Last Year at Marienbad

An incredible film, shown nearly completely at the level of foggy memory or subconscious. Unnamed characters, multiple shots of people still as mannequins, multiple repetitions of poetic ambiguous dialog. Extremely stylish and beautiful. The *only* film I've ever had to rewind three times to see if I wasn't hallucinating an impossible sequence.

Kahlo at the Skirball

This week I attended a talk on Frida Kahlo by Judy Chicago at the
Skirball Center.

Kahlo's an interesting artist, at the intersection of several ideas.
She's well known, but not very prolific. Her work is oversymbolic and
surreal, but is in no way associated with the Surrealists. The
paintings can be quite intimate. Like an outsider artist, her images
are very individual: they don't look much like other artist's work. To
my eye her style isn't adapted from her overbearing famous husband
Diego Rivera. Her work is unique, and sweet.
During the talk I gained a more substantial understanding of Kahlo's
painting styles. She often painted long flowing clothing, but I found
them unconvincing. Her early portrait of her father isn't very
realistic. She gives him big eyes and a pensive mouth, with a mottled
background similar to a field of sunflowers. The image is stiff, but
charming and romantic.
One detail which Kahlo always gets right is eyes. Even in earlier
works her painted eyes, or camera lenses, are interesting and look
like glass.
A work I hadn't considered before is a painting of fruit. It also
looks rather individual, as if painted by an outsider artist, but is
much more than that. It's overflowing with ripeness and mystery and
sex. Again Kahlo transforms what could be a staid scene into one with
individuality and emotion.
Judy Chicago was a very engaging speaker. She bristles at the idea of
women's subjugation throughout time and with each word she highlights
and angrily jokes about the inequities. She was very happy to put
herself and her feminist viewpoint along with Kahlo, highlighting
their strengths. Her book is a series of essays written by and with
art historian Frances Borzello. I like the idea of two skilled artists
trading ideas back and forth over a topic -- looking forward to
reading "Frida Kahlo: Face to Face."

In my own artwork I strive for realism. I want a drawing to be
detailed and interesting. If I'm drawing something and it's not good
enough, I often get frustrated and give up. Over the last few years
I've gradually realized this view is missing the point. An engaging
piece of art is not necessarily a photograph, it's an *idea*. Ideas
are not bombastic or strident, they're intimate and personal.
Something overarching and world-spanning like "give peace a chance" is
antiseptic and dull. The simplest and most mundane commonalities of
life can become the most moving and wonderful works of art.

At the Skirball, the piece that struck me the most wasn't Kahlo's or
Chicago's, it was the work of a child. Outside the hall where Chicago
spoke is a series of thirty or so paintings and other artworks by
developmentally disabled young adults. The first image floored me.
It's a painting of a Holland style windmill. A boxy house is in the
lower part of the frame, and the mill sits heavily on top. In the
lower part of the image is a small garden. The work is mostly in
blues and purples -- the artist's last name translates to "blue." The
style is incredibly rough and awkward, with splotches of paint mashed
into place. The purple windmill has large gawky sails of red-purple
cinderblocks. I couldn't take my eyes off this wonderfully powerful
The artist has a small statement. She painted it in honor of her
grandfather, who wanted to return to his homeland but never did. So,
by painting his dream, and integrating their last name "blue", she was
creating and fulfilling his last wish.

As an artist, my visit to the Skirball has left me with much to ponder.

movie: The Fall (2006)

Tarsem Singh's movie is a gorgeous fable, all color and texture. Many, many scenes seem literally unreal, despite the movie made with zero CGI special effects. Set in the 1920's, a injured (paralyzed?) silent-movie stuntman (Lee Pace), tells wild adventure stories to a five year old girl. His heart and body are broken, so he gradually tries to con her to get him enough morphine pills to kill himself. The girl is a treasure, the Romanian Catinca Untaru. When cast, she was three years old and didn't know any English. When the movie was shot two years later, her speaking voice was rather wobbly, like she's making it up as she goes along. The director and actor played with her, adopting her strange phrasing and misunderstood words into plot points. The movie's fantasy sequences are defined by Pace's words, but the visuals are interpreted (and mis-interpreted) by five-year-old Untaru. The line between reality and dream occasionally stutters, giving the movie a charming feel.

Shot in 18 countries around the world, the only other movie as visually stunning is Baraka. The bad guys have strange stylized black leather(?) outfits, obscuring the face. Seen by the hundreds, the movie's images directly reference M C Escher -- a shifting kaleidescope of colors and patterns. The movie also borrows from Salvador Dali: the face of an evil priest blends seamlessly into the face on the side of a snow-covered mountain. The eyes are groups of people who move away, shifting and melting the face.

The film's plot leaves a bit to be desired. About 2/3 of the way through it takes some violent jerks back and forth, and a number of scenes seem to be mashed into place.

I agree with Ebert, who said roughly: "go see this. There will be nothing like it again."


Yesterday I spent well, napping, cleaning the bathroom cabinet, planning, and watching netflix. Parts or the whole of:
  • "Hollywoodland" -- good modern noir, with Adrien Brody and my girlfriend Diane Lane
  • "Inside Deep Throat" -- good. It's interesting to see porn which is silly, fun, and creative, vs the hard plastic industry as it is today
  • "Goebbels Experiment" -- interesting. The movie is 100% archival footage, with Kenneth Branaugh reading from the monster's diary.  He believed his own propaganda.  (If you haven't seen "Downfall", run don't walk to see it.  Excellent.)
  • "Stonehenge Decoded" (National Geographic) -- mediocre, with interesting bits. Style is fluffy Discovery channel.
  • "Human Family Tree" (natgeo) -- again mediocre, very fluffy with some interesting stuff.
Today I:
  • took pictures of the LA Triathlon.  Easy, as it was right outside my window, pants not required.
  • ate steak and eggs (yum!)
  • fixed "Bubba", my Roomba. With him missing his tentacley brushes he didn't clean much, the slacker. He's now working away, happily eating cables, hiding small toys, humping my toes, and jogging back and forth and around my apartment. He's awaiting a new gearbox on order.
  • am going to Target: cleaning supplies and a vacuum cleaner, my first.  Today is truly a red letter day.

  • more naps and crockpot veggie tortilla soup

today is Reptile and Amphibian Appreciation Day at NHM, and Wiener Dog Races -- ooooooo!  I love this crazy town

world religions quiz

I'm an atheist, and got 14/15 on a quiz on world religions. hmm.

My mother has a degree from a Methodist seminary. She studied (part time) and got her degree after seven years. I've studied Tantra a little bit, and asked her about Buddhism. She said she didn't know -- she didn't take a comparative religions course! If you're a minister, and a stranger comes to you with troubles, wouldn't it be nice to talk to that person using terms they're familiar with?

Somebody at work made a crack about me and Satan. I said being Satan would be great: 1) you'd get all the chicks, 2) bad guys in movies *always* get the best lines, 3) you could appear and disappear in a rather fashionable cloud of orange smoke, and 4) you could smite unbelievers. Well actually I'm not sure if #4 is included in the deal, but you get the idea.

I've had good luck dating Jewish women. They tend to be smart, funny, good spellers, and *love* food. I dated two Catholic women, who loved food, but the relationships didn't work out. Coincidence, I hope.