And then yesterday got a little bit better

I was feeling tired and depressed, and slightly headachey yesterday (just one of those days). But I was scheduled to go to dinner and a play (see below) with a co-worker and her former roommates, and having paid for the ticket I decided to suck it up and go anyway. So we went to dinner at this place in the South End called Delux, a restaurant, which had -- by the way -- delicious gnocchi with smoked mozzarella cheese. And I didn't want alcohol, well, I wanted it but when I have an incipient headache this is not a good idea so I asked if they had coffee (no) or iced tea (no). The waitress was very apologetic. So I was making do with water, when she came back a few minutes later and said to me, "This is going to sound weird, but our beer rep just brought me an iced tea from the cafe down the street and I don't drink iced tea and I thought it was so weird because you had just asked about it and I'll just be throwing it out so anyway, do you want it?" She brought it to me free with two slices of lemon and made my day just a little bit brighter.

Sondheim's Assassins

Went to see Sondheim's Assassins last night with a colleague from work and a group of her former roommates at the Boston Center for the Arts. I'd heard bits and pieces of the show over the years, but as is often the case with musicals didn't have a full grasp of the story until sitting down to watch it end to end. And even now I'm not sure I fully understand it. Like most Sondheim musicals, it's a musical-cum-dark-comedy, composed largely of vignettes in which presidential assassins and would-be presidential assassins hold forth on their disillusionment and idealism. Bookended in the play by John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln) and Lee Harvey Oswald (Kennedy), and ranging freely through time, it showed me how woefully behind I am in my knowledge of presidential assassination attempts . . . but I enjoyed it in a dark sort of way.

(image nicked from the Boston Globe).


Twilight: A couple of thoughts

A couple of blog posts have crossed my desk recently related to the new film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's novel Twilight, the first book in a series of ragingly popular young adult fantasy novels featuring a high school girl (Bella) who falls in love with a vampire (Edward).

Back when I was working at Barnes & Noble, I read the first three books in the series (a forth is due to appear this fall). It's easy to see why they're popular with young teenage girls, since the central themes are classic gothic romance and adolescent sexual desire, supernatural peril and adventure, all wrapped around a modern teenage girl who is far from a fainting beauty.

At the same time, I share the reservations voiced by some feminist bloggers about the way in which the central romance -- and particularly the issue of sexual intimacy -- is treated. An overarching tension between Bella and Edward throughout the first three novels is Bella's impatience to be sexually active which is frustrated by the fact that Edward, as a vampire, can't ever lose control of his physical self because then he'll hurt Bella -- really hurt Bella. Like, kill her.

So what can be made of a romance where one member of the couple is capable of murdering the other member--a threat which is never far from the surface? Blogger Jessica, over at go fug yourself, points out that Edward's "romantic" behavior is really more like that of an obsessed stalker than anything else. "Listen," she writes, "you just should not be okay with it if you find out that this dude you're seeing has been sneaking into your house unbeknownst to you and watching you sleep all night, every night, even if it's under the guise of 'protecting you' or something . . ." At the same time, pp-ed columnist Gail Collins of the New York Times muses in a recent column that "maybe the secret to her success is that in her books, it’s the guy who’s in charge of setting the sexual boundaries," suggesting that Edward's ability to both harm Bella and his willingness to police himself strike a cord with Meyer's readers.

On the one hand, I agree with Collins that it's refreshing to see, in Bella, a teenage girl who is frank about her sexual desires and impatient to explore sexual intimacy with her boyfriend. And to be clear I enjoyed reading the books and will probably read the forth one when it comes out, if only to find out what happens next. In the end, though, my position on Twilight is closer to Jessica's: despite Edward's superficial willingness to "set boundaries" (which is a strangely one-sided way of describing how sexual negotiation takes place anyway), Meyer's formula for abstinence is really nothing but a variation on the theory that men are sexual animals whose bestial impulses must be controlled -- either by their girlfriends or their own willpower -- or else. If the couple in Twilight have premarital sex (and yes, without giving too much away a future marriage IS held up as the solution to this problem), Bella will die. I don't know how much more creepily anti-female sexuality you can get than that: have sex and you will die.

Neither of these messages about human sexuality -- that men are beasts and women who have sex outside of marriage put themselves in mortal danger -- are messages I want being perpetuated in our culture, among people of any age.


Weird Web Widgets

My friend and MHS colleague Jeremy recently pointed me toward this fun site on the 'net that generates word clouds from quotations that you supply. For example, here is the text of Rosalind's epilogue to As You Like It, likes 1-19, thrown into Wordle:

(click on the image to view larger)

Here is one Jeremy did with the Declaration of Independence, in honor of the 4th of July:

have fun wordling!

Summer at the Movies

I've obviously been delinquent posting to the FFLA this past month. I'm enjoying being able to come home from work at the end of the day and not turn on my computer if I don't want to. Instead of being on the computer 24/7, Hanna and I have done a lot of walking, cooking, sleeping, ice-cream eating, and movie-watching. In particular, this seems to be the summer for vintage movies. Hanna got a series of vintage science fiction films from the 1950s for her birthday, and this past week we discovered such little-known classics as Warning From Space, a 1956 Japanese film about aliens shaped like starfish who land in Tokyo and The Wasp Woman (1959), about a cosmetics magnate whose quest for eternal youth goes horribly wrong.

One of the advantages of being in a big city is cinemas that play classic movies, foreign films, and documentaries. In the last month, I've been able to see Out of Africa at the Coolidge Corner Theater just up the street from our apartment, and on the 4th of July weekend the "final cut" of Bladerunner at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge. Last night, I returned to the Brattle with my friend Natalie to see All About Eve, the 1950 Bette Davis film in which Davis plays a stage actress, Margo Channing, who is stalked by a young fan (Eve, played by Anne Baxter) who ingratiates herself into Channing's life and eventually starts to take it over. It's a truly creepy movie.

I had also forgotten how openly it wrestles with the question of Women Who Have Careers and whether or not such careers are compatible with romance. Davis's character has a loving and sexually active relationship with her director, a man several years her junior, whom she ends up marrying in the course of the film. He loves her in no small part because she's strong-willed, talented, and independent. At one point he rejects Eve's advances without a second thought because "I'm in love with Margo." And yet the film still finds it necessarily to give Margo a midlife crisis in which she wonders how she can possibly be "feminine" if she isn't a housewife.

Oh, and Marilyn Monroe makes a very early appearance as someone's "dumb blond" dinner date with a vaguely foreign accent and several of the funniest lines in the film!

This weekend, the weather's supposed to be hot and sticky; we're going to escape the apartment on Saturday night by attending an open-air production of As You Like It which is being performed free on the Boston Common. As You Like It, being one of Shakespeare's romantic comedies, has all the usual chaos of inconvenient love, exile, disguise, cavorting about in the wood, and reconciliation and marriage at the end. In short, good summer fare.