Monday, January 26, 2009

The Enormous Radio

For the past six years I've been a student at an institution that gives me an entire four weeks from mid-December to mid-January off from school. I have always spent this time at home in Chicago with my family. I've never particularly liked returning to New York in January after my long winter break in New York, but I forgot just how sharp the shock of returning to NYC can be. I've been back for a week now, and it feels like forever.

Oddly, one of the things I miss most about Chicago when I'm not there is the local NPR affiliate, WBEZ. Although I can't fault WNYC, WBEZ is the sound of home. I've been listening to it on the internet a great deal this past week. Right now they are announcing the temperature across various suburbs: "16 in Glendale, 14 in Merrillville..."

When I listen to this weather report I feel like I speak a secret language: Merrillville is in Indiana, not terribly close to Chicago, and yet right now I'd almost rather be there than here. Okay, that's just romantic sentiment, I would not rather be in Merrillville, IN than New York City. But I do feel like one of the things that makes New York City bearable is that many of the people who live here hail from nearby places - Connecticut, New Jersey, upstate New York - and can return home frequently if they so desire. I can't.

This may be my last six months in New York. Right now I am waiting to hear from a variety of institutions - none of them in New York - as to whether I have been accepted for further study. If none of these options comes through, I am seriously considering returning to Chicago. It's not a decision I take lightly. This city has been very good to me, and I recognize that Chicago might not hold the same opportunities I have had here. But when I sit and look out on Second Avenue and listen to the traffic report from Shadow Traffic, the woman listing the forty-minute stretch of the Edens to Pulaski, my thoughts go somewhere else, and my body longs to follow.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Cutest Animal You've Never Heard Of

The Pika!

In Memoriam: Patrick McGoohan

I'm not sure where I first heard of the remarkable television show The Prisoner. Like other cult television shows (Twin Peaks being the most obvious example), The Prisoner had an extremely brief run, from October 1967 to February 1968, but has come to loom large in the pop culture imagination. Maybe I was familiar with the concept from the Simpsons episode "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes," a terrific Prisoner parody of which no YouTube clip seems to exist, sadly. In any case, I received the complete series DVD set for Christmas 2004 and watched it in its entirety over the next six months.

It was a happy time in my life. I was a sophomore in college, living in a tiny Lower East Side apartment with my boyfriend and my best friend. The apartment was advertised as a two-bedroom, but was in fact a one-bedroom. My boyfriend and I slept in what was meant to be the living room, which featured the only two windows that let in natural light (the rest looked out on airshafts). Our futon was pressed up against the windows, and it was freezing in the winter. My mild domestic impulses seemed like hysteria in contrast to the laissez-faire housekeeping of my roommates, who left snail trails of library books and sweaters in their wake as they moved through the three rooms. The bathroom was coated in tiny curly black hairs and the kitchen was almost always dirty. I had never been so happy in my entire life.

During our frequent breaks from reading Orientalism and writing about the fluidity of gender roles my boyfriend and I would sit down and watch an episode or three of The Prisoner. What joy the opening sequence always brought us:

And what happiness to hear the series' star, Patrick McGoohan, intone some of his immortal phrases. Our particular favorite was his send-off, "Be seeing you," of which my boyfriend could do a killer impersonation. More than forty years after the show was on the air, he and I had become rabid Prisoner fans. The series is terribly smart, engaging and challenging a variety ideologies. Even in its missteps - there's an entire Western-themed episode, which didn't work for me - it never condescends to the viewer. Plus, it features a villainous weather balloon.

The news that the show's star, ice-cold badass Patrick McGoohan, died yesterday at age 80 filled me with a sadness I can attribute to more than my hatred of the freezing weather. On The Prisoner he rode the line between camp and cool like it was a British sports car or a crazy-ass bicycle. Rest in peace, Number Six. Be seeing you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ruminations on the Golden Globes

I have always had only the most passing interest in the Golden Globes. In keeping with that lack of enthusiasm, here is an incomplete, vaguely stream-of-consciousness liveblog of tonight's show.

7:47 pm: They just showed Marisa Tomei. I feel like every time I've heard her name mentioned in the past five years has been in reference to how surprisingly good she looks naked. In 2005, someone mentioned this in relation to her role in Factotum. But by far the most constant comment about Tomei is that she "looks amazing" in Before The Devil Knows You're Dead. Seriously, upwards of sixteen men have mentioned this to me. Good for Tomei. I bet this skill comes in handy in her current role as a stripper in The Wrestler (Full disclosure: I have not seen any of the films mentioned above).

7:57 pm: "Please welcome the star of the upcoming films Bunraku and Happy Tears, Demi Moore!" Best sentence ever? Also, I misheard "Bunraku" as "Spunkaroo."

8:01 pm: My mom just said "There's Shirley MacLaine! She's still alive!"

8:09 pm: This announcer has not been given a lot to work with: "Here are two stars of The Dark Knight, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart!" Here they are, folks! Two of 'em!

8:12 pm: Laura Linney has the most beautiful skin. What does she do? Bathe in the blood of virgins, Erzsebet Batory-style?

8:22 pm: Alec Baldwin looked adorably nervous when they announced his nomination. Also, what did David Duchovny mouth to the camera? He told me what he was going to say this morning before he left my apartment, but I forgot.

8:30 pm: Renee Zellweger's dress is hideous! This makes me happy! Also, they just cut very briefly to an incredibly creepy shot of Marc Anthony stroking Jennifer Lopez's arm.

8:44 pm: Hi, Kate Beckinsale! You and Diddy are a hilariously wooden duo. Remember when you had a career and made good movies? I don't!

Sometime later - didn't record the time: David Duchovny was so sad in front of the mike with Jane Krakowski, I can't even make a good joke about his sex addiction and how it has impacted me in a positive way.

9:18 pm: Sandra Bullock making a tired joke about the relative sexiness of the Vicky Cristina Barcelona setup is my idea of the entertainment in hell.

9:29 pm: Do the people in attendance really care enough about Madonna and Guy Ritchie's divorce to look mildly scandalized at Sasha Baron Cohen's mild joke?

9:38 pm: As Kate Winslet wins her second Globe of the evening, my committment to this project waffles. Amelie Gilette is way better at this than me: "9:20pm--Slumdog Millionaire, the only movie that could make Who Wants To Be A Millionaire even remotely entertaining, wins for best screenplay. Brad Pitt clearly mouthed, "What's this for?" as the writer went up on stage. If it's not a magical 80-year-old in love with an 11-year-old , it doesn't matter does it, Brad?"

9:43 pm: "Hello, we're TV actors." Pretty good, Rainn Wilson.

Friday, January 2, 2009