24 on Netflix
My husband Sabin is sculpting a bust of me.
A review of The Blacklist with James Spader.
Am I really the only person who is half enamored with, and half appalled and terrified by, Raymond Reddington, the criminal played by James Spader on NBC’s The Blacklist?
He had me at “Our country is run by corporations and criminals.”
Don’t get me wrong, Reddington is a very bad guy, killing and hurting with nary a flicker of conscience. He’s also exceedingly smart. Clever, strategic. And he’s played by Spader with superb delicacy and nuance. When Spader is onscreen, you don’t want to look away. He’s mesmerizing, at one moment genteel and courteous and empathic, and at the next throwing a knife to land deep in his target’s thigh.
It’s too bad the actor opposite him, playing FBI agent Liz Keen, is so dull and wooden. I can imagine what a Jennifer Garner or better yet a Reese Witherspoon could do, someone capable of equal delicacy and nuance, acting opposite Spader. It would be a riveting pas de deux. It would be great television.
As it is, this show is good fun, worth watching. And Spader is hypnotic in his portrayal.
My friend Gerda is not only a gifted healer and psychic, she is also a friend who understands. We have had this discussion many times, to whit: What are we doing on Earth? We don’t belong here. This place is crazy.
I maintain it is because of Chocolate. I was happily zipping around the cosmos as a gas being, all cool and free, when I approached a pretty little blue and white planet with its sticky astral plane, and someone waved a gooey piece of hazelnut-filled chocolate. BAM! I was caught, like a fly on glue paper.
“Oh, yes, chocolate,” Gerda sighs. “That would do it. Have you tried Milka?”
I am lucky there is someone else here from my unit…. And that 3rd Rock can still be seen on dvd. My children gifted me with seasons 1-4 for Christmas. I laugh and laugh watching it, the laughter of truth and understanding. The laughter of, when is my mission over, when do I get to go home?
Meantime, this planet is rich in pleasure. It wasn’t just chocolate that lured me here. There are also hugs from my children, swimming in a warm sea, lying in the sun, stretching into trikonasana, love-making, beautiful clothes, the scent of lilacs and white flowers in perfumes like DelRae’s Debut or Yosh’s White Flower, an old ripe amarone or brunello di montelcino (I’m partial to the 1997’s), sliding between clean, crisp sheets at night, Krishna Das rocking out to Hare Krishna, or the Dixie Chicks wrenching my heart with Landslide, walking through the Vatican Pinacoteca….
It’s worth it, even with all the accepted, institutionalized insanity, even with all the suffering and loss that come with this bipedal flesh bag with opposable thumbs and uncontrollable emotions. This mission is valuable in and of itself.
Money is good and I like it.
That’s one of my mottos. It has arisen out of my observation of the good uses of money: good health care, great education, travel that uplifts and inspires, the ability to charitably help others, good food, beautiful objects that enrich the environment and exalt the soul. Having abundant resources allows life to have a certain ease and facility that relieves stress and facilitates self actualization. Money gives free time in which art, sport, charity, and conviviality can be pursued. Money can be a great blessing.
It can also be a source of evil, cruelty, and pain. I’ve seen parents use it as a weapon against their own children, such as in families where one child is disinherited as an act of destructive communication; inevitably such acts cause lingering pain and bitterness. Parents who do that are always remembered through the taint of their unkindness. Money can be used as a drug to keep people dependent. It can be used to bribe, manipulate, or exploit people. Money is power in and of itself, and there will always be people who abuse power. This doesn’t even take into account what the lack of money causes people to do.
Money can also be used to make people feel special. I know a man who inherited great wealth, and was consistently helped by his mother before her death, so he never had to live exclusively on what he earned. Because he votes Democratic instead of Republican as so many recipients of ‘old money’ do, he cherishes a self image that he is profoundly ethically correct. He sees himself as morally right and superior all the time. Meantime, his family has fallen apart and he pays no attention to the disintegrated emotional bonds, how siblings don’t relate, his wife doesn’t talk to his son, his granddaughter wants nothing to do with her grandparents–because she saw them reject and act parsimoniously toward her little sister, after they had been loving and generous to her. But he is morally superior, because he’s rich and he still campaigned for Obama.
This isn’t the only example of the hypocrisy and self-delusion that money engenders. Living in New York, I have met a lot of Wall Street types. Bankers, brokers, and the wives of such. What struck me about so many of them (not all!) was how convinced they were that having a lot of money made them special. Especially the successful ones. The bigger their bonus, the more special they were. I suppose we all need to feel special and every human finds qualities about themselves to designate as special.
