Saturday, June 25, 2005

"Excerpt from a Coney Island free-write"

Thing is, these are the kinds of things I love to share with you. I thought this would be fun. Were you even interested in spending time with me? Or was I a means to an end? A buffer between you and your "friends"? Someone to make you brave enough to pursue your angel? I'm sorry, but the doctor isn't in today. Here's your nickel back.
- there was much more, but it was rambling and pointless. This was the best bit, and it isn't even that good...just written in the heat of, well, heat, and standing in one spot in the sun for two hours bored, bored, bored. The pissiness didn't last long once I was found. :)

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Dark Knight Returns

Currently reading: "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
Next Up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michael Faber

One more comic book down! Finally finished Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns." The story was great, and was (what I'm discovering to be) "typical" Frank Miller - dark, gritty, political....Batman and Superman were men in their 50s. Robin was a 13-year-old girl named Carrie. Very interesting.
Have to say, though, it was a very hard read....the panels were divided into a million TV screens that were offering various "news reports" on the various story lines. Made my eyes go all squinty, and I had to go back and reread things a couple of times. It wasn't until I finished, though, that I realized that this was probably part of the point. It felt like I was constantly flipping channels, being bombarded by media. When it was over, I realized how skillful the layout really was.
The story was also really interesting - the examination of old age, withholding vs. openness, nuclear holocaust, whether vigilante-ism ever has a place in society...I asked myself a lot of interesting questions. Then there was the hardcore fight between Batman and Superman...!
I only wish more was done with the female Robin. She was an interesting character that I felt was underused...
Don't know if I'll read the sequel to this, though. I think I've had my fill of comics for a while. Need to read stories without pictures for a bit! :) Now I can dive, full-force, back into Catch-22.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"The Greatest Show On Earth"

I've made a spectacle
of the cold shoulder
trained my bitterness
to stand on its hind legs
and make its presence known

I've cried the tears of a clown
for your sport
and juggled insecurity and fear
while standing on one foot

I've walked the tightrope
that separates sanity
from its opposite
moving corpse-still
working without a net

And so, I am the ringmaster
of my loneliness
and the crowds cheer
save for you
who could care less
if I drop from the heights
get pied in the face
or eaten alive in the cage

who have fallen asleep in the stands
a trail of popcorn kernels
down your shirt.

- Teresa Jusino

"Wednesday Morning, 1AM"

I never thought that
I would look in a mirror
And see you...
We both wear an albatross, I see.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Mother Confessor"

Currently reading: "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
"The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller
Next Up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michael Faber

I was inspired to write a poem today - but while I was working on it and looking through old notebooks, I found this one which very much taps into the loneliness I'm feeling today. The date I wrote next to it was 11/5/01 - but I'm writing a revised version here with minor edits. Sometimes I surprise myself - particularly with the fact that this poem still somewhat applies to my life 3 and a half years later...

Mother Confessor

to know a lover's pain
would be my great delight
would mean my life were being lived
and set my heart aright

but now life makes me numb
with mediocrity
i pray someone will break my heart
and set my spirit free

but no, i am the friend
who sits, while others wail,
inside a thick, black loneliness
that holds me like a jail

mother confessor doles
advice to those who moan
while living just enough of life
to need none of my own.

- Teresa Jusino 6/19/05

The poem that I'm working on today - I will post soon.

Friday, June 17, 2005

East of Eden (or, Of Adaptations and Men)

I went to see a screening of "East of Eden" last night at Film Forum. I was really excited, because 1) I was getting to see it on a big screen, and 2) I loved the book and was very curious as to how it was adapted.
Kazan and I are no longer on speaking terms.
The movie, in and of itself, was merely OK. But what really upset me was the fact that the screenwriter, as well as Kazan, seemed to miss much of the point that the book was trying to make. In the film, Cal and Aron are very much black and white, good and bad. While in the book, it wasn't nearly so outwardly clear. Cal was the only character I feel like the film got right - and James Dean was amazing in the part. Jo Van Fleet, as Cal and Aron's prostitute mother, Kate, was also dead-on. Everyone else, however was all wrong, both in how they were directed, and how they performed the roles. Adam Trask in the book was never as harsh on Cal as he is in this movie. Abra was never as sickeningly sweet, and Aron was never as stupid and psychotic.
But the biggest sin the movie committed was omitting the lynchpin of the Trask household - Lee, the Chinese manservant. Once I realized that character wasn't in the movie, I was thisclose to walking out. It's because of Lee's biblical studies and studies in Hebrew that we arrive at the main theme of the book: Timshel - the Hebrew word that means "thou mayest", as in "thou mayest prevail against sin." One has a choice. The issue of choice is touched upon in the movie, but almost as an afterthought, a throwaway. Kazan was so busy creating black and white stock characters that he omitted the all-important shades of grey. Melodrama aside, I was very disappointed in how the whole thing was handled. All of the Hamilton family was dismissed, save for Will Hamilton in a tiny capacity...I think it was a mistake to not include any of Cal and Aron's early childhood....wrong, wrong, wrong.....
Maybe I'll just have to direct a remake. That's it. That's just what I'll have to do. And I wouldn't sell out any communists, either! :)

