101 in 1001 {II}: 089 attend a screening at the tribeca film festival [completed 04.26.10]

day 264: tribeca

a mere seven years after moving to new york city, we got our shit together for tribeca. at last, we're real new yorkers film festival action for me! after a bit of ticket scrambling (which has convinced me to cave in and hook up with american express, i think; their cardholder-only presale events are all over the place lately) and rainy-night-taxi-and-umbrella-dancing, we presented ourselves at village east cinema for dream home. our theater (which was rather small to begin with) was rather sparsely populated; our little hong-kong-slasher-that-could had a lot of competition on monday night, and a big chunk of seats were reserved for filmmakers and voters. on the former, a festival staffer popped in four or five times before the movie started to let us know that the director and his translator, godot-like, were indeed on their way to the theater (but didn't need their seats, so we could go ahead and take them). the festival voters' seats, on the other hand, needed to stay empty: "they can come in whenever they want," the staffer continued. "someone like jessica alba could get mad at you." i kind of want her to get mad at me," said the guy in front of us in a tone of erotic awe (which made me giggle through the festival previews). another staffer popped in just before the curtains rose to tell us that the film had "some of the most creative violence we've seen this year," and the reels rolled.

dream home is a...squelchy movie, let's say. gambling heiress josie ho, its star and co-producer, hoped it would "shock the hell out of hong kong;" how it's affecting overseas audiences is anyone's guess (its release in hong kong was stalled a number of times this past fall), but the gal sitting beside me lurched out the door with half a dozen other people during a particularly noisome space bag death scene twenty minutes in. it was pretty...squelchy, yes, but what'd they think guignol horror (as the tribeca blurb called dream home) was?

i enjoyed parts of the screening; my filmic hong kong is the smooth, upmarket city in infernal affairs (remade as the departed), and i'd known next to nothing about its gentrification process. dream home's take on the real estate market is a bit extreme (girl murders twelve for an apartment with a harbor view!), of course, but...it's a decent premise, one that somehow gives me a stronger stomach than the one i bring to american horror (i'm still sick about the awful, awful 2006 the hills have eyes remake). we didn't stay to find out if the director did indeed turn up for his Q&A; joe was ready to go home, and i was afraid we'd get stuck by ourselves making small talk with the translator about space bags. our next screening, james franco's saturday night, is this sunday afternoon.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 would you want jessica alba to be mad at you?

02 have you ever walked out of a movie?

03 is gore-horror any more or less tolerable for you than the bloodless kind?



SURVIVOR: let the great world spin (colum mccann)*
CHALLENGER: saving graces (elizabeth edwards)

i was about a hundred pages into elizabeth edwards's saving graces (the 2006 post-cancer, pre-scandal memoir; i haven't read resilience, the one she released last year) when i decided i prefer it to both bill clinton's my life (2004), which reads like a bibliography and a fever dream, and hillary's living history (2003), which was lucid, well-mannered, and kind of boring. edwards is well read (she has a BA in english and did three years of graduate work in american lit before going to law school) and a fine storyteller; her account of a childhood spent following her father (a navy pilot) around the world is actually my favorite part of the book. The Early Years, generally a vestigial bit of memoir, are actually rather muscular in elizabeth's story. i actually bristled a bit when she mentioned john for the first time ("John Edwards? He was a textiles major from a small town, wasn't he? And wasn't he the one who had had a date to a football game with a majorette?"); i was sorry to have gotten to the end of the japan stories, for one thing, and i wasn't especially anxious to hear about her eventually faithless husband, for another. that's the stuff of resilience, though; this is the memoir about losing a child and fighting cancer.

