Friday, April 16, 2010


Seems I have to clear the dust away here, it's been so long since I've had occasion to post at blogocentrism. Have I really been too busy or simply too distracted? I think the latter, and the distraction has come from several quarters: first, it's always in the post-spring break phase of the semester that events on campus greatly increase, so there's a lot to take in and seemingly no time to comment on it. On that score, here's a link to some of my thoughts on recent visits to campus by Terry Castle, David Shields, and James Longenbach: NHR.

Another distraction has come in the form of continuing to watch films, ostensibly for material for a series of poems I call "cinemagics," but also because I've started a Screen Time column at the New Haven Advocate to talk about non-first run or non-mainstream viewing in the area. Here's one on some '80s films, and another for the Environmental Film Festival at Yale (that's worth checking out to get the names of the films shown, many now coming to DVD).

I actually saw two films currently playing in theaters: Polanski's The Ghost Writer, and Noah Baumbach's Greenberg. The first very satisfying at a technical level (i.e., as something to look at) but not really as a story, though the scenes with Tom Wilkinson had such cold authority they really stayed with me; in the end, sleuthing via google and GPS just seems laughable; and Greenberg gives us Ben Stiller surprisingly watchable as a 40 year old guy we've no reason to like (he's so dullsville) as he tries to come to grips with the time of life he's now facing (middle-age) -- could've been improved by giving him more of a past to come down from; the show is stolen by Greta Gerwig who plays his much younger love interest and conveys well the feckless affect of the well-meaning twentysomething girl with decent instincts and not much depth.

On DVD I've been availing myself of things like Wings of Desire, An Education, Cold Souls, The Informant!, Up in the Air, John Hughes films, several movies featuring Marilyn Monroe (God, is The Seven-Year Itch unwatchable!), takes on the story of Christ from Scorsese, by way of Kazantzakis, and from Zeffirelli -- a made-for-TV venture from '77, and, on the theme of televised nostalgia, my favorite production of Chekhov's Three Sisters which I saw back in high school and haven't seen since -- with Janet Suzman, Eileen Atkins and Anthony Hopkins. Also saw an old b/w televised The Cherry Orchard with a girlish, twentysomething Judy Dench, a young Ian Holm as Trofimov (it would be fun to tally up all that guy's great supporting work), and his eminence, the majestic John Gielgud as the uncle.

Finally, there's my effort to try to get back to print material -- reading not only books I'm supposed to review (and sometimes actually do, as in this link to a review at QC of an oddball down-and-out Brit novel, complete with werewolf stories, by Martin Millar called Ruby and the Stone Age Diet), but also a backlog of poetry books that seem to be piling up around the place. This last task inspired by the latest from The Master (aka Ashbery), Planisphere, and The Common Man from Maurice Manning. Mayhaps I'll have something to say about them at some future date.

And if all that's not enough, there has been theater of note: comments on The Yale Rep's greatly entertaining A Servant of Two Masters, and on The Yale Cabaret's renderings of Evil Dead: The Musical, 4.48 Psychosis, and one helluva Salome. Then there was a review of MESs the dance/theater piece by the Japanese group Baby-Q which was fascinating.

What have I been listening to, you ask? Well, I finally got around to hearing Transference, the new one from Spoon and I think it's a step forward, at least in the dynamics of creating aural atmosphere via guitar sounds. We already knew they were composers of infectious songs.

And speaking of guitars: I've been getting lost in Guitar Hero Land with the "new" Hendrix release Valley of Neptune, an album that, in its unfinished glory, makes Hendrix feel part of our DIY days. It's got more astounding guitar, and that's what we pay him (or his ghost) for. And I've also become more than a casual Santana listener via the first album, the third, and Caravanserai (the fourth). Abraxas (the second) I've had for some time, but it's nice to set it in sequence and let the CD changer take it away. The third is the rip-roaring best, in my view, but Abraxas is quintessential.

There, that wasn't so hard, now if only cleaning up this place could be done so fast.

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