alycewilson (alycewilson) wrote,

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Life is But a Dream

The final 12 were announced last night on American Idol, meaning four semifinalists were cut, two males and two females.

Once more, I'd predicted all the eliminations, which began with the two who turned in the weakest performances this week, Kady Malloy and Luke Menard. Both of them seemed resigned to their fate and performed wobbly final numbers as they bid dreams of stardom adieu.

Although some critics didn't see it coming, I'd predicted Asia'h Epperson might leave, simply because she hadn't lived up to her potential. She got raves from the judges the first week of competition but had failed to impress in the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, some of the other candidates have stepped up to the challenge and begun to show their potential, such as Carly Smithson and Amanda Overmyer. Therefore, she fell by the wayside, in favor of Kristy Lee Cook, who has seemed to grow vocally and has a perky, farm-girl quality to her that many viewers probably love.

When it came down to Danny Noriega and Chikezie standing at center stage, though, I had no idea who was going to go. When Ryan announced Chikezie was in the top 12, he looked dumbfounded, as if convinced that his lackluster week would be his undoing. Chikezie probably earned himself new fans, then, turning to the sobbing Danny Noriega and consoling him in a big bear hug, much like a big, protective brother. At the same time, Carly Smithson took a weeping Ramiele Malubay in her arms, who has developed a fast friendship with Danny.

As he sang for his final time, Danny Noriega reminded me why he lost. He was so campy and over-the-top that he seemed more like a teenage boy showing off for his friends while waiting the movie line than someone who deserved an international stage. But I don't doubt that he'll find a way to shine elsewhere. With his sassy personality, he could find a niche in reality TV; he ought to hit the casting calls and see what turns up.

Emily Dickinson once said, "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." That's how I felt reading the poetry collection of a college friend, Gwyn McVay's Ordinary Beans. I felt as if I'd opened a dimension into some Zen universe where everything was connected with dream filaments.

"Ordinary Beans" by Gwyn McVay (Click to enlarge)

For me, another indication something qualifies as poetry is that I wish I'd written it. Her poems, which make bold choices of language and imagery, inspired me, reminding me of the joy of experimentation, of writing instinctually and embracing the spontaneous.

One of my favorites was "The Truth About the Hymn We Played," a retelling of the Titanic tragedy through the eyes of a band member, which evokes in fractured glimpses what might have happened: "I would not look up, / pressed my split lip against the cold brass / ring of my mouthpiece, chilling with dew."

The band member watches the "last flashes of sun" as detritus floats by: "A doll's head // a pocket watch rimed over, a lady's comb / of tortoiseshell, improbably a shoe / next to the buttonhook that did not fasten it."

The poem concludes with the band member asserting, "The hymn was 'Aughton.' Let my last mouthful / of water taste of the tarnished metal / that trembled with basso, indestructible."

Throughout the collection, she explores both the personal and the political with the same deft hand, offering up, at times, "imported fish eggs" and at other times, "ordinary beans," as she writes in "The Demoness," a poem about striving to please a fierce woman who seems, at once, a mother figure, a teacher, and a mythological being. This talent for blending the ethereal with the mundane leads to broader truths.

Reading this book has inspired me to challenge myself in my writing, to dive into the creative heat-bath, despite these gray-tin days. And in honor of that, crocuses.

Crocuses (Click to enlarge)

I've finally finished reading the Herman Hesse book Steppenwolf, lent to me by my father nearly a month ago.

My initial impression of this existential work was that it was self-indulgent and angst-driven, but that, I discoverd, was deliberate in order to mirror the feelings of the saturnine, suicidal protagonist, Harry Haller, self-described Steppenwolf, who fancies himself like a lone wolf, destined for tragedy.

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

As the book unfurls, he encounters a mysterious woman, Hermine, who reminds him of a female version of a childhood friend, Herman. She teaches him to dance, encourages him to enjoy life and urges him to embrace the multiple facets of his personality with a sense of humor. The book ends with a shamanistic journey, as he enters a visionary dreamscape to learn truths about himself and about the world.

I remembered, then, that existentialism had never struck me as gloomy and dark when I'd been actively studying it, but rather, more akin to Zen practice, discounting sense in order to stare into our inner abysses and find greater truths.

Curious about my Dad's take on the book, I called him and told him I'd finished it, then asked why he'd recommended it. He told me he'd been interested in existentialism lately, which was what brought him to the book. The book, he told me, was why he decided to start dating again, taking to heart the lessons about finding the joy in life.

To put things in perspective, my dad hasn't dated another woman since meeting my mom in college roughly 40 years ago. They've been divorced for almost a decade.

"Good for you, Dad," I said. "Get out there and experience life!"

Funny thing is, the book has been in his possession for nearly all those years, and only recently did he feel compelled to read it. I guess the moment had to be right.

And such is this comedy, life.

Movie buff that I am, I strive to see Oscar-nominated movies for best picture, acting and writing; so I added this year's nominations to our queue. Meaning to add The Savages (2007), for which Laura Linney nabbed a best actress nom, I added Savages (1972), an early Merchant and Ivory film.

Savages by Merchant and Ivory

Once the film arrived, I figured I might as well watch it, although I had no idea what I was getting into. The low-budget film started out with a full-color title sequence, showing the actors in turn-of-the-20th-century clothing, which made me wonder if this would be an Oscar Wilde adaptation. Then the film proper began, in a black-and-white silent style, complete with title cards.

We meet the Mud People, a primitive tribe who lives in a forest and engages in barbaric practices, such as human sacrifice. Then, drawn by a flying croquet ball, they leave the forest and discover an abandoned country estate, filled with paintings, furniture, books and the trappings of aristocratic life. As they explore the estate, the film changes to sepia and their grunts of astonishment become audible.

The third and longest portion of the film shifts into color as the primitive tribe magically transforms into an aristocratic society, babbling gossip, playing croquet, embarking on love affairs and then, at the end of the film, descending once more into savagery.

The script by George W. S. Trow and Michael O'Donoghue (who in three years would utter the first words on Saturday Night Live and introduce the world to his savage wit) is filled with absurdist dialogue, peppered with actions that probably seemed more entertaining on paper: "The young couple tosses a cabbage like a football." Meant as a satirical look at society life and its underlying savagery, the film felt, instead, like too many bad SNL sketches: a great concept that went on far too long.

One reason lies in the film-making style, with then-young director James Ivory using a static sort of camerawork better suited for a film starring Helena Bonham Carter in a bodice, rather than for an absurdist experimental film. More dynamic camerawork, more innovative editing, might have lent some life to this picture, which feels like an overly cerebral student film.

Amusingly, in the interview with Merchant and Ivory included on the DVD release, they reveal that the premiere of the film met with surprise and disappointment. This was their first English movie, and before that they'd made some more traditional movies in India. Apparently, people who showed up on premiere night were stunned, excepting similar work and feeling bamboozled.

They also talked about the film-making process, which incorporated actors ranging from Broadway performers to Ultra Violet from Andy Warhol's Factory. There was a good amount of spontaneity on set, as well as ghostly encounters in a haunted kitchen at the estate.

While the film might be disappointing for a Merchant and Ivory production (or, frankly, disappointing in general), I find it encouraging to hear them talk about their joy in creation, their acceptance of missteps as part of the creative process. After all, they want on to work with some of the greatest actors of our time and to produce critically acclaimed movies such as A Room with a View (1985), Howards End (1992), The Remains of the Day (1993), and Le Divorce (2003). Like it or not, this wild depature was part of that creative journey.

In other words, follow your muse.

Happy accidents lead to revelations.

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Tags: american idol, books, family, friends, movies, music, photos, television

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