...so hey (cough), let's have a book throwdown between 9/11 literature and dealing with grief and breast cancer! super-classy, no? i'm not too squeamish to say that i think edwards's chapters on losing her son, wade, are both extremely moving and just a bit unwieldy. she reproduces a number of her posts to alt.support.grief (a usenet support group) after wade's death in a 1996 auto accident; they're quite moving, but they're intended for a very specific group of people (for individual people, in some cases). her narrative would benefit from some pruning there, i think, but i sympathize with both her and her editor; would you like to tell a grieving mother to wrap it up? it hurts to think of how many hours edwards has spent at north carolina's oakwood cemetery literally tending graves; grief like that is unimaginable to me, and she deserves a lot of credit for making it public.
It doesn't matter to me whether all this sounds odd. I did it because it made it easier for me, easier for me to think that there were mothers who would come after me and tend to Wade's grave when I no longer could. Easier to think that we were all in this together, that we formed a bond, a community--these long-dead mothers and I, and the mothers who would come later--and the creed to which we all subscribed was the sanctity of the graves of our children.
i had a similar reaction to edwards's lengthy mentions of those who wrote to her after she announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer - and, similarly, i'm letting it go. she received sixty-five thousand messages, you guys, and is responding to every single one.
I started on a more sensible regimen of signing, but it was slow, and I was embarrassed that we had printed out all the letters with the same date, in the beginning of February [2005], and then it became April and then May, and I was still writing notes on the bottom of letters dated February 7th. Finally my hand gave out, after about fifteen thousand responses. It was not too long after the surgery [to have lymph nodes removed] when I developed lymphedema, for which I was supposed to avoid repetitive motions--and I had to stop altogether for a time. The only upside was that I didn't worry any longer about that February date. Now I have started again, despite the lymphedema, despite some neuropathy that has dulled the nerves in my right hand, and I will write--as slowly as I need to--for as long as it takes.

as those thousands of messages suggest, elizabeth edwards's story resonates with a hell of a lot of people; her memoir is about "finding solace and strength from friends and strangers," per the subtitle, and it would be ridiculous to quibble about the length at which she describes her processes. surely someone who's lost so much (i don't think i want to read resilience; seriously, universe? more for this woman?) has earned the right to curate her life as she likes.

VICTOR: call it a courtly, bloodless win for let the great world spin.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 have you read either of the clintons' memoirs? what did you think? which did you prefer, if you've read both?

02 if you were to edit an emotional memoir, do you think you'd be able to tell your author to tighten things up?

03 how did you feel about john edwards prior to the news of his infidelity?

04 should i have excused saving graces from THUNDERTOME?

*previous battle here.


day 261: hot chip at terminal 5.

celebrities v. giant inflatable rats: big love edition

[at the hot chip show, terminal 5, friday*]

lau: [whips out cell phone]
joe: you are not tweeting about seeing her.
lau: but the sev is the quintessential new york sighting!
joe: all you have is your pride.
lau: [texts amanda instead]

rats: 4.5
star: 15

in other news of the fabulous, we joined amanda and peonies-and-boy (finally past the horrible ash cloud and with us in the states, hooray!) to raise a glass to birthday-meg in brooklyn last night. the rain spattering the restaurant's tented roof sounded like applause; it was lovely.

*that angry review was for the thursday show; i think that one sold out before we were born, as the xx opened for them. alas, the xx were in baltimore on friday; we'll cross paths some other time, for they are boss.


sunset at crystal cove (b/w)
So one day I went mad,
Turned absolutely white with passion:
I yelled right out at the sun:
"Come down!
You've gadded long enough in that blazing fashion!"
I yelled at the sun:
"You lazy clown,
Up there in the clouds you're in clover;
Here I sit painting posters night and day
And my work is never over."

(vladimir mayakovsky, v. de s. pinto trans., 1948)

And flying into such a rage one day
that all things paled with fear,
I yelled at the sun point-blank:
“Get down!
Stop crawling into that hellhole!”
At the sun I yelled:
“You shiftless lump!
You’re caressed by the clouds,
while here—winter and summer—
I must sit and draw these posters!”

(vladimir mayakovsky, george reavey trans., 1960)
04.20.10: the dirty dozen, part II {watching it}



it's just as well that i didn't buy one of the high-concept bird feeders i eyed before we moved; in the six months we've been in the new apartment, not a single bird has ventured up to the eighteenth floor.* happily, tugboats continue to chortle by with satisfying regularity; new york was the tugboat capital of the world until the 1930s, you know. last week's especially substantial new yorker, the one with the story of the doomed aeronauts, also profiled a tugboating family and their business; apparently the action's in louisiana and the gulf now.
"This place was no different than the Wild West or a gold strike in the Yukon," one tugboat captain told me. "It was a boomtown without any morals. You'd get friendly with someone in a bar and wake up the next morning on a boat heading into the Gulf. Shanghaiing was a reliable trade."

Things have calmed down since then, but only intermittently, and the Cajuns still try to keep their business in the family. One local phone book lists numbers by nickname as well as by given name--Jimmy (White Bean) Sonier, Michael (Possum) St. Tierre--as if it were still a sleepy fishing community and not a global hub.


