Thursday, January 09, 2003

Today's random stuff, in no particular order: (Oh, sheesh, I just realized that this is kind of like Larry King's "bits," as made fun of by Norm MacDonald on Saturday Night Live. But what the hey, I'm going for it.

  • When I was in Knoxville recently, my good friend Susan Giesemann North turned me on to the writing of Molly Ivins. I would read Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? before going to sleep, and I'm hooked now. She is awesome, just my kind of person! I feel stupid for not knowing about her before; I should keep better track of newspapers. You should check out the column about tax cuts I link to here. She has this clear way of seeing and explaining confusing political and economic moves. Her essay "How Ann Richards Got to Be Governor of Texas" in Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? is well worth reading too--her analysis of Clayton Williams's campaign and the ways Richards' campaign responded to it is both hilarious and perceptive.
  • As I said before, I read The Hours by Michael Cunningham a couple of weeks ago. What a book. My friend Andrea gave it to me for my birthday and kept at me to read it. I'm glad I did. As you might know, it's the stories of Clarissa Vaughan, a New York woman in 1999 who is preparing a party for her friend Richard, a poet who has won a prestigious award and who is in the final stages of AIDS; Laura Brown, a 1950s stay-at-home mom who loves to read and feels pushed into the live she's leading, and Virginia Woolf as she is starting Mrs. Dalloway. The connections are beautiful and touching to read. For example, in one chapter, Clarissa is visiting Richard, whose mind has been affected by the disease. He is talking to himself and she can make out the word "hurl." When she comes in, she says, "Are they here today?" Richard says no, but that his hallucinations are similar to a dark, sinister jellyfish. He can't stand to have the lights on or the windows uncovered. Then, in the next chapter, Woolf's inner monologue is about the brightness she sees all the time, even when she closes her eyes, and she can't ever get the relief that darkness would bring. She thinks about the onsets of her periods of madness and characterizes them as a "headache." She imagines herself walking down the street, and the headache as having a life of its own, walking beside her like a bright jellyfish. Someone asks, "What is that?" She replies, "That's just my headache. Please ignore it." The chapters about Laura Brown and her interaction with her son (age 3) gave me a renewed respect for what stay-at-home moms do. I can't believe a man wrote this book. Certain images and words are repeated from chapter to chapter in this elegant way, not hackneyed at all--you want to read the next chapter to see what the connecting threads will be. It's a fast read. It reminds me in a way of some episodes of Northern Exposure, in which you the viewer saw how connected everything and everyone was in Cicely, Alaska, from the more tuned-in people like Ed the Shaman, Chris in the morning, and Marilyn the secretary, to the cynics like Joel Fleischmann and Maggie. I highly recommend this book, and I want to see the movie too, but I have my doubts as to how they'll capture the inner monologues of the characters, unless there are a lot of voice-overs. I'll pay the ticket price just to see the performances of Meryl Streep as Clarissa, Julianne Moore as Laura, and Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf, though.
  • Today I watched the movie K-PAX. I had been wanting to see it for a while now, and it was better than I thought it would be. If you can't stand Kevin Spacey, maybe you shouldn't bother with it--he's in almost every scene--but if you like or are indifferent to him, it's an excellent look at mental illness and the treatment of it.
  • I also watched Minority Report. It even further reinforced my high regard of Philip K. Dick. I've got to read the story it's based on . . . before I saw the movie, I was told to pay particular attention to the role of advertising in the movie (like I could have ignored it). A person walks into the Gap, for instance, and a holographic saleswoman appears and says, "Hello, Mr. Forgotthename. How did those pleated pants work out for you?" It's like browser cookies. I can totally see everything going in that direction--eye scans, all that stuff. Great film; I must see it again.