Andrew O’Hehir on Salon.com

Thought-provoking piece in Saturday’s Salon.com by Andrew O’Hehir in which he tries to parse how much of the blame for the Trump debacle rests on the media themselves, or on the distortion created by reliance on social media.

Since self is sure she is the only person in the world dealing with her excoriating disappointment over the U.S. political process while reading a book about a 1755 U.S. political crisis, let’s just say her opinions are probably based on comparisons between 1755 America and now.

And what self has concluded is that Trump reminds her of the English Prime Minister in 1755, the Duke of ______ (It was several hundred pages back; self will look up the name in a bit), who was endlessly campaigning, even when he had already won, and who was so quickly bored with the responsibilities of his position that he went to war and cared not a whit about sending suitable men and material with which to execute this war, and thus many people died on the American frontier, without gaining the English any political advantage (that English officer class, though — “Ours but to do or die” to the last!) — not that the Duke/Prime Minister cared all that much. After all, it’s not as if anyone expected him to pick up a musket! What a horrible, disagreeable, rude idea!

On to O’Hehir’s piece:

Quoting Samuel Greene of King’s College London by way of Thomas B. Edsall of The New York Times: “Our information landscape is open and fluid . . . voters’ perceptions have become untethered from reality. Thus, the news we consume has become as much about emotion and identity as about facts.”

Can you blame us? We’re stuck reading POTUS tweets every single day. Every single one of those tweets comes at us from an emotional angle. Granted, they all have the same emotional tone: that of a needy five-year-old. We’re so fascinated we can’t look away. Come on, media: even you must admit you’ve been hypnotized by posts that say SAD and BIGLY and YUUUGE. And if you professional journalists can’t resist this tsunami of unfettered emotion coming from POTUS, how do you expect us to?

O’Hehir on Fake News and how we got here: “In a universe shaped by the blatant untruths and racist fantasies of right-wing media, where Barack Obama’s birthplace was a mystery, the Sandy Hook shootings might have been staged and millions of people who were not obviously suffering from severe mental illness took the Pizzagate scandal seriously, the difference between news and fake news comes to seem like a matter of taste or opinion.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Found You, William Harvey

Self looked him up last Fall, when she was wandering around the East Coast.

She didn’t even know his name, then.

All she knew was that, in the days following 9/11, she was stuck on Salon.com, reading anything and everything.

And there was a piece titled:

Juilliard Student Plays the Concert of His Life

Maybe that’s not the exact title, but that was the gist.

It was first-person. The writer was a freshman at Juilliard when 9/11 happened. He didn’t even have to think twice: he grabbed his violin, headed downtown. And then, he played in the Armory. Hours and hours. Until his fingers bled (? She thinks, anyway). And Juilliard sent its students to keep the music going. The students literally played until they couldn’t lift their arms anymore. Firemen were standing there, weeping. Exhausted and weeping.

Salon.com is still around (Thank goodness. It has introduced self to so many good writers) From time to time, self will do an archive search on Salon.com, but she never found the original posting. But, by dint of patient digging and Google, she found the student’s name. And she found his website. She found that the Armory concert was only the first of many good acts he was to do.

His latest project? He is “traveling to all 50 states in 2016, asking What is American culture?

Read his blog so you can follow him along. There’s still a lot of 2016 left!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

First Responders, 9/11

Self was in New York just this past fall.

For some reason, she remembered an article she read in Salon, only days after 9/11. It was a first-person piece written by a student at Juilliard who, as soon as he got the news, grabbed his violin and headed downtown.

The Armory was where the injured were taken, and that’s where the music student decided to play. He played, Salon said, “the concert of his life.”

He played until his fingers bled. The weary and bedraggled survivors, the firemen, everyone listening at the Armory were in tears.

When he could no longer play, another student came and took his place.

So, in New York, this past fall, after a very determined internet search, self found the identity of the young man: William Harvey.

Did you know that self wrote her very own 9/11 story? It was very short. LitnImage published it. It was called “Wavering.”

LitnImage no longer exists. The link she posted a while back came back “broken.”

