Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Knope 2012! (Also: Leslie Definitely Loves Ann)

This week brought no new episode of Parks and Rec, which was fine because this gave me a window to re:watch last week's excellent episode, "Citizen Knope".

"Adorable" doesn't cover it. However, as the gals at After Ellen well point out, Parks and Rec "is the sweetest sitcom on TV, but what makes it so wonderful is that it doesn't swim around in sentimentality". It's adorable with an edge. Um, yeah, I need to find sth else to describe Parks and Rec, because that sounds just awful. And the show is the complete opposite of awful, in case I haven't made that clear a hundred times till now.

The best part about "Citizen Knope" is definitely the gift giving. As the asocial I am, I hate it in real life. It's a social minefield out there. But were I a Pawnee resident, I would love to get a present from Leslie and give her one too. The latter would be a difficult task, though. Leslie is undeniably brilliant at finding the perfect gift for each person. Even Jerry/Gerry is happy with his socks. And I just loved seeing Ron moved to tears by his door closer. But um what did Ann get? It's weird that they should overlook exactly her gift when we know she must have gotten sth really special, as hinted by Leslie's word cloud.

Ron: Ben, and much larger, Ann. She definitely loves Ann.

Ann: Awww.

Awww indeed. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best moment delivered by this episode. Then, there is of course the gift they give Leslie, and from there it's a full-on tear festival. Knope 2012!

Leslie and her gingerbread office

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Saturday Night Live' on a Thursday

I might be taking my pop culture obsession a bit too far, but I'll take the chance.

I have seen very few SNL episodes, and ever since I've been watching 30 Rock / read Tina Fey's Bossypants / been watching Parks & Rec and loving Amy Poehler, I've been meaning to watch SNL regularly. Now, SNL is not the type of show you catch up on. For the very simple, obvious reason that it's been on the air since 1975. Marathoning 36 seasons plus the current one would be a little on the OCD side. So, what about watching the current season in parallel with the first season? That sounds doable, and just enough to satisfy my curiosity about the beginnings of SNL. I think.

The funny thing is that the very first SNL monologue is about football. Funny as in "curious", because I wrote about football just yesterday. But not funny as in "ha ha", I'm afraid. Here's the transcript:
George Carlin: Thank you! Talk about a live show! It's nice to see you, welcome, and thanks for joining us - live. Um... I'm kinda glad that we're on at night, so that we're not competing with all the football and baseball. So many, man... And this is the time of year when there's both, you know?

Football's kinda nice, they changed it a little bit - they moved the hash marks in. Guys found it and smoked them, anyway! But you know, football wants to be the number-one sport, the national pasttime. And I think it already is, really, because football represents something we are - we are Europe, Jr. When you get right down to it, we're Europe, Jr. We play a Europe game. What was the Europe game? [ high voice ] "Let's take their land away from them! You'll be the pink, on up; we'll be blue, the red and the green!"

Ground acquisition. And that's what football is, football's a ground acquisition game. You knock the crap out of eleven guys and take their land away from them. Of course, we only do it ten yards at a time. That's the way we did it with the Indians - we won it little by little. First down in Ohio - Midwest to go!

Let's put it this way - there are things about the words surrounding football and baseball, which give it all away:

Football is technological; baseball is pastoral.

Football is played in a stadium; baseball is played in the park.

In football, you wear a helmet; in baseball, you wear a cap.

Football is played on an enclosed, rectangular grid, and everyone of them is the same size; baseball is played on an ever-widening angle that reaches to inifinity, and every park is different!

Football is rigidly timed; baseball has no time limit, we don't know when it's gonna end! We might even have extra innings!

In football, you get a penalty; in baseball, you make an error - whoops!

The object in football is to march downfield and penetrate enemy territory, and get into the end zone; in baseball, the object is to go home! "I'm going home!"

And, in football, they have the clip, the hit, the block, the tackle, the blitz, the bomb, the offense and the defense; in baseball, they have.. the sacrifice.
- George Carlin's Monologue, SNL (season 1, episode 1)

The first SNL has a few okay sketches, but overall it is quite unimpressive. If this were the pilot for a new show, I would not be watching the next episode. Neh, whom I am kidding? I'll watch pretty much anything that is at least half baked. Besides, on the second SNL they have Paul Simon as a host!

What I did enjoy was seeing the young Chevy Chase doing the Weekend Update. Plus: his characters are a lot nicer than Pierce, that's for sure. Now, then, and now again:

SNL: Seth Meyers doing the Weekend Update (season 37, episode 1)

SNL: Chevy Chase doing the Weekend Update (season 1, episode 1)

Community: Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne (season 3, episode 10: "Regional Holiday Music")

{I have been watching a lot more tv (even though I've had my tv turned off for a really long time) and fewer films during these past few months, and I'm starting to feel guilty.}

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

'Friday Night Lights': First Impressions

I was only vaguely aware of Friday Night Lights (FNL) when it was still on the air. There was this one episode (season 1, episode 22: "State") that I intended to watch because I had read somewhere that Bright Eyes's cover of Devil Town was featured on its soundtrack. I never did get to watch it, though, and as it turns out Bright Eyes was incorrectly credited. It was Tony Lucca's version that was featured in that episode and also in the second episode, "Eyes Wide Open", which I saw yesterday.