To change course or speed [on an early tug], the captain had to send his orders down to the engineer via a system of gongs and bells threaded through the boat, as if phoning a foreign country. The busiest tugs...averaged more than five hundred bell commands in an eight-hour shift. On trickier maneuvers, the rate could rise to six per minute.
it goes without saying that i'd like to rig a system of gongs and bells in our apartment immediately, even though most of the messages will be about fritos.

05 celebrities v. giant inflatable rats: slippery-as-an-eel** edition

i passed jerry seinfeld and a colin-quinn-looking guy (probably colin quinn, now that i think about it) en route to the office this morning; seinfeld was wearing villainous teeny tiny round black glasses and cultivating an i-imprisoned-sydney-bristow vibe.

rats: 4.5
star: 14

06 we're going to a tribeca film festival screening next monday, huzzah! though joe's soccer and drugs documentary was sold out, we secured tickets for a slasher movie about hong kong real estate; i am well pleased. the slasher screening overlaps with feathered cocaine, the icelandic documentary about falcon smuggling, but i feel confident that feathered cocaine and i will cross paths again. now there's a phrase one doesn't use every day.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 what should one call a group of tugboats? don't say fleet. fleet is boring.

02 what would a system of gongs and bells in a modest private residence communicate?

03 how do you feel about seinfeld?

04 should seeing jerry seinfeld on the street automatically make you a new yorker?

05 have you ever been to a film festival? what'd you see?

*o, to have a hummingbird family like my mum's! then again, i shudder to think of how steve would feel about hummingbirds.

**seinfeld is all over the place in my affections, but i have a consistently soft spot for "hello! i got beaned with a giant ball of oil! i'm slippery as an eel!"

04.15.10: the dirty dozen, part I {making it}

boy, who knew vacationing while poor makes you really, really poor? we'll while away the weekend picking oakum and dreaming. dreaming is free.

01 alec wilkinson has a piece in this week's new yorker about s.a. andrée, a swedish engineer who tried to fly over the north pole in a hydrogen balloon in 1897. (the expedition failed, but as wilkinson blogged, a french explorer completed the trip just this weekend.) he calls a photo of andrée's downed balloon "desolate" - but it's utterly beautiful, i think. on the five-story "balloon house" the engineer built for his vessel:
The front wall of the house could quickly be pulled down when the balloon was ready to lift off. The floor, as well as every part of the house that might touch the balloon, was covered with heavy felt. The windows were made from gelatin and the roof was cloth.
this is how people turn steampunk.

02 from tara ariano, miami medical inspires our list of 10 other cities in which to set hospital shows. a local spinoff would be something like

Series Setting: Lower East Side, NY
Series Title: "Crossing Delancey" "LES ICU"
Location-Specific Medical Situations: A malfunctioning Shabbos elevator precipitates dozens of exhaustion episodes in a stairwell on the East River; a deadly riot at Doughnut Plant leaves tourists bruised, iced; I sucker-punch a dude in gladiator sandals.

03 on my walk to the office, the local wafel truck:

those imaginative belgians

questionable fiction, to be sure, but the fates could summon something tasty to follow that conjunctive adverb. it is friday.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 how does that balloon photo make you feel?

02 what location-specific medical situations would a hospital show in your town crank out?

03 a story made of comments sounds awfully involved, but how about a comment haiku? 5-7-5, to keep things orderly, and one word apiece. for a first word i give you astronauts; please to be adding a word if you so choose.


day 253: sunbeam turf war

don't let this photo fool you; chuck is about two feet closer to my camera on that chair, and steve defeated mothra and devoured half of tokyo last night. he also stole joe's monthly metrocard from his money clip this morning and tried to take down a tub of jalapeno hummus.



