In which I ramble a bit

Today’s post being a post about poetry, friendship, and cat videos.

It’s all sort of connected, really. It’s been a weird sort of week with lots of things going on. I’m feeling joyful because last week I had a massive toothache, but I got the tooth pulled last Monday and it’s been getting steadily better all week. It’s amazing how much the absence of crushing pain makes one appreciate the normal state of affairs. I’m feeling grateful for a dentist who would work with me. Huzzah!

I’ve been experimenting with poetry. I’ve been writing lots of haiku, which you may know, and I’ve been trying adding some fiction elements to the form, partly as a way to experiment with plotting which feels like my writing kryptonite. I’ve committed to a story in haiku about a train journey. I add to it every day, and so far, so good. If I fail to figure out plot as I go the train will crash. It could happen, but the fact that I post it on a public page has helped me to face some of my demons. If you want to see where it’s going so far, you can check it out here.

I also had a grand time going to the cat video film festival. It was held at the Showbox theater, an enchanting Seattle venue full of faded glamour and elaborate chandeliers. It was also full of people who loved cat videos and we all had a great time. A nice blogger from the UW took my picture and that of my friend, and wrote up a fun article with links to some of the cat videos. The picture got into the slide show in the article. If you decide to take a peek,  I’m the one in the mohawk with the tiger cat ears and my friend is wearing a black kitty mask. It was a fantastic evening.

The film festival also got me thinking about poetry. I’ll lead you with me, and there we’ll stop. My favorite cat video of the night is one I hadn’t seen before. It’s called “Boots and Cats” and it’s an elaborate rhythm poem about two main things. I bet you can guess what they are… It’s amazing that something so simple has such an impact as poetry. I am still pondering it, and would recommend you view the video if you want to see something cool. It’s pretty nifty even if you don’t like either boots or cats.

The week was rich in experience although random in tone. I’m happy to make my own kaleidoscope out of the bits and pieces. What’s your kaleidoscope look like?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
273. Take a few moments to think about your week as a whole. What would you put on your highlights reel? What would you rather leave out? Did you discover anything new?

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Backstage pass

I have always loved theaters–they are sacred spaces no matter how secular we may hold them to be. Most towns have at least one grand old theater, and lucky towns have a great many more. As I live in Seattle I have a number of lovely theaters on hand, and one of the grandest is the Paramount. It shows silent films (complete with the playing of an original theater organ) and stages touring Broadway shows, concerts, and all manner of fun.

Last Saturday I went for a tour of the Paramount. It’s free on the first Saturday of the month (but check their website if you plan to go). The guides were very friendly and pointed out all sorts of things we might not have noticed on theater visits. The best part, though, was touring all the areas the public doesn’t usually get to see. We saw the star dressing rooms and I thought of Ethel Merman singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. They were truly grand. We were able to stand on the stage and look out into the audience of chairs, and we were shown the system they used to make people fly during various productions. Way up in the back of the theater we saw the old projection booth and looked out over the ceiling into the catwalks.

All of this adventure occurred because a friend and I had an offhand question when we went to see the silent movies. I didn’t know they gave free tours. It makes me wonder what other goodies I might be missing around town. It’s often easy to forget to be a tourist in your own town, but there’s always something new to see, somewhere new to explore. I’m going to start looking for more opportunities.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
254. How can you be a tourist in your own town? Take an afternoon or even a whole “staycation” where you live and explore your area as if you were just a visitor. The Chamber of Commerce often has excellent resources for this, and many of them give out coupons to the attractions, too. If you’re in Seattle, consider taking the tour of the Paramount Theater. I am certain you will not be disappointed.

For the love of Bill

I’ve been indulging my Shakespeare obsession lately. There have been so many great opportunities to enjoy the bard and our upcoming outdoor theater festivals promise more fun to come. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado About Nothing which will be out in theaters here on Friday.

Like any good relationship, my acquaintance with Shakespeare becomes more rewarding the more I get to know his work. I am sad that many people were scared off from this pleasure in school or because they are intimidated by the language. Today I’m sharing some of my favorite Shakespeare on film for your enjoyment.

If you want something with more modern language:

  • Scotland, PA (2001)Macbeth set in a fast food restaurant. “Out, out, damn spot” gets a whole new unforgettable meaning, and Christopher Walken is charmingly funny as Lieutenant McDuff. It’s also hard to resist the cheesy Bad Company soundtrack that goes with the 70s setting.
  • She’s the Man (2006) — When I think of Shakespeare, Amanda Bynes does not leap immediately to mind, but she was really fun in this modern adaptation of Twelfth Night. She masquerades as her brother to try out for the boy’s soccer team, gets a crush on her male roommate and all kinds of hilarity ensues based on the original play. I particularly enjoyed comedian David Cross as the overly supportive principal and love the homage to Malvolio. If you want a more traditional version of the play, try Sir Trevor Nunn’s 1996 version starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley. It’s delightful.

