Spring Cleaning

The first full day of spring seems to be as good a time as any to clean out my drafts folder of the various fragments I have written over the past couple of months.


if you get there before me, will you save me a seat?
if you get there before me, would you save me a seat?
but if i never get there at all,
would you leave the seat empty?

My favorite thing about the Mountain Goats is the poignancy and occasional strangeness of the lyrics. By his own admission, John Darnielle isn’t the greatest guitarist, but he more than makes up for any lack of musicianship with the poetry of his words and the conviction of his delivery. It seems fitting, therefore, that he would sit down for an interview with a writer like Tobias Wolff as he did last night (Feb. 24) at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater. They seemed to share a mutual admiration for each others work that went beyond the usual interviewer-interviewee relationship. At several points Darnielle was much more interested in asking Wolff questions than he was in answering.

The conversation was fairly wide ranging and covered topics from initial creative influences to downloads of digital music. I was particularly interested when they talked about the difference between being a working artist and being an artist while working some other job. Both were thankful that they are able to earn a living doing their art, but also feel pressure to produce something great with that opportunity. They also spoke of the almost elicit excitement they felt working on their art while holding down a regular job. How it felt like stealing time.

Maya Lin Systematic Landscapes at the deYoung Museum
From Maya Lin’s Systematic Landscapes at the de Young

On my way to Maya Lin’s Systematic Landscapes show at the de Young earlier this year I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for, but that didn’t make it any less fascinating. While you could call the work reductivist, in that the pieces are abstracted explorations of landscape, that would neglect the thorough nature of the exploration. Lin is able to work in a wide range of media including wood, glass, metal, pins, and paper while still keeping faithful to the clarity of her vision. She also manages to stay true to each of the materials. None of the choices seem arbitrary and there is something transformative, for example, in the way she uses simple 2x4s cut to different lengths to create the wave/hill that dominated the museum’s atrium. I got the feeling that each piece, though varied in size, material, or execution, was part of a unified whole.

film still from Revanche
Still from Götz Spielmann’s Revanche

Revanche.  The act of retaliating; revenge. With a title like that you would expect the movie to be an adrenalin fueled revenge fantasy. Or, at least that is what you’d expect if this were your typical Hollywood movie. Instead, Austria’s submission to the Academy Awards, though it includes sex, violence, drugs, and a bank robbery, is an exquisite portrait of internal conflict. Visually beautiful and languidly paced this film avoids the usual devices of the summer blockbuster and the melodrama of awards season movies. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fan of Hollywood movies as well, but in all the movies I saw in the run up to the Oscars , few impressed me the way this one did. I’ll also admit that it’s hard to judge the quality of the acting when you’re reading subtitles, but none of the acting rang false.

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