Saturday, May 22, 2010



So from the first time I saw this cult classic, I never really was all that interested in Marion Crane.

Norman Bates has always been more my type of 'anti-hero', if you will.

I finally just finished the novel by Robert Bloch and due to a personal recognition of my interest in psychosis, was
pleased to find that the original narrative is primarily told from Norman's point of view. In fact, very little of the
novel's content concentrates on Mary Crane (they changed her name to Marion for the film) or her lover Sam Loomis.
The only other character that is given significant attention besides Norman is Mary's little sister Lila, a driving
narrative force in the novel's second half.

So as not to unnecessarily spoil the plot line, I'll tiptoe around the real subject of Psycho just as Bloch did himself.

When beautiful, young Mary stops to stay at the Bates Motel after stealing $40,000 to support herself and lover Sam,
Norman Bates acquires a slight crush that makes his "Mother" very angry.
In reading the novel, I aligned myself with
his character outright. Now, Hitch
obviously wanted the thrill of cutting down his beautiful protagonist 20 minutes
into the film knowing that his audiences would be rooting for her from the start, but I enjoyed rooting for middle-aged,
hotel proprietor Norman from the beginning of the novel. He is described as lonely, balding, and fat, which is a far cry
from the film's depiction of the character.

For some reason, the novel's Elmer Fudd description hit me harder than Anthony Perkins' dapper and youthful good
looks. But don't get me wrong, there is nothing that I don't love about Perkins' earnest, funny, awkward and layered
performance as Norman Bates. (Certainly beats Vince Vaughn's in the Gus Van Sant re-make, that's for sure.)

But in the novel, Norman's pudginess actually becomes one of his redeeming qualities, as does his frequent alcoholism
and insecurities from impotence (none of which are touched on in the film). I don't really know why, but I think they
make him more of a tragic, misunderstood figure than a malicious one. After all, he is described as an intellectual
person who fully understands the science behind cryonics and taxidermy and holds copies of Model of the Universe,
The Extension of Consciousness, Dimension of Being, La Bas,
and Justine on his decrepit bookshelf. Norman's
impotence, however, destroys any potential for academic success and inevitably drives his twisted relationship with his
mother. Too, his aging and unattractive appearance is the driving force behind this impotence, so handsome Mr.
Perkins just isn't as believable when it comes to sociopathic sexual frustration.

Norman's covert nature is assessed from many different angles that I feel the film generally allots no more than a scene
or two, if not skipping it altogether. For example, Bloch's use of the second person when diverting to Norman's inner
dialogue is the most intriguing aspect of the novel. By having Norman talk to himself saying things like, "You had to see
her again...if you were any kind of a man you would've told her so," Bloch purposely includes his reading audience in
Norman's plight much more personally than he does when writing in the novel's otherwise third person point of view.
He talks to his readers as though they are Norman, much like Hitchcock often had his characters look directly at the
camera as though they were scrutinizing the audience members themselves. Although the film includes Mary's
tormented conscience on her drive to Fairvale, it only once adopts this tricky point of view to delve into Norman's mind
a little deeper--the shot in the very last scene pictured below. I understand that Hitchcock was careful to keep the
entire story a secret, but Norman is an interesting person outside of the over-analyzed shower scene, and he deserved
more internal attention than he was given.

I feel that it is because of Norman's sexual insecurities that the novel is often much more gratuitous than the film
(arguably for reasons other than harsh cinematic censorship). At one point, Norman has a very Oedipal, French New
Wave dream sequence of his mother sinking nude into a swamp as his own awareness becomes attuned to the fact that
it is actually he who is sinking below the surface. He admits feeling guilty for gazing upon his mother in this way and
wishes that the temptation would leave him while still holding on to the hope that "Mother" never will. In Norman's
conversation with Mary he defends his mother saying, "I think perhaps all of us go a little crazy at times."

And it's true. We do.

Which is why Bloch used the second person to speak directly to his audience: to show that we are all all exactly like
Norman. A humanity that struggles with insecurity, bitterness, self-awareness (or lack thereof)...

"Talk about not knowing other people--why, when it came right down to it, you didn't even know yourself."

And that's
why I found myself wanting a happy, bluegrass ending for Norman; an ending that didn't involve the
consequences of the traumatic event that made him the way he was...because we all have our own baggage in so many ways.

