Friday, December 31, 2010

one more thing

Photo was taken in Atlanta, Georgia, ten years ago. Cheers.

What does it mean that at four minutes until the end of 2010 I'm overcome by the urge to write yet one more blog post? Never mind; I think I know.

There's a sign up in my home office that says "When opportunity knocks, don't be in your bathrobe." Words to live by! And in a related idea, the words of William C. Martell, screenwriter and dear old friend: "Take my advice-- I'm not using it." (Don't worry; I'll explain later).

One more thing.

Never enough. Never enough time, never enough accomplished, never enough.

But, onward we go.


ongoing resolutions and new year wishes

Making resolutions at year's end is for wimps, I tell you! I make resolutions every day of my life.

To the four or five special people who wander by this little corner of the metaverse, I appreciate that my black dots and squiggles, these ones and zeroes on glass, are occasionally of some interest to you. All the best to you in the coming year, and kudos for your exceptional taste.


the decade comes to a close

Thursday, December 30, 2010

throwing haiku and caution to the wind

Somewhere along the way, I ran into a snarky article authored by someone whose name I've forgotten, the upshot of which was that Westerners had no business trying to write haiku. I understand the concern, having read some attempts that were, shall I say, cringe-inducing.

We all think we're the exception to the rule, don't we? Naturally, I feel mine are worth publishing, at least on my own blog.

Anyway, this is one of two classic 5-7-5 haiku I've written and retained. All false modesty aside, I feel it's unusually good in terms of verbal music, rhythm, wit, and imagery. If it's not for you, that's entirely fine... but I'm quite pleased with it, and always will be:

my cat scratches at
bright white patches of moonlight
on the night blanket

* * *

Monday, December 27, 2010

annual year-end cautious optimism, part one

The above photo is of a shelf in my home office with special mementos. Among them is a Japanese hagoita paddle with the image of a geisha, in semi-three dimensions, designed in the traditional manner using padded fabric on wood. Hagoita paddles were originally created as equipment for the playing of a game, but are now created largely as beautifully-made icons honoring each new year in Japan. More about this in an upcoming post. / b

The Japanese have a tradition of wanting to conclude the pressing concerns of a given year before moving into the new one... finish all outstanding projects (with the exception of very long-term ones, of course), get one's affairs in order, look ahead to the implementation of certain improvements, and greet the first fresh day of January with a clean slate and a strong plan.

This is an idea I can relate to... my annual goal to achieve this satisfying state, however, has met with unevenly success. Still, I'm happy to report that my 2010 household was far more organized than last year (not that it was ever horrible, mind you), nearly all but my most long-term projects are finished, and my plans are more or less in place for the upcoming year. Even my laundry is done-- no small feat, but for the last few months I've been trying to do a load every day or two to keep things sane. Some of my friends may not realize just how compelling-- yet elusive-- household Nirvana is to people like me. An ongoing quest.

Why is this so important? The smoother I can run my life from day to day, the more I accomplish of a higher nature. Planning, efficiency, and logistics are terribly important if if I'm not to end up spending too many hours each week as a cook and housekeeper. A writer writes, as the saying goes, but only if there continue to be meals on the table.

There's also another reason I seek this pristeen state, a potent personal combination of psychological and aesthetic urges (I've explored this in previous posts). For whatever oddball reasons, I love to have all my petty tasks swept away, and have beauty and order in place all around me as I get to work on what truly matters.

* * *

Ah, yes... my annual year end cautious optimism! To my credit, again, I was far more efficient in my time management this year than I was last year, and I was able to get a lot of personal work accomplished.

As an aside, it may not be politically correct to say this out loud, but I dream of having the means to pass off the bulk of the housework to professionals. Until then, the trick is to have as nicely-run household as possible while not getting stuck in Martha S. mode while my writing and design projects suffer from neglect.

My other goals for the year are more personal and in some cases, abstract. But I know what they are.

January 1 is coming fast. I may not have everything concluded in the Japanese manner, but perhaps the Japanese don't achieve it fully, either. At least I'm close. The new year on the horizon will never unfold with the seamless elegance I now envision, but I vow to do my best.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

the day after tomorrow is the day before christmas eve

A special tradition goes back to childhood when my sister and I could barely endure the endless wait until Christmas each year.

One of us-- we'll never know who, although it may have been me because I'm the elder sibling--crafted a way to make Christmas seem a little closer one fateful year... even though it was an interminable four days away. (Just what year is a fact lost in the mists of time).

The day after tomorrow is the day before Christmas Eve! Suddenly, it seemed we could make it.

Regardless of who came up with it, it's a clever little mantra-- and an effective psychological tool. Eventually we fell into the tradition of repeating this optimistic bit of wit on the day when this was true, and it helped the overwhelming excitement of Christmas feel within reach.

Who among adults can forget just how long a single day always felt during childhood? It was always an eternity.

Somewhere along the road from childhood to adulthood, this evolved into a friendly contest between the two of us, seeing who would remember this tradition in any given year, and be the first to contact the other on the correct day-- not earlier or later--and make the infamous announcement. The winner would gloat, and the loser would groan.

Conducting and evaluating the winning of this contest has become more nuanced in recent years due to options such as email, and humane concerns about calling too early. As committed as I am to winning, I am loath to call my sister at midnight when she has to get up so early for her job.

This year I began planning earlier than usual. It occured to me that a time-stamped blog post would be an accurate way to win with built-in validation. So elegant.

* * *

If she sends me an email at the same time, we'll have to call it a draw... although I doubt if she'll cover her bases like I will with two Twitter posts (one tweet to each account); a blog post (just one to my primary blog should suffice); an announcement on the home page of my website; a Facebook update, and; an announcement at my most active Yahoo group. If my mobile phone had a text account, I would have done that, too.

Some years I win, some years she wins. Lately the winds (wins) have shifted in my favor. Yes, I'm committed.

* * *

And so, because it is just now the first seconds of the new day here in California:

The day after tomorrow is the day before Christmas Eve.



photo: Puerta Vallarta, 2006

Sunday, December 12, 2010

films, revisited

What films do I turn to again and again, the media equivalent of comfort food? Recently I tried to answer that question, and came up with a list of twenty, closely followed by another batch of twenty. And that would seem to answer that intriguing question for me.

But wait! There's no way I can have a favorite multiple viewings list without "Galaxy Quest" and "Ghostbusters"! Horror of horrors; what was I thinking? And now, upon further reflection, maybe I impulsively included "Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" merely because I viewed it recently... would I really want to see it multiple times? Maybe I need to rethink that one. What else would have to go off the list to make room for those two entertaining favorites?

The great thing about that group of titles was, their assembly was not encumbered by criteria such as literary quality, technical mastery, creativity, cinematic or historic importance (although this doesn't mean many of them didn't have such qualities). Someday I'll put together such a list, or I should say lists, and they will be very different.

Lately, more than ever, I watch a film to go to another place, a dreamlike escape-realm designed to be just what I need at a given moment.

There are some so-called important films that I'm grateful to have seen, films that have truly achieved something, films that played a key role in cinematic development, or affected me or surprised me or grabbed my attention, or haunted me. But they're not the film equivalent of comfort food. Would I really want to see "Saving Private Ryan" or "Inglorious Basterds" or "No Country for Old Men" over and over again, kicking back after a long day of modern-day anxieties? Honestly, I think not. "The Godfather" is an important, compelling piece of filmmaking, but it's just not where I want to be right now, and neither is "Chinatown". Not for me.

And yet, it's not simply that I prefer a happy or cheerful film, because my list isn't made up of silly fare or romantic comedies... not even close.

"Gone With The Wind" might be one of the greatest films ever made, but "The Matrix" or "Monsoon Wedding" or "Metropolis" seem like better choices for my personal plug-in-drug collection.

