Sunday, September 25, 2005


I have signed up for a class on Flirtation. Unfortunately, it appears to be a fairly advanced class, and I could really use some remedial assistance. With my work schedule, it looks like I will only be able to attend 50-75% of the classes, and with my courage level, it looks like I will probably do 10% of the homework (the portion that doesn't actually require me to interact with others). Yes, luckily for me, the class involves a certain amount of movie-watching, something I have a natural aptitude for. Our first two movies were Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth, and a snippet from Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, starring Ava Gardner.

From what little I have been able to understand, flirtation is ordinarily about the pursuit of pleasure. So I was a bit surprised by the Flirtation class homework. Rita Hayworth as Gilda is unquestionably sexy and seductive in the movie, but she is not really flirting, per se -- she is seeking revenge. Specifically, she is trying to drive her ex-lover literally mad with jealousy by going after other guys. (She is not actually flirting with the other guys, even when she is dancing seductively with them, because her entire focus is on her ex-lover.)

Further complicating matters, in Flirtation class last week, we watched an excerpt from Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, in which Ava Gardner (as Pandora) lets one love-sick man commit suicide over her, and then later that night -- after toasting some marshmallows -- goes off with another woman's boyfriend and convinces him to destroy his most prized possession to prove his love for her (i.e., for Pandora, not the girlfriend). These things give Pandora no pleasure; she is simply enjoying her ability to exercise power over men. And I'm not sure she even enjoys the power trip that much -- she is just curious how far she can push any given man who crosses her path. She is running an experiment, if you will.

So. If morality is the art of balancing short-term pleasures (of any type, including sex, food, television shows, etc.) against long-term benefits (including self-respect, health, lasting happiness), then this Flirtation class that I am taking, which puts pleasure above all other things, is almost stunningly amoral. It is a truly radical philosophy, as radical as Christianity, in its own way.

But the radicalness of Christianity and its interaction (and hopefully, compatibility) with the pleasure-centered philosophy of my flirtation class will have to await discussion in another post.

The other movies assigned to teach us about flirtation are: (i) Harold and Maude, a real favorite of mine, with a great soundtrack from the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens; (ii) The Fabulous Baker Boys, which I remember as beautiful but somewhat depressing; and (iii) Something Wild, with Melanie Griffith, which I have never seen.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Hudson River Bike Path

Under the glorious fall sunshine I skated along the Hudson River Bike Path from 14th St. up to a little past 79th St. After I passed the 79th St. Boathouse, I stopped and watched the water for a while on a park bench. Above me, the muffled sounds of rushing traffic; below me, the gentle clinking of moored boats. The sun was dipping lower and lower in the sky, so I went up to the 79th St. Boathouse for dinner and drinks to watch the sun set.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

I never planned on seeing an exorcism movie. I missed the original with Linda Blair, and however many rip-offs or remakes have flowed from it. So how was it that I ended up watching this one (allegedly inspired by a true story)?

Well, after work I headed down from Times Square to K-Town for dinner and a movie with some Redeemer types. Although the original plan was to see Flightplan, we quickly ruled that out (it was panned even by the free daily papers, am New York and Metro New York, not to mention Miss Lettuce herself). So we headed back to Times Square after dinner to see what was playing at the multi megaplexes. And the only semi-tolerable movie playing at the time we arrived was The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

EER was interesting, and also creepy, but not as creepy (or scary) as I expected, thank goodness. I slept soundly last night, right through the "demonic" hour of 3 a.m.

But in all honesty the burning question after seeing EER is: What's up with the judge? At times, she comes across as very sensible and fair, cutting right through the baloney on both sides. However, her rulings are a bit whimsical (no Daubert/Kumho Tire-style factors for her, when she's deciding whether to admit dubious "expert" testimony on a lark), and she allows the foreman of the jury to provide her the jury's purported sentencing recommendation with nary a question to ensure that it is, in fact, the jury's recommendation rather than the foreman's. (Not that the recommendation would carry any weight in any event.) Is the judge really so confused that she welcomes the jury's sentencing recommendation -- and adopts it without hearing from prosecution or defense? Strange, indeed.

It seems also that the defense managed to track down an expert witness overnight during the course of the trial, just in time for the first day of the defense case. And the expert was available the next morning, having fully read the case file. Very impressive.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with exorcism. It doesn't. EER is really a courtroom drama movie, with a few sensational flashbacks. Which the film-makers apparently didn't appreciate. When the movie closes, defense counsel has just turned down a partnership with her firm based on her sensational "victory" in a pro bono case. (By contrast, I was told I would get "new business demerits" if I brought in new pro bono cases referred by my incarcerated client.) The movie-makers tell us about the fate of the priest and the effect of Emily Rose's story. But not a word about the fate of our heroine, the agnostic lawyer! Did she continue to practice law, and if so, where? Did she go to another firm? hang out her own shingle? move in-house? apply for clerkships? Inquiring minds want to know. Presumably she remained an agnostic, despite the evidence of her own senses about a demonic presence that infested her house at 3 am every day of the trial....

Thursday, September 22, 2005

All About Eve (1950)

I saw "All About Eve" at the Chelsea Clearview Cinema in New York City. I'd seen it once or twice before in its entirety, and I've also seen clips at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. The wit remains razor sharp and I loved the movie, as always, but this time I really noticed the ravages of time on Bette Davis's face. I was just two rows away from the screen -- and far to the side -- so there was some distortion forced by that angle. Then again, I'm older now than I was and maybe more sensitive to these things than I was before.

The movie-watching experience itself was also a trip, as it turns out. I'd been wondering whether it might be a campy gay set-up, given that this is a classic movie showing at a mainstream theater in Chelsea. Sure enough, the drag queen Hedda Lettuce was there to introduce the film, give out random door prizes along with a running commentary on the event, the decor, the prize winners and the prizes themselves. Miss Lettuce was perfectly fabulous, of course, and very funny. The audience was involved but respectful (applauding at favorite scenes rather than, for instance, throwing things at the screen or reciting all the lines or providing running commentary).

A closing thought - "All About Eve" follows the same formula as many romantic comedies in that the heroine does and says all the wrong things, but still wins her man in the end. If only life were like that.