Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Hallway Outside My Door

Along Love's well worn path marked by splatters of errant white paint, epoxy and chips from the plaster, I step carefully over the growing cracks in the cement, crumbling pieces staying low and lethal.

Even the short flights of stairs here and there are stripped bare only to reveal worn out wooden planks. Around the edges are the visible beginnings of dry rot. A stark contrast to the new paint are the doors at regular intervals. They are very heavy wooden doors, scratched and scraped, and don't match anything in the hallway not even the splatters of red paint on the floor below the fire extinguisher case. Some of the doors are fortified with gleaming fake gold metal plates as if to repair a break-in that happened sometime in the old past.

Folks in charge were in the process of giving the place a facelift or so the legend goes. That explains the newly painted ceilings and walls. The long walls are painted "babyshit green" as a woman told me when I stopped to talk to her. She had hollowed out cheeks, bright green eyes, even with all the fatigue hanging on her, and thin red hair. It was the faded red of a former copperhead child grown into an adult. She had been sitting alone in the hallway munching the last crumbs of an elaborate picnic.

"The wall surrounding the beginning and ending doorways are a dark forest green," she had said, "The same color as the nursery walls in my son's room." I tried to get her to talk more after that, but she would only look off into space. I had walked on, giving her privacy.

The trim of the walls are painted a light terra cotta. What Fucker came up with this color combination is anyone's guess. And guess we do.

"The walls in the other hallway are a burnt yellow," a young dark haired woman had told me. Thin wiry silver spectacles perched on her face, giving her a faint owlish look. She looked trustworthy in her oversized dark blue sweater, grey muffler and faded skinny jeans.

"What other hallway?" I had asked. I had no idea there were different hallways for this place.

"Love works in mysterious ways that include multiple levels. Much like there are different chambers of the heart," she had said. She'd opened a notebook she was carrying. The electric green cover was half torn and the inside cover full of heart doodles. She had shown me a sketch she had made of the four chambers of the human heart.

"I did that in anatomy," she had said proudly, "I got to see a real heart.

"God help you," I'd said and moved on. Beating hearts give me the creeps with their primeval squish-squish and unelegant shivering.

Another rumor says that the folks in charge will eventually (no one knows when) install new carpeting. We are all afraid, really afraid to see what they've come up with. As it is, the colors they've picked are completely unflattering to any living person's skin tone no matter how pale or deep it is. In the meantime, I walk down the hallway, sometimes completing household chores, sometimes writing novels, although most of the time I'm saving the world. No matter what I'm doing, I'm still wondering what they're going to do with the doors once they are finished.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Movie Musings: Buster Keaton and Sherlock Jr.

"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot." - Buster Keaton

This evening a friend of mine and I attended the Balboa Theatre 81st Birthday Bash. During this yearly event they feature special films and performances. This year it was a short and a film by Buster Keaton, a magician who performed three tricks, a woman who sang 20s and 30s songs and a slide show lecture by a film scholar who talked about how Keaton did some of the scenes in the film we saw.

I've heard of Buster Keaton since I was a child, but I had never seen any of his films. When I was in junior high school I saw a documentary about great comedians (with Walter Matthau narrating) and saw a couple of famous scenes Keaton had filmed, but wasn't able to grasp the man's importance at the time.

This evening was the first time I've ever seen a Keaton film. The man was a genius.

We first watched the "The Playhouse" a silent film short made in 1921 and is notable for being a technical tour de force which features Keaton playing most of the roles in the film (including the women in the first half of the film) at the same time through multiple exposures. Also keep in mind that film projectors weren't electric at the time, they were manually turned by a hand crank. In order to set up these multiple exposure scenes, the cameraman had to make sure he was turning the crank at the same speed and having the camera in the right place to make the scenes work.

Oh yeah and the short is hilarious.

After more music and an intermission, we watched "Sherlock Jr."

