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phone pix of a few personal treasures

(It's utter naval-gazing, I know; feel free to move along.)

I guess my phone camera is all right outside. Inside, I don't know; I want to find some settings I haven't stumbled over yet. Otherwise, it is the most awesome phone. I mean, I rarely use a phone? So I never upgraded to a smart phone before. But now that I have, it's cool because it's like having a laptop in your pocket. I can read books on it, and play international radio stations, and have it tell me where to go while I drive someplace new. And it takes photos, but has no flash. So, voici ma efforts yesterday, to work this out. 

Wow, that one was really bad. I sharpened and leveled the others in Photoshop, to be honest, but no doing so with something so blurred. Here's one more untouched bad one, taken with a regular old camera with all auto settings and no flash. I wanted to compare how they would translate the light?

That's so bad it gives me hope for the phone camera. I mean, never mind the fact that I can't hold the camera still. But the light is nearly identical. 

So now I just have to find out where all the settings are on the camera phone.

Oh. There they are. All right, time to experiment some more.


It always comes back around to Frank

I've been listening to Squeeze today, and a lot of The Church lately, because we're seeing them in concert next month. And there's been a certain amount of Morrissey, as well. 

But then I keep coming back to this guy. Every syllable is home. 

Especially in this song. It gets me, right here. And there, as well. He's an old familiar lover who still has the ability to excite me because he knows just what I like and just how I like it. He knows I realize this. I can never quit him.


Eight years of blather

I wrote my first real blog post on January 17, 2003. I set up my own pages, linked to new ones every few entries, and at first asked for email replies. A few months later I got a tag board, and a few friends and I would leave each other messages on it. That was really fun. Actually, I'd started doing a sort of online journal the year before at LiveJournal, but never got into it the same way.

Today I was reading through old entries from 2003-2006, and feeling so incredibly old. I went from just using Dreamweaver to Blogger to Vox to here, and in between I had a photo blog at WordPress, and messed around with just about every other free blogging platform. I love my Tumblr page, though haven't been able to do much with it this month.

But I most miss my original pages. They weren't reproducible at Blogger, but became too cumbersome as the web changed and blogging changed, after the first year or two. So the words remain, but the cheery colors and design are gone forever.

None of that is the point. The point is that I've changed dreadfully. I'm such an old sad person compared to the seemingly eternally optimistic young person I was at 37 or 38. Even though life wasn't all that terrific then, it always seemed on the verge of breaking open and breaking free. But it never did. And so, it became more and more difficult to sustain the floating happy bubble that carried me through all the worries, changes, uncertainty. There's no bubble anymore. 

In some ways, I like myself better now. But the me of eight years ago wouldn't. It's a funny thing. 

That summer I posted a poem by Pushkin, just after I turned 38, which is the age he was when he died of a pointless duel wound. I'm going to repost it here, plus a completely different translation of it. I don't know the literary story behind the two translations. I very much prefer the former, in terms of poetry... 

Elegy, by Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin 1799-1837

Of my mad years the vanished mirth and laughter
Affect me like a fume-filled morning-after.
Not so past pain – like wine is it to me
That as the years go by gains potency.
Sad is the path before me: toil and sorrow
Lie on the restless seaways of the morrow.

And yet from thought of death, my friends, I shrink;
I want to live – to suffer and to think,
And amid care and grief and tribulation,
Taste of sweet rapture and exhilaration;
Be drunk with harmony; touch fancy's strings
And freely weep o'er its imaginings…
And love's last flash, its smile of farewell tender
My sad decline may yet less mournful render. 1830


    The vanished joy of my crazy years
Is as heavy as gloomy hang-over.
But, like wine, the sorrow of past days
Is stronger with time.
My path is sad. The waving sea of the future
Promises me only toil and sorrow.

    But, O my friends, I do not wish to die,
I want to live – to think and suffer.
I know, I’ll have some pleasures
Among woes, cares and troubles.
Sometimes I’ll be drunk with harmony again,
Or will weep over my visions,
And it’s possible, at my sorrowful decline,
Love will flash with a parting smile.

But the latter suits my nature a bit better just at the moment. 

Perhaps this does as well, but that's no different than before...


Still, the rest of me remains about as shallow as ever. Joe Cotten looked really swell in his naval uniform in Since You Went Away, which was on TV earlier, and which I never miss.

2011 Classic Movie Film Fest: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

This is one of those movies I've seens parts of over the years, half hour here and there, but haven't watched straight through since I was a child. As a child, I was captivated by the time period (and of course, still am,) and by Gregory Peck, who was one of my earliest loves. But the movie seemed long and dull in the middle. 

That's probably why I haven't committed to it since then. It must have been one we skipped in the early 80s when my Mom and I attended weekend double features at the Fine Arts Theatre in Fairway, KS. We'd get the quarterly schedule, choose which weekends to attend, and kept that up for a long time until The Gods Must Be Crazy showed up and never left. Anyway. 

Jennifer Jones looks pretty super, but I feel that her scenery chewing is going to wear me out, as it sometimes does. It spoils the look of her mouth, even. I am fairly sympathetic to her character, but can't be as patient with her as I'd like. 

I forgot the flashbacks were so long. Today I'm actually more in the mood to watch Gregory Peck make love in Italy, but that's a different movie.  

And now we're in a war flashback, which reminds me I really ought to get around to Pork Chop Hill someday. 

Where was I? Oh, yes. It occurs to me that when this movie was made, the story-telling technique was new and probably captivating on the big screen. I'm only 50 minutes in, though, and wishing it would move along. But since I know where it goes and vaguely remember how it ends, it's probably difficult for me to be objective.

Yes, I am sympathetic to Betsy, as I said. But good lord, she makes everything in the world about her. I'm never very sympathetic about that. I've seen in my own life how that can damage everyone who tries to love that sort of person. However, unlike so often in real life, we see just a slice of it, and can believe she'll continue to broaden her perspective to include points of view other than her own.

It's a highly cinematic film. It takes a bit of time and head space, but I think it's one of those everyone who appreciates classic movie history should watch at least once. There are a few subplot flaws, but they were just there to support the character growth, anyway. Besides, Gregory Peck is just so fine, you know?


My iPod touched me in my special place today

Here are the songs from a 3000 song playlist that shuffled while I drove around to the stores today. My iPod seems to have understood I needed special love because I can't get rid of this rotten headache. 

I'm sharing it because? Really, this combination of songs tells you pretty much all you need to know about me—just add in an old cocktail dress and a hand trowel, and note the paint under my fingernails. 

There was a Joe Satriani recording mixed in there as well, not sure why it doesn't appear on the list.

Picture 4

I plan to do a lot of random and less-random blog posts this weekend. And I like comments. I miss those; they are few and far between since Vox ended and I had to move here. To comment on this blog, you don't have to sign up, sign in, or make a commitment of any kind. Just don't try to sell me fake designer handbags. :-)

Dream Lover, part one

this is about 1200 words. not for everyone. self-indulgent, but almost honest, and very much me. and there's a lot more to come. (other things to come include a short book review for my friend Alex, and a couple quick movie reviews this weekend. i feel like writing again, yay.)

First, the shoes. Proper shoes, from a time before men could get away with wearing so-called athletic shoes all day every day. Shoes that don't look quite right with jeans, because they were meant for something better. 

The digression spirals. It's a game I'm no longer very good at. At which I'm no longer very good. Further digression into concerns over syntax for sentences that were never going to be written, because they're all forgotten by morning. And then, as though I'm 17 years old again, bored in class and working over my list of requirements for the Composite Male, I suddenly start worrying about the feet inside the socks inside the shoes. Of course the socks are all right; a man with the correct shoes will naturally be wearing the correct socks. But what deficits do they hide? 

When you are 17, this can seem to matter greatly. When you are 45, it shouldn't even enter your mind. But it enters mine, because I can no longer easily trade in idle fantasy; reality intrudes and keeps me from sleep. Because that's all this is: an exercise for sleep, my own version of counting fire engines. 

The point is, or was, the shoes are a deal-breaker, or would be, should a situation ever again arise during which a deal might be struck. This is the theory, anyway. 

I've always been a very good sleeper. And whenever I have been not such a good sleeper, I play a game; the exact same game I have played for 30 years. Creating a man to find in my dreams. At 15, these men were most often major league baseball players, classic film stars, or exotic Mediterranean men who were looking for just the right girl to coax them fully into heterosexuality. I had no experience with men at that time, of course, or even boys. Externally, that was my Awkward Year. I had all the right clothes and shoes, but my skin and teeth were a mess, my hair frizzy and unmanageable, my countenance still sometimes too quirky for comfort—not yet balanced out by my growing inner confidence. I wasn't thinking about sex yet, at least not in the way I came to understand it later. That sort of hunger that takes hold of most of us just hadn't presented itself yet. I wanted to experience the tension that comes before the sex; the little tastes of pleasure that lead us toward more, though more of what I did not spend much time considering. It was largely about the drama, and it was also about the presentation. 

