24 September 2007

"The Dude abides."

This weekend was spent doing what I actually enjoy doing: hanging out with friends, reading, enjoying some quality visual media, feeling ok about the state of cleanliness the house was in, and generally relaxing. I'll try not to dwell on the mysterious assmonkey who called my house at 8am on Saturday and 9am on Sunday (I'm assuming it was the same person.) But if I ever find out who it was...

Moving on.

Emily (One Eye/ Un Occhio) and (Ro)Berto came down on Saturday for the first time in forever... that is to say, ever, pretty much. We swung on swings at a children's playground and tried not to look sketchy about it. Indulged in Johnny Rockets shakes. Had some good coffee. Wandered around the East Side and generally, just caught up with each other. It's been months since I'd seen either of them. Next time, we shall go to the zoo. And I am serious.

Saturday night, I watched The Big Lebowski with my bro, which I'd just purchased on DVD for $10. I saw it once a couple years ago and remembered that it was sort of funny, but couldn't recall why. Watching it again on Saturday night, I loved it. I love when movies and whatnot turn out so much funnier the second time around. And the movie's weird, of course, but it's hilarious. Jeff Bridges is awesome (and a great photographer and artist.) My brother's feelings towards the movie, however, cooled upon second viewing. Interesting.

Sunday was a bit different. Just some grocery shopping and "Arrested Development." I also started Steinbeck's East of Eden which dragged for the first few chapters, but reading it during lunch today, it switched gears completely. I'm tempted to read it here at work since I catch my boss frequently reading a novel... but then again, she is the boss.

This weekend, I also became engulfed, for the second time, in Flight of the Conchords. They're a New Zealand musical comedy duo with a show on HBO of the same name. If you look for them on youtube, a delightful cross-section of comical music videos will pop up, like "Think About It, Think Think About It" and "The Hiphopopotamus vs. The Rhymenoceros." But the one I'm posting doesn't have any of their music, specifically--rather, it's Bret ("the cute one"), doing "The Angry Dance" from the season 1 finale. Not to over-sell it, but the first time I saw this, I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face. Hope you enjoy it half as much as I did.

16 September 2007

Contention within.

I saw 3:10 to Yuma yesterday- the remake, that is. It's good. In the truest sense of the word, it is good. Though a little slow at times, it's an interesting step towards the revitalization of the genre and there are some spectacular performances.

I'm especially amazed by Ben Foster. He was absolutely terrifying, in the way a cornered wild animal is terrifying. He plays a desperate, compulsive gunman driven by loyalty- and conversely- an absolute lack of conscience. His mindset is not one of coherent reason, but of swift and damning action. His on-paper one-dimensional character comes across as multifaceted on screen. He is a kamikaze Old West rockstar with six-shooters (sporting the best threads of any of the characters.)

After seeing Foster play a few bad guys as of late, I realized that his rather closely-spaced eyes lend themselves to a subconsciously "predatory" look. But while watching his interview on Charlie Rose, there is nothing "villainous" about him at all- he's timid- almost melancholy. It sounds obvious, but if you see the movie and then the interview, there is practically no semblance of the man in the character or vice versa. The change is extraordinary. Keep in mind, he didn't undergo any sort of huge physical change for the role (he has a beard... big deal.) He just has an incredibly expressive face and is a richly talented and compelling actor unafraid of a challenge.

With this movie, Russel Crowe is back on my good list. He seemed to relish playing his character and ran with it- a charming and deceitful outlaw, who chooses between killing men or breaking them. He's so good, it's almost hard NOT to root for him, though he's obviously a bad man (albeit a complex one.) Christian Bale never left my good list and gave a solid performance as a desperate, down-on-his-luck everyman.

The relatively straightforward plot of 3:10 to Yuma is given substantial depth by a rounded cast and dynamic but classic direction. It will be interesting to see how The Assassination of Jesse James, There Will Be Blood, and my pick, No Country for Old Men all compare to this, both in terms of quality and of bringing something new to the classic but somewhat passé genre of Western. The bar has been set.

13 September 2007


I like Benjamin Biolay. I really do. He's a phenomenal producer, a great musician, and he's married to an offspring of Marcello Mastroianni. He blends genres seamlessly and while his voice isn't super-powerful, it has a distinct, sexy sound and he rocks it. I have three of his albums, plan on getting the latest when it comes out here, and always spread l'amour de Benjamin où je peux.

Mais... these days he's looking a bit... rough. A far cry from the pouty prince of French pop of 5 years past (see photo.)

