Thursday, September 10, 2009

Whirlwind, part trois

As the world turns...
  • Spent many days in August as a coalition volunteer, observing the signature verification process for Referendum 71. Unfortunately, it qualified for the ballot. Washingtonians now have to re-approve the domestic partnership law that our legislature already overwhelmingly passed this spring.

  • Saw a local production of The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. The hometown being rather small, it turns out an old colleague's nephew is the owner/proprietor of the theatre. Said former colleague saw Lily Tomlin in the original play, a one-woman act which ties together stories from a bag lady's perspective. Watching it was amazing, as watching most one-person acts are: the actress switched characters, voices, and personas so quickly but brilliantly and effectively. I definitely liked the second half of the play more than the first, partly because it incorporated more stories and characters, and partly because is deftly addressed the ideas of what art and life and craziness really are. And of course, I'm a sucker for the existential agonies.

  • A friend and I celebrated her no-more-studying-for-the-bar-exam status by going to see Up, which I LOVED. It was sad, uplifting, cute, and bizarre all at the same time. We weren't the only ones sniffling in the theatre! Most of all, I thought the movie did a beautiful job of navigating the gulf between being kid-friendly and addressing "grown-up" issues like death and loneliness. There were talking animals, old-time adventure tales, and cool things that fly. Another theme I appreciated was the revisiting and reevaluating of childhood ideals and heroes as an adult. Also, the little boy is vaguely Asian. Kudos for that (if not the absentee overworking father, by extension). Wonderful movie.

  • Some college friends were in town for a wedding, which was great. Got to show off the home town again, which is always fun.

  • Heresy, the latest in the medieval mystery series I'm addicted to, was good but a little predictable. (Sometimes that happens with mysteries.) In addition to the theme addressing the anti-Semitism of the Middle Ages, Sharan Newman has been slowly increasing the role of "heretical" fringe groups or cults in her stories. In this book it all weaves together against the backdrop of an ecumenical hearing, once the Crusaders from the last book have all left town. Also, one of her minor recurring characters had a more prominent role, and I figured out before I read the historical epilogue that he was destined to become one of the very real and more famous Archbishops of Canterbury. I credit taking Mediaeval History in a very cool medieval town with the fact that I remembered the name and the date for the particular character/real-life cleric.

  • Inglourious Basterds is a good movie to watch after several strong drinks with friends. It's deliberately irreverent, and the viewer needs to pretend that WW2 didn't really happen as we all know it did. Once you get over that, it's a movie about the movies. The characters are all one-dimensional archetypes, but they're supposed to be; besides, they're all incredibly well-acted. Oddly enough, it's violent but not as violent as I expected it to be; the wacky factor might have detracted from that a bit.

  • Saw Elephant's Graveyard at the same theatre mentioned above. Another excellent production! The play was incredibly well-written, though an utterly depressing true tale about a small town in Tennessee that decides to impose capital punishment on a circus elephant at the turn of the last century. Much food for thought, as there were several themes to unravel: the nature of public spectacle, justice, revenge, race relations, the role of religion, childhood/loss of innocence, etc. . . . With no intermission, little air circulation, and heavy subject matter, there was little choice but to try Seattle's new frozen custard place afterwards.

  • Lastly and most recently, a nonprofit I've long supported had a film-going fundraiser, and attendees got to choose a movie to see. I opted for Ponyo, having seen a preview at Up. It turned out to be cute and weird and vaguely Little Mermaid-esque .... aaaaand also unexpectedly chock full of sexual imagery and innuendo, from practically the first scene, where a crowd of jellyfish float through the ocean with -- I swear-- penis-looking appendages bobbing happily up and down. (I wasn't the only one who noticed that and the many, many other similar scenes and themes. A friend called Ponyo, an inexplicable sea-water goldfish who wants to be human, the "little sperm that could.") There are several gaps in both plot and reality, as well as countless " WTF?!" moments. Like my friend, who in addition to the "sperm" comment read the film as an evolutionary and environmental warning, I got all the "life-cycle" themes: children/old people, mothers/fathers, high tide/low tide, ocean/earth, prehistoric/future. I love the ocean, so I also appreciated the scenes of a town that lives and breathes by the sea, adjusting to the magic and menace on a daily basis.
And now, for autumn!

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