10.8.09

Movie Review: Some Like It Queer


Some Like It Hot — Directed by Billy Wilder — Starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Joe E. Brown

    Some Like It Hot (1959) directed by Billy Wilder cleverly uses musical language to code for queer behavior. I will admit I had queer on my mind when Taryn called me and said, “Hey, Greig, they’re playing Some Like It Hot at the Prytania Theater.” I said to her, “I cannot wait for a gender-bender adventure!” The theater is a one-screen cinema that plays blockbusters at night and classics in the daytime. The house’s proprietor, Mr. Rene Brunet, a sweet, intelligent geriatric, bemused us with some benign trivia about the film. When he talked about Marilyn Monroe I wanted to quote Roger Ebert, who said of the star: she’s "Poured into a dress that offers her breasts like jolly treats for needy boys.”
    But, after Mr. Brunet gave his spiel he motioned the camera guy — “Hey, Robert get those melodies rolling!” — and played “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” before the show started. Seated in a nearly full house, as if we were back in 1959, Bugs Bunny gave his last grin and the feature began.
    The black and white film is covert homosexuality created under a suspicious McCarthy era period posing as a comedy of errors murder mob mystery — the cross-dressing so seamlessly dropped into the plot as to seem virtually harmless even to the most suburban, collected type. Seeing the film fifty years after it was made, it is easy to see the sex beneath the subtext. Almost every line is a double entendre if you can catch it quick enough. Daphne (Jack Lemon) proposes a cross-dressing scheme to Josephine (Cary Grant) to get them out of debt in circa 1920s Chicago. 
    The rest of the movie is all out drag. Let me just say this about the film: Daphne is queerer than Josephine. If you know the film you know what I mean. If you don’t know the film, then you are in for a treat and I won’t spoil the uproarious ending. Josephine resists until both are found by the mob as witnesses to a murder. Donning a wig and a dress, Josephine and Daphne take a train to Florida to join "Sweet Sue's Society Syncopaters."
    Ostensibly a pair of straight guys has to save their asses dressing up as women, retaining their straight status only by the extension of voluptuous Marilyn Monroe. Without her Daphne is a drag queen in love with a millionaire played expertly by Joe E. Brown and Josephine is a dominatrix queen with a penchant for saxophones.
    It is here we hear the film’s title, “some like it hot,” when Jack Lemon’s character refers to the women’s syncopated rhythm as “hot.” I cannot help but think the word hidden beneath the word is “queer.” Plain Jane straight people probably prefer un-syncopated tunes, but we queers like our beats syncopated! Some guys and girls like it different than other guys and girls: they like it hot, suggesting breaking musical boundaries is akin to crossing over into sexual taboos. 
    Geraldine warns Daphne not to sleep with Sugar, but in the end, it is Josephine wooing Sugar and Daphne running with the girls on the beach enjoying his womanhood. Cary Grant, with angular lines and a pair of succulent lips, is a more beautiful woman than Jack Lemmon’s less than beautiful ogee and awkward broad shoulders Marilyn Monroe seems to admire!
Some Like It Hot is an example of queering straight.

9.8.09

Samples from SIGGRAPH 2009

Here are some pictures from SIGGRAPH 2009 in New Orleans.

Google had their tent at SIGGRAPH.

Sigh: no public transportation directions yet for RTA in New Orleans in Google Maps. Note to self: write to RTA.


There were several booths displaying a virtual reality experience. In this showcase, the actor is fitted with a facial device (which show up as bright colored lights on camera but are not so in real life). In this example, she is channeling a mean dude. On the second floor, another actress was channeling a digital rhino.
This dude from France demonstrated a cool virtual goggle that can interact with game pieces on a virtual display. Practical implications: Virtual RPG.
PDF Copy for Printing

8.8.09

Modern Love Notes: Anatomy of Falling in Love

"Gauzy Love" Stained Glass Window
What exactly is falling in love?
I mean, I know what falling in love is, because it has happened to me before, but I am still at a loss to put together cohesively just what falling in love is.

It is perhaps the philosopher in me that wants to continue revising the question even though practically I should be satisfied with a simple answer: "it's when you get butterflies in your stomach" or "you just know."

What Is The Origin of the Spark?
Maybe my question has to do more now with not "how do you fall in love" or "what is love" but rather "what is the origin or spark that brings two otherwise separate bodies together in a dance of mind and emotion?"

What is at the heart of human interaction?
For instance, what brings us into the closeness that we call love?

