Movies and TV Series July 2010

"Surrogates" (Jonathan Mostow)

"Beat The Devil (1953) [Remastered Edition]" (John Huston)

"Pierrot Le Fou" (Jean-Luc Godard)

"Slings & Arrows: The Complete Collection" (Acorn Media)

"The Girlfriend Experience" (Steven Soderbergh)

"Pushing Daisies: The Complete Second Season" (Warner)

"Game 6" (Michael Hoffman)

"Salt" (Philip Noyce)

"Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth Series" (BBC Warner)

"Leverage: The Complete Second Season" (Paramount)

One Page Closer to the New Chapter

Today was my last day as a temp for the foreseeable future. Over the next two weeks, I’m getting ready for my move to Pittsburgh and then, once there, I will probably just lay low before school starts, put together the syllabus for my Intro to Performance class (the first time I’m teaching performance, so both excited and a bit intimidated by that), and maybe try to find a few clients interested in public speaking lessons. I hope to make today the last time I find myself working a temp job just to make ends meet and that from now on, I will be able to support myself through a combination of academic work, writing, teaching, podcast production, directing, sound designing, tutoring, and/or other creative/educational means. I deserve to do work that is fulfilling. Even if the individual tasks might be less than fulfilling: grading papers anyone? To that end I’m going to try to be more proactive in the future and not let myself get sucked into the easy, but ultimately stifling (for me) world of temping and general office work.

14 days until I start my move.

Slings & Arrows: A Love Letter to the Theatre

You read a book. Or see a play. Maybe watch a movie. At the end you are filled, perhaps even satiated with a sense of humanity that fills you with something far more than entertainment, something far greater than laughter or tears. You are able, through that particular book or play or movie or painting or television show or song or sculpture or dance or puppet show or poem, to see yourself refracted through the lives and experiences of others. This is no simple mirror, but rather a prism: great art takes us and breaks us up into shards of color. Each hue separate and unique, but in the end, all part of the spectrum that blends back into what it means to be human.

We’ve all experienced this moment. Some of us find it through different mediums and often through different stories. I’m sure that someone, somewhere experienced this moment after seeing or hearing Cats. I will, most likely, never understand that particular vehicle, but I can at the very least respect that moment of jouissance.

I’ve spent the last three days in such a state of jouissance and find that writing about how I feel toward the Canadian television series Slings & Arrows to be as difficult as describing the exact taste of cinnamon to someone who has never tasted it.

If you have worked in the theatre, you should watch this series. Full stop. No ifs ands or buts about it. Slings & Arrows is one of the most deeply felt love letters to the art and process and lifestyle of theatre that has ever been written, staged, or filmed. I am not engaging in hyperbole here. Writers Susan Coyle, Bob Martin, and Mark McKinney and director Peter Wellington are obviously deeply in love with theatre in general and Shakespeare in particular. And it shows. Yes, people and situations are heightened or foreshortened or slightly warped by the demands of drama and television. However, beneath all the comic, tragi-comic, or tragic moments the show has a foundation of truth and honesty about what it means to make a life in the theatre, and to make theatre your life. The sheer terror of committing oneself to a creative act and the giddiness when that act actually achieves some level of artistic success are on display in this series like few other stories I’ve seen that take place in the theatre world.

I could go on about the plot or the characters but you can get that from Wikipedia. I could write about how each season does a masterful job of telling a story that reflects and refracts each particular Shakespeare play that is at the center of each season (Hamlet in season one, Macbeth in season two, and King Lear in season three), but to be honest, I would need to see the entire series again to really examine the masterful structures that were built into the show. I could reflect on how compelling an actor Paul Gross is and how much I’ve enjoyed his work since the silly, but sweet show, Due North as well as his work as Brian in the original adaptation of Armistad Maupin’s Tales of the City, but that won’t really tell anything worth a damn about Slings & Arrows.

So I will simply say: watch this show. If you have Netflix, it’s available as dvd and through the instant streaming function. If you don’t, find the dvds and rent or buy them. If you care about theatre or Shakespeare, trust me, you will want to buy them. The one caveat I might mention, is that I don’t think this is particularly aimed for a young audience. Not that you have to be older to enjoy it, but I have a feeling (and since I haven’t fully processed all of what the show has offered me I wouldn’t swear to it) that part of my reaction, this deep blending of laughter, joy, sadness, and recognition, comes from the fact that I am not a young man any more. I think that the show speaks more to those of us in our forties or older than it does to those in their twenties. This is a show, on one level, about ghosts, and the older you become, the more ghosts you carry within yourself. Even if they are simply the ghosts of your younger selves.

If the following trailer looks at all interesting, I can guarantee that you will find the show itself to be, at the very least, delightful. I hope that maybe, just maybe, you might also experience a hint of what I am feeling about this show as I write these words.

My Project365 Ends

Last year, on July 8, 2009, I started a project to take a photograph a day for 365 days. Two days ago, I reached that marker. For some reason, even though I thought I kept careful track of missed days, I am short the 365 photographs. Yesterday I struggled with which completely arbitrary marker I most wanted to honor: documenting exactly one year of my life or making it to 365 photographs. I chose the former.

I really enjoyed this project and highly recommend that everyone do it at least once. Primarily because it helps focus you quite a bit on your everyday surroundings. I found myself looking around me far more often and noticing elements of my apartment, my walk to work, etc., that I would easily have missed if I weren’t trying to find a photograph for each and every day. It helps get a person into the habit of not just looking, but seeing. I do feel that for the project to succeed, having a public account somewhere, and posting your photos on a regular basis is important. Even if you aren’t interacting with others about your series, posting in a public space makes you (well, made me) feel more responsible to staying on target and keeping up than if I’d simply been taking photos and putting them on my computer.

I won’t be doing Project365 again this year, but can easily see myself choosing to do it again sometime in the next few, and I believe that I’ll be more likely to carry my Lumix DMC-TZ4 with my on a daily basis to take random and (hopefully) interesting photographs, or even just take more snapshots with my camera phone, than I might if I hadn’t done this project.

Click through to see a few of my favorite pictures from the year:
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The Difference Between Science & Faith

Science continually reevaluates its conclusions and assumptions and is able to recognize when those conclusions are wrong after testing and experimentation:

Protons are 0.00000000000000003 meters smaller than we thought. That sounds like nothing, but it means one of these things must be true: Undiscovered particles are lurking, quantum mechanics needs recalculating…or the universe is impossible. (Here’s hoping it’s the first two.) Link

Faith doesn’t.

What’s interesting is that for many, the strength of the scientific method (the ability to question assumptions and even change its conclusions about the nature of the universe), is seen as a weakness. I don’t just mean those right-wing ideologues who refuse to understand the nature of climate change. I think there are a lot of people out there (liberals and progressives included) who can get very frightened by a universe that isn’t fixed. Remember the resentment about Pluto being demoted? For those who are my age, remember how fundamentally wrong it seemed when you found out that the “Brontosaurus” doesn’t exist and was merely the incorrect identification of an apatosaurus (with the wrong head even!)?

The world is a big and scary place in many ways, and when science comes along and says, “you know what, after experimentation and testing, we discovered that we were wrong and the nature of the universe is different than what we’ve been saying for a while now,” people get agitated and upset and they feel distrustful because, for the most part, we like to pretend that our world is constant and consistent.