In her story, a businessman was late getting to work because his wife found out he was having an office affair and they fought.

In self’s story, the businessman arrives too late. His lover is up there in one of the towers, and he can’t get to her. And something in him dies, too. Even though he stays married. And all the wife reaps is bitterness.

Recently, Congress passed a law according medical care to the first responders of 9/11. She thinks she heard a figure like, roughly 4,000 first responders developed cancer. (If you add that figure to the number who were killed in the collapse of the towers, the number of 9/11 victims actually doubles and becomes close to 10,000)

On TV a few days ago, on a show about a medium, a wife tells the story of how her husband, a fireman, went straight to the World Trade Center and stayed there for days. When the TV show began, self was expecting to hear that the woman’s husband died during the collapse. But no. It turns out he lived for several years after, but he got cancer.

And self wondered: why did it take 14 years for Congress to pass a bill according these men medical care?

Self wrote another 9/11 piece called “The Walker.” Would you believe, the Yale Review wrote her about it? It was rejected, but just barely. She still has the story in her files. She hasn’t sent it out since.

Roughly, it’s about an insomniac who roams his neighborhood at 3 a.m., whose Filipino neighbor has a counter on his front lawn, counting the days after 9/11: Day 1, Day 2, and so forth.

So the man roams his neighborhood and is struck by the fact that the counter has been put away. It was the day after Osama bin Laden was killed.

When 9/11 happened, self was a visiting instructor at Santa Clara. When she asked the students to write about 9/11, they said “It’s such a cliché.” And six of those students went to the Department Chair and complained about her.

Seriously?

Why wouldn’t you write about 9/11? Especially since it just happened. Self was barely hanging on, it felt like such a travesty to tell the students to do craft-y exercises like construct/de-construct or do meta-fiction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

AMERICAN RUST, p. 49

“I talked to a lawyer from the shelter.”

He looked at her, half-grinning.

“She said the house is legally mine until you pay your share.”

“That’s a bunch of bullshit,” he told her.

He was right. She hadn’t talked to any lawyer. But she was surprised how angry her own lie made her feel. She believed those words. They might not have been the truth but they should have been.

p. 49, American Rust, by Philipp Meyer

Philipp Meyer grew up in Baltimore, dropped out of high school, and got his GED when he was sixteen. After spending several years volunteering at a trauma center in downtown Baltimore, he attended Cornell University, where he studied English. His writing has been published by McSweeney’s, The Iowa Review, Salon.com, and New Stories from the South.

Salon.com on “Justified” Love

Today, in preparation for some really hard, serious intellectual teaching work (as opposed to the physical exertion of gardening in extreme cold and walking downtown and back), self did her usual perusal of her various e-mail accounts.  In her gmail “In” box was a notice from Salon.com alerting her to the latest articles, and when self saw something called “Raylan Givens Justified My Love” she didn’t need to be told twice, her fingers moved quicker than lightning and

OMG, dear blog readers, is this not the most gorgeous picture of Timothy Olyphant wearing the white Stetson?

Last Tuesday (Can it really have been a mere five days ago?) self waited all agog for Episode 1 of the 4th season of “Justified.”  She had to kick The Man off the HDTV in the living room, for it would have been such a waste to watch Timothy Olyphant on the teensy, old TV in son’s bedroom.

Winona seems to have gone bye-bye, permanently, and self is glad because the actress who played her was too thin.  (Self realizes this sounds extremely superficial.  But she is firm in her opinion that Raylan needs a real dame!  One with killer curves!)

There is of course Walton Goggins aka Boyd Crowder flashing his killer grin (Self recognized him immediately in Django Unchained, where he plays a stupider version of his Justified self), and of course Our Man Raylan, who still looks so adorable in those low-slung jeans.  Self wonders who this season’s Epic Bad-Ass will be.  She thinks Neal McDonough, Baddie of Season 3, was pretty good, but could not top Season 2’s Evil Matriarch Mags Bennett, and her equivally malevolent brood.