Alors, all shallowness aside, I love the new single. I'm glad he steered away from the acoustic bossa nova French 60's whispery duet thing. Thaaaat made me want to vom. The video for this latest song, however, makes very little sense to me. If you take into account that it's so French it could start chain-smoking and eating odoriferous cheese at any moment, it makes slightly more sense... mais, toute la même... je suis perdu. Also, bear in mind the title of the song means "Let the Dogs Bark." Quoi?

Benjamin Biolay - Laisse Aboyer les Chiens

09 September 2007

All roads lead to...

I've had time to think. Whether on the train or during downtime at work, my mind's been going nonstop, more frantically than before. I've pretty much given up TV and while the future of that abstinence is uncertain, lately, I've been reading a lot, writing a lot, drawing a bit, and thinking a ton about Italia.

I've been chipping away at The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That Transformed Rome during my commute and lunch breaks. I've always been a fan of Bernini, but I've come to appreciate Borromini more, even though he was apparently quite a chore. So far, it's been a very even-handed and interesting look into the lives of two very different, but very talented men- both involved in the some of the most amazing projects of the era.

Reading about some of Bernini's works especially, I thought to myself "what? I didn't see that- I have to go back!" I don't remember seeing Truth Unveiled By Time, though it was in Galleria Borghese, which we visited. And while I'm kicking myself for that, David was by far the numero uno piece piece of art I ever wanted to see. Visiting it was something of a religious experience. I left Helen's side to see Dave, before she mangled my perfect idea of him with her subjective spiel... "whatever." The only other person in the room was Ryan- we nodded at each other in silent understanding. Being in the presence of something so much larger than yourself, figuratively speaking. The Colosseum yells over you with its might... Bernini silences you.

Second to that piece is Bernini's sculpture of Constantine, which I saw... from a distance. A pretty great distance. About 200 feet. Thanks, Vatican. And I had no idea that Bernini designed the fountain at the base of The Spanish Steps... the very same fountain Helen practically dove into for a drink. No cup required. Practically half of the public art in Rome was sculpted, designed, or overseen by Bernini. Apparently, he was quite busy. (No TV.)

I got my first paycheck this past Friday, marking the first step towards Italia. The Amalgamation is about seven months away- once it hits 6, I'll flip. Anyway, I'm looking to take off maybe 10 days of work for it. One of the days is accounted for (yeah Boston and Patriot's Day!), so maybe I'll stretch it a little longer. If this past week has been any sort of accurate depiction of the rest of the year, they should be able to get along fine without me. Work study students are the best resource ever.

I traveled a lot with Rachel while in Europe (we hit Milan, Ireland, Tuscan countryside, Cinque Terre, and Switzerland), and we know that we can live and travel together, so it made sense that we team up for the Amalgamation. (Question: why does the creepy Funny Farm mascot wear a vest? Is he McLovin?) Rach is excited for it, writing in her most recent e-mail, "When I think about the wedding, I want to shout 'gheluueewoooooh!' from the top my apartment!" Since there are so many possible countries/cities to travel to, I figured we should both write separate lists of cities we're dying to visit- then, we see where we overlap. If we don't, then we could visit both of our top choices. She just sent me her informal choices: Prague, Sweden and/or Denmark. I've thought about Prague, but Barcelona is sticking in my mind like delicious sticks to gelato. Eryn has said that it's one of her favorite cities, and Samantha Brown (my second favorite travel show host (behind Ian of "Globe Trekker")), has said that it's her favorite city in the world. (I just googled her and she now has a new "Passport to Latin America..." nice!)

At the moment, I'm leaning towards Barcelona, Berlin, someplace in Greece, Amsterdam or Corsica. I'll probably have to limit myself to Florence and one or two other cities, so as to not become insane, broke, and exhausted. In any case, this trip is going to be expensive, but I hope to plan it as efficiently, reasonably, and comfortably as possible. While Sweden is tempting, I wouldn't mind going someplace that wasn't freezing. I'm guessing that late April is pretty mild in most of Europe, but I don't want to have to bring a big coat. I'm in a very Mediterranean mood. Who knows? There's still seven months, right? And FYI, I'm open to suggestions.

Monza, the Italian Grand Prix (Ferrari's home race) was today. Unfortunately, Ferrari only placed third. But it reminded me that it three years ago when I contemplated skipping SACI orientation to go to Milano for the race. Yes- it was almost exactly three years ago that I arrived in Florence- jet lagged, completely dehydrated, and stuck with a sketchy guy roommate and a migraine. That was probably the worst day of my life. And yet, there was nowhere to go but up.

Oh, Italia. You are a life lesson wrapped in sass and spaghetti.