Sammy the Seal

Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

Old times

In celluloid, experience, vinyl, words, words, words on Saturday, 21 February, 2009 at 7:52

What a weird set of coincidences. I mean, of all the thoughts to run through my head, and all the things that remind me of other things. And they just happened. I wasn’t in a nostalgic mood or anything. First of all I started watching “The Wire” again, which is why I’m up so late— four episodes, I told myself I’d stop there. Granted, it was only a year a half ago, and it was memories of a freaking show, but just the idea of “remember when?” with something that was memorable for any number of reasons, and yes, I’ve said elsewhere that “The Wire” is one of the most draining, impressive, special works of art I’ve ever experiences. Like reading a incredibly long, but commensurately satifsying novel. Still, it was only a few months after I had moved back to Texas after leaving New York City.

Speaking of which, I logged on to myspace just now, and I have my “top friends” on shuffle because I don’t believe in ordering people, and one of the people who came up was my roommate in New York, Katrina, profile photo standing on an outdoor subway platform with her new baby. Ah, memories. I remember standing on an outdoor platform in Queens with Manhattan behind me and someone from the guesthouse came out to take photos with me, except I screwed up and lost the roll, probably to exposure, stupid me. It didn’t help that earlier in the day, due to some completely unknown trigger, I found myself thinking about walking along Prince and Spring Streets, passing the innumerable shops and finding some cafe or little diner to eat in, or buy pastries in. Like the diner in Boerum or Cobble Hill, a little south of downtown Brooklyn where I saw a movie and had a bite with the only classmate I’ve seen since I’ve graduated high school over 12.5 years ago. Movie, diner food, late night on a weekend, old classmate— breaks my heart thinking about it. Even though I bitched about the crazy girl I briefly dated, and I was the one who had to make plans every single time we went anywhere (FYI I hate that “the man’s supposed to makes all the moves, decisions, and plans” bullshit, equal opportunity ladies, show some imagination, it gets tiring, for chrissakes), at least we went places. It’s New York, so it’s awfully easy to do, but here so far, or back in Texas (with what few people I knew), just going out and doing shit, you know? Coffee, drink, sit on a fucking park bench, stay in and watch a movie and cook dinner. When did doing something, anything become obsolete? (Don’t blame the economy neither. I think technology, laziness, and isolation/insulation have something to do with it.) Like I said, one of the people I stayed in the guesthouse with in Queens before getting an apartment, didn’t know me all that well, but came out and saw a movie with me because I wanted to get out. Same girl who took picture of me around the city because I didn’t have any new photos to show people of my time in the city. (Makes me feel bad I lost those photos, they were good. The one on the platform, for instance.) Someone I barely fucking knew couldn’t stand being in there either and came out with me. Same thing happened with the crazy girl I ended up dating, it was 8 or 9 at night and I had to get out, and she said yes.  There does come a time though, when your calls and voice or text messages don’t get responded to,  or you get nothing but two-sentence reply emails, and you figure why bother. Which is why I actually stopped complaining and worrying a long time ago. If I don’t register in someone’s mind, fine. I guess my flaw is I gave people too much friend credit when it wasn’t deserved. I’m too idealistic for my own good, I give at least as good as I get, even if I get very little. I try not to expect the same from others that I do from myself, but at least for people to understand that I’m being sincere about it— that’s my personality, I have no choice. People matter to me as long as I matter to them. I kind of am still selfish and idealistic that way. Friendship and love are of the utmost importance to me (more than my own self) and yet I’m finding things aren’t what I thought they were. It’s frustrating, and things do get a bit empty sometimes. Fucking Christ, going out doing shit, that’s all. This the type of thing that makes someone fly off the handle and blog. And that can’t be good for anyone.

