Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Howard's End

It's been a hard day. And as I keep having struggles between security and art, I think it's time to read Howard's End again. Feeling a bit like Leonard Bast of late. Not a great thing. I love that book.

And as a side note, I'm working next to a place that I thought was a shoe store, but is actually a night club (it's a second night job). I said to the doorman it's like Beauty Bar in New York, and he told me it's the same owner. Huh. Everything's a chain. But Beauty Bar in New York was fab when it first opened. Beauty shop paraphernalia in the front window, sixties theme, and rumors it actually was a beauty shop. Filled with shiny, arty people squeezed in too tight, laughing and drinking out of martini glasses, talking about art and everything that happened below 14th street. I'm missing New York, too.

More on Howard's End later.

"There must be some closing of the gates after thirty if the mind is to become a creative force"

"Margaret was no morbid idealist. She did not wish this spate of business and self-advertisement checked. It was only the occasion of it that struck her with amazement annually. How many of these vacillating shoppers and tired shop- assistants realized that it was a divine event that drew them together? She realized it, though standing outside in the matter. She was not a Christian in the accepted sense; she did not believe that God had ever worked among us as a young artisan. These people, or most of them, believed it, and if pressed, would affirm it in words. But the visible signs of their belief were Regent Street or Drury Lane, a little mud
displaced, a little money spent, a little food cooked, eaten, and forgotten. Inadequate. But in public who shall express the unseen adequately? It is private life that holds out the mirror to infinity; personal intercourse, and that alone, that ever hints at a personality beyond our daily vision."

Oh, just you wait. :)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bar Mitzvah Disco

I just read an article in the New York Times about a book being released and the website called
Bar Mitzvah Disco. It's Brilliant. And, as pointed out, not just embarrassing Bar Mitvah photos from the eighties, but a cultural study of a time when Jews were beginning to make more money and move to the suburbs. Looks great, and the pictures are hilarious.

Jesus, My Imaginary Friend

I finally watched Hell House this weekend, the documentary about Trinity Church outside Dallas that each year puts on a Haunted House showing the evils of abortion, suicide, homosexuality, etc, and that the Divil is gonna gitcha!

There are many unintentionally funny/chilling moments in the movie for me, probably the best being someone asking for red paint to paint a pentagram, and then painting a Star of David in a circle. The cluelessness of the people in the film was interesting, or perhaps I should say their ignorance of the things they were warning about. They clearly had no experience of most of the things they were dramatizing--at one point, the man who supposedly had been to a bunch of raves talk about the "date rape drug", though he couldn't remember the name. In the Hell House scene, a girl is given the drug, raped, and then kills herself after we find out that she has also been molested by her Father. And, you guessed it, she's going to Hell!! She's not the only one--she is joined by the gay man dying of AIDS, the woman who has an internet affair, her drunk husband, and the boy who was molested by his uncle. But not the girl who took RU485! Although she was bleeding profusely and died (from the pill, supposedly)--she accepted Jesus on her deathbed and went to Heaven. We have to wonder how all the women who will be causing harm to themselves if Roe V. Wade is overturned will fare. I was also fascinated that the one Latino and one Black face we saw in the church were in the Drug Dealer scene. I guess those people from Trinity have been watching some of that evil TV!

The portraits lack any compassion, which one would think is curious for a "Christian group." I suppose it's not, rather it's comforting. If difficult questions are answered with a "because God says so" and any detour is thought to be from the devil, then the world is pretty clear. I heard a woman quoted on NPR recently saying that anyone who questioned Harriet Meiers' nomination to the Supreme Court was from the Devil. Please stop these people from taking office, as there goes democracy, but it does explain a lot about the current administration. Anyhoo.

What interested me most was the infantile theology. I'm calling it the "Jesus, my Imaginary Friend" theology. Why, Jesus thinks exactly like I do. And he hates everyone I hate. And I know as long as I follow HIm, and listen to Him (that is, myself), then I will go to Heaven and I'll my enemies will go to Hell and I am right and they are wrong and I am good and they are bad and if they'd only listen to my Imaginary Friend who is with me at all times telling me what to do and who is good and bad, then they could be Saved! And I love knowing I'm right, I just love it. And I love to speak in my language that only my imaginary friend and me understand. Why he made it up and told it to me himself! Some might have thought it was indigestion, but I knew it was the Spirit! And if everyone thought like me and my Imganary Friend, the world would be healed. Oh, except for those bad people who never will and are going to Hell, Hell, Hell.

Well, you get the idea. I am always fascinated/infuriated by this kind of thing.

I was touched by a Father of five raising his kids my himself. In one of the opening scenes in the film, his smallest child, who has CP, has a seizure. He prays over him while the paramedics come, and as the child comes out of it, he says that it was God that brought him out of the seizure. He seemed to know the seizure was caused by epilepsy aggravated by CP, but I couldn't help think of a friend of mine raised by a super-religious mother with similar beliefs (though Catholic). My friend grew up in the sixties in a small town in Iowa, and his mother used to lock him in the closet when he had seizures, as she was convinced he was being possessed by the Devil. I couldn't help think if God released the boy in the Father's mind, what did he think caused it. The MOther was nowhere in the picture--she had met a man on the internet and had a few meetings with him in the park, so now was not part of the family. I guess the Devil made her do it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Shelby Lee Adams

If you get a chance, you might want to check out the documentary on Shelby Lee Adams, "The True Meaning of Pictures." Adams has spent the last thirty years befriending and photgraphing families in rural Kentucky. He has published books of photos on Appalachia. The film is interesting for me in the exploration of the artist as a documentarian. He calls himself one, yet his pitcures are lighted and posed. He also seems to photograph the poor and some more gruesome elements of people's lives. And seems for the most part to ask them not to smile, which I was intrigued by. Also included are Mr. Adams' own documentary footage.

The subjects have a chance to talk, as do talking heads. This is one of the more complex films about how art is received that I've seen. The dialogue of the artist, critic, and subject is fascinating. Some call him exploitative, some believe he is documenting. He seems to me a bit manipulative, changing his accent depending on who he is talking to, and refusing to talk about his pictures in any other light than the terms of classical art. Certainly a talented photographer, and a great technician. Check it out for the thrilling and uncomfortable nexus of poverty, art, exploitation, and class in the United States. Still thinking about it, and still disturbed. You can pick it up on Netflix or a local video store.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Best in Drag Show

I must write about the most hysterical, over-the-top brilliant benefit I have seen in a long, long time--perhaps ever. It is the annual "Best in Drag Show" to benefit Aid for Aids in Los Angeles. Formerly called "Battle for the Tiara", this pagaent boasts seven competitors from seven states, each building and paying for their own costumes and drag. And what drag it was. I will be getting pictures from a friend, and I will be sure to post some.

The seven contestants were:

Lu Ow (Raphael Ganchegui), Miss Hawaii, who came out in a volcano dress for evening wear, and whose talent was swinging flags and balls while lip-syncing Bette Midler's "If you're crackin up from having lack of shacking up..." song, then sacrificing herself into a volcano from a mini trampoline.

Wanda Joy Sparks (Rusty Hamrick), Miss Nevada, who carried a live chicken named Carol, tap danced, sang, and twirled baton for talent, and worked Carol in her dress for the evening gown.

Carrie Okie (Aron Ross), Miss Oklahoma, who sang a medley of the whole score of Oklahoma in two and a half minutes for talent, entering on a horse and then singing to him.

Heleyna Haanbasquette (Jason Krich), Miss Illinois the nine year old lollipop fanatic, who when asked what her definition of possible was responded "It's when you're in the shower, and you start at your head and wash as far as possible, then you start at your feet and you wash up as far as possible, and then you (giggle) wash your possible."

Rita Morongo (Wagner Soares), Miss California, who had a dress that was backed by a glittery deck of cards, an evening gown with 200 yards of fabric and as many peacock feathers, and a truly inscrutable talent, which involved arranging flowers on a cabinet while lip-syncing "I am what I am", then poopping behind the cabinet to emerge with the pot of flowers on her head.

The night, though belonged to two contestants, Sandy Crab (Eric Yake), MIss Louisiana, and Patrola DeBorder (Antonio Martinez), Miss New Mexico. I will have to describe each separately, as both were brilliant in their own way. I am biased, but I think Miss New Mexico would have won for camp value (as fair New Mexico is my homestate, as well as Stinky Lulu's and countless other great peoples'), but Miss Louisiana brought it out in the end on costume construction and sheer hilarity.

Miss Louisiana provided the first big laugh and standing O of the night by emerging in a giant pink oyster for the bathing suit competition. That would have been hysterical enough, but she pushed a bouncing pearl through her legs at the top of the stairs, which bounced downstage and shocked everyone, who promptly jumped to their feet. And then the oyster opened. Her talent was somewhat wonderful as well, a badly played Gershwin medley, including parts of "Rhapsody in Blue". And she was able to put her candelabra in her hair while playing. Fabulous. But the thing that put her over the top (literally), was the evening gown. She was wearing a red, white and blue dress with an arch that looked like something from the French Quarter. She pulled a string and it turned into a MIssisippi Steam boat that spewed real steam. Another standing ovation, much deserved.

Miss New Mexico, Patrola de Border, won my heart, though, while running from the MinuteMen, who were patrolling the crowd. Her opening dress was a mess of chicken wire and desert plants, with a "keep out" sign on the back. Her swimsuit included a wrap that looked like a tortilla, and she was dressed like the innards of a taco, which defies description. Her talent, though, was the best thing of the night. She emerged looking like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, albeit with an antebellum hoop skirt. The strains of "Over the Rainbow" began. She started talking to her dog, Cholo, a stuffed black puppy she had under her arm. A moment after she began singing, a mustachioed man wearing a wife beater and covered with grease stains emerged from under her dress, and ran off the stage. By this time the audience is dying. She continued to sing alternate lyrics and the refrain "Over the Border". Each time a verse ended there was a gunshot, which she moved to avoid. The man running kept coming on and off stage, at one point to take the trumpet from Patrola, which she had managed to play during the instrumental. The second to last gunshot killed her dog, and she collapsed on the last one at the end of the song. The entire crowd jumped to its feet. It ranks as one of the most hysterical offensive and perfect drag acts I have ever seen. This is why we love drag. For her evening gown, she wore what looked like a wedding cake, and tricked the host into marrying her for abig glittery green card. So Louisiana may have pulled it out on the construction and talent end, but for camp, Miss New Mexico has my heart.

The winner was crowned by last year's winner, Breedem Young, who emerged on stilts, pregnant, and in a wedding dress. She gave birth to multi racial twins (one black and one white), between the opening and closing.

The most wonderful thing, though, is that 90% of the money raised in this benefit goes directly to services. The majority of the services for the event are donated, except for theatre rental etc. There is also no corporate support, which leaves people free to say whatever they'd like. A great majority of the people involved and performing I believe are part of the recovery community as well, and there is much talk of being of service--it's powerful to see that mandate in action. There are, of course, cleberity judges. Each year is opened by Kathy Griffin, and judges were Marcia Cross, Joanne Worley, Loni Anderson, Tori Spelling, Caroline Rhea, and Melinda Clarke. One hysterical moment (of many) was provided by color commentator Ida Dunham (Todd Sherry). He told a cautionary tale to Tori Spelling. It seems he had waited on her years ago at the Hard Rock Cafe, and asked her how he would like her meat cooked. She apparently thought he said "How would you like your meat? Cooked?" To which she snappily said something like "Yes! Duh!" He gave a warning to Hollywood--you never know who's waiting on you. The other color commentator , Lotta Slots (Jeffrey Drew), was hysterical as always. And opened the show with his customary back flip that someone pledged $1500 for him to do. IN previous years he has entered on a camel. Brilliant. And such a sweetheart.

The evening was punctuated during downtime with reading of pledges and checks, one that should be noted is Kathy Kinney. She is usually there every year, but this year work kept her away. She sent a note saying how sorry she couldn't be there, and a check for $10,000. It made the MC cry, which is also one of the best parts. And what an amazing gesture from a wonderful woman.

Sorry to go on and on, but for camp, laughs, talent, and heart, you just can't beat this thing. Hopefully some pictures will follow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Due Divas

I saw two divas, or co-called, this week: Lypsinka, and Cecilia Bartoli. One retained her title, one faltered. No big surprise who's who.

I have never seen Lypsinka live, and was a bit disappointed. This show was entitled The Passion of the Crawford. It consists of mostly a recording of a Town Hall interview with La Crawford circa 1972, and some additional fun performances from film and otherwise, the highlight being a completely awfl "to our children" poem from the 1950s, written to Alice in Wonderland and Little Bo Peep. I wish I had the text. Just howlingly awful. Joan starts to deconstruct/combust as the evening wears on, including Lypsinka's famous phone montage, where the phone is constantly ringing, and each time it is picked up another line from a movie is "said". There are a few photos of Joan's eyes, reminding one a bit of the Dreyer film, but just a bit. I felt the performance was a little flat. Jon Epperson as Lypsinka's skill is great, and her takes, here to the fawning man who is interviewing her, are hysterical, but there was little to draw me in. Speaking of the interviewer, he was done with great skill by, well, I don't have my program with me, and he doesn't seem to be listed in any of the press--but he did a great job in a mostly thankless role. I suppose my beef here is that there isn't much of a narrative, and sound design, though fun and in this case spectacular, cannot carry a show for me. The interview is a hoot, though it presupposes an interest in Joan Crawford, and is also interesting for the James Lipton predecessor conducting it. At the end, I thought this was something that would have been a blast in a downtown NY bar, but not at 35 bucks a pop in a theatre. Just my two cents.