There's a strange logic behind my viewing habits lately, one that isn't easy to explain. Those choices might say just as much about the times we live in and the role film and television play in our daily lives as it does about my own idiosyncracies, but its no obvious formula. Fascinating.

Onward, to more lists!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

christmas approaches

This post is actually a time-travelling post being written on March 29, 2011. I definitely had an entire piece in mind when I posted the title, but it slipped away for no legitimate reason. In a way, Christmas 2011 can be said to be approaching. How early will I do my Christmas shopping this year? How long will I sustain the annual fantasy of creating my own cards, or actually having a Christmas party here at the house? Will I pull out the huge tree and dedicate the days needed to adorn it? Decorating isn't the hard bit, either-- that would be the task of taking everything down and packing it away. But sure, I can do this. People joke sometimes about Christmas in July. So what about Christmas in March? That means those stockings and garlands still sitting out in my guest room aren't evidence of slothful post-Christmas housekeeping. I just means I'm the first to get ready for the next Yule. Maybe this year I'll put up ALL of my artificial trees and ALL of my decorations, because nothing is more gorgeous... I haven't done that in years. I'll bake cookies and swap with neighbors; I'll make homemade liqueurs and spice rubs with gorgeous labels, and be ready with a new gown (my own design) well before the big work Christmas party. Merry Christmas, and happy (almost ) April Fool's Day, everyone.

Monday, December 6, 2010

twenty more films

Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau version)
The Greatest Game Ever Played
A Christmas Carol (Alistair Sim version)
Galaxy Quest
2001: A Space Odyssey
Toy Story (series)
Monsters, Inc.
Apollo 13
The Wizard of Oz
The Sixth Sense
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Wallace & Gromit, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Lord of the Rings (first of the three, at least)
The Bishop's Wife
Singing in the Rain
Gunfighter (Coppola version; my 2nd film, makeup artist/art dept.)
Journey to the Center of the Earth (recent version)
Rear Window
Shutter Island
Twelve Monkeys
The Others


PS You're right. This list actually has more than twenty films on it.

twenty films

Tonight, I was asked to pick twenty favorite films.

Absent any detailed explanation, there are many ways to go about this exercise. And while this may not be what the author of the inquiry had in mind, this was my approach: I chose to be very honest with myself and pick twenty films I know I would actually want to watch again and again. I decided to do this in a very spontaneous manner by walking into the media room and selecting twenty DVDs I would physically take with me if I had to go away for an indeterminate length of time.

This is quite different than preparing a more academic report that talks about the twenty most important films, or the twenty best films of all time, or twenty films carefully selected to present examples from major genres. I simply looked at my very own film collection and thought about what I liked to watch again and again, as opposed to creating a list that would cast me as a gifted and insightful expert, or present a well-rounded array.

It's entirely possible that tomorrow morning I might suddenly remember a favorite film, and then scan the list for one to swap out. But I have to believe there's something honest about looking through films I've actually bothered to purchase, and knowing I could watch them all repeatedly.

And so, answering only to my own escapist desires and idiosyncratic whims, and not seeking the approval of a thesis advisor in Film Studies, in no particular order:

To Catch a Thief or North by Northwest
Big Fish
A Christmas Story
The Polar Express
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Fall
Princess Mononoke
The Illusionist
One recent Harry Potter movie (undecided)
Lady in White
Clownhouse (my first film; I designed the costumes and makeup)
Chronicles of Narnia, first film
Coco before Chanel
The Matrix
Blade Runner
* * *
To thine own self be true. I'll put some runners-up in a separate blog entry.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

haircut, at long last

Yesterday I finally chopped off my less-than-fabulous long hair. It's the best thing I've done for myself in quite a long time.

The last several months, my hair spent most of its time up in a clip, flat to my head. Or stuffed into a baseball cap. But no longer.

Long overdue.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

happy american thanksgiving

To all of my friends here in the United States, I hope you're all having a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

It's been a while, I know, but I expect to be back writing here sometime next week.


* * *

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ignore everybody

Somebody said this recently, in the context of advice, maybe even specific to writing. I read it somewhere but have no idea whose comment it was.

It seems somehow profound to me, audacious, startling, brilliant, unnerving.

If I am to finish my novel (did I say IF? Oh dear!) does it mean I must ignore everybody? Would I dare do this? Is this at the core of some key truth? Does it resonate all too well with me as I examine what slows me down?


Thursday, November 11, 2010

fashion show ultimate collection: notes by a grouchy fan

This must be what it takes to bring me out of my long hiatus from blogging: a new reality television show about fashion. As much as I hate to admit it (here or elsewhere), I've become a semi-regular viewer of such shows as Project Runway and The Rachel Zoe Project. Under protest, kicking and screaming and grumbling and qualifying, to be sure... but I've begun to watch television shows centered around design.

Make no mistake, I absolutely do grumble about them. I know everybody must say this, but I really do tune in for the design, not the dramatics. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but my sense is it would make me content to relax with a glass of sauvignon blanc and watch designers in a workroom flinging bolts of fabric instead of insults, shopping for fabrics, drafting patterns, frustrated and struggling when things don't work and thrilled when they do, and have the producers do away with the bitch-edits, highly contrived interpersonal venom and vitriol, and general mayhem.

And now, this: The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection, Bravo's newest attempt to fill the void left by their own Project Runway's defection to Lifetime. Apparently it isn't exactly new; I understand they did a season already (one that flew largely under the radar) with less than phenomenal results. Producers reportedly retooled it a bit, and the show's second season just aired a few days ago.

First, the good news about The Fashion Show's format. Viewers are promised fashion shows on runways without waiting all season because the mandate is to produce collections, along with all the usual runway show accoutrements, week after week. Plenty of runway designs slinking down the catwalk across the entire season, and isn't that the whole idea? Real clothes, not ones made out of seat belts or grocery bags.

Designers arrived to the show and were immediately split into two design houses. And before you could figure out who was who, straight, gay, nice, or naughty, or if they bothered to select any contestants over (gasp) forty, ka-bam! A runway show consisting of representative looks chosen by each designer.

* * *

more notes in a bit!

Friday, October 15, 2010

on vintage clothing

Vintage clothing and accessories have been a part of my life since I was in grade school when my grandmother began giving me her old costume jewelry. To my great joy, it was possible to begin collecting and enjoying some fabulous vintage pieces even when my only source of money was babysitting at fifty cents an hour.

Once I was an adult and could get around in the outside world more easily, it would be a rare afternoon of flea marketing or thrift-shopping when I wouldn't come home, happy and excited, with bags stuffed full of vintage pieces for my fledgling collection.

Yes, vintage clothing has always beckoned me, and I didn't hesitate to wear interesting pieces in high school and beyond. But now that I'm not in my twenties, model-skinny, or still working in a hip and busy nail salon (my job for many years), my approach to wearing it is necessarily different.

Although vintage items are a bit harder to dig up in increasingly knowledgable thrift stores these days, thrifting is still a great way of turning time, taste, and expertise into a growing collection that affords great pleasure and (usually) increasing monetary value. I never grow tired of it.

I'm emphasizing the thrift angle because of its affordability, but when you're looking for something specific, or if your free time is at a premium, it makes sense to pay a bit more and acquire vintage pieces from reputable vendors instead of scrounging on your own. The thrift shop adventure isn't for everyone.

If you have an eye for beauty and a feel for history, collecting vintage can be a joy, even if many of your pieces, for whatever reason, might end up being worn only rarely. Vintage items can be displayed, taken out and played with, and used in photographs; they're inspiring and great conversation pieces. I have boxes of black vintage cocktail hats that I never intend to wear, but they make compelling display pieces in my rotating exhibits. Some vintage pieces feature amazing trims, finishes, and techniques that I've shared with others in classroom settings.

But what about really wearing these unique treasures? Wearing head-to-toe obviously vintage pieces is usually a mistake; instead of giving a hip and arty appearance, it makes you seem like a walking anachronism, a crazy lady stepping out of a time machine. This is even more true when you're Of A Certain Age ("Yikes. Doesn't she realize it's not [insert year here] anymore?")

Fashionistas can add a depth to their personal style by the judicious use of vintage pieces, but frankly, wearing anything more than a few accessories requires a decent eye and truly knowing what you're doing. Working vintage into your look takes a certain confidence to pull off, and it's not an effortless way to dress.

Young people can get away with more in this regard. They generally look fresher, and the old-ness of the pieces looks deliberate; they can pull off the cherry red lips and the crazy hats. In general, if you appear old enough to have worn a given period's style in your youth, you should be extremely careful about strongly referencing that time period... or anything predating it, for that matter, but especially the look of one's heyday.

My approach to wearing vintage pieces is to make sure that the basics of my ensemble indicate an awareness of current trends, sufficient to not put me in the highly eccentric Madame Bijoux or Miss Haversham category. For every piece of conspicuous vintage, a person would do well to sport three or four current-looking pieces. If I'm dying to wear a pair of Fifties shoes or waterfall necklace, I make sure my pants and shoes are ultra-current. Wearing contemporary hair and makeup is a very important element. The idea is to look as though you are referencing a period, not stuck there or reliving it. A twenty year-old can look amazing in swinging Sixties makeup, but someone my age probably shouldn't go there.

* * *

Overall I've had rather poor luck involving myself in the large demi-monde of commerce and commentary that's evolved around vintage clothing, so I generally go it alone. There are hundreds of blogs and sites and stores dedicated to vintage clothing, and some of them are truly marvelous. Part of me wishes I could make friends in that world and take some ongoing enjoyment in all that. But beyond reading an article here and there, I generally don't involve myself with vintage clothing people, and it's a conscious choice.

Vintage clothing is a very contentious and argumentative field because, frankly, so many people don't know what they're doing. This translates into trouble I could do without. It's hard not to become upset when vendors assert that a piece is "definitely 1940s" when I know for a fact that it's from 1956 and have ample documentation to prove it. This may sound boastful, for which I apologize, but I have a near-photographic memory for fashion across my own lifetime, often down to the exact year, and I'm a pretty careful student of fashion periods predating my first-hand experience. Fighting such battles in the name of historical accuracy is a temptation, something that could easily eat up my life, so I force myself to walk away.

Most mistakes in the dating and provenance of vintage pieces are honest ones, but there's some fudging going on too. When a vendor wants as much of their merchandise as possible to seem from the Forties because of current demand for that period... well, you can imagine how that makes a history of fashion person absolutely bristle.

When the venue is something like Etsy I can understand that those sellers don't necessarily have true expertise, and I take such selling efforts with a grain or two of salt. If ever there was a "buyer beware" situation, that's it. The positives of this venue are numerous; in light of this, most people intuitively accept the overall wobbly reliability. But when large and well-known vintage clothing vendors are careless in their dating, turn a deaf ear and blind eye... well, I'd love to go on a campaign, but it's really best that I save my time, energy, and sanity and let it go.

Vintage clothing is somewhat on my mind lately, and is topic I'll enjoy revisiting here.

Admittedly this was a broad and rambling discourse, but a harmless introduction to the subject. Next I'll probably talk about the kinds of pieces I collect, and why.

In the meantime, in the rich world of vintage clothing: Be a careful seeker and purveyor of information; assert only what you genuinely believe to be true, and; buy only what you love.

* * *

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

a simple matter of complexity

Time-travel post, arriving in this slot from March 31, 2011. I have no idea what I had in mind when I named this post and then left it blank. Oh well. This shot of a completed game seemed just as appropriate as anything. It occurs to me that a writer could use a naturally-occurring game board such as this as an exercise: use all of the words in a short-ish piece of prose without anything seeming forced.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

forgetting my age

This is the year it actually happened. The idea of such a lapse always amazed me, made me laugh and shake my head, especially in my youth. "How old are you?" "Seven and a half." Or, "I'll be eighteen in three months." "I just turned thirty." And so on. How could someone forget anything so basic?

Forgetting one's age is something I heard rumors about, something that happened to certain absent-minded old people. But this year, 2010, is the year that the calendar rolled around to my birthday, and in all honesty I did not know how old I was. I'm still fuzzy about it, and have to pull out my pocket calculator because I don't feel like I really know it in my heart.

What I think happened is that on my last birthday, I pondered the upcoming birthday so much (with a feeling of dread, I might add, for no particular numeric reason) that I began to think I'd already reached that year.

And that (ahem!) is pretty much all I feel I'd like to say on the subject at present, except to add that I celebrate my birthday from September 15 to October 15 anyway, so why should I worry about getting anything exactly right?

Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

winter plans

With great pride of accomplishment I'd like to announce that I've done nearly all of my Christmas shopping. I also have a certain nagging medical issue out of the way, and finally have a handle on my out-of-control laundry and wardrobe issues.

Will this be the winter I finally finish up my novel? I'm trying to clear the decks so I can be singleminded in my focus. And yes, this does sound familiar; it's my recurring theme...

* * *

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

thoughts of tea on a rainy day

Tea service, tea-time, high tea, tea and mystery, tea and crumpets, tea and sympathy, tea and whimsy, tea for two, a spot of tea, tea and fancy, tea rooms, coffee or tea, the Mad Hatter's tea party, tea and thee.

Don't roll your eyes, although I know it's tempting. I know I chattered away about the mystique of Afternoon Tea in previous posts. (I'm actually writing the bulk of this post on October 6).

What's the appeal? First off, tea service is outside of the typical American breakfast/lunch/dinner schema (or breakfast/dinner/supper, or brunch/late supper, or what have you) and has a civilized yet indulgent aura. I like the idea, obviously, and have nothing but positive highly romanticized associations with it.

I keep thinking I'll introduce an abbreviated but still pleasing afternoon tea ritual to those days I'm home alone and writing, but as of yet I haven't made that committment. Today's wonderful rain has me daydreaming about such things.

It's tempting. To keep this additional meal break from turning into a weight-gain program (or programme) I'd have to have a very light breakfast (which I already do), no second breakfast (like Hobbits, I'm afraid I sometimes like a mid-morning treat), and I'd have to stick with just some fruit or veggies for lunch. Teatime's shortbread cookies and finger-sandwiches are indulgences with a price; but frankly I've been known to grab a fistful of Fritos or peanut butter pretzels around that same time anyway. A cup of steaming Earl Grey, gentle piano music, cloth napkins, and a few tasty treats would be a real improvement.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

goodwood revival: an anglophile's dream

This sounds marvelous-- the Goodwood Revival auto and aviation event now happening in West Sussex, roughly sixty miles from London. How I wish I could be there... in some sort of period attire, of course. It's a shame they're are all sold out. Oh, and besides that, I'd have to be a jetsetter with the time and money for such an indulgence. Too bad!

Part of the fun of owning a Jaguar (finally, after a lifetime of dreaming) is having the occasional fantasy of attending such a glamorous, quintessentially British auto event. And this one sounds like something really special.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

vacation on venus 1960

Vacation on Venus was my first book, a graphic novel. Yes, I tell you, I was certain I'd become a writer. Or maybe a fashion designer.

Rocketships in the Fifties and early Sixties! Woo hooo!