But anyway, back to New York… It’s actually where I caught my first glimpse of “The Wire” before I even knew what it was about. The two girls I roomed with for two weeks in Park Slope were fans, and later when I was watching the fourth season on my own, I thought “hey, that’s the scene I remember walking in on when they were watching it!” It’s all connected, wow. (That’s actually one of the slogans or pieces of dialogue from the show.) The fact that the apartment we were in was in a brownstone-type building too, that makes me smile. Going down to Battery Park to do nothing but smell the sea air, look over at downtown Brooklyn, the Verrazano, the Statue, Jersey, even. Then again, I’d be happy with anything. Coffee, tea, hot cocoa, some sweet, some convo, and a big fucking hug. What with all my high-falutin’ pontificating, I’m rather simple and easy to please at heart. So far, one fucking person. (Ouch, how you doing there, self-esteem?)

And the last thing goes even further back. For some mysterious reason, I woke up this morning and immediately began humming “Legend” by Nelly Furtado, first album. I remember the days, when I was so eager to satisfy you, and few people knew who she was so you could see her at a venue like the Showbox. Even the Paramount isn’t so big for a musical act. What’s that, 2001, 2002? Haven’t felt the urge to listen to her in a long time, and for some reason, I listened to her all the way to work this morning. Nothing special was going on then, living here, still in school, in the first year or so of my then-relationship, Bush had only begun to fuck up. I still remember going to those show though, seeing tiny little Nelly on that stage, mere feet away from us, doing the whole album because she only had one, doing some 80s covers too, the next year waiting 45 minutes to meet her after the Paramount show (and realizing on the way to the show I forgot my damn camera, but at least she signed my album and drew a flower on it, yay). Another reason to be in a relationship, you always have at least one person to go out with, hey? And yes, she’s on tour, she was hungry, she just did a fucking show, and she gracious enough to come out and see some of us. That’s a stand-up person, right there. And she’s busier than all of us! Grace. Not a big, big fan of hers, but I liked the music, liked the shows. Back when she had one single, and a smidge of airplay on VH1, MTV2. Now those are some old times, man.

There you have it— “The Wire”, dreams of a cafes and restaurants in New York, and an eight-year-old Nelly Furtado song, joining forces for the noble cause of making me into a reminiscent fusspot.

P.S. You should see what Diona had to say a couple weeks back.


You don’t deconstruct beauty

In celluloid, delicious, vinyl on Monday, 9 February, 2009 at 5:25

I just had a cultured, thoughtful evening. I think I was cleaning, and had a playlist on shuffle, but still skipping songs, and “Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings” came on, and I went from shuffle to Sunset Rubdown only. It’s not something you throw on just for the hell of it, but there’s something about that music that’s very familiar, tuneful, otherwordly, and heartfelt and passionate. Most music we listen to, we have to relate to it on some level, whether the voice, the style, or the lyrical content. It has to fit with a specific aspect of our personality. We are by nature self-centered, that’s how it is. But listening to this music, it seems to push boundaries of how personal something needs to be in order to be understood. The lyrics are mostly cryptic, to me anyway, but everything about the songs is meticulously and carefully crafted and disregards the idea that something has to be “relatable” to be appealing. To this day, the song “Shut Up I Am Dreaming…” is possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever heard (even if it’s not my favorite song). And that’s saying something, being a person who has little patience for songs past 4-5  minutes (the word indulgent comes to mind)– the song is over seven minutes long. I think I like to come back to this music because I can kind of forget myself and just admire how pretty it is. There’s poetry and mystery to people and things who exist on their own terms, and I just tend to be drawn to them. You don’t know why you’re drawn, you just are. I may not understand exactly what songwriter Spencer Krug was thinking, and yet I feel I get what he set out to convey. Then again, I don’t even really need to. Unless you’re soulless, sexless, and simple-minded, you don’t deconstruct beauty.

So then I made a fancy-pants peanut butter and jelly sandwich, using nut and grain bread, Bonne Maman fig preserves (ate almost the whole jar in one week), and that Adams natural peanut butter that you stir and refrigerate that I’ve never had before. (An old roommate had some once, and I thought, ooh look-at-me-I’m-so-special-you-have-to-refrigerate-me peanut butter.) It actually costs less than the more processed crap and you get four ounces more, go figure. After the first bite, I was taken aback by how fancy it was. I thought, “wow, if there’s such a thing as classy PBJ, this is it.” You should try it, you’ll feel like you’re not good enough to eat it. Stay tuned for the 8-grain bread and four-berry preserve report.

