you fuck like a volcano and you're everything to me." Liz Phair Supernova
4. "Call the coroner/There's gonna be a lot of slow singin'/flower bringing'/if my burglar alarm start ringin'." Notorious B.I.G. Warning
5. "I crawl like a viper/through these suburban scenes/Make love to these women/languid and bitter sweet/I'll rise when the sun goes down/Cover every game in town/A world of my own/I'll make it my home sweet home" Steely Dan, Deacon Blues
Top 5 Instrumentals
1. Because It's There Michael Hedges
Have you ever seen a harp guitar? (photos halfway down linked page) This guy composed for it, and I saw him play Because It's There live three times, and I still don't understand it. He had a brain in each finger
2. Rude Mood Stevie Ray Vaughan
A kickass compendium of a dozen guitar styles, played faster than imaginable.
3. Fracture King Crimson
Absolutely insane guitar work. And drumming.
4. If II BS Charles Mingus
Ah, that sneaky, throaty bass...
5. Sur l'Autoroute Miles Davis
I picked this one out of any number of Davis tracks--why not?
Top 5 Live Musical Experiences
1. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerhoff, Sept. 13, 2001, with Emmanual Ax on piano. They changed the program from Mozart to Beethoven because Ax is a New Yorker and said playing Beethoven was his form of prayer. They played "God Bless America" before the concert and the entire audience was singing and crying, and the crying lasted through Pno Concerto #3. The most cathartic musical experience of my life, and then they played Debussy's La Mer to top it off.
2. Slayer, Hammerjacks, 1991. This show was a special preview concert of their Seasons in the Abyss album and was not marketed until that afternoon, when 98 Rock announced the show. For $8 I saw them perform their entire catalog at the time. I spent the four-hour show standing just above and behind my hero, Dave Lombardo, whose percussion was pure blitzkrieg. I suffered a 30% hearing loss in my right ear, and it doesn't get better than that.
3. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble at the Towson Center, 1985. My first concert, and I was floored. We were in the tenth row. I've never heard nor seen anything like it since. Vaughan plugged his patch cord directly into his soul and dripped ambrosia from his fingertips.
4. Neil Young/Social Distortion/Sonic Youth at the Capital Center, 1991. Fucking amazing, and fucking loud.
5. Willie Nelson at the Meyerhoff, 2002. I was full of whiskey. Willie played for almost three hours with that kick-ass band. The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall was full of pot smoke and bikers.
Top 5 Artists You Think More People Should Listen To
1. Olivier Messiaen
2. Alban Berg
3. Guillaume de Machaut
4. Gillian Welch/David Rawlings
5. A tie: Crack the Sky and Fantomas
Top 5 Albums You Must Hear from Start to Finish
1. Time out of Mind Bob Dylan
2. Paul's Boutique The Beastie Boys
3. My Mother's Hymn Book John R. Cash
4. Reign in Blood Slayer
5. Aja Steely Dan
Top 5 Musical Heroes
*Please Note: This is impossible. I'd need many sub-categories (five guitar heroes, five drummer heroes, five bass heroes, five vocal heroes, etc) to do the job*
1. J.S. Bach
2. Ludwig van
3. Olivier Messiaen
4. Neil Young
5. Frank Sinatra
I have to pass this on, I believe--let's welcome Silenus to Blogger, and give it to Emily and Flea, because they don't have any work to do.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
If we cannot remain present during sleep, if we lose ourselves every night, what chance do we have to be aware when death comes? If we enter our dreams and interact with the mind's images as if they are real, we should not expect to be free in the state after death. Look to your experience in dreams to know how you will fare in death. Look to your experience of sleep to discover whether or not you are truly awake.
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
A couple weeks ago we had dinner with Buf and MA at their estate in red-state MD and Buf mentioned a neighbor of his when they lived in Towson worked at the Liberry with me. He mentioned her name and asked if I knew her; I said I'd seen her name before but had not met her. He said "Well, if you do speak to her tell her we said 'hi.' She's really great."
Today when I got to work at 5:30 (I took a half day) there was a bag of cumin seeds on my chair and a note from this very individual which read:
May you never run out of cumin seeds again! Please feel free to call on me for Indian spices--if you'd like--I cook a lot of Indian food & buy large quant. of spices--too much for our small family.
I thought: How the fuck does she know I like Indian food?! To my knowledge we've not met, so why would she do this. Did she leave a bag of cumin seeds for everyone today? Then I remembered we'd all submitted favorite recipes to create a Liberry cookbook for the retiring Aunties, and my dish was chana masala. Of course she must've seen that and thereby come to her conclusion that I might like some spices.
