Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekend Loew's Report: 'The Uninvited' and 'Rebecca'

The Uninvited (1944) and Rebecca (1940)

A double feature of 1940s suspensers on Saturday night at the The Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre. I think of these as "women's pictures" (a popular 40s genre), because in each the character the audience is supposed to care about is a damsel in distress, either literally (The Uninvited) or emotionally (Rebecca).

The Univited is a haunted house/ghost story that seems tame and hokey by today's standards. Rebecca, the first American project by Hitchcock, is a much better film and features a far stronger cast (Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier), but it also creaks in a "they don't make 'em like that anymore" way. There's excellent acting and moments of both genuine eeriness and humor in both, but for me, the most interesting thing about watching Hollywood films from this repressed and heavily censored era is to look for subtexts. And both of these films have a strong -- brace yourself -- lesbian subtext!

Hitchcock was a well-known perv and obsessive, and his Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) character in Rebecca, with her maniacal obsession, to the point of both worship and suicide, with her deceased employer (Rebecca) is what fuels the suspense in the latter half of the film. Similarly, in The Univited, a creepy insane asylum administrator is homicidally obsessed with a "beautiful" dead woman, a woman she's named her establishment for.

You have to wonder what audiences at the time these films were released thought about all this. Was what seems obvious now completely missed back then? I'm guessing not. But nobody talked about it. You can easily imagine Hitchcock winking, though.

Graduation Day

philip graduation

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ordinary Weirdos

Starting Monday, and Absurda will present Interview Project, an online series of three-minute interviews with "ordinary people" -- so called. Is there such a thing as an "ordinary" person? Not in my experience. Not if you look deep enough. This is something Lynch understands, I think, so I'm looking forward to this. There will be a new interview every three days for an entire year.

"It's a strange world."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Word of the Day: gambrinous

gambrinous (adj)

Full of beer.

"Helmut was never able to leave a soiree until he was properly gambrinous, and usually suffered horribly the next morning as a result."
--Peter Novobatzky, Depraved and Insulting English

Beer at lunch with The Producer today. Me in the afternoon: Gambrinous? No. Slumberous? Yes.

Compare potvaliant. (No, it's not what you think -- quite.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fun with Haiku

Laughter haiku

Seek the giggle cure
Prozac without prescription
Stupid jokes cure blues

Salad haiku

Lettuce tomato
Diced green pepper in a toss
Here comes Paul Newman

Vitamin haiku

A, B, C, D, E
Should I buy all these tablets?
Real food has plenty

Writer haiku

A scrap of parchment
On the wind that passes by
Still writers seek fame

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's All Too Much

Take the concept behind the Sgt. Pepper cover, expand on it exponentially, and you too might come up with something like The Picture of Everything. Sit back and let the evening go.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Word of the Day: mesonoxian

mesonoxian (adj)

Pertaining to midnight.

"Our mesonoxian misadventures were downright bacchanalian, but in the cold grey light of day, no longer gambrinous, her utter vacuity was apparent to all."
--Joe Howell, "The Catz Come Back"

Uh, "gambrinous" is for another day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Put flowers on my father's grave today. Didn't feel...much, actually. I felt more when he was dying, or slowly killing himself, then when he died on May 3, 2008. That was a...disconcerting...spring. My father's death was the worst of it, for sure, but I had lost him long before then.... Sat in my mother's backyard yesterday, in rural upstate New York, expecting some peace and quiet, but thinking how noisy it was: honking geese, twittering birds, motorcycles, wind in the trees, thunder in the distance. Felt small, but calm and connected, too.... Sleeping in my childhood bedroom again tonight. As usual, I'm sure I'll feel time warped....

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 9 small

More clip-art philosophy by me (and Lewis B. Smedes). I'm trying to think of names for these two. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Much Ado about NOTHING


There's no stoplight at the intersection near my house. If I counted all the minutes I've spent standing on the corner there, waiting for a break in the traffic so I could cross, I'm sure it would depress me profoundly. Or maybe it would make me insanely angry, crazy enough to run into the street, playing chicken with the cars like some demented matador.

I have a feeling of total futility as I stand there, watching 20 or 30 cars swish by. And I often have an existential moment. I feel like a trivial blob of protoplasm, aware of the world's indifference and my own impatience and anxiety. Should I make a run for it? To be or not to be...road kill?

