Today is her birthday. I should give her a call.
November 29, 2006
November 28, 2006
When my aunt and her husband come to DC, the main thing they do is go to the National Gallery (which, as my aunt is quick to point out, is actually not part of the Smithsonian). They particularly like to see the movies that are shown there from time to time, generally obscure art-related things. One time not too long ago the Gallery was showing Le Cirque de Calder, and my aunt was transfixed. She kept going back and watching it throughout the day as it played again and again. She has a fascination with gadgets and ingenious designs, and this movie had them in spades. She later saw some of the surviving objects from the circus where they are displayed at the Whitney Museum in New York, and was very impressed. She also managed to get a videotape of the movie there; she had found one being offered online, but the seller was in the UK and she couldn’t figure out what format the tape was in so she didn’t buy it.
Given her attachment to this film, it’s hardly a suprise that she was asking us if we wanted to see it practically as soon as we got into town for Thanksgiving. We begged off for a while, but after a couple nights we relented. It was pretty interesting; apparently Calder used to go to Paris with a homemade miniature circus and put on performances where he moved the little animals and people, which were made ingeniously out of wire and various other ordinary materials. It’s available here on Youtube (thanks to Matt Weiner for pointing me to this in comments).
I liked it well enough, but I’m not sure I could take more than twenty minutes of it. I guess I’m just not as entranced by gadgetry as my aunt is.
One of the main things my family does when we get together is watch movies. I don’t particularly care about watching movies in general, so the main time I see any is when I’m with my family. As I mentioned before, this Thanksgiving break was a period of intense movie-watching.
Most of the movies were provided by my aunt, but my mom brought one from home: Pieces of April. I had only vaguely heard of it and didn’t know anything about it, but she had seen it and loved it so much that she bought the DVD (something she very rarely does). It’s about a young woman, played by Katie Holmes, who is estranged from her bourgeois suburban family and living in New York but for some reason (never really explained) has invited them over for Thanksgiving dinner despite the fact that she doesn’t know how to cook. The movie cuts back and forth between scenes of her desperately trying to put the meal together with the help of her neighbors and scenes of the family driving up to the city and arguing over whether or not they should really go. The mom has (apparently very advanced) breast cancer, which is probably meant to be the impetus for the whole thing.
I thought it was an okay movie. Not bad, but not one of the best I’ve seen. Katie Holmes did an adequate job as a young urbanite, but I never really got a sense of what her character was really like as a person. The other characters were more fleshed-out, particularly the mother, who was probably the most interesting character. As a whole, not a bad film and I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t have much interest in seeing it again.
I think there are several reasons my mom liked it so much. Leaving aside the cancer angle, which I’m not sure what to do with, there’s first of all the fact that it’s a Thanksgiving movie. Thanksgiving is my mom’s favorite holiday, and there are really very few movies about it, so I imagine she likes the fact that someone thought to make one in the first place. Also, our verdict on the movie was “edgy but heartwarming,” which largely sums up a lot of things she likes. She’s fine with gritty realism, but not a fan of bleakness. Family dynamics also interest her a lot, and this movie was full of them.
I’m glad we watched it. Not so much for its own sake, although it wasn’t bad, but more because it obviously made my mom so happy. It’s not the sort of thing I’d rent on my own, though. I don’t think it’s enough to my taste to hold up well to a second watching.
And you thought Florida had problems with election results:
The tension preceding the court’s ruling was palpable, particularly after supporters of losing candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba set fire to the courthouse, but the ruling itself was anticlimactic.
I don’t have anything to add except that you should really be reading Jonathan Edelstein if you want to keep track of what’s happening in the parts of the world that the American media doesn’t generally cover.
November 27, 2006
I didn’t have time during Thanksgiving to do anything other than family stuff, but I will be in DC again December 9-14. I don’t have any particular plans, so if people want to meet up any time would work for me.
November 26, 2006
November 22, 2006
I’m heading to DC tomorrow for Thanksgiving, so this place will be going dark for a few days. I don’t think I’ll be up for any meetups or anything; family obligations will occupy most of my time.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers and commenters for being so kind and helpful to me recently. I’ve been going through some tough times lately, and your support has been immensely valuable. Thanks.