Not an hour before finding this note I'd started reading
and found therein the best explanation of karma and karmic traces using "seeds" as an analogy; I felt for the first time that I understood the functioning of karma. They way Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche describes it, karma is not a punishment for bad deeds nor a reward for good ones, but merely a tendency in the mind, almost like a Freudian complex or neurosis that affects how we perceive our surroundings and how we react to events (Henry James "web of consciousness"). Reading the first couple of chapters was like a slap in the chakras. My recent agonizing over the graduate program at UMd? Tenzin has an answer: every diploma is an award for developing a more sophisticated ignorance. Precisely what I'd been thinking but unwilling to confront! I've found many such 'aha!' moments in his book already.
I'd bought the book completely at random using an Amazon gift certificate needing something to fill up the last $15 and somehow landed on a 'blog that recommended this book.
I'll do the same even though I haven't finished it.
I love this (another GC self-gift); not only do I admire Welch's singing and songwriting, but David Rawlings is quite frankly the meanest muthafucka playing an acoustic axe these days. I think his work is magnificent, and wish to emulate his style of play with my own; he's very percussive at times, but knows how to scale down to ethereal fingerstyle when appropriate, and can play rock/bluegrass/blues/folk licks with equal facility, often merging styles in inventive ways. Plus, he sings harmony like a dream--few voices blend as well as Welch and Rawlings--perhaps Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris came close, and currently only Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski are as good together. We saw them at the Recher two years ago and they were simply divine!
I don't want to spoil anything for those 1.2 people who are going to see this and who check in here from time to time, so I'll limit myself to only the most vague discussion. Yes, no, no, NO, ok, yes, no, YES, YES, WOW, Yes, yes, ok, WTF?, YES.
There you have it. It's not the film In the Mood for Love is; in fact, it's half the film In the Mood for Love is. Bear in mind, however, that many of the finest films ever made are half the film In the Mood for Love is. There's a voiceover that takes away too much of Wong kar Wai's subtlety, but this overbearing narrative shuts up soon enough, and there are many beautifully shot scenes which position the viewer uncomfortably in the role of voyeur. Also, several of the most beautiful women on the planet (Gong Li, Maggie Cheung (under-utilized here), Zhang Yiyi (woah--no longer that elfish teen!)) are featured, and during some interesting half-Blade Runner half-Tron sci-fi sequences there are the sexiest cornball outfits since Barbarella Queen of the Galaxy.
I'd give it four out of five stars--on the same scale In the Mood for Love gets eight out of five, but 2046 is excellent in its own way.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Monday, May 02, 2005
Gore Vidal was intimately tied to the most important people in politics, literature, TV, and Hollywood for much of the second half of the 20th century. He occasionally has nice things to say (he liked his neighbor Greta Garbo, and is surprisingly sympathetic to Hilary Clinton, for example), but we don't care for that. We want dirt and mean-spirited gossip, and there's so much of it here the head spins. You want a young Jackie Bouvier Kennedy showing a bride-to-be how to "douche post-sex" in the tub? You want a conversation where Allen Ginsberg and Vidal discuss who blew whom, who fucked whom in the ass, and how Norman Mailer reacted? You want merciless deflations of overblown celebrity egos like Truman Capote, Chuck Heston, Anais Nin, Bobby Kennedy, Jack Kerouac, JFK, Evelyn Waugh, E.M. Forester, etc, etc? You want an observant and catty insider's view of the machinations of studio execs, corporate shills in the Senate, the Military Industrial Complex, the aviation industry, Broadway, CBS, the Gore family (the three Senators in particular, and a VP, and a distant cousin named Jimmy Carter)?
This is your book. Palimpsest jumps around like a barefoot child on hot asphalt, but no matter. Vidal's voice--his irrepressible wit and uncanny ability to find every false idol's clay feet--makes this book a treat.
The myth of the Fisher King, roughly distilled from numerous variants, goes:
Once a young prince, on a quest to prove his valour and worth, was preparing to camp alone in a dark thick wood. He lit a fire and set himself near it for warmth when a vision of the divine grace of God appeared in the flames. The prince was stunned to see before him the Holy Grail made of fire, and heard a commanding voice tell him his role was henceforth to be keeper of the Grail and its mysteries would be open to him.
The prince, however, had other ideas, and sought power and wealth and dominance over other men. He tried to wrest the Grail from its fiery pedestal only to find himself woefully burnt. All his long life, these wounds never healed.
When the prince had become an exhausted old king, he lay dying alone in his lavish bed, surrounded by the objects he and his knights had plundered from castles and monastaries whilst seeking the Grail. His knights knew his death was near and were busy fighting each other for the right to succeed their liege, and his vast empire and his endless resources were no consolation to the king, whose hands were blistered claws covered in grue. A fool--a simple man--entered the king's castle and somehow ended up in the king's private chamber. Seeing merely an old man miserable and in obvious pain, the fool asked "What ails you sir?"