Occasionally, the drivers take pity. They slow to a crawl and flash their lights, or make odd hand gestures--usually an impatient swatting motion, as if I was an insect buzzing along their windshield. I'm obviously supposed to be grateful, so I smile and wave as I trot across the street, feeling like the town nuisance, he who must be indulged.

Sometimes I wish there were crossing guards for adults.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Brain Dump

Easy as pie in the face of the facts of the matter with you, anyway? Lock, stock and barrel of monkeys around the clock tower of power plant a garden variety is the spice of life goes on or off with her head for the hills are alive with the sound of silence. Hang in there you go for it could be worse for wear out your welcome with open arms and legs of the table your plans have a way of not working out as planned for this ahead of time is on our side of the road that leads to your door is always open up or else. Kirk out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Word of the Day: puissance

puissance (n)

Ability to influence or coerce; having a controlling influence.

"Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a time when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter today?"
--H. L. Mencken, "Where is the graveyard of dead gods?"

He may not be worshiped anymore, but he did have a humongous blob of methane gas in space named after him. That's some consolation, I guess.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Red Eye

eye box

Local artists have created works of art on utility boxes along Central Avenue in the Heights section of Jersey City. This is how my eyes feel, sometimes, after a long day of staring at a computer screen. (Click the pic if you want a real eyeful. And you can eyeball the other boxes here.)

Weekend Loew's Report

The General (1927)

What can I say? More than 80 years on, it's hard to evaluate a silent film like The General, generally considered Buster Keaton's masterpiece. The aesthetics are so different in silents that they could almost be considered a separate medium. (Keaton's films have more in common with today's animated features than anything else, I think.)

The General, based on a true Civil War story, has amazing visuals and incredibly dangerous stunt work, by Keaton himself, involving moving trains. It also has more drama and story than audiences of the "Keystone Cops" era were used to, at least from Keaton, and so it was a flop at the time. In 2009 at The Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre, here in the JC, however, it was a hit, producing many laughs and much applause. I'm lousy at estimating crowd sizes, but the theater was crowded and there was a long line to get in. There just aren't many places where you can see an archival print of a classic 1927 film in a "movie palace" environment with live organ accompaniment these days.

Here's short video tour of the Loew's:

'Dark Night of the Soul'

This is an NPR page with a link to a stream of the recent album collaboration by Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse, David Lynch, et al ("one of the year's most mysterious albums"), that EMI has banned from release.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Some dude, clean cut in that Utah Bible-peddler way, pounded on the front door this evening (we do have a doorbell) and wanted to sell me a wireless home alarm system. He thought we already had one because the previous owners' Brinks sticker is still on a front window. "People cut the wires," he warned. "Not interested," I said. Felt a twinge of sympathy though.... Had a beer at lunch, which led to much yawning this afternoon. Felt somnolent.... Need to reinstall my aquarium filter, but have been putting it off. Feel sorry for the fish.... Finished reading Then We Came to the End. Found it somewhat disturbing, sort of like a scarier version of The Office.... Looking forward to seeing a silent movie at the Loews tomorrow night....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Like Proust be an old teahead of time"

Like, wow: Jack Kerouac's 30 Cool Tips for writers. They're not very practical (neither was Kerouac), but they have a subversive, Gertrude Stein-like quality that just might put you in the mood to write.

"You're a genius all the time."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Artist's Lament

His painting finished, he bathes in turpentine until the blues dissolve. Is it good or bad or nothing at all? Outside, he walks in a fog, where the trees resemble a smudged pencil sketch. Not knowing anyone here, hating or loving no one, he calls to the trees for advice. Are they not full of wisdom, full of history coiled in their many rings? The doves coo in the leaves, but reveal nothing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Toad Purse?

I need a stress wiener, or maybe an inflatable fruitcake.

The T & T List

Neilsen Media Research
Then We Came to the End
David Carradine
Jane Austen
#9 Dream
Buster Keaton

Monday, May 11, 2009

Word of the Day: penetralia

penetralia (n)

The innermost parts of a structure, especially a temple sanctuary; the most private or secret part of something.

"'True,' answered my wife. "And in that sense we are a mystery to our neighbors.'
'Doubtless we are,' said I. 'Doubtless there have been questions asked about us many times which none answered satisfactorily, and which still remain as unsolved problems. There is a penetralia in every family.'"
--Timothy Shay Arthur, Our Neighbors in the Corner House

I wish my neighbors were more of a mystery. Last weekend we were treated to both their barking dog, who glared down at us from their elevated back deck as we puttered around in the yard, and a loud 1950s rock-and-roll concert from their open windows. Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Secret Headquarters...

tiny bldg

...of The Order of Psionic Cerebrovillains and Mysterious Quasininjas, Local 546

(Click to blow up)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Scare Yourself Silly

I've never liked clowns, and I was terrified of them as a kid. Something about their unpredictable antics made (makes) me uneasy. The Evil Clown Generator is fun, though--maybe because I get to have some control over what happens on screen. You can click on buttons to change the jester's facial features, or just hold your cursor over eyes, nose or mouth to see a rapid-fire series of different evil/funny expressions.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

I finally figured out what to say to the Spanish-speaking woman who keeps calling me and asking for "Maria". I said "numero incorrecto", and instead of mumbling "uh? uh?" as she usually does when I say "wrong number" in English, she slammed down the phone. Felt pleased.... It's raining. Again. Feel exasperated.... We ate lunch at a soul food/health food restaurant in Newark today. Felt like "the white people," a little, but the food was good. I had the East Mississippi (fish) sandwich.... Watched Lost tonight. As usual, felt mystified - not a bad feeling, necessarily, if it's combined with entertainment. Just wondering how exploding a hydrogen bomb is going to solve anything....

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Word of the Day: octothorpe

octothorpe (n)

The name for the telephone keypad symbol #

"It was a slow day at the pet store, and as the birds screamed and the puppies squealed, Sebastion stared at the telephone keypad, hoping that Fatima would call. Pound symbol or octothorpe? Which was correct? In the end, did it matter?"
--Hector Del Rio, Under the Overpass

Someone has been calling me daily on my cell phone and asking, in Spanish, for "Maria." No habla español. How do you say "wrong number" in Spanish? "Numero incorrecto"? All I can think of to say is "no hay banda."

Monday, May 04, 2009

Fish Food for Thought

philosofish 8 small

More clip-art philosophy by me (and Anais Nin). See the original size here.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Weekend Netflix Report: Youth Without Youth

Youth Without Youth (2007)

We like to think there is a sharp distinction between what happens in the "real world" and what happens inside our heads. Some of the most interesting (to me) films of the last few years have called this bedrock assumption into question. Youth Without Youth is one of them. Francis Ford Coppola explores Lynchian territory with this one, creating the same sort of unsolvable conundrums -- if we're to take what we see on the screen literally -- that Inland Empire does.

[SPOILERS AHEAD] An aged (70ish) Romanian linguistics professor (Tim Roth) is struck by lightning in 1938, and when he recovers, he's physically 30 years younger. As Europe falls, the Nazis take an ominous interest in him, and he's forced to change his identity and go into hiding. Over the next 30 years, he appears not to age a day. He pursues his linguistics studies but never manages to complete the book he's working on. He meets doppelgangers of himself and a woman he once loved, who died in 19th century. In the end, he returns to Romania, and suddenly it's 1938 again and he resumes his normal age. In the final scene, we see his wizened corpse lying in the street -- as a miniskirted woman (circa 1969) walks by.

No, it's not "all a dream" of a dying man, since many future historical events (Hiroshima, the moon landing) are referenced, accurately, along the way. Just as with Inland Empire, there's no way to make logical sense of the story. I tend to think that this sort of plot works better on the printed page (in a Philip K. Dick novel, for example) than in the photographic realism of the movie screen -- and this film is, in fact, based on a novella by Mircea Eliade. But I'm a sucker for movies that make me think. I'm not sorry I watched this, though I wouldn't recommend it as mere entertainment. Roth is fine. The direction and cinematography are up to Coppola standards, though a few of his choices seem overly mannered -- several shots are presented upside down (perhaps a clue that what we're seeing is a "reflection" of reality?)


In the mood for some arty Flash animations and experimental music? Hurry on over to:

Modern Living

Creepy, alienated and existential, but with a twist of humor--this is some inspired lunacy.