I guess I'm just attracted to jaded and confused characters, hence my empathy for:

1. Dexter
2. Arthur Mitchell (an extreme irony because the end of Psycho makes reference to an "Unholy Trinity." Hmm, wonder
where the Dexter writers got the idea for Mitchell's nickname...)
3. Tara (United States of Tara)
4. Teddy Daniels (Shutter Island)
5. Malcolm Rivers (Identity)
6. even Phillip Garrido, and he certainly is not fictional.

It's funny, in the 'making-of' portion of Hitch's Psycho, screenwriter Joseph Stefano decided that if Norman Bates were
a portrait he'd have been painted by Edward Hopper, a man known for a childhood dominated by women and
paintings dominated by placid scenery.

Stefano's claim makes sense because both Momma's Boy Norman and his home have the same placid appearance as
Hopper's painting at first glance...

...if only Norman and the rest of us were truly as peaceful as we came across.

day date.

So Alex had to put up my with girly complaints about not going on enough dates the other day,
and true to his thoughtful, reliable self he surprised me with an early dinner and a trip out to the
Golf Shack driving range!!

It was a rainy eve, so we had the range entirely to ourselves and got the hook up on ball-bucket
tokens because he knew someone working.

[romance, romance.]

About 65 balls and two very sore wrists later, I had perfected my swing enough to hit straight
and slightly far (I think we decided I had an 85 yard average!). I had the tendency for slicing
though, which helped in our competition to hit the purple flag at the far right of the range. I
claimed I had been aiming for it the whole time (Alex, of course, was speculative but still very

He even used the classic Zack Morris-esque, stand-behind-your-girl-and-hold-her-club-to-help-her-get-the-feel technique ;]

Ahh the helpful aid of a boyfriend-coach's wise instruction.

for feelings of failure...

So I had an awkward morning two days ago that left me feeling like a failure at life!
I'm desperately trying to sublet my apartment in Chicago for the month of June so that I can live
at home and not pay close to $700 in rent.
I had scheduled two people to come view but, silly me, let my phone die and realized I'd left my
charger at home. So it ended up being a near fiasco trying to borrow Rach's phone/Skype/wait
on my front stoop in order to get a hold of the second woman who came to view, and after all the
hassle she wasn't even interested.

To cheer me up, a friend from church gave me this website of famous people who never gave
up...even after what sometimes became hundreds of failures.

Don't Give Up!

My two favorites:

1. ""In 1944, Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency, told modeling
hopeful Norma Jean Baker, "You'd better learn secretarial work or else get married." I'm sure
you know that Norma Jean was Marilyn Monroe. Now . . . who was Emmeline Snively?"

2. "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.
Eighty percent of success is showing up." -Woody Allen.

Now, M.M. died of an overdose (supposedly) and Allen is kind of a nutcase....but you get the idea ;]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

united states of tara.

Toni Collette plays adorable suburban mom Tara...with dissociative identity disorder.

Her 4 personalities:

1. 15 year old "T" who smacks bubble gum and wears hot pink thongs that ride up her butt.

2. Middle-aged "Buck" who talks about his time in Nam, drives a Harley, wears flannel and
trucker hats, and smokes Lucky Strikes.

3. 50s housewife "Alice" who sounds like Grace Kelly, bakes cupcakes, and wears sundresses
with red bows and strawberries like a Stepford wife.

4. Tara herself: a wonderfully frustrated and dynamic Collette who is eternally grateful to her
understanding husband (John Corbett) and two kids (and who hides her Australian accent
phenomenally well).

D.I.D. is pretty common, I guess; a small hippocampus in patients that affects long term
memory loss while "alters" (other personalities) take over.

Hilarious, heartwarming, and interesting, I highly suggest.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm sorry, I have to..

So Rach sent me an article on an interview with Shia at Cannes 2010, and I am obligated to post this portion both
because of Generation Y empathy and parental other words, I'm part of the population with no job or
money and my parents are the ones who appreciate youthful knowledge on the stock market.

Believe me, I wish I knew more.