Then I watched May. I saw it once almost five years ago but didn’t remember it well, and I didn’t have anything on my Netflix queue to put ahead of it, along with a lot of other movies I’ve seen but wanted to re-visit. For 15 minutes near the end, it’s kind of a horror movie, but only in tone, but the rest of it is a touching, freakish character study. My hat must go off to Angela Bettis, who made a very odd character sympathetic, despite the fact that most people, even well-meaning ones, would be extremely put off had they met such a person in real life. I would think many people who seek this film out fancy themselves “different” in that they do not feel part of any crowd. It’s just part of individualism. Whether we try or not, we like to think there is something about us that separates us from the pack. It’s vogue to be “different” or “nerdy” or “alternative” or “weird”– it’s all about fitting in and looking cool for anyone, not just the popular kids– but May Canady makes charlatans of us all. From the first few minutes, you see that she is genuinely different– she’s not cutesy, adorable, or misunderstood, she’s weird. You accept her for what she is (a credit to the actress), and yet the reactions of every character who comes into contact her are understandable. You want to reach out and comfort her, then you realize you’d probably react the same way. I’m not judging anyone, but we have our limits. Like people who say “I’m all for free speech, but…” or “I listen to all kinds of music… except country/rap/metal” or how everyone says they believe in being honest, but they really don’t. Objectively, few people can face the truth (though most people probably don’t care either way). Like always, it’s the small touches that make the performance. Her body language is invaluable, the blink-or-you’ll-miss-it gestures, e.g. when she is walking down the street to run into her crush, and he stops and turns away to light a cigarette, and she abruptly has to shift her attention forward again and keep walking in order to look normal. I mean, look at every single social interaction she has and put yourself in the shoes of the “normal” character. I think it’s amazing that I can care so about a character, yet feel a little false about it. I fancy myself sincerely open-hearted, tolerant, and accepting, but I’ve never known anyone remotely similar to May. And therein lies the magic of good storytelling and seamless acting– pondering hypothetical issues and trying to relate to fictional people. I nearly failed to mention that May makes her own clothes, and being so involved in her character, I was going to praise her for her unique design, when it is indeed the costume designer, not the work of fiction, who deserves props. The clothes are a bit off-center, definitely not trendy, but I thought they were cute and well-done. Confusing fiction with reality even on csotume issues? That’s seamless for you.

After viewing it, I considered listening to one of the commentaries, but am now wondering if I should just return it, then buy it and listen at my leisure. The ultimate compliment I can give a film is to purchase it, to deem it worthy enough to sit on my shelf, and I’m certainly leaning this way. It seems like an odd choice, but given the diversity of the few films I do own, it would fit right in, in that it’s not much like the others. Then, I’ve always been averse to comparing films on an absolute scale (letter grades, stars, etc.). How can Beavis and Butt-head Do America, Enchanted, Go, Out of Sight, Ghostbusters, South Park, Lost in Translation, Batman Begins, Saving Private Ryan, Adaptation, The Fugitive, Eternal Sunshine, Jerry Maguire, This Is Spinal Tap, and Moulin Rouge be fairly measured against one another without being insulted? Most people would qualify May as a genre film, which would be completely incorrect. To paraphrase a film critic I once read, quite possibly Roger Ebert, a film should be measured by one criterion: does the film achieve what it set out to do? Hey, films are just like people– we shouldn’t be measured according to any scale, we should be measured on our own merits. The one criterion is pretty much the same– are we true to ourselves?

Bonus for watching the film a second time: having embraced Pixies since then, I was able to identify Kim Deal’s voice in a couple of songs– there was some Kelley Deal to boot– and was so thrilled to be now-enlightened enough to appreciate that. Then I listened to a Breeders album I’ve neglecting for a while (but will no more) while taking care of a final late-night errand. All it took was one scene and the song “Oh!” Funny what film and music can do for each other when it’s right– can’t you feel the synergistic love? I love film. I love music.