Friday, October 30, 2009

think i can.

The Little Engine that Could was one of the stories I most loved as a child. I must have been doomed to a life of always trying to, at best, finish. In recent years, it feels like I've been doing a pretty good job of finishing. So maybe in the next few years I will focus on accomplishing my goals with a greater degree of competitive spirit.

I am 98.777% certain that I am going to train for and run the Mardi Gras 1/2 Marathon that takes place in NOLA on February 28. I think I can. I think I can.

I spoke to a friend about it today, and she sent me a 12-week training schedule. This year the Mardi Gras run is going to be part of a larger event called Rock 'n Roll Marathon series. The series includes bands playing live music at every mile marker. SO. It sounds kind of fun, right? New Orleans? Music? Being in shape again just after my 35th birthday? Running with a friend on her 35th birthday? Training with another friend who's birthday will have passed in December? The only thing that could make it more fun is if Mardi Gras fell right after, but no such luck. I guess I will take what I can get.

Let the training begin. In November. For now, I am going to focus on just getting out to run at least once a week, maybe twice. I THINK I CAN.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

late at night.

Last night I dreamt of my mother. I remembered the dream as I was driving to work. "Hey Jude" started playing on the radio, and suddenly the dream returned - not the memory of images, but instead, memory of an intense negative feeling. And then the images came to me. Nothing I feel especially interested in sharing for now, except to say that I dreamt of my mother, and it felt as if she was real and present.

The radio said that today (or, technically, yesterday) was St. Jude's Day. St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes.

I cannot sleep lately. So here I am at 1:11 am. Make a wish.

I am leaning more and more toward training for the half marathon. Is that crazy? Possibly. No promises yet.

Friday, October 23, 2009

wants and considerations.

Things I want lately:

1. New clothes. I have not purchased new clothes since May, and those were purely for my India trip. The goals of those clothes were comfort and coolness (as in temperature).

2. Not to have to grade essays.

3. To be able to finish this story about the boys so I can move on already.

4. Two new pairs of boots. I can see them in my head, but I can't find them in any stores. And I couldn't afford them if I could find them; I'm certain.

5. More time to write and time to start a garden (I always want to do this at precisely the wrong time of year, but technically, I think fall is the right time).

6. More money.

7. To own my own house again. Boy do I miss that.

8. A weekend getaway to NYC to visit with girlfriends and just be somewhere else.

Things I am considering lately:

1. Training for the Mardi Gras half marathon that takes place in NOLA in February. Is this something I can do? Is it something I WANT to do? I don't think I have it in me to enjoy running more than 5 miles at a time.

2. This is making me consider the possibility of training for a 10 K instead. But I love the idea of going to New Orleans to compete. And the NOLA one takes place on my friend's 35th birthday (and she'll be there running).

3. Right now, as I write, I am leaning toward option 2. 10K doesn't set a bunch of alarms off in my head.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

more letters to famous people.

Dear Spike Jonze and Dave Eggars,

You disappoint.

Spike Jonze, I had all the faith in the world in your artistic integrity and vision. I believed that you would create a film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are that would be fiercely magical. I believed that you would not compromise with studio executives pressuring you to "make accessible" what should have been a work of, perhaps not brilliance, but at least, focused, intentional inventiveness.

The movie's compromises vibrate on screen like neon day-glow. Who is this film for, adults or children?

James Gandolfini as Carol takes the viewer so far out of the movie that one cannot begin to appreciate the cinematography and costume design- two of the movie's stronger elements. Other overly-recognizable voiceovers, in combination with the odd human-naming of the creatures, are equally intrusive. Viewers should not be distracted by trying to identify famous voices or trying to make more "real" the beasts of dreams and imagination. Viewers should be swept up in and completely believe in the magic of the wild things and their kingdom.

Setting the first part of the film in 2009, though this classic book was written in and illustrated in the 1960s, also fails to match some of the movie's latter vision. (I'm still convinced that you had a clear vision at some point.) The last two-thirds of the film stay visually true to the book while also bringing it to life in new ways - that is part of the task of mastering this adaptation. The 1st third, in terms of tonal quality/lighting and set design, disorients those of us who sat several times through a trailer that promised warm, muted browns, yellows, greens and grays, and promised the director's full attention to interpreting and constructing the book's time and place. The white scenes are beautiful: the chaos of snow flying, the shrieking of kids at play-war. But, among other scenes, there is the misplaced pop of a Hannah-Montana-esque bedroom set design that jolts viewers out of the understanding with which we entered the theater.

