Saturday, November 04, 2006

A History of Love & Bicycles

This is how the old woman told it:

A break-up with a boyfriend left her with a bike she didn’t know how to ride when he left her so quickly that he left his bike behind.

The inherited bicycle became a source of anxiety— not just a sad reminder of a dead relationship, but also a symbol of general inadequacy. What sort of ogre of a person was she that her boyfriend preferred to leave behind his bike than face her again? And what kind of 25-year-old had never learned to ride a bike? She was scared of herself, of her ability to love and be loved, but most of all, of cycling.

That fall, a new boyfriend taught her how to ride that bike. And the following summer, suddenly single again, she met the man who would become her husband while on a biking trip in East Hampton.

The bicycle that had been a symbol of fear and self-doubt eventually carried her to conjugal happiness.

In the version of the story the old woman recounts today, fifty years after the inheritance of her first bicycle, the narrative of her love life that she traces through her relationship with cycling seems overly coherent, event A leading seamlessly to B, which paves the way to the story’s happy ending, C.

But when she and her future husband first chained their bikes together during a lunch break, the event in the moment carried none of the historical significance it has gained over the years.

Only in retrospect does she separate this particular meeting from countless run-ins with people who never became central characters in her life. Only once the flurry of activity that fills up a life fades into the background does the narrative one likes to tell about herself reveal itself.

Storytelling is a bit like landscaping—it’s cutting out characters and thoughts and experiences that are eventually deemed irrelevant to the form in which we like to think about ourselves and present ourselves to the world.

But in the moment, before the moment becomes a story to be told, we’re just bushwacking, unequipped to differentiate between the momentous and the mundane like we do in retrospect.

And thank God. Life would become much too serious and unmysterious if the narrative was as clear in the moment as it is in the stories we tell.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I Feel Sorry For Actors

“I realized that I don’t want to be an actor anymore,” Ian said. He liked tasks. He liked the 9 to 5. He liked the people he met on the business side of things better than the ones he had sat with in lobbies at commercial auditions over the past three years.

So goodbye acting, hello health insurance. It seemed both a relieving and defeating realization at which he had arrived.

For painters and writers who give up the dream of turning their passions into professions, there remains the rewarding realm of hobby in which to pursue one’s artistic endeavors.

But poor actors!

On a rainy Saturday, Ian can’t really look around his apartment and say, “Oh what the hell, I’m just going to stay home and do a little acting this afternoon,” and throw down a couple of monologues for the cats.

I mean, he could, but it seems a little odd.

Acting as a hobby? Who heard of such a thing, post-college? Perhaps there are groups of doctors and dentists and accountants who meet after work and stage theatrical productions in each other's basements, but it's a scenario I can picture better as a New Yorker cartoon than in real life ("honey, no TV tonight. You know Dad and his acting buddies reserve the basement from 6 to 9 on Tuesdays").

Writers, painters, sculptors, and singers never really need to kill the dream thanks to the blog, the canvas, the clay, and the shower. But poor actors. It seems they do, at some point, throw in the towel for good.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

You Can't Handle the Stoop!

No time to say hello, goodbye, these days, so instead of writing anything here, I will refer you to something I wrote over there .

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

This Film is Not Yet Rated. And Probably Never Will Be.

The following is part of a story posted on :

"Art films make people feel funny," says Kirby Dick of his new documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which maligns the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) much like Roger & Me did General Motors and Supersize Me did McDonald's.

In his film, which opened on Sept. 1, Dick takes the MPAA ratings board to town. He casts the secretive organization, established in 1968 by Hollywood studios to keep government censors off their backs, as one of America's last bastions of censorship. The board's power to brand a film with an NC-17, the scarlet letter of ratings, keeps many independent films out of theaters, off of Walmart's shelves, and thereby financially unviable. That the board is not required to reveal how it makes the unabashedly subjective distinctions between PG-13 and R, R and NC-17, is what really cooks Dick's goose.

Why, for instance, does Scary Movie, which depicts a woman pinned up against the ceiling by a cartoonishly exaggerated surge of semen during a sex scene, garner an R rating, while John Waters' A Dirty Shame gets slammed with an NC-17 when clothed characters merely discuss some off-kilter sex practices?

According to Dick and the frustrated indie filmmakers he interviews throughout the film, blockbusters like Scary Movie rarely do more than amuse or repulse. It's in artsy flicks that try to portray something authentic where that ineffable "funny feeling" kicks in. And it's precisely this, the "funniness" of a complex emotional response, that the ratings board wants to protect America's children from experiencing.

Hollywood studios, whose bottom line is usually product, rarely art, are happy to cut a thrust here, a female orgasm there, in order to earn a rating that will lead to financial, if not critical, success. Filmmakers like Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don't Cry), Mary Harron (American Psycho), Matt Stone (South Park), John Waters (A Dirty Shame), Kevin Smith (Clerks) and Atom Egoyan (Where the Truth Lies), all interviewed by Dick, are the ones whose artistic visions suffer censure because of NC-17 ratings.

Read the full story about the New York City advance screening at .