This particular creation was a (ahem) simple illustrated story made of paper and crayons, a gift for my Grandmother. After she died decades later, my sister and I each received one of her music boxes as remembrances. When I opened the lid, I found my little book inside, which she'd kept all those years. Just a few crude scribbles, pictures, and a dedication, but it was created by her first grandchild and meant something. It means something to me that she kept it.

There must have been several old B movies that fed into my young mind, helping germinate the dazzling idea of going to another planet. But the only one I can remember specifically was Journey to the Seventh Planet, which our family saw together at a drive-in movie.

More later.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

warehouse 13 redeems itself; probation lifted

The show Warehouse 13 will always have a host of inescapable issues and will never be believable-- nor is that the point-- but a couple of episodes and story directions earlier this season had me concerned...and annoyed. Last night in marathon fashion I got caught up, and am relieved to report the situation is now far from dire, with enough there to keep me watching (as opposed to throwing things at the screen).

And so, to the powers behind Warehouse 13, thank you. Keep up the good work.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

the future of space circa 1981

Please stand by. Author currently being pulled in twenty different directions. Once she is cloned up into a team, then she can delegate her various projects and finally get things wrapped up.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

happy birthday, ray bradbury

Sir, I too wanted us to be firmly on our strange and wonderful stepping-stone moon by now, preparing in earnest for Mars, but as the decades slipped by we strayed off that path. Even so, I haven't lost all hope that we find our strength and vision once again.

It was at Planetfest in 1981 in Pasadena where I tried to put into words my appreciation for all that you've given us, for your being my longtime writing mentor, sincere sentiments that were received with your considerable grace and good will... despite your having heard such comments hundreds of times through the decades.

Happy 90th birthday, Ray Bradbury, and all my regards until we meet again.

brenda cox giguere

* * *

Note: Name of artist unavailable but I am checking; the work is in conjunction with a proposed television project I caught wind of. Details as they become available.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

forces of change

The story of a diorama in a series of photos and blog posts.

diorama for 'forces of change'

One of the highlights of my year has been helping out with a special project for the Oakland Museum of California. It was a real honor, and a positive experience.

This series of blog posts includes photos I took of a small diorama I designed and installed for a new room in the history wing of the Oakland Museum of California, part of a group of two dozen dioramas collectively called The Forces of Change: 1960-1975.

To tell the story of an era of great societal change, historians working on this exhibit wanted to address a variety of perspectives. Many dioramas for Forces of Change were already in progress, including several that spoke of various aspects of the unrest of the period- and rightly so- but there was a desire to complete the narrative by finding a California artist or two who could share a visual presentation with a more mainstream outlook... in other words, a square like me who hadn't spent the Sixties protesting.

My official, dignified quote for my friends reading this blog is that I was honored to participate; the more honest quote is that I did an undignified happy-dance around the house when I read the invitation!

The email arrived in February of this year, and the museum reopened, after its extensive and expensive several-year renovation, in June. The museum has always been wonderful, but the renovation makes it even more so; I urge everyone to see it if they can.

The project always felt good to me. For one thing, I've long been an Oakland Museum enthusiast and frequent visitor, having grown up in the Bay Area and a die-hard fan of museums in general. Interestingly, the historian who contacted me had no way of knowing of that connection, but it made the project feel even more appropriate.

Beyond that, I was excited about the prospect of, at the very least, helping correct the impression that it was an era consisting largely of dischord. For one thing, what would a modern history wing of a museum be without some mention of the Apollo space program and moon landing? As it turns out, my humble assemblage of ephemera appears to be the only display in the history wing that includes any visual references to perhaps the greatest achievement of modern man. (Even in a cultural, non-technological look at this period in America, surely our safely leaving the bonds of earth must be included in any comprehensive presentation). Be that as it may, my inclusion of this event in my diorama was an honest one, in that it was tremendously inspirational to me. And I definitely was not alone.

And so I dug out boxes of memoribilia I've been carrying around for decades (oh, the vindication!) and set out to create a kind of personal narrative, the story of how I felt about that time period. I chose artifacts I felt would be of interest to the general public, while accurately describing my interests, attitudes, and dreams about my place in the world of opportunities I saw ahead of me. I wanted the diorama to express two key ideas: gratitude, and inspiration. Except for the blue painting I created as a backdrop, all the items were from the period. I even included my first-ever oil painting, a tiny floral still life painted on shirt cardboard when I was in high school. I also included two old photo-booth photos of my mother and father, taken during their engagement, put into the display at the last minute as a gesture of love.

Eventually it would probably make sense for me to put all these diorama photos and some text on a website somewhere, arranged in a better presentation. There are a lot of what I think are cool items; some are self-evident, others less so. Regardless of where this all ends up, I will eventually go into a bit more detail about what everything means. For now, what you're looking at is a collection of personal memoribilia that I arranged to tell a story.

Each diorama in Forces of Change is 32" across, 24" high, and 24" deep, inset into a wall, sealed with a clear acrylic pane. These dioramas have their own separate room in the history wing, complete with period rock music and psychedelic lighting as one enters (see? I told you). First I created a scale mockup at home, shown here. Then I arranged the items in the prepared wooden box (interior painted black as per my choice, like my mockup) on the museum premises while things were still a construction zone. As an aside, mine was the first one completed and sealed, as things turned out. Eventually I will try to find some decent photos of the actual room and intallation and post them online, as well. The second of my museum links above has a photo of what the diorama boxes looked like in their raw state.

Author and historian Adam Nilsen, who recruited me for my small part of the project, couldn't have been better to work with, and treated me with great kindness and respect.

And so, my portion of Forces of Change, in photos. Clicking on each photo brings up a larger version, should you want a closer look.



oakland museum diorama detail photos

oakland museum diorama detail photos

christopher coppola, outlaw (continued)

The first time I ever handled a firearm or shot at a target was with director Christopher Coppola on location for a low-budget Western. I still have the official NRA paper target where we tried our skills using a .22 gauge long rifle. He was a fierce competitor, but my very first shot was just a tiny bit closer to the bullseye than his first shot. Sorry about that, CRC!

Flush with unexpected success, later during this same production I would be called upon to shoot at an antique cowbell for an insert shot. That I was good at this sort of thing was as much of a surprise to me as anyone.

Good times.

Back in time to an earlier post about The Gunfighter: here

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

productive writing weekend

New and improved habits, new level of productivity as the end comes into view. Progress!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

beauty and the beast, via cocteau

On my nightstand: Re-reading Jean Cocteau's diary of the arduous making of his seminal, luminous film, Beauty and the Beast.
* * *
Above is a pencil sketch I did, while in college, of the artist and director.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

thoughts and prayers for healing

Some people I care about are having health problems, and I want to extend my thoughts and prayers for their recovery.
* * *

hercule poirot

Sunday, July 25, 2010

warehouse 13 becoming unwatchable

It pains me to say this, but Warehouse 13 is a great idea shooting itself in the foot before my eyes. It's probably been that way for a while now, but in my dedication to the concept and optimistic outlook, I've somewhat blindly hung in there, cheering it on.

It had such promise-- such a cool premise, such artsy potential with all the steampunk-ish gadgetry, such limitless situations. So what's happening here?

The problem seems to be both in the writing and the directing. Mya and Pete become more annoying with each episode, trying way too hard to be cute. And with their choices in tough situations, who could, even with artistic license, believe either one of them was a secret service agent these days?

The overblown soap-opera character conflicts rampant amongst the entire ensemble seem increasingly contrived. More and more, these supposedly bright people are stomping and pouting like eight year olds. Between the forced humor, immature behavior, and weak dialog, recent episodes leave me feeling more embarassed than anything else.

Sure, Warehouse 13 was never was meant to survive tough scrutiny and be realistic or believable. But for us to willingly suspend our disbelief, they need to meet us halfway. The first episodes had our attention with some compelling, maybe even dazzling notions. And with all that atmosphere, it was easy to go along for the ride. But that was then.