What can I say about this film to even try to do it justice? First, the stats: a silent film made in 1924, Buster did all of his own stunts in addition to directing duties and it was all filmed in and around Los Angeles.

How good is this film? On a scale from one star to five with five stars being the absolute best, this film gets 75 stars. No lie. This is probably the funniest, one of the most incredible films I have ever seen. I can't remember the last time I laughed this hard. I can't remember screaming with laughter in a movie theater. I can't remember the last time I had to come home from the movie theater and take some hot tea and honey so I can soothe the sore throat I have from laughing so hard.

Buster's stunts are simply astounding. Conceptualizing, rehearsing and setting up these stunts must have taken him forever. Through it all he maintains that famous deadpan look, the Great Stone Face.

But don't read anymore of this post. Get onto Netflix or Blockbuster or your great local DVD rental store right now and get some of Buster's movies: "Sherlock Jr." for sure, but also "Steamboat Bill, Jr." and "The General." I have not seen the latter two, but people assure me that they are amazing. In fact, if you have seen them, please drop me a line in the comments section and let me know what you thought. Try to get restored/remastered versions with a soundtrack. It will add greatly to your viewing experience

Lastly, please watch these films with your kids if you have them. Kids love Keaton and for good reason. It's all brilliant, amazing, good clean fun. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

City Life: Overheard on MUNI, 2/23/07, Friday Night

"He is so ugly. I mean, that's a kind of ugly you just can't get rid of. I mean, when I was younger I was a little chubby, but I got rid of it. That is just damn ugly."

"This is turning into an East-Coast-no-one-looks-at-each-other kind of thing. I mean, that's where this bus is AT."

- Travis, 26 year old guy.

While on the 6 Parnassus on the way home none of us could ignore the booming Tennessee twang of Travis as he ranted and raved on the bus. The guy was harmless enough, just spectacularly drunk. Several folks, including the young shit-faced exotic dancer he was with, tried to shut him up, but to no avail.

It is quite common to board MUNI later in the evening and encounter people who can't stop talking loudly, but this guy's ability to vocally project was so impressive he was even disturbing people wearing their iPods. He should be a stage actor.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Circa Notebook, Joint Security Area and My Family

I should be getting ready for work right now. I'm running late as it is, but I woke up in a funk this morning and decided to write a Three Beautiful Things post:
  1. Going back to paper and finally ditching my PDA. I feel guilty for doing that, but damn it! Paper just makes me happier. I bought a leather covered Circa notebook from Levenger (so beautiful!) and put an agenda inside along with some blank pages for all the notes I need to take and blank pages for drawings.
  2. "Joint Security Area." I love finding interesting movies no one has ever heard of. This is an early film by Korean director Park Chan-wook, the director who did the "Revenge" series. I thought it was going to be a shoot-'em-up action movie, but it turned out to be a haunting and thought-provoking murder mystery about DMZ separating North and South Korea.
  3. My family. My parents, brother and I are very close. I spend quite a bit of time at my Mom's house visiting them several times a month. Going over there is so much fun. My Mom and I get our time together in the evening after dinner, my brother and I always stay up until 2am or 3am talking about something or watching movies and my Dad and I get our alone time in the morning while making/eating breakfast as everyone else sleeps. I'm so fortunate!

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Gap, Saturday, Santa Cruz, CA

So I'm hanging out with one of my good friends at The Gap in downtown Santa Cruz. It's a beautiful, balmy afternoon and Pacific Garden Mall is packed with surfer/hippie/yuppie types. Shorts, skirts and sandals abound.

I'm struggling in the dressing room trying on several pairs of jeans. It's a bad time to be looking for jeans because a serious project like that can take at least five hours and this is a relaxed, catch up kind of shopping trip. My friend is out in the main part of the store also looking at jeans.

