Sunday, October 18, 2009

What I'm Watching #214

"Mulligans" turned out to be a bit of a surprise for me. And I'll admit the reason why right up front: Charlie David. The actor probably best known for his role on the soft-porn gay vampires & witches series "Dante's Cove," and who is not only the writer, executive producer, and co-producer of this movie, but had one of the starring roles. Given how cheesy Dante's Cove is (full frontal nudity not withstanding); my hopes for this film were not high. However, a carefully placed and editted trailer on another DVD, enticed me to give it a chance, and I'm really glad that I did.

The story in a nutshell is that of the Davidson family. Nathan and Stacy Davidson married while still in high school because of the advent of their now college age son, Tyler, who along with 8 year-old Birdie, completes the family. It's summer vacation, and hyper-macho Tyler is returning more with his college roommate, Chase Rousseau, for the break. Chase has a secret, he's gay. A revelation that leads to an affair between Chase and Nathan, a clumsy affair that rattles the world of the Davidsons one and all. Now, I know this synopsis sounds, well, cheesy. And believe me, I fully antiscipated it would be just that; yet, to carry the metaphor a bit further, it wasn't the non-dairy velveeta that I had assumed, but rather a far more carefully aged Camembert or Wensleydale. This is to say, the characters act like adults. Can you believe it? Oh sure, everyone's hurt, some are angry, some are confused, but in the end they manage to see the bigger picture, and though it's not easy, they find a way forward. They absorb the way the world has changed, and even find within themselves a positive paradigm from which to change, too.

Can I say it again? I really liked this movie. Thank you, Charlie David.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What I'm Watching #213

"azuloscuro- casinegro" which translates verbatim "darkblue almostblack" is a delightful story from Spain. Written and directed by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, it's the story of Jorge.

It opens with Jorge's lame attempt to tell his father that he does not want to follow in his footsteps as an apartment building's janitor. An event that gives his father a stroke, and cements his guilt based fate...or does it? It takes an incarcerated estranged brother, his jailhouse girlfriend, Jorge's upwardly mobile teen-age crush suddenly returned from school in Germany, and Jorge's sexually confused best friend to help him discover that fate is really a moveable feast.

Delightfully played from start to finish.

What I'm Listening To #66

This promised to be one of the most amazing concept record- ings ever. Back in the day, her father, Johnny, made a list for Rosanne of the 100 essential country songs. On this CD, she chose 12 of them to perform. After her previous CD of original songs which was out of this world amazing, perhaps my expectations were too high......but with deuts with the likes of Bruce Springstein, Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright! How could it be so bad? It boggles the mind.

So what went wrong? In a word, "Orchestration". The arrangement of the songs often appear to be more about giving a instrumentalist a clever rift than allowing the instrument that sells the album, Rosanne's beautiful voice, to make the song work. John Leventhal really seems to have dropped the ball. Most aggregious was the dobro... Bro. Some of the arrangements are actually painful to listen to (e.g. "I'm Moving On." Oh please, don't let me stop you!) And even some things that you think just HAVE to work, like Rosanne and Bruce singing "Sea Of Heartbreak" together, leave you squinting at the "harmony" of their voices...and I LOVE them BOTH, but singing together was not a good idea.

So what does work? Surely something MUST work. Best vocal on the album "She's Got You", and by and large the arrangement lets us keep our focus there. "Girl From The North County" comes across as something that Rosanne would have written herself. It brings out her gift as a singer who can tell a story, too. But then again, almost anything written by Bob Dylan can be made better by someone else singing it. (And I do think he's a genius. He even gave me the courage to sing in front of people in high school, but I am NOT a genius, and well the rest, as they say is history! But I digress.) The duet that came closest to working was "Silver Wings" with Rufus Wainwright. Their voices seemed to almost caress one another, I only wish it had been on a better song with a better arrangement. The final cut was my favorite. She sang "Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow," written by her maternal grandfather, A. P. Carter. With the good sense that God and the amazing genealogy that is her ancestry gave her, she kept it spare, almost acoustic. Shame she didn't chose to go this route with the entire CD.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lego Factory Series #12

Dagnab them! They're at it again--Another new offering to their factory series of detailed city buildings. This time it's a Fire Brigade. And it initially presented me with a conundrum. You may recall that in the interim, one of the buildings that I had made and added to my complimentary city buildings was a Fire Station. And frankly, I really like mine (Lego Factory Series #9, views #1 & #2 -- 20 DEC 08).

