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June 28, 2009

Seven Year Itch

Richard Sherman is a married man (married for seven years) who works in publishing in New York City and who has just put his wife and son on a train to Maine for the summer.

He's all set to spend a nice quiet summer in the sweltering New York heat, not drinking and not smoking in his quiet building while the other summer bachelors step out, play cards, drink and smoke cigars, and stay out until quarter to nine in the morning. That is, he's all set to do these things until he comes home after a nice vegetarian meal to find out one of the other two flats in his building has been rented to a beautiful young woman. Richard Sherman then turns into Walter Mitty and pictures himself seducing this young woman and other possible scenarios.

The girl, played by Marilyn Monroe, is funny and a little ditzy and a good sport. Sherman and the girl become friends and spend some time together and Sherman wrestles with wanting to become closer to the girl without cheating on his wife, some pretty funny imagined scenarios take place. All in all, this iconic film (think Marilyn in a white dress standing over a subway grate while the trains pass underneath) was warm and funny with a happy ending.

Marilyn as always is gorgeous and well-dressed. I particularly enjoyed the champagne drinking dress. I also enjoyed the reference to the gay couple upstairs. But, here's the one thing I don't get about the comedies in which Marilyn Monroe stars: I can get that she's the pretty girl who doesn't understand how beautiful she is, but I just don't understand why Ms. Monroe always has to play the dumb blonde.

June 25, 2009

Stella Dallas

Oh, Stella Dallas, you are such hard work. I just do not approve. This is a film about a selfish and unsympathetic woman who, through her utter devotion to her daughter, learns to think of others and be more than just selfish and shallow.

If you can't already tell, I wasn't on board with the title character of this film and that made this character analysis hard to sit through. Stella starts out as a girl just looking to improve herself who falls in love with a former millionaire playboy who now works at the mill where her father and brother work. Stella orchestrates a meeting and two scenes later they are married. A scene after that, they have a baby. While she loves being a mother, she is shortsighted and more impressed with the trappings of the hard-earned modest means of her husband. She's now a member of the club she's fantasized about her whole life and she gets to wear fancy clothes and meet people who would never have looked at her twice before her marriage. She stops with her own self improvements and when her husband's job takes him to New York City, she refuses to go. Stella Dallas never stops being the slightly uncouth mill worker's daughter, despite her rise in station through her marriage. All that being said, when Stella does grow up, it is heartbreaking and beautiful.

Barbara Stanwyck plays the hell out of Stella- from the dialect to her walk when she's trying to be fancy. And, her moment of triumph when her daughter has everything she could ever want is so subtle and elegant that it is amazing. Anne Shirley is also a treat as Lollie, a daughter who loves and implicitly trusts her mother. Their relationship is very touching. If you are interested in character studies, this is a Master Class by Stanwyck. But, if you're looking for cracking dialogue or a solid redemption story, take a pass. When it comes to redemption, this film is a lot o work for about fifteen seconds of pay off. Stanwyck gets an A. Stella gets a C. True Story.

June 24, 2009


Quiero hablar español más.

June 10, 2009

What should I make for dinner?

Tyler Cowen has made me laugh with his book Discover Your Inner Economist. But, he has also made me think about markets, narratives, efficiency and the little things that I can do to improve my quality of life. I've already discussed his chapter on high culture. In a later chapter, he also makes some interesting observations about food. Some of his suggestions, I am going to implement and see how they work for me.

I usually operate under the notion that if I can make it at home, I don't want to eat it at a restaurant. I like this guideline for two reasons. First, I enjoy a challenge in the kitchen. Sure, there are other people out there that make a much nicer pumpkin curry. People with a proper background in the art of curry-making who learned from their Mother or Grandmother or Aunties instead of the internet, but my pumpkin curry is still pretty good and it is a lot of fun to hollow out a pumpkin and then to serve guests a meal in the pumpkin shell. The second reason is that I feel that eating out should be a celebration of exploration. I like my trips to restaurants to be interesting, challenging and fun and part of the fun for me is eating something I've never tried before, or something that I've never seen cooked that way before, or eating something that I always mess up at home.