FNL has been on my to-watch list for quite a while, mostly thanks to Linda Holmes of NPR's Monkey See blog. I have lost track of how many times she's recommended it on the Pop Culture Happy Hour (PCHH) podcast. And since I started watching the wonderfully fantastic Parks and Recreation thanks to Linda Holmes's recommendation on PCHH, I trust her taste in pop culture. However, there is one minor detail worth adding to the equation. She likes football. I... loathe it. From the bottom of my tiny little black heart.

I started watching FNL carrying a heavy baggage of preconceptions. I see football American football as the glorification of violence. This sport is all about aggressiveness. About not being a pussy. This is about being a Man. Roar. And I'll dare to go even further: this goes hand in hand with sexism and homophobia. I'll refrain from linking to a number of articles about sexual abuses perpetrated by members of football teams because I do not want to depress myself right now. What is most depressing and irritating about this type of acts of violence is the victim blaming and the protection these guys get not only from their team but also, with very few exceptions, from their community.

"Community" is the key-word here. While I think American football is part of a bigger machinery that perpetuates violence as a cultural value, I am also aware that football, or any type of sport for that matter, has the potential of lowering the rates of criminal activity in communities at risk. Simply put: it keeps the kids off streets and away from drugs. As a non-American (or maybe just as a Romanian) I do not have a sense of community. What I have learned from American movies and tv series, though, is that a football team can be the glue that keeps a community together. And this is made more than clear in FNL, right from the beginning, in the pilot.

The entire (fictional) town of Dillon is preoccupied with the fate of the Panthers, a high school team. The best in the state of Texas. Which is another difficult thing for me to digest. I don't know, blame it on Bush for giving this state a bad reputation. No. Actually, what I find difficult is to relate to characters that are clearly on the Republican side. But I do like Big Love, which is somewhat in the same neighborhood when it comes to the political views of its characters, so I do not expect this to be an issue in the long run.

The very pilot of FNL supports my aggressiveness argument. At the opening of a car dealership, the mayor corners the star of the team, quarterback Jason Street, and after complimenting him on his manners, she orders him to "Knock it off. You can't go in the game tomorrow night like that." and then goes on barking: "Chew 'em up! Spit 'em out!". At the same event, the new coach, Eric Taylor, is told (by... sponsors? dispensers of unsolicited advice?): "We don't want you to go out there and be soft and scared. We want you to be aggressive." And then they go and make my job real' easy. Towards the end of the first game, the quarterback is so violently injured that he is paralyzed, as it is confirmed in the second episode. But don't worry, all this (talk of) aggression evens out in the end because oh wow, do they pray a lot on this show.

One other thing that is challenging about watching FNL is the hand-held camera technique. Some of the films I love use this type of shots. The problem here is that if I want to marathon FNL, I'm going to get very dizzy. It works for one hour, it works for two hours, but more than that it's just too demanding.

On the brighter side: I'm interested in Connie Britton's performance, whom I only discovered thanks to one wacky tv series known as American Horror Story. Another actress I'm interested in is Adrianne Palicki, who was rather compelling as Wonder Woman. Too bad that show didn't get picked up. But then again, I doubt I would have watched it. Also: I couldn't remember where I had heard the team's motto, "Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't Lose.". It was on Parks & Rec, just last week, uttered by Leslie Knope herself. And if Leslie likes FNL, then it must be good.

Finally, let's talk expectations. Wink. What I expect from FNL is for it to make me swallow my words, if not at the end of the first season, then at the end of the series. I do not expect it to magically erase my preconceptions about American football. No. But I want to believe FNL is about more than just the glorification of a violent sport.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"How To Be the Photograph"

Patti Smith, photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe for the cover of her first album, Horses

Haunted by Ms. Patti Lee.

The NYR Blog has a lovely piece on Patti Smith's participation at a Met event honoring Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. The text is accompanied by the songs Smith performed alongside her daughter, pianist Jesse Paris Smith, and Larry Kaye on guitar. Such a joyous treat.

I shamefully have to admit that except for the Blue Lines, I'm only familiar with Georgia and Alfred thanks to Patti's latest memoir.
John saved the most breathtaking images for last. One by one, he shared photographs forbidden to the public, including Stieglitz’s exquisite nudes of Georgia O’Keeffe. Taken at the height of their relationship, they revealed in the intimacy a mutual intelligence and O’Keeffe’s masculine beauty. As Robert concentrated on technical aspects, I focused on Georgia O’Keeffe as she related to Stieglitz, without artifice. Robert was concerned with how to make the photograph, and I with how to be the photograph.
- Patti Smith, Just Kids

Patti Smith would eventually be both. The photograph and the photographer. Some of her work as a photographer was part of the It's Not Only Rock'n'Roll, Baby! exhibition, which I had the unexpected chance to see in Brussels, at BOZAR, in September 2008. Sadly, I can't say I was interested in Patti Smith's work at that time, and I did not pay the due attention to her photographs. I of course regret that, especially now that I've been so taken with her book, Just Kids.

