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.