Anyhoo, here are some pertinent quotes from the Salon.com article, which is by Lorraine Berry:

  • “While Olyphant is a fiendishly handsome guy, I don’t feel an erotic attraction to Givens . . . ”  (Oh, SHUT UP, Ms. Berry!)
  • “For us, our interest in Justified commands that we not only make sure that we are home to keep our appointment with the show’s original viewing time, but then also leads us to watch the show the next night, on DVR, where we can stop it every few moments to discuss the last snippet of dialogue or to start to unpack the central conflict that drives the series.”  Why not just do what self does on Tuesday nights?  She watches the 10 p.m. show, then the repeat at 11 p.m., and even the second repeat which begins at midnight, until finally she falls asleep, the voice of Timothy Olyphant permeating her dreams . . .  (Woman, you need to get a hold on yourself!)

The article then goes on to “unpack” the following relationships:

Raylan and his boss, Art Mullen:  About this, self will refer dear blog readers to Season 1, when Raylan lost his white Stetson, and it somehow came into the possession of his boss, and the actor who plays Art Mullen, Nick Searcy, (who is, in self’s opinion, long overdue for an Emmy nomination) said:  “How’d you lose your hat?  You weren’t raped, were you?” or something to that effect.  Self knows this isn’t a funny line in print.  But you’d have to hear Nick Searcy deliver that line, and see the look on Timothy Olyphant’s face, to get the full comic import.

Raylan and Mags Bennett :  This relationship achieved glorious apogee in Season 2.  There is a scene where Raylan puts his hand against Mags Bennett’s chest, and the gesture comes off as, not rude, but firm.  How’d Olyphant manage that?  Again, dear blog readers, you’d have to see the scene with your own two eyes.

Then the article goes on and on and on and on and on, dissecting what the writer refers to as the “Raylan swagger.”  She’s not sure why the word “swagger” is used to describe Olyphant’s affect.  The man is pure sex appeal, that’s all.  If Quentin Tarantino played Raylan Givens, there’d be no article on Salon.com.  Olyphant is the Brad Pitt of television!

Oh and by the way, his deputy, the sharpshooter whose name self forgets, is also pretty cute.  And where’s Erica Taziel?  Self loves whenever episodes focus on her character.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Middle-Class Disappointment

The letter from the despondent man to Salon.com’s “Since You Asked” columnist Cary Tennis went like this:

I am very aware that I’m supposed to feel gratitude.  I live in a nice house, not on the street; I’m healthy, not struggling with chronic or terminal illness; my kids are all right, not bums or sociopaths.  But I don’t feel gratitude —  I feel massive, near-universal disappointment.  We had to move out of the “good” neighborhood where we’d been for decades because we could no longer afford it, and nothing of the life I thought I’d have —  a stimulating, rewarding partnership with someone equally involved with out children; opportunities for travel; a secure, comfortable income —  has or will ever be realized.  Everything about my life, from my miserable, insecure, occasionally abusive childhood to my and my spouse’s failed careers; my mean, petty, rejecting in-laws; to the fact that I’ve never been anywhere and there’s never any money to go, is a complete disappointment.  I know that no middle-class American should Read the rest of this entry »

“Fast Five” : Mean and Sleek

Summer = movies with furious car chase scenes and lots of bang-bang, lots of muscled heros and bodacious babes, and as much popcorn as one can stand to ingest in one sitting.

So here’s the first summer action movie of 2011 (even though it is not even May:  Hollywood and self are always anticipating):  “Fast and Furious Five”

You have to hand it to Vin Diesel: He knows his fan base, and he rarely deviates from a successful formula. There he is, making a grand entrance in the midst of a car heist that is taking place on a moving train — you could almost hear the entire audience at the Redwood City Century 20 (quite a few of whom were middle-aged, if not older) give one long collective AAAAAH.

He doesn’t attempt to grow hair, thank God. And his arms look like Read the rest of this entry »

James Franco, The WALDO of His Generation

Self now knows what James Franco reminds her of.

When son was a wee tyke, and self was still trundling him around to various doctors for shots and allergy treatments and asthma prescriptions and what not, every single doctor’s office had a version of a book called WHERE’S WALDO? in the waiting room.

