Tag Archives: musings

So That’s why they call it a bundle of joy

I saw one today and it saw me.  By “it,” I mean a human child referred to as “a bundle of joy.”

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I had just spent a couple of hours catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in several years.  The weather was excellent, I felt “normal” again, like myself again.  It’s become subjective whether or not there is such a thing as “normalcy” anymore, or at the very least, it’s become much harder to depend on predictability in day-to-day life.  Yet, for a few hours on a Saturday, doing what I love doing (reading and writing at a non-Starbux coffee shop) coupled with good conversation, I was able to slip back into my preferred “default” self.  Not the self of pessimistic solitude, but that of intellectual fulfillment and ease.

After my friend and I parted ways, I had a moment with a stranger when I was walking to my car.  I noticed a motorist reversing and going the wrong way out of the parking lot, and vocalized to no one in particular, “You’re going the way, you’re going the wrong way.”

This stranger, who was sitting by a staircase and taking a smoke break, had heard me and remarked, “Oh, they don’t care, they do it all the time.”  I trotted over and inquired how many Starbux products could he buy if he had a dollar for every time he saw someone exiting incorrectly the parking lot.  A very short chat was had.  I bid him a good day and proceeded to my car.  I took the usual route back to my bachelor pad, and as I approached an intersection flanked by restaurants and other businesses not half a mile from the coffee shop, I happened to look left outside of the driver side window.

Initially, I didn’t focus on any one person having lunch on the patio…until my eyes landed upon her.  This small human with a head of brown curls, and who clearly had just learned how to stand (and probably walk) within recent weeks, was looking and pointing at me.  She was giggling too.  I whipped my head back towards the windshield to see if the line of cars in front of me had moved or not — it hadn’t.  I returned my gaze to where the little girl was standing, and her face was oozing with cheerfulness.  I waved, her dad waved, she waved, and then her mom waved…and then the cars in front of me started to move.

I have a Mashimaro sticker on the driver side door, maybe she was mesmerized by its iridescence.  Maybe she liked my sunglasses.  I have no idea why she singled me out (and from the distance of 1.5 car-lengths no less), but at least now I know why anyone would call a baby, an infant, or a young child “a bundle of joy.”  Inexplicably, I felt honored to have caught the attention of a vessel of soft tissue, blood, bones, muscle, nerve endings, tendons, and unbridled curiosity.

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Technically, It’s True — I Could End You

Today’s deep thought brought to you by flossing after dinner.

As often as we humans inseminate, cultivate, facilitate, propagate, maintain, resuscitate, elongate, and mandate the spark and expansion of life, we are also one motion away from being (in)voluntarily another person or creature’s harbinger of death.  There isn’t a lone Grim Reaper; there are many and we all have the potential to (un)intentionally participate in the non-existence of another biological entity — and I don’t mean in instances of roadkill, the application of insecticides, or lethal self-defense.

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When you disregard inclement weather, cardiac malfunction, being attacked by large land mammals or marine animals, and one’s own unwise decisions (out of desperation or sheer idiocy), what remains?  Somebody meets an untimely end because of someone else’s negligence, premeditation, or the most potent, so-not-funny dark comedy of errors.

If you can die because of another person’s behavior (with or without a series of very unwanted events), someone else can also die because of your behavior (with or without a series of very unwanted events).  Most of us wouldn’t purposefully be the unwitting enablers of a stranger’s manner of expiration, right?  Being an “ethical” and efficient vigilante is cost-prohibitive unless you’re Batman and socially isolating even if you were Batman (you shouldn’t let too many people know about your secret identity).

Is it bewildering that on the surface, ideating, preparing, and conjuring the beginning and continuation of a presence requires much more focused intent, whereas, ushering in an absence doesn’t even need your (immediate) awareness of it?  I think not.  The butterfly effect of your actions applies to both growth and decomposition.  The conversation you had with that electrician could be one or five degrees removed from his co-producing an heir.  At the same time, that conversation could be one or five degrees removed from his deviating from his post-work routine, thus, putting him in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We all have this non-gift within us.  How would any of us know that we haven’t already dabbled in such morbidity?  I guess we’re all in a young adult fantasy novel whether we like it or not.

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PS.  Can you imagine Minority Report having a sequel where people can be prosecuted for being the initation point of a person’s death?  Would law-abiding citizens have to purchase “initiation point immunity” so that if something they say or do ever leads to someone’s loss of life, they can’t be arrested, charged, or prosecuted?  Maybe different states would have their own threshold of degrees-removed that must not be exceeded in order for a conviction to be won.

