Random interesting stuff!

OK, it’s been awhile because I’ve been so busy with fun things! Three new classes–and ONLY three–enabling me to give the students really good attention AND to learn the new online learning format our school has adopted. So far I like it a lot.

I’m going to share some random things that interest me or make me happy!

Here’s one–two of my favorite actors, and truly GORGEOUS individuals, with a long-standing marriage (for Hollywood) have a new baby! Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, congrats!

My love affair with Netflix streaming deepens. I downgraded my membership to the streaming-only version, since I was not too good about watching those DVDs promptly and turning them around. The streaming films are abundant and I’ve already got a queue of, gulp, 500.

One of my favorites of late is “An Awfully Big Adventure“.

The Netflix description: “Set in post-World War II England, this bittersweet coming-of-age tale follows 16-year-old Stella (Georgina Cates), a star-struck lass who joins a low-rent theatre troupe led by cruel monocled director Meredith Potter (Hugh Grant). Immediately smitten with Potter, the impressionable Stella instead ends up in the bed of the company’s star, erstwhile matinee idol P.L. O’Hara (Alan Rickman) — a hopeless bounder — when Potter rejects her.”

I LOVE Alan Rickman and he is sexy and complex in this visually rich film.

Netflix–“Cast out of the house by her grief-stricken father after she accidentally causes the death of her mother, Dina (Maria Bonnevie) is left to raise herself, until a tutor and a wealthy man named Jacob (GĂ©rard Depardieu) intervene. In time, Dina marries Jacob and puts her shrewd instincts to work for his business — which, upon his suspicious death, Dina inherits over the objections of his two sons. Ole Bornedal directs this epic drama set in Norway.”

MUSIC! Harold and I are in love with a new band, thanks to his Three Amigos Trio bandmate, David Masher. Thanks for turning us on to Southern Culture on the Skids, David! This is one of their many groovin’ music videos, Soul City. Give it a look and listen. Their bassist is one hot and talented chick with a great selection of wigs and licks.

In the “books I adore” category, I urge you to check out the mysteries of Tana French, all set in or around Dublin.
“Faithful Place” is her latest, and most reviewers regard it as her best. I loved all of her books, however, and read them in quick succession, and did not get much done during that total Tana French immersion. I don’t regret it, and I don’t think you will regret becoming acquainted with this gifted novelist, who combines complex, well-developed characters with gripping plots. On top of all that, she’s a stunning red-haired beauty. Just an observation.


Good Men Doing Nothing

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, inner right wing, detail

Like so many other Americans, since yesterday’s outrageous carnage in Arizona, I’ve been struggling with shock, horror, and a sense of despair about our country’s path. Surely, I’ve been thinking, we’re entering some new era of depravity. I was just revisiting that thought when my “This Day in History” widget dealt me this little gem: “1349: Suspected of causing bubonic plague, the entire Jewish population of Basel, Switzerland is incinerated.”

No, Virginia, mankind is not becoming gradually more hospitable to unspeakable evil. Evil has always occupied a seat of honor at humanity’s table.
Our good friends at Westboro Baptist Church are girding their loins, shaking their cans of spray paint, and preparing to make an appearance at the funerals for the victims of yesterday’s shootings–one of whom was a nine-year-old girl.
Of course the question is not whether hatred, intolerance, bigotry, bloodlust, powerlust, greed, warmongering, and other aspects of evil are growing more powerful, more common. The question is: what are we going to do about it?
No; what am I going to do about it. Sporadically I have berated myself for not making more of a public stand for values I cherish, and against the wrongs that relentlessly batter millions less fortunate than I.
German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a letter from a Nazi prison camp in which he was held for his part in a plot to assassinate Hitler, wrote the following:Here and there people flee from public altercation into the sanctuary of private virtuousness. But anyone who does this must shut his mouth and his eyes to the injustice around him. Only at the cost of self-deception can he keep himself pure from the contamination arising from responsible action. In spite of all that he does, what he leaves undone will rob him of his peace of mind. ”
Of course, it was Blaise Pascal who wrote: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Good people are not doing enough. I am not doing enough. But what do we do? What can I do?

Gritty and true

True Grit. Incredible movie. The original came out in 1969, when I was 8 years old and ready for hero worship. Kim Darby’s strong, dignified, brave and idiosyncratic Mattie Ross fit the bill. I’ve just discovered that Kim has a website, and a big, adoring fan base, and well she should. A film starring such swaggeringly manly, hot, and gifted as John Wayne, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall and, yes, a sexy young Glen Campbell–that does not sound like a recipe for a movie crying out for a remake. You can see the original, by the way, Saturday night (Jan. 8) at 8:00 pm. Did you know that if you look a movie up on the IMDb site, marginal notes will tell you when the film is upcoming on TV? But I digress, as usual.
What I mean to say is, the Coen Brothers did it up right.
Monday night I went to True Grit with my dear friend Dan. Dan and I both love movies and observe similar “movie etiquette”. Talking is fine during the previews, but once the film starts we each enter our private experience of the film, and we don’t feel the need to talk much afterwards. We like to process. He is MY movie buddy. You can’t have him.
Anyway, from the first moment the Coens weave a world of violence and dust, opportunism and venality, cowardice, drunkenness; a dried up, sepia hell of tawdry vice. Against this dispirited, cynical world stands our young, stubbornly virtuous heroine, Mattie Ross. The mesmerizing tale unfolds in all its gritty–what else?–glory.
Young Hailee Steinfeld is a worthy successor to Darby in the role of Mattie. Jeff Bridges embodies Rooster Cogburn in a way that is wonderful to see. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin enter their characters so completely they scarcely look like themselves. The acting is so good that the casting of these big-name stars presents no obstacle to the suspension of disbelief that is, for me, key to total movie enjoyment.
The movie versions of True Grit are very well-known, but they are based on a splendid book by Charles Portis. Noir fiction master George Pelicanos discusses the enduring power of the book in this NPR interview. An excerpt of the book is included on the NPR page, so you can get a taste of Mattie’s unique, even quirky, voice. You don’t have to love Western fiction to love this novel. I hope you will read it if you haven’t yet.