Lost amid a sea of bright graphics was the person known as WALDO, who looked like a major geek (Why this series was never adapted for movie or TV is beyond comprehension.  Or perhaps it already has, and self is just lost in her own clue-less universe?)

Self got a little inkling of the actor James Franco’s ambitions (to be Waldo) when she heard he had approached the General Hospital people about appearing on the soap.

Then she heard that he himself had written the part he was to play:  Seems Franco wanted to play a serial killer —  with the name Franco.

So, for that period of time when James was the serial killer Franco on General Hospital, self never skipped a day.

Then she discovered that the actor had made some kind of humongous art installation (It was written up in The New Yorker, which was how self learned about it —  Alas, self cannot tell dear blog readers exactly which issue of The New Yorker it was in)

Then she heard that he had applied to Warren Wilson’s low-residency MFA Program, in Poetry.

Then she heard that he was also taking classes at Columbia.

Then she heard that he had been invited to be the Commencement Speaker at UCLA, but the announcement was met with protests:  apparently, those uppity UCLA students wanted someone of more intellectual meat to be their commencement speaker.  Franco maintained a gracious silence, but close to the date of the ceremony, he pulled out.  Which then led UCLA to scramble for a substitute Commencement Speaker.  Which was probably not nice of Franco, but what-the-hell, those stuck-up UCLA students got whatever they deserved.  Self heard who the replacement commencement speaker was, and this person (whose name self immediately forgot) was not on the level of Steve Jobs or Meryl Streep or Nicole Krauss or Hillary Clinton, or anyone of that caliber.

Then she heard that he had made a film that screened at a Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and actually got nominated for an award.  Self saw parts of this film on YouTube:  it involved very good-looking boys and tight close-ups of jiggling butt-cheeks.

Then she learned that James Franco was anointed Salon.com’s Sexiest Man Living, in 2009.

Then she heard that he had published a collection of short stories.  Self actually saw this on a display table at local indie bookstore Kepler’s.  She began perusing the first page of each story.  Hey, for someone who has had to:  a) act on screens big and small  b) enroll in grad school —  several, it turns out  c) direct short movies and d) create art installations, these stories are not bad!  In fact, they were better than average (bearing in mind that self’s assessment is based solely on the first paragraphs of each story in the collection, which Franco of course named Palo Alto, thereby precluding self’s fond hope that she could appropriate such a title for her own future collection, which is set in Palo Alto and thereabouts)

Then she heard that he was co-hosting the Oscars.

Now he is appearing in a spring movie called “Your Highness” along with Danny McBride and hotter-than-hot-fresh-off-her-Oscar-win Natalie Portman.

Today, she landed on EW.com and saw this:

James Franco to teach film course at NYU, but no syllabus yet.

How would such a class go, self wonders?  Would Franco be able to impart stellar advice on scripts?  Film directing?  Juggling?  Would students get so lost in the haze of the Franco cool-ness that they would remember anything he said during class?  Or would students (of either gender) simply stare.  And stare.  And stare.  And forget to take notes?  Would this class even be available for letter grade, or would it simply be Pass/ No Pass?  Could people audit?  Would there be an auditorium big enough to accommodate enrollees?

There you have it, dear blog readers:  James Franco is the WALDO of his generation.

Stay tuned.

Eavesdropping on Engineers

While waiting for her life to get back on track (Dearest Mum left, leaving self’s nerves, as usual, in tatters), self ruminates:  Should she see “Let Me In” (vampire movie starring Kick-Ass‘s Chloe Moretz), or will that give her nightmares?  Should she see “The Social Network” in spite of hubby’s scorn? (Salon.com’s Matt Zoller Seitz wrote “There isn’t a drop of blood in it” which made her think of vampires again but anyhoo!)

A few days ago, self checked the enrollment for her upcoming UCLA Extension class on Nonfiction:  It is full! The class doesn’t start for another three weeks.

