Friday, March 18, 2016

Should I Try to Do the 25 Surprising Facts About Me Meme?

How about 9 to start? I don't think I can come with twenty-five things that will qualify as new, let alone interesting or insightful, at least not in so short a space as a week.

1. I was really born to live a more urban lifestyle. Even at my age, I still like to go places, and I would like to be able to interact more regularly and familiarly with educated people, though I rarely do either of these things, and haven't really in almost twenty years. On the other hand, things like home improvements and maintenance do not seem to interest me at all. There are shelves and lamps and doorknobs and electrical outlets in my house that have been broken for years, and it doesn't even occur to me to ever do anything about them.

2. I never imagined I would have the number of child I have. I should worry about them more. I don't really worry about them that much. I'm sure I don't make enough demands on them. They do read some, and they have taken part in a number of activities and followed various seasonal rituals over a period of years. Their lives have a rhythm to them. Sometimes I think I need to start to talk to the older ones about more complex and advanced things, try to give them some clearer picture of how life develops than I had, and which accomplished smart people seem to have from a young age. 

3. I very rarely drink coffee. Sometimes if I am in a certain kind of restaurant where I order dessert (which I almost never am) I like to linger at the table and sip on a cup with two creams and two sugars. But that is about it.

4. From age 7 to 15 I lived in a townhouse/rowhouse in a lower middle class multiracial neighborhood (before that I lived in an apartment complex), which may or may not be obvious from reading my posts. I am clearly fixated on (comparatively) wealthy, attractive, and well-educated white people, and have never felt really comfortable around this demographic, and certainly was never part of it, other than at the farthest fringe.

5. I finally got a mobile phone (a cheap smart phone) about 4 months ago. I find it frustrating most of the time. The screen and the keypad are way too small for me to comfortably ramp up my various social media participation. I can't remember how to get on the internet if I am not at home. My success rate at actually answering telephone calls stands at around 30%, because in the act of extracting the thing from my pocket I invariably touch something that cuts off the ringing. The one positive is that when I come home from a vacation, I don't have to deal with the possibility of some ominous message, or several of them, awaiting on the answering machine, which I used to dread, more than I realized, since I was still visited by these forebodings as I neared home after my recent trip to, even though there was no possibility of any unforeseen disaster from this quarter.

6. My 10 favorite cities (I haven't been to many): 1 (tie) Prague and Paris. I can't bring myself to slight either one, today anyway. Paris seems like it might be becoming unaffordable for people like me to do much there anymore compared to how it was before, but we will see on that. 3. London. 4. New York. 5. Montreal. 6. Florence. 7. Rome. 8. Dublin. 9. Quebec City. 10. Venice. Philadelphia/Boston/Washington would be next. I wanted to fit them in the top ten somewhere, but in all of these other places I did something that felt very exciting to me in some way, and the three non-New York cities are more like places where I have lived something like my normal life, and they do not feel as special as these other places.

7. I am so out to lunch with regard to everything related to the culture of the workplace, and I have no instinct for things like professional etiquette. I recently found out (via someone else's experience) that exploring other job options without informing your current employer that you are doing so is considered to be a serious transgression, even if you are a comparatively low-level employee. I had no idea about this. It was also news to me that when meeting people in a professional setting, that it is expected you will have done a certain amount of in-depth research on them, or their organization, provided any is available. This had not occurred to me either. For many years of my working life, until the last few really, I had largely been left alone, without a lot of interaction with higher-ups, which I appreciated at the time since as a younger person especially I was quite averse to dealing with older people in superior positions, however I see now that it has really left me on an island as far as relating to most professional-class people now.

