Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Haunting Halloween essay

I've heard about this guy for years, but never read a word until now. Just loved this Op-Ed piece in the NYT today. Magical.
Published: October 31, 2006

WE are gathered here at the final end of what Bradbury called the October Country: a state of mind as much as it is a time. All the harvests are in, the frost is on the ground, there’s mist in the crisp night air and it’s time to tell ghost stories. [cont]

why get out of bed

Had a surprising conversation today. A good friend and excellent producer shared, "my ego is tied up with helping others. The instinct is there even before the decision. If someone tells me I did a good job, I don't care. What I care about is that I helped someone else. And I think you and I are alike that way."

This felt like a gift. Not because we're a background support group, but because it's an attempt to make concrete what our instincts are, in the most positive way. That it's a choice, not a liability. It's that whole old truism about being comfortable in one's own skin. Sure, that 's often a physical understanding, but it's also about recognizing who you are, really are, and valuing that. I hadn't been asking. He just reached out across the table and handed that to me. It still feels good.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A pseudo boogeyman

I'm exhausted today. Not actual fatigue but more of an emotional, psychological drain. I had an inexplicable conflict with an associate this week. Inexplicable to me because I have only deep respect and care for him. In return, while he enjoys me, he too often hears my words with needle jabbed barbs. It's the strangest damned thing. Of course I've read about projection in the psychological sense but it's still surprising when I experience it. I get caught off guard when someone isn't dealing with the reality of me but brings in another dimension to get defensive about.

In this case it's clearly a matter of trust. I must remind him of someone who was always out to get him. Undercut him. Hurt him. Because he hears my innocent questions as accusations. When we talk it through it's always fine. It's on initial contact (often via email) that my words trigger him.

It reminds me a bit of our crazy landlord in Fiji, although of course not as extreme. Sometimes when I started to talk to Andrew he'd crouch and raise his hands in front of his face as if to gesture, "Don't hit me!" It was disturbing to say the least. It was clearly about someone else, in another time, when he was smaller and defenseless.

So my friend I tried to talk it through. We tried to come up with new processes to defuse the knee jerk pain. But it was hard, because the effect of the baggage is real, even if the boogeyman doesn't exist.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Testing out of Salsa Level One

At the dance studio I've been going to, you take level one salsa for three months before you can "test out" into level 2 . Tonight I did just that. Liked joining the club of the ones who are really into this. Doesn't mean I'll stop going to level one classes exactly, it just means I can add on level 2. More salsa every week. And tacit agreement with my peers - this is fun and we'll all in it together.

I almost never talk to anyone in class or before. Saturday I broke my silence and told this woman I've been admiring from afar that we were next to each other in yoga class the previous Sunday. "I thought that was you," she said. And during the next break she added, "And wasn't that you on KLRU for the Last Days of the San Jose? I was watching and thought, hey, she's in my dance class. Then I looked you up online. You had something to do with that Reel...Fiji... movie? How was that?"

"The movie or the experience?" I ask. "Both." she replied. And so the friendship begins. This woman I've been admiring for her looks and dance, is interested in me. Friendships are mysterious, as all attraction is. Later I saw her talking after class with one of my other favorites - the short, very cute Doctor. In fact, he's the only guy I've a clue what he does outside the studio. It feels like the circle is forming.

When I first went off to sleepaway camp I remember my dad saying, "You don't have to pick your new best friend the first day." It feels like that. It feels like it always does, how the strange newness dissolves into warmth and familiarity. People pick up on one another. Friendships form. At every age.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Rescue Dawn. Harrowing. Exciting.

Talk about harrowing, add Rescue Dawn to the list. Werner Herzog, one of my all time favorite filmmakers, is in top form. Back to back with Thin, the eating disorder documentary I saw the other night, this new film is almost unbearable to watch. Actors Jeremy Davies and the previously comic Steve Zahn, are wasted and emaciated. For real. Not actors wearing make-up or assisted with CGI. We're talking actors who appear starving and must have damaged their bodies. Yes, it's compelling work. Yes, it was so painful I could barely watch.

If you missed it, check out the excellent article by Daniel Zalewski on Herzog making this film in The New Yorker. April 24, 2006.