I'm late to the party, I know, I know.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bande-à-part Uniform

Bande à part (Godard, 1964)

"Each day I rose, dutifully dressed, and made the three subway changes to Rockefeller Center. My uniform for Scribner’s was taken from Anna Karina in Bande à part: dark sweater, plaid skirt, black tights, and flats."

- Patti Smith, Just Kids

Saturday, December 10, 2011

American Beauty

TASCHEN's Magazine, Winter 2011/2012

I wish I still had a valid CCF card so that I could borrow Norman Mailer's Marilyn and re:read it. I still have a few scanned pages to remind me of that book, though. And then, there's this little excerpt, which, as insignificant as it might be, speaks volumes to me.
Le bébé [Norma Jean] pleure rarement. D'ailleurs, par la suite, quand elle saura marcher, Gladys l'emmènera parfois au laboratoire du studio pendant son travail. Les ouvrières félicitent la mère d'avoir une enfant aussi sage. Mais cette sagesse, cette tranquillité indiquent déjà l'orphelin spirituel, qui ne s'attend pas qu'on s'occupe de lui. Plus tard, les commentaires sur cette tranquillité seront moins louangeurs. Natasha Lytess, qui fut sa conseillère artistique, et devait être renvoyée ignominieusement, déclara : « Elle ressemblait souvent à une somnambule »; et le scénariste Nunnally Johnson dira en parlant d'elle: « Elle semblait être enforcée sous trois mètres d'eau... un mur de coton hydrophile... elle me fait penser à une marmotte. On lui enfonce une épingle dans le corps et huit jours après elle dit « aïe ». Il est possible que, déjà dans sa petite enfance, ses pensées aient tourné en rond, offrant le même rapport avec une quête obstiné que, dans sa cellule, les pas du prisonnier avec un voyage.
- Norman Mailer, Marilyn

Mailer's biographical account has been out of print in the States, never in print in Romania, as far as I now, and Taschen's latest book dedicated to Marilyn, which brings together Mailer's text and Bert Stern's photographs does not exactly solve the problem. It is a collector's edition. But I trust they have a regular edition in the works. Fingers crossed. After all, Marilyn belongs to the masses.


+ Leaf through.
+ Read the piece on Marilyn featured in the winter issue of Taschen's Magazine.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Goldfrapp - Yellow Halo

Alison Goldfrapp's halo lead my thoughts towards Pasolini's handsome jeune homme from Teorema. I like the pensive aura of a head swallowed by the light of the sun. Needless to say, in Teorema it is more than that - the light of the sun is used to suggest the divine nature of the visitor.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stillness Is The Move

How should I live? Maybe that's not the question.

How should I think?

I know so little. Maybe because I'm always just curious. Sometimes I think so wrongly because I'm thinking as if I was talking to someone else.

- Marion, Wings of Desire

It's inevitable: things you wrote more than three years ago become embarrassing. They become clutter in the attic. I put an end to my oh so old blog because I felt the need to change my address. But you see, it's not a big move. I'm just moving next door. And I'm keeping most of my old furniture.

"Stillness Is The Move" is, of course, the title of a Dirty Projectors song, from their 2009 album Bitte Orca. I was instantly drawn to it by its oxymoronic nature, and this song has since stayed with me.

Stillness Is The Move
Dirty Projectors

When the child was just a child
It did not know what it was
Like a child it had no habits
No opinion about anything

Maybe I will get a job
Get a job as a waitress
Maybe waiting tables in a diner
In some remote city down the highway

After all that we've been through
I know we'll make it after the wait
The question is a truth
There is nothing we can't do
I'll see you along the way baby
The stillness is the move

On top of every mountain
There was a great longing
For another even higher mountain
In each city longing for a bigger city

After all that we've been through
I know that I will always love you
From now until forever baby
I can't imagine anything better


Isn't life under the sun just a crazy dream?
Isn't life just a mirage of the world before the world?
Why am I here and not over there?
Where did time begin
Where does space end
Where do you and I begin?

(chorus x2)

The lyrics are based on the script of Der Himmel über Berlin/ Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987), mostly on the Song of Childhood written by Peter Handke.

I like to think "stillness is the move" conveys the idea of spectatorship. And from spectatorship I go to escapism. From escapism to nonparticipation. From nonparticipation to passivity. From passivity to freedom.

"And could it be that in this passivity I shall find my freedom?", wonders one of Richard Linklater's slackers.