None of the jeans fit, of course (which is why this is considered a serious hours-long project), so I exit my dressing room. I almost run into a Fetching Young Man who is in front of the three way mirror. He is wearing a button down white shirt with needle thin stripes, a pair of dark charcoal slacks and white worn gym socks. He is dancing quite energetically in front of the mirror to a hip hop song and when I almost ran into him, he blushes beet red. I laugh and say something like "Don't worry." He smiles shyly at me. He has dark curly hair that needs cutting, dark eyes and dimples when he smiles. He is tall and very lanky, about 5'10" and can't be more than 16 years old. He has a wonderfully shy, slightly clueless air about him.

Every once in a great while I run into a Fetching Young Man. These are young men (under 21 years old), cute and for some reason feel very comfortable talking to me. I always enjoy these little encounters. There's something very compelling about watching a boy become a man even if you only get to witness it for a few moments.

Fetching Young Man: "Do you think these pants are too short?"

He is looking at himself in the three way mirror, skeptical. I look down carefully at his white socked feet, noting length of the pants and how they would fall if he were wearing shoes.

Me: "I think they look fine."

Fetching Young Man: "Hmm."

At this point, Another Young Man comes running in. He is wearing a black and white sports jersey, orange and black striped basketball shorts and expensive looking white sneakers. He glances at me.

"The pants look fine," I repeat just so his friend knows nothing strange is going on.

Another Young Man: "Dude!!! You can't wear pants halfway down your butt to a FORMAL!!! You have to wear slacks. SLACKS!!"

Fetching Young Man: "I guess so." He's back to checking himself in the mirror.

Me: "The pants look great on you and they are definitely not too short."

Another Young Man: "No pants halfway down your butt to a FORMAL!!!"

The Fetching Young Man has apparently tired of this discussion about the pants and looks at me again. He smiles (cute dimples!) and then starts dancing energetically to the music again. I dance too. We bounce around for a few minutes and then I say goodbye with a wave and a good luck.

I find my friend who is still looking at the stacks of jeans that run all the way up the wall. I'm so happy about this little encounter that I don't tell her about it until we are in the car on the way back to her house. Although she wanted to know where she was when all this was happening, I wanted to keep it all to myself for just a little while longer.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Last Saturday

Jahleel assumes defensive velociraptor pose
You can see her mate's beak sticking out of their nestbox on the left there.

Jahleel moves closer...

And closer...

And closer...until she bites me on the left hand almost making me drop the camera.

Foolishly, I thought Jahleel was coming closer to check out my camera. One of the other penguins, Agulhas, does this all the time, but she wasn't. She was merely defending her house where her mate, Robben, was nesting in.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Movie Musings: Rashomon and Truth

I finally watched this film for the first time last week as part of my years long Akira Kurosawa film review. Kurosawa was only about 40 when he made this film and it's nothing short of brilliant.

Rashomon is the story of a rape and murder told from several different viewpoints. And I don't mean where there are niggling differences in details, I mean where the story each person tells is almost completely different. The event is told from the viewpoint of the Bandit (rapist), the woman, her husband the Samurai (the murder victim) and a Woodcutter (a witness of sorts).

This film is fascinating because it is almost impossible to figure out the truth of the matter. You start to see that each person has their own agenda and colors their telling of the story with their own fears, prejudices, social viewpoints and self-perceptions. Much like how each eyewitness will tell a different story at a car crash scene, Rashomon shows us in a startling and uncompromising way how different we can all perceive the same event.

This film got me thinking about the concept of whether we can ever perceive reality as it really is. As everyone has, I have encountered people who consistently tell skewered versions of things that happened to them. I have made it a priority in my life to tell things are they are to the best of my ability, and yet I'm certain that my telling is skewered as well. I just hope it's less skewered for all the effort I put into being accurate.

I wonder if this is the same as truth? In a way it might not be. One thing that fascinates me about observing objects at the subatomic level (electrons, for example) is that their behavior sometimes changes simply because we are looking at them. Yes, folks, this means that the fact that we are watching an electron will change its behavior for no reason at all. What does this mean? I have no idea, but it does give me interesting food for thought as in what if an event changes simply because we're looking at it? What is truth anyway? Are we a distorted lens through which everything is filtered with the truth just out of our reach OR does the event actually change as we are watching it?