The 1st third of the movie should have taken cues from your ex-wife Sophia Coppola's film adaptation of The Virgin Suicides and Ang Lee's adaptation of Rick Moody's novel The Ice Storm. Even Sam Mendes's American Beauty would have served as a more fitting reference. Saturday morning Disney corporation sit-coms are an ill-fitting point of reference if one is to masterfully adapt this classic, well-executed and well-loved picture book.

Max Records, the little boy who played Max, gave a strong performance considering the script he had to deliver. This brings me to my final qualm.

Dave Eggars, what is going on with your screenplays? I first became skeptical after I saw Away We Go. The director and editor should have cut the over-written scenes.

In Where the Wild Things Are, the tacked in 2009 teen-speak, the one-liners and rudimentary slap stick jokes make it seem that a sitcom with a laugh track has landed inside of the movie the way Dorothy's house landed in Oz. Your script offers Max's back story: he is a child dealing with his parents' divorce, his sister's adolescent angst and a few bullying teenagers. The revelation of Max's history should have, and could have, been more gracefully and lovingly executed. Yet, one feels no love behind this script; one feels only the distinct pull of the dollar.

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield calls his writer-brother who has gone off to California a prostitute. What is your hourly rate, Dave Eggars? Please, get back to writing for the page and from the heart. I beg of you.

The crux of the problem with the entire film, including its script, lies, not in the fact that filmmakers adapted a 10-page picture book, but rather, in the original question of audience.

Is this movie intended for children? Or is the intended audience adults who hold in our hearts a special place for the book Where the Wild Things Are? Is the film an opportunity to sell future video games and other commercial merchandise? (I suspect that this is what studio executives imagined.) Or is the film an opportunity for adults to revisit children's stories and to newly examine darkness that often lies beneath and within picture books? (I suspect that this is what Jonze originally envisioned.) As it is now, the movie-version of Where the Wild Things Are neither succeeds in provoking adults who handle adult problems to exit theaters deeply empathizing with their children and the muted complexity that creates and saturates children's worlds, nor leaves adults to admire and desire the vibrant coping mechanisms with which children deal. If it is successful at all, it succeeds at artfully riffing on Mrs. Doubtfire - creating a feel good film for the entire, comically dysfunctional American family.

The screen version of Where the Wild Things Are leaves me pondering how disappointing the film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz would have been had it been made in today's cinematic climate. What would it be had studio executives asked filmmakers to make The Wizard of Oz less scary and more commercially viable?

While I am let down by this film that I had anticipated so enthusiastically, at least I am reminded of the relevance of the book form. There is relevance in possessing tangible pages to turn, reading words and images that speak to one's own mind's eye, spark one's own inventiveness, and allow a human being to delight in and believe in far off kingdoms that hold magical healing powers and ultimately, remind us of the loving safety-even through instability-that is home.


This morning I looked in the mirror, and I saw tired, fat and not cute at all.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

i prayed for a touchdown, and the lord scored one.

In addition to their personalities, my students' essays are teaching me a great deal about their belief systems.

Their papers reiterate that football is king in Texas, and the Friday night lights hold a special place in many of their hearts and memories.

Jesus also has quite a presence in my classroom. There are Baptists. There are Methodists. There are Catholics. There are the Young LIfe kids. There are the ones who have gone on missions to Africa and Mexico. Does this mean that there's good karma in my classes? Do karma and Jesus mix? I hope that all of these kids will pray for me to keep moving toward my goals in life. Maybe I should ask them.

In all seriousness, my next story will be called, "Jesus was a Football Player from Texas." He was, you know.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

sex, drugs and rock 'n roll.

I am testing out this phrase. Is a timeless classic that provokes interest, or is it simply a cliche? What do you think? Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. What comes to mind when you hear these words? Nostalgia? Cliches? Expectant delight?

After a Saturday of toughing it out in the rain and mud at ACL this weekend, moving from stage to stage listening to this band and then that, getting drenched in the process, my husband declared, "'I'm over this Woodstock shit." I laughed. But only when we were back at the festival the next day walking barefoot in pudding-like mud. That's when I remembered his old-man pronouncement.

Phoenix and Heartless Bastards were worth all the water and mud.

Bah. Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll.