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It may be Super Bowl Weekend, but this year I’d rather stick my face in a book. I’m weary of hearing about Deflategate and other non-stories, so I’m stacking up my defense with books. Here are the books I intend to tackle this weekend; what’s on your list?

*The Ten Thousand Things, Maria Dermout
*Consider the Lobster, DFW
*Granta 124: The Travel Issue (summer 2013)
*No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Goodwin (I’m about 100 pages in)

The first thing I noticed when watching the premier of HitRecord on TV, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s latest artistic endeavor, is that everyone is recording.  Phones, tablets, hand-held cameras, all on and all pointed at the man on stage, JGL himself.  While everyone else and every other venue is discouraging recording, this show is encouraging it.

Gordon-Levitt and his brother began the website HitRecord.org in 2005, and since then have produced feature and short films, books, music, and now, a TV show.  And it’s one heck of a show.  If you loved the Tiny Book of Tiny Stories series, just wait until you see the show.

It’s a variety show but none like you’ve seen before.  It’s post-modern in nature, due to heavy use of multi-media formats and multiple users.  It’s crowd-sourced art, taken from ‘records’ contributed on the website.  Art of all forms is remixed and spliced together to form new art,  and the results are astounding.  Not only is it quality, but it’s heartfelt and cutting edge.

Every episode is themed, and that theme is looked at from various angles and perspectives. The every first episode was, of course, RE: The Number One.  The prompt for one collaboration for this show was titled “Do you remember your first time?”  First time meaning the first time you ever did anything.  A standout from this episode is a short film, mixed with animation and video of a story contributed by a writer in Nebraska, who narrated the first time she ever saw the stars in the sky.  Beautiful and soul-shaking, and completely unexpected.

There is nothing cliche or trite about this show, and I think that derives from the fact that it’s not just one person’s vision you see: it’s hundreds or thousands of artists, writers, animators, and other artistic folk who come together to create something new.  I think it’s a real testament to the artistic sensibilities of the creators that so many people worldwide have become members and contributors to HitRecord.  It’s nothing short of visionary.

I was lucky enough to get the box set from the publisher (Dey Street Books) and with the digital downloads comes lots of extras:  books for each episode, music from the show, and behind-the-scenes extras.  Season 2 is in the works, and there are open collaborations in production now.  I’ve been a member of the HitRecord.org family since 2011; fingers crossed that someday, something I contribute will be used.

I think David Lynch broke the internet this morning with news that his 90’s TV show Twin Peaks will return for a (somewhat late) third season.  In 2016, 9 new episodes, all directed by Lynch, will appear on Showtime.  Happy Dance!!

I was completely obsessed with this show during its short-lived TV life.  I had to tape it, though, because it aired on date night, and there was no streaming at the time.  God, this really reminds me of my age:  I taped it on VHS, commercials and all.  Huh, imagine!

So, time to binge-watch the first two seasons and get ready for the weirdness to come.

A depressed man uses a puppet (found in the garbage) as a way to deal with the “negative aspects” of his personality.  As a way to deal with the fact that he tried to commit suicide.  As a way to deal with his failed suicide attempts, failed marriage, failed business, failed fatherhood.

I’m all for alternative forms of therapy; I think Americans, in general, are way too over-medicated.  Got an ill, here’s a pill.  A pill for every  ill.  So I guess it’s refreshing to see someone talking about other therapies besides chemical ones.

The Beaver puppet is startling at first;  Mr. Black’s family is taken aback, understandably.  As is the audience.  It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable.  And just when you think you’re getting used to it, the film dives into some even weirder shit.  This movie gets really really weird.

Just like most psychiatric drugs, there are side effects to using the puppet.  The Beaver becomes a crutch;  Mr. Black becomes dependent on it. He can’t talk with out it;  hell, he can’t even have sex without the Beaver  (plushophilia, anyone??).  Mr. Black seems to be on the right track:  gets his business going again, gets his wife and one kid back.  But he’s dependent on that puppet, just as he would be on a prescribed drug.  The puppet is a symbol of modern drug therapy:  once you get on it, you can’t get off.  Eventually this happens to Mr. Black:  he can’t take the puppet off.

Several things caught my attention in this film.  First, the family’s reaction to his therapy:  skepticism at first, acceptance, then total rejection.  Work colleagues were different:  they saw the puppet as an eccentricity, until it became too horrific, and they then rejected Mr. Black altogether (how many times have we seen this in the media?).  The public loved him and his puppet until they found out just how really crazy and mental he was.  Again, sound familiar?

Mr. Black’s oldest son rejects him completely, sick or no, until the very end of the film.  Interesting that the son, too, shows signs of depression and keeps post-it notes all over his room with traits he sees in his father that he wants to avoid.  We’ve all done this, right?  But the question remains:  how will the son avoid the same pitfalls as the father?  We know that depression and other mental illnesses are genetic; we can see this in the film, but the mom (Jodie Foster) doesn’t seem quite aware of that.  She gets angry at the son for sleeping all day.  This is very familiar to me:  as a person who suffers emotionally, I’ve often felt the anger of a parent directed at me simply because I was sick.  No other reason necessary.

What is this film trying to say about depression and mental illness and our treatment of it?  The film culminates in a scene set in an institution, father and son hugging, finding common ground at last.  Is this the message?  That we can only find solutions in institutions?  That we must be taken out of society and locked up?  That no other therapies will work?

I think if the puppet is metaphor for chemical treatment of depression, then it works.  Chemicals are destructive to our minds and bodies, our relationships with others.  This still doesn’t answer the question of why he ends up in an institution, or where he goes from there.  Which leaves me wondering:  where does the field of psychiatry go from here, once we realize drugs are not the only answer?

 

As a self-proclaimed avid reader, I am ashamed to say I am behind on my reading.  There is a stack of lovely volumes just waiting for me to dig in.  I’m excited about each and every one of those books, I just seem to be lacking the time.  Original excuse, right?

So I have been reading John Baxter’s The Most Beautiful Walk in Paris, and it is quite delightful.  Paris is on my list of must-visit cities, and this book will be handy once I get there.  This book is about walking, but it’s also about ex-pats, cooking and dining, art, literature– all the fine things in life.  There is history of Paris and it’s people; there are naughty postcards.  All seen on foot, basically.  I can’t think of a better way to see a city than to walk around in it.

Anyone planning a trip to Paris will find the Paris, Mode d’Emploi chapter most helpful.  Baxter includes helpful tips for visiting the City of Lights and getting the most out of your days.  This is not a travel guide by any means, just some helpful info from someone who lives there.

Next I am reading Butler’s There is No Year, which is already odd and intriguing.  Post to come soon…

The title of my blog “searching for an afflated orgasm of the heart” comes from the David Foster Wallace novel Infinite Jest. It has taken me many, many months to finish this novel, but it was worth it. There is genius on every single page.

There is comedy; there is tragedy. There is knowledge, precision. Not only can DFW craft a perfect sentence, his wealth of knowledge on multiple subjects is amazing. And as much as I enjoyed reading about tennis and wheelchair assassins, it is his writing on depression and isolation that really floors me.

The first chapter of Infinite Jest is actually the last. “Year of Glad” is, to me, by far the most brilliant and telling chapter.  This is the one chapter in the book which I have read & reread.  “Year of Glad” introduces us to Hal as he is at the end of the novel:  inside he believes he is perfectly normal and sane; on the outside, those around him cannot understand his words, nor can they decipher his behavior.  “I am in here”  he keeps saying to them; they only react with horror.  Hal is very much isolated in his own mind.  His ability to communicate has all but disappeared.

I am in here. I can’t say how many times I’ve thought that to myself.  Trying to communicate what’s in your head to someone who can’t understand you is frustrating, and a bit scary.  We never really know what has happened to Hal;  the only clue is a clump of mold he ate as a child.

Every character in Infinite Jest has some sort of flaw, be it visible or of the character type.  But it’s the fun that DFW makes of us as humans that’s the real joke:  our addictions and our shallowness.  Our love of acronyms and of money.  The absolute ridiculousness of the things we deem as “entertainment.”

DFW’s powers of description came through best when describing certain emotional states; he was able to describe depression and anxiety in a way that only those who have suffered through them can.  He knows, among a gazillion other things, what these things feel and look like and how they are treated.  There are at least 4 suicides in the novel, one being a main character that we never see, as he has already suicided before the novel begins.  He knows all about AA and related programs.  He even added a few groups for those with deformities, U.H.I.D. for example.  We do love a good exclusive group, don’t we?

This is not a short read, nor is it always an easy one.  There are multiple story lines, all meeting at some point; there are extensive footnotes, totaling nearly 100 pages.  There are words you will have to look up; there are tennis facts you will have to take at his word.  But you will read every sentence with joy, and wish to god DFW was still around and still writing.

 

 

PS:  here is my review on Powell’s Daily Dose:  http://www.powells.com/Comments/View/Jennifer%20Hensley

Ben Harper at Rites of Spring Saturday night:

Incredible show.

Best cover of the evening:  Ben singing Under Pressure.

Best line of the evening:  “We are the Relentless 7, but without y’all, we are the Relentless 0.  Y’all are some relentless motherfuckers.”

My favorite song of the night:  Diamonds on the Inside.

Closing song:  Burn One Down.

Have I ever said how much I looove the Nashville Film Festival? Well I do. I ❤ it with a passion. Why? Because I get to see films like “Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl.” Y’all, this film is bloody good fun. Outrageously funny. Wacky. Ridiculous. Gory. All with a kicky little soundtrack. Here’s the trailer:

Trailer

The soundtrack reminds me of that old TV show “Laugh In” for some reason. Not sure why. Anyway, if you can, see this film. You will be very very entertained. And, as the announcer told us before viewing, “You are not fucking ready for this film.” Srsly.

Size is all about perspective in the end, isn’t it?  Maybe that’s just me.  But I have perception/size issues anyway– can’t guess weight or age on anyone.  Ask me to guess your weight, height, or age, and I will simply tell you I don’t know.  My perception is slightly skewed:  I’m a fairly small person, weighing in most days at around 100 pounds.  But I’ve spent most of my life thinking that I am the same size as everyone else, on average.  This may seem strange, but honestly, I carry myself as if I were taller and heftier.  There was a time when I was extremely underweight, and I did notice a difference then– hard not to.  Later on in grad school, I wrote a short memoir which, while not focused specifically on weight issues, was heavily punctuated with issues of weight, body image, food, etc.  So when a friend posted a link to an article quoting Diablo Cody talking of these issues, I had to respond.

The article, posted on The-F-Word.org ( http://bit.ly/oygmR) excerpts snippets from Diablo’s recent interview in Bust magazine (which I have not read yet but will be raiding Borders tomorrow to get) regarding her latest screenplay.  The blog goes on to quote Diablo’s thoughts on the naked female form and how she feels nudity is confrontational.  Coincidentally, I’d just had a conversation with my friend M (found at BRT in the links list) about how a co-worker had called HR to report the fact that her undies were visible under her skirt, instead of just confronting her & saying something casual like hey, I can see your thongs, do you mind?!! Is it really that big of a deal that this co-worker had to run and tell on her like it was 5th grade?  Honestly, are we that uptight as a society?  Anyway, to get back on topic, I totally agree that nudity can be confrontational, on numerous levels.

What most piqued my interest was what Diablo Cody said about invisibility and being seen.  It seems that most people want to blame Hollywood for what is deemed attractive in women.  There are of course multiple facets in the argument over beauty, but I think, in reality, it is the consumer who drives the beauty industry as well, not just because we buy into what companies and marketing folks tell us to buy into, but because we really believe it.  Marketing and the beauty industry have changed what we all consider to be beautiful.  Okay, no, that was wrong– not ALL of us believe in the ‘beauty myth.’  But it’s no coincidence that all of our movie star/tv idols are thin and sparkly and pretty.

So is it any wonder that someone who does not fit into what is deemed “acceptable” and pretty is somewhat invisible?  That they are not actually seen? This is what I think she is talking about:  forcing others to see someone who is not “typically seen.”  This is the confrontation.  It’s not the nudity, necessarily, but more the confrontation of the skewed perception of what is deemed beautiful or not.  There is such disparity between real flesh & blood women and those we see on the silver screen.

My thesis mentor and I discussed this problem of being invisible vs. being seen quite a bit, as this theme seemed to punctuate my memoir.  I was at the opposite end of the spectrum:  underweight.  Ghastly, horribly underweight.  And I felt completely invisible, almost like a ghost.  People walked around me all day, seeing/not seeing me, acting as if I were not there.  I literally looked like a skeleton in clothing, yet no one (save one or two strangers) gave me a second glance.  Not adults, anyway.  There was a frightening experience with a child in a mall one day, in which she freaked out & whispered/screamed to her mother across the shoe store “mommy mommy look at that girl– she is soooo skinny!”  Much to my utter embarrassment.

So, it seems that anything too far on either side of the spectrum of what body size is considered the right or more attractive body size is subject to this relegation to being unseen.  I think it’s utterly sad.  But I’m glad to see at least someone is out there talking about such things.  We need that visibility.

The 2nd installment of the new show “Obsessed” aired tonight, and again, I am impressed.  It’s about time a television show gave a realistic peek into the world of a person who has OCD.  Lately I’ve heard the term OCD used as an adjective more times than I care to count and it angers me each time.   OCD is not an adjective, people!

The exposure and response therapy was much more intense this time.  Trina, who suffers from intrusive thoughts that she might harm others, had to hold a knife to her therapists throat.  As Dr. Shana stated several times, this is the ultimate therapy– the ultimate exposure.  You could see the anxiety on Trina’s face.  But as her therapist pointed out “She has an anxiety disorder, she’s not a serial killer!”  I loved that quote– so completely apt.  OCD is an ANXIETY disorder, pass it on!  Not sure America knows that.  Trina has OCD thoughts of hurting others, of being afraid she will ‘lose control’ and do something horrible.  We all have a fear of losing control, but of course with OCD it’s magnified a thousand times.  It affected Trina’s life to the point that she denied herself a social life and missed out on things; she isolated, she felt lonely.

Nicole’s OCD was a little more problematic, a little harder to understand.  I do get the plugging of her ears:  there are certain sounds I can’t stand either, and just like Nicole, not sure where that stems from.  I’d be interested to know the root of Nicole’s obsessions with her mother and brother’s hands, and the ‘k’ sound.  Nicole did a lot of painful exposure therapy as well, but not much was said about the root of her obsessions.  I did feel very tearful when Nicole talked about the guilt that she felt, especially in regards as to how this was affecting her family.  She also said something about feeling guilty because she knew she wasn’t strong enough– I felt she was blaming herself for her OCD and that made me sad.  A person can’t blame themselves for having OCD any more than they can blame themselves for any other disease!  But guilt seems a strong component to this disease, and I wish her therapist had addressed that a little more.  But in the end, Nicole had the support of her family & felt more assured that they would not give up on her.

I felt a familiar twinge when Nicole said that she didn’t “know what life is like without OCD.”  The fear and anxiety is so strong with this disorder, that sometimes you can even fear its absence.

I guess some of the symptoms and issues shown on this show might be weird or shocking to some; to those of us who have OCD, these symptoms are familiar, easily recognized.  Fifty or so years ago, we didn’t even have this diagnosis and there was no treatment.  I’m thankful that is no longer the case, and that there is help for the many suffering from this ‘doubting disease.’

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