Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lives of Quiet Desperation

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation... The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation...."
-Henry David Thoreau

I just finished watching Revolutionary Road. I wanted to comment on the incredible performance of the lead actors, the great vision of the director, but I can't. Not that they weren't incredible (they were), but the fact remains that I was just overwhelmed by the story and the feelings forced on me and out of me.

"Plenty of people are on to the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness."

I usually like 'deep' or 'heavy' films. A large dose of reality makes the best picture for me as I don't always appreciate sugar-coating or shallowness, but Revolutionary Road just left me feeling empty and aching. The biting reality of suburban facades of perfection, conformity, and the stifling dreams hit too close to home.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Phoebe In Wonderland

I am constantly amazed how films with a fantasy element seem the most in tune to reality and speak most clearly an element of truth. In Phoebe in Wonderland, Felicity Huffman and Bill Pullman play their roles with an air of honesty, but it is Elle Fanning, as Phoebe, and Patricia Clarkson, as drama teacher Miss Dodger, who really helps Phoebe come into her own, that take the cake.

Phoebe in Wonderland is a film about a family of four --father and mother (both academics struggling to balance work and family life) and two daughters: Olivia and Phoebe. Olivia strives for her parents' attention and approval. A precocious girl of about eight, she writes poetry, dresses up as Karl Marx for Halloween and struggles to make excuses for her older sister: Phoebe.

At first we see Phoebe as simply a bright, introverted nine-year-old with a vivid imagination, but as the movie progresses our view of Phoebe changes. She is socially awkward, withdrawn, and obsessed with ritual. When she becomes distressed she withdraws into "Wonderland": the parallel world where she goes to try to find an explanation of what's happening in her world and what she is supposed to do.

In the end, we find out the Phoebe suffers from Tourettes syndrome and can't control her outbursts or compulsive action. It is a relieving moment to see Phoebe explain to her classmates, her tormentors, why she is the way she is and to see her finally come into her own as Alice in the school play. Despite its happy ending, Phoebe In Wonderland carries similar elements to Pan's Labyrinth. The main characters both struggle to reconcile their chaotic realities by retreating into fantasy, sometimes terrifying, but all times beautiful.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I just found out that a childhood friend of the family who has been missing for three days was found this evening. They were still holding out hope that he had survived. He was well-prepared with a tent and provisions. He was comfortable in the outdoors. His body was found at the bottom of a cliff. I am just stunned. What is it about these past few months? It seems like there has just been one death after another lately.

I wish there was something I could say; something I could do, but words are insufficient. What can you say to someone who lost their 21-year-old son who fell to his death off of a 300-foot cliff? Or the mom with three young kids having to go on after her husband's death; the family losing a grandfather to a seeming innocent accident; the always-hoped-against death of a friend battling a chronic illness? Don't even talk to me about 'God's ways are higher than ours' or 'He has a reason for everything'. Death is just mindless, thoughtless pain.

"How dare the robins sing,
When men and women hear
Who since they went to their account
Have settled with the year! --
Paid all that life had earned
In one consummate bill,
And now, what life or death can do
Is immaterial.
Insulting is the sun
To him whose mortal light,
Beguiled of immortality,
Bequeaths him to the night.
In deference to him
Extinct be every hum,
Whose garden wrestles with the dew,
At daybreak overcome!"
-Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I am in a sort of limbo right now... School has started and I'm not there; got laid off from my job because of budget cuts and haven't received anything promising in response to job-searching. I have been kind of spoiled when it comes to job-searching in the past. Most of my jobs have been offered to me because of networking, or friend-of-a-friend putting in a good word for me. I'm not used to this suspended transition.

Not only is it not helping my financial situation, but it also has me feeling listless. This is the first day I have had free since being laid off because of volunteer work, and chauffeuring my Grandmother on a weekend trip to visit my family's new house. Except for a little time spent with the cousins, today felt so slow and wasteful. I just want a job. I want a purpose.

I suppose the internet revolution of the job-search isn't helping right now either. It's so unphysical now. There's no pounding the pavement, no direct action. The most action I take is to hit the 'Send' button or (at the most extreme) make a one-minute trip to the post office. Searching for jobs involves Monster and other career websites and the time spent in front of the MS Word window to type up a coherent cover letter and tweak my resume. It's all fast, virtually painless, and mind-numbingly boring. It's not that I'm not interested in the jobs. To the contrary, there are a quite a few that I have been really excited about the prospects that some of these jobs could present, but I'm getting so tired of waiting and being aimless...