He'd have a short, sharp haircut with dark hair that set off his angular features and well-chiseled lips. He might have a slight early bit of grey over the ears. With strong, squarish hands, he'd be slim and possibly lanky, standing four to seven inches taller than me, and he'd know how to dress and how to walk in what he wore. 

My tastes in this regard have changed little, though the typical baseball player's physique has changed considerably, and I'm no longer interested in showing any man on which road his sexuality should naturally travel. He will have already sorted that out in the Navy, or college, presumeably.

The thing about the shoes is that it demonstrates a particular strength of character; one that fits well with my own, indicates an attention to detail, and also reveals a becoming sense of self-satisfaction. So it's not just one certain style of shoe, you see. It is a manifestation of personal style. But to think on this too long spoils the game, and that's the problem I'm dealing with lately. 

When I was younger, it was enough to compose a picture of someone with an attractive countenance, and then decide what I wanted to happen next. I'd drift off to sleep in the midst of a cool or cozy date, and not unoften, end up seeing it played out in my dreams. Lately, burdened with a sensation of being permanently stuck on an elevator going down, I keep stopping at the shoes, mind wandering off in no good direction, restless and bothered by the heat of the pillow. 

Because, of course, now I know what comes next. All the excitement, pleasure, joy, misery, pain, loss, confusion and loneliness. Neverending grief over what was, and what was, what is, meant to be. But at night, none of that should matter at all. At night, only the sleep and the dreams should matter. The dreams should be composed of anything I like, and not merely the unravelling knots of consciousness that tangled themselves through another endless, relentless day. Even if the combination Jimmy Stewart/John Slattery/Craig Ferguson of my creation doesn't appear during sleep, and he rarely does anymore, the counting still leads to a more peaceful rest. Only the numbers, worse than appearing out of order, keep getting stuck at one. 

So. The shoes. I chose them for him, and although he wouldn't have stopped to look at them twice, he's delighted with how they fit and how he somehow thinks he looks taller in the mirror. I warn him they'll take a little breaking in, but once he has, he'll feel like they always belonged there. He strides away with confidence, attracting the eye of a woman younger than me as he passes out of the store and sets off down the sidewalk. She catches up to him and I watch them both laugh as they disappear around the corner.

Well, that's hardly the guy, is it? I never even got to imagine loosening his tie and unbuttoning his collar. Just handed him off to someone younger, the same way it happens to women my age in real life. 

(No one ever tells you about that when you're 17, and that hunger begins springing to life. You think you'll be 17 forever, and, worse, you have no inkling of how much that hunger grows, demanding to be fed and to feed another in turn, only to learn that a man's hunger is often fickle, desirous of newer, if not always more raw, energy. Sometimes the hunger still comes alive at night, in dreams, and these are not the dreams of a girl fumbling through the newness of sexual identity. But neither are they, by now, the dreams that startled you awake, sated without quite understanding or remembering how. So, like Ernie counting fire engines, I surround myself with pillows and compose a scene that will never happen, but might happen, in the enchantment of sleep. It's a romantic scene I attempt to compose, but it is not the romance I had in mind before I'd ever experienced any of my own. And much less exciting than fire trucks.)

(Now, it's easier to love a dead celebrity than a live one, and if you're good to yourself, you never imagine the real person, only some character he played, or one you imagine him playing. Because let's face it; we now know too much about anybody famous to be able to imagine one of them as the guy with whom we spend an enchanting afternoon exploring the cemetery, or the art museum, or just sitting outside a cafe, sipping coffee, watching people walk in and out of the big beautiful hotel across the street before he whispers in our ear, "Let's go in.")

(Plus, a fictional man will always be wearing the correct shoes, if he's the man for me.)


2011 Monthly Classic Film Fest: The Doctor Takes a Wife

One of my 8 "movies I've never watched" for January, mentioned two posts ago. It was on TCM a few days ago, and I watched it today. It was okay. I'd give it a 7, but then, I give most things a 7. 

Here's the basic setup: Spinsters Aren't Spinach is a book by June Cameron, played by Loretta Young, who writes that it's more fun to be single than to be chained to a man's kitchen. It's a bestseller, and the publisher looks forward to a sequel. At the beginning of the movie, a misunderstanding occurs between her and another guest at the lodge where she's staying, and she cops a ride to New York with him. He's Dr. Tim Sterling, a "neuropsychiatry" teacher played by Ray Milland, who dismisses her views on the New Woman.

