Sunday, May 23, 2010

Going Back in Time and A Word About LOST

I decided to switch back to the first design template I used for my blog. Somehow it speaks to the frog in me. Unfortunately, there is one post that does not fit this template, the post I wrote about Julia Takagi. The images of her artwork I used were too large, so I changed the template to accommodate them. I think the old template should be fine for my future posts, and I doubt too many people will review my old posts. Welcome back, Green Template.

Moving on...

Tonight is the series finale for LOST. Ever since I started watching this show in Season 2, I became hooked, partly because it seemed unlike anything else I had seen and because of the nonstop succession of cliffhangers from one episode to the next. The cliffhangers were especially frustrating between seasons, but I kept watching, didn't I? The writing of the series always seemed to be a balancing act between brilliance and cheapness (cliffhangers again).

I can't imagine how the finale can be really satisfying, and if it isn't, LOST certainly won't be the first series to suffer from that problem. This last season has been a bit problematic for me, although it started strong. I just feel the writing hasn't been on par with some of the previous seasons, and some episodes (particularly Ab Aeterno) felt like a waste of 42 minutes worth of content. Still, I am very excited to see it all wrap up, and I'll try to post my reaction to the finale here soon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Focus, Please! (or This Blog Isn't Dead, Just Napping)


Because it has been quite a while since my last post, I thought I'd grace my faithful readers with an update regarding recent events (or lack thereof) in my life.

Shortly after my first solo art exhibition (at the Adams Town Hall Gallery) opened at the beginning of April, I started feeling a bit tired of painting. I kept working on some new pieces after I hung the show, but I was having a difficult time committing to these projects. That's nothing new, but usually I could manage to paint even if I had trouble working on other creative projects. Lately, I haven't been able to motivate myself to write, compose, practice, doodle, or what have you.

In fact the only thing I have been able to focus on has been reading. Among other books, I've read Running with Scissors and Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs. I became interested in Burroughs by reading John Elder Robison's Look Me in the Eye. Both authors (who are brothers) had experiences and feelings that resonated with me. My family life was certainly not nearly as dysfunctional, but it had its moments. I don't have many happy memories from my childhood, and I constantly felt like a misfit (I had very little in common with my peers, so my friends were few and far between).

I devoured The Tipping Point, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell has a great ability to relate small things to a larger context and an ability to use seemingly disparate elements to reinforce a larger point. I never would have considered some of the pairings he makes, but they seem perfectly logical when viewed through his eyes. I sincerely hope he will publish another book soon.

Yesterday, I started The Know-It-All by A. J. Jacobs, which is not only hilarious but brings back memories of the time I read a dictionary when I was a kid. Of course, it wasn't one of those fifty-pound hardcover dictionaries; it was a concise, flimsy paperback one. Needless to say, I forgot most of those words just after I learned them. Jacobs may have been motivated to write that book by the quest to accumulate all the knowledge of Encyclopedia Britannica, but I've personally found serious reference tomes quite stimulating. Without having a specific goal in mind, perusing random information can be quite exciting, a feeling I get when I wander around aimlessly in Barnes and Noble or in my local library.

For now I'll keep reading. Sooner or later, I'll have some ideas and regain my focus.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Random Thoughts

Here's a quick look at what I've been doing lately (from my journal on :

Trying to finish some more paintings for an upcoming show, as well as a new business card design. Earlier I started working on my filing taxes (ugh); it usually takes me several aborted attempts before I actually sit down and finish them.

For some reason, watching Pump Up the Volume has reminded me of Play Misty for Me, an early film directed by (and starring) Clint Eastwood about a DJ who gets stalked by a crazy woman. Really, the only similarity between the two movies is that the protagonists are both radio personalities.

Recently, I traded in a bunch of old, unwanted video games for these exciting titles: Demon's Souls, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Assassin's Creed II. Once I started playing Uncharted 2, I couldn't stop; it's really absorbing. Nathan Drake's exploits encouraged me to finally watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which was a fun movie--strange seeing Charles Widmore being nice and the janitor from Scrubs being serious;)).

Demon's Souls (shouldn't the title actually be Demons' Souls?) has captured my attention as well, despite its exceptional difficulty. After trying several character classes, I think that the Hunter or the Soldier are my favorites, but I'm still not having much luck getting too far into the Boletarian Palace. I'm much more used to hacking and slashing aggressively than this game allows at my current level.

The other game I may want in the near future is God of War III. I've been anticipating its release (March 16) ever since I finished GoW II. Hopefully it will be worth the wait.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Irina: Lost, Found, and Lost Again

Over the past two months, I've been reading quite a lot of books, including Clapton: The Autobiography, Conversations with Tom Petty, and Hollywood Animal.

But by far, the majority of my recent reading has focused on mystery novels. For a few weeks, I read Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels almost exclusively (I read twelve in total). I only realized after the fact that I began reading these books around the time of Parker's death. I had seen his name displayed prominently on many book spines at my local library for years, but I only read his work recently.

Since then, I have moved on to the writing of Martin Cruz Smith and his novels featuring Arkady Renko. Years ago, I had seen the film adaptation of Gorky Park (the first Renko novel), which I remember enjoying quite a bit. My library just purchased a new edition of this book, and it was a fantastic read. (For anyone who hasn't read these books, there is a spoiler ahead.)

Although Gorky Park is an excellent mystery/thriller, the third novel in the Renko series, Red Square, affected my much more profoundly. At the end of the first book, Renko's relationship with his new-found love, Irina Asanova, is very much in doubt. Renko has a chance to meet Irina again and reconcile during the course of Red Square, only after enduring the pain of realizing that he has been stuck in the past, only after seeing the discrepancy between his concept of their relationship and the reality. This is a position I have been in, convinced that some of my past relationships have been more important than they really were.

Needless to say, it was Renko's struggle to regain Irina's favor that made Red Square so compelling for me. At times, Renko's emotional turmoil is heart-wrenching and heartbreak threatens constantly, resulting in a book that is difficult to put down but is also difficult to continue reading. How happy was I that Irina and Renko were together again at the end! It seemed to justify the wild ups and downs of their shared experience.

So...when I discovered how cheaply Irina was discarded in the following novel, Havana Bay, I felt disappointed and angry. We learn that after having our heartstrings yanked in response to their relationship, Irina and Renko married, then she died from a medical mishap. Having invested my emotions in these characters, I thought maybe I could read at least one book in which they had a happy relationship, even if the rest of the world was transformed to shit. Perhaps Martin Cruz Smith did not want a constant companion for his detective; Spenser has Susan Silverman, but Arkady Renko is certainly a loner compared to Spenser. Perhaps depression and tragedy are more appropriate for a Russian detective, who can say?

I look forward to finishing Havana Bay and reading the other Renko novels (Wolves Eat Dogs and Stalin's Ghost), since Renko is a complex, likable detective, but I must admit my disappointment at being refused the opportunity to experience more of his life with Irina.