Original pic cred: Mathieu Stern @mathieustern, Timothy Dykes @timothycdykes, unsplash

Men in Suits in the 90s aka Jerry Maguire 26 years later

I should be going to sleep.  I’ve already brushed my teeth.  If I read for fifteen or twenty minutes, my eyelids will grow heavy.  Am I going to bed now?  No, because Jerry Maguire (Cameron Crowe, 1996) is on Turner Classic Movies at half-past midnight as part of its annual 31 Days of Oscar programming event.

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In Ben Mankiewicz‘s intro to the film, he mentions the lines of dialogue that became infinitely quotable:

You had me at hello.”
“You complete me.”
Help me, help you.”
“Show me the money.”

“That’s more than a dress, that’s an Audrey Hepburn movie.”
“Don’t cry at the beginning of a date. Cry at the end like I do.”

I was expecting Ben to mention the one about “the human head weighs eight pounds,” but he didn’t.

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I watched Jerry Maguire a few times when I was writing my master’s thesis many years ago.  There are many narrative and mise-en-scene elements that faded from memory but for some reason, I remember disliking Kelly Preston‘s character.  This TCM-faciliated rewatch has allowed me to appreciate her intense performance, especially in the scene where Jerry (Tom Cruise) dumps her.

Other observations that I hadn’t perceived before or forgot about:
~ Jonathan Lipnicki was so cute!
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~ What was it about men in suits in the 90s that was distinctively 90s?  Was it all the earth tones?
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~ Check out these cell phones! Within five years of the film’s release, most mobiles would come with cameras.
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~ Renee Zellwegger was really good in this film.  The way she looks at Tom Cruise in that scene at baggage claim, you can tell she’s already in love with him.
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~ The characters in this film utilize every communication tool available to them (except for email and web-based instant messengers): landlines, cell phones, pay phones, fax machines.

I looked through my notes and thesis because I wanted to remember how I interpreted it.  I included it in my analysis of professional football films.  Quoting myself here:

In addition to the meta-textual components of professional football as a business, Jerry Maguire argues that friends and family are integral aspects of an athlete’s support system and depicts the collision of business life with private life (or lack thereof).  It is peculiar that in the entire film, there is not one shot or scene showing an actual touchdown being made, which suggests that at the professional level, the priorities and definition of victory for the players rest primarily in other facets of their world such as commercial viability, contracts, and avoiding injury as much as possible.

Jerry Maguire is a genre-hybrid comprised of a football movie on one hand and a romantic comedy on the other.  Tom Cruise plays the title character, a sports agent who undergoes a philosophical revelation that compels him to quit his job and retain only one client, wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), [and] connects the football narrative with the romantic comedy.  Although Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellwegger) works for the same sports agency as Jerry, she never appears alone with the key players of the football world.  When she is in the same scene or on screen at the same time as Rod, it only occurs when Jerry is there, when Rod wears normal clothes that do not signify his football player identity, and when his wife Marcee Tidwell (Regina King) is also present in the same scene.  Avery Bishop (Kelly Preston), Maguire’s fiancée, however, is seen in the company of other sports professionals because she works in the industry.  Jerry dumps her because they cannot be together if he is to have his redemption…

What is particularly striking about the parallel storylines is that Dorothy might work in the NFL in a meta-textual industry sense, she might work in the same company as Maguire (and then follow him when he starts his own company), but she is not in the football movie portion of Jerry Maguire.  Dorothy occupies a familial space that is generically tied to the romantic comedy.  Throughout the majority of the film, whenever she and Jerry are in a scene together, they are rarely in the same frame.  In their first two scenes together, they are not in the same shot until there is something that can serve as an intermediary—Dorothy’s son Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki), (airport baggage claim), and the goldfish (Jerry takes from the agency).  In the third scene they have together, where Dorothy drives Jerry to the airport, they are in the same frame; Ray also happens to be sitting in the back seat.

Oh yeah, remember that Bruce Springsteen song from the film?

Pix creds: IMDB

How to Make a Play More like a Movie in One Night in Miami

Regina King‘s feature-film debut as a director, One Night in Miami… (2020), received the Criterion treatment in 2021.  It’s based on Kemp Powers‘s play and exemplifies how to adapt a work of theatre into a cinematic text, infusing it with the kind of movement and multiple perspectives that plays lack.  It’s been on Amazon Prime for over a year but the motivation to watch it didn’t accelerate until it was Criterioned.

