Will Wonders Never Cease? – Harry Houdini

Today on lunch I wandered over to the Contemporary Jewish Museum. I have spent more than one lunch hour in their lovely courtyard, but have never been in before.

Today I went in, primarily to see:

It was a fun exhibit – showcasing artifacts from Houdini’s life and career (example: show posters and the milk jug & steamer trunks he escpaed from) and short film clips of his escapes – which, even silent and grainy, are very impressive. They also looked at his cultural impact, with him as a character in books like Ragtime and Kavalier & Clay, and modern magicians building on his legacy.

One of my favorites, was a photograph by Bruce Cratsley –
Hat & Wand of Houdini at the Louvre

I think the shadow of the photographer on the case allows the photo to evoke Houdini’s spirit and memory in his remaining artifacts.

I would recommend checking out the exhibit before it closes.

The CJM Building is also pretty cool – buildt on the existing Jessie Street Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Power Substation, a 1907 landmark designed by architect Willis Polk.  According to the CJM website: “The architect [Daniel Libeskind] based the extension’s conceptual organizing principles on the two symbolic Hebrew letters of “chai” (life), the “chet” and the “yud.'”

My Photo of the Stephen & Maribelle Leavitt "Yud" Gallery

On display as well was Hagar in the Desert (1969)

The semi-abstract piece depicts Hagar and her son Ishmael. The best part of seeing this piece was the excellent analysis on the centuries of interpretation on the story of Hagar – from ancient and modern Jewish scholars, Muslims and Christians. I learned a lot about this story from the bible, and the interesting cultural implications it has had down the line. Very cool, and very well done.

Buzzfeed: 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011

Buzzfeed put together a list of the 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011

Here are a few I really appreciated, but I recommend looking at the whole article.
As author Matt Stopera said: “What a year! Here’s to 2012 being a more quiet and less destructive year.”

(Captions are also from the article)

Phyllis Siegel, 76, left, and Connie Kopelov, 84, both of New York, embrace after becoming the first same-sex couple to get married at the Manhattan City Clerk's office.

A monstrous dust storm (Haboob) roared through Phoenix, Arizona in July.

A University of California Davis police officer pepper-sprays students during their sit-in at an "Occupy UCD" demonstration in Davis, California. (Jasna Hodzic)

Christians protect Muslims during prayer in Cairo, Egypt.

Oceans, wolves and cults – life in California

So, all-in-all, the transition back to California has been great. I like my job, my family’s pretty great, and the weather!  The weather is awesome. I will always be happiest when it is between 65 and 75 degrees, wearing a light sweater, with an ocean five minutes away.

Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands (a little farther than 5 minutes, but way worth it)

One of the constants in the last (almost) three months, has been TV and movie consumption with Syche and Drew.

Though…we’ve tended to pick semi (or very) depressing or disturbing material…

This started with the addicting Game of Thrones, which we plowed through in about 2 weeks. (S&D had both seen it before, and wanted me to. I’m going to return the favor and introduce them to the amazing BBC Sherlock very soon).

I liked Game of Thrones a lot, way more than I expected, despite insane amounts of violence and unnecessary amount of breasts – I guess the adorable Dryer Wolves* made up for the latter. But the violence was what stuck with me.

On Thanksgiving we saw The Descendents with George Clooney- which I cried through 2/3 of. (But it did make me excited for my January trip to Hawaii!)

So violence and tears were the standard operating procedure when we gathered last night.

But boy, did it take the cake.  We watched the excellent Martha Marcy May Marlene** directed by Sean Dirken and starring Elizabeth Olson. I liked it a lot, but will probably never watch it again.  Olson plays Martha who has recently returned to her sister Laura’s life after a two-year abscene. During that time, she joined a cult group somewhere in upstate New York, where she was renamed Marcy May.  Dirken tells the two stories simultaneously as Martha aka Marcy May tries to create a life in both worlds.

God, I started this whole blog post to talk about this movie and I don’t even know how to say what I want to say…. I liked the acting – everyone did a great, understated job of portraying their generally fucked-up characters. I thought it was beautifully shot, if a bit dark at times. I was compelled…

But… fundamentally, the movie was terrifying. That’s what I took away from watching it.

Scenes themselves were creepy, I spent the whole thing being worried of who was lurking in windows and down long corridors. (I like this type of scary much more than gross-out torture porn of recent horror flicks).  The film’s ominous feeling was amplified by the very smooth transitions from present day to flashbacks – as a viewer I never knew where I would be taken next. But even more terrifying was the emotional turmoil Martha underwent as a cult member – her insecurities were masterly manipulated, and as an audience member we went along that journey with her to a stressful degree.

I think the New Yorker review described the tone best, when talking about Patrick (John Hawks), the cult’s leader:

The source of Patrick’s power, in short, is not just violation but the rite of violation—the same pain being inflicted again and again, until it acquires the patina of the mock sacred. (Full Review)

Friend Alex, a film devotee, talks better than I can about this movie and a few other recent flicks that deal with madness here.
I would recommend seeing the movie, but as we continue to venture into Award season, my next few picks may have to be on the happier side of life. Who can recommend a good comedy?
*Actually called Direwolves, but I mistakenly called them this in the beginning and it stuck.
** In the lead up to seeing this movie, I think I substituted every M name out there – yes, Melinda Mary Michelle Matilda, was very good, wasn’t it!

Well, Uh oh… Baby is a punk rocker

Fair warning, many moons ago, a friend told me that my stream of consciousness would be in bullet points, so expect a lot of that with this little adventure.

A look at this past week:

– I ate delicious pizza, and a bad cream puff.

– I fell in love with Allo Darlin’

– I froze my ass off waiting for a comedy show, which was totally worth it

– I hated my job.

– I walked the Brooklyn Bridge and held a raccoon penis bone.

– I listened to the new album by my favorite band

– I said goodbye to a wonderful friend after a 9-day visit to NYC

– I cried.

– I struggled with reading a classic book

– I ate a REALLY good burrito

– I worried about money

– I read a wonderful email from a friend who is falling in love.

– I made a fool of myself dancing in front of the Wii…and laughed myself silly.

– I felt good at my job.

– I read this quote, and agreed:
I will never respect the person on MUNI who pulls the “request stop” cord for any stop that MUNI is required to make always. Never. Stop tugging the cord at Montgomery station. We’re already stopping there. Stop it.

– I missed my family

– I took a nice photo of Central Park in the snow

– I enjoyed a trashy book so much, I missed my subway stop.

– I had intense conversations about fairy tales, sex, art and nature v. nurture.

– I had stupid conversations about public access TV, raptor noises and Sarah Palin.

– I went to the Met, and saw some photos that I adored.

– I rolled my own sushi

– I intended to take a picture with the Giants World Series trophy, but slept instead.

– I, unexpectedly, saw a friend in a TV show

– I drank a lot of red wine

– I smoked a little.

– I hung out with some of my best friends, and laughed & laughed & laughed.
(actually this happened a few times and I truly couldn’t be more grateful)


– (I finally started blogging again)