SURVIVOR: let the great world spin (colum mccann)*
CHALLENGER: trouble is my business (raymond chandler)

internets, it's almost impossible to be objective about raymond chandler at this point. i've read all of the novels and nearly all of the dime detective and black mask stories in print; as i finished "red wind," the last of the four stories in trouble is my business, i knew that i was at the end of the line.** though another chandler collection survived a couple of pushover rounds at the beginning of the year, i'm tempted to goddess in the doorway him with a big win over colum mccann: as jann wenner would say, trouble is my business is definitely four, for sure.

except when it isn't, that is. if some sources are to be believed, the detectives in some of these stories have been "marlowed" - that is, they began as different characters. that rings true to me, though bits of the street chivalry (and abrupt boorishness) i associate with philip marlowe of the novels do turn up here. either way, the introductory essay keeps me honest: i was halfway through it before i realized chandler had written it. "the simple art of murder" is an endlessly quotable, ferocious defense of detective stories; this stuff, by contrast, is pugnacity without chandler's intellectual snap. well, a single passage reminded me just a bit of oscar wilde on bad poetry:
There are things in my stories which I might like to change or leave out altogether. To do this may look simple, but if you try, you find you cannot do it at all. You will only destroy what is good without having any noticeable effect on what is bad. You cannot recapture the mood, the state of innocence, much less the animal gusto you had when you had very little else. Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say.
i'll take sullen chandler over most writers at their best, mind you.
(from "trouble is my business," 1939)

"I need a man good-looking enough to pick up a dame who has a sense of class, but he's got to be tough enough to swap punches with a power shovel. I need a guy who can act like a bar lizard and backchat like Fred Allen, only better, and get hit on the head with a beer truck and think some cutie in the leg-line topped him with a breadstick."

I called him from a phone booth. The voice that answered was fat. It wheezed softly, like the voice of a man who had just won a pie-eating contest.

(from "goldfish," 1936)

"If it's going to be a long story, let's have a drink."
"I never drink until sundown. That way you don't get to be a heel."
"Tough on the Eskimos," I said. "In the summertime anyway."

There were long slim fish like golden darts and Japanese Veiltails with fantastic trailing tails, and X-ray fish as transparent as colored glass, tiny guppies half an inch long, calico popeyes spotted like a bride's apron, and big lumbering Chinese Moors with telescope eyes, froglike faces and unnecessary fins, waddling through the green water like fat men going to lunch.

(from "red wind," 1938)

On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

The car outside let out a roar and when I got onto the sidewalk it was flicking a red smear of taillight around the nearby corner. I got its license number the way I got my first million.

Across the street somebody had delirium tremens in the front yard and a mixed quartet tore what was left of the night into small strips and did what they could to make the strips miserable.

She wasn't beautiful, she wasn't even pretty, but she looked as if things would happen where she was.

VICTOR: for consistency, let the great world spin - though if frank miller ever delivers on trouble is my business starring clive owen as marlowe, i'll overturn the decision on proximity alone. also, paul auster blurbed my edition.*** find a new squire, chandler estate.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 can we verb goddess in the doorway? i would like that.

02 do you agree with chandler's comment on the craft of fiction?

03 would you buy clive owen as marlowe? if not, whom would you prefer? (i'm thinking contemporary actors, not bogey &c.)

*previous battle here.

**there are stragglers, but they'll be hell to find.

***"Raymond Chandler invented a new way of talking about America, and America has never looked the same to us since."


our california trip was just about right, i think; we were able to spend a few days in los angeles with my little sister and her fiancé, we spent quality time at the beach and umpteen mexican restaurants, we snuck in a quick road trip, and we came back just when we were starting to miss the cats and our own bed. on said road trip:


day 246: san jacinto from palm springs


from a hammock at the parker

ye olde hotel

meat is murder

evening at the ace

we stayed at the interwebs' favorite hotel, the ace in palm springs. buzz was well-deserved: while we forgot to check out the bar and skipped the pool, we had a long, slow, marvelous end of the night on our private patio with room service from the diner, a fireplace, and a turntable (we'd picked up a few records at amoeba when we visited baby jo). earlier that evening, we wandered around the palm springs art museum* and the parker palm springs (where the jonathan adler decor fell just a bit short of justifying the steep drink prices, but the grounds were lovely - i wanted to take photos of our feet as we stargazed in a hammock, but swinging with gusto was too nice). we found five thousand bits of midcentury goodness that would've stopped being bargains if we'd tried to ship them back to new york (bah), had a respectable late breakfast (don't call it brunch), and were back in orange county in time for one last trip to the beach on friday afternoon. also i acquired a big rock. i call her dinah. full photo set here.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 did you know thursday was the first night of white party? we sure didn't. (joe: "i feel like meat!")

02 brunch: pro or anti?

03 have you ever been to palm springs? how was it?

04 hipster hotels: pro or anti?

*not so very: the sculpture garden was lousy with chihuly droppings. on the plus side: louise bourgeois upstairs.