What must be triggered?
If some of us, as we often hear, do not have the capacity to fall in love, what then, grants those of us who do, the ability to have these emotions?

Perhaps it is really a re-iteration of the mind/body problem, anyway. It is the problem of two coming together.

It is the paradox of one fantasy meeting another.
The fantasy leads to destruction when the other does not respond. We call this unrequited love. This love is one-sided. I can understand this kind of love because it is obviously built on a fantasy structure unable to hold weight in reality. We pity the unrequited lover but also identify with him.

But in the encounter where two come together and something sparks, what makes this happen?
And even in the spark, if I can be so facile to say this, there is still a reluctance to go forward with love's dance. Love begins as an emotion, an idea, but it eventually builds toward wanting to become one with someone else.

Love is Scary
Let us face it. This scares us. The frightening desire to become one with another is both a fantasy and a horrible rupture of order: it is the breaking through of the skin or lamella that separates the body from the ravages of an unconcerned earth.

Love promises oneness.
We are frightened by this oneness because it hearkens a destruction of self.

But, we circle back to love's promise, feeding on the hope that we can handle this self-annihilation.
In the end, we regress, falling away from the lover, only to cycle back into the promise of oneness again. This we call love's course that never did run smooth. Thank you, William Shakespeare.

7.8.09

Movie Review: Why I Liked the Film "Julie and Julia"

Meryl Streep portrays TV chef Julia Child
Tonight I went with my friend Glenn to see Julie and Julia.

Afterward, I was imitating Julia Child's voice on the way home. "Ooooh, I loved the movie so much!"

Julie and Julia (2009) directed by Nora Ephron stars Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell. The story is about how Julia's Child cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking inspires a New Yorker to cook each recipe in one year.

I loved the film.

No, I have never read Child's cookbook or even glanced at her TV show. I had not read Julie Powell's book either.

The film's narrative goes back and forth between 1950s France and 2002 Queens, New York. The viewer watches as Child in 1949 goes from barely able to boil an egg, to developing, collaborating and eventually writing a French cookbook for Americans to Julie Powell, a beleaguered government employee fielding calls from relatives of 9/11 victims who one day decides to cook her way through Child's masterpiece and blog about it.

I thought Streep captured the playfulness and persistence of Child. In one scene, learning her sister has had a child, Streep captures the joy of a woman learning her sister is pregnant, but also the stabbing reality that she herself has not had children. The humor of Child's dogged determination to "do something" is married with her love of food. "It's good isn't it?" she asks her husband, played by Stanley Tucci, offering him a taste of her latest creation. I never followed Child, being too young to be interested in her on TV, but I was struck by her equal parts of childlikeness and almost cold-hearted aspiration. As her husband coyly notes, she was able to make the most snooty Parisian smile.

Adams can certainly not top Streep's performance. Streep evoked a benign Child completely enamored by her craft, giving "no apologies." Adams is a more difficult character to like. She is woefully insecure and feels overshadowed by her more successful friends. Her "sainted husband," played by the super handsome Chris Messina, carries the relationship and endears himself to the audience. I liked him the best.

So, go watch Julie and Julia. You will be motivated to write a blog (which is why I am writing this entry).

Jon: I was hoping you could be with me. :-)

N.B. The image of Merly Streep is taken from Buzznet.

Conference Notes: On My Way to Siggraph 2009 in New Orleans

I went to SIGGRAPH 2009 today, an international exhibition of technology and interactive graphics. The question that pervaded my mind was, "What is graphics?" Graphics is not only animation nor is it always easy to define. Graphics can be both analog or digital, or a mixture of both. I brought to the conference questions about the nature of graphics. Bonnie Wood had told me about SIGGRAPH years ago and I was waiting for their return to the Crescent City. The last time the conference was in New Orleans was ten years ago. Because animation studios work out of Los Angeles, and Asia is so close, usually the conference is out west, so I was thrilled when they decided to come South every decade or so. I heard the last conference was bigger than this one, but I must say I was still impressed. Nearly the entire convention center was filled. I seldom come to this next of the woods. I call it the big building built beneath the expressway.

