Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Waiting for Daisy - Highly Recommended

I've been really lucky. I've been pregnant two times, intentionally, both times resulting in healthy babies who are now healthy teens. But all along the way I've met countless women with far less luck. Infertility. Miscarriages, suffered in silence, because well, while they might be wrenching to the would-be mom, they aren't really anything yet, are they? Infertility treatments. Adoption. Time and time again we say to others, "No big deal..." but everything surrounding pregnancy and motherhood is in fact a big deal. In fact, the biggest deal striking at the core of our existence. Even when we choose to forego that experience, as so many of my close friends have, or given in to the impossibility, - they’re all powerful acts, with profound consequences.

I just finished my good friend Peggy Orenstein's new book, Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother. It’s a terrific read. Highly recommended.

The book would have spoken to me regardless, but it’s even richer because my friendship with Peggy is so precious to me. I met her, a then successful journalist working on her first book, because she'd married a Director we were involved with. I was very close with his producer, Lynn O’Donnell. Tragically, Lynn developed ovarian cancer right after her daughter was born. During those three years fighting the illness, I needed a knowledgeable but safe conduit. Peggy and I started emailing. And so we’ve continued for a decade, writing back and forth at great length. We've met face to face only a couple of times. In fact, for what would be the second time, Peggy walked into the kitchen where I was waiting, then walked back out again. Returning a few minutes later she laughed, “I thought you were someone else all this time….But that’s OK. It’s OK it’s you.”

Over the years I would whine about finding my place in the world, managing my career, if you could call it that, balancing my close partnership with my husband, and of course, the kids. Peggy was writing articles and books. And managing her own bout with cancer, career, miscarriages, adoption, misgivings, and birth. We would write directly, or I would catch up via her NYT Sunday magazine articles. I’ll never forget the Sunday morning John woke me by throwing the magazine on the bed, “Here’s what Peggy’s been up to.” “35 and Mortal: A Breast Cancer Diary” I checked my email archive and damn, there it was, the last email saved, dated the day before her surprising diagnosis. And so it continued over the decade. Funny stories, Lurching, painful movements forward, supportive dialogue. One day she said, “I’m going to write my memoir and my HD crashed. Did you bother to keep a copy of my emails? ”

And so now, here it is, Peggy's moving, rich study of her journey from ambivalence to motherhood. It's such a clear narrative for our time. There are twists and turns, a coming to terms with the hand you’re dealt. And though I knew the outcome, I was still on pins and needles, so deftly has she spun the story. And it's not just about procreation, on top of everything else, Peggy has created a glorious, very honest love story. I highly recommend it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

valentine postscript

Someone unknown left this as a comment on my Valentine's Day post - and it's so beautiful, and been sticking with me so deeply I thought I'd post it again here:

A poem for the drought.

To love a person is to learn the song
That is in their heart,
And to sing it to them
When they have forgotten.
- Anonymous

Mirror in the Bathroom

John just came back from a couple of nights at one of our favorite hotels - The Charles Hotel in Cambridge MA, raving about this wild new TV in the mirror...

see the future. (John says it's much better in real life.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"I hated being a kid" interview with Ryan Gosling

I love this quote in a Guardian interview with Ryan Gosling - and not just because Half Nelson was one of my top 5 fave films last year. I love it because it's closer to how I felt as a child. I so needed to grow up to be happy! I can never relate when people recall the idylls of childhood. My favorite yoga teacher has lately started referring to that wonderful time in our youths when our postures and breathing were perfect. It always takes me out of the moment because my memories of those years are never free, not good at all. And I see it with my daughter too. Not that her childhood was an unhappy one. I don't think it was. I think she was physically able and expressive, but I see it in terms of dealing with authority. Some people just need to be grown up and under their own steam.

when Gosling was 10 his mother took him out of class and home-schooled him. The year spent with her, watching movies, listening to Chet Baker and Billie Holiday, gave him, he says, 'a sense of autonomy that I've never really lost'. That confidence was crucial: 'I didn't want to work in a paper mill, and I wasn't going to stay in school. I hated being a kid. I didn't like being told what to do, I didn't like my body, I didn't like any of it. Being a kid and playing and all that stuff just drove me nuts.'

(complete interview)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Smarts and smarts - Kevin Smith and food

I love Kevin Smith. Oh I know, there's nothing unique about that - so do millions of other fans. But I happen to know him personally and love him in real life - and I have to say, a posting like this makes my heart swell. Because he's the same super funny, smart and very real guy he's always been. And I love having the company in the "more to love" category.

From Silent Bob Speaks:
I’m a fairly smart cookie. I’ve proven myself smart enough to build a career out of almost nothing, with no connections and limited skills. I’ve proven myself smart enough to woo and wed a woman way out of my league. I’ve even proven myself smart enough to turn hobbies into revenue streams - selling all my blogs (that I wrote for free, mind you) to Titan Books in the UK for publication as one giant compendium (due later this year). But when it comes to food and self-control in the arena of eating? I’m totally retarded.

For no particular reason I was just thinking of him this morning as I was idly taking a shower. Mourning how I just keep gaining weight. Remembering how a few years ago, when on my way to a successful 30 lb weight loss, that I've now gained back, I happened to see him. "Janet, what you losing some weight? Hmm, what, about 11 lbs?" Damn, if he hadn't hit it dead on. Which is amazing! When you're as big as I am, 11 pounds is not easy to spot. So Kev - good luck in this in tiresome neverending battle! And thanks so much for sharing with the rest of us. xxxo

Monday, February 19, 2007

David Fincher's Amarcord

Wonderful passage in the NYT Sunday Arts & Leisure piece on David Fincher and his new film Zodiac by David M. Halbfinger:

Raised in Marin County, Mr. Fincher was only 7 when the area was seized with fear in 1969. “I remember coming home and saying the highway patrol had been following our school buses for a couple weeks now,” he recalled in December in an interview in New Orleans, where he was editing “Zodiac” while filming “Benjamin Button.” “And my dad, who worked from home, and who was very dry, not one to soft-pedal things, turned slowly in his chair and said: ‘Oh yeah. There’s a serial killer who has killed four or five people, who calls himself Zodiac, who’s threatened to take a high-powered rifle and shoot out the tires of a school bus, and then shoot the children as they come off the bus.’ ”

“I was, like, ‘You could drive us to school,’ ” he recalled thinking.

It was that same sense that initially drew him to “Se7en,” he said: the fearsome power of the stranger among us. “That’s what Zodiac was for a 7-year-old growing up in San Anselmo. He was the ultimate bogeyman.”

“People ask me, ‘When are you going to make your ‘Amarcord?’ ” Mr. Fincher added, with a little laugh at the comparison to Fellini’s autobiographical tour-de-force. For now, he said, “It’ll have to be ‘Zodiac.’ ”

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Manufactured Landscapes - highly recommended

And the film for which I ditched my husband and son tonight on Valentine's Day (my daughter off with her own Valentine...) was the stunning documentary, Manufactured Landscapes, soon to be released in the U.S. via Zeitgeist Films, tonight in Austin for one night only, courtesy of the Austin Film Society (AFS) Doc Tour.

Although this film premiered at the 2006 Toronto Film Fest where it won Best Canadian Feature, was recently voted Best Doc Feature and Best Canadian Film by the Toronto Film Critics Association, and had its U.S. premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, I didn't know anything about it, or it's subject, the renowned landscape photographer, Edward Burtynsky. From Zeitgeist's synopsis:

Internationally acclaimed for his large-scale photographs of “manufactured landscapes”—quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines and dams—Burtynsky creates stunningly beautiful art from civilization’s materials and debris. The film follows him through China, as he shoots the evidence and effects of that country’s massive industrial revolution. With breathtaking sequences, such as the opening tracking shot through an almost endless factory, the filmmakers also extend the narratives of Burtynsky’s photographs, allowing us to meditate on our impact on the planet and witness both the epicenters of industrial endeavor and the dumping grounds of its waste.

It's a tremendous film - a rare example where the documentary's style perfectly matches the work of the subject. It's gorgeous, reverent, and provocative. The scenes of the Chinese factory alone are unforgettable, reminiscent of the brilliant precision of Chris Smith's still undistributed classic, American Job, -- multiplied exponentially. Keep your eye out for it. Seek it out. This film is a must-see.

view trailer

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day - 25 years

Realizing on this day, this kind of day where I once wanted to kill myself (not literally, but you know what I mean), that there is something special about celebrating Valentine's Day. We don't do much. I left a card this morning. I just got his after returning home from a movie - which I'd gone to alone. Threw a fresh batch of baked ziti in the oven, then left home before either of my guys returned home from school. One a professor, the other in 11th grade.

At the movies I sat between two couples my own age. On the left, married 25 years. On the right, more like 7. But they each snuggled and held hands. The couple on the right choosing that moment to exchange their cards, one store bought, the other, handmade. When you're single, and you hear about the drought of a long term marriage, you want to believe that it's true. But it's not, for the lucky few of us. I didn't get babe looks, a photographic memory, or stellar talent, but I got a Valentine, who 25 years later, still makes my heart beat faster.

