Saturday, May 12, 2007

coffee and cigarettes

[delete whiny stuff]

moving on. must . . . shop? (a light) . . . go see the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie at Brewvies (where i can get a real beer, which always sounds great but i know i'll end up w/ a JUMBO DIET COKE instead) . . . revamp my c.v.? what i did do? here is me: i watched Junebug last night, and there is a scene in which Madeline (great name), the lovely Chicago museum curator who is visiting her husband's provincial Southern family, sneaks a smoke (telling "Mom Peg," "don't tell name of husband"). she lights up, and you can see it . . . you can see the relief of that first clandestine drag. it's what keeps me coming back. i smoke about 10-12 times/year. i'm not addicted and usually think it's horrifying to be around smoke or smokers (except while drinking, of course; i'm an honest cliché). but when i decide it's time, it's quite lovely. sometimes, it's a "bad cigarette," as in, you light it and just know that now is not the time. you must put it out and forget about it. but if it's time, it's time. and last night, watching that scene, it felt like time. and i'm not talking about "oh how awful that movies portray smoking and make us want to smoke" because this is something different, and it's always more complicated than that (thanks, Stuart Hall. thanks John Fiske).

[remove stuff complaining about administrative smackdown on travel budget]

most of what i care about is live performance. maybe this is why the book is such a struggle. a really fine colleague told me the other night, after we'd shared some champagne as i helped her input her C's proposal at the website, that she would never write a book. i believe that she meant it. and she is incredibly smart and accomplished in the ways i'd always imagined my ideal self (growing own veggies, super sporty, speaks 3-4 languages, publishes in the best journals, etc., etc.). and i heard her. she had decided. and while she might change her decision, i heard that. and i've been tempted to say the same thing w/ the same force, but i know what i do and where i am and what this thing is about. so i keep moving in that direction. i don't know. this makes me want a cigarette. ca va.

i want to work on (and finish) my screenplay (the one most likely to be completed). i don't have big illusions about its success, and i know that everyone writes a screenplay, but i need to do it anyway. just for me. image and text and all about my vision. selfish like that. like smoking.

nothing about coffee (see entry title). i just love Jarmusch, especially on the tails of having seen (finally) Broken Flowers (which was apparently, at one time, entitled Dead Flowers . . . Broken is much nicer, i think). there is a little documentary, a very short "making of" type thing. Jarmusch talks about filmmaking and chaos theory and just doing it, getting talented people together and having a go. J says it's sort of like Mike Leigh's work (did i mention that i got to meet Brenda Blethyn at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival? she's amazing). but so, J on going w/ it -- i love him for that. i love to hear artists who inspire by simply doing their work. there is something in that for me. shut up and write. shut up and shoot. but then, J participated in the doc, so there's participation in the metadiscursive process (i felt the need to say something smartypants).

of course, Jarmusch's Dead Man is probably his best film. i love to talk w/ students in my writing courses about the ways in which we apply different lenses to a reading and emerge with very different things to say about a text, in this case, a film. a nice little exercise is to look at these 3 plot summaries of the film . . . and wait . . .

. . . this is fun because you barely need to ask, 1.) do you have a sense of what this film is about? 2.) which one does that most clearly for you? 3.) why? for some, the third summary is best, but then we examine the ways in which it gestures so desperately at cleverness that we lose track of the plot (this being, after all, a plot summary). and while plot summaries (any summary) can inflect, can't avoid inflecting the summary writer's perspective, they sometimes do so at the expense of clarity. i know, i know . . . i write and speak often about how we emphasize clarity at the expense of complexity, but of course in certain contexts, you want a writer to say it simply (this is my complaint about the Sundance Film Guides . . . they seem to work so hard at selling cleverness that we are often left w/ a description that does little more than impress us w/ big vocabularies; it works for some readers, but i imagine others are left wanting). but so the exercise. after exploring the questions (above) we look at the essential differences and the not so essential but maybe more subtle differences, we debate our reasons for leaning more toward one review than another, and we reflect upon how/when/why we move toward cleverness and sometimes sacrifice a simple meaning that may be more effective, in context (i'm as guilty -- if not moreso -- than anyone; i offer examples of my voluminous mistakes in this area, which is always good for a slightly uncomfortable laugh). and then i ask them to see the film and write a plot summary and/or review (but nobody has ever taken me up on this. nobody. ha. ha.)

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