This morning I was running late, took the streetcar downtown and walked five or so blocks to meet Bonnie. I registered but I did not see her so I waited for a half-hour and people watched. My phone was out of commission. I am going to save my iPhone story for another blog:

But, Max did an autopsy on my phone and it is dead. I am stuck with my old cingular phone (which I also left), which is fine, but I realized how dependent on my iPhone I have become: no Google maps on the fly, no email on the go, no random checking of random checking. I absolutely hate it. A person dies without water in the desert; in a digital desert I would die without my phone. I have become so used to having it as an information companion that without it I feel similar withdrawal symptoms associated with people quitting tobacco or alcohol. I am grateful to Max though for agreeing to fix my screen although I was not much help as I stood in his living room, suppressing panic mode, as he took apart my phone with an Exacto knife.
Sitting in the convention lobby. Watching the stream of people.
I will write tomorrow more about the exhibitions, but I am tired right now.
:-)

5.8.09

Fibonacci's Numbers: A Text Story

She saw now that Bill's car was parked behind hers and further down the
darkened street the night was punctuated by two soft beams.
A short story hammered out on a cell phone via text message — and it's called Fibonacci's Numbers!
Part I: Fibonacci's Numbers
Her first instinct was to duck. Her car sunk, then, without much effort on her part waddled level again. The car halted. For about three seconds she remained still. The world was quiet. She released her arms from her stomach and peered up to see what damage had ensued. Both airbags had deflated so she couldn't see past the thick, grey plastic. She felt the side of her mouth and rubbed the thick swelling that had grown there. Her mobile was lying next to the gas pedal. She wiped her mouth wanly. "What the fuck?" she thought.

The tapping annoyed her. Feeling as if she was going to vomit, she pushed open the front door. She stumbled out of the car. The night air stilled her. She touched her fingers to her lips. She was bruised. She looked up and saw Bill standing there. "What are you doing here?"
She saw now that Bill's car was parked behind hers and further down the darkened street the night was punctuated by two soft beams. "Alice and I followed you home. You insisted on driving yourself. So we followed you. Do you realize you hit a tree?" she turned to look at her car. Sure enough, it was huffing smoke, inserted into a nearby tree.

The realization that she had totaled her Toyota Sentra had not completely become a reality for Aggie. Bill was clearly agitated. He was asking her to leave her car. "you can pick it up tomorrow," he said.

Gathering her papers, Aggie stumbled to Bill and Alice's car. "Wait!" Bill called out. "something's been hit." Sure enough, underneath bedraggled front tire was the remains of a mangled mutt. The streets of New Found were accustomed to such things.

Part II Fibonacci's Numbers:
Almost as if on cue, the night patrol officer released his foot from the brake and eased his vehicle alongside Aggie's wreck. "What's going on here? You ran right into that tree. Flew into the air, really." When he spoke his belly ventured closer as if it were a large fed serpent.

Surely, Aggie figured, all of this is a nightmare. The patrol officer raised his eyebrow. "you're lucky that dog isn't a body," he remonstrated. "And," pointing to Bill and Alice, "what you doing letting her drive?"

Derek removed himself from the patrol car, the two headlights sour luminescence. He wrapped his sausage fingers around his waist and poked the corpse, "Yeah, you killed it, lady." Aggie, still quite not with it, unsure if it was alcohol pumping through her system or adrenaline, pushed her glasses deeper into her face, mimicking a child playing games way over her head.

She pressed her firm finger to her lip once again to both ascertain the damage and to also confirm her situation. The dead dog's face was crushed beneath her front tire. Damn, she thought, I really need to get that replacement hubcap. Derek, by now, had probed her with a breathalyzer and deemed her semi-intoxicated. In a strange intervention in which she was partly cognizant, Bill, Alice, and Derek huddled in the middle of the street to commiserate and decide her fate.

Aggie stared at the dead canine. Fucker, she said, Sticking out ger middle index finger.

I did that? Aggie half mused out loud. Yeah, you did that Derek said, putting the breathalizer between his knees to light a Natural American Spirit. Yur going to jail lady. What! Bi and Alice said in almost perfect unison. In fact, all three of you are going to jail. It's Saturday and you won't be getting out until the papers can be processed on Monday. Local tax cut fired weekend temp work and the man on our animal bereavement unit is in Tacoma whale watching.

We thought you were going to let her go, Alice quipped, the first time that night she had exerted any authority. Bill squeezed his lips tighter and his eyes twitched violently. Aggie crouched next to the mutt and cradled her knees. Yeah, Derek said, you shouldn't let her drive. State law says knowledge of a drunk driver on the road without intent to hinder carries the same weight as a DUI. You told me yourself that you let her get in the car. Now that tree is scrapped and I think that dog belonged to Sawyer Gurney, the sweetest little boy you ever did see. You think I feel like shit, having to tell him the tragic fact in the morning? The crushed dog still laid there, a silent witness to the evening's carnage.