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The film’s premise in a pistachio shell: Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) get together in a hotel room in Miami, Florida and discuss and debate the state of being who they are in that moment in time and as part of the struggle to be treated like human beings.  One Night in Miami… feels like watching memories unfurling, sliding into the memories of a time and place.  It’s beautifully filmed and acted.  One scene in particular stayed with me.  It happens on the rooftop of the hotel, soon after this moment where Malcom X takes a picture of his friends with a Rolleiflex 3.5, a German twin-lens reflex camera.

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Malcolm X: You’re performing in-in places where the only Black people not on stage are the ones serving the food.
Same Cooke: Don’t you think I know that? Can’t tell you how many times I wanted to reach out and punch somebody, but you —

Malcolm X: Then…then strike with the weapon that you have, man! Your voice! Black people, we-we standing up…We-we speaking out. Sam, you have possibly one of the most effective, beautiful outlets of us all. Y-you’re not using it to help the cause, brother.
Same Cooke: The hell I’m not. I got the masters to my songs. I started a label. I’m producing tons of Black artists. Don’t you think my determining, my creative and business destiny is every bit as inspiring to people as you standing on a podium trying to piss ’em off? Oh, wait a minute, I forgot. That’s all you do!

Malcolm X: Sam, I do plenty.
Sam Cooke: Oh, do you suck at sports…Can’t sing. Damn sure can’t make shit out of no peanut.
Malcolm X: Is there a point to this rant, Sam?
Sam Cooke: My point is that sometimes I feel like you’re just like all the rest of them people out there, obsessed with the stars…Look around, look around. Which one of us don’t belong?

Malcolm X: Don’t belong?
Sam Cooke: Don’t belong.
Malcolm X: Brother Sam, the only person here white people seem to like — that would be you.

~!~

This screenshot comes from a scene near the end of the film where Malcolm X has just taken a few pictures of Cassius Clay in a diner/bar.  He happens to look out the window next to this neon Budweiser sign… and I find it mesmerizing but I don’t know why.

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I loved this film and am glad I waited to get the Criterion DVD.  One of the special features consists of Regina King, Kemp Powers, and Gil Robertson talking about the film for the Criterion Collection.

King remarks that “One Night in Miami… is an actor’s piece” and if she were a man, she’d have wanted to audition for the role of Malcolm X or Sam.

Powers notes that “I’ve always been a huge cinephile, and in the case of One Night in Miami…, I’d really have to go back to watching 12 Angry Men [Sidney Lumet, 1957]. That was really the film tjat I was just like ‘whoa, this is a film of words that has more action in it than like the biggest action film.”

I look forward to what Regina King will do next.

Another special feature details how each actor prepared for the role he’d play.  Aldis Hodge watched this interview of Jim Brown appearing on The Dick Cavett Show:

Notice that Truman Capote was also a guest on this episode where the then-governor of Georgia, Lester Maddox, left the stage because he didn’t like where the conversation was going.

Pic creds: IMDB, Criterion, Amazon

What Did She Do To You?!

The 21st century has conditioned us listeners of pop music to think immediately of Taylor Swift as the conjurerer of upbeat, semi-facetious love-lost, ego-bruised, or self-advocacy songs.  Obviously, she’s neither the first, the last, nor the trendiest to do so, but she’s become the shorthand, the representative of this corner of music-making for both casual and steadfast fans of her work.

Let me introduce you to an r&b act of the 20th century that did all of that and more (but not to the same publicly acknowledged, marketed craze).  This group’s self-titled album was among the first CDs I ever owned.  After 7.

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My childhood ears feasted upon the tunes of The Carpenters, The Eagles, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Sade, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Hollywood musicals, Cathy Dennis…all the top-40s.  When I heard After 7’s “Ready or Not” for the first time on the radio, I loved it.  “Can’t Stop,” “Heat of the Moment,” and “Nights Like This” commanded my full adoration as well.  I didn’t and still don’t pay as much active attention to lyrics as I do a song’s melody and instrumentation upon a first, second, or third listen, so much to my surprise, the first time I listened to “‘Til You Do Me Right” today (from their third album, which I’ve yet to experience), I honed in on the words.

So, I need to know.

What did she do?
What did she say?
What prized possession of yours did she temporarily misplace, then confiscate, and ultimately throw away?

What?!  I need to know.

~!~

By the way, After 7 released a new album last fall.  I’ve listened to these two songs on repeat.

Extra Mile:

Tomorrow Can Wait: