23 March 2012

Passion: Lack Thereof, Origins of Lack Thereof

Been thinking about passion, and a personal dearth of the potent stuff. I used to be passionate, intense. I'm still a bit intense, but...it's been too long since I felt passion. I guess I got the stuffing kicked out of me at some point. The how or why is not nearly as important as, How to get some more?

It seems to me that the first step should be a general de-clutterization: of the mind, the home, the body. Much easier said than done. This is where religion comes in, I suppose. The closest thing I've got is yoga. God, I used to have this deep belief in myself. Where did it go? No, the better question is, How did I let it go? Who or what did I allow to take it? Is it still there, or do I have to go build it from dust, or ashes?

I think I know what happened, what events and consequences kicked the stuffing out of me. It started in law school, but I am not blaming law school. It is the inauspicious event that accompanied my first month there: the unexpected death of my stepfather. I've always been a cool character, so to speak, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, as is habit, with no idea how much I was grieving...until The Nervous Breakdown of the Summer after My First Year, which was followed by The Nervous Breakdown of the Summer after My Second Year. But I kept going to school, and doing law school things, like writing for a legal journal, entering writing competitions, hanging out with friends, drinking a lot (trust me, drinking is an extracurricular activity in law school, especially in the Big Easy, where no one has a drinking problem). In hindsight, maybe the leave of absence offered by the Dean of Students should have been accepted, but at that time I didn't know how to take a leave of absence. I had never quit anything. A little bit of a tenacity problem. Quite a few situations where perseverance did NOT serve me well. Honestly, I have never understood how anyone has ever dropped out of school. To me, if there was an end point, it had to be reached, no matter how ill-advised the decision to begin may be. (Which is not to say that I regret for one second going to law school, especially when and where I did. It's one of the best parts of me.) But it made it hard to give up on relationships that weren't working, that sort of thing.

To be continued...

28 February 2012

Resistance Redux; Oscar and His Movies

It's been awhile since I posted. I have list of excuses handy, but excuses are irrelevant: the truth is that I have been resisting. I have gotten overwhelmed and, for some reason, when I feel that way the idea of writing is frightening. In the face of the behemoth of unwritten works I am but a timid mouse.

The following is adapted from comments I made in my online literary club, Le Salon, Librarything.

Two Saturdays out of every February since 2010, I have gathered up my Twizzlers and bottled water and trooped off to the cinema for the Best Picture Showcase: all the BP nominees. A couple of mini-marathons, but I usually make it through. This year I made it through six of nine. Here are my comments:

War Horse. Really? Best Picture? Really? It was a good movie, I guess, but the whole time I was thinking, I would not be watching this if it hadn't been nominated and why the hell was it nominated? It's a movie about a damn horse! And an extremely manipulative one at at that (the movie, not the horse). Completely implausible. What was Spielberg thinking?


However. I think the horse should have been nominated for Best Actor.

Moneyball - Loved it and I find baseball a snore. Dialogue was outstanding (thank you Mr. Sorkin), acting was solid. I found myself reviewing scenes from it later, which to me is a sign of a good movie.

Tree of Life - fascinating. It's a love it or hate it, and I loved it. Typically I shudder from the pretentiousness of art films and avoid them strenuously. This one had enough real movie in it to make the art-movieness not only palatable but entrancing. And to the naysayers, Brad Pitt does have a range. Moneyball back to back with Tree of Life. Not the same guy. I think he's underrated. He was my favorite part of Inglourious Basterds. Anyhoo, TofL is thought-provoking and a bit surreal. And, boy, was I surprised when the dinosaurs showed up. It went 20 minutes too long, but that's my only complaint. 

Sadly, my energy waned and I was unable to stay for The Descendants. Perhaps next week I will sneak into that one while The Help is playing. I've seen The Help and I liked it (awesome performances), but I've also read the book and it was a good enough movie that I remember much of it like yesterday.

I was challenged to name the thoughts provoked by Tree of Life by a non-believer, so I responded: 

Thoughts provoked: musings on families. What is the effect of parenting with both affection and authoritarianism, on different types of children? What would be required for reconciliation of the ambivalence that the Sean Penn character clearly had for the Brad Pitt character? What was meant by "grace" as it was used at the beginning of the movie? Where the hell did Malick get all of those incredible nature shots? They were astounding. How were they procured? Why don't more movies just stop the action and show things unfolding, with awesome music to go with it? Why did that dinosaur do what it did? 