The street was still eerily still. A car had not passed since Aggie had leveraged that dogwood. Her car, for a brief moment,

had flown into the air and Alice had been reminded of a scene from Back to the Future II. Aggie promptly vomited that night liquor onto the street. Bill helped her up and Alice thought it prudent to offer the officer her own Marlboro Slims.

In an effort to mollify the officer, Bill patted the burly man's shoulders, assuring him, "no one was hurt besides the dog. We'll take Aggie home and in the morning contact the pup's owners. No need to throw us in jail!" sticking the breathalyzer beneath his legs, so he could continue to smoke, Derek the patrolman ordered Bill to blow in between his legs to test for intoxication. At this point, Bill on his knees!, Alice crying, now and Aggie having serious hallucinations, a stylish Dodge Charger pulled up, overshadowing Detek's puny go-cart.

You're not drunk, damn it, so you can stand up. You three stand over there so I can discuss this problem with my partner, Seargent Smalls. Smalls bullied over, spitting what appeared to be Skoal Wintergreen. It was nearing three in the morning, coalescing into a freaky, criminal version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Aggie was the blonde girl who faked pregnancy and Bill and Alice were George and Martha. It was no kidding too because all three were University professors. Alice taught sociology and Bill was in immunology. Aggie was an untenured English prof, having everything except the dissertation. Her dissertation was going to be on the bisexual Byronic hero on prime television during the Persian Gulf War, but her advisor said it wasn't couth enough.

"Wait," aggie cried, suddenly. If you take us to jail, I have to find my phone first. It's in the car. Hold up, officer!" Alice and bill looked as ill as Scarlett O'Hara pulling turnips. Bill had unbeknownst to his wife had been jails as an adolescent for stealing a car radio with his chums. Alice enjoyed watching prison shows on cable. Aggie, while never incarcerated herself, was a fan of Kiss of the Spiderwoman.

She found her keys while looking for her phone. She had trouble opening the car door, but with some oommf she managed to pry it open. From the outside, she looked like the car was trying to eat her. Her upper body was in the car and her legs dangled from the car's lip.

She found her phone. The glass touch screen was shattered. It looked as if the phone had been crushed by her own feet. On all fours, the policeman still determining their fate, aggie prayed a silent prayer to Lord Byron. He would have loved this she thought, that silly motherfucker.

The tragedy, it seemed, laid in the way it all came to this point, thought Aggie.

Look, Aggie, Bill finally said; I'm not going to jail. Alice and I decided that it's in our best interest to just leave the scene of the crime."

Crime? Aggie said. What crime? The dog, Aggie, the dog. They're going to pin that dog's death on all three of us. You know now, with the law changes. Alice is frightened she'll lose her credentials at the SPCA and frankly, Aggie, ummm, I can't let that happen.

Aggie knew she shouldn't if taken that extra shot. The conversations at the lounge had been so interesting. She had felt lonely for such a long time: she thought maybe a drink with her colleagues would have eased the pain.

The two officers who had been talking on the side of the road suddenly stopped and turned their gaze to the three. By this time Alice was in the car rubbing her temples. Bill was looking at Aggie with a look of utter desperation. The whole scenario had been botched from the beginning.

Aggie smoothed her linen dress pants with her better hand. Gonna need a shovel, I think, Aggie heard the officer say. Got one in the truck. At that moment a van pulled up. In the entire time since the crash, no cars had come down this street. The homes were palely lit. Even with the disturbance, no one was awoken. With the new laws in place, most people stayed indoors after eight.

The smell of the street was fecund as the two cops escorted the three into the patrol car.

The civility that had held together on the street came undone in the patrol car.

You've got us in a fucking mess. Shit, Aggie. Who the fuck do you think you are? You might have been able to get away with this when the laws were lax like a year ago but times have changed. I've even heard that husbands by law will need to verify now. Can you believe this? Now, you killed a dog.

And you know what that means? You know the laws, don't you? And Alice and I are being drugged with you. How do you think Alice feels? She was one of the local SPCA board members.

I know, aggie said. I'm sorry. I think I blacked out at the wheel. I was fine when we left. Then, at the intersection I thought was almost home and the next thing I remember is you talking to me.

Among the number of citations, the six bottles of gin will surely bring me to the slammer, thought Aggie. Alice had become still and did not say a word. To clarify matters, ever since new statutes had been created by the legislature, people lived in fear. Aggie was among the few intelligentsia who wished to rise up. The part she, Bill, and Alice had attended was designed to rouse up support against the new regime. It sucked that she ran into a tree and killed a dog, possibly a capital offense.