Not related to Rescue Dawn, but I have a special place in my heart for Herzog. I believe he's the patron saint of my marriage. Yes, the same Herzog who used to proclaim his imperative to widely spread his seed. I fell in love with his films en masse, in NYC, at Film Forum 2, in Fall 1981. New Yorker Films, the groundbreaking fine distribution company, was presenting a retrospective of both his work and Fassbinders, the two great prongs of the New German Cinema. I lived a block away. I'd just started working intensely in the administration of the Film Forum, and frankly, had nothing else going on. Every night I went back to the movies, and fell deeply in love with the majestic and soulful Herzog canon. During that time I also fell in love with the cinema's house manager.

When the series was over, we took home the 39" x 33" cardboard theatrical display. It's in my living room still, along with the guy. Werner's grandly ambitious and incomparable work figuring in again and again over the long years together.

What's in the water

I just heard about another new baby born last Sunday. To someone I know of course. I can't remember when I was aware of so many babies due or recently born since I had my own second child. And that made sense because it was all in the same circle of people who already had first kids all about the same age. Three years, a classic separation. This new baby boomlet is just random - parents not the same age, not in the same area, just people I keep coming across. Feels like a brand new generation. What will be the hallmarks?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Thin - the documentary. Devastating loss.

Saw Laura Greenfield's documentary Thin yesterday. (Know I keep writing about movies - never the intention but frankly, it is the force that much of my life revolves around.) It's harrowing, disturbing, and highly provocative. Greenfield focuses on some women undergoing treatment for eating disorders at the Renfrew Center in Florida.

They are beautiful women, shrunken. Not just their physiques with bones poking through their backs. Everything about them is less. Obsessed with control, they're way more girlish than women. They're shut down. Their lives are reduced to the smallest act - the act of denying food. The larger act is denying life. It's devastating to observe.

I've spent my life more overweight than not. In the moments I looked great, I certainly didn't know it. My frame at minimum is voluptuous. My older sister got the super model mold. So I've thought about wanting to be thin everyday of my life too. But not enough to deny life. Sure, I'm sure my size results from too big an appetite. But I refuse to limit my experience. I will not say No, No I don't want that. I will not deny myself life. I know one can use too much weight as a buffer too - a way of distancing, a way of taking oneself out of the game (as my father used to say.) There's got to be a happy medium. There's got to be some way for the majority of us to make peace.

Fascinating too to consider the documentary's effects on these subjects' lives. The filmmaker told me that several of the girls journaled that the crew's presence didn't affect their treatment. But I can't help but wonder how is that possible. At the core of anorexia and bulimia is secrecy, shame and hiding. How is that affected by ever present camera? They were in tiny spaces together. That means at least one, if not three or four people, were witnessing their intimate moments. I know what that's like. You try to ignore it because you agreed to. Because you believe there's real value in an honest representation. But it still changes the landscape. Was it a relief to finally be seen? Outside the constant hiding? The filmmaker said they were so entrenched in their disorders that they didn't have the energy to be anything other than authentic. In a couple of spots, you see some girls' purging. It's so clear they weren't acting for the camera. You see that their compulsion was so strong, that they couldn't hide it any more. It's just devastating. Hard to watch, but very worthwhile.

See Thin on HBO November 14, 2006 9:00 pm EST.
Companion Book

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The isolated and the news

Very much enjoyed Shut Up & Sing, the new Barbara Kopple documentary on the Dixie Chicks. It's an intimate look at these three musicians-moms-friends, caught in a topical maelstrom. It's up close and personal. You see them in the recording studio, backstage at concerts, with their kids, and in their kitchens. You see them often sitting with laptops on and open.

In fact, in one of the first scenes, you see them laughing and responding as someone reads out loud, the biting criticism from an online blog. How different is this phenonema in our lives? Sure, fans could always write fan mail and irate letters to the editor. But one never pictured the recipient actually reading the fan mail. Call in radio has the D.J. as buffer. Now we're talking about the Dixie Chicks personally reading what Joe Blow blogger has to say from behind his computer screen. Not new, I know. But amazing nonetheless.