We want to love Warehouse 13, but things are looking grim. And we can't wait forever.

* * *

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

a moon asleep in summer trees

Here is my Moon Landing Wayback Machine link. Happy moon landing anniversary, one and all. I am truly blessed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Stone walkway in Oakland hills, built 1912.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

long summer days

This is an unretouched photo of the view east from my balcony. Pines, cottonwoods, and willow trees dot the landscape, and the green grass of the nine-hole golf course flanks Carmel Creek.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

thank you, ray bradbury

Hello, friends.

The next person I will be inducting into the Dreamland Literary and Cinematic Society will be Mr. Ray Bradbury.

A thank you letter will explain my selection.



Monday, July 12, 2010

world of 'worlds' revisited

...and now that I'm actually "there" again, it's all coming back to me. What a strange, strange virtual world Worlds is. It was one of the first virtual places I ever visited, and I was surprised to find out it's still there. I feel like a time-traveller.

The setup has scarcely changed, except that I hadn't remembered just how unbelievably giantpixel super-clunky funky-stiff and crazy of a place it is. I first visited Worlds several years ago; since then I've found my way to Second Life*, a world that sets such a standard of realism and user power (not to mention, sheer size) that nothing else comes even remotely close. The contrast is almost ludicrous.

But back to the world of Worlds. This realm is organized into, well... worlds, as in, a little cartoon image of a cluster of orbs, and then you click on where you want to go. To call each area a world is a bit grandiose, as each amounts to little more than a series of interlocking rooms or a few plots of cartoon terrain. Each world has to be loaded onto your computer separately. Some of the options are a clue as to when the whole thing sort of fell out of interest: Hanson World, for instance (remember those guys?), and an old sign in the cocktail lounge home area that Supports Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Just now, during my years-later revisit, I was able to find my way to a garden, a boxlike affair with zagged chunks of computer rendering the size of toasters arranged into hedges and walls of repeating flowers. I remember it differently.

The funny thing is, for all it's wooden low-rez early VR crude rendering, it still somehow manages to feel like you're somewhere. You feel like you're somebody, too, even though when you first show up they make you walk around as a virtual penguin. It continues to be remarkable to me how little nudging we need to accept an artificial environment, and lock into it.

Oddly enough, all this low-tech rendering and wooden perambulation results in a kind of retro charm, and it forms a new layer of awareness over my decidedly surreal memories from years ago. I'd love to figure out how to get some screen shots because this place just can't be explained.


*By conscious choice, I am not in Second Life with the time-eating frequency of when I first wandered into it three years ago. But readers are welcome, while there, to say hello to an avatar named Reverielarke Wirtanen.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

early virtuality, remembered

An unknown number of years ago, before I heard about Second Life and found my way there, I paid a few late-night visits to a couple of the most curious early virtual worlds.

The first so-called virtual world I ever visited was called Dreamland Park*, which I chose from the handful available at the time because the name was similar to what I called my lucid dream and media group (now the name of this blog).

Dreamland Park was a funny little place, occupied mostly by people whose text chat was mostly conducted in German. Earnest and eager, I stopped by for several days in a row, keeping my English confined to a worry-free present tense, and tossing in a few German words from a dictionary now and then, just to show I had the right spirit.

This situation, as you might imagine, had its limitations, this funny little Euro chat room. If there was more to it that what I saw, which is entirely possible, I never got there. The highlight occurred one day when someone stood in front of me-- their avatar, that is-- and made a few comical dance moves while staring out from my monitor: my first avatar interaction, and it made me laugh out loud for real. The people there, I came to understand both directly and implicitly, were a cheerful assortment of youngish geeks. The world itself seemed not a great deal more than some gray terrain, and the avatars were a bit limited in movement and expression. I have a dim memory of running up and down some jagged, low-resolution bluffs. For all of its shortcomings, I was very excited to be somewhere, in there... because that's what it felt like. It was a start. The possibilities!

And then I stumbled into another world, one a bit more fully realized, called Worlds. At least, this is the name I recall now, years later. Here, you could run around with an avatar that had a bit more to it, although with little relationship to who you were in real life; at least it seemed that way to me. You could be something decidedly non-human, but I was more comfortable as a female human. Learning to move it around in a virtual space was a startlingly powerful experience.

There was one big room that always seemed like a kind of cocktail party, with a kind of American Southwest view out the long window. And I recall a bunch of hallways that looked like you were on a spaceship. Like a dream, there was one wing where you could choose avatars, a long hallway with a series of figures on display to the left and right like a kind of museum, but I could never find it again- much to my frustration. There was a building kind of like Animal House, and I felt a kind of mild panic there with the antics going on, so I left immediately.

One night, very late, a kind person with a female avatar took me to a beautiful garden, and told me how I could return there; "she" might have been someone trying to promote membership (which I could never bring myself to do), and I don't think I ever went back. But I still remember it as an act of genuine helpfulness early in my virtual history.

In another part of this odd place, you could find a ladies room, and a mirror there, and gaze into it, disconcerted by seeing something foreign staring back at you. My avatar somehow ended up as a large, strong-looking brunette woman with a suggestive sway to her hips, and a long black dress; I accepted this because didn't want to be a little blue orb or a cartoon cowboy. I did what I could.

Now and then I still have dreams about this surreal twilight world of pixels and crude backdrops, usually right after I fall asleep on a night when I am both tired and wired.

* * *

*I've provided a link to a page that has some screen shots of the old Dreamland Park, just as I remember it, about halfway down the page. The glamorous avatar shown is far more sophisticated than anything I encountered there. At any rate, if this place still runs, I can't seem to find how to get there.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Timescape, by Gregory Benford. It's a small world, after all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

the man who was thursday

Why haven't I read G.K. Chesterton until now? Last night I began reading The Man who was Thursday, and it is superb in every way. The book has been described as a philosophical metaphysical thriller.

So far, I love everything about it.

More later

Sunday, July 4, 2010


John Adams 1735- 1826

His final toast to the Fourth of July was "Independence Forever!"

* * *

Saturday, July 3, 2010

period design in context

In design for any given period, nothing stands alone, and all aspects of culture resonate with the same set of aesthetics. Clothing, product design, architecture, typestyles, hairstyles, makeup, music, spoken and written word, even the way people move: all are of their time.

On so many people's lips lately is the show, Mad Men. Finally I gave in and watched a few episodes. To me, as a show-- that is to say, as an experience-- it is like an accident I'm compelled to look at. Nobody is sympathetic, nobody is happy, and it's hard to watch when everyone seems doomed by all the alcohol and smoking. But what the show does understand is that you don't just dress people in so many vintage clothes or do a few cartoonish period sets. Everything in the room must visually resonate with the time period, and this show, for the most part, does an eerily good job of just that (although in a highly stylized manner).

With this in the back of my mind, I noted this passage as I re-read Jean Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film" from early in their shoot:

The Paquin people must have used what materials they could find [for this black and white film] without worrying about color. In spite of that, this fortuitous contrast of colors is dazzling and probably more exciting than if it had been deliberately chosen. As soon as Mila, Nane, Jeannot, Michel and Josette are dressed, made up and bewigged, and wander about the garden, the farm, stone-work, windows and doors come to life. In our modern clothes we all look like intruders, ridiculous ghosts.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

saturday morning cartoons

The other day I found a great site while searching for the correct wording of a Popeye quote. Before you say anything, I want to go on record as believing there is, quite likely, a Popeye the Sailor Man quote for nearly any occasion. (This is also true for Rocky and Bullwinkle, a rich subject for another day).

My longtime friend Bill, a screenwriter, uses the phrase "Popeye point" to describe that critical point in a story where the protagonist "has all [he] can stands, and [he] can't stands no more." I acks you, what better way to describe it?

