Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday's Verse, Excerpt from "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke

How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

So you must not be frightened [dear Mr. Kappus] if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Untitled" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolutions power,
I might be driven to sell you love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Introducing Movies, Hatari! and Pat Lucky

I think it might have took up two cassette tapes, but I remember watching Hatari! over and over. It'd been taped off the TV by my Mother's best friend, Pat Lucky, and she'd let us borrow it on one of our visits with her. It would be months before we'd return it. Hatari! was a milestone film in that it was perfect escapism and yet it began to awaken an itch in me to direct. I don't even know if I understood films were directed yet but I wanted to make a movie that would make me feel like Hatari! did.

Pat Lucky was a Jehovah's Witness as were we in those days. But all the dreary trappings of the religion seemed to have no place in her house. Her house meant Cokes in mugs that had Fonzie on them and a gift of the latest Disney release in the clam shell case. My mother is a perennially unelectable mix of firebrand liberal and prudish social conservative so that meant practically no TV or movies, not so at Pat Lucky's house. Provided it wasn't too violent I could flip through the channels in wonder at being able to watch movies on TV. I formulated mental lists of movies I wanted to see.

She sent me gifts at my dance recitals and little cards to cheer me up. Sometimes your parents' friends are people you have to endure, not her, she was family. Family I prefered over quite a few actual relatives. She was a Howard Hawks woman, sharp, funny, and bright. Because of her I could hear Henry Mancini's safari chic score playing in my head when meetings got duller than usual. I even learned "Baby Elephant Walk" for a piano recital.

But the rupture came, a sharp, jagged mess that I still don't know how to talk about. It was over my Cousin's wedding and my Uncle not being allowed to give her away or be at the reception according to Witness rules. As there was no windmill my mother couldn't charge at the situation exploded and soon after I found myself no longer a Jehovah's Witness and no longer allowed to talk to the kids I'd grown up with. Movies became even more of an escape and safe place, especially after it was clear it meant no more Pat Lucky too.

Over the years I wondered about it, how she could love movies and TV shows and have an active curiosity in the world and still follow so lockstep a fundamentalist sect like that. It was a hard lesson that art can't always save you, you have to save yourself first. It's made me question my own moral absolutes and served as a warning against that kind of thinking. To beware of thinking anything a panacea or that Utopias are possible. That people who push both are dangerous, deluded at best and predatory con men at worst.

It doesn't stop the ache that things could be better nor should a person feel bad for wishing so. Hawks understood that too, how often life could disappoint us and leave us wanting or leave us where we never expected to be. But there is hope in Hawks' universe, a sensible, tempered by experience hope. Just keep your own counsel. Things may not be perfect, things may not even work out, but life will continue and there will be friends and partners along the way. To close with a line of dialogue from another one of his best, the incredulous Pat Wheeler asks Sheriff John T. Chance:

"A game legged old man and a drunk. That's all you've got?"

"That's what I've got."

That's what I've got. And it's enough.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Moday's Verse, "POEM" by Fank O'Hara

O sole mio, hot diggety, nix "I wather think I can"
come to see Go into Your Dance on TV- HELEN MORGAN!? GLENDA FARRELL!?

it reminds me of my first haircut, or an elm tree or something!
or did I fall off my bicycle when my grandmother came back from Flordia?

you see I have always wanted things to be beautiful
and now, for a change, they are!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"it is at moments after i have dreamed" by ee cummings

it is at moments after i have dreamed
of the rare entertainment of your eyes,
when (being fool to fancy) i have deemed

with your peculiar mouth my heart made wise;
at moments when the glassy darkness holds

the genuine apparition of your smile
(it was through tears always) and silence moulds
such strangeness as was mine a little while;

moments when my once more illustrious arms
are filled with fascination, when my breast
wears the intolerant brightness of your charms:

one pierced moment white than the rest

-turning from the tremendous lie of sleep
i watch the roses of the day grow deep.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Introducing Movies, The Pajama Game and my Grandfather

Of all my close relatives I think I take the most after my late maternal grandfather. Reserved, curious, and an unfortunate tendency to get prickly when wished to be left alone. Biannual trips to the apartment he shared with my Great Aunt where a regular part of my childhood. I loved them, it meant new toys and even better, it mean a trip to the Smithsonian's Air and Space museum.

He loved movies, the ones and stars he grew up with who were Classic Hollywood to me. His favorite musical was The Pajama Game and we would usually watch it when we visited. I loved the tempera paint bright colors, the dancing, and the songs. And even then my favorite characters were the supporting ones, and my favorite song a quieter or funnier number instead of the big showstopper.

It could be difficult to get close to my Grandfather, like it is to get close to me, but when we watched movies barriers fell. We were an audience and an exchange of knowledge and memories was happening, without a word being said between us. We show who we are in the movies we love. I don't know what sent me to look for clips from this movie on YouTube, only that when I started watching them I thought of my Grandfather and missed him as I haven't in years.

I watch the clip below, my favorite number from the show, and I see my Grandfather watching the TV set in an apartment high above the streets. And he's not an old man, distant and unapproachable. He's a cinephile delighting in their voices, the cherry tomato red of her starched pressed skirt against the gray factory interiors, Eddie Foy Jr's expressions, and Reta Shaw being light as air on her feet (Bob Fosse's lively choreography practically counts as it's own character.)

So I know another reason I love movies, I watch this and I don't wonder where my Pepa is or if I'll ever see him again. I watch this and delight in the same things and know that somehow he's watching it with me, and always will.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday's Verse, "XXX: Shake hands, we shall never be friends" by A.E. Housman

Shake hands, we shall never be friends, all's over;
I only vex you the more I try.
All's wrong that ever I've done or said,
And nought to help it in this dull head:
Shake hands, here's luck, good-bye.

But if you come to a road where danger
Or guilt or anguish or shame's to share,
Be good to the lad that loves you true
And the soul that was born to die for you,
And whistle and I'll be there.

A Sesame Street Moment, Lena Horne

Sesame Street will probably always be the most important show to me and the biggest influence on who I am today. I thought to start sharing favorite clips and wish the first could have been for a happier occasion. But it speaks to what Sesame Street did, that it introduced me to people like this. So I'll always be grateful for that, and rest in peace Ms. Horne.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

"You Darkness" by Rainer Maria Rilke

You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything:
shapes and fires, animals, and myself,
how easily it gathers them!-
powers and people--

And it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Scramble

Extra! Extra! You have until 4 P.M. tomorrow to contribute to the super boss 48 Hour Magazine Project.

A good yarn. As a tonic to a rough news week.

And because I can't link this one enough, big thanks to @ardentspork on Twitter for sharing:

Monday, May 03, 2010

Monday's Verse, "Autobiographia Literaria" by Frank O'Hara

When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.

I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.

If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out "I am
an orphan."

And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Saturday, May 01, 2010

"I think I'll go home and lie very still"

I think I'll go home and lie very still
feigning terminal illness.
Then the neighbors will all troop over to stare,
my love, perhaps, among them.
How she'll smile while the specialists
snarl in their teeth!
She perfectly well knows what ails me.

-unknown author from Ancient Egypt (ca. 1200-1000 B.C.)