If you want the Shakespearean language:

  • Titus (1999) — Julie Taymor directed this engaging study of the beauty of violence, and be warned, it is violent. Anthony Hopkins is riveting in this innovative adaptation, and I was glad I saw it even though I may never see it again.
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993) — Sir Kenneth Branagh has done so much for the cause of Shakespeare. I often revisit this film and its setting in the Tuscan sun. The cast of notables is too numerous to mention. Michael Keaton’s humorous performance is particularly amazing, and Keanu Reeves has a small part which is the only blight on the film.

It’s hard to stop there, because so many other great films come to mind, but I don’t  want to add to the voices making Shakespeare overwhelming. If you’d like a recommendation on a particular play, ask me in the comments. So much is out there, and I have so much yet to see, so if you have a recommendation please share that, too. “The play’s the thing”!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
246. If you love Shakespeare, see a film you haven’t yet seen or a live performance. If you’ve been scared off, try one of the films above and give it another try. You may just see what all the fuss is about.

Your references, should you happen to be in Seattle:

With thanks to Henry Ford

I went to see a Molière comedy the other night and it was a grand farce, an updated silliness with lots of bawdy bits and weird singing. The theater was unremarkable, except for the stage, a mechanical marvel with three concentric rings. These rings moved independently of one another, spinning walls as they turned.  I remember the first time I saw a moving walkway on stage—it amazes me the technology they can do for plays. I am fascinated with mechanics in general, gears that spin, levers that flip. I love cartoon depictions of Rube Goldberg devices, and I would watch Mr. Rogers during college breaks just to see the factory tours. It gave me a whole new perspective on the fig Newton. It’s not that I want to fix things. I just like to watch them work. 

This voyeurism extends to domino runs, huge structures with innovative bridges and stairs. Sometimes I watch them on YouTube, enjoying the complexity of something done just for amusement. I’ve toured breweries, bakeries, and most memorably, a chocolatier. If you’re ever in Seattle I would most highly recommend the Theo Chocolate Factory tour in Fremont. Theo is one of the few artisanal shops in the country to make chocolate from scratch—starting all the way back at the cocoa beans. It’s organic, too. Yum! 

I love to know what’s inside things, and I’ve disassembled all my dead computers just to know. It’s only fun for me if I don’t have to put it back together. This curious streak does not extend to living beings, as I’m squeamish. I hated high school dissection, and I’ve always questioned the need. “After all,” I told a friend, “I’ve never needed to know where a frog’s colon is.” He replied, “You have to do it so that you know it’s not just frog-plasm in there.” Point well taken, but diagrams would have been sufficient.  I’ll stick to the man-made stuff, the moving sculpture of everyday life. Soon it will be time to go back to Krispy Kreme and watch the robots make the doughnuts—ah, sweet ballet of glaze and gears! 

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

47. Take a factory tour if one is available. Wouldn’t you like to know more about your local beer or those cookies that are baked down the street?

Popcorn is a sacrament

It is early evening and I am basking in the glow of serendipity. I was planning to spend the night scrunched into down comforters and watching DVD’s—a lovely lethargy in which I often indulge. It was not to be. My friend interrupted this lazy plan with a spontaneous invitation to the theater. “Did I want to go?” she asked. But, of course.

I love the theater and go as often as time and finances permit. Tonight we are seeing The Imaginary Invalid by Molière. It is a comedy, and I can’t wait to see it. I also can’t wait to see the Seattle Repertory Theater. I haven’t been there yet. I imagine it as one of those modern black boxes. “The Rep” sounds like such a practical place.

I am a connoisseur of theater architecture, from movie palaces to Broadway’s finest. I remember attending musicals in New York City when I was younger and falling in love with the chandeliers, a thousand shining crystal suns which rose into the ceiling before the performance. In Minnesota I became enamored with the old cinemas, many of which had palatial bathrooms. Their mirrors rivaled a star’s dressing room. The Har Mar theater, too, had intriguing restrooms, redone at some point with mock leopard fur ceilings. The stalls were in primary colors and had their own sinks. It was a novel variation on the older theme theaters, with their Greek statuary and twinkle light skies. Rochester, Minnesota, boasts a fine example which was saved from demolition by its thoughtful conversion into a Barnes and Noble. My poetry group met under the proscenium arch. Shakespeare inhabits the shelves if not the stage.

Seattle has its own gems. The Egyptian on Capitol Hill used to be a ballroom, and it is a magical place to see a campy midnight movie. Ballard has the nautically-themed Majestic Bay, and I am eager to explore the Paramount and the Moore. I feel lucky to be surrounded by so many temples to joy. These are the sacred spaces where I worship films, where I immerse myself in music and drama. I am joined there by the other faithful, and we rejoice. What could be more holy than hundreds of people laughing together?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

45. Where are your temples? Is there something about the architecture that strikes you? Go worship!