Bouclier Humain

Currently reading: "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
"The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller
Next Up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michael Faber
I finally finished reading the first part of "Bouclier Humain" (Human Sheild) by Amara Sellali called "The Paths of Amara." It's only a 40-some-odd page comic book, but I had to read it with a translation in one hand, so it took a while...
It didn't exactly thrill me. It certainly wasn't quality storytelling. While I'm glad I read it, in the interest of trying to learn more and stay informed, I didn't enjoy it and I wasn't as moved as I think the author intended me to be. For one thing, the artwork was very sterile and cold. The depiction of Iraqi children burned/disfigured/malnourished should have moved me, but the artwork was so generic, I didn't feel a thing. Meanwhile, the layout of the story was very much "and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened..." I couldn't help but compare it to "Persepolis", which was completely the opposite. Both are memoirs done as graphic novels dealing with the tumultuous goings-on in the Middle East. But while Persepolis was heartfelt, moving, and a good old fashioned interesting story, Bouclier Humain read like a news item.
The one thing I will say about it, is that Bouclier Humain made me think. Reading this, the whole idea of being a "human shield" in protest seems not only naive to me, but also a thinly veiled version of snobbery. It's as if to say I know my life is worth more than yours, so I'll stay here and protect you, because they wouldn't shoot at me... I recently read an interview with Sandra Oh in BUST magazine (I promise this is relevant!), and when asked about her good fortune, and whether she ever feels guilty about it, she said something like "I would never feel guilty about my success. Because if you feel guilty about where you are in your life, you're automatically placing a judgement on where other people are in their lives. By you feeling bad about what you have, it's just like you're deameaning them for what they don't have." I agree with that, and that's sort of the feeling I get when reading about these human shields. Guilt, in my opinion, has never helped anybody, and I feel like that's where a lot of the anti-war sentiment comes from: liberal guilt.
Don't get me wrong - I, too, am a liberal and anti-war. I believe that it's wrong for our country to impose itself on the world. However, I don't think something like being a human shield is terribly useful, and it seems like it's primarily for show. There are only two real ways to affect change, it seems (and I could be wrong - and if I am, someone please talk to me about it, because I'm still in the process of figuring things out for myself) - politically and economically. That is, affecting the law, or affecting money. Everything else, to me at the moment, is pure spectacle.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"Laundry Like Grey Elephants"

Currently reading: "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
"The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller
"Bouclier Humain" by Hennebaut, Betaucourt, and Sellali
Next Up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michael Faber

The idea for this popped into my head on the train yesterday, and I finished it today. I showed it to the person who inspired it, and he seemed to get a kick out of it even though he was a little "insulted." :) Cry me a river. So, without further ado:

For Adam - and no, I don't think you're a loser. I just have fun portraying you that way in my fiction.

Laundry Like Grey Elephants

By Teresa Jusino

The laundry strewn on the floor looked like grey elephants. The room, like all of Astoria, was hot and moist. Dust bunnies scampered amid the clutter. The Lansinger sat next to the girl on the floor. Their backs were against the bed. It was hot, and a DVD was still in the player.

"What shall we drink?" the girl asked. "It’s so hot."

"How about ginger ale? I think a ginger ale would do us both good."

The Lansinger left the room to fetch the ginger ale. The girl wiggled her toes, and the floor creaked under her heel. She lifted a grey t-shirt from the floor and let it fall again.

"Two ginger ales" the Lansinger said upon his return. He handed a can to the girl.

The girl said nothing. She opened the can and drank. Her chest burned.

"What is this?" she asked, looking at everything but the can in her hand.

"It’s called Vernors" he answered. "They say it’s the most carbonated drink in the world."

The girl clutched her still-burning chest. "Carbonation. Oh. For a second, I thought you might be trying to kill me."

"Don’t be that way" he replied. He sat again, on the floor beside the girl.

He looked at her as she stared at the laundry on the floor. Its folds looked like wrinkled hide.

"The laundry looks like grey elephants" she said.

"I’ve never seen any." "You wouldn’t have." "What’s that supposed to mean?"

The girl sighed. "Nothing."

"Don’t be that way. We were going to have a nice time tonight. Don’t you like your Vernors?"

"This is all we do, isn’t it" she said, putting the can down. "All we do is look at things and try new drinks."

"It’s not a new drink."

"I meant new to me. Why are you so literal?" "I’m not always literal."

