Friday, March 27, 2009

New obsessions

So I was going to do "new obsessions and new health crap" in here, but the "health crap" is a story for another day. Suffice it to say that a close friend may have temporal lobe epilepsy, and if she has it, the likelihood of my ALSO having it is exceedingly high, since we basically have the same exact symptoms (except that I actually have the full-out seizures.) It's weird that I am hoping and hoping to have epilepsy, and even weirder that I am hoping that my friend has it, but to have a diagnosis and an have the validation in the face of those fucking doctors who called them "pseudo-seizures" when I would lose most of my vision, my ability to speak, my ability to hold a pen, my ability to swallow, sometimes my ability to fucking breathe, while in full-body convulsions on the floor. (What exactly about that is "pseudo"?) And for those people in high school who said I was faking them, to the nurse who wanted me to see psychiatrists and who would try to peel me off the floor while I was convulsing and wouldn't let me lie down, because she apparently thought that her powers of convincing me would somehow stave off my neurological symptoms...

Okay, so that was a rant. *Cough* Didn't mean for that to go on for so long. Whatever. I have a lot more about those seizures on my mind, a lot of it kind of...poetic and spiritual stuff. Which I may put in here at some point. I don't know.

Anyway, new obsessions. So, my mom changed the Netflix address to my Smith mail, since she never uses it when I'm not home (argh!). Netflix has started recommending "TV sitcoms" to me (vomit) due to my interest in the Office, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Entourage, Scrubs, etc, etc. Most of the suggested sitcoms I roll my eyes at, but I saw How I Met Your Mother in there, a show that has been vigorously recommended to me, and I said, "eh, why the hell not." And I ordered it. After all, how can you not love this man:

How I ask you? HOW? (This picture was actually my desktop for a couple of months, before it was replaced with the History Boys.) I didn't know that the show also stars Jason Segel, whom I also love.

Anyway, the point is, it's funny. Really, really, really funny. Like, where I have to pause the DVD so that I can sit there and laugh. And let me tell you, I was in serious need of that this week.

In addition to these illustrious television sitcoms, I've also been watching classics (see my rash of Hitchcock viewing a few posts down.) I watched A Streetcar Named Desire the other night, which I really enjoyed (I do love the hell out of Vivien Leigh), and tonight I watched East of Eden, which made me weep like a baby. I was a little annoyed by the happy ending - it seemed a bit of a letdown to me after all the dramatic conflict, just to have it be resolved in the last three minutes, but that's neither here nor there. What is both here AND there is that James Dean? So fucking great in it. And so fucking heartbreaking. I know what people made all the fuss about now. Not just because he's so damn beautiful, although there is no doubt that he was:

But he broke my heart in that movie. And I know, I know, tortured bad boys are kind of my kryptonite (in all areas of my life, unfortunately...), but I dare you to watch that and not see it pull at your heart. Maybe it has something to do with my terrible relationship with my own father, or maybe it's because I've just seen too many unhappy boys turn into broken young men, but it affected me more than any film has in a long time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Well, I've been in New York since Sunday evening (and will be here until Saturday.) It's my longest trip ever to the city - the most I've stayed before has been four days or so - and I'm really happy about that. I just love it here.

I spent most of the day doing my reading in Starbucks (read about 400 pages in a few hours - I can thank my Western Classics courses for inadvertently teaching me how to speed-read!), then went out to dinner with my mom somewhere in the East Village. I'm staying at the lower part of Chelsea. I haven't spent much time in this neighborhood in my visits to New York in the past, but I really really like it.

I spent yesterday in Brooklyn with Lianna - my first Brooklyn visit! - which was cool. It's a lot more "neighborhood"-y than Manhattan (at least, any of Manhattan that I've seen.) I like how fast-paced Manhattan is, though. I like my New York visits to seem like something of a fantasy.

