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Friday, March 28, 2014


bodyguards and assassins
all-star cast

Big alarm today. I had a long string of messages from friends saying they'd had a friend request from me, knew it was not me, saying: You've been hacked. My head went blank. I couldn't do anything. A Hong Kong film in the mail today, Bodyguards & Assassins. It rides the borderline between historical drama, year 1906, and kung fu excess, which wasn't so bad. Plenty of blood-letting, but quietly with knives and swords. Hong Kong films before Hong Kong went back to China, year 2000, had more gunshots than words in the script. They had become ridiculous. You can only do so much dramatically with continuous guns going off. Mainland China isn't a place to encourage guns. Seldom see guns in a mainland film unless it is military. I liked Hong Kong films somewhat before 2000, for the hyper-action that transcended plot. Who ever heard of a plot? Hong Kong thrillers have changed dramatically for the better since 2000. They have become more involved with mind. You have the gangsters and the detectives playing mind games, saving guns for punctuation. I've seen some that have remarkably complex mind games going back and forth. It's like they have become chess games of the mind. This film today had a number of current Hong Kong actors. Andy Lau is a superb actor, just as good a director, has made countless films. He played in The House of the Flying Daggers, among the most beautiful films of my life, with mainland actress Zhang Ziyi, who was also in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, another of the great ones made by Ang Lee. A mainland director, Zhang Yimou, has made a string of what I put up there among the most beautiful films ever, allowing that there are many. He made Raise The Red Lantern with Li Gong, an actress who steals my heart in every film I see her in.
li gong
in raise the red lantern
I sat in my home entertainment chair holding Caterpillar wondering what to do about the facebook hacking. That kind of thing puts my head in a knot and it feels like a bale of cotton between my ears. I needed Time Out. A couple hours of jumping, kicking, fighting, stabbing, slashing, mixed with beautiful Chinese clothes, a hyper-dramatic telling of an historical event I'm interested to know about, to see dramatized. It was the time of the end of the dynasty and China reduced to nothing after the Japanese, Europeans and Americans bled it dry. It was the time of revolution all over China. This was a failed attempt in Hong Kong in 1906, maybe notable for being the first of a long string of failed revolts that eventually succeeded with Mao. It was the right movie to see for the moment, an escape movie when I wanted to escape from, delay going through figuring out how to change password on facebook. It's all I can do to surf the thing. Getting down into all those boxes of doing this and that, I'm a slow learner because it's too much. I clicked here and there, all of it leading me to nowhere, except finding by chance I could not repeat, there are several people on facebook with my name. I had no idea. Even using the lower case j. Mine happened by mistake. When I saw later what I'd done, I said leave it. Stumped, I called friend Lynn, who had sent notice of the hacking and recommended changing password. She told me the trick, I thanked her, and it was easy from there on. She suggested making it complex so a robot can't find it easily and changing it every other month or so. I dislike complex passwords. It's time to get over it and join the modern world one more step. I don't mind. I feel like I have some understanding of the changes going on and embrace the changes. The changes I don't like so much have to do with how everything is done in detail now, minute, exacting, complex detail. It gets tiresome.
zhang ziyi and andy lau
in the house of the flying daggers
It makes me want to turn off the computer and read some more about Marcel Duchamp. Yesterday, driving into town for groceries, I dropped a couple of books in a plastic bag into the library's outdoor return box. They were selling a large table full of books, a dollar for as many as you can get in a bag. I'd been wanting to find something to read that is a page-turner. I wanted to dive into something that became obsessive until it's finished. I tried a Tom Clancy and John LeCarre. All I learned from first page of each one is why I've never read them. I could not read 700 pages of Tom Clancy prose unless I was in jail and there was nothing else but a Billy Graham book. I dropped them off in the return bin. Give Doug something to wonder about in the morning. I did not want to throw them away. An awful lot of people like reading these two writers, so let one find it. So much for my page-turner. I started reading in the Duchamp book by Pierre Cabanne, and it is my page-turner. I've read a little bit about Duchamp, none of it really satisfying. I like Cabanne's writing, he gives an understanding of Duchamp the man, the individual human being, people he knew, places he went. I dive in when I open it and stay there until a good stopping place. Every page has fabulous color pictures. My ultimate picture book. It really is a plus to have such good reading illustrated so profusely and profoundly. Next I'll get into a big picture book about Constantin Brancusi, Romanian artist in Paris. This book I can sit and look at pictures in without end. The text is by two Romanian artists whose apartment was above his in Paris. They painted and he did sculpture. They knew him better than anybody they knew. He was the same as family with them, expats in a foreign language. They could talk their home language together. This book, too, has good, interesting text. I've read around in it, though not yet straight through.
constantin brancusi
bird in space
black marble
I can get used to reading texts in art books. I have several I bought for the pictures and paid the text no mind, all of them. I did read the text in The Art of Zen, by Stephen Addis. Great big Wow. Again, illustrated with sublime art on every page. I can get used to this. I have plenty I know will be excellent reading. One I know has good text is about Kurt Schwitters, whose art I love, and I know I'll love the text. One about Larry Rivers. Two about David Hockney, one by Hockney himself. I'm looking at the future of my reading. I've come to a place that fiction doesn't really do it for me like it used to. Non-fiction doesn't draw me anymore either. Even history reading doesn't draw me much in this time. Brancusi next. Every time I have laid eyes on a Brancusi in a museum I have felt in touch with the holy. I feel in touch with grace, like walking behind a good dog on deer trails through mountain forest. I've been wondering what to do about my malaise with being bored by reading largely. Feeling that way with movies too, waiting for one to astonish me and it seldom happens anymore. At this time in the life I have no interest in anything but art, to appreciate it. Another good art book I love is Minimalism, by James Meyer. No extensive text, but very informative paragraphs with each work and artist. Beautiful book. Yes, it is time to dive into my art book collection for good page-turning reading with beautiful pictures on every page. One on Robert Motherwell too. This solves my reading issues. It would be interesting to read a history of Persia, but I believe I'd like reading about Robert Motherwell's art a bit more, now, in this present mind. I've always, until today, seen my art books as picture books, uninterested in the text. I wanted the images raw without art-crit in my head. A little bit of reading, for context, Harold Rosenberg, biography of Whistler. Never even considered reading the text in the art books. I've suddenly learned they can be quite good reading, and just like in first grade, lots and lots of color pictures.      
zhang ziyi
in the house of the flying daggers


  1. It is awing inspiring to me to read how you have whittled down your life to just what you enjoy and to hell with the rest...I love to read and get caught up in a book and get nothing else done. I enjoy good movies but like you I have not found many of them any more...some of the really old ones are fun to watch...not overwhelmed with background music...I like the foreign films best but need to consider my significant other when sharing the evening movie time...You seemed to have learned to enjoy your solitude...I think it is true that it comes with acceptance of ourselves...I have lots of books bought for the pictures and need to go back and read some of the text...Might learn something new..Enjoy your picture books and thanks for a good red this morning with my coffee.

  2. Some day there will time again for books and movies. Thanks TJ for reminding me to look ahead.