Midnight Cowboy (1969) notes

May 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

Just saw this for the first time. I didn’t cry, but the long, long look that Joe Buck gives Ratso at the end…

I was also struck by some of its similarities to Walkabout (1971), particularly the hallucinogenic quality of the montages and flashbacks. The two movies shared a composer, but I haven’t identified any other connections yet.

I think I also disagree with the Ebert’s three-out-of-four stars review, which criticized certain scenes (the over-the-top-ness of the religious fanatic’s shrine, and the Warholian party) as being extraneous and detracting from the Joe-Ratso story, which I didn’t feel was the case.

Home-cooked food, home being a condemned building, as indicated by the tape on the windows

What a sad, beautiful wallop.

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The Left Hand of Darkness

February 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

(This will be fairly spoiler-y.)

It’s been a while since I’ve been so powerfully affected by a book. I’m also blown away by the fact that I added it to my “to read” list on goodreads in July 2007 (the first summer I was in DC), and I’ve only gotten around to it now. A lot has happened to me, and I’ve learned about a lot of different things, in the seven and a half years (!) since that time. And so while I wonder how reading the book then would have affected my life in those intervening years, I think my response to it then would also have been less profound.

Light is the left hand of darkness. I’m hoping to attend a book club discussion soon about the book, so I thought writing a blog entry about it would help organize some of the thoughts and questions I had swirling around in my head. First, a meta-thought: Immediately upon finishing the book, I wished I’d read it more carefully, because of course I rushed through some parts of it, and didn’t think to put two-and-two together often enough. Although there does lie herein a question as to why laid out the book the way she did, particularly with the interspersion of Gethenian folktales and myths with the main narrative, and if, like, Genly Ai, the reader (or this reader, at least) should have been paying attention more closely all along.

And a related thought: This surprise, coming at the end of the book for both Genly Ai and this reader, is surely one important reason for the impact the book had on me. You certainly get the feeling that Genly Ai isn’t reading Estraven’s intentions correctly, particularly the deeper the book goes into the latter’s perspective. But there is yet more to Estraven than ever meets Genly Ai’s eyes before the end of the book. So sad.

Some questions: Why did Estraven get this particular backstory? Why did it need to be only elliptically alluded to, both in the main narrative and via “hints” in the interspersed chapters, until the end? (Perhaps I’ve answered this one.)

And: What made this book so rollickingly good, particularly the escape and the journey over the Ice? The adventure quotient was crazy high. The story pulls you in real hard at that point, in all sorts of ways.

And, of course: Why was I shipping Genly Ai/Estraven SO HARD on that journey? (Because it’s Pride and Prejudice, with hermaphroditic aliens.)

Lots of other stuff on my mind, too, that I imagine will be raised during the reading group meeting. To be continued, if I have time before or after the meeting.

objects of interest from the Shanghai Museum

January 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

…which I went to in August. But that’s okay. Here are some of the things I liked the best, starting with whimsically shaped ceramics (which I have a penchant for. The captions are from the official placards):

Quart-bodied vase. Like very pretty, inexplicably fused milk containers.

"Quart-bodied vase with underglaze blue design of flowers. Jingdezhen ware. Qianglong reign (AD 1736~1795), Qing."

“Quart-bodied vase with underglaze blue design of flowers. Jingdezhen ware. Qianglong reign (AD 1736~1795), Qing.”

Double-spouted cruet (center). Every kitchen needs one of these.

"Blue-and-white double-spouted cruet with fruit trees. Jingdezhen ware. Kangxi (AD 1662~1762), Qing."

“Blue-and-white double-spouted cruet with fruit trees. Jingdezhen ware. Kangxi (AD 1662~1762), Qing.”

Chicken-crested ewer. It’ll be hard to go back to being served wine out of ordinary ewers after this.

"Green glazed pottery. Chicken-crested ewer. Liao, AD 916~1125."

“Green glazed pottery. Chicken-crested ewer. Liao, AD 916~1125.”

Tripot. Fancy fancy.

"Red pottery gui (tripot). Longshan culture, 2400~2000 BC.)"

“Red pottery gui (tripot). Longshan culture, 2400~2000 BC.”

(We are going back in time because we entered the exhibit from the wrong end.)

I also greatly enjoyed the minority costume gallery. Witness:

"Ishan's woolen garment and hat. Uygur. Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The 1st half of the 20th century."

“Ishan’s woolen garment and hat. Uygur. Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The 1st half of the 20th century.”


"Woman's wool felt ensemble. Lhoba. Chayu, Tibet Autonomous Region. The 2nd half of the 20th century."