"You are" she said. "And I always have to be wrong."

"Cut it out."
"You started it. I was trying to have a nice time. I tried this new, insanely-carbonated drink. I said the laundry looks like grey elephants. Wasn’t that bright?"

"Yes. That was very bright."

The girl buried her painted toes beneath a pile of pants. The Lansinger sipped his Vernors.

"The laundry doesn’t really look like grey elephants" said the girl. "I just meant the coloring. You have a lot of grey clothes. Shirts especially."

"The ginger ale’s nice and cool."

"It’s lovely."

"Look, Terry" he said, after the bubbles played on his tongue. "It’s just one. And it’s shorter now." The girl said nothing.

"We have plenty of time." The girl lifted a shirt on her foot.

"Look," he said. "It’s just the one. I don’t think you’ll mind it. It’s just the one, and then it’s over. And I’ll totally explain everything to you."

"No commercials."

"Right! Shorter, because there are no commercials. It’ll take no time at all!"

"What’ll we do afterward?"

"We’ll watch the movie."

"There’s a movie, too?" "Of course there’s a movie. This episode will prepare you to watch the movie."

"What makes you think I want to go through all of this just to watch a new episode?"

"I thought you’d be interested. I mean, you are interested, aren’t you?"

The girl leaned her head back, and an upside-down work by Miss Tic looked back at her.

"And then I can go to sleep, right?"

"Of course! But then tomorrow, it’ll all be better. You’ll have watched the old episode, and the movie, and then you’ll get to enjoy the new episode so much more. I know plenty of people who do it this way."

"So do I. And they appreciate the new episodes so much more."

"Look. You don’t have to watch it if you don’t want to. I think it’s the best thing, but I would never make you do something you don’t want to do."

"But if I do watch it. Then you’ll let me see the new episode on tape?"

"Of course. And I’ll be right there the whole time explaining things that you might not understand."

"But I thought that was the point of me watching this episode."

"And the movie."

"And the movie. So you wouldn’t have to explain anything."

"Well, there could always be something that you still don’t understand."

The girl sighed. She had been sitting on a combat boot the entire time, and she removed it from beneath her, noticing it for the first time. She had been wondering why her bottom was numb.

"So if I watch this episode, then the movie, then the episode, I’ll enjoy the series more?"

"Of course. And that’s all I want. For you to enjoy the show."

"And to explain things to me."

"I explain things to you so you can get more enjoyment out of it. Terry, you don’t have to watch it if you don’t want to. But it really is for the best. And it’ll be over in no time at all."

"And then I can enjoy the show."

"Then you can enjoy the show."

The girl looked at the clock in the DVD player. It was 9PM. Her eyelids were already heavy and in three and a half hours they would be even heavier.

"Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me."

"But I care about you."

"But I don’t care about me. And if we watch it, and the movie, and the new episode, we’ll both be happy, and you’ll get to explain things to me, and everything will be lovely."

"I don’t want you to feel that way."

"And I’ll say that your laundry looks like grey elephants, and you’ll think it’s bright."

The girl stood up and walked to the window. Through the plexiglass pane, she saw the slick, recently rained upon street. It glistened beneath a street lamp. Hot, moist air blew at her. "And once we both start enjoying this show, we can start getting this way about everything."

"What did you say?"

"I said we can start getting this way about everything."

"We can get this way about everything."

"No we can’t."

"There are so many shows we can be this way about."

"But we can’t."

"Now that everything’s on DVD, we can. And there’s nothing wrong with that."

"There isn’t?"

"Of course not."

"But if we keep doing this, we’ll become those people that go to conventions all the time, and spend all their hard-earned money on memorabilia and movie tickets."

"Come here."

"Once you get that way, you can never go back."

"But we haven’t gotten that way."

"Wait and see."

"Come back here and sit down. You haven’t finished your Vernors. I don’t want you to feel that way."

"I don’t feel any way. I just know things."

"I don’t want you to do anything that you don’t want to do."

"You only want me to enjoy the show. I know. Can I get a real ale?"

"Sure. I have one downstairs. But I just want you to know."

"I already know. Can we just please stop talking?"

"I just want you to know that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to."

"So it doesn’t mean anything to you if I enjoy the new show or not?"

"Of course it does. I want you of all people to enjoy it. And it’s all so simple. It’ll go by so fast."

"Yes, I know. It’ll go by so fast."

"It’s all very well and good for you to say that, but I know it’s true!"

"Would you do something for me?" "Of course. Anything."

"Would you please, please, please, please, please shut up!"

He didn’t say anything, but looked instead at the floor. He looked at the stacks of video tapes they had already watched. Everything but season two, which admittedly sucked.

"But I don’t want you to. I don’t really care either way."

"I will scream" said the girl.

"Well, I’d better get the next DVD, then. I’ll also get you the beer you wanted."

