Tuesday, July 31, 2007

End of 2 Eras

Something beyond an amazing coincidence: yesterday saw the death of both Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman.

Two of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Utterly different, equally poetic. The Times Obituaries don't begin to do justice (how could they?) and I particularly take issue with some of the conclusions they reach about Antonioni, but they're not bad overviews of lives SO worth celebrating.

Bergman was borderline workaholic - all those movies and plays. Antonioni more reflective (wonder if he'd like to be called that, though) and more readily misunderstood. Anyway, people misunderstood his work more often.

Bergman had the added appeal (to me) of being a theater artist as well as a cinematic one, as well as being deeply sensitive to music in both stage and film productions. Antonioni's images and storytelling are stunning, breathtaking, poetry - his best work is as good as it gets.

They weren't really rivals in any sense other than maybe among cineastes who might argue over which one was really the very best of all time. Still, I have to think of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, political allies then enemies then friendly-ish correspondents who died within hours of each other, on a July 4th, no less. In the world of film, these guys are no less important, and their simutaneous loss is just as staggering.

Let me know if you want to get together for a viewing or two, in a theater or on video (blasphemy! I know, but sometimes we take what we can get) I have the dvd of Fanny and Alexander and aim to watch it soon...

Use Traveloshitty to book your next flight on Northworst Airlines

Ok guys, ready for a rant?

Big family reunion in the old country last weekend. BIG one - Grandma turns 85 this year; Grandpa turns 90; they just celebrated their 65th Anniversary. Not only that, but mom and dad both turn 60 this year and are celebrating their 40th anniversary. So it's a big year for the fam, and a bunch of the extendeds came from far and wide to a park near what remains of the family farm in Wisconsin (not to be bucolic about it all, that's just what it is).

Booked my flight through Travelocity, which I've used several times and had no problem with. This time however, they didn't email me the itinerary, and every time I tried to get it from the website I'd get an error page. Every time. Finally navigated voice mail to the tune of half an hour to get the info. So, ok, inconvenient and bad service, but nothing serious.

The night before my trip, I get a voicemail from Northwest Airlines: my flight connecting through Detroit has been cancelled, but not to worry, they have rerouted me through Minneapolis, and I'll only arrive about 45 minutes later than I would have. Fine. Good to know. I appreciate the call.

I even sign up with Northwest for frequent flier miles when I do the online check-in the next day.

But when I get to LaGuardia that evening, just after I call my friend in Madison to let him know things are going swell, they cancel the Minneapolis flight too. Huh. I look at the Departures monitor and notice they've cancelled an Indianapolis flight as well. So I look at the weather monitor: there's some storm action going on down south, and maybe a bit near Cleveland, but the Midwest is looking pretty clear. Call the 800 number and get a person who seems helpful at first.

"Yes, that flight has been cancelled, but we've already rescheduled you."

"Great! When's the new flight?"

"Tomorrow morning leaving at 11:30, arriving Madison at 5"

See, here's the thing. The party starts tomorrow at 10 a.m. It's a 2+hour drive from Madison. And we're talking about some elderly folks; they'll be wrapping up around 5.

So I try to impress upon my increasingly unhelpful customer service agent the importance of arriving in Madison tonight.

No flights available. Maybe they can get me into Milwaukee on Midwest Airlines. Hold please.

So I do, for about 20 minutes.

I should mention that at this point, the reasons given for the flight cancellation have been: 1) no crew available, and 2) air traffic control has forbidden the flight (no reason given)

When customer service gets back to me, she explains that her supervisor won't approve purchasing me the ticket with Midwest because the cancellation was weather-related and thus out of their control.

"What weather? I am looking at the radar - it's clear. What invisible weather system is reaching from Indy, up through Detroit and over to Minneapolis, but allowing the Midwest plane to land in Milwaukee? Plus, it looks like other airlines have been flying to this part of the country just fine."

She stopped even trying to be helpful at this point. Told me I could get a full refund, and that I'm free to book that last-minute fare on my own, at my own expense.