2011, A.D.D.

So, I woke up this morning at 5 and, unable to fall back to sleep, I thought I would edit some poems. I went to Google to start a search for the etymology of the word “nightmare”. I don’t know how this happened, but now it’s nearly 8 a.m. and I have redesigned my blog, lurked around Facebook, visited my email, edited several photos, and perused the British Museum’s online collection of ancient manuscripts . Having now realized I forgot to research the word “nightmare”, I am tempted to go back to sleep. What is wrong with my brain?

I’ve recently been reading Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Carr asserts (with some pretty convincing supporting evidence) that we are turning our brains into frenetic hummingbirds. Reading the book, on my Kindle for PC, with several other windows open on the screen, highlighting portions for my upcoming media class and drifting about the internet for lesson plan ideas…..um, reading the book…..made me want to READ in the old-fashioned immersive way in which everything in the world disappears but the kingdom of words I have entered by curling on pillows in a spill of golden light and opening the wondrous material object formerly known as “book”. And I’m not a new media hating curmudgeon, mind you. My son would be quick to note that I am always wired to something. As a digital native, he is not so infatuated with the simulated flight of hyperlinking his way across the morning that feels, to me, like living in a Disney version of the Library of Alexandria. My childhood dreams come true–imagining any place in the world and transporting myself there instantly with my mind. Magic. It can even make three hours disappear, gone forever in a few clicks of the keys.
Oh, what the heck was I intending to write about? The Shallows? Yes, well, Michael Agger, writing in Slate, described Carr’s book as “a Silent Spring for the literary mind”. Carr, prior to publishing “The Shallows”, had already provided plenty of curriculum fodder for media studies classes with his Atlantic Article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”. NPR’s “All Things Considered” presented an interview with Carr in June 2010; it’s good listening and lays out the essential points of his concern.
Nightmare. Something about nightmare. Let me get back to you on this…..as soon as I can follow a thought to a conclusion.
(for some great articles and blog posts on this issue:

New Year


–Weed out my junk, inner and outer.

–Write more.
–See more of my friends.
–Skate some. Walk some.
–Keep this &%#$# blog!
Oh–and stop stockpiling for the “next catastrophe”. I had our cleaning goddess, Orianna, cull out three garbage bags full of expired canned goods from our basement. Shame. What’s left? Pasta, pasta, pasta. Also, I have eight cans of tuna, four cans of crab meat, seven tins of sardines, and four cans of corned beef hash to consume by April.
No problem. One can of said hash is this very moment developing a lovely crust in our big frying pan.
Speaking of catastrophe, one of the cats left me a turd outside the bedroom door this morning. This means the offending kitty carried the item up the basement stairs from the cat box. In its mouth. That’s motivation. They’ve been upset since we ran out of Greenies two weeks ago. Things are starting to escalate. Must get to Pet Quarters.
It seems I’m back in the writing biz! Had two poems accepted for the upcoming issue of The Cafe Review and just heard from John Berbrich that he’s taking two of mine for an upcoming issue of Barbaric Yawp. These publications and their editors have championed my work since early days and I’m so pleased to be breaking my rather long silence by a reappearance in their pages. I’ve also accepted an invitation to participate in a panel discussion at the 2001 Terry Plunkett Poetry Festival at UMA.
The publishers of Barbaric Yawp, John and Nancy Berbrich, have become dear friends over the years, and in two weeks I’ll be visiting them in their incredible book-crammed house in Russell, NY. Harold and I had a fantastic time with them when we visited a few years ago and I’ve decided to stop postponing the delight of a return visit and GO! Check out their website; they publish great chaps, too– two of mine, I’m fortunate to say.
I’m getting revved up for my “Mass Media and Popular Culture” class. It’s a hybrid this year, which gives me a lot more flexibility for using multimedia. Thanks to Harold, who turned me on to the series, I’ve been previewing episodes of the CBC’s great radio show “The Age of Persuasion” with Terry O’Reilly. O’Reilly really makes the ad world come alive. Starting this month, the series will be officially available in podcast. UNofficially, archived shows are available thanks to some enterprising blogger.
Time to eat that hash! Mmmm, mmmm!