Some of Dr. Cowen's suggestions are in line with my "eating out should be an adventure" guideline. He suggests that when you go to a fancy restaurant, you should order the most disgusting sounding thing on the menu. His idea? Anyone can roast a reasonably serviceable chicken. Not everyone can make Cow's brains taste like something of which you want to take a second bite.

Another suggestion he makes is that when you eat at home, you should eat healthfully. This makes perfect sense, at least for me. Since I am the one making a majority of my meals, I should focus on the skills the create healthy and tasty meals. An obvious bonus of this is that if I only eat healthy things at home, I should end up healthier in the long run. But, the other bonus is if you leave the junk food for outside the house, after you've had the awesome plate of cow's brains (after a started including some foie gras, of course) when someone offers you Baked Alaskan for dessert, you don't have to say no.

So, I look forward to implementing some of these suggestions, especially now that summer and CSA season is here.

June 01, 2009

That one, because its the least creepy in this room: Or, Metropolitan Museum of Art

So, I'm reading this book, Discover Your Inner Economist by Tyler Cowen. Chapter four is called "Possess All the Great Art Ever Made. I enjoyed the first three chapters, which talked about things like incentives and how to use them to control the world and, just in general what economists do. Chapter four, among other things, has some great suggestions for how to make museum going experiences more rewarding. (Also, it reminded me a little of How Proust Can Change Your Life, so the rest of the book could be awful, but I'm still going to say that I like it.)

One of Cowen's suggestions include letting go of any pretense you may have about how much you love high culture and how knowledgeable you are about it. This one was pretty easy. I like museum going, and have been known to drag loved ones through galeries of little interest to them but I still know very little about the things at which I like to look. I know that Cher was right in Clueless about Monet paintings up close, the Islamic art wonderfully geometrical, and that even if there is no rope around the sphynx, you are not allowed to touch its marble magnificence.

Another of the suggestions was to plan a robbery, (hypothetically speaking). In this museum game, in each room, you assess each painting and then decide, if you were to take one painting from this room, which one would you take and why. So, you are making sell-centered value judgments, but you are also working on assessing what is good about each painting and what you like. My sister and I decided that we would stroll the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had a pretty good afternoon.

Some of the our picks were just because they would be challenges (and, also, of course, because they were awesome.) The Sphynx and a column in the Egyptian room would be impossible to pull off. However, this is a good game because of the discussion that generates.

Beth really enjoyed a tapestry depicting Troy in the Medieval rooms. We had a nice chat about the crossbow because of this tapestry. In the 19th-early 20th rooms we had a discussion about how not every painting by a master can be a masterpiece. In that same room, I found a painting by Vuillard that I'm looking for a print of as it would be perfect over my couch. There was a painting in the European room (and, for once, we weren't taking notes) so we can't tell you who its by or even what its name was, of a woman in blue that had a look on her face that said, "Seriously? You're going to paint me now? Seriously."

Some of my favorite pieces were a stained glass column and a bronze statue that I believe was called "The Vine" in the American room. It amazes me how well motion can be captured in bronze. I also enjoyed the papyrus in the Egyptian rooms and the reconstruction of a chariot on the mezzanine of the Roman room.

There is an exhibition on the Model as a muse, which featured music by Nirvana. We had a moment of cognitive disonance, listening to grunge while looking at high fashion. And, we wondered, "Is Kurt Cobain rolling in his grave?"

Currently, there is also a retrospective of Francis Bacon. These rooms were well worth it, if only for comments of the other museum goers. I find it hard to look at a lot of Francis Bacon's work because its creepy. So, the entire room of paintings that were studies after Velasquez was pretty much my limit. Francis Bacon could have set dressed every Nine Inch Nails video made before the Fragile.

After Francis Bacon, we took in some other modern art. It was nice to end with a little Balthus and Mattisse. Although, the creepiness probably ended our Thomas Crown affair. There are no museums on the menu for the rest of the trip, but we will be seeing a taping of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This is a more-than-acceptable substitute.