After many more minutes on hold with Midwest, I found out what that expense was (suffice to say: it was high), and tried Northwest again. This time, after even yet still more time on hold, I got someone more contrite who offered to find me a trip in on a different carrier, but by this time that evening's Milwaukee was totally booked (hmm. wonder why?) Best she could do was put me on a plane next morning at 7:15, through Kansas City, getting to Madison at 2:30.

So ok, that's what we did. Stayed the night in Astoria with a friend, cabbed at the crack of dawn back to the airport and slogged into America's Dairyland in the middle of the afternoon.

45 minutes away from the park I get a call from my folks that the party is in fact breaking up.


Still had a good time with the immediate fam, thankfully, but missed out on the many 2nd and 3rd cousins and such, the barbeque (complete with corn on the cob that had been picked that morning!) and the games in the park with the kiddos.

Oh, and the true reason the flights were being cancelled? Northwest has been trying to schedule too few pilots for too many hours, and the union is responding with sickouts. Why not cop to that? Well, oddly enough, labor disputes aren't on their list of reasons it's ok to cancel flights without being liable to the customers. Guess what reasons are on that list: being forbidden by air traffic control, and weather.

Pretty lame, guys.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Simpsons Movie Madness!

Ok, so yesterday was kind of bipolar. One of those "just bust throught the workday shit and cut through the humidity so you can get to the good stuff" situations. Have to say, however, i had a few good things happen at work, including having some cheap movie passes delivered (a perq of the job), a very yummy sandwich for lunch, a truly energizing IM chat, and some good gear from a sample sale (another perq!) - see on paper it doesn't look bad; just trust me, there was some silly nonsense that got thrown in the blender with the 90% humidity to make some hot and sticky cream-of-malaise soup.

It was all leading up to the midnight premier of The Simpsons Movie, so on my way from work, i walked by the theater where we'd be seeing the film to pick up the tickets. No dice - big jennifer lopez event happening which drew an impenetrable crowd. Got to Riposo for happy hour & appies, and as sherin & i settled in it was like a mist of pino bianco on a cool breeze cleansed the whole evening. The prosciutto-wrapped grilled asparagus and mushroom-and-goat cheese flatbread didn't hurt, either.

We attempted and failed to do errands in an over-crowded Times Square (well, that time of day, is there any other kind of Times Square?) but got ice cream and coffee on the way, so all was still swimming nicely. Saw Grey Gardens, which, well, if you haven't seen it and you can score tickets for this weekend you should, 'cause it's damn good and it closes on Sunday and i don't think Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson are apt to do it again.

Then it was back to 42nd Street for the movie, the attendant crowd and excitement. So much fun! All those wacky maniacs silly enough to hit a midnight movie on a school night for the sake of the best satirical expression of our time. I mean the movie itself was good, and funny, if perhaps not quite as loaded up with guest stars and plot points as i thought it would be, but it built to a great peak, with typical Homeric conflicts leading to a massive environmental collapse by way of hilarious gags; and as they established a Mr. Burns-fueled energy crisis and the family made its break for their cinematic promised land... the theater went black.

I thought: "Genius! Leave it to The Simpsons to orchestrate a moment of true, whole art gesamtkunstwerk into a simple piece of PG-13! A momentary flash of brilliant darkness reflecting the nuclear power issue and the other environmental concerns established in this simple cartoon!"

Um... no. That would be me giving them waaaaaaaaay too much credit. It was just a regular old-fashioned blackout, and they couldn't fix it, and we didn't get to see the rest of the movie.


I mean, they gave us vouchers to see it again whenever we want, and whatever suspense there was about getting home at 3 or 4 in the morning was resolved. Just, like i said, the day was a little bipolar.

