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Bird interlude

February 20, 2009 at 6:56 am

Rashi and his morning paper

Rashi and his morning paper

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Oscar interlude – Penn or Langella?

February 19, 2009 at 7:38 am

And now it’s time for an Oscar moment. Slipping a little film talk onto the book shelf. After all, it is “Books and BEYOND.” That’s my license to stretch. 

So, come with me and share some of your own inner Siskel and Ebert.

I’ve seen most of the Oscar contenders: Doubt, Slumdog Millionaire (swoon), The Wrestler, The Reader, Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon and most recently, Milk. I have yet to see Revolutionary Road and the rest may just have to wait for the Netflix queue (sorry).

Needless to say, I’m momentarily high on the on-screen Harvey Milk — Sean Penn. What a performance! I had just decided that Frank Langella should win the best actor Oscar until this past Sunday when Penn hypnotized me for the entire two plus hours of the film.

First of all, Milk is a fine movie in and of itself. A wonderful tapestry of political statement and love story. If the real Scotty was anything close to the role Milk’s lover played in the movie, I want one for myself!! (I’d like mine straight up, please.)

Harvey Milk was a force whose smarts were enhanced by a little chutzpah, or maybe a lot of chutzpah, propelling him to get things done (an understatement). Armed with a compassionate heart he was a gay man’s champion and an icon to his community. In his political struggle, his most cherished relationship was sacrificed while he worked relentlessly to dignify the gay community and lead them in reclaiming its civil rights.

The story is moving. It’s hopeful. It’s heroic. But the hero of the two hours in the darkened theatre is Sean Penn. I personally don’t remember him being this good. I’ve always admired his talent but I was never over the top for him until now.

Like Meryl Streep in her chameleon-like  roles, Penn disappeared in his portrayal of Milk.  His masterful effeminate  New Yorker was expected but the depth he brought to the character transcended to the standard of “great acting”. His performance reached a magical level much like Slumdog Millionaire’s surpassing of a “great movie.” How lucky we were this year. 

Dare I say it? He was Harvey Milk.  Is channeling too eerie a word to use or is that actually another synonym for good acting?

I don’t know.

Frank Langella. I still adore your Nixon. It amazed me at how this handsome actor morphed into a despicable Nixon. Even though his body language was superb, his posture precise, Langella really did make Nixon a lot prettier than he was in real life. If you haven’t seen this movie, which can feel a little slow, it’s a must before the Oscars come on this Sunday night. If you see nothing else, see Frost/Nixon and Milk just to see the tremendous competition for best actor. Oh, of course you’ve already seen Slumdog, right? That movie is so far off the charts that none of the others compare, even the best ones.

It’s thrilling, Academy Award time. At least it is for me.  Remember, most of these films entered the world first as baby books. One, a play. All on the page before they graced the cinema screen.

Tell me who you like in my comment area. I would love that.

Cheers.

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Blogs, journals, diaries and the difference between introspection and narcisism

February 18, 2009 at 7:44 am

How was that for a headline? “Blogs, journals, diaries and the difference between introspection and narcissism.” Almost sounds like a college thesis, doesn’t it? I’m not if sure if I know what i mean.

So, let’s explore together.

I’m inspired to mine the topic of self-writing since I started journaling in an actual bound book contraption for the first time in years. I’m using an actual writing instrument filled with ink and notice that whereas my handwriting was always categorically bad, it is now barely legible. That may serve me well when looking back on the present journal some years from now. Having recently pulled out my pungent and smelly mildewed books from adolescence on I have cause to say this.  What’s clear and a little sad in reviewing journals is how much the content repeats itself book after book after book after book.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Sad, but true.

Ok, here’s the distinction for me. Blogging is for public consumption, the personal being relegated to “personality” rather than things intimate. Journaling is for me and me alone (nobody’d be able to read my writing anyway). It’s the no holds barred place where I can be at my most naked.  A receptacle for every facet of my emotional life and any other part of  life in which I feel like lolling about. It’s poetic, primitive, prayerful, angry, honest, hopeful, hopeless, creative and sometimes plain boring. It’s  everything that’s going on inside of me at any given moment.

Snapshots of inner life. Kodak moments not for you family’s consumption.

Does any of it matter? Maybe or maybe not, but at the time of the journaling it is ALL IMPORTANT.

So how do we discern good writing from such personal writing vessels? Extract nectar from our jungle of wordy weeds?

When do we know that any of this is worth it?

When we die and our loved ones reach deep into our secret hiding places to make sense of who we were, maybe then will the sharing of these journals make sense. Or maybe not. We’ll never know will we.

Some of us are just compulsively creative and must express through some vehicle usually in the realm of what is suspected to be art. Writing is involuntary in these cases. We write because we must much like beavers make dams and oak trees acorns. It may keep us from harm or if we’re lucky, transport us to better places.

Remember some posts back when I sang praises of doing “morning pages” a la Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way)? Now there’s a cathartic art form that will transport you from gibberish to nirvana. Just the act of non-structured writing every morning for 20 minutes or so, non-stop, will bring things out of you that you didn’t know were in there.  Meditation. Medication even.

I must leave you know. While I can still maneuver my ink pen, I think I will dump some juicy stuff onto the pages of my spiffy new black-leather journal. Don’t ask me to share it with you.

You’ll have to wait. I plan on being around for a long time so don’t even speculate as to where my secret hiding places are. I will give you one clue: follow your nose for the smell of moldy leather and dank yellowed paper.

p.s. introspection and narcissm for another time. let me think about it while I gaze into the shining pond…

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Takalani, Ukulunga, Mbwana, or maybe Barack?