When asked about the financial crisis, kid gave this response:

"You can make the marketplace more transparent. If people had known who was paying for the mortgages instead of
having to rely on Moody's triple-A (bull) rating -- transparency would have helped. The triple A rating thing is
ridiculous. That's like Oliver [Stone] paying you for a review. The people who were bundling this toxic crap were paying
Moody's for the review of their crap. That's ridiculous. You can't have bank holding companies acting as hedge funds.
You can't have them taking a million-dollar pension plan for Joe Schmo the bus driver and treat it with the same risk
appetite that you treat George Soros' pocket money. It's fundamentally ridiculous. And it hasn't gotten better very
recently, actually. They went from bundling mortgages that were crap to bundling life insurance policies and betting on
people's deaths. And you can't blame it all on the Street.... People's mentality needs to change. If the Greece contagion
thing takes off and it goes from Spain to Ireland to Portugal things are going to change drastically for the world. Soup
kitchens, it won't be that type of change. You won't get a depression that way. But it'll be very difficult. I think, my
generation, it's hard to have hope when you got a $700-trillion derivatives debt to pay and a bubble about to explode
and $500 trillion worth of GDP. You took all the money in the world and put it in a pot, you're $200 trillion short. It's
scary, man. You know the average person born today owes $8,000? The average person getting out of college owes
$75,000 with no job. I mean it's scary. My generation, it's a scary situation."

Born into $8,000 in that, my friends, is a scary situation.
It just surprised me that someone who makes millions of dollars can actually level with the rest of his comrades and
realize that $75,000 in debt after graduation REALLY IS absolutely ridiculous.

photography thread.

So I just came across this adorable picture of photographer Richard Avedon and Twiggy in my endless e-mail sorting (a very daunting task). I've always loved Twiggy and sent myself the link after searching Avedon's photography when my friend Liz did a photo shoot emulating his work of Marilyn Monroe.

A couple weeks later Liz did a photo shoot with a few of us themed "caught in the act." Mine was a bar brawl mug shot... ;]

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Barton
Makeup Credit: Sarah Larson

Shortly before that shoot, Rach and I did a couple with Brian Milo in Rockford: The Ring/GaGa themed and absolutely FREEZING COLD. But we got some good ones.

Brian Milo

We're weird.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


So I watched a very appropriate film for my philosophical situation as of late, one that asks the same, typical
life-questions as any disillusioned alum: "If we're all going to die the moment we graduate, isn't it what we do before that counts?"

An Education
: Lone Scherfig.

I sound just as campy as James Lipton right now, but I actually was profoundly impressed by the subject matter of the
film. Not since All I Wanna Do with the masterful Lynn Redgrave, R.I.P. (who, I'm proud to say, played opposite my
sister Alyssa in their roles as Queen Elizabeth I and new world-bound Eleanor Dare, respectively, at Waterside
Theater's annual production of The Lost Colony in North Carolina, but I digress...) have I seen a film that so deftly
tackled the second wave-feminist ideals of teenage girls in the 60s, with a minimal but appropriate sense of humor--ya
know, the whole "I'm so wise beyond my 17.5 years and super witty too" kind of skepticism toward sex, family, gender
roles, career goals, and (you guessed it) female higher education. I watched the 'making of' segment, and one of the
producers mentioned the film's relational capabilities toward its audience. Who better to relate to protagonist Jenny's
English literature devoted, French language/culture loving character than myself?

Basic plot: 16 year old academic ingenue Jenny, played by 25 year old Carrie Mulligan, falls in love with a creepy Peter
Sarsgaard after his character David hits on her from his maroon sports car while she's standing in the rain. The film
never delves much into his character, despite what one of the producers described as "a multi-layered man," and Carrie
did a
good acting job I guess, but mostly because she played herself: a well-educated 25 year old, not a doe-eyed teen.
He wines and dines her classical music and art fetish with orchestral concerts and pre-Raphaelite painting auctions
and eventually takes her to Paris for a silent, slightly cheesy montage of every scenic area in the city. Needless to say,
Jenny must inevitably choose (though I'm not exactly sure why) if she wants to marry him or finish her high school
education (presumably because second wave feminism ordained that a girl could not have both [??]).

The film's depiction of 60s rural England is magic, and the costumes made me really want to take on the Mad Men
phenomenon. I mean, just take a look at the still above, and you can see that the cinematography is like the oil painting
Jenny adores. I will say that the whole Lolita storyline is a bit over done, but I enjoyed the nervous-turned-sure
dynamic of Jenny's feelings toward David. Better yet was the film's analysis of critical aestheticism/liberal arts and
their non-existent use in post-grad society.

My dilemma exactly.

