Monday, October 30, 2006

The New Yorker: Q&A: Civic Emotions
"The gate we walk through when we become parents is, in my experience, the most one-sided gate we walk through in life. One morning, you are a ship out on the ocean, heading for Byzantium; the next, you and your spouse have become a harbor for another boat getting ready for its own voyage out. And, though you sneak away for weeks on book tours, you are never anything but a harbor again. (An abandoned harbor, eventually, searching the horizon for the long-gone ships.)

This is a good thing, of course, but becoming a parent made me, I think, more impatient with writing anything that seemed to me homework—work made to order, and not about the things that truly obsess one but about the things about which one is expected to have a professional opinion. I recall standing at the entrance of a Bruce Nauman exhibition, shortly after my son was born—and Nauman is an artist I keenly admire and have analyzed at exhausting length—where one of his “Clown Torture” videos was shouting at people, and thinking, I am interested in this, but I do not care about this as obsessively as I do about watching my child grow into consciousness. Life is too short, and parenting too exhausting, to allow you much time for mere professional opinionating.

And then, for all the joys that parenting provides, it also makes you keenly aware of the temporariness of all experience. To a child, family life looks as fixed and solid as a civilization, with rituals and routines and prohibitions—boxes of ornaments that have always been in the basement and silverware that has always been resting in the drawer. In fact, to the parents, it’s a frantic improvisation, as fragile and contingent as a truce in wartime. We see the bills and they see—and should only see—the ongoing surface of reassuring sameness.

More than the continuity of time, what parenting provides, I think, is a sense of the fragility of existence. Darwin grasped this after the tragic death of his daughter, who was only ten, and there is, as I’ve tried to show recently in the magazine, illuminating his work a half-stoical, half-heartbroken sense of the irreconcilable demands of deep time, where rocks are made and animals evolve, and quick time, human time, where our children are born and can depart. You can’t reconcile one time with the other; you just have to live in the knowledge of both. This fracture of vision is part of what being a parent is about."

Adam Gopnik nails the experience of parenthood.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"30 Rock" (2006)****
This is the best new show on television. Densely funny, smartly produced, with a standout cast. Sharply written with none of the "watch what I do with this line" snobbery of say Studio 60. I hope the no laugh-track policy starts to catch on. And I love the fact that it is NOT "filmed before a live audience". This show and The Office have renewed my faith in the sitcom. Now if they can only pull in the ratings...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Aimee Mann - One More Drifter in the Snow***
An interesting holiday album from Ms. Mann. The lead-off track, Jimmy Webb's "Whatever Happened to Christmas?" sets the tone, one of melancholy primarily. There's a fresh take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as well as other standards, along with Michael Penn's "Christmastime" and a new Mann tune "Calling On Mary" which is well done. The only real clunker is her take on "White Christmas" which, and as an Aimee Mann fan from way back I hate to say it, sounds plain awful. One unusual note: there is an almost overwhelming emphasis on the bass line in the production on this record. You would be advised to lower the bass or pump up the treble when playing this disc. Not sure why this was done as it is way overboard. Perhaps because the bass player, Paul Bryan, also produced?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Prestige (2006)***I guess what it boils down to is I don't like Christian Bale. He seems like a good actor and his performance is fine, it's just I don't see him in this role and I don't enjoy seeing him on the screen. The script is smart and sharp, the direction is clever and artful. It's a good film, just not up to the level of Memento which I always seem to expect, admittedly unfairly, from Christopher Nolan.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pernice Brothers - Live A Little ***
Literate, tightly constructed pop songs filled with catchy hooks and riffs. "Automaton", "Cruelty to Animals", "Sommerville" and "Lightheaded" are standouts. I would have given this record 4 stars but I find lead singer Joe Pernice's almost-whispered, delicately precise diction incredibly annoying. Don't listen to the album all at once and you'll be fine.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Jules et Jim (1962)***
The first half seems self-consciously "arty" and amazingly rushed. It all goes by in a whirlwind with no time to really connect to the characters. But the second half has many moments of deep emotion and despair as the principles realize that their dreams cannot be fulfilled yet they cannot bring themselves to dream anew. Jeanne Moreau is luminous.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

DLP Cinema technology
When I went to my local cinema to see The Departed, the theater in which it was playing used DLP (digital light processing) projectors instead of film projectors. This was my first experience with digital film projection.


I know it sounds cliched, but I have to say it: this changes everything. Absolutely crystal clear images FINALLY! You can keep your snap-crackle-pop, jittery, scratch-infested, color-faded film stock and do whatever you want with it. If I were running a cinema today, I would switch over to this technology overnight. It is really that good. I really wish I had seen The New World at a DLP theater.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Departed (2006)***
Terrific, violent actioner from Martin Scorsese evokes comparisons to his masterpiece Goodfellas but falls a bit short. The direction is top-notch, with several innovative touches that shows Scorsese is not just phoning it in here. The only problem with the flick is the cast. It's not that they aren't all good (Alec Baldwin does a great job with a small supporting role) but they are all movie stars. I never felt like I wasn't watching Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon or Leonardo DiCaprio. And that little bit of distance to their characters meant I was just not totally involved in the drama. But it's an enjoyable and thoughtful film, well worth your time.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Killers - Sam's Town***
Quite enjoyable second album from The Killers. "When You Were Young" and "Bones" are standout songs, driving and energetic, musically creative, with interesting lyrics. "This River Is Wild" though, while enjoyable, strays a little too close to Springsteen imitation/parody territory.