Saturday, January 26, 2008

Reel Life, or, a film column

This is the first of what I hope is many posts about films, both recent and not. I recently saw Cassandra's Dream, the new Woody Allen picture starring Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell. The plot concerns two brothers, Ian (McGregor) and Terry (Farrell) who fall into financial duress. Ian is a businessman who runs his father's restaurant, but dreams of managing a hotel in California. Terry works in a garage and squanders all his money on gambling. After a short winning streak, Terry's luck falls and he loses a massive sum of money. He asks for assistance from his brother, yet Ian cannot provide the necessary funds. The brothers turn to their wealthy and established Uncle Howard. Howard is willing to give them the money, provided they make the ultimate sacrifice to prove their family loyalties. Both brothers are lured by greed, avarice, and egotism to commit the ultimate crime that leads them into a tailspin.
As I watched the film, I was reminded of Match Point, as both films share sinister plots set in London. I thought that Match Point was an utter masterpiece, so I set my expectations high for Cassandra's Dream (let's all try and forget the blunder that was Scoop). The acting by the two leads was impeccable, especially Farrell. He personifies a desperate man who is pushed to drastic deeds. The score was composed by Philip Glass, and it added another dimension to the chilling plot. The exposition was a bit slow, but by the middle of the film, I was on the edge of my seat, unsure of what would happen next. Although I enjoyed the film and it's examination of human nature, I found myself comparing it to Match Point. The similarities in plot and setting did not help. I feel a second viewing, however, would allow the viewer to grasp the nuances of Allen's style. In one scene, a group of actors discuss Greek tragedy. They reference Clytemnestra and Medea. This serves as Allen's self-referential wink to the audience, reminding us that we are indeed viewing a tragedy with similar consequences to Classical drama. Cassandra's Dream is very well-made, but if you've seen Match Point, you might experience deja vu.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Apocalyptic Talking #1

Dear loyal readers,
as of yesterday, i began a regular column at the commentariat, the new opinion and miscellany blog for the spec. it should be up every wednesday, but i would never ask you to go all the way across the internet to another blog (though there is some good stuff there!), so i will be cross-posting here as well, which will hopefully garner us more attention.

The title of the column is "apocalyptic talking," which has its origins in a fabulous quote by author edward dahlberg: "good teaching is apocalyptic talking."

anyway... here it is!

Two Seemingly Unrelated Vignettes Illuminating the Significance of Our Insignificance

So many have tried and failed, so not to at least attempt to name our generation with a hip catch-phrase would be arrogant, to say the least. So, here we go. I henceforth dub the youth of today “the supernova generation.” We do not cultivate taste, nor do we allow our desire to smolder, crackling embers of longing in our eyes. We are a series of consuming obsessions, of affected hatreds. We want to want; we need to need. We are inundated with so much, that we must drain the ocean to be sated. We suck the juice from life, leaving only pulpy refuse. We’re a generation shrink-wrapped and raised in Styrofoam cribs. We shudder to think we are disposable.

Ever since the last two weeks of the fall semester, I have been living in my room without heat, since the radiator leaked all over the floor, destroying a number of books. To stave off pneumonia, I wear sixth grade socks to bed, ones with white rubber grippers on the feet, now smoothed down to paradoxically allow for better sliding on my tiled floor. I wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt to bed, the sigil of my father’s old pharmaceutical company, faded like an archaeological find, into the mere memory of an ankh. It means life in ancient Egyptian, I think. I hunker down in my covers, not unlike the kids in those safety films from the Atomic Age, shivering my prayers into the night – protect me from the coming apocalypse. I become a hero to my apartment when my inconvenience becomes a holy cause. I turn off all lights when not using them and unplug every appliance. When my roommate returns to New York, I tell him how things are gonna be; a righteous sneer plays on my lips, like Joe Strummer or Johnny Cash.

Leaving my internship in the evenings is the worse thing in the world for my soul. It is not because I love my job so much that I cannot bear to leave (even though I do enjoy it quite a lot), and it is not due to something stupendously amazing that I am missing at home. I exit 330 7th Avenue into a veritable human gulf stream. Why is it that between 42nd st. and 28th (where I work), every single person is in possession of a pressing need to head downtown? It appears as I am the lone northward traveler, with only my wits and Polaris to guide me. [Brief digression: When I was sevenish, my family took a vacation to Cape Cod, and while I was playing in the ocean, a wave knocked me down and the undertow carried me out to sea. My mom saved my life.] As I struggle to move forward, every single individual’s movements, which run counter to my own, are seen as personal affronts and offenses. “They’re on the attack!” In my heart there sprout seeds of hatred for all who bump shoulders or duck into the street at the exact same moment I do, or who walk just too slowly to be tolerable. Midtown makes me the worst person.

In the beginning of this piece, I characterized our generation as that of the “supernova,” but, if you forgive me, I’d like to mix ‘n’ match my metaphors. We are drowning, and the water is rising quickly; or we are sinking (it all depends on your frame of reference). We gasp for air, to fill our lungs with nothing. When the water begins to fill our lungs, we gasp for air. It takes our breath away. (Back to the original image) A supernova is the spectacular creation of empty space. Where once there was a great big star now sits a black hole. I like owning more books than I could ever read. I think about my bookcase tipping over and burying me in words. Only a buried person kicks and scratches and bleeds and slashes and punches in true and furious ecstasy. One used to have to die to experience this. The drowning person gasps for air. The exploding star takes our breath away.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Anthropology Haiku

Going through evolution
One step at a time

un cancion del corazón

i swear to goodness gracious that for spanish ap in sophomore year, i wrote a latin jazz song and performed it on guitar for my final project.
because i love and trust you all, here it is:

I. Llevo las estrellas de
arriba como una falda
y las cometas bailan
en el cielo.
(Toda la belleza) x2
me da esperanza. . .

Bridge: Un concurso en los cielos
Un choque de los titanos
Una guerra de divinos
La llama de mi amor
Es más que el sol. . .

II. Las chispas que
Emanan de su amor.
Encienden un fuego
En mi alma, mi amor.
Seré campéon
de su corazón, su conquistador. . .

i think i may have forgotten what it means ;-)
creative translations are welcome in the comments.

Monday, January 21, 2008

it's a lit ex in a blog!

one of our favorite and most enjoyable aspects of our weekly meetings is the literary exercise.
and so: i am proud to present one of our most favorite lit exes as preserved in the glorious tubes!