I was struck similarly watching the superb The Queen a few weeks back at the New York Film Festival. In a brilliant performance by Hellen Mirren, we watch the isolated Queen, rattling around her large country house and castle, surrounded by a very few - her mother, her son, her husband, an assistant and perhaps a butler. Everything else she gets from the television or papers. Alone, in her bedroom, she watches the TV. The news is about her, and what she should or shouldn't be doing. It's about her daughter in law, her son, her grandchildren. It's media, but for her it's very, very personal.

I know I'm not saying anything new here. I just find it surprising to learn again and again, that our newsmakers learn the news the same way we all do. I find the images haunting.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Mortified and The Moth

This is hilarious. I hadn't heard of it before.

Mortified stars everyday adults reading aloud their most embarrassingly real teenage diary entries, poems, letters, lyrics and locker notes...in front of total strangers.

Not the same, but not totally unrelated is The Moth, a great storytelling series in NYC. I was privileged to curate an evening in June 2001. Titled In the Dark, Filmmakers Illuminate, it featured Peter Hedges, Bingham Ray, Caroline Kaplan, Darnell Martin, and Pamela Yates.

There's nothing like a good story well told.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

So long Women Having It All

Kinda sad. Just when I'm getting going (although it's been a quiet week), one of the blogs that inspired me is closing down. It's Women Having It all.

I bumped into it on a rare occasion when I was reading the Huffington Post and was instantly enamored. The title read:
Here's the unfolding story of two friends who worked as reporters at a major newspaper before their lives went in opposite directions. Lisa became a mother and reluctant housewife. Kelly stayed on the career track. Are they totally happy and fulfilled with the choices postmodern feminism has afforded them? No. Do they want each other’s lives? Yes. No, wait. No. Such is the dilemma of every female of a certain age. Sometimes having it all means doing what you feel least bad about at the time.
I'm not much of a fan of the mommy blogs I've come across. Sure I would have loved them when my kids were small, would have loved writing one then too, to help get through some of the tedium of those early years. But now they're almost grown, and I just can't deal with the precious minutiae. Yes it's defines your every waking hour for years. But when it's over, it's over. Women Having It All was funny and engaging because of the contrast. And I really got a kick out of Kelly's writing.

Yesterday Kelly wrote:
Next week I will be on vacation. And because I am a caveman who does not seek out technology, I think it is a good time for me to take a break. I am sure that Lisa can carry the blog at least that long. I am not sure what I will do after that. I may not return. I am not comfortable talking about my job, or my personal opinions here, and that leaves little else. I think I am starting to bore you all. Also, at least one person has expressed concerns that I may have an alcohol problem. I assure you I do not. What I am is a writer who was trying to make folks laugh. And I feel like I have failed.

Today from Lisa:
Dear Readers, It has simply blown my mind that we have had readers of this blog who were people other than our own mothers. Thank you for taking the time in your day to read us when there are a gazillion other cool things on the Internet you could have been looking at.

Well thanks strangers. Sorry to see you go. Thanks for sharing your lives for awhile. I really enjoyed it. And I definitely did laugh.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A little change in the salsa vibe

I can see it in his eyes. The change. I was late for my private appointment, having enjoyed a rare home cooked meal with the boys and misreading my calendar. I sped up to the studio for a short lesson rather than a fully charged missed one. The teacher, my favorite of the bunch by far, surprises me by offering a make-up in a couple of weeks. As he marks his calendar, he says, "and what does your email address stand for? What is that?" He's refering to the grainyms@.

I know what's coming next. "Oh, I'm in the film business and you're really going to be impressed," I deadpan. I see the blank look. The what the fuck?! I start with the details. His eyes widen. His jaw drops. I laugh. It never fails. He's excited and delighted. I'm mixed. Because now I have his attention but I'm no longer the anonymous middle-aged housewife he thought I was. I keep talking. I spin out name after name after name in the film pantheon. His smile widens. For all my own whining, the path is impressive to those in different fields. I've repeated it a million times. Yet I'm always surprised too in the telling. The accumulation beyond my girlhood dreams. It's been one day at a time, but in retrospect, it's fucking awesome.