November 21, 2006
In an effort to push that embarrassing teenage-Angst post further down the page, I’d like to share an idea (recently mentioned elsewhere) that I’ve had for a long time: a feature-film adaptation of the Book of Jonah. We read this book in its entirety every year during Yom Kippur afternoon services, which I’ve always taken as an opportunity to think about the story, one of my favorites from the Bible, and how it would make a really kickass movie, with awesome special effects and elaborate sets and costumes. I could use a collaborator on this project (preferably someone who knows how to write screenplays). Any takers?
November 20, 2006
When I was in high school I used to call my friends a lot. I would call someone and ask what they were doing, and they’d answer that they were hanging out somewhere, so I’d go there and hang out and do what everyone else was doing and it was fine. Then my friends gradually became more and more difficult to contact. I would call, but they weren’t home. Or if they had cell phones, they would answer them less and less consistently. I kept trying, but I started to get frustrated with it all. Clearly they were still calling each other and hanging out, but I wasn’t part of the loop. Eventually I just gave up on calling entirely and began going out and driving around for hours hoping to find someone I knew. I would drive by their houses to see if their lights were on (they usually weren’t). I would go to places they frequented to see if they were there (they usually weren’t). Most nights I would eventually come home feeling lonely and defeated.
It’s not that they stopped liking me, I don’t think; on the rare occasions when I did run into them they were friendly and we hung out like we used to. It’s just that they never even thought about me. I wasn’t important to them the way they were to me. I didn’t add anything when people were hanging out. I wasn’t any fun.
I’ve since stopped caring about those friends entirely. When I come home for vacations I don’t even bother to try to get in touch with them. They have my number; if they want to see me they can call me. They never have.
In fact, they never did. I can count on one hand the number of times in high school that one of my friends called me up out of the blue to ask what I was doing (there were two such times). Again, it’s not that they didn’t like me, it’s just that they didn’t care.
I’m starting to see the same dynamic now with my college friends. I’ve gradually drifted apart from the group I initially fell in with freshman year; we never had all that much in common, we just happened to live together in the dorm. My roommates are the only people from that group that I still see regularly, and I don’t hang out with them very often.
I do have closer friends now, mainly fellow linguistics majors and people from the humor magazine. I get along great with them, and both groups have occasional parties and other social events that I enjoy a great deal. And yet, they never try to get in touch with me just to hang out or do something either. It’s not really a big deal, since I see them all the time anyway, but I find the dynamic worrying. I don’t know if I’ll lose touch with them after I graduate the way I’ve lost touch with my high school friends (probably not), but I do kind of wonder what it is about me that consistently keeps people from seeking out my company.
This comment reminds me of a story. I write for my school’s humor magazine, which publishes two glossy issues a year that we sell for $2.00 each (I was out selling today in the snow, actually) and a few smaller promotional pamphlets that we give away for free. A couple years ago one of the pamphlets had a Valentine’s Day theme, so we hit upon the brilliant idea of stapling a condom to it—through the condom. There was some debate about how many unwanted pregnancies we would cause, but in the end we decided that if someone was dumb enough to detach one of the condoms and use it they were probably pretty likely to have an accidental pregnancy without our help.
So we had the pamphlets printed up and ordered a big box of condoms, but we faced a conundrum about where to do the stapling. At first we went into the main library and sat down, but the library people came over and told us that we were being too loud. We said we would be quiet, but they were already mad at us so we decided not to risk it. We instead went to a different library, the old, ornate one built in the 1890s, and sat down at a big table at the far end of the reading room, as far from the circulation desk as we could get. Being careful to keep our voices down, we began to staple. After a while one of the librarians came by to see what we were doing; he seemed a little irritated, but we explained who we were and gave him a copy of the pamphlet, which seemed to satisfy him for the time being.
A few minutes later he came back and told us that he thought the pamphlet was hilarious and that we were great. We stayed there stapling until we were done, then distributed the pamphlets the next day. They were a big hit, although we got a lot of complaints about all the unwanted pregnancies we would surely be causing. We never did hear of any.