Sunday, December 10, 2017

as the Buddha said

be ordinary as fuck

a night with Mr T

a couple of weeks ago my good friend b. and i were hanging out drinking a few beers and bullshitting.  it's what we do.  he asked me if i wanted to see the comedian Christopher Titus.  i said hell yes.  i remember Titus eponymous sitcom from the early 2000s, co-starring stacy keach as the comedian's abusive, alcoholic father.  that's Titus stand-up act: the fuck up high school drop-out who survived a nightmare of a childhood.  i could, on a couple of levels relate.

but i forgot about our date.  the next few weeks are gonna be packed with activities.  holiday stuff, poetry stuff, family stuff.  did you know nick will be thirteen years old next week?  that blows my mind.  i recall my own thirteenth birthday like it was, almost, yesterday.  now i have a son who has reached such a remarkable age.  so i wasn't thinking about seeing Titus at the Crest Theater tonight.  until b. called this afternoon and reminded me of our date.

my yes stayed yes.  b. went online, purchased our tix, and said he'll pick me up at 7:00.

my neighborhood is well-known in Sac.  well, the well-known part of the neighborhood begins a few streets behind mine. this is the part of Sac that is called the Fab 40s.  the Fab 40s is full of mansions on tree-lined streets and is picture-perfect.  indeed, the neighborhood is prominently featured in the movie Lady Bird [2017].  and it really gussies itself up for the holiday season.  when b. and i were settling into our seats at the Crest anna texted me a photo of the 40s.  she and nick took a long walk in the neighborhood, and. man!, the traffic, both vehicle and foot, as well as horse-drawn carriages and party buses, are crazy.

i  don't know why i wrote the previous paragraph except so the holidays matter a great deal in these parts.  downtown Sac has really lit up the past year since the new Kings Golden 1 Arena opened.  traffic and activity has increased so when b. picked me up to go see Titus he had to contend with a shitload of people and stuff and going to and fro.

the Crest Theater has been around since the 1920s.  it has wonderful inlays and lighting.  it has survived misuse and neglect.  it has survived several administrations and changing tastes.  it has survived, period.  and i hadn't been inside the theater for several years.  the Trash Film Orgy -- now no more -- a paean to cheap exploitation movies and silliness, set up shop at the Crest.  b. tells me he, and c., saw a great performance by Thomas Dolby here at the Crest.  i've seen punk shows, films, and plays at the Crest.

now i've seen Christopher Titus at the Crest.  now Titus' themes run the gamut from a thinking, angry, white trash young man to an older thinking, white trash man.  his set includes a lot of current events and politics.  and this being the year that is the start of the end of civilization as we know it, Titus talked about last year's election, the current occupant in the oval office and the general mean [both in the average, and the asshole, definitions] of the US voter.

was he funny?  Titus had his moments.  the house sound was shitty.  Titus is such a fast talker that his words often blurred together.  both b. and i shrugged our shoulders when the rest of the audience was doubled up in laughter.  Titus did nail our crazy age when he talked about the willed stupidity of the average american.  how, in an age when we all carry nearly all of human knowledge in our pack pockets, and with just a couple of mouse clicks, or taps with our fingers, we can find out about nearly almost everything, including science, history, mathematics, art, geography, and -- gulp! -- facts, can we remain so purposely stupid.

that is a good question.  one that can't be answered by a few op-eds, or stand up comedy acts.  instead, b. and i set thru Titus' performance laughing when we could.  the audience skewed toward the older spectrum.  b. and i are both 50 and we weren't the oldest dudes in the audience.  we weren't the youngest either.  but it seems the audience got their money's worth.  Christopher Titus said his hero is George Carlin.  Carlin is one of my heroes too.  in fact, i think of George Carlin as a philosopher.

and yet, Carlin took a firm stance in the shit of things.  Stevens said, reality is the base, but it is only the base.  that is the base where all good comics start from too.  the base for Titus is looser ground.  our footing is not so sure.  Titus wants to please both sides of the conflict.  Carlin knew that you can't please both sides.  i don't blame Titus.  i would like to please all sides too.  but by doing so might mean the base is built on shaky ground.

at any rate, Titus does comedy as well as he can and he can be quite funny.  his sitcom was good.  when he talks about his dysfunctional childhood and family he is hilarious.  but topical, political, comedy?  i'll leave that for others to judge.

we left the theater in good spirits.  we drove around downtown and Old Sac to see the city dressed in its nighttime finest.  Old Sac is a tourist destination but it has a few clubs and restaurants.  this time of year it has a Christmas Light Show that is quite entertaining.  downtown is quite lively and the Golden 1 Arena is pretty at night.

but Midtown is where the night life lives.  we drove thru a few club sections, such as the L St corridor and Lavender Heights.  lots and lots of young, and youngish, people out on the town.  we were tourists in our own town driving among her streets.  and then it was time to go to our respective homes, and say goodnight.   

Saturday, December 09, 2017

by 'home' i mean earth
by 'our' i mean

all of us

brothers & sisters

this is our home

reading/writing/viewing is the resistance

Friday, December 08, 2017

don't get pithy with me

poetry

          is the art
the craft of speaking
even when you don't know
what to say

Thursday, November 30, 2017

note to self #322

in a dark time read some poems write some poems too for it is in the act of language can you redeem the age

shed your ego practice humility you are one of billions

remember there are poets greater than you that have survived far worst things

quote unquote

Cutting hay, chopping wood, cooking food.  Pacing to and from in the yard.  Looking at the weather, contemplating, reading a bit during my breaks.  Thus I pass the day.  The weather answers with a shower, then sunlight breaking through the clouds.

--olav h hauge, translated from the norwegian by olav grinde [luminous spaces: selected poems & journals; white pine press, 2016]

Friday, November 24, 2017

cocktail [1988]

i don't know if one is born with a movie obsession or if said obsession is developed and cultivated by an lifetime exposure to cinema.  i can't identify when my own love of movies developed.  i had a lot of help developing my love because i had parents who enabled my movie-going habits by taking me and my brothers to the drive-in theaters -- of which sac and the greater sacramento area had in abundance -- and the many local matinee theaters.  it is useful to note that when i was a wee pup there was no internet, no DVDs or VHS tapes, and even TV was pretty crappy.  if you wanted to see a movie you better get your ass to the theater before it went away, forever!  in short, i got in the habit of going to the movies all the time.

which might explain why i saw this movie upon its release in 1988.  i am no tom cruise fan.  i did -- do -- have a long-standing crush on co-star elisabeth shue, and bryan brown, who plays cruise's bartender mentor in this flick under review, is always an onscreen delight.  cocktail is not a good movie, nor is it a movie so bad it is good.  and yet, i have an affection for it.  not the least because it stars the aformentionened elisabeth shue.  but i did see this flick in the theaters with my brother, his date, and the girl i was dating at the time.  it was an important time for me as i was regaining my health after a long bout of severe panic disorder.

sitting in a darkened theater for a couple of hours was no mean feat to me at the time.  this tom cruise vehicle was the perfect foil against my anxiety for it barely has any drama.  or plot.  watching this pic was like a flat sine wave that signals neither despair, fear, or anger.  the movie is also a document of its time, the 1980s, a decade that liked to think of itself as dashing with a flash of gritty class.  cruise plays a young man working on his degree.  he dreams of striking it rich.  he works as a bartender and discovers he has a talent for mixing drinks, and for performance behind, and on top, of the bar.  cruise is shortly taken under wing by brown and together they become famous as the bottle heaving duo of manhattan.  their choreographed numbers where they juggle booze bottles in the air like circus performers punctuated by poems decried as they stand on the bar to their audience cum customers becomes legend.

these bartenders' dream is to open their own place in the big city called cocktails and dreams.  and yet, ambition, greed and pride get in their way.  cruise scurries off to jamaica to tend bar on the beach and brown goes in to debt as he courts the hoi polloi.  when they meet again it is over drinks on brown's yacht.  but before then, cruise meets 'nice girl' -- i put that phrase in quotes because i think such labels are stupid, and yet that is how she is described in the film and in the press package -- shue.  she is from a rich family who thinks cruise is scum.  whatever will he do?

i won't bore you with the details.  this movie gravitated into my orbit last week when i watched it on TV after last seeing it a couple of decades ago.  man!  this movie is so '80s frrom its synth soundtrack -- including a number from the beach boys that hit the charts in 1988, to its dayglo lighting, and miami vice-type sets.  the 1980s was supposed to be about glitz and lucre.  i guess all eras like glitz and lucre, but in the '80s these things were made onscreen, and in literature, as the apex of civilization.  and this flick is no different in that claim for money as the highest value.  both cruise and brown get what they want, money, but each pay a different price for it.  and cruise does get the girl.  shue's character is written more as decoration for cruise and less as a full-blooded human being, and yet her talent prevents her character from being a shell of a person.  even in such a limited role elisabeth shue is graceful and deep.