So my solution? Buy it (Of course, that was never in doubt). Build it. Make it into a museum. Pretty cool, eh? And so, I also bought another couple of sets so that I could cannibalize the bricks and create an annex that complimented the original structure: After the fashion of so many urban extensions to classically architected structures. Ergo, lego on the left and my annex on the right.

And here's the view from the back. I created a glassed in corner in my building to provide natural light for the display of the vintage fire truck from the lego model. Like lego, my model has a finished interior that includes display areas for artifacts and a modest balcony cafe.

Lego = creative fix for an architect wannabe!

What I'm Watching #212

"Eternal Summer" is absolutely one of the most beautiful films I've seen in a long time. Shot entirely in the Republic of China, it's the story of 3 friends during their senior year at high school and freshmen year of college. The boys, Jonathan and Shane, have been friends since fate brought them together in elementary school, the girl, Carrie, is a bit of a misfit who enters their world as the story begins. She is first drawn toward the shy and sensitive, Jonathan, and later becomes the girlfriend of the moodier, athletic Shane. Her presence acts as both a catalyst and a balm in the friendship between Shane and Jonathan. Along the way there is angst and compassion, disappointment and forgiveness. Secrets are revealed, truths told, and what life and their own fears threaten to destroy, chance and the mysterious bond that undergirds their friendship redeems.

From the first moments, you are aware that this is an exceptional movie: the acting is honest and open; the score and cinematography lyrical and intimate. And the writing deserves perhaps the greatest kudus of all. Dean Wang and Cheng-Ping Hsu know just what to give the audience and just when to give it, right down to the final stark and amazing second. In my heart, I suddenly knew that the film was over, but the instant the screen when to black for the credits, I gasped inside--wanting desperately to know where the story would go next.

Run, don't walk to get this film. You'll be grateful that you did.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What I'm Watching #211

"Giorni," or "Days," is an Italian film made in 2002. This is key to its major theme: living with HIV.

It's the story of Claudio whose days are punctuated by the annoying buzzing of the alarm on his wrist watch announcing the times when he must take the next does of his anti-retroviral pharmacopeia. In spite of his infection he works out and has a great body, holds down a stable and supportive (if boring) job at a bank, has n HIV(-) long-term companion, and maintains healthy relations with his emotionally distant mother and sister. Enter the one-night-stand.

Andrea remakes his world. From chance encounter to torrid affair, he rattles every fiber of Claudio's world. In the end there are casualties and questions of morality that find no comfortable resolutions. It's a thought-provoking film.

Friday, October 09, 2009

What I'm Listening To #65

Tonight I'm listening to the Cubano band "Orishas". They have it all: reggaeton, hip hop, salsa, techno; all in a wonderful fusion. Between dancing and just floating to their rythms, I am moved, inspired, bathed in waves of music that empower and bring joy to my tired heart and mind.

Bless all acts of human creativity that enrich and restore our deeply taxed souls!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Our Latest American Hero #138

Army Capt. Benjamin A. Sklaver, 32, of Medford, Mass.; assigned to the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, Greensboro, N.C.; died Oct. 2 in Murcheh, Afghanistan, from wounds sustained when he was attacked by a suicide bomber. Also killed was Pfc. Alan H. Newton Jr.

"Soldier Wanted To Win Hearts Of Afghans"

HARTFORD, Conn. — Army Capt. Benjamin Sklaver was a humanitarian who lived and died trying to fix whatever he found broken in the world, his friends and family said Monday.

The 32-year-old reservist had worked on refugee issues in Africa and started a nonprofit organization that brought clean drinking water to thousands. He was killed Friday in southeastern Afghanistan when his civil affairs unit was ambushed by a suicide attacker.