He walks me to the door and gives a half awkward hug because that's how I am with strangers. What'll this mean for my dancing? I tell him I wish I was better at it. He smiles, "well at least it's good exercise, it gets your heart going." And we part til tomorrow. Will he call on me more to demonstrate? Use me for his hilarious wisecracks? We'll see. But my anonymity is gone.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I want one - The Birds Doll

I want one!

Thanks Wiley for the tip. This is really wild.

The Madame Alexander The Birds Doll has stepped out of a classic film moment from "Alfred Hitchock The Birds" which introduced Tippi Hendren to big screen. The Madame Alexander The Birds Doll captures Miss Hendren's costume authentically. The Madame Alexander The Birds Doll is a 2005 release. The Madame Alexander The Birds Doll is from the new The Madame Alexander Hollywood Classics Collection. The Madame Alexander The Birds Doll wears a green duponi silk suit of a simple sleeveless dress with princess seams under a long sleeve collarless jacket. The Madame Alexander The Birds Doll also comes with a brown faux fur coat with white lining. And an extra special decoration to her ensemble - large black birds! Three black-feathered birds with brown plastic legs have attacked the Madame Alexander The Birds Doll. They have attached themselves to her coat shoulder, the coat's left side and, unfortunately, her hair. You can buy it here.

51 Birch St - recommended

The other day, Doug Block came to Austin to screen his fine new film 51 Birch St. for the AFS Doc Tour just prior to it's national release via Truly Indie. I saw the film shortly after its sxsw success this past March and was deeply moved. He managed to make me care wholeheartedly for his mother, his father, and his own search to reconcile the people they really were, separate from his own child's eye skew.

On the way back from a quick drink and tapas during the screening, I continued sharing how much I loved the film. How artfully I thought he'd crafted the story. Mentioning his mother's journals that lie at the center, I said:

"You know I have journals too."
"Burn them," he snapped.


Sometimes I just need to see her.

One of the Venus figurines made 30,000 years ago.


Right before we moved to Fiji I had the pleasure of meeting a charming advertising producer who was about to marry an old friend. We'd once been very close, but then, in my view, had a pointless falling out, and didn't talk for years.

She was late 40s, he over 50. This was a first marriage for both. I instantly liked her. Attractive, smart, funny, charming. She was fascinated with our iminent move to Fiji. I was impressed with her cool job and spunky attitude. She was a producer for one of the hipper campaigns of recent memory. We talked about love, taking chances, and how she'd finally connected with T. Our paths so different. I think of her often, particularly when I've spent hours talking to one friend or another. The energy exchange is palpable. The act actually physical for me.

"I don't know if it's unconscious or conscious," she said. "Somehow I always got on a plane for work rather than nurture the relationship I was leaving behind."

Friday, October 13, 2006


Surprising as it is to enjoy blogging, it's been fun to get the feedback. Like this today:
The first blog I've ever dipped into! I'd meant to sooner, of course, but somehow--I don't know, the blog thing scares me, not enough boundaries.
Love that, the fear of, "not enough boundaries."

I've been trying to find my own. It's been a super busy, enjoyable time - full of good friends, talented filmmakers, and exciting new films. The temptation is to name names but I'm not going to in detail. Name dropping is one of my most charming and equally obnoxious habits. I need to resist it in this forum. I'll talk about friendship in general, and champion work that I love, but I won't actually draw a map of the social circle. Like in the L Word, - Alyce's map of relationships, The Chart, is a great invention. Something I absolutely do mentally but won't make tangible here.

The flow is fascinating though. One set of conversations leading into the next. Connecting geographically diverse creators as they all enjoy Austin, a particular delight. What's the throughline? The common denominator? I think it's the committment to creativity. In our world, more often than not, it's about film, but it's not just that. It's the creation of work that's engaging and interesting and often bold and unique. That's the goal anyway. There's a seriousness of purpose. I really don't know what other people talk about when they go out to dinner. We talk about films and the people who make them, the business involved, before, during and after the actual production. We talk about how the work works. How it might, does, or doesn't, reach it's audience. We engage, wholeheartedly, and are drawn to those who do the same. It's never-ending and it's immensely satisfying.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wow. Babel.