And others. :-)

Like, how can a father fail to see the damage he is doing to a child he clearly loves?

Unfortunately my energy flagged AGAIN, and I had to skip The Artist and Midnight in Paris, and I am sorely pissed about that.


Hugo - was wonderful! An intelligent use of 3-D that did not involve explosions and car chases, but clockworks! It was a gorgeous movie and it made me smile big. The child actors were winning. The special effects were fun and surprising. And books were even featured a little bit. Best thing about it was that it got me thinking about passion, and you know where that leads....

I ended up watching The Help again, and found myself mesmerized. Every minute of Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain was a delight, especially when they were together. I don't know where this Chastain person came from, but it's the 3d movie I've seen her in, in a year and, well, me likee. Let's add her to Emma Stone for citygirl's fave young actors. (btw, I adored Emma Stone at the Oscars. Too bad Ben Stiller was such a dud partner for her.) Also, Ron Howard's daughter was so odious as Hilly that I don't know how she stands herself. (That's praise.)

Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, gets my vote for worst movie title. It took me a little while to warm up to this movie and its protagonist, but by the end I was sold, and there are two scenes involving an answering machine that are just devastating. The kind of devastating where I wanted to run out of theatre screaming, Don't do this to me! It hurts!

Max von Sydow, and the kid. 

In the end, I was rooting for no one to win any particular Oscars, since what I saw had merit (with the exception of stupid War Horse). I was happy to see Ms. Streep win, b/c 30 years is a long time to be taken for granted, and she always gives the best acceptance speeches. "Whatever."

Back to current thoughts:

The thing I remember most about Sunday's Oscars was Angelina Jolie and her weird jutting leg pose. It was the most perplexing thing that happened. My thought at the time was: she usually dresses so beautifully, but why did she choose a dress that required a contrived pose to show to best advantage? And then the writers of The Descendants mocked the pose during their acceptance and that may have been the most genuinely funny moment of the show.

I kinda felt bad for Billy Crystal.


I was laid-out sick for close to two weeks, and am now mostly on the mend, tho I still feel like crap. The alien in my body has apparently co-opted my immune system for his own use. Yes, his. Unbelievably, my tiny companion is male. Given the high incidence of female offspring on both sides of my family, and my own strong intuitive conviction, (Rarely has my intuition let me down like this. Totally shakes my confidence. How to recover?) I thought a soon-to-be son was nigh on impossible, at least for the first go-round. It took me about 90 minutes to recover my equilibrium and begin to make little-boy plans.

Perks: 1) another addition to my adoring male fan club. You can't have too many adoring male fans, unless they turn stalker, of course, and I've very rarely had that sort of problem. Too mean, probably. 2) I won't have to teach him that his value is not in pleasing boys. Yay! Grrrl power. At least, I think I won't have to. 3) He won't steal my clothes and shoes. Probably. 4) As one friend pointed out, boy toys are cooler than girl toys (allow for more creative play). 5) Less elaborate hair-dos to maintain. 6) I hear you can just throw them in the washing machine when they get dirty.

However. It is so freaking hard to name a baby boy! I wish I had no imagination, and then I'd just call him Junior.

19 January 2012

No Problems, Just Resistance

I struggle with depression. While it's not the soul-sucking vortex of self-loathing and shame that it was a long time ago, it still presents itself. A grey cloud that follows me around, giving me a headache. You know? Well, I figured out quite some time ago that depression is good for exactly nothing. When you're still becoming a real person, in your teens and twenties, you think there might be something of value in the pit of suffering. After all, lots of cool people seem depressed. Artist-types. But no. It's just not like that. Depression's a killer, and not just of bodies.

So. Now when I feel depressed, I try to find the express train outta Mopesville. Cuz there is absolutely nothing to be gained there. Nada damn thing. I haven't completely lost track of my point...Right, so the other night I was feeling unhappy, so I meditated. Something occurred to me that had NEVER occurred to me before: I actually have no problems. Seriously. I do not have a single problem. All I have are things to do, and Resistance to doing them. Now, thanks to Steven Pressfield's phenomenal book The War of Art, Check it out.I am aware that Resistance is a fact of life and that anyone who wants to accomplish anything of value must learn to overcome it. Every damned day. That is not a problem. That is a job.

Wish me luck.

03 January 2012

Literary Drive-By #00005: I Am Half-Sick of Mysteries

Otto Penzler's The Line Up introduced me to some heretofore unexplored mystery series. I find at least 95% of mystery series disappointing (Who doesn't?), so I rarely try something new on my own. I get recommendations from like-minded mystery lovers, so that's how I got turned on to Louise Welsh, Tana French and Ian Rankin, for example. I read The Line Up and got super-excited--over-excited--truth be told. I went out and got a bunch of new mysteries, and I think I OD'd.

The Guards - Ken Bruen. The best of the lot. Bare bones, lyrical writing. Anti-hero who doesn't play by the  usual rules of "How to create a fictional detective." Jack Taylor is possibly the worst drunk I've run into in a crowded field of drunk detectives. This guy is so wasted that I wouldn't be surprised to turn the page mid-sentence and find on the new page: "Story aborted: protagonist died of alcohol poisoning." But he's also a soulful fellow: a reader, lover of poetry and music, insightful, sharp observer of social realities, self-aware (of course). Excerpt: On his work:

There are no private eyes in Ireland. The Irish wouldn't want it. The concept brushes perilously close to the hated "informer". You can get away with most anything except "telling". 
What I began to do was find things. Not a difficult task, it requires only patience and pig stubbornness. The latter was my strongest point.
I didn't come to one morning and shout, "God wants me to be finder!" He could care less.
There's God and then there's the Irish version. This allows Him to be feckless. Not that the doesn't take an interest, but He couldn't be bothered.

An exchange with the family priest:

Malachy was like Sean Connery, minus 
        The tan.
        The golf.
You couldn't call him a friend. Priests have other loyalties. I knew him since I was child. He took in my injuries, said,
"You're still drinking."
"This was unrelated."
He took out his cigarettes. Major. The green and white packet. As strong as a mule kick and twice as lethal. I said,
"You're still smoking."
"Me and Bette Davis."
"She's dead."
"My point exactly."
He watched two nuns and said,
"Great shiners."
"Polishing. No one can touch them for it."
I looked round then asked,
"Where's the Church on suicide these days?"
"Leaving us, are yah?"
"I'm serious. Is it still the 'can't be buried in hallowed ground' stance?"
"Ah, you're very out of touch, Jack."
"That's an answer?"
"No, that's a sad fact." 

 So, I've got the next in the series The Killing of the Tinkers on my shelf.

Resurrection Row - Anne Perry. I wanted to start with the first in this series, but it wasn't available at the used bookstore, so I had to go with No. 4. Set in Victorian London and good at giving a sense of place. Thomas Pitt is a police officer and he solves crimes with his wife, Charlotte, former society lady. This one had an interesting premise: dug-up corpses are staged in various places around London. I like this series. I will continue.

Service of All the Dead - Colin Dexter. I didn't finish this one. I was trying to get over the description of a skirt as "nigger-brown" (who does that?) when I ran into a description of a "Chinaman" and his "oriental" mien and gestures. I guess I'll just have to live in ignorance of the charms of Inspector Morse.

Baltimore Blues - Laura Lippman. The first Tess Monaghan. It was okay. I keep reading all this praise for Lippman, and this is the second book of hers I've tried, and I just don't get it. She's a perfectly competent genre writer. And that's it. I'm not averse to reading another one, but only if my choices are limited. There's nothing wrong with this series, but there's nothing pulling me forward.

The Ritual Bath - Faye Kellerman. The first Pete Decker/Rina Lazarus. The hook for this series is great: Orthodox Judaism and culture clash. Pete is an LAPD detective in Sex Crimes and Rina is a young Orthodox widow living on the campus of a yeshiva where a rape has taken place. There's an instant attraction between the two, but the relationship is verboten. I went on to read the next Sacred and Profane and I will continue, more to find out how things evolve between Pete and Rina than because of the mysteries, which are good.