I also had my first "celebrity sighting" of the trip - a minor celebrity, but still - while on the subway with Lianna. Jaslene Gonzalez, winner off the 8th season (or "cycle", as the show ridiculously calls it), of America's Next Top Model:

She was wearing these horrible capri-length hot pink sweatpants with boots and just a few inches of skin in between (the reason I noticed her was the sweatpants and how freaking skinny her ankles were) and a baseball cap so that most of her face was covered. Still, she's so distinctive-looking that it was pretty immediately obvious who she was. Despite the somewhat unfortunate outfit, she's gorgeous in person nonetheless.

More to come. I love New York so, so much.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I have a great deal of thoughts, but this is neither the time nor the place. I vomited my guts out a few minutes before History of Rock today and I'm trying to write a paper and feeling...well, more than a little strange. Having trouble with the word-harnessing. Not something with which I normally have problems.

So I wanted a random image. I typed in "random" to Google images and got this:

Marry me, Google images. Marry me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A couple of amusing tidbits...

I should be writing my paper (isn't that always the case), but a couple of funny things occurred to me to put here.

First of all, one of my shared iTunes libraries is labeled as "Your mom's library." This amused me a lot more than it should, owing to the fact that I frequently make really terrible (and completely nonsensical) "your mom" jokes. (I'm also pretty sure I have a fever right now, and when I have a low-grade fever I usually get kind of giddy, so that might explain it. But I digress...)

The other funny thing that I forgot to post before was that, while searching for Google images of Edward Gorey, when typing in the letters "Ed," the very first thing Google suggested was Edward Cullen. *Sigh* Oh, Google...

Also, one of these sites on which I watch Veronica Mars and House (some kind of foreign YouTube, I think), has twice suggested gay personal ads in Northampton for me. Gay MALE personal ads. I don't get it. It's not like I'm watching Queer as Folk or something (a show to which I may be even more addicted than those just mentioned, which is saying a hell of a lot.) Apparently this website sees beyond my bisexual female exterior into the gay man secretly hiding beneath.

Anyway, I really need to get back to work. Let's just hope that my feeling like crap is merely stress/sleep deprivation and I haven't actually caught anything. I'm going to New York on Sunday and I categorically cannot be sick. No, indeed. I cannot. I will use my willpowers to override my body if I have to, goddammit.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So this will be MOAR HISTORY OF ROCK BABBLING, but whatever.

We talked about early heavy metal today, and in the context of watching footage from Altamont, which I found really fascinating - I'd heard all about the concert and the tragedies and how it signified the end of the 1960s (both literally and symbolically) but I'd never actually seen the footage before. It was pretty amazing to watch the whole thing unraveling before your eyes. Anyway we talked about how both heavy metal and punk sort of arose from the concerns in the wake of the ending of the idealism and optimism that surrounded rock in the 1960s, and in conjunction with that, the rise of arena rock and the differences in concert experiences and the sense of community (I'll get back to that later.)

Listened to some music as per always - first "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin, which simply served to remind me just how much I fucking love Led Zeppelin (if that song doesn't move you, and my "move you" I mean make you need to get the fuck out of your seat and MOVE, then there's something wrong with you), and Black Sabbath, which served to remind me why I can't stand Black Sabbath. (If, by any chance, there is a Black Sabbath devotee in the blogosphere reading this, I apologize. I find Ozzy Osbourne's voice infuriatingly grating.) Also, Steve imitated the death metal voice (which was pretty funny, since imitations, along with the real thing, usually sounds like an unusually low-pitched cow being gored to death) and I contributed with an affirmation that that is, indeed, what death metal vocals sound like. I mention this because of the hilarity of virtually the entire classroom turning to look at me with an O RLY?? look on their faces. It was pretty funny.

The point of all of this is that it lead me to ruminate on rock concerts and their connective spirits in general. I've been to a lot of concerts (not as many lately, but I went to a lot in middle school and high school), with my first attendance being the Lilith Fair when I was about eight. (Well, I guess technically my first concert was in the womb - my mom went to see 10,000 Maniacs while she was about 8 months pregnant with me. Incidentally, Natalie Merchant played at the Lilith Fair I attended.) Maybe I didn't feel it at that concert because I was too young - I can't remember it very well - but at virtually every concert I've ever attended, whether it was Bob Dylan or Hanson or Evanescence (yes, those last two are embarrassing, but suck it), I've always felt an extremely strong sense of community and transcendence.