I didn't start this blog to talk about movies. And in my wildest dreams, I'm not a film reviewer. But lately I've just seen a string of movies that were total knockouts. Today's mindblowing experience was Babel. Stunning. Epic. Finely observed in the smallest details. Global in its reach. Great storytelling. Masterful filmmaking. You can read others for more details. I'm just humbled and enthralled. Don't miss it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

49 Up

Just back from Michael Apted's 49 Up, the documentary revisiting a group of British children every 7 years. It's a fine film for anyone.

I'm lost in its personal resonance for me. In 1985 I was assistant director of NYC's Film Forum which presented the U.S. theatrical premiere along with the NY Film Festival. It was groundbreaking on two counts - one because it was the first time the Film Forum collaborated with the NYFF on an opening, and second, just personally, because Michael Apted was by far the most famous, commercial director I'd yet had to deal with. I have this vague sense of him tolerating my over anxious attempts to handle him properly. I really loved the film.

I loved 28 UP as most people do I think. The kids are adorable. The changes at 14, 21 and then 28, are fascinating and unpredictable. Moving. What hits me hardest? I lived in England as a child in 1962-1963. Not quite 7 but close enough for the landscape, the accents, and the school uniforms to deeply register. Anglophiles abound, but I know that year abroad left me with a deep and searing love for working class brits.

I hadn't revisited the film or series since the 28 Up premiere. Tonight we ventured out, and in a delayed kind of Eureeka moment I realized, hey I'm 49 too! Not only is this a great document revisiting these British kids' lives, it's my time period alive. Exactly.

In this latest installment, several of the subjects discuss how they feel about being in this ongoing project. Most are negative. They speak of understanding its allure to the general public, but are for the most part, personally pained. I'd love to hear more about how this has affected them. John insists the whole discussion is included only as a nod to a new fashion in documentary film - the obligatory on camera acknowledgement that the subjects are being filmed. He doesn't care. I do. I know what it's like for part of one's real life to be used in a narrative construct. I get how films can present a truth, that's nowhere near the whole truth.

Amusing how handsome and better looking most of the subjects are now. And content with their lives. Surprising too, how the majority are so lucky in love. Either they're still married to their original sweethearts, or after painful divorces, are now sublimely happy with their new partners. It's a small control group, but the film turns out to be a love letter to the institution of marriage. It's a celebration of middle aged couples in love.

Definitely worth seeing. Kudos to Michael Apted for continuing this unique and brilliant document.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Love these kids

Just love these kids - strangers eating at Zen Japanese take-out. Particularly after seeing Shortbus. Even with all the glowing reviews, the charm and sweetness a total surprise. You'll read about the sex but it's the heart that makes it so enjoyable. It's jumped up to the top of my favorite films list so far this year along with Half Nelson, Science of Sleep & Clerks 2.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Great read from 9/24 Sunday NYT Magz

A little slow catching up with the Sunday NYT - I just cried my way through this article. It's an amazing story, by one of our best non-fiction writers today, Michael Lewis.

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights, the TV series, debuted tonight. It was thrilling for several reasons. First, because it was great. Beautifully shot, beautifully told, engaging. Second, because we live in Texas now. And if you want to know one of the reasons we love it, you can watch this show. I know, I know, I never watched a football game before in my life! Never!! But this is Texas. And High School football is fun and exciting. John and I started going to our kids' Friday Night games before they ever did. Now W. is a fan, friends with several of the players, even visiting iHop on game eve for carb loading support. You have to see it to believe it.

I went to a small public NY high school, as did the kids in the town before we moved. There was football but no spectacle. No 150+ kids in spiffy uniforms in a rockin' marching band. No 60+ sequined cowgirl/wet dreams, formally known as the blue brigade. No flag girls or spirit boys. Ok, sure cheerleaders, but not cheering a crowd this large. It's a spectacle and it's funny as hell. The fans wear team colored shirts. They are way into the game. The air is warm, skies blue. The games are under bright lights. I'm into it, and I can't believe it - a big part of life now here in Texas. (OK, sure, I'm not really into the game - I can't see half of what others are crazed about. I can barely follow the game but I'm learning. And I'm digging the scenery.)

And third & fourth, our daughter's working on it, and they're shooting right in our neighborhood. Sure it's set in West Texas, but the production is based in Austin. Not exactly the same but there's overlap. Know that eatery? -- where "everyone goes?" Yeah, so do we. It's basically around the corner! And our daughter is a Rigger in Electric. She's that hot young girl in the black tee, working like a mother f*cker, gaffer's tape hanging off her belt.

It's a slam dunk for the hometeam. When we first moved here, and our kids attended their first pep rally, they came home shell shocked. "These Texans have too much...too much....uh...spirit," they whined.

Texas pride, baby. Texas pride.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Teacher

I've always loved the expression, "The teacher comes when the student is ready." Although I was pretty pissed off when that teacher never showed up all through college. I certainly thought I was ready. Since then, outside the traditional school system, I've been more fortunate. There was a great mentor in my early professional film life in NYC. There have been teachers who took the forms of therapists and healers. In the last decade there have been some wonderful yoga teachers. Most recently there is Wendy.

Wendy is a certified Pilates master. She runs a teacher training facility here in Austin. I originally found it because I was looking for the cheapest way to do pilates. Working with seriously trained students for a bargain rate seemed ideal. In the back of my head too, I heard my doctor father's words, "Hospitals attached to medical schools are always better." So I started with the cheapest trainers. Then they got better, as did I, and I moved up a tier economically. I didn't feel sturdy enough to begin again with the newest crop. My favorites graduated. My knee started hurting. Across the room I saw the quiet intense way that Wendy worked with her clients. And every once in awhile she jumped in to assist my trainer. Her comments dead on the mark. So I took a chance. Set up one session just to deal with my knee. I got hooked. That one hour was more intense than the previous year combined. Wendy's understanding of the mechanics of the body were stunning. We began working together weekly.

It was always intense. Always productive. Always slow. Quick on my feet in some areas, in the physical world, I'm slow. I refuse to learn anatomy and what connects to what. These days I can't retain the sequences mentally. So Wendy would patiently take me through, week after week. No attitude. No, "you're so fat you really should feel embarrassed." Or, "I can't believe that I have to repeat this over and over." Instead her smile was lovely, her energy positive, her focus clear. She'd say, "I can't believe how in your body you are. How tuned in."

Friday morning became the highlight of my week. Because it was rigorous, challenging, and rewarding. There's plenty of pleasure and stimulation in my life, but this was one focused hour that was hard and specific and clearly creating tangible change. I liked the work. I just liked being around Wendy.

Eventually she checked out the film that loomed large in my life the last few years. She loved it. We had a dinner out to discuss it further and became fast friends. She invited me along on a field trip with her trainees - to that Body Wave exhibit in Houston. I was like her puppy, just following along soaking up her intrinsic love of the body. Her understanding and love of the complexity brought it alive for me. We got lost driving around looking for a place to eat. We spent hours together. Her husband, a film fan, brought an added delightful dimension. I loved seeing how this even longer married couple than I navigated and expressed their love.

I've been missing her, because recently she took off to Colorado to train as a rolfer. Not to work as a rolfer, but to bring a rolfer's perspective to her work with the core connections. I go to classes, and try to remember my homework routines. Mostly I miss her and have been counting the days til she returned.

Friday I got an email that she'd just been in a car accident. Hurt but alive. Her husband emailed, "she couldn't be in a better place to recuperate." Right. Surrounded by rolfers and all the other New Agers up in Boulder. So this is my shout out to Wendy. To wish her a speedy recovery. To thank her for being such a powerfully positive force in the life of someone like me. For being such a damned fine teacher. For being the Teacher I was ready for.

Terrific essay about a writer dating an actor

Just read a terrific essay about an LA writer dating a fairly well known actor. Thanks to Anne Thompson's Must Read Risky Biz column.

Monday, October 02, 2006

What the kids are into

Lots of chatter about all our college age kids at the NYFF Opening Night. Who's going where. What they're into. Susan L., a post production supervisor whose son is the birthday twin to my own daughter, says, "I'm so glad S. isn't interested in working in film."

"What's he into?"

"He wants to be a rock and roll star."