The Lansinger went downstairs, and returned with the beers, and the DVD case nestled precariously under one arm. He handed the girl a Molson’s, and she smiled as if to thank him.

"Well, I’ll put the next one in, then. It’ll be over in less than an hour without commercials. And we can enjoy our beer."

He removed the last DVD from the player, and inserted a new one. The girl sipped the Molson’s and kicked at the shirts by her feet. She looked at the clock again. It was 9:20PM. The Lansinger sat beside her and placed a glossy booklet, which included a synopsis for each episode, in her lap. She drank her beer.

"There. Don’t you feel better?"

"I’m fine" she said. "There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Currently reading: "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
"The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller
"Bouclier Humain" by Hennebaut, Betaucourt, and Sellali
Next Up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michael Faber

I finished reading "Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi a day or two after I finished The History of Love. It was really interesting, in that it is a memoir of a woman growing up in Iran during the revolution of the early 80's done as a graphic novel.

First of all, I love reading things that are new (or new to me), and I was excited by the use of the comic medium to tell the story of a life in the first place. I felt like that medium served this story, as it is telling the story of a child, partially through that child's eyes. But one shouldn't make the mistake of assuming that it's a light read because it's a comic. The story she tells is one of hardship and turmoil as well as hope and humor.

I'll admit to not knowing much about Iran at all. The words "Ayatollah Khoumeini" and "hostages" are ones I vaguely remember hearing a lot when I was young. That was all I knew about Iran. Shamefully, I don't know much more than that now....but I am grateful to this book for giving me a human insight into a world I'd never known.

And can I say that I LOVE this little girl! A little revolutionary! I would love to meet Ms. Satrapi someday...

I really loved how this story was told - how it was so full of humor, and child-like innocence....made the darker panels so much more powerful.

I would highly recommend this, whether you "like comic books" or not! :)

Monday, June 06, 2005

The History of Love

Currently reading: "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
"The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller
"Bouclier Humain" by Hennebaut, Betaucourt, and Sellali
Next Up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michael Faber

*****************POSSIBLE SPOILERS - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*******************

I finished reading "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss a few days ago. Here's a synopsis:
"An unlikely and unforgettable hero, Leo Gursky is a survivor -- of war, of love, and of loneliness. A retired locksmith, Leo does his best to get by. He measures the passage of days by the nightly arrival of the delivery boy from the Chinese restaurant and has arranged a code with his upstairs neighbor: Three taps on the radiator means, "ARE YOU ALIVE?, two means YES, one NO." But it wasn't always so. Sixty years earlier, before he fled Poland for New York, Leo met a girl named Alma and fell in love. He wrote a book and named the character in it after his beloved. Years passed, lives changed, and unbeknownst to Leo, the book survived. And it provides Leo -- in the eighth decade of his life -- with a link to the son he's never known. How this long-lost book makes an extraordinary reappearance and connects the lives of disparate characters is only one of the small miracles The History of Love offers its readers." - from
My thought at the end of the book was - The ending brought the book up from good to very good. Still not great.
I wanted to love this book. I really did. I had loved the excerpt I'd read in the New Yorker, and I was expecting to love the whole thing. I particularly loved the characters she created: Leo Gursky - who was so vivid, and interesting, with such a distinct voice. Alma Singer - a fourteen year old girl in a novel I could actually relate to for once. Smart, but not annoyingly/precociously so. Body issues, but not to the point where she felt sorry for herself as a person. Bird - my only complaintis that I feel like he got short shrift. He's so interesting, I think he deserved a novel of his own. He was reduced to a plot device, and that really irritated me, because I liked him so much. To have his interest in his faith exist only to serve Alma's search was downright criminal.
(and why is his religious fervence treated like an illness instad of as something that can actually help him through his father's death? Just curious...)
What bothered me was that Krauss seemed to be trying too hard to be "experiemental." (whatever that means anymore...) What I loved about Man Walks Into a Room, her first novel, was its language and its directness. How it told a story. But for everything I enjoyed about this book, there were two that either annoyed me or confused me.
There are some beautiful poignant passages in this book - about lost/new love, about identity, about growing older...but then there's a page of charts for no real reason. Alma tells her story in list form. There are pages with only one or two sentences on them (some successful, some not). I dont' feel like any of these "tricks" suited the story she was trying to tell. It didn't feel like that's the way the story needed to be told - also, this didn't feel like Krauss' voice to me. It felt as if she were doing an impression...or at the very least, she was a ventriloquist speaking through a dummy. I missed her voice.
I wanted to hear Nicole Krauss speak...I ended up hearing who she thought we wanted to hear. It's not the same thing.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Beast in the Jungle

The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James.

I haven't read it yet, but a friend told me about it. Does art imitate life a bit too much? I'll read it soon and let you know...