Here's my favorite exchange between Jenny and her headmistress (except this woman had nowhere near the same
impact as Lynn Redgrave in her similar role):

"It's not enough to educate us anymore, Miss Walters. You've got to tell us why you're doing it."

(Long, unsure pause.)

"It doesn't have to be teaching, you know. There's a civil service."

(Another long pause, apparently not pleased with this answer.)

"I don't wish to be impertinent, Miss Walters, but it is an argument worth rehearsing. You never know, someone else
might want to know the point of it all one day."

And why was this my favorite dialogue of the movie?? Because whenever anyone asks me what I want to do with an
English degree they'll cut in with, "Teach??" before I even have the chance to answer the question. I certainly do not
wish to diminish anyone's teaching aspirations, but I do firmly believe that one should have a passion for it. And I
know I'm not one of those people. So that leaves me wondering if my love for literature and film is wasted if not
imposed on the minds of the young in a classroom. I certainly hope not.

It's funny; I feel that the film's ending leaves the "what to do with an English degree" question somewhat unanswered,
and where Jenny may have come up with a good counter to her headmistress, she pretty much backpedals into Miss
Walters' strict coherence with second wave feminist ideals: men and relationships are bad, free-thinking and Charlotte Bronte cure all.

Thus, I'm not a huge fan of the film's boxy ending, but for the most part it stuck to a rounded interpretation of the
age-old "loss of innocence" and the even older theme of emotional redemption: you've gotta go through hell and back
to find yourself, and even then the image gets fragmented.

If nothing else, I liked coming away pretending that the similar interests Jenny and I shared merited someday being
given this same compliment:

"The thing is Jenny, you know...without necessarily being able to explain why. See, you have taste. That's not half the
battle, that's the whole war."

Feel free to imagine that your personal aesthetics deserve winning the whole war, too. In the meantime, I'm going to
assume that flipping burgers for the rest of my life will at least be enhanced by recognizing the aesthetic aspects of the
golden arches in comparison to Hawthorne's scarlet letter.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

watch it.

Excerpts from my film analysis:

"Alice in the Cities' attitude toward American culture does not stray far from German sentiment during that time: a mixture of antipathic inclinations that fluctuate with a "hate to love," reluctant attraction to the idea of American culture. In other words, the characters' attitudes toward their American surroundings are often reflected through respect, intrigue, and distaste all at once.

The combination of these images and the narratives they represent creates a genuine relationship between Alice and Philip that helps reconcile both characters to their original German heritage. Wenders uses this relationship to also reconcile German viewers with their absent culture and help create a new film culture that will promote positive German identity rather than the negative neo-Nazi identity the country acquired after the war.

The geographical directions of the plane heading west at the beginning of the film and the train heading east at the end of the film unmistakably represent the United States and Europe, respectively. Wenders' film begins in New York and moves east to Europe just as Philip's journey takes him from western America all the way east to New York. Wenders uses his narrative and opening/closing shots to illustrate the movement and influence of American culture on the East, especially Germany, after World War II. However, these shots do not portray a negative view of Europe as do so many other plot elements of the film. Instead, Wenders conciliates the two cultures through his resolution. Philip reluctantly returns to Europe after his journey across America, but it is only at the very end on the train car with Alice that he finally realizes he is able to finish his story. It is as though Alice's youthful Germanic/European camaraderie is the only influence that can resolve the ending of his American adventure story, which allows European culture to take the lead over American culture for the first time in the film. The train car heads further east to Germany as the film ends, which shows Wenders intentions of returning to an original Germanic culture that was lost after the world wars."
So this is my cousin Brooke's facebook status right now...

"dear summer, please come. i need you. that is all. love, brooke."

here here.


So I was creeping around blogs today and came across this...

and I love it.

Lesson From The Kama Sutra

Lesson From The Kama Sutra
by Mahmoud Darwish

Wait for her with an azure cup.
Wait for her in the evening at the spring, among perfumed roses.
Wait for her with the patience of a horse trained for mountains.
Wait for her with the distinctive, aesthetic taste of a prince.
Wait for her with the seven pillows of cloud.
Wait for her with strands of womanly incense wafting.
Wait for her with the manly scent of sandalwood on horseback.
Wait for her and do not rush.
If she arrives late, wait for her.
If she arrives early, wait for her.
Do not frighten the birds in her braided hair.
Take her to the balcony to watch the moon drowning in milk.
Wait for her and offer her water before wine.
Do not glance at the twin partridges sleeping on her chest.
Wait and gently touch her hand as she sets a cup on marble.
As if you are carrying the dew for her, wait.
Speak to her as a flute would to a frightened violin string,
As if you knew what tomorrow would bring.
Wait, and polish the night for her ring by ring.
Wait for her until the night speaks to you thus:
There is no one alive but the two of you.
So take her gently to the death you so desire,
and wait.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Grad's Epilogue...or is it Introduction?