"I am thirsty," said the king.
The fool immediately produced a simple skin bag and poured into his own humble cup a drought of clear water. The king, as he reached for the cup, felt for the first time in many decades that his hands no longer hurt. They had healed completely! And the cup he held was no simple wooden mug, but the Grail itself, the very symbol of God's grace.
"How have you discovered what my most brave and scholarly servants were unable to bring me?" the king asked, astounded at his good fortune.
His explanation: "You were thirsty. I gave you water."
Gilliam's film holds up--I'd not seen it since the theatrical release ages ago. Funny that the only things I remembered were Robin Williams' nude scene in Central Park and the fact that I found Amanda Plummer really hot(?!). There's a lot of Brazil and Time Bandits and Python here, of course, but the end result is no mishmash. Have I grown tired of Robin Williams the actor? Yes. But at one time he was surprisingly good, as The Fisher King reminds us.
Jeff Bridges is great as an '80s update of the Fisher King. He must develop actual love and compassion, and fails in this quest several times, falling again and again into the same shallow traps into which we all occasionally stumble, misinterpreting what success means and what his mission should be. And Mercedes does Ruehl. Not as great as I remember it being but still well worth the 2 hours.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
I should come clean--I'm not a "fan" of abortion, meaning that I find it a bit distasteful. I can't explain this logically any more than I can explain why the smell of liver makes me physically ill. I would, of course, never presume to judge someone for having an abortion, nor would I question her reasons. I am pro-choice, largely because abortions will happen whether legal or not, and we should make them as safe as possible (I feel the same about prostitution and drugs--I think these things should be legal and regulated simply because people will do them regardless of what the cops say or do, and those who engage in these behaviors should face the fewest risks possible, and that a just society as a whole should try to limit the risks inherent in such behavior, and my own moral discomfort with sex for cash or riding the Horse doesn't enter into it. And don't even try to say "well murder will always happen too, shall we legalize that?"--as far as drugs and prostitution goes, that's a red herring, and killing an autonomous being is different from preventing a potential one; if we're worried about potential ones then we should strive to prevent nocturnal emissions and the absorption of sperm into socks, curtains, sheets, American Apparel catalogs, the vascular walls of old mens' testes, etc).
Somebody's decision to have an abortion, even if I find it somewhat distasteful personally, is NONE OF MY FUCKING BUSINESS. I regard its legality as a completely logical necessity and its application as completely personal, and my own moral prejudices must take a backseat. In the case of this young woman, I think it's wholly appropriate and sensible for her to have the option, and she's got sufficient medical data on the risks of carrying this pregnancy to term to make her case. Kudos to "L.G." for sounding smarter and more adult than those behind the hysterical media circus building around her.
I can understand why this film disappeared quickly and quietly last year. The storyline at its most basic sounds ridiculous and skirts ground found morally repugnant by most. When I saw the preview my own bizarre tastes weren't titillated a bit. I condemned Birth as a stupid idea and forgot about it.
Until I watched it yesterday, that is. Twice. Birth is amazing, from its perfectly honed score to its production and gorgeous cinematography to Jonathan Glazer's flawless direction. And the performances! Cameron Bright provides the most profound acting by a child since Anna Paquin in The Piano, or perhaps those marvelous kids in Rabbit-Proof Fence--forget that lame Sixth Sense/AI kid. Lauren Bacall, Danny Huston, Anne Heche, Arliss Howard--all subtle, strong performances. The action in Birth occurs primarily through slight changes in expression; we can see the conflict and the pain and the implications of events as they register on the actors' faces more than through actual plot events. Not your kind of flick? Stay away.
Let's talk about Nicole Kidman. She's at a point in her career when she could do whatever she wants. She could do safe blockbusters for big bucks, she could hog all the date flicks, she could do TV. So what's she choose? Small, disturbing, extremely challenging roles few people see (Doggville and Birth are prime examples). The only explanation for this behavior is that she likes her work, she wants to hone her skills, and she needs to stretch her capabilities. There is NO finer actor working today. Kidman is awe-inspiring in this role. There's an extended close-up sans dialogue during which we see her character's world shatter and she begins to entertain as true a dread possibility once thought impossible. The implications of this possibility register a spectrum of slight emotional changes in her eyes and mouth, and this beautifully punishing scene goes on forever. It's magical. I was so excited I made Cha watch Birth after she got home from the Towson Festival and she agreed it was brilliant and troubling.
There's a lot here to digest, including several subtexts in need of complex readings based in identity theory, feminist philosophy, and ethics. Strongly recommended.