A few weeks ago, both the illustrious Dennis Cozzalio and the engaging Greg Ferrara were kind enough to nominate me for something called the "Kreativ Blogger" award, designed to recognize voices that you think offer something creative (and creatively spelled!) in the blogosphere. It was very nice of both men to recognize me (Dennis even said some wonderfully embarrassing things about my blogging that false modesty prevents me from mentioning here), and I promptly rewarded their kindness by not blogging for a month and failing to pass the award along to seven more bloggers (per the instructions). That's just how a Kreativ Blogger rolls, yo.