“Woman’s wool felt ensemble. Lhoba. Chayu, Tibet Autonomous Region. The 2nd half of the 20th century.”


"Woolen ceremonial garment. Miao. Hezhang, Guizhou. The 2nd half of the 20th century."

“Woolen ceremonial garment. Miao. Hezhang, Guizhou. The 2nd half of the 20th century.”


"Men's embroidered outfit with narrow trimming. Yi. Liangshan, Sichuan. The 2nd half of the 20th century."

“Men’s embroidered outfit with narrow trimming. Yi. Liangshan, Sichuan. The 2nd half of the 20th century.”


According to this site, that protruding bit is supposed to connote soldierly bearing.

Finally, there’s this.

"White glazed openwork horse-shaped pillow with modeled figure. Five dynasties ~ N. Song (AD 907~1127)."

“White glazed openwork horse-shaped pillow with modeled figure. Five dynasties ~ N. Song (AD 907~1127).”


I think of the figure as a guardian to the world of dreams; the world of the sort induced by sleeping on the world’s hardest pillow.

words I learned from turning on French subtitles for “Too Big to Fail”

January 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

(With favorites in bold.)

l’aléa = hazard, vagary

le biais = the means, way; bias, angle

brader = to sell cheaply; to slash prices

chatouilleux = ticklish, touchy

le classeur = binder, file; filing cabinet

la critère = criterion, standard

l’ébauche = sketch, draft

endiguer = to dyke up; to control, restrain

endosser = to assume; to endorse

enfoirer = to cover with excrement [archaic]

la hypothèque = mortgage

le merdier = mess, shitshow

au pif = roughly

préoccupé = preoccupied; concerned

renflouer = to raise, refloat; to bail out

saccager = to wreck, devastate, vandalize, pillage, sack

la sébile = begging bowl

virer = to veer, turn, tack; to fire

Meilleur. Film. De. Tous. Les. Temps.

(This also marks blog backlog entry number one…more stuff from China to follow, hopefully. Only five months late.)

thoughts on DFW

December 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m somehow nearing the end of Infinite Jest (~90%), which I kind of wish would go on forever, and recently started on the newly published essay collection Both Flesh and Not, which I’m also enjoying so far. However, I am not at all sure I want to read the D.T. Max biography. Based on everything I’ve read, it would pretty much demolish the ongoing delusion that I’m interfacing with a person who just has to be a genuinely great human being, who (in spite of my knowledge of other even more paradoxical biographical bits) seemed to be a model of how to live morally and sanely and even heroically. Maybe this would still be true, but I imagine it would take a lot of heroic reconciling on my part, too.

What does it mean that I want this to be true (maybe, i.e., that his authorial persona corresponded exactly with his lived life)? Does it in fact matter? If it does, though, do I have some kind of obligation to read the biography? If I were to, and internalized all the new facts I learned, would it diminish the most affecting parts of his work for me? Or, at least, would this knowledge somehow lead to a more nuanced or richer interpretation of his work? I somehow doubt he wrote his stuff with the idea in mind that one day (soon) his life would be available for use as interpretative fodder. But how could knowing more about his life not complicate your view of his work?

I guess author-reader relationships can be dense and tricky.

a commitment I’m probably not going to follow through on

September 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

But every day I read a few pages of Infinite Jest is a day I learn something hard to keep to myself, like the use of “clusterfucking” as a modifier.

Hate and loathe this with a clusterfucking passion, Clayt!

The commitment being that I’m going to read 2-3% of it each day (percentages having replaced pages as the actually relevant metric, since it’s on my Kindle; maybe this is horrifying on some level).

Other things somewhat relevant to this blog which I’m going to try to do:

-watch at least one movie a week (in relation to the “movies” tag)

-actually download and actually listen to music (“music” tag)

-crochet interesting objects (not really a thing in need of committing to, is the truth) (“artsy”?)

-go on longer bike rides a few more times before it gets miserable out (…”travel”?)

Incidentally, the rest of my summer travels went well, barring an inability to access WordPress in China. I was totally going to finish blogging up everything when I got back to the U.S., and, well. Can’t say it happened. Loyal readers: stay tuned for something or other.

another edition of Ouidah in pictures

July 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

This one features architectural details (2), more coiffure signage (2), things in bottles (3), and a be-nested palm tree (1).

From an old Portuguese(?)-built confection

More geometrical motifs

For some reason you can get your gifts wrapped and your hair done at the same time in Ouidah

There are in fact Jehovah’s Witnesses around the corner

Spiced whiskey! I might have to bring this idea home with me

That’s a gas station, not a vendor of homemade olive oil

I really like the fact that I can order a beer called the Beninoise

Weaver bird nests in a palm tree near our house