As for real women who use their voice, I saw Cecilia Bartoli last night in recital performing works by Handel, Scarlatti, and Caravelli. Wonderful. A friend commented it was like watching the Olga Korbut of opera, as Bartoli is truly gymnastic vocally. The difficulty of some of the arias, the embellishments alone, are akin to watching gymnastics and waiting for a fall. That she can sing these is amazing, and that she can act them and feel them while she does is even more impressive. She has an ebullience and joy on stage that is thrilling to see. It's wonderful to see someone this alive, present and joyful on stage. And, to top it all off, her pianissimos are thrilling. To see someone at a time when she is so in charge of her instrument is a true joy. Not a big voice, but worth seeing for her presence alone. My absolute favorite thing about the night was to see her at the end of the fast or angry arias, waving her arms at her side, reminding me of Popeye swinging his arms of all things, and seeming that she would jump of the stage at any moment, or simply take off. And all in a big green dress with a long, long train. Now, that's a diva.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Word of the Day

While reading an article on Fiona Apple in the New Yorker this week, I happened upon one of my favorite words ever, and one I generally only come across in the New Yorker. It's a four letter word. I love it.


And I love this word because it never really needs to be modified. You never need to ask (forgive me for this) "if you were a twee, what kind of twee would you be?" There is no need to ask. I rarely come across situations I can use it, but I will seek them out and keep it on the forefront. Though perhaps its charm is its rare use. Who knows?

The def: Adj. Overly precious or nice. From tweet, baby talk for sweet. Chiefly British.

Brilliant. I'll use it. And I encourage you to do the same.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Fat Girl

I just saw one of the most confounding French films I have seen in a long time. i have no idea how to tell you why I found it confounding without revealing to you the entire plot, so


Okay--still with me? The movie, Fat Girl, concerns Anais, a thirteen year-old girl (and the fat girl in the title) and her fifteen year-old sister Elena. The movie opens with them talking about sex. Most of the movie is concerned with Elena losing her virginity to a sexy Italian college student. There is a twenty minute scene of groping in Elena's bed alone, while her sister looks on. And it's not particularly sexy--though that's not the point. We are with Elena and Anais as the meet the young man, then when the young man sneaks in (invited) into Elena's bedroom, finally taking her from behind, as she would not give up the front. His arguments are as old as the hills, and as a viewer we want her to resist, though we know she'll succumb. The young man also asks for oral sex. The entire episode is uncomfortable, as it's meant to be. It's made doubly uncomfortable by sight of the young man's erect penis. There is no doubt in this that it is a weapon, and he is following it.

We watch some more tense moments with the girls, Anais the next day being forcefed bread by her sister while crying. We see more of the parents, who seem to just be surly and smoke and nothing more. There is a walk on the beach. There is a conversation between the girls about the nature of thier sisterhood. Is this how French teenagers talk? Elena pulls out a ring that they young man gave her, saying that it was his dead grandmother's and they are engaged. The deed between the young man and the girl is done, after we see him put a condom on his large, very erect penis. (I wonder if they had dick auditions for this as well--can you be really, really hard?) After the initial penetration, we hear him moaning and only see Anais, the younger sister, crying in her bed. Anais states to her sister, as she had at the beginning, that she wants to lose her virginity to someone she doesn't care about. The next day, the young man's mother arrives, saying the ring was hers and he stole it. Much crying. The girls have to leave vacation early with their mother. They stop at a rest stop to rest, and a crazy man beats in a windshield with an axe, kills Elena and strangles the Mother. He rapes Anais in the nearby woods. She looks at him as it's ending without fear or any attachment. When the police find her, she tells them it wasn't rape. And scene.


I suppose I am mostly thrown off by the title "Fat Girl". In French this is called A Ma Souer!, which is To my Sister! or even At My Sister!, which seems more apropos to this particular film. In the end, I was left with the feeling that all intercourse is rape, or at least coercion. IF that's the feeling i was supposed to get, I don't really have a clue how the director thought "Fat Girl" was an appropriate title. Much is made of Anais' weight and eating, but not as much as the xes and the brutality of it. there is one particuarly fascinating and creepy scene in which Anais swims back and forthe between a wooden pole in a pool and the rail of the pool ladder, talking to them like they are jealous lovers and kissing them. I've never seen any other Catherine Breillat's fims; Romance is the only one I know about. She seems to have sexuality as her theme. This is quite an angry film, to me. Skillful, well-acted, but angry, nasty, and uncomfortable. Then again, this is not the first French film with completely disturbing sex, and the French gave it an award for French culture at Cannes. Perhaps they're just more realistic than we are (that's a given). I suppose it's staying with me, but mostly because I was so put off by the ending I'm still figuring out what I think about it. Easy out is my first thought. If you've seen it, please feel free to let me know what you thought.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Commander in Chief