Having met so many Wall Street people, I can say categorically that Wall Street used to nurture a culture in which people prided themselves on being assholes. They were convinced that being an asshole was valid because they were so rich and successful. There was even a term some people used: “BSD,” which stands for “Big Swinging Dick.” They were proud of being BSD’s. I can remember a conversation I had with someone about a man who was then a partner at Goldman Sachs.
“He’s a jerk, his own wife has to take valium to go on vacation with him,” I pointed out.
“Who cares, he’s rich,” said the other person.
I would like to point out that, by all appearances, the man in question has reformed. He’s much kinder to his wife and has mellowed in the years since retiring from Goldman. Everyone can pursue better paths; each of us has the ultimate freedom to pursue our better self.
But there was definitely this swaggering, self-congratulatory arrogance about Wall Street. However much Wall Street helps Main Street, Wall Street was convinced that it was better than Main Street. That’s what the New York Times article this morning about the antipathy from Main Street toward Wall Street failed to mention: the air of superiority with which Wall Street indulged itself. We in Main Street tolerated it when Wall Street was helping us, even though we weren’t as stupid as Wall Street assumed: we KNEW that Wall Street was helping itself $100 for every $1 that it helped us. It’s that quality of condescension that has made us loathe Wall Street now, when our tax dollars are rescuing them from their runaway greed.
Which brings me to a great new TV show, LEVERAGE. It airs on TNT. It’s a Robin Hood show of the most satisfying kind. We get to watch greedy bankers, greedy real estate types, greedy corporate types of all kinds GET THEIR COMEUPPANCE. It’s a show for this moment, now. It’s enjoyable to see the greedy, selfish bastards take a fall.
Too bad it’s only a television show…..
The Sarah Connor Chronicles
I can’t watch a movie or television show without analyzing for story. Occupational hazard. I wonder if dentists find themselves examining teeth when someone smiles at them, or if dermatologists inspect complexions of faces, however innocently, turned toward them. Somehow when your profession becomes deeply grafted into your identity, the profession becomes the lens through which you experience the world, people, events, and relationships. Writers are terminally infected with this. We’re always looking for raw material, for primary life experience, with which to create, and creation is the ultimate imperative.
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill….
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
William Butler Yeats, Leda and the Swan
I love sonnets. They are the most passionate of poems: convex with energy pushing out, straining against form. A sonnet possesses 14 lines only, to say everything.
And when the valence shatters–O.
In my own experience, poetry comes from the inarticulate place. It is an Orphic activity, because the poet descends into hell and looks back and leaves language behind, and brings back things that can not be said any other way.
So, sonnets, so exquisite because of their restraint.
I read Yeats when my soul is hungry and predatory like a vampire and wants to feast. I read Rumi when my heart is sick and I founder, when despair threatens everything. I read sonnets to feel amorous. It’s all that restraint and boundedness–a big turn on.
Because when the restraint breaks–the sublime sweeps in.
But I think few Americans get it about restraint and how sexy it is. Our culture is so boringly obvious.
A friend of mine in the TV & movie industry recommended the British show Sherlock, saying, “It’s by smart people, about smart people, for smart people–and they don’t care who doesn’t get it.”
That was a kind of challenge. Naturally, I soon logged into Neflix to find out for myself.
Sherlock exceeded my expectations. The plots are intricate and interwoven, juicy and satisfying. They’re just so darn intelligent.
Enlivening the whole hour and a half is restraint: the restraint on which is founded the curious, brilliant character of Sherlock Holmes, played superbly by Benedict Cumberbatch. The restraint of Martin Freeman’s grounded, likable, heterosexual Dr. John Watson, who is constantly mistaken for Sherlock’s better half. Andrew Scott plays a chilling and unexpected Moriarty, not at all obvious. Louise Brealey plays a hapless but good-hearted pathologist who assists Sherlock in the laboratory. Mark Gatiss ably and well plays Mycroft Holmes.
A whole cast of intelligent, restrained actors bringing vivid yet thoughtful life to their characters.
When I wax rhapsodic about intelligence and restraint, some readers may incorrectly think, “lacking suspense.” To the contrary, each episode is breathtakingly taut and absorbing. Each episode flies by, holding the viewer rapt.
What a treat! Don’t restrain yourself, go immediately to Netflix and see firsthand what I mean.