Saturday, February 26, 2005

Sweet Smell of Success

February 26, 2005
I've been trying to get ahead of desk work to clear time/space for writing. This is always the objective. We saw Sweet Smell of Success last night on DVD--a really good old noir (also black and white) movie, lots of shots of wonderful New York City as it used to be with phones at the tables in the 21 Club etc. Tony Curtis was so slimy he shone, so attractive that you root for him whatever he does. Burt Lancaster does a terrific job too, as the power broker columnist J.J. Hunsecker, but he plays it-- appropriately-- like a man with his face frozen, someone so heavy with his own importance and power that you imagine the human being is so far inside the caverns of stone he'll never come out. Whereas Curtis is all over the place, quicksilver, meteoric, trying something new if the other thing doesn't work. He has all this youth and hope and a kind of animal energy. The "good" guys in the movie, potato faced Martin Millner and Susan Harrison (who never did much of anything else as far as I know) were totally missing in action (although Millner's character gets to attack Hunsecker's false patriotism in a neat slap at red baiting-- Cliff Odets a co-writer of this). And surely I'm not the only person who saw that Hunsecker was dying of incestuous love for his little sister?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Snow in Jersey

We've got wet snow, four or five inches, here in urban NJ-- it's President's Day, so most schools are closed, and I don't have to go in to NYU either. The white and bright under gray skies is lovely, but I especially love the silence, until the snowblowers come out.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Good Media Experiences

We've got the Food Network again! Wow! Are they trying to suck us into buying the expensive cable? I don't care, but just watched someone named Sarah teaching saute, seafood over noodles, turkey cutlets with hot salsa, chicken stock and cider vinegar! to deglaze the turkey pan. Beat out turkey cutlets with water, beteween plastic wrap sheets. I don't know why I like food network so much– I expect it's partly because it does something that t.v. is best at, which is spontaneity of a certain sort: I always remember in 1963 that the best tv was the coverage of the Kennedy assassination and the funeral after. They did Ronald Reagan's funeral well. Anything that lends itself to channel surfing, just sort of drifting in and out. The cooking shows are scripted in a general sort of way, but you get the sense that it is happening now. The breaks from real time are pretty transparent: you go away for a commerical and the turkey cutlets are finished cooking, but you know this is a five minute procedure, so you haven't been really tricked. I think the desire for this witnessing through the little window into the big neighborhood outside is part of what draws people to reality tv and the live talk shows. Anyhow, this is one of the first things I've really liked on television, and I'm thrilled we've got it back, at least for the moment.
Another recent happy media experience is the Wikipedia article. I put up my little note and it got added to, although not changed. The idea of this kind of communal pooling of knowledge really thrills me.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Reading some blogs

I keep wanting to like the blogs I see, and so far, reading them hasn't quite caught on with me. I wonder if the people who read regularly are reading instead of-- what? reading books? Drinking beer? watching television?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

This week is too much like last week

This week is a little too much like last week. Double jobs, exhausting work at Lincoln Park, lots of Community Coaltion stuff. I had a recommendation to write today, a nerve wracking phone call, exchanges with George Brosi at Appalachian Heritage over my article about novelist Gretchen Laskas, an hour at Columbia High School for their student ACLU meeting and a speaker on race and justice, make dinner, prepare Advanced Novel for tomorrow night and 7th graders for tomorrow day. Just part of it. I'm cheerful when I'm like this, though. Still having sort of commentary flashes of Italy. Amazing that a month ago were were there, in that place not this one. Amazing thing: I wrote a Wikipedia article on Harriette Arnow, and within a day, one of their editors had added more information--I learned something new from the article I wrote. Is that amazing or what?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Saturday night, home alone....

And having a great time! I'm reading my first P.D. James book, Innocent Blood, and yes I know it isn't necessarily typical of her work, but it's got at least one murder so far and maybe more to come. Andy drove to the Berkshires today, walked on frozen Lake Buel, bought sour dough bread at Daily Bread and, presumably, bought the diet orange soda we like. I've been working hard on an article for Appalachian Heritage. Nice day, all told.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Lincoln Park, Washington Square

What a week of teaching! Two new classes starting at NYU, two days in Lincoln Park, a teacher workshop, meetings. So thankful to be with no meeting, no work tonight. So loxed out, I watched a cheap bio pic about Michael Jackson

It seems so long since we got back from Italy. Italy was like a restart on the computer, somehow, a lot of rough edges smoothed, things that seemed tangled smoothed out. You push the restart and problems disappear.

Like the old depression treatment of shock therapy, only delightful
instead of traumatic! Yesterday, in Lincoln Park, NJ, I saw a woman in a pink
sweatshirt with a waddling little gray old dog that squatted in some
dirty snow. I found it moving for some reason, the sad tragedy of
this country, people stumbling along, thinking somehow they are righteous
and have the right to stomp on whoever.

In Washington Square, in New York, when I go to teach
there, the big Judson Memorial church keeps on its message board the
count of American service people dead in Afghanistan and Iraq, well
over a thousand now, but also over a hundred thousdan Afghanis and
Iraquis. The question is: for those other people we don't count (Saddam
is beaten, full speed ahead!) who are dead or whose families are dead,
was it worth it? I doubt it, but the real point to me is, why did
the people in Washington, riding on the ignorance of the pink lady
with the fat dog, get to decide?

The rawness the sharp edges here in the United States are just blowing
me away, the new homes in the developmets are are attractive– spacious,
but the sharp edges are what I keep comparing to the buildings seen
from a distance in Tuscany, on the train from Rome to Florence. But
even in the cities there was a roundness of the the cobblestones the
piazzas, the old stone work in Florence.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

New Web Browser

I just downloaded Firefox after reading an issue of Wired. Now I feel all tingly and technologically advanced!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Party at the Museum

We had our final event with the fall Newark Museum program-- at the Museum, the court full of kids from various schools, art projects.
Ours from Warren Street School was our books, art and words. Satisfying to end so well, all those kids, all that art.

Last evening, I slogged down through the snow to the garden, pulled up a sunbrella (damaging it, I think, and cut some lettuce and radicchio for dinner. Whatever the weather, there is brightness of days getting longer at this time of year.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Wet Friday morning

I'm in the midst of major teaching responsibilities--finished up one series of creative writing at a school in Linden, taking in final anthologies of children's work to the school in Newark, NYU classes are starting next week, and cetera and cetera. I've got a writing project I'm committed to, and wonder when I'll get back to my own writing.