When they stop in Hartford so she can send a telegram, a Just Married sign is mistakenly put on the back of their car, it is seen by the woman running the telegraph office, and from there, hijinks ensue, because, of course, it will appear she's no longer a champion for the spinster if she's given in to the wedded state, and who better to spread gossip than the woman controlling the wire? Meanwhile, the two of them continue to rub each other the wrong way, and have no idea others think they are married. In fact, he's actually engaged to someone else. Of course.

And so forth.

I liked it. It doesn't really bear looking at a 1940 comedy and noting there is no reason for absolutely any of it to have actually occurred. Are the right people likeable and the right people not likeable? Yes, though it's not easy to say why. Did the correct resolution occur? Of course, though, as is typical, it depended on two complete absurdities that were entirely unnecessary. But that's how these movies are. We watch the actors do things we can't or wouldn't or shouldn't do, and then live happily ever after 90 minutes or so later.

Loretta Young knew how to be winning and yet soft; much better at it, I think, than Rosalind Russell. Ray Milland was strong, but could still act silly or woo a woman with his eyes at just the right moment. He was a little bit Eddie Albert and a little bit Cary Grant, til he lost his hair. Frankly, I think he could have worked harder to sound American, but Cary Grant never had to, so why complain?

It was pleasant; a weekend movie sort of movie. 

Next up, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

Pencils all sharpened with nowhere to go...

This is it right here, the real deal, the whole enchilada, ball of wax, Three Aces in Hand and a Check from Across the Table. Bitter winter wind attempting to whistle its way in through the inefficient double-paned window. Sharply angled afternoon sunlight casting a stream of dust across the desktop. Hands poised over the keyboard as though waiting for God to descend from on high and point to the screen, saying Begin and Go Thou Forth into the Holy Realm of Literary Mania. Express with Confidence, Emote with Style, never looking back, only forward, and don't forget your jacket and hat when it's time to shut off the lights and head for Halcyon Dreamland via that double shot of Maker's waiting for you down at street level.

2011 Monthly Classic Film Fest, part one

Taking an idea from @4ever Classics, I decided to choose 5-10 movies airing each month this year on TCM or FMC that I probably haven't seen. By which I mean, mostly I have, but too long ago to remember or to have appreciated them. Since I lean hard toward comedies, this may mean watching many more serious dramas this year than usual. But I'm still going to mainly choose films that won't make me feel like I need a dose of lithium. I'm not very entertained by drunken spouses, terminal illness, or men blowing up stuff and not even trying to kiss anybody. No other real criteria except I'm focusing on films I haven't seen which star actors or actresses I particularly enjoy.

So here's the list for January:

The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940)

A man-hating author and a woman-hating doctor have to pretend they're married. Cast: Loretta Young, Ray Milland, Reginald Gardiner. Dir: Alexander Hall. BW-88 mins

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)

A public relations man must cope with revelations about a wartime romance. Cast: Gregory Peck, Jennifer Jones, Fredric March. Dir: Nunnally Johnson. C-153 mins 

King Of Hearts (1966)

During World War I, a Scottish soldier finds an abandoned town ruled by whimsical lunatics. Cast: Alan Bates, Genevieve Bujold, Jean-Claude Brialy. Dir: Philippe de Broca. C-102 mins

Washington Story (1952)

A reporter in search of government corruption falls for a congressman. Cast: Van Johnson, Patricia Neal, Louis Calhern. Dir: Robert Pirosh. BW-82 mins

The Kissing Bandit (1948)

A timid young man is forced to follow in his father's footsteps as a notorious masked bandit. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, J. Carrol Naish. Dir: Laslo Benedek. C-100 mins

Black Hand (1950)

In turn-of-the-century New York, an Italian seeks vengeance on the mobsters who killed his father. Cast: Gene Kelly, J. Carrol Naish, Teresa Celli. Dir: Richard Thorpe. BW-92 mins

Key To The City (1950)

Two mayors meet and fall in love during a convention in San Francisco. Cast: Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Frank Morgan. Dir: George Sidney. BW-101 mins

Marty (1955)

A lonely butcher finds love despite the opposition of his friends and family. Cast: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti. Dir: Delbert Mann. BW-94 mins