The strongest I ever felt that was definitely at the Dylan concert which I just mentioned, and when I went to see Fiona Apple. When I went to see Dylan, it was without a doubt the most chill concert I have ever attended. There were always people shoving and yelling at every other concert I'd ever been to and I never minded, because it's exciting and it comes with the territory anyway. But this? It was a GA concert, which usually calls for complete mayhem, but my friends and I walked right up to the second row from the stage without the slightest problem. Maybe it was because virtually everyone there was high, but it was so ridiculously relaxed. Waiting for Dylan got very, very tedious. There were three (THREE) opening bands, and I ended up standing in the same couple of square feet for about six hours. It was an unusually cold day in September, and it was wet and cold and uncomfortable. But finally, finally Dylan came out, and then nothing else mattered.

I'm not going to lie and say he was a perfomer in his prime, or anything close to it. He played behind a keyboard, hunched so that we could barely see him. There were no asides to the audience, no banter. His voice was scratchy and thin, and when we did see him, he looked tired. But when he played "Lay, Lady, Lay" I nearly fucking died.

The best moments, though - without a doubt - came during the encore. First he played "Rainy Day Women" (more popularly known as "Everybody Must Get Stoned") and I could hardly even believe he was playing THAT song - of all the things. Everyone started getting out their joints and bongs (as if they weren't all high enough already) and the security guards were all looking around to check if people were getting high, considering the song, which was pretty funny on its own. And then he played "Like a Rolling Stone."

Which was just...I mean, it just felt so historic, and I think it was then that it occurred to me that I was watching Bob f'ing Dylan. When he played the chorus the lights went up on us, and he gave us this little half smile and shook his head, like we were such silly kids for following him like this. Because it was so obvious he would have played the same song the same way whether we were there or not, and it was like we were just allowed to be there and watch. And that's okay. Because he's Bob fucking Dylan and it was true - WE were the priveleged ones.

And after it was over, he took a bow, and made these bizarre hand gestures, and took off his hat (he was wearing this really weird top hat kind of thing - he looked like some kind of pervy Confederate soldier in his suit and reedy little mustache) and - I shit you not - sprinked out glittering dust at us. Dylan dust.

And then, just a couple of minutes later, as we were leaving the field, it started raining.

Fiona Apple was even more communal. Let me start this by saying that I have loved Fiona Apple just about since I turned double digits. There is no musician - nor do I think there ever will be - that has affected me on the personal level the way that she has. If I have a passion for music, it is because of her. I remember one day back in 8th grade (my lowest year, and one of my lowest day) when I came home early from school feeling ill and desolate, and turned on Tidal and closed my eyes. Sometimes that album soothes me in a way nothing else can. I knew every in-and-out of her voice on that album, when every instrument comes in, every word she sings. It's weird to think that I am now the age she was when the album came out.

I went to see her in my junior year of high school. It was a weekday and I didn't go to school. Some people were astonished that my parents let me not go to school to go to a concert, and I told them that if they didn't let me, I would have found a way to hitchhike.

When I went to see her I expected to cry when she was onstage, I expected to sing along to the songs or mouth the words at the very least - but I did none of that. I was too hypnotized. When she was onstage she was so jittery and tiny and mercurial, with her tiny skinny body and her giant eyes. She never sat or stood still, she was always kicking her feet and wiggling her arms and jutting herself out in a strange, nonrhythmic dance. She has absolutely terrible posture. And she had more stage presence than anyone I had ever seen, because there was the knowledge that at any time, she would go from mercurial to catastrophe. When she sang she went so deep that it was almost frightening - and heartbreaking - to watch. I knew that the last time she had toured, she'd had a nervous breakdown, retreated, and ended up holing up in an apartment for a couple of years with no furniture in her house.