The Popeye canon is rich with uncommon wisdom. But don't take my word for it. Here is a link to a site that has culled some Popeye quotes from the 1980 feature film and a few very early cartoons. This is the site I used, but there are actually several:

Quotes site- Popeye

And a couple of quotes to get you started:

Popeye: That's just one of them invisible garages that you can't see on the desert.

Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves 1937


Popeye: Wrong is wrong, even when it helps ya.

Popeye 1980


[After pulling off Abu Hassan's long johns]
Popeye: Abu Hassan got 'em anymore!
Abu Hassan: You want to make fool from me?
Popeye: Aah, nature beat me to it.

Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves 1937


Here's a link to the IMDb entry for the 1980 film starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall, directed by Robert Altman, written by Jules Feiffer. I don't remember many details about that film, but I do recall thinking it was an eerily perfect cast.

Popeye, 1980

But as many of you know, Popeye the cartoon character goes way back to Max Fleischer, a man of exceptional talent, vision, and accomplishment. Few people, at least outside of the film industry, realize the father of Popeye was also the inventor of the rotoscope.

More about Mr. Fleischer soon.

Where's the entrance to the exit? - Popeye the Sailor Man

* * *

Thursday, June 24, 2010

passage to india

For a so-called movie person, I still have some surprising gaps. One major film I never saw when it came out was Passage to India, released in 1984. It would be director David Lean's last film (Lean was the director of Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, and The Bridge on the River Kwai).

The story opens in 1928, first in England, and before long, we're in colonial India.

First, I'll get a few negative comments out of the way. Plot-wise in the latter part of the story it has some perplexing missteps which I can't completely ignore. And while most people reviewing the film carry on about how great the Jarre score was, I personally found it variously jarring, thin, inappropriate, and lacking (to put it mildly). But there's plenty of good news because the film's other cinematic attributes will probably make up for any oddities. Location footage is lush, gorgeous, and atmospheric in that epic style mastered by David Lean, populated with rich characters in an absorbing situation.

The copy I viewed was a recent DVD release, borrowed from my local library. I understand there is a BluRay version, which would probably be a worthwhile upgrade.

Awards and nominations don't always indicate greatness, but it should be noted that this film won two Oscars, eighteen other awards, and twenty-four other nominations.

Before commenting further, I want to see the film again, but this time on the big screen. My viewing was on my computer monitor... not as bad of a way to see a film as it might seem, but among other things, I want to hear the sound fully and properly.

* * *

Final notes: Curiously enough, I liked the film even less upon second viewing. It failed, for me personally, in ways involving plot and character believability that seemed hard to excuse. It still looked great, with some memorable-- even haunting-- moments, but the plot problems (especially in the last reels) were nearly enough to deflate the whole endeavor. And while I'm usually a fan of Judy Davis, she did nothing for me in this role beyond her promising opening scenes. My suspicion is that this shortfall was a directing problem, not an acting one. Being mysterious and open-ended or ambiguous is one thing, but this piece of filmmaking fell short of that. And the final scene of Ms. Davis lands with a dull thud. (The rest of the characters were quite good throughout, especially 'Mrs. Moore'). I generally am not openly critical of a work of art, and it pains me to take to task someone like the late, esteemed Mr. Lean, but I won't worry too much as there seems no shortage of fans. Some even call the film Lean's masterwork. Hmm.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

on books: first draft essay, 3 feb. 1998

This is a previously unpublished essay from 1998, presented as-is. / b

Morning Pages, Tuesday Feb. 3, 1998
In the Form of a Rough Draft for an Essay

The column I'd like to respond to, one that ran in my local newspaper recently, was about collecting rare books. Unfortunately I no longer have a copy of it. But I'll try to explain it as I go.

There was nothing particularly striking about the article, at first quick glance, that made me want to read it; it was merely a short frontpiece of a weekend insert on books with the format of the New York Times Book Review.

The author of that article was also the review's editor. What sent me away puzzled, after I read the article, was the contradiction between his disparagement of rare book collecting (“It’s the words that count, not the book!”) and his unequivocal distaste for the lack of warmth of such online behemoths as Amazon. How, I wondered, could someone almost in the same haughty breath dismiss book collectors as missing the point, and then extol the moral supremacy of walking into a store full of books while shuddering in distaste at the cyberworld option of ordering them by mail? Not only did these views present an apparent contradiction, but more significantly, each view in itself was simplistic and incomplete.

The author made some interesting assumptions. The first assumption was that anyone interested in rare books, book collecting, first editions, and the like is not interested in the content, the psychic depth, the romance, the literary quality, the life-enrichment, the “words”, if you will, of books. Although I am sure there are book collectors who deal in books as mere objects, it seems more than likely that a book collector enters that world motivated by the love and respect for those very qualities I mentioned. Perhaps the book collectors of that author’s acquaintance are illiterate hucksters looking for fast cash, but I doubt it.

Words are the thing, then, according to that author. So does it make a difference which edition of a book I buy? Not long ago I picked up a fragile copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, not because it was cheap (it wasn’t), and not because it isn’t available in a perfectly decent paperback (it is), but because I am a descendant of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the book’s author. First published in 1852, this edition I found was copyright 1894. The intervening forty two years were sufficient to give the editors enough historical perspective to include a fascinating introduction. But even if this introduction was included in a paperback edition, I would still have been delighted to take this small green and silver volume home with me because it was not only beautiful in and of itself, but a piece of history. There are thousands of stories like mine, thousands of diverse yet valid reasons why someone would want this book or that book, and go to some trouble or expense to make it happen.

There is nothing empty and superficial about the love of the object. All around the world, our greatest museums give impressive testimony to this love. Books as objects are part of this cultural achievement; even so, they are more.

My own words fail when I attempt to describe the impact of standing inches away from the handwritten volume given from Professor Dodgsen to Alice Lydell, lying open in a glass case in the British Museum. Chicago Art Institute: little books with notes and scribbles by Jean Cocteau. Handwritten journals of Romanov family members, San Diego Art Museum from the touring Russian exhibit. Books, blank but full of promise, made by hand by artisans, lovingly covered in rough-hewn papers and luxurious velvets. A large coffee-table book with beautiful photographs of New Zealand, presented to us by visiting friends from that country who stayed in our home here in California. The unmistakable aroma of the small storage house, built by my Dutch grandpa, at the end of a gravel walkway; the little building filled to capacity with old books. This Book Nook, as neat lettering on its door proclaimed, during my childhood had an old book scent so distinctive, so alluring, I can remember it to this day.

Medieval monks expressed their love and devotion of the meaning of the words they transcribed when they spent lifetimes taking pen to parchment.

Books can be appreciated trivially and deeply; seriously and with a chuckle; for themselves as lovely, multisensual objects in our world, and for their worlds contained within them.

First draft, to be revised. It is raining, hard. Thunder and lightening this morning.

Notes: I am writing this on a computer, delighted as always that on it I can write nearly as fast as I can think. Later today I may send a notecard of handmade paper, sealed with embossed wax. Last week I ordered a book online by credit card and it arrived, gift-wrapped and with my message, to a faraway friend just a few days later. Tomorrow I may sit in a bookstore cafe sipping an overpriced cappuccino, surrounded by books and the people who love them. I will do this willingly and with great pleasure, in the silent company of people who likely feel the same way I do. This multifaceted appreciation for writing and for books, for form as well as content, marks us as civilized humans who have come a long, long way.

That illogical grump who looked down on book collectors needs to learn a thing or two.

* * *

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

more dreaming

Dream Account
March 7, 2002

I just woke up, 5:30 AM. I had gone to sleep at about 10 PM last night, after taking Prempro and ½ mg sublingual melatonin.