I'll stop the strange and fun questions now. I'm sure you can tell I have almost no background in philosophy otherwise I wouldn't be wondering such things.

More about the film:

The cinematography is glorious black and white. Much of the film setting is in a large forest and Kurosawa makes the most of the play of light and shadow. The camera angles, the way the camera moves, the trees, the sunlight and shade are all poetic and beautiful. During the filming they used a large mirror to focus light on the actors faces in key scenes. The other setting is at a broken down temple gate and here we see the famous Kurosawa rain. The rain wasn't visible enough so he had it stained with ink so it would show up better on camera.

Rashomon was made in 1950 and the first of Kurosawa's films, or of any Japanese film for that matter, to capture international attention. It won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. It also won an Oscar for Best Foreign film.

Rent it, watch it, watch the commentary. This is a great film by a master and will keep you thinking for a long time afterwards. Hopefully you won't be wondering about those electrons, though.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

YouTube, Copyright, and the Democractic Way

Like many people I have become enamored of YouTube. I was introduced to it by way of SNL's Lazy Sunday (Chronicles of Narnia rap) digital short which was sent to me by an old boyfriend. By the way, I was just on YouTube and couldn't find Lazy Sunday anywhere. I was, however, able to find a whole bunch of parodies of it. More on that later.

This leads me an interesting aspect about YouTube: copyright issues. One of the things I love about,, and the internet in general is that it's democratic. This means I am free to get my blog on and say whatever the hell I want to say to a small audience of folks, some of who come here occasionally and some who stumble upon this blog by accident. If I want I can shoot a digital short and post it on YouTube and I can go on and look for/place an ad about...whatever.

This ability to express myself in a huge variety of forums is nothing short of revolutionary. When was the last time you or me had the opportunity to put ourselves out into the world like this? When was the last time we could say our piece without some publishing company to tell us what's good or bad based on whether it would sell? What about music? Film? This is a big deal time we're in now, full of possibilities.

There's also a huge amount of crap out there, but it's still better to give everyone the same opportunities as long as they have a way to get on the Net and a computer.

Copyright infringement is against the law and at least some of the material up on YouTube might unauthorized copies of videos (I'm trying to be careful in how I word this sentence). And yet I can't help but think that having some of that material up in an open forum like YouTube is either enjoying a revival and/or adding to its owner's bottom line.

For example, after Lazy Sunday was up on YouTube, Saturday Night Live's ratings went up. Could this be the result of YouTube and viral marketing? Is it possible that SNL, which seemed to be in a low ebb, got a boost because everyone was talking about, emailing and laughing over Lazy Sunday? Could it be that Lazy Sunday was the best thing to come out of SNL in a long time and, because it was available in an open place like YouTube, more people were watching it and deciding that SNL might be worth checking out again?

Could be, but then again maybe not.

And what about Lazy Sunday's parodies on YouTube, or all the parodies for that matter. Why is it okay to leave them up on YouTube even if you're using the actual song Lazy Sunday? Perhaps I'm wrong and maybe it's not all right. Maybe they just haven't gotten around to taking those parodies down. Still, SNL is legendary for doing some of the best parodies out there? How does that fit into this discussion?

Just so we're clear: this is all my personal opinion. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on this blog. Or anywhere else for that matter.

The fact is everyone needs to take a good hard look at these issues. I think YouTube is awesome because I can look up just about anything (TV shows, commercials, music videos, etc. from almost time frame) and watch to my heart's content. I like this openness in the same way I like being able to write this post.

I really hope YouTube doesn't go the way of Napster. It would be a shame if it did. There has to be a way for companies to take advantage of viral marketing and open access to everyone without ruining all the fun we're having here. I mean, I got to watch James Brown sing "I Got You (I Feel Good)" in a ski sweater. Where the hell else am I going to find something like that?