February 17, 2009 at 11:28 am

In the era of Barack Obama, and oh what a wonderful era it is, I expect many babies born this year are donning African names.  And, why not? So many of the names I’m checking out in this new book from HCI are like music to my mouth and my ears.

the-african-book-of-names

Like:

Bamidele (Nigeria = hope); Rehaana (North Africa = beautiful scent); Adjuna (Uganda = God saves); Yahdima (Cameroon = Woman who will make my dancing lively – gotta love this one) and how about Kalimba (Malawi= musical)

You can call me Kalimba.  Sounds like an elongated Kim name and as you know, nothing stirs my soul quite like the muscial arts. (It also reminds me of the nickname I’ve worn for years, Kimbo, first bestowed upon me by my big sisters and now the way I am addressed by my boss me. Yeah, I know…but, it could be worse!)

Corny? I don’t think so. Rather, these names sound like songs.

Why don’t you tell your Umalume (maternal uncle) and your Fakeba (father’s elder brother), your Makazi (aunt) and everyone in your Iyaye (family) about The African Book of Names. If no one in your circle of family and friends are expecting, maybe it’s time to rename yourself. Or your best friend. Maybe not permanently, but maybe so. And, at the very least, you can honor our new African-American president by naming your pound puppy, Suluwo (wolf) or your adopted stray kitty, Wangari (leopard) or your rescued parakeet, Tausi (peacock). Are you getting my underlying message here all you pure breed pet people???

Or just get the book and recite these beautiful gems out loud.

As we say in Malawi, Zikomo (thank you) and Tatenda (we are grateful)

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What does a “rock star” author do in his spare time – build $29 million eco-mansions?

February 16, 2009 at 5:15 am

What does a “rock star” author do in his spare  time — build $29 million eco-mansions? That’s exactly the case for HCI author Frank McKinney. Actually, his primary area in life, other than his family, is high end real estate. This past weekend, he unveiled Acqua Lina, “the largest and most opulent certified ‘green’ home in the world.” I saw it.

It’s beyond words. So was his “$20 Million Unveiling & Book Launch (3) Party.”

Beyond words or not, Ill try to capture a sliver of the splendor.

Talk about a book launch party – other authors, don’t get any ideas unless your middle name is Rockefeller, Gates or Buffet.

Located in the lovely hamlet of Manalapan, Florida. where one of the illustrious seaside Ritz-Carlton’s resides, party goers first spied the location by a trio of skyward spotlights. You know, the kind that they use for the opening of a mall or an awards ceremony or a presidential inauguration.

Then, valet parking attendants whisked away cars directing us up the hill (yes, even in Florida there are small ones) toward the cocktail-bearing tent. Traipsing through dirt on this unfinished construction site in high heels wasn’t too difficult when “Friday the 13th Manalapan Mojito’s” were at the end of the climb.(Delicious, but, ooh, so, sweet, I’m sure Sunday morning’s headache was more sugar than alcohol)

Under the tent were 500 of Frank McKinney’s closest friends milling about mojitos in tow enjoying delicious passed hors d’oeuvres and thumbing through pages in the mounds of books  stationed on nearby tables. Strategically placed so you couldn’t miss them as you entered were the trifecta of McKinney tomes, Burst This!; The Tap; and Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes and the Good Luck Circle. Very nicely designed hardcovers, all three.

burst_this_cover

Ok, are you still with me? Now, turn to the left side of the tent and look up at the cineplex size screen. A video taped version of Frank McKinney appears  and speaks of his ventures, a bit about the books and a lot about Acqua Lina. There’s footage of him from news programs, from his charity work in Haiti and other third world countries, quotes from Donald Trump, and an all around dandy bioscope of all thngs McKinney. In a word, impressive.

Impressive, maybe, but next Frank appears from behind the screen, spotlight pointed at him, dressed in an all white suit of tie and tails. He’s also wearing mysterious looking black gloves. Not Michael Jackson style, he’s wearing two.

Frank basically proclaims with a roar that “The American dream is not dead!” We cheer and split into groups for the grand Acqua Lina tour. Grand is still too small a word. The house was more like a top shelf resort than a single family home and did I mention it was perched beside the ocean? (I’m thinking..hmmm perfect for a commune for me and my pals, the perfect economic downturn solution. How much would we have to chip in, Frank?)

An amazing glass floor with lily pads under the surface, all kinds of natural materials on all parts of the structure, views to beat the band and a non-stop array of architectural wows. This is something to behold but my favorite part was the aquarium that flanked the living room doorway and spanned  from floor to ceiling. As a child I always fantasized about having an entire wall in my dream made of glass and filled with exotic fish. This version was pretty close.

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Here’s an attempt at capturing the doorway aquarium:

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This was no question,  the most opulent backdrop for a book launch that I’ve ever been to and maybe ever heard of. I’m very happy to report, though, that inside this spectacular packaging and smoke and mirrors is a really nice, down to earth, exceptionally creative guy. In his own handsome package, Frank McKinney is a big personality with a big heart. His contributions are many and all infused with the same eye on goodness, a positively charged approach to living that is inspiring. A little daunting, but inspiring nonetheless.

Read about Frank’s achievements, books, projects, and more on his website, and for goodness sakes, buy his books!!

Glass floor in Acqua Lina's foyer

Glass floor in Acqua Lina's foyer

p.s. do you know Frank? Were you there? Anything to add? And, how about those chocolate cheesecake lollipops?!

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