There was a moment, midway through the show, when her face started contorting - at first, I thought she was going to have a seizure, and then there was this deathly, deathly angry look in her face. It turned out that the crew was screwing up the mike and let me tell you, Fiona was freaking out. She looked like she could hardly bear it. She looked like she was going to start tearing out her hair, she was storming around the stage - and the band hardly looked even surprised, which made me figure that this was probably a fairly regular occurrence.

And then an amazing thing happened - the audience, myself included, started to sing the song for her. There was this outpouring of love, of compassion - all I wanted was to hug her and tell her that she didn't have to finish the set. She didn't have to try so hard, she didn't have to dig this deep for us, she didn't have to torture herself beyond the point of losing self-control with the depth of these emotions for our sake.

I knew that she'd had no intention of releasing her album until she heard about the uproar her fans were making - they'd thought the record label was holding off on releasing it and they (we) were campaigning to get it released. It turned out that Fiona had recorded an earlier version, scrapped it, and had no intention of returning in the forseeable future. She realized how much people actually wanted her back. And she re-recorded it, released it, and went in tour.

She finished the song, and finished the set, but for awhile, it felt like we were holding her up, giving her our strength when she was searching to give us what she felt our devotion had warranted from her. And for the love of the music, which so clearly is her passion.

It was definitely the most communal, the most transcendent, the most extraordinary concert experience I had ever had.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Well, I went to see Cuentos de Eva Luna with Lisa (and some HopKids) last night. It was really great - reminded me of how much I love Isabel Allende. I've read Eva Luna, but not the sequel, Stories of Eva Luna, on which the play is based (one of very few Isabel Allende books I actually haven't read - I'm pretty sure I've read all her novels at this point.) Back in high school, and when I was entering college, one of the big things that motivated me to continue taking Spanish to a higher and higher level was so that I could read her books in the original Spanish. Of course, I've totally abandoned that...I haven't taken Spanish since my junior year of high school and therefore have lost almost all of it, but maybe I'll take it up again someday.

It was odd to me to see a play after not actually having been involved with one in so long - because I could imagine the work that went into it, imagine the endless rehearsals and the set designing and the lighting fuckups and the constant line-forgetting, because I've done it before, and at the same time be unable to see it, since I was only seeing the finished product. It felt kind of strange.

I do miss acting occasionally. It was never a passion of mine or anything, but I did really like it in spite of my horrible stage fright which I never got over, no matter how many times I was up in front of an audience. I think I was good at it, at least reasonably. People always told me they could never see my nerves when I was onstage, even though on the inside I always felt like vomiting all over my shoes.

By far and away the best role I ever had (and the most fun I ever had doing a play, which is even more important for my purposes) was as Gwendolen in the Importance of Being Earnest junior year. Part of it was the role and the play itself, which was so funny and so fantastic, but also the fact that Evie was Cecily and we had such a ridiculous amount of fun doing it together. The Gwendolen-Cecily dynamic is fairly accurate for the two of us, too (not that we ever hated each other, but our general characters.) So naturally that made it even more fun.

So in the past 24 hours I've watched 3 Hitchcock movies. Who's surprised? I'm not surprised. I do tend to get obsessive about these things. I was taking advantage of my Netflix's "instant queue" feature, and so I watched Psycho last night (not the best one to choose to watch late in the day, let me tell you), Vertigo earlier this afternoon, and Dial M for Murder later this afternoon. Psycho I found terrifying, Dial M for Murder was entertaining (and, my God, I could watch a whole film of close-ups of Grace Kelly's face - she is absolutely astounding), but Vertigo was the one that really got to me, especially after reading further reviews. The layers of manipulation, of creation and destruction and insanity, was so intense and so affecting. I also thought it interesting (and strange) to read that people had apparently at first criticized Kim Novak's acting as poor and overly stiff, because I thought she was absolutely wonderful. It was certainly one hell of a role, but I thought she was great. (Then again, what do I know? This was certainly my reaction to it, though.)

Psycho definitely fucked with my mind as well, although in a different way. It was so terrifying because so much of what happens in that movie is so simple and so plausible. The characters are ordinary people who get in complicated situations, and one man who, although he is undoubtedly completely criminally insane, is...normal in a way, too. Even after I knew he was a killer I found myself watching with a strange sense of sympathy, because of the obvious way that Hitchcock turned him into the protagonist. Whether you hate him or not, you are inside his head in some way and waiting to see what happens to him. (Also, if by some chance there are film buffs reading this, I apologize. These are the observations of a novice!)

What I really, really want to see is his adaptation of Rebecca. I absolutely love the book, and I'm sure his adaptation is fantastic. However, for some bizarre reason, it is not available on Netflix. What the hell, Netflix? WHY YOU GOTTA LET ME DOWN LIKE THAT? They might have it at the video rental place here, though. They have the craziest things there, so I'm told.

Parting thoughts: a couple of weeks ago, Lisa and I were randomly combing Northampton, going to record stores, used clothing places, and so forth - the usual haunts - and we went to this antique store which had a lot of things I really loved (and I generally strongly dislike antique stores, so that's saying a hell of a lot.) One of the things I came across was an illustrated children's book by Edward Gorey, which I now really wished I'd picked up, especially as it was only 1.25 or somewhere around there. Google image offers the following illustration, among many others:

Maybe I'm showing my 19 years of age and my wannabe gothiness a little too much, but I really, really enjoy his artwork and aesthetic. Dark and childlike and playful. I really wish I'd picked up that book now.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

So I kind of love Christina Rossetti. We just read her in my English Literary Tradition class (I hated a lot of the reading in that class early on, but it's starting to pick up now. Anything but Wordsworth. Ugh.) and while we read her in my Victorian Sexualities class too (best class EVER - we read Victorian porn, for Chrissakes) I think I like her even better in this class. We mainly focused on "Goblin Market," and justifiably so, especially since it's about lesbian sisters. No, really. It's about sisters who save each other through their female sexuality with each other and by breaking away from the evil temptations of men. It's about other things, too, but that aspect is the most fun.

I love her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti even more (and not just because every one of his three names is made of awesome), who was mostly a painter, but he wrote poems too - among them a wonderful poem about a prostitute called "Jenny," which I wrote a paper on for Victorian Sexualities. He didn't do this painting, but he married the model for it (and she modeled for others of Rossetti's paintings, too):

I love that painting. So hard. When I was sitting on in a Smith class during April visit days, I visited Art and Death, a class I ended up taking my first semester at Smith, and students were doing presentations on their independent research projects of artworks depicting death. What I love about that painting - which has so much to do with the poetry of Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, too - is the incredible sensuality of it while also being incredibly morbid and kind of creepy. And it's of Ophelia, which makes it that much cooler. It's by John Everett Millais.

Speaking of art, my American Studies class has assigned us an art project, of which I heartily approve. When my mom was up here for the weekend a couple of weeks ago, we went to the art museum (whenever my mom is here I end up doing the kind of Smith things I always feel like I should be doing) and we were completely fascinated by this really bizarre surreal painting that we saw. Anyway, it turns out that that particular painting is one of the options for our project! I'm psyched. It's called Mourning Picture, and it's by an American painter named Edwin Romanzo Elmer:

The scan is a little muddy - the colors are actually a lot sharper - but the creepy surreal feeling, the flatness, and the strangeness of the perspective is definitely still visible. (Although the blogger scan doesn't show the entire thing - you should click on it to see the end right corner. It is worth it.) I love it. It's like the coolest thing I ever done seen.
I know, I know, my nerd is showing. /sigh Can't be helped, I guess.

Probably going to see Cuentos de Eva Luna with Lisa tonight. I'll definitely go at some point - it's a very happy thing that Lisa often forces me to get out and be social (she nearly forced me to give my phone number to some possibly underage guy on Saturday, but that's a story for another day), and Isabel Allende is one of my very favorite writers. Really, it's the only logical thing. (And I'm ALL ABOUT THE LOGIC, right?)