Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Because She's Watching Me

Imogen Cunningham - Two Sisters, 1928

I watch heroes. Well, Okay. I don’t WATCH Heroes... but if it’s on AND I’m at home AND the tv is on - then I watch Heroes. And last night there was this scene where the younger of two brothers dies. Then he is brought back to life. And the two brothers are standing in front of the fireplace, talking about what happened. The older brother says to the younger brother that he doesn’t know who he would be without the younger brother - something to that effect. And the younger brother, of course, says that he would still be himself. That nothing about him would change. But he’s wrong. The older brother tells him that there are people in your life who make you who you are because of who they believe you can be and what they expect you to be and that somehow living up to his little brother’s expectations is a huge part of who he is.

I just finished a play. In addition to some excellent headshots, we took photographs galore. I emailed them to my baby sister, who has been following my recent resurgence with great anticipation. My baby sister who has always known I was better than I actually am and has always believed I was cooler than I have any awareness of actually being. She is amazed at how I meet and connect with people - something that I struggled to learn to do but that she makes me feel is this natural fluid progression in my life. She saw the photographs and wrote back to tell me how incredible I am and how great I look and how she wishes she could do some of the things I do - and it was just like the voice she spoke to me in when she was 16 and I was 21 and bigger than life to her.

Now it’s ludicrous to make some connection with a superhero TV show and I probably would have thought about this anyway, but here goes:

I understood and connected with that moment on that show because I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for MY little sister. She has been known to drive me crazy and she’s difficult and she’s demanding. She’s also wildly creative and passionate and dark and brilliant and the only person I know who holds people to a higher standard than I do. The sheer force of her will makes me certain I can be anything if I know she believes in me. Her creativity and passion are a constant inspiration but also something I unconciously compete with. Her willingness to be herself no matter how difficult or how costly it may be to her makes me require more of myself and helped waken me from the wasted stupor of the last few years. She doesn’t realize that I think about her all the time and her pictures are all over in my new home. She doesn’t know that so many of these new friends I have made have already heard about my cool little sister and how amazing she is.

She doesn’t know that every day I demand more of myself and must be true to myself and I strive to live every moment fully - that I MUST, because my sister is watching.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lauren Bacall

“Generally women are better than men - they have more character. I prefer men for some things, obviously, but women have a greater sense of honor and are more willing to take a chance with their lives.”
- Lauren Bacall

(on being told that a store was not open to the public)

"I'm not the public."
- Lauren Bacall

“I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.”
- Lauren Bacall

"I am not a has-been. I am a will be."
- Lauren Bacall

Friday, April 20, 2007

I like Bicycles. I don't NEED a Bicycle.

A (male) friend and I were discussing our love lives and I issued the blanket statement that I don't bother with anyone who doesn't actively pursue me. I don't have the time or patience for any man who doesn't feel I am worth that level of effort. My friend accused me of being old fashioned about courtship. Then he points at me accusingly and says, "And I thought you were a feminist!"

I am. Obviously I am. I don't think I'm exactly old fashioned about courtship. I'm not really big on commitment or formal agreements. I'm not terribly interested in marriage. I tend to see dating as a sort of bizarre sport one plays to keep busy and social and entertained on those nights when one's friends are too busy to get together (which may not be a healthy attitude - but I'm okay with that). I'm actually very much like the male stereotype in that sense. I have spent a great deal more of my adult life casually dating than in serious relationships. When I have found someone so pleasant as to induce me to make a commitment (which has happened several times), I still expect to be pursued on some level.

It's not that I want any man in my life to be a pushover, far from it. I just want him to be willing to take the extra step, put forth some effort. I don't want anyone flinging themselves at my feet, which I detest. In the awkward social politics of dating, the subservient beau is the equivalent of prey that has already died. There's no effort required and, therefore, he loses all appeal.

I just don't like to be the one who's running around after someone. It's undignified. Messy. And, admittedly, not very ladylike. Men look dashing when they pursue someone, women look harried or needy. It might be wrong but it's most often true. Some few women can pull off the role of predator without loss of dignity. I am not typically one of them. I don't see the point in bothering with a man who doesn't think I'm worth the effort of initiating a phone call or a dinner invite and sending the occasional card or bouquet. I'm not particularly a fan of flowers. I AM, however, a big fan of knowing someone felt it was worth the trouble to get them. That's what is so great about flowers. Sure, they're pretty. But it's really an important sign of effort when sent by a potential suitor and THAT is the real appeal.

The problem is, I had a hard time trying to figure out how to explain to my friend WHY my attitude toward dating is far from anti-feminist. I'm not saying I would never be the first to ask a guy out or make the first move. On the whole, however, I perceive the more powerful position to be that of the pursued and not that of the pursuer. As long as a girl isn't spending her nights waiting by the phone (I hope none of us are still doing that. Talk about an outmoded idea of appropriate dating behavior!), then I don't see how it makes me less a feminist to prefer to be in the driver's seat. Make no mistake, the person doing the chasing is always in less control than the person being chased. The person being chased chooses when and if they wish to be caught.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hayao Miyazaki:

Bringing Strong Women to Animated Film

Howl's Moving Castle, 2004 (nominee, Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, 2005)

If you think you don't like animated feature films, Hayao Miyazaki will give you reason to reconsider. I know Japanese animation (anime) has in past had a reputation in the states as being the exclusive territory of geeks and 8 year old girls (not that there is anything wrong with either - I'm a big old geek, myself... and vaguely recollect having once been an 8 year old girl). That notion regarding animation's limitations is changing and Miyazaki's work will show you why.

NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind, 1984

Hayao Miyazaki is an animated film director and a co-founder of the animation studio and production company Studio Ghibli. Not only are his films are breathtakingly beautiful and full of interesting, complex characters, but the protagonists in the vast majority of his feature length films are female. He creates positive role models for girls in his intelligent and independent female characters.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky, 1986

He also revisits themes of environmental awareness, tolerance of cultural differences and learning not to judge by appearances. You can feel safe that your children will receive positive messages from a Miyazaki film, but his films aren't created specifically for children. Studio Ghibli produces films that are works of art and have been crafted to appeal to a broad age range.

My Neighbor Totoro, 1988

With Disney's release of Princess Mononoke in the U.S., a wider audience found Miyazaki's work, but I don't know that the films have received sufficient recognition in the states for their unique approach to gender roles and consistent representation of well-rounded and interesting female characters. From the princess protecting her people and acting as the sole voice of reason in a world under incredible environmental strain in NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind to the young girl trapped in the body of an old woman living in the midst of a senseless war in Howl's Moving Castle, Miyazaki's films deliver positive female role models again and again. Each film also presents distinct characters, instead of regurgitating the same heroine repeatedly. They are also well balanced, typically having a male counterpart to the female character.

Kiki's Delivery Service, 1989

Another interesting chracteristic of a Miyazaki film is that he does not paint his villians with broad strokes. The article on Hayao Miyazaki in Wikipedia notes, "One of the most distinctive traits of Miyazaki's films is their lack of stereotypical characters. His characters have complex motivations, and while some can be better or worse than others, they are often capable of change. Many seemingly menacing characters are morally ambiguous, and while not necessarily protagonists, are not clearly defined as antagonists." Even if the antagonist is somewhat defined, you are often put in a position to understand WHY they do what they do. As in life, good and bad aren't simple in a Miyazaki film. I love that.

Porco Rosso, 1992

I would have to say that I find Miyazaki's body of work to be one of the most consistently feminist friendly of any filmmaker (animated or otherwise) I know. This is particularly refreshing, however, to see in animated film, as you may notice that there are a dearth of strong female characters in that arena. Too many animated films and television shows have almost all male characters and one or two token females. To judge based on most animation (particularly in the U.S.) you would think that women were a dwindling minority instead of half the population.

Princess Mononoke, 1997

As noted in the Wikipedia article, "Even Miyazaki's ancillary female characters share these traits. During the opening crisis in Princess Mononoke, three young farm girls are running from a monster. When one trips and falls, her companions, who could have continued their escape, stop running; one helps the girl who has fallen, and the other draws her blade for defense, despite the seeming futility of their actions." The world he creates in his films reinforces positive and diverse images of women, even in the details.

Spirited Away, 2001 (winner, Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, 2002)

If you have not yet discovered his work for yourself, I strongly urge you to rent one of his films. Not only are they full of complex characters, strong women and themes of environmental awareness and non-violent conflict resolution, they are also a feast for the eyes. His work is some of the fullest use of the medium as genuine works of art that I have ever seen. I would personally recommend starting with Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away (although my personal favorite is Howl's Moving Castle).

Howl's Moving Castle, 2004 (nominee, Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, 2005)

... and coming soon is:
Ponyo on a Cliff, summer 2008

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What Not To Do

So I'm on stage, halfway through my lines and I suddenly think to myself:

"Is this acting?"

It's like how you don't look down when walking a tightrope.


In other theater news, my picture was in the paper today along wth an article about the show I'm in. My father called me excitedly to tell me it was a good photo - clearly thrilled to be the first to tell me my mug had made it into the Lifestyles section.

Keeping Busy

Thunderstorn, 1948, Grandma Moses

"Paintin's not important.
The important thing is keepin' busy."
- Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses

Monday, April 09, 2007

Overheard at Work

My stressed out, incredibly conservative female coworker walks up to my office door, looks at me completely dead-pan and says:

"Tonight I need a good stiff one."

My jaw drops. I stare at her confused and horrified. Entirely unwelcome images of her home life invade my brain...

Until she explains further:

"It's been such a rough day. I need a stiff DRINK."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More Rabbity Goodness

Show bunnies jumping hurdles. So cute. I don't know why. It just IS. I am completely giving in to the urge to go all bunny-fied for the next few days.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Disapproving Rabbits

Sharon's Bun Latte, this photo appears with the caption:

Left: Latte preparing to disapprove.
Right: Total rabbit disapproval.

The Disapproving Rabbits belong to Bird Chick, Sharon, who is actually a bird expert and published author. She just also happens to own three VERY funny bunnies (although, I think she deserves a lot of credit for her excellent captions). The site features oodles of photos with silly captions AND Disapproving Rabbit T-shirts.

Hi-LAR-ious good fun.