8. My 7 favorite highway rest areas. 1. I-95/Maine Turnpike near Lewiston. It's a lonely rest area. Especially in the winter you might have the place all to yourself. Despite that it is surprisingly cheerful. 2. PA Turnpike Northeast Extension, near Allentown/Poconos. The air outside of it always seems especially clean. I like how the chairs in the food court have the little keystone symbol cut out of their backs. This section of highway connecting the western suburbs of Philadelphia with Allentown and Scranton is not a major corridor for east coast intra-city traffic, and most of the people in the rest area seem to be not in a great hurry and probably out doing Pennsylvania-ish things, which I should probably devote a separate post to explaining, because they are the same things people do everywhere, but there is a specific flavor to the way they are done in Pennsylvania that will elude the data crunchers and their ilk. 3. Vermont Welcome Center, I-91 near Brattleboro. Sometimes I come back this way from one of my forays into the rest of America. By the time I get here it is usually after 10pm or so at the end of a long drive, the last hour of which has been on an empty road in pitch dark. any staff they have working there has left, and I'm usually the only person there if I stop, but the displays are very cheerful (the outer design of the building is intended to look like an old barn) and make Vermont seem like an appealing and even exciting place. Plus I feel now that, back in one of the three northern states, with all of which I have some connection, I have arrived at home, which I am inclined to think of fondly despite all of the objections which might be made about it. 4. Florida Welcome Center. I-95. We always stop in here for the free orange and grapefruit juice. This place is always a mob scene, but I like the atmosphere. People are excited to be there. 5. Molly Pitcher Rest Area, New Jersey Turnpike. If I leave home with a full gas tank, this seems to be where I run out. All of the Northern New Jersey rest areas, while containing a great human panorama, are not really restful. This is the last one before the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which is usually near the end of my trip since I generally am going to or staying in Philadelphia, and you can breathe in it a little bit. 6. Canadian highway 10 near Montreal. Only because the Dunkin' Donuts there serves the coffee and donuts in real porcelain cups and plates with the company logo on it, which I thought was amazing. We can't have this in the U.S.? 7. I used to like the Maryland House on I-95 back in the 70s and 80s when they had an actual sit-down restaurant in the neo-colonial house they have there (I went there several times with my grandparents, who were extremely leisurely travelers. Going from Philadelphia to Williamsburg, which is about a six-hour drive, was a two day trip for them). However the last time I went there the single restaurant had been replaced by a bunch of chains and a food court in a new building. So much of the thrill is gone from this one. Honorable mention. The low-key gas stations with their little attached stores, often made of stone, along the old parkways in New York and Connecticut are very cute and inspiring of nostalgia for somewhat old times, but I not attached to any in particular. Likewise for several places on the New York State Thruway, but I haven't gone on that road enough to remember any particular favorites. Of course New Hampshire is notorious for our liquor store rest areas, but as these are only about ten miles from my house I never really stop at them.

9. I was somewhat good at running in high school. I have, or used to have, since I don't know what happened to them, a gold medal and a silver medal from Maine state championship track meets. The gold medal was for the mile relay, which obviously I ran with 3 other people, and the silver was in the indoor 600 yard run, which race I was supposed to win, and indeed the guy who did win had never beaten me before that day. I guess I have to say that I choked. I've choked at a lot of important moments of my life, especially when I was younger and being successful might have made a big difference in some way. So I lost this championship race by about 4/10s of a second and I wasn't even winded in the end. I had forgotten to exert myself, probably being overcautious about going out too fast, I let the other guy get too far ahead, and I couldn't catch him at the end. Of course I had not trained seriously, nor was I coached especially seriously, certainly compared to the way people go about things now. The coach would send us out on what was supposed to be a 5 mile run and we would run to McDonald's. But that's how I always went about things, I wanted to coast by on my natural abilities and achieve victories and other successes easily, with a modicum of work, and thus be enabled to pursue my real desires of devoting the bulk of my time to partying and getting women. And perhaps if I weren't so prone to choking, I could have bluffed my way to some more modest level of success before I ran into the ferociously driven and talented people who are not to be contended with. But I am not going to confess all of my major choking stories at one time. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Stolen Kisses (1968)

I've started two other posts this week month (and then I went on vacation) but was not getting anywhere with them. So I am moving on to this one in the hope that I can convey something of what I would like to say about it.

While I try to be something of a universal student of the cinema, most of the movies that I really get excited about come from two main strains of the form's history, the first being the Life Magazine-evoking, code-era Hollywood films from the 1930s to the 60s, and the other being European movies from the 30 or so years following World War II, a period I have seen referred to in France at least as Les Trentes Glorieuses. As this appellation suggests, in both the United States and Europe these cinematic eras coincide with periods in the national history which certain people, mainly of the petit bourgeois, or now perhaps formerly petit bourgeois classes, would like to recover, as it was a comparatively heady time for their kind, and it is true that the lifestyle depicted in films of this type are appealing to people are not adapting well socially and culturally, and perhaps professionally, to the twenty-first century, not that I would know anything about that. Surprisingly these kinds of movies, the European ones in particular, do not come up in my program as often as might be expected. So it had been a while since anything like Stolen Kisses/Baisers Voles had come my way, and it was exactly what I needed during this dark winter of being forty-six, which I remember having been revealed in some study as the least happy age of all life, for men anyway. Though I have seen quite a few Truffaut movies, even having once attended a series on him that they showed at my college, and have studied the history of film, especially in this era, pretty widely, I was somehow not familiar with the existence of this one and had thus spent no long years in anticipation of its someday coming up in my system. This doubtless worked in its favor, as I seem to find an especial delight in these kinds of artistic surprises in my advancing age. I watched it through twice and on both occasions was reluctant to have it come to an end, so painful is it to be thrust out of the world of Paris in 1968, civic unrest and all, which world is never coming back, at least in our lifetimes. So I was very strongly affected by this movie for several days. I don't think I have been so thoroughly affected by any movie since maybe The Third Man, and that was six or seven years ago. Artistically of course the movie is highly satisfying, romantic, wistful (Woody Allen appears to have mined this extensively with regard to certain effects which he regularly incorporates into his own films), expertly constructed, interest never lags. Almost all of the reviews I have found, both professional and amateur/online, give it respect and a high rating, but I haven't recognized in any of them an emotional kinship in their perception/response to it. I don't think I have it in me at this time to convey what that is in my case either, but it has to do with the sense I have of certain things that have been lost, either by me personally or in the course of day to day life, that this movie happens to have recalled to me.

Stolen Kisses, while not an overtly masculine movie by contemporary standards, is a decidedly, or I guess a French male version of, a romantic comedy. The protaganist is constantly going to prostitutes, has a rendevous with his boss's wife and so on, but the last 15-20 minutes or so are as beautiful and romantic as any movie I have seen a long time. The old French, even the bourgeois, had such wonderful and dynamic sex lives, at least in the movies. Antoine has a rather random date in the middle of the film that he relates "didn't start out too well", but the night ended with the walls shaking anyway, which to me would nullify any idea that there could have been a weak start. The guy he relates this story to then follows with a rejoinder about the time he screwed his cousin "right on the attic floor" during the reception after a family funeral. The bourgeois dreamboat Christine character and her family are perfect. Everybody knows someone who kind of looks and acts like her, yet the type is rare compared to the demand that exists for it, and difficult to get to know as well as one would like, usually.

A nice montage to the two stars of the movie featuring the sentimental but affecting Charles Trenet tune that is the theme of Baisers Voles. The footage includes scenes from, I presume, the sequel of this movie (Bed and Board--1970, and the 4th of the Doinel movies going back of course to The Four Hundred Blows), in which Antoine and Christine are married. There was a 5th film in the series that came out in 1979 in which the pair are divorced (which if anything emphasizes the fleetingness of the happy ending of Stolen Kisses and makes it even more poignant) but I don't think any images from that later episode made it in here. (7/26/16--putting in labels, making corrections on this post. I was evidently drunk or 9/10ths asleep when I originally wrote this last paragraph).

On a completely different note, I followed this by seeing a movie from 1989 called Santa Sangre, by the iconoclastic cult Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky. I did not really enjoy this movie, which is packed with graphic violence and other in your face grotesqueness, and I was relieved when it was over, but I have to admit I found it fascinating artistically. Even now I am holding on to the 3 and 1/2 hour long bonus features disc a month after seeing the movie because I am not sure that I don't want to go through all of the material before giving it up. Jodorowsky is one of these colorful interviews who does not make any concessions to middle class niceties ("I love violence!" "I hate women!" "Life is violence!"). The movie exists in a sort of world of pure art and artistic personality and expression that draws on Fellini and French pantomime as well as Latin American fantastical influences that I find hard to turn away from, since it is an attitude that is so antithetical to the kind of life and mindset, with its obsession with politics and money, that I have gradually allowed myself to become subsumed into with little hope of shedding the chains of. But for all that the movie has interesting aspects to it and is successful as a kind of art-experiment in various (points?) (But) I don't know, I didn't like it. It doesn't come together in any way that I found meaningful.