Oh - and here's the Simpsons character i put together for myself :) You can do the same thing if you click on the movie link i put up top. Send me a copy so i can see your creation!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


The Edward Hopper exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was really stunning - it's stayed with me far more than I would have imagined before I went there. Part of that was mere ignorance of the breadth of his work - the incorporation of abstract values in hyper-realistic paintings; the sensitivity to light, line and form; the juxtaposition of structures with the landscape; the utter brilliance of his characterizations with a minimum of commentary - such a dramatic artist, especially given that so many of his paintings have no people in them at all. And part of it was something Wim Wenders alludes to in his commentary on Nighthawks (and I'll be paraphrasing my ass off here) "The painting you are about to look at is dangerous. You have seen it many times, it is familiar, you think you know it. But close your eyes: how many people are seated at the counter? What is written above the awning? Is there a streetlamp? Another visible source of light? Are any of the windows across the street open? Is there a gun in one of them?" And he went on to discuss how cinematic Hopper was - how much he owes the movies and how much more the movies owe him (points echoed by the detail that Steve Martin - a big collector - loaned a number of pieces to this exhibition, and narrated a documentary about Hopper).

And it's all true, of course. Almost worth the trip to Boston just to see this work.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

And they have to live in Philadelphia too...

The Phillies are in the middle of losing their 10,000th game as i type this. Poor Phillies - the greatest losers of any team in any sport in all of recorded history. But let's not forget that a big reason for that is that they've been around since 1883 (almost 20 years longer than the Red Sox or the Yankees, though not as long as the Cubs, if you count their early incarnations). This does not, however, explain how they've only won one world series in 123 years...

In other news, Shawn White's publicist has been working overtime lately, am i right? I think it's a little hilarious that this snowboarder is all over the place in the middle of the summer.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Teensy taste of emergency

Some construction guys severed a water main down by the Holland Tunnel early this afternoon, and all of Hoboken and much of Jersey City was without water until about 10 minutes ago (it's a little after 7 in the evening). The hospital had a couple trucks bring in tanks of water, there was an emergency hydration place (I guess there was - no idea where though) and of course bottled water was available in stores and such (though the restaurants had to close: no restrooms = no restaurants).

It was pretty inconvenient, and the level of communication among utilities, police, and news agencies fairly well sucked. And yes, it's a little tough to see how it could go unrepaired as long as it did, but really what it brought to my mind is how many places there are who have this kind of problem on a regular/permanent basis. Especially poignant in light of the preview/partial screening/discussion I attended last night for Kamp Katrina.

Don't have time to go into it now, but it followed a woman named Ms. Pearl who opened her home to hurricane refugees in the 9th Ward. Check it out. There are about 70 films that should be made about Katrina and all the things surrounding it, and this looks to be an important one in it's look at people on the margins.

Monday, July 09, 2007

4th of july weekend in the cradle of american democracy

My Independence Day weekend was fantastic, if exhausting.

The thumbnails (edited from an email sent to sherin):

    • anniversary party for molly & rudy in boston on the 4th; bitchen barbeque and fireworks on the hill

    • spent the 5th with sue & a not-too-hungover steve, lazing about and catching up; watched the video of 'wordplay'

      that night went to fenway for the big blowout with sue, steve, molly, rudy and beth; good to be back in baseball's holiest cathedral - wicked awesome

    • next day brunch with steve & beckett; MFA for edward hopper exhibition; drove to western massachusetts (much to the chagrin of the boston people) for concert/film of dutch quartet 'electra,' at MASS MoCA, and the customary beers-on-the-dock afterward

    • next day breakfast with sue (williamstown sue, not to be confused with boston sue) and solo errands/wandering around williamstown/north adams while she prepared for the Ralph Stanley concert that night, followed by beers on dock, drinks at bar and nightcap at home - sheesh! Don't worry, we paced ourselves nicely.

    • next day slept in (finally) a bit, then bkfst w/sue, then drove to saratoga for charlie and erin's wedding, then drove back to hoboken, giving one of the ballet folks a ride involving a long conversation about spirituality/meditation; in bed at about a quarter to 2

So let me leave you with a bumper-sticker-style reminder: Dissent is not just what makes America Great, it's what made America in the first place.