February 28, 2005

The Other Hollywood

Only at the Parkway, only on a 2-for-1 Wednesday: Meet the Fockers. No, I never saw the first one, and, no, I didn't feel as if that detracted from my viewing experience of this one. Ben Stiller does his usual gross-out humor thing, and Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand are actually pretty cute as his hippie parents who espouse radical parenting techniques like hugging a crying baby instead of leaving him alone to self-soothe. But I look at Robert DeNiro in a movie like this and just think with incredulity: from Taxi Driver to Meet the Fockers? Dude.

The next afternoon to keep myself from going insane at work I slipped out to Urbis Artium Gallery to see their exhibit of Evan Rose's Urbanologies. Rose is an urban designer based in San Francisco, and both his artwork and writings do an excellent job of capturing the details of a city, be it a New York street or a mosque in Zanzibar. Reproductions of his drawings and watercolors were tacked up around the perimeter of the gallery (which looked suspiciously like the office of an architecture firm), and then more pieces hung from binder clips on strings stretched across the length of the room. I loved his San Francisco powerlines, his Parisian benches and cafes, and that I could recognize the Pompidou from a few of his roughly-sketched lines.

Later that evening I settled in at home with a DVD of Wonder Boys, Curtis Hanson's 2000 film based on a Michael Chabon novel and starring Michael Douglas as a Pittsburgh writing professor who is having a hard time finishing his second book after the success of his first. The copious amounts of pot he consumes may or may not have something to do with this slump. Meanwhile his sexually voracious agent (Robert Downey Jr.) is in town from New York to check on his progress, and he has a student (Tobey Maguire) sleeping on his couch after committing a small crime or two. Hanson directed one of my favorite movies, L.A. Confidential, and in his capable hands the rambling story in Wonder Boys never loses its direction and manages to make some wonderful obeservations about creativity and talent along the way.

Friday night I drove over to the Haight after work for Legs McNeil's reading at the Booksmith. He joined co-author Jennifer Osbourne and contributor Peter Pavia to discuss The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Industry and at times seemed unsure what to do with his audience, which included at least one aging porn star. Some were there to ask about his oral history of punk, others had shown up just to talk about sex. When one man inquired how the authors came by some of their FBI files, Osbourne and McNeil recited in rehearsed unison: "I have no independent recollection of that." Osbourne made a chilling point that governments throughout the ages have used porn as an excuse for controlling methods of communication and free speech, and she predicted that it's about to happen again with the internet.

The following night I was back in a bookstore, but this time it was Cody's. Carol and Dan and I were there both as word nerds and public TV geeks to hear Robert MacNeil talk about his latest book Do You Speak American? Very aware of the makeup of his packed Berkeley audience, he began with some brief hypothesizing about how Dubya uses "talkin' country" to his advantage, and then went on to cover some other fascinating aspects of American English and how it changes from region to region. I don't get the feeling MacNeil falls into the camp of people that believes English is damaged every time a new word is coined on Buffy. And as a California native who sounds like a surfer girl after a mere two beers but has studied Latin and Greek, I too adore the richness and flexibility of my language.


Meet the Fockers
Urbis Artium Gallery
Wonder Boys
The Booksmith
Cody's Books

Posted by nightfall at February 28, 2005 09:22 PM