Little Casting Tips I learned from watching Commander In Chief last night:

1. Cast as many young blondes in positions they seem unqualified for as possible.

2. Press Secretary is a really easy job, where you have to be only slightly informed, but cute. It's best if you have a little hair you can have fall in front of your face and look through it while tilting your head down.

3. If there is a "nemesis", you should have an evil woman by his side. Preferably blonde, and preferably reminiscent of Eleanor Parker as the baroness in "The Sound of Music". And pull her hair back--she'll look more mean. Oh, and evil people are always caught in the middle of a joke, laughing unaware as their dastardly plan has been foiled.

4. When casting children, even though the parents are brunette, make sure the older ones, who may actually have sex in the course of the series, are blonde. And hot. Especially the son, who will have sex in the third episode.

5. When there is a younger child, she can actually look like she would be the spawn of the two parents and be brunette, but that's okay, as she's not going to have sex.

6. Make sure it looks like the President and the First "Gentlemen" have sex, especially if you can make it happen within the first few epsiodes. Like, episode 3. And it's great if he can just tell her to go to bed and forget everything, and she does.

7. Try to have everyone on her staff and involved on her side be under 45. Then you can bring in an older Vice President to balance it out, and make it seem like someone has experience. Oh, and make sure the Secret Service are hot, too. Hopefully some young blondes in there as well.

8. Have the press corps look really thin and attrractive, except for one heavy, obnoxious lady who always interrupts when it's not her turn. Have her do it every time there's a press conference. Fat people are always obnoxious, right? Or jolly. And the women wear too much makeup and jewelry.

9. Don'e mention that she would be the youngest President in history as well as a woman, that way maybe no one will notice that no one looks like they have enough experience to do anything.

What's up with this series? I would have loved to hear the pitch on this. I'm sure they started with a good idea, but ended up with the OC set in Washington. "Hey, let's take out all the dialogue, character development, and interesting dramatic situations, but set it in Washington! Sounds great!--Oh!, and we'll make sure there's a lot of personal intrigue and promises of sex. Hot!" I really was hoping for something interesting, but any show that includes the line "I work in an oval office, but I still get backed into a corner", I am not sure deserves another viewing. Someone tell Peter Coyote to eat a burger or something. I'm worried.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


I need to write about this movie while it's fresh in my head, and before it's pushed out by Harriet Miers and the Supreme Court. Why does no one mention that "Activist Judges" is just a veiled reference to gay marriage. It certainly seems that way to me. From John Roberts, who sent a woman to jail for eating a french fry, or Ms. Miers, who tried to get the Texas Bar to change its position on abortion, I am wondering how these people will argue for the status quo when it comes to gay men, but try to change the status quo when it comes to abortion. Without "activist" judges we would still have Jim Crow laws, misgenation laws, and who knows what else. Probably a huge amount of emergency room traffic from botched abortions. it's just sad. When I hear the village idiot talking about "equality" or "freedom", I just insert the words "except for gay people". Then I hear what he's saying. Like this supreme court upholidng the Virginia Law passed to people of the same sex from making any contract at all. No living wills, no saying where your property goes or who gets to say if you have the right to die. We are officially always under the legal age, not truly a citizen. I didn't think that kind of thing would ever stand up, as it denies basic rights to an entire group of people. Now I'm not so sure. We could be in for a very scary time ahead. Buut i digress.

Speaking of forty years ago, I went to see Capote the other day, and was stunned by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. An incredible performance that has to be seen to be believed. What effected me most about the film was the silence. There isn't very much of it in current film. It was that silence that created the period for me, more than anything else. There was a lot of space--in Kansas, where the murders happened, but between people as well. The dialogue is brilliant as much for what is said as for waht is not. I can't remember a recent film where the silences between people spoke so much. The supporting performances were universally outstanding. I was most surprised by Catherine Keener as Harper Lee. I really came away with feeling for her--for her position as a writer, as well as Capote's best friend. I could go on and on about the richness of Hoffman's performance, but you should just go see it. He's not a likeable character, but i felt like I was given a window into who he was and why he acted like he did. And a great film about the monster of creation, from Capote, to Lee, to Capote's partner Frank. Great show. It's sticking with me.