Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Dude Abides

In the movie Garden State, Natalie Portman's character, Sam, says that when she feels completely unoriginal she has to do something completely "her". Like doing a crazy dance that hasn't ever been done in that exact spot. I don't know exactly how this ties in, but it somehow reminds me of my sweater of happiness. Maybe because when I am feeling weary or down, I turn to a certain sweater I own. A sweater that is full of magic and wonder. A sweater that can take any mood or method, and make it awesome.

You see, I own a sweater that is almost identical to the one worn by Jeff "the Dude" Bridges, when he portrayed Jeff "the Dude" Lebowski in the classic Cohen Film The Big Lebowski.

Observe. Here is the Dude, showing off his sweatered goodness:

And here am I. As you might be able to guess, this particular modeling of the sweater is from Halloween:

All I have to do is don this knitted wonder, and immediately any funk is gone. I'm telling you, it's a modern marvel!

OK, here is the random question to end this random post. I want you, yes you, my darling followers, to answer the classic question posed by When Harry Met Sally. Is it possible for a man and a woman to be friends? More specifically, do you think that two people who have had a romantic history can put that behind them and still be incredibly tight? Please tally your opinions in the comments section, and thank you for participating.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Who wants flowers when you're dead?"

J.D. Salinger died today. He was 91 years old. He wrote stories. He was notorious for being a hermit, hiding away from the world after he almost single-handedly revamped the written word. Some credit him with the invention of the young adult genre. Some call him a menace. Some blame his magnum opus, The Catcher in the Rye, for the degradation of society. Most don't even know who he is.

In the movie Finding Forrester, Sean Connery's character is loosely based on Salinger.

Actress Zooey Deschanel is named after Franny & Zooey, one of Salinger's collections of short stories.

It took me until college before I finally read The Catcher in the Rye. One day I was walking to the store, passed a yard sale, and picked it up for the low, low price of fifty cents. I read it on a plane, an overnight flight, and it was stunning. It floored me in every way. I couldn't believe it had taken me so long to embrace this work of fiction.

After my first time reading it, I wrote this about it:

A great tale of crisis, the insanity that plagues us all, and how cynicism effects the world, as seen through an adolescents eyes. Holden is mesmerizing. I love how you can identify with him so easily, but some of his musings can be unnerving, leaving you to wonder about your own sanity in this mad world.

My opinion is pretty much the same. I do love Holden. He completely captured me when I was reading. Yes, sometimes his thoughts seemed to contradict each other, but how often does that happen in real life? Aren't we all tormented to some degree, driven mad with trying to figure out what this world, this life, this entire existence is about? All of us are merely passing through, observing humanity and trying to cling to some basic truths. And sometimes it's hard. And sometimes you don't understand. And sometimes you think you have everything figured out, only to have that change moments later.

See the whole sanity issue? I'm guessing you do.

At work I was in mourning, and told my co-workers about Salinger's death. They asked who that was. I told them it was the guy who wrote The Catcher in the Rye. They had never read it, and had no idea what it was about. When I gave a brief plot summary, one girl raised her eyebrows. "So, you enjoy reading a book that's just the inner ramblings of a teenage boy?"

Yes. Yes I do. Most books about teenagers at this time were horrible, one-note, craptastic moralistic serials about boys and cars, or a girl detective, or about how Timmy played football and loved it and won the big game. Salinger gave his characters emotions. He let them be confused. He said it was OK to think about deeper issues, to come up with theories and figure out who you really were and what you believed in.

"Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."

Thank you, J.D. Salinger. Thank you for contributing to the records. Thank you for your creations. Thank you for your poetry.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I will never understand girls.

For instance, why do we perpetuate the creation of "chick flicks"? I don't know why girls turn to these cinematic atrocities whenever they are feelings down. Especially when they are upset about a guy. Wouldn't those movies make things worse? Wouldn't it hurt worse to see someone else who acts like a ridiculous, petulant child (as chick flick heroines are wont to do), act horrible, meet someone, and within three days fall madly and "truly" in love? Seriously folks. I don't get it. If you can explain why this is the generally accepted form of therapy, please do.

As for myself, I turn to a different genre for relief. OK, honestly, there is no one set genre I turn to, I just avoid those gag-inducing romcoms.

Which is why I didn't spend tonight with a Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts movie. No, I curled up to enjoy this:

I think my choice is vastly superior.

Something with depth, zombies, spewing gore, themes capitalizing on humanities fear of viral outbreak, a haunting soundtrack, and some beautiful imagery. Who wouldn't feel better after watching this?

Other recommending viewings for when life has pushed you down the stairs and is now kicking you repeatedly: Hotel Rwanda, the BBC's Macbeth, and Empire of the Sun. Also: Young Frankenstein.

I didn't ever say the list would make sense, I just said that it would contain satisfying viewing experiences. And it does. So win for me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Old Soul

I just got a sudden craving to be someplace ancient.

I have no idea where this came from. I was just sitting at work, trying to fill my empty time, and there it was. This overwhelming desire to sit among ruined stones. In my mind I'm outdoors, with gray skies and a vigorous wind teasing through monoliths and brushing against my cheeks. Or maybe I want to be within a shadowy hut, with a burnt grave of extinguished fire in the center. Or maybe I'm ready to face cathedrals again, to feel ancient beliefs rather than actual buildings.

My new favorite class is postmodern lit, and my professor is this tiny, opinionated New Zealander. She's basically fantastic. We've been examining the process of reading, trying to find the actual origins of the act, and she loves comparing books to artifacts. Each of us is an archaeologist, digging through books to find truths, to find parts of humanity, to find evidence for our beliefs and to learn new concepts. It's uncovering layers of civilization, unearthing what has created our essence.

I can't listen to all this talk of history without wanting to experience it first hand. I've read for years. I've felt the sense of intimacy that comes with the written word. But there's something about going to the roots, sitting in silence, and letting that presence wash over you. Allowing the weight of humanity to rest on your shoulders. It's a kind of immersion that can't be replicated.

So take me to the birthplaces of humanity. Find where the first word was uttered, where the first stone placed on another. Lead me to caves where philosophy was born, smeared in symbols against the walls. Take me to my origins, so I can finally visualize my role in the grand scheme. So I can feel insignificant in the abyss of time, yet important with the vastness of future potential.