“Ben was a patriot, loved his country and loved serving,” said friend Jake Herrle. “But he also saw his job in the Army to be a combatant for peace. He saw the Army as a way to do greater good.”

Sklaver, a Hamden native, was almost finished with his reserve commitment and was engaged to be married when he was recalled to duty this spring and sent to Afghanistan.

His job there was to help the military establish better relationships with the Pashtun people, so fewer would join the Taliban, said his father, Gary Sklaver. He would meet with village elders to find out if they needed schools, a hospital or clean water, and then he would help them get it. Often, he would not know whether the people he was working with were sympathetic to the enemy.

“The people who are there doing good, such as my son, are the biggest threat to the Taliban, because if they win over the hearts and minds of the population, then the Taliban doesn’t have the recruiting points they would have if the soldiers just came in, knocked on doors and killed people,” his father said.

Ben Sklaver had a history of winning people’s hearts and minds, Gary Sklaver said.

After graduating with a master’s degree in international relations from Tufts University, he went to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and traveled to Malawi in Africa to work on international hunger and refugee relief issues.

In 2006, his reserve unit was sent to the Horn of Africa. He ended up in northern Uganda, where his mission was to help refugees re-establish communities after 20 years of civil war. Most of his work involved finding new sources of clean water, helping dig wells or creating protected springs, his father said.

He was so moved by the suffering he saw that he founded the nonprofit Clearwater Initiative when he got home, recruiting friends to help him continue the work in Uganda.

“It was totally volunteer. He had a full-time job with the CDC and spent about 30 hours a week of his own time working on this,” his father said.

The organization allows donors to contribute to specific projects, such as repairing a well at a school. They can then follow online as the project they funded is completed.

Since it began, the Clearwater Initiative has provided access to clean water for more than 6,500 people, said Herrle, who volunteers and serves on the charity’s board. Sklaver’s goal was to increase that to 250,000 within 10 years.

“He was a tremendously bright and caring person,” Herrle said. “He could have very easily just coasted along on his talent, looking out for himself. But because of the way he saw the world and saw his place in it, he always tried to improve it.”

Sklaver had just begun a job in New York with the Federal Emergency Management Agency when he was called back to active duty in the spring.

At the time of his death, his friends were preparing a giant care package to send to him for Thanksgiving. Everyone who donated to the package also made a donation to his nonprofit.

His family is requesting that mourners contribute to the charity instead of sending flowers.

What Inspires Me #02

NPR did a story recently using a photographer to illustrate the practical benefits of the work cited by the Nobel Committee in issuing recent prizes. During the interview the artist described the most amazing photograph taken on the lip of the Victoria Falls in Zambia. This is that photo. I had the privilege of visiting the falls back in 1990. It is an amazing, magical place...dare I say, holy? The photo really captures the essense of this. Don't you think?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What Inspires Me #01

You all have to discover the amazing person who is William Kwamkambe. He has a book that tells his story, "The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind." His genius literally saved his family in their direst hour. His ingenuity and good fortune has transformed the lives of everyone in his family and village. Who among us can claim such an accolade? The more you learn, the greater will be your inspiration...believe it!

Autumn Morning

The view from my front door with the sprinkler running. Perhaps the last time this year. I love the light in this image. The way the leaves glow, the burnishing red of the little changing dogwood. the way the magnificent old sugar maple frames the walkway.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Obama's "Power Top"?!

Thursday before last, on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” with host Andy Cohen, Tyson Beckford was asked to identify the man he would want to have sex with, IF he were that way...

Tyson then went for it hook line and sinker and said ” It would have to be Barack Obama, and I would want to be on top” he continued ….”well who did you think I was gonna say? Will Smith?? There is just something about Barack Obama.”

Beckford, who is single, has long been rumored to be gay. Wonder what Obama thought of all of this, that's Michelle. Who's better to know something something about Barack and power tops! As to Tyson, I pity the fool!

Advice 01

If you wake up nude with your feet soaking in the kitchen sink, you don't want to know what happened last night!