Friday, September 19, 2008

Deadlines make my brain hurt

Or maybe it's the ungodly hours I'm keeping. Saying "I'm not a morning person" doesn't begin to describe things. It's true, I'm not a morning person at all. Get me up before 7 am, and I'm likely to grunt and squint for a good hour before I can produce intelligible human speech. But I'm also one of those people who needs sleep. A lot of sleep. Eight hours is livable, nine is preferable, ten is optimum. With the start of the school year, I'm lucky if I get seven. Since Boy is now in high school, we have to get up at 6 am because the bus comes at 6:30. (Thank goodness he's not a high-maintenance girl requiring an hour of prep time.) With September comes band practice every Thursday, and I don't get home until after 9:30. On Tuesdays I have flute choir, and I don't get home until after 10. Every other Wednesday I have critique group, and I can be out until 10. So by the time I get home, put my stuff away, deal with any mail or school handouts, have something to drink, check the weather, feed the cats, and scoop the catbox, it's close to 11. The math just isn't working for me.

Okay, sometimes I cheat and go back to bed after seeing Boy off to school. This will get rid of any headaches I wake up with (and morning headaches happen more often when I get less sleep), but try not to do it more than once a week because it eats up my days. I don't work at the computer all day every day. Monday and Wednesday mornings I have TKD class. Thursdays or Fridays I volunteer at the animal shelter. At least once a week I spend the half the morning doing grocery shopping and other errands. My goodness, no wonder I feel like I don't get any work done!

So while I'm adjusting to the fall schedule, I'm feeling a little squeezed by deadlines. My mom entered us in a quilt show, so I was working to complete a quilt by this weekend. (And today I finished the last step, the binding, hooray!) I've got an assignment due at the end of next week; it's under control, but I don't have any wiggle room. If I don't finish early, I'll be under the gun to get something ready for my critique group to read next month. Then there's another assignment coming in, more chapters to write, concerts to practice for, seminars to attend .... erk. I guess I'll just keep on with my usual life management style: "selective procrastination." Earliest deadlines first, then I'll worry about the rest.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take a nap.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I can't deny it, I'm a nerd....

Finally, the film experience I know you've all been waiting for! Last spring, as many of you may know, Boy and I were working towards earning our 2nd degree black belts in taekwondo. Part of our requirements was to choreograph and stage a skit to demonstrate some of our skills. (And actually, some of you may remember seeing Boy and I working on possible choreography as far back as August 2007.) Having really enjoyed learning escrima sticks from Master Ron, one of our instructors, we decided to put them in our skit. From there, it took only a little imagination and a bit of fabric to come up with the following, our "Star Wars" themed black belt skit. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

La Règle du jeu: The Official Haiku Review

This fall, I'm working my way down the Sight and Sound critics' poll of the top 10 films of all time. Earlier this month, I saw Battleship Potemkin, the silent classic that comes in at #7. I've already seen the films voted #1 and #2, Citizen Kane and Vertigo. So I proceeded to film #3, the 1939 French film La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game), directed by Jean Renoir. (Yes, he was related to the Impressionist painter Renoir—his second son.) And here is my Official Haiku Review:

Lie and cheat? Fine, but
You can't hide in the background.
Tragic truths will out.

At first the film seems to be a comedy of manners, as a hunting party in the country reveals changing relationships between husbands, wives, and lovers. Yet the party ends in a tragedy, one that seems inevitable given the degree of cheating and lying taking place, both among the bourgeoisie and their servants. It seems to take a very French attitude towards infidelity—it's accepted, as long as you follow society's rules and do it with delicacy and "class." At first, the characters' contravention of the rules brings about farce, but then it ends in murder. When you contrast the long hunting scene (which is definitely not Humane Society approved) with the murder at the end, it seems clear that Renoir (who also wrote the script) is indicting a society that permits dishonesty as long as it wears a pretty face.

Renoir's use of long shots, allowing the viewer a glimpse of events in the background, reinforces his themes. Often while a character is speaking, behind him we see others contradict his words with their behavior. It was a novel technique for the time, and one reason the film is considered a classic. (Sight and Sound's directors' poll also includes it in their top 10.) But the film was a flop when it premiered in 1939. Renoir filmed The Rules of the Game as Europe was spiralling into war, so perhaps he shouldn't have been surprised that French audiences didn't want to see a satire of their values. They booed and threw things at the screen, and Renoir ended up cutting many scenes in an attempt to salvage the work. It didn't work, and he ended up fleeing the Nazi occupation a year later. It was only in 1959, while Renoir was living in Hollywood, that the film was restored to something close to his original intent.

I think this is one of those films that requires a second viewing to catch some of the technical tricks Renoir employed. I did find the ending tragic, a somewhat jarring contrast to the lighter tone of the beginning. It's an interesting film, enjoyable enough for a black-and-white work with subtitles. If you wanted to watch something very similar but much more accessible, I would recommend Robert Altman's very excellent 2001 film, Gosford Park.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Photo of the Week--9/8/08

Okay, so who would be crazy enough to go to the Arctic Circle in December? That would be us. In our defense, we hadn't seen snow for a year, and a certain jolly guy in a red suit lives there (Boy was five at the time). And we had a very memorable vacation in Finnish Lapland. Besides the incredible snowy scenery (like the above), we rode a dog sled and a reindeer-drawn sleigh, went toboganning, and visited Santa. Oh, and there was the little detour involving a mountain ambulance and the local emergency room, because I am so naturally graceful. By the way, this photo was taken at around 1 pm in the afternoon. It was lovely to visit Finnish Lapland, but with the way it messes up your internal clock, I wouldn't want to live there.