So the passing of two very important events has allowed me to feel that I can guiltlessly return my attention to this beloved blog:

1. Season 4, episode 12 of Dexter.

2. Graduation.

proud fam.

proud boy.

The only thing I'm asking myself in regards to both is, "what next?"

I guess I still have to finish the novel that Dexter was based on, and there are plenty of interviews I could watch. Alex
and I were reluctant to finish off the season since #5 doesn't start until Sep. 27. But let me tell you, it's been a roller-
coaster of emotion, expectation, and philosophical discussion on the gray areas of morality throughout our viewer
experience, and it's made me realize, "Umm...I may be more upset that Dexter is ending than I am my college career..."

The funny thing is, I could use the same 'roller-coaster' metaphor for that same college career. It is, of course, a slightly
bittersweet time for me. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't miss the general world of Academia; or weekend drinks after a
hard final; or lunch with friends in the Inner Circle; or the walk from UIC's fitness center to the train with a gorgeous
Chicago skyline perched in front me against a blue-black night sky; or the classrooms full of kids who actually want to
discuss the juxtaposition of Wim Wenders post-war German ideals with his filmic use of narrative and imagery in Alice
in the Cities
(excellent movie, btw); or my Gothic, concrete jungle campus in the dead of winter; or taking the packed,
wet, and smelly blue line 10 stops south to a midterm I haven't studied for with spilled coffee, awkward winterwear,
and last night's unfinished homework while the bum across from me stares creepily past 8 plastic bags...

Oh wait, that last one might be a lie.

To be honest, there's a lot that I won't miss. More than anything I felt stifled toward the end, and I couldn't be more
relieved that my life of assigned critical and creative writing is over. I am eternally grateful for the wealth of literary,
historical, and cinematic works that I was introduced to by professors who I feel took genuine interest in honing my
critical thinking. But I'm grateful, too, that I can pursue at will those areas of study that most intrigued me without
being forced to analyze them in a specific way. Being given a parameter of 8 pages to express someone else's thoughts
made it difficult to put all of my creative and critical energy into papers and short stories whose topics I honestly did
care about, and my apathetic attitude eventually became a guilty one. For example:

- I really want to finish Benito Cereno by Herman Melville because I couldn't bring myself to do it when it was assigned
for my Literature and Pop Culture course.

- I wrote two short stories that I'm actually very proud of, but both need revisions that I couldn't find the energy to
apply for my final portfolio.

- My final senior thesis "Television Media Treatment of Celebrity Death" (for which I won an award presenting a
portion at Notre Dame's Midwest Film and Television conference, I might add) was pretty much thrown together and
finished the night before it was due when I had all semester to neatly organize my argument.

These are just a few admissions of my procrastination last semester, each of which I suppose can be seen as an
accomplishment in their own rite. But personally, they would have been more of an accomplishment if I had been able
to put all of my energy into them without having a grade attached.

I guess you could say my excuse is a cop-out; that even now after there are no more deadlines my apathy won't permit
me to pursue classic texts of my own free will...

but I hope it's not. And I certainly plan on rejuvenating my creative mind this summer by tackling a number of projects
that I've wanted to undertake for some time.

1. This blog (especially segments that cover fashion, film, and literary reviews...oh, and the past few months' big
adventures including my Florida road trip with Alex, internship at Gene Siskel, and European jaunt with Rach, Ash, and Kari for nostalgia's sake!)

2. Finish reading Benito Cereno, Psycho, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Middlesex, Gravity's Rainbow, and Louise Brooks.

3. Watch one new Hitchcock film per week.

4. Revise my two short stories.

5. Write a screenplay!!

6. Apply for jobs (not exactly creative therapy, but necessary...and rewarding!)

A good start for now, I think. Plus, three months in Florida for my internship at Destination Weddings and
magazine will hopefully be a good hiatus to get all of them accomplished!!

Wish me luck.