Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
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.
[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.
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
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Thursday, June 24, 2010
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
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.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010
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.
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Monday, June 21, 2010
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
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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(!)
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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Sunday, June 20, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
If I go to this exhibit, I will go alone. More later.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
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.
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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Monday, June 14, 2010
When you really look at it in the light of day, the film's plot, not to mention certain aspects of the characters' behavior, is preposterous. And yet, the realization that a film can be unbelievable and still superb is key to what I appreciate about the art of filmmaking.
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more on this topic soon
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Lately it's been interesting to pay attention to this effect. I noticed some nice passages of it in The Mothman Prophecies.
Bokeh is created in-camera by making use of shallow depth of focus, but it is sometimes-- usually less effectively-- simulated using graphics software.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
It's still my very favorite champagne. It probably always will be.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Surely a human being can go a few days without a computer, right? I'll also be without my horseless carriage (although I will be accompanying others in theirs).
How did we manage before all of... this? Sometimes I can hardly remember.
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