Archive for June, 2011

The Sweetness of a Sidewalk

I met the Sweet Auburn Curb Market today, and it was love at first sight.

Sweet Auburn Market, 1940

Sweet Auburn Market, 1940

I don’t remember how I received this aesthetic, ethical, geographical predilection—-but somewhere along the way, I picked up a sincere appreciation for eclectic urban spaces with a history, especially a history of reinvigoration.  Perhaps it happened when I strolled down the Thames in high school and listened to the narration of a career school teacher who’d been walking the same path on his annual pilgrimage to London for three decades and watched the turning of the years along the waterway.  Perhaps it happened when I walked the downtown Lawrenceville Square after the new restaurants opened and the Aurora Theater moved into the old church on the corner.  Perhaps it happened when my eleven-year-old self toured the United States in the back seat of my grandparents’ Lincoln, riding from Salt Lake City all the way to Detroit, watching the backbone of America coalesce beneath the tire treads.

Now I’m waxing prosaic.

Back to the Sweet Auburn Market.  It was alive.  It was full of people—all races, genders, classes, socioeconomic sectors—paying homage to the religion of renovation.  The people of Atlanta reached out and reclaimed this quixotic corner as a new center of life and livelihood, and for a few hours I got to sit in the hubbub and dream big dreams of how the world could change.

the open-air coffee house in the corner of the market

the open-air coffee house in the corner of the market

Thank you, Auburn, for empowering another human rights movement.

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Confusion in Paris

Confusion in Paris

Confusion in Paris

When my friend responded to “Let’s watch An American in Paris!” with “I think I’ve seen that before…I didn’t understand the ending…” I should have been forewarned.

But alas! I have committed to watching all the Best Picture Winners this summer (if possible), and 1951 has undone me.  How in the world did it beat A Streetcar Named Desire?!  I will concede that simply reading the list of winners makes me depressed—thanks to all the intense and “refined” and serious subject matter—and I, for one, appreciate a lively Minnelli musical, but, really?  My only conclusion must be that Freed and his unit hit the nail on the head: an American in Paris is confusing.

The opening voice-overs were promising enough, with witty and cynical characterizations of stereotypical Americans living in Paris.  Gene Kelly was wickedly interesting in his straightforward two-timing role, and Leslie Caron was, well, a French gamine.  (Although I would argue that no one deserves that title more than Audrey Hepburn herself, haha).  The parallels between the patronizing wealthy artist–I mean art collector and the romancing French night club singer were intriguing to about the degree that any conventional juxtaposition is.  Then the ending fell flat on its face.  Too tired of trying to be smart, it drowned itself in champagne bubbles and LSD whirlygigs until it actually believed its own schmaltz.

The one arresting development of the film–besides the hideous headpieces in “Stairway to Paradise”–was the homoerotic subtext.  Almost every love song was actually between two men about some far-distance female figure, whose role as the recipient of the romancing was hilariously adopted by whichever male the blocking conveniently provided for the pose.  The most salient of these moments is Gene Kelly cheek-to-cheek with Georges Geutary, waltzing and dipping through a cafe with a red-checkered tablecloth for a kerchief and a sappy grin as his token of feminine charm.  The film is about men in love, really, and they sort through their confusion all by themselves.  The women come and go as archetypal figures in the male story of navigating the most romantic city in the world.  The American in Paris could almost represent the male in America: expected to perform the rites of affection and affectation in an uncanny dance with the opposite sex, he literally leaps through hoops and fountains and promenades to win our hearts.

Gender performance, anyone?

Gender performance, anyone?

But really, don’t we all simply want simplicity?  Not an American in Paris–a tantalizing and confusing swirl of emotion and cross-cultural (dare I say cross-gender?) performance–but an American in America and a Parisian in Paris: at home with himself, his affections, and his relationships.

Friends with Books

My poor friends—–I am beginning to discover some similarities to how I treat my books and how I treat my friends.  And I hope for my friends’ sake that I get a better handle on things, haha.

I am currently “in the middle” of six books:

Children of Hurin by Tolkien

Children of Hurin by Tolkien

I lied. I finished this one last Thursday. But oh! it’s so good! I forget how large a scale our lives actually fill. Tolkien always inspires me to remember (like Dustin Hoffman insists in I Heart Huckabees) that we are all part of “The Blanket.”

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Atonement by Ian McEwan

I’ve been reading this book since my junior year of college. I insist on finishing it before I’ll let myself see the film. But at this rate…perhaps I’d better bow my head and run to Blockbuster really quick.

The Green Ride by Britain

The Green Ride by Britain

This is my homework from one of my best friends. She discovered that only recently had I discovered what a mage is. Now begins my true fantasy / sci-fi education.

Yossel by Kubert

Yossel by Kubert

In preparation for helping edit the upcoming graphic novel by Meet Justice—which will be one of the first in the nation to deal exclusively with the topic of human trafficking—I am immersing myself in the genre. It’s undoing me from the inside out.

A Moveable Feast by Hemingway

A Moveable Feast by Hemingway

One of my dear friends and fellow English majors is reading this along with me. Damn, I’d forgotten how much I love Hemingway! And here, he doesn’t disappoint as he recounts his Parisian days with the liquid drops of lucid prose that far out perform my own poetic impulses.

Naked Economics by Wheelan

Naked Economics by Wheelan

I find an ironic connection between the balance in my bank account and my interest in this book. Right now, my bank account and I aren’t on speaking terms. Poor Wheelan has been relegated to the out-of-reach corner of my bedside table…

And so I rest my case: many friends, no time, sketchy consistency. To all of you—books and people alike—I beg your pardon.