Happy Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

musing about friends and dancing again

I was thinking earlier today, as I've thought before so many times, that if I had even a twinge of a scientific mind, I'd study the laws of attraction. I'm endlessly fascinated by why we like the people we do. In any group, at any age, there are people you find yourself more interested in and less. Why? It's not like everyone has the same response. We have different connections and they're exciting. Of course a truism...but still it fascinates.

I think about this all the time anyway, but my salsa classes bring up a particular intensity. Because it's a different way of knowing people. For me anyway. It's not at first an intellectual connection, or professional, or even friend of a friend. It's more pure somehow (and therefore shallow? Hmmm, not sure.) It's based on looks, how people move, how they learn to move, and how they choose to interact in an abstract, limited moment, again and again and again. The teachers laugh about how cliques form during every cycle. How can they not, with repeated greetings, week after week, all through the year. Sure there are some people everyone likes, like the adorable new blonde who looks amazing, can really dance, and seems to be sweet besides. But other than that, it's a crap shoot. I feel particular ease with C. and L. and F. although I don't prefer to dance with F, I just prefer talking to him. The other two got my attention from the dance. And with D. I feel an immediate connection though I rarely see him. There's rapport with others of different variations. E is great looking but odd to dance with. I like the way T. dances but we dance together badly. I move around this circle, week after week, learning more, getting more comfortable, trying harder, working it out with the same group of faces that changes slightly from night to night but overall is the same, and I muse at the relationships forming or not.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

blogging vs bio

I've been blogging here pretty steadily since August, and many of you have been kind enough admire the writing ...so why can't I write a decent bio to save my life? I just suck at it.

And I guess I know why. Because instead of it being about something I'm thinking about, or interested in, or excited by, it's about taking ownership for what I've done. Responsibility. Credit. It's just so much easier to do something than to fess up to it. Or have any perspective. When I used to be in therapy, we would talk about why I was somehow dis-engaged from my life. Not from the living but from the acknowledging. There's this very old tendency to feel invisible. And I don't know why. Never got to the bottom of it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Cool Football cap

This totally cracked me up. The copy in the middle, "She's getting big, but still not big enough to handle a football!" Oh the silly things people do with their babies. And this from the now 27-year-old young mom who was a gifted and fantastic babysitter to my two starting when she was 11. She helped me raise my kids, I helped raise her. Love the life cycle.

Bookstores sad decline

Found this interesting LA Times article via Risky Biz blog. I love bookstores too. Defined myself for most of my life as a reader. But I'm a serious part of this sad change as well - buying more and more online (faster, cheaper, deeper stock), and reading fewer real books as I live tethered to this computer screen. Always scary to consider what we're losing as we're not paying attention.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Creation and copyright in essay by Jonathan Lethem

This is a remarkable essay by novelist Jonathan Lethem on the nature of originality, plagiarism, culture, copyright, and the creative act published in Harpers. Highly recommended. Thanks to my dear friend Grace for the tip.

Some excerpted highlights (but really encourage you to read the whole essay!):

....Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one's voice isn't just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that knowing.....

...Undiscovered public knowledge emboldens us to question the extreme claims to originality made in press releases and publishers' notices: Is an intellectual or creative offering truly novel, or have we just forgotten a worthy precursor? Does solving certain scientific problems really require massive additional funding, or could a computerized search engine, creatively deployed, do the same job more quickly and cheaply? Lastly, does our appetite for creative vitality require the violence and exasperation of another avant-garde, with its wearisome killing-the-father imperatives, or might we be better off ratifying the ecstasy of influence—and deepening our willingness to understand the commonality and timelessness of the methods and motifs available to artists?......

.....Artists and writers—and our advocates, our guilds and agents—too often subscribe to implicit claims of originality that do injury to these truths. And we too often, as hucksters and bean counters in the tiny enterprises of our selves, act to spite the gift portion of our privileged roles. People live differently who treat a portion of their wealth as a gift. If we devalue and obscure the gift-economy function of our art practices, we turn our works into nothing more than advertisements for themselves. We may console ourselves that our lust for subsidiary rights in virtual perpetuity is some heroic counter to rapacious corporate interests. But the truth is that with artists pulling on one side and corporations pulling on the other, the loser is the collective public imagination from which we were nourished in the first place, and whose existence as the ultimate repository of our offerings makes the work worth doing in the first place......

Fabulous Giant Guitars

I don't know how I missed all the hoopla about this but everytime I drive by one of these 10 ft guitars created by artists I smile. They are fabulous! What a great civic art project for Austin.