October 10, 2003

Trapped in John Cage

Do you really like John Cage? I mean, the idea is intriguing, but the execution is usually excruciating. Merce Cunningham's troop performed at Wellesley one time, and I went, and somehow managed to endure the whole evening, even though there was a Cage protégé there performing live Cage-like "music" to accompany the dancing. There was absolutely no passion or sense of humanity in the dancers' movements, since they were counting, and the music sounded like rattling chains and stomach noises. For two hours! Out of respect for the performers, I stuck it out, but most of the audience left after 30 minutes. "Aleatory" was the kindest thing that could have been said about the show. And it's funny, but I saw that word (or maybe it was aléatoire) in a CD player manual a couple of years ago, and managed to figure out its meaning all by myself, by remembering the Latin phrase Alea jacta est.

I try to be open minded, but if I get zero pleasure or enlightenment from a performance, I think it wiser to tell the Emperor he's naked, rather than pretend he's wearing Prada. I agree that the movement in which "art" is more about making a statement than creating beauty or providing an outlet for true inspiration has run its course, as far as I'm concerned. I remember a chamber music piece composed by a Wellesley senior that was performed at our baccalaureate service, and it was a mass of discordant flutes and strings. Perhaps there was some kind of mathematical reason for its existence, but in my mind, there was no justification for subjecting us to 15 minutes of pure torture. Right afterwards, my friends Marie and Susie and I got up and performed Gilbert & Sullivan's "Three Little Maids from School" to thunderous applause. I think our audience was even more enthusiastic because they had been delivered from so-called "modern" classical music.

September 15, 2003


Cuando sale el sol
Y veo tus ojos sonriendos, pícaros,
Pero llenos de ternura,
Mi corazón sale tambien,
Deseando acercarse al tuyo.

March 20, 2003

Oscar Party 2003

In March, 2003, the U.S. was on the brink of going to war in Iraq, and it was possible that the Oscar broadcast would be pre-empted by war coverage.

It's Oscar party time, but despite the more serious events currently playing out on the world stage, and barring any postponements, I'd like you to join me for my yearly soirée at 6:30 p.m. this Sunday, March 23rd. An invitation is attached.

If you come during the red-carpet coverage, you'll have a chance not only to check out the stars' outrageous outfits, but also to show off your own threads, chat, mingle, nosh a little, have a cocktail, check out quotes from nominated films, and fill out a ballot with your best guesses on the evening's winners. (Prizes will be awarded for best dressed and best guessed, so now's your chance to wear that great outfit from the back of the closet or to dress up like a movie character - recent or vintage.)

If somehow the show is postponed due to world events, I'll let you know my plans, although anyone who'd like to come over and hang out, watch the news or just be with friends would certainly be welcome.

There have been some news reports of a would-be boycott of French food and wine, but if you'd like to register a protest of your own and express support for France's résistance, why not bring something French? To quote from a Salon.com article, "Indeed, a nice Champagne may make a pitiful talisman against encroaching barbarity, but as America goes mad, who doesn't need a drink?" (Read the whole article.)

Hope to see you chèz moi!

January 21, 2003

Achtung, Baby

I love a good discussion--whether spoken or written--with a clever sparring partner, and the emergence of email as a means of correspondence has meant that I do do quite a bit of writing, and that I’m much, much better about corresponding than I was in the days of snail mail. And I almost always spell everything out, and use proper punctuation and capitalization, and only occasionally rely on emoticons to convey tone of voice. It is unlikelier now that friends' prose will go completely unrequited with me, but if I have an engagement to run off to, I sometimes don't have the time to devote to a full and complete response to whatever issues are raised.

I'm can be wary of spending too much time on email, however. Two years ago, I carried on an intense email correspondence/ flirtation with a soi-disant poet who was pursuing me, and over the course of a couple of months, we exchanged about 400 emails, all told. I put my heart and soul into the thing, wrote him poetry, spent hours writing and thinking up witty multilingual puzzles for him to decipher, and he gave me the whole poetry/ flowers/ where have you been all my life shebang. I sat and listened to his whole "my marriage collapsed and I didn't even get any on my wedding night” spiel, but the minute, and I mean the minute I asked for the tiniest bit of support (it was the one-year anniversary of my father's death), he pretty much admitted he was just using me, and was zipoutthedoor. I was broke down. I felt so raw all over, it was like my skin had been peeled off and the exposed flesh rubbed with a nutmeg grater.

I am not going there again. Nuh-uh. And by that I mean that I’m not going to make that kind of effort for someone until I find out who they are, what they want from me, if they’re a good person, and if they are going to have violent objections to any of my personality quirks and blow me off for some bulls**t reason at the worst possible time. That doesn't mean I am never going to trust anyone again, or be giving to anyone again, but I don't have the time and emotional energy to spend on getting over a train wreck I could have avoided by being just a little more aware. The most recent man I met said, “I don’t want to use you,” but he also said, “Some people will tell you I’m a real jerk,” and although I have my theories about it, until I know why, I am going to tread very carefully, because there is something about him that says, “Achtung, baby.”

January 15, 2003

About Schmidt

I must say that I laughed hysterically through most of “About Schmidt,” despite, or maybe because of the fact that Warren Schmidt is such a pathetic character. We want Warren to be happy, but we can’t help laughing at how clueless he is, and how ridiculous the situations he’s faced with. Jack Nicholson gives a radically different, vanity-free performance, and his determined, deadpan manner in the face of frustration just makes every scene even funnier. And so we’re surprisingly touched when he discovers that there’s more to life after all. While this movie's subject matter seems to be conventional enough—a man retires and loses his wife unexpectedly, realizes that he’s been missing out on much of what’s important, and then tries to make up for it as he embarks on the next phase of his life—it’s risky because it skewers the tastelessness and apathy of average Americans, and it's thus bound to puzzle or offend those it's poking fun at. But for those with a sense of humor, the rewards are ample, especially if you pay attention to the little details; everything in this movie, from the priceless dialogue to the clothes, makeup, hair, and set decoration is comic perfection. I loved the damning-with-faint-praise inscriptions on son-in-law-to-be Randall’s award certificates in his bedroom and his awful, thinning-on-top mullet hairdo. Listen to the dialogue in the dinner-table scene–how Kathy Bates’ character (Randall's mother) emasculates her ex-husband with her impatience. Or the sounds in the background as Schmidt phones his daughter, who may not have “a job of some importance” after all. For some men, no matter how successful, who fear ending up like Schmidt, this movie may hit too close to home, but if it’s a cautionary tale, it’s certainly the funniest one in a long time.