In the meantime, self has plenty of time on her hands to eavesdrop on hubby’s phone conversations (She’s a writer.  There is no such thing as being too snoopy!).  Here are a few snippets:

  1. Hubby on the phone to a fellow engineer:  “So, are you thinking of starting your french fry business?”
  2. Hubby to a technician named “Junior” (Self assumed from the name that the technician was Filipino; turns out he wasn’t, and self has to revise her stereotypical thinking yet again.  “He’s called Junior,” hubby explains, “because he has the same name as his father.”):  “Remember that young guy who was working with us last week?  They can’t find him.  What was his name?  That’s right:  Troy.  Well, they can’t find him.  They can’t find Troy!” (Oh, no!  Methinks someone better find Troy, on the double!  BWAH HA HA HAAAA!  On a side note:  self hasn’t encountered a first name “Troy” in decades.  She thinks the last time was when she used to hear the name of a Hollywood actor named Troy Donahue)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Eavesdropping: Salon.com’s “The Movie Experience I Can’t Forget”

Salon.com asked a diverse array of film critics to name “the movie experience I can’t forget.”

Great idea!

Here are the movies that generated the “can’t-forget” (The ones self really likes will be followed by exclamation points!  Like so:  !!!).  For the experiences themselves, you’ll have to go to Salon.com

  1. From Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com film critic:   John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982) — !!!
  2. From Paul Gerald, a Portland, OR-based “writer, author, and publisher” :  xxx’s “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989) —  !!!  Major points for the picture of Keanu at his blank-est!  Totally gorgeous!
  3. From Steven Boone, who publishes the blog Big Media Vandalism :  Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” (1994)
  4. From Sheila O’Malley, who writes the blog The Sheila Variations :   George Lucas’ “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
  5. From Francis “Oggs” Cruz, contributor to the Philippine Star and The Philippines Free PressLav Diaz’s “Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino” (2004)
  6. From Odienator, who writes about film and popular culture, and publishes a yearly series, The Black History Mumf:  Brian de Palma’s “Dressed to Kill” (1980) —  !!!
  7. From Matt Zoller Seitz, filmmaker and regular Salon.com contributor:  Oliver Stone’s “JFK” (1991) —  !!!
  8. From Kartina Richardson, who runs Mirror Film, “a website of film criticism and video essays” :  Samuel Fuller’s 1953 “Pickup on South Street”
  9. David Dixon, who publishes the blog Bring Me the Head of David Dixon:  xxx’s “Leprechaun” (1993)
  10. Walter Biggins, who writes the blog Quiet Bubble:   Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” (1993)
  11. Jeffrey Wells, publisher of Hollywood Elsewhere:  Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest”
  12. Edward Copeland, creator of Edward Copeland on Film:  Roland Joffe’s “The Mission” (1986)
  13. Liz Helfgott, editorial director for The Criterion Collection:   Peter Greenaway’s 1980 “The Falls” (viewed 1993)
  14. Jeffrey Overstreet, author of Through a Screen Darkly, “a memoir of dangerous moviegoing” :   Kevin Costner’s “Dances With Wolves” (1990)
  15. Daniel McKleinfeld, Brooklyn-based editor, director, and VJ:  xxx’s “Striptease” (viewed 1996)

And here are a couple of self’s own unforgettable movie experiences (in order of “unforgettable-ness”) :

  • Bruce Beresford’s “Black Robe” (1991) —  Self went with a cousin; hubby had to stay home and babysit son, BWAH. HA. HAAA!  (He wouldn’t have liked the movie; self’s cousin didn’t)
  • Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” (1986) —  Self saw it with Dear Departed Dad.  He embarrassed self deeply by clapping at the end.
  • Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” (1972) —  Self’s first sight of Al Pacino:  what more can one say?
  • Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” (1978) —  Saw it with Dear Departed Dad in Manila.  He said of Meryl Streep:  “She’s going to be a big star.”
  • William Friedkin’s “The French Connection” (1971) —  Self’s first experience of gritty, almost-documentary-style filming.
  • Peque Gallaga’s “Oro, Plata, Mata” (1982) —  Drove all the way to Berkeley to see it.  Bacolod, this film was you.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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