furthermore, we rarely get these kind of comedy/dramas in the multiplexes anymore.  i suppose these kinds of stories are found today on streaming platforms.  and yet, the pleasure of going to the movies, the act of buying the tickets, standing in line for the popcorn, and settling into your seat as the dark descends and the trailers begin, is magic.  one that i lost focus because i watch most of my movies at home either on TV, disc or streaming platforms.  lately i have broken my shell and i've seen several movies in the theater since the summer.  the tickets are usually bought online using my smart phone.  the multiplexes have become something else, a place where you can buy lunch, have a beer or glass of wine, and the chairs are barcaloungers replete with headrests and footstools.  but the buying of the popcorn has not changed.  i find comfort in that last fact, let it always be salty, buttery and crunchy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

when it is time for the big paperclip let us call his yawp

the love/hate songs of a greaser/hippie/punk

Sunday, November 19, 2017

lady bird [2017]

i want to watch this movie again, and again, and again, and again.  right off the bat, this is a miracle of a film.  it might be the best coming-of-age movie in a long time.  sacramento native, greta gerwig, wrote and directed a love letter to her natal city, and crafted the most loving story of the relationship between mother and daughter.  the people are real, gritty, flawed, sweet, petty, and large hearted as the people we know.

saoirse ronan plays christine 'lady bird' mcpherson a senior at a catholic high school who is developing in to the person she is meant to be.  her mother, marion, played by laurie metcalf, is a psychiatric nurse who must work extra shifts at the hospital because her husband, lady bird's father, larry, played by tracy letts, was laid off his job as an engineer.  lady bird is not her given name.  it is an invention by lady bird herself, a gift to the creation of identity.

the year is 2002-2003.  lady bird's parents are struggling financially, but they are not poor.  lady bird is cut from the same cloth as her mother, marion, both are strong, independent, intelligent women.  these qualities lead to frequent fights and misunderstandings.  and yet, there is a tenderness under the surface tension.  larry is a sweet natured man who is quietly shouldering his own burdens.

and yet and yet, the delight filmmaker gerwig provides to her characters never leaves the screen.  good god, this movie is beautifully written, expertly directed, wonderfully photographed and awesomely edited.  lady bird and marion suffer loss and heartache, but no one, i mean, no one, beginning with lady bird's first boyfriend and love, to the hip kids she later hangs out with, are made the enemy.  indeed, there is a scene, after a betrayal, between lady bird and her first love, that is so sweet and so beautiful that i choke up just thinking about it as i type.

i can go on and on about the beauty of this movie and the reality of its conceits and characters.  i know, you know, these people.  lady bird and marion are people you know in your own lives.  and what can i say about greta gerwig's treatment of my own beloved hometown.  for she made a love letter to sacramento.  the thrust of most of this flick is centered in my own backyard.  i was wondering how the hell could i have missed the film crew as it shot many scenes where i live.  i mean, really, the neighborhood where i live is prominent in this film.  i didn't see any film crews during production of this movie even tho they shot prominently my neighborhood, such as the rose garden in mckinley park, where lady bird falls in love, is just two blocks from where i am sitting right now.  hell, gerwig and co. even put my family's favorite dive burger stand, cookie's, located on h street, in this flick.  i was agog by what i saw onscreen.  because, yes, there has been several movies and TV shows that are supposed to be sacramento, but gerwig's movie is the first one i've seen that makes sacramento a central character, and photograph the city as a real place.

you might wonder if my love for my city blinds me to the flaws of this flick.  i give an emphatic no.  this is a perfect movie.  i say that soberly, and matter-of-fact-ly.  i didn't want this movie to end.  i wanted to stay in the company of lady bird, marion, larry, the rest of her family, and friends for hours and hours.  but even the ending of this movie is precise, hits just the right note.  this movie is perfectly cast, beautifully acted, gorgeously shot and edited, and superbly written and directed. this is the first movie written and directed by greta gerwig.  i think we have a major talent in our midst.  i can't wait to see her next film.

see this movie.  i beseech you.  witness the flawed beauty of its characters, and of my beloved city.  i don't know how else to end this review.  this is a movie that has you fall in love, with life, again.