Deadly Television Show

There was a kind of reality television show where people in the audience were at risk of having their heads chopped off! It was in a big arena, and some kind of event was going on, where the contestants have swords. [This may have come from a book I re-read recently where the hero has a katana sword]. Anyway, I was discussing this with, of all people, my [real life] ex-husband. We were wondering why anyone would sit anywhere near where they might get their heads chopped off, and I figured they were probably taking that chance because they wanted to see the show better. Still, it didn’t seem like a good idea to me. We figured that everybody in the audience there probably had to sign elaborate release forms, and that when people got killed during the shows, their families would get 20,000 dollars to help offset funerals and so forth. Ewwww!

Festa Party in Surreal-designed Basement

My friends T. and J. are having some kind of event in honor of the Portuguese Festa [which they were actually involved with last year in real life. T’s daughter was in the event, and I designed and made the dresses. During this time, I made 3 dolls for the girls, which got me started on the fashion doll makeover hobby. Although there was no Festa this year, either in the dream or reality, they were still doing some kind of acknowledgement of it with a church ceremony and a private party in their home].

At first this dream was taking place in my dad’s neighborhood, but then it shifted to what was apparently my friends' new house [they recently did move, and I’ve not seen their new house yet]. There is much of this part of the dream that I’ve forgotten, including what I now feel were some rather surreal elements, but what I do remember is this: There were paper clothing patterns--regular illustrated pattern envelopes with patterns in them-- all over the floor in some big basement or another where part of the event was being held. This was meant to be a kind of fun décor. There were seats, like bleachers, in this basement. These seats ramped up higher and higher like in an arena, and while several of us were walking up the rows to find seats, I was picking up a few patterns that interested me, with the intention of asking T. later if I could take them. Presumably they were not going to be used afterwards anyway. These were appealing patterns with great artwork on the covers, the details of which I could see very clearly in the dream.

In another part of this basement area, there was an elaborate substructure that had been done in glossy tiles in an art deco design of pink and black, something like the floral design of our home theater carpeting but with fewer colors, and simpler. This tile covered several pillars, the floor, and the ceiling of one part of the room. I wondered why they had done this part of the room that way. I thought how great this basement room would have been if turned into an actual home theater like ours, but I knew they hadn’t done that. Still, they had adopted a rather theatrical motif for the décor, anyway. I could see the tiles clearly in the dream. The pink was really a kind of rose color, and the tiles were maybe eight inches across and very glossy. The dream, with all of its appealing design details, was very pleasant and artistically inspiring.

* * *

Monday, June 21, 2010

midnight again and again

The Insomnia Archives: notes from an old dream journal

These are offered here for those who want to get a feel for the role of lucidity in dreaming, and also for anyone who finds dream accounts inexplicably interesting. /b

* * *

Lucid and Non-lucid Dreams-- Intense, high resolution night and morning dreams
August 12, 2001
Notes made the following afternoon (Monday)
Includes extensive personal notes

It’s been an emotionally exhausting but fascinating week. Saturday night we had our 30-year High School Reunion. Sunday we had a reunion picnic. Last night I went to sleep around 1 AM. I had a lucid dream right away, sitting up in bed with the light still on. My sleep schedule had been severely different than normal and there was definite REM rebound effect. This was a fabulous combination... I really think the affect of emotions on dreams is considerable. Recent stimulation of having old memory banks dusted off and opened up, metaphorically speaking, has helped my dream life considerably.

Dangerous Man in My Room

I was in some sort of a room that I understood to be my room. It was like a hotel room or small apartment, and was unfamiliar to me-- I don’t remember dreaming about that room before, and it wasn’t like anything in my real life. It was simply furnished, and I think the door was open. This was in some kind of urban setting.

I was in the room, and a man came in. He looked at me and smiled but it was really ominous. He was average and ordinary-looking, middle-aged, white, dressed in some kind of sportcoat and slacks, medium build, and I think his hands were in his pockets. He was sort of wandering around the room like someone would do if he was in a store, looking at items. I became very afraid. I slipped out the door and went to a nearby place, another room close by. I asked someone there if I could use the phone because I wanted to call 911 for help because the man was dangerous and in my place. I tried several phones but could not get a dial tone on any of them. I should have then realized it was a dream, or at least did a reality check. One was an old bakelite phone, another was a pay phone on a wall, and then I think there was some other phone I at least looked at. In the dream I actually picked up receivers on the first two phones. I was also speaking to others there about my situation. I don’t remember who was there or what they looked like or what they did. I don’t remember how the dream resolved, either. It probably changed to another situation. The most striking thing about the dream was the sudden fear that I felt, and the need to immediately do something about it.

Sleep Onset Lucid Dream

Close to Him, but Not Alone
Scary Tide Pool: Too Deep

Sitting with X [from very long ago]; he was seated behind me in a kind of snuggling embrace. I could feel his legs and arms somehow close in around me, and he was being endearing in a way that was slightly out of character. Then he began reciting something, like he was quoting from literature. What I felt most about this situation was the physical proximity, and the voice proximity. I was aware I was hearing prose, real words coming out in fairly rapid delivery, and I was becoming lucid enough to realize I wouldn’t be able to remember what was being said, which was frustrating. My thinking was still sort of limited at this point. I was immersed in the feeling of that situation, and it seemed to distract me from full appreciation of my options. In a moment, I heard another voice coming from off to the right; [female]. She unexpectedly was completing the recitation of prose. This puzzled me in the dream; I realized having her there too was not what I wanted to happen. I had been having a kind of reverie during the dream, a kind of fantasy about what we could do, but this fantasy ended with my hearing the voice on my right. I realized if she was part of the dream, it would kill the eroticism of the original fantasy; this was almost an idle thought, a brief dream-within-the-dream.

The unusual, poetic formatting in the account below was an accident that happened during the original dream entry in my notebook computer. I decided it was interesting, and left it that way(!)

Dangerous Waters

At this point the dream shifted. I was with X in a pool of water that was immense, like an indoor ocean.
We were along the left edge, near a kind of corner. We were holding onto each other in the water, and the
dream somehow alternated between feeling like I was experiencing this with him, from a realistic-feeling point of
view, to a kind of wide shot where I saw the ocean pool more from a distance (although without seeing
myself and him in this view). The feeling was somewhat poignant and hauntingly romantic, somehow,
with an indefinable sense of meaningfulness. The striking thing about this ocean pool was that there was
a tide [I read about a pool in Japan that is like this, and saw a photo, about a month ago. Also, with X
there had at one time been such a conversation in real life]. The water was lapping up almost in
slow motion. The tide was what scared me, and also the fact that I knew the water became suddenly deep,
quickly. We held onto each other and I could feel the pull of the water around me. It was somewhat
frightening but still had a romantic feel. I knew we had to hang on and not be pulled by the deep water.

In case anyone besides me ever reads this account, I do not really know how to swim in real life.

Water has been appearing in my dreams lately as, apparently, a metaphor with several layers. I have been in a retrospective mode lately, with my 30-yr. reunion. Because I felt isolated for so long while I was growing up, this is still a charged emotional realm for me...

Vertical Platforms, Levels of Education

Following the semi-lucid dreams, I became completely lucid. I began to fly upward, but instead of being either in my typical indoor environment or my outdoor one, I was flying upward quite quickly along a series of vertical platforms.

As I was doing this, I was wishing I could slow down the flying, as I do enjoy looking at my environment in a dream. But I seemed unable to control the speed of my flying. I looked down for a bit, to see my arms and legs. They were fairly convincing. I wished, as I have lately, that I could have been wearing my Red Dress. [Fictitious garment worn in romantic dreams; it was a feature of many dreams I’ve had as an adult; I always enjoyed the idea of wearing it].

I seemed to have been wearing slacks. I looked as best as I could at the platforms, and I realized somehow that the dream was a visual metaphor for levels of education. I was pleased that I was able to grasp some significance of the dream while I was dreaming it. Eventually I ended up landing somewhere, and was reading some notices on a wall...

I had a fascinating series of dreams after this, and what I wrote above was just what I was able to remember the next day after only putting down the most rudimentary bedside notes. I woke up at 6:30, knowing I still wanted to sleep some more. I had a glass of sugared iced tea, and returned to sleep. I had the following lucid dream, followed by a non-lucid one.

Clever Dream-Character Surprises Me

I was, I think, in my backyard of my father’s house near the back door. There is a lot of stuff stacked around. A man is there [from real life], someone who resembles a guy whose name came up at the reunion picnic but was not actually there. [He was someone I hardly knew at all].

I understood completely that it was a dream, and I wanted to try an experiment with the dream. I asked him if he had any consciousness, and he answered immediately, “Not around here, I don’t.” This struck me as extremely interesting, even funny. I enjoyed how, even though I knew it was a dream, his answer surprised me, and as a dream event the remark came as a surprise and was out of any conscious control. I further understood it to mean that he couldn’t be conscious in my dream because it was my dream, not his. I was the one who was conscious, or even, I was the one who was real. This raised some humorous what-is-what issues for me in the dream, which I enjoyed thinking about while the dream was happening.

He was going to look for something for me, and I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if you could get a dream-character to do tasks for you, to use them as a convenient method for extracting information from your own brain. What he was looking for was a box that had something of interest for me, but the dream changed before I could look in the box.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

rediscovering 'rear window'

fashion illustration for film / FIDM exhibit

This illustration was done by Jean Louis, a fashion designer for Hollywood movies such as Mame and Bell, Book and Candle. Today is the final day of an exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (Los Angeles) that features over 200 illustrations from film costuming from the last 75 years.

If I go to this exhibit, I will go alone. More later.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

vertigo, and going to another place

Growing up in a quiet suburb in the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s, outings of any kind were a much-appreciated treat for my sister and me.

We weren't the kind of kids who had bicycles and roamed in joyful freedom around the neighborhood, and while comfortable, our family certainly wasn't well-to-do. We weren't accommodated in the building of treehouses or go-carts; we weren't taken on extravagant vacations, and we weren't able to become Girl Scouts.

As much as possible, our folks did take advantage of what the area had to offer, for which I'll aways be grateful; I've written elsewhere about treasured family weekend trips to nearby world-class museums: the M. H. De Young and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. And I have more of those memories to consider, in time.

Spending the night at our grandparents' houses was definitely special: the change of environment, the break in routine, all the fuss made over us. In retrospect my paternal grandmother seemed especially aware of how happy it made us to stay up late and watch television.

We watched television with our parents, of course, but with an earlier bedtime. At home I remember a succession of movies, many of them old even then, and the three-network television programming of the time. But my first vivid memory of being drawn into a feature film and being really affected by it was the night we sat cross-legged in a tiny living room in Richmond and watched Hitchcock's Vertigo.

Vertigo was released in 1958, but I don't know the exact year we saw it. For sake of discussion, I'll assume I was about ten or eleven years old at the time, making the year 1963 or so. Maybe it goes without saying (or maybe not), but on that night long ago, we saw this Technicolor film on a black and white television set.

This post would be the length of a college thesis if I were to begin assessing all the nuances of the film itself. And as fascinating as I'd find that journey, I'll more appropriately simply fire off a few memories, ideas, and talking points. Some points are actually subsets of others, but no matter.


Vertigo has a definite creepy otherworldlineses to it. Even for someone as young and unsophisticated as I was, this was a fascinating exposure to the power of film to create a mood. This, I now understand, was a big element of the Hitchcock filmmaking gift. I'll never forget how the film made me feel, and how fascinating it was to discover that a film could be like that.


The musical score by Bernard Herrmann played a key role in the mood of the film. My father was always a big BH fan, and while growing up I began to pay attention to the music of film. Finally, as an adult living here in San Diego, I would have the opportunity to hear sections of several Bernard Herrmann Hitchcock film scores played by our symphony orchestra. Hearing the sounds of real strings filling a warm accoustical space from a good seat is always a delight, but hearing music from Vertigo played live was unforgettable.

the mysteries of adulthood

Because Vertigo has a primary theme of obsession, part of the film's power to me as a child was its suggestion of a strange, even frightening world beyond mine. This feeling remains intact for me in viewing the film as an adult, prevailing even though I can now greater understand the deliberate artistic outlandishness of the film's plot and devices.

My younger self watching Vertigo for the first time, this feeling resonated with the adultness of staying up late, being allowed to watch an adult movie.

local relevance

The steep, vertiginous streets of San Francisco... the venerable Palace of the Legion of Honor... these places were already personally familiar to me. [link to Vertigo's museum scene]

Kim Novak sat in front of a portrait of Carlotta; I had stood in that same wing of the museum. This link to the real world-- my world, at least on special occasions-- made the film even more engaging.

Alfred Hitchcock and my Grandmother let me sit by the fire inside a chic San Francisco apartment that night with Jimmy Stewart; I glimpsed the dimly-lit world of the famous Ernie's restaurant (now long gone, where I had hoped to go someday, but never was able to); I was witness to a shopping spree in an upscale department store, complete with models posing in elegant ensembles; I held my breath at the eerie power of an ancient California forest.

There was something very alluring about all of that.

going to another place

There are probably dozens of idiosyncratic reasons why, decades later, I still have dreams about my Grandmother's house. It might well be that the simple activity of watching a certain movie, there, forms a part of that complex equation.

Bricks with moss growing on them in my Grandmother's garden. Narrow wooden stairs. A cedar chest with a Sonja Heni doll inside. Rumaging in a box of glittering costume jewelry. A movie late at night, nobody telling me to go to bed, and a strange world created by a movie director and a group of actors and crew.

Sometimes on these overnight adventures, my sister and I would sleep downstairs in the tiny bedroom that faced the brick patio garden. That bed had a headboard that was also a bookcase: Zane Grey paperbacks, mostly. The room's other bookcase, to the right as we faced out into the hallway, had hardcover books like I Married Adventure with its zebra print cloth cover.

Other years, we would sleep in the main bedroom at the top of the wood stairs, listening to cars glide down the street and the buzz of an old electric radio, the light from a nearby street lamp finding its way in through the wide slats of old Venetian blinds across my Grandmother's dressing table and onto chilly wood floors.

Both profound and trivial, this exemplifies a dazzlingly complex process, all the mysterious and oddly powerful little parts that make up who we are, our ethics and dreams and aesthetics, what we're drawn to, and enact, again and again across the decades. Remembering the same events of my life from different vantage points, flirting at times with an oddly pleasing kind of mini-obsession, I sometimes feel like I'm trying to solve a mystery.

Eventually I would work in film, many years of art-related work primarily in a specific niche of the movie industry. Just between us, I rarely speak out loud about my persistent dreams of writing and directing. After all, everybody wants to direct.

Meanwhile, I still dream of small gardens with brick patios and moss, and thick flowering perennials, gladiolas, honeysuckle, and fuschias. I would despair when my father sold my Grandmother's house shortly after her death. Maybe he was purging something and moving on, not wishing to keep it as a box for memories. Maybe he's right, and we don't need it.

Long ago, someone who used to be me spent the night away from home and watched a movie. Transported.

One of the realizations I now have about Vertigo was that it taught me, indirectly but deeply, that a film may be a lot of things, but at its core-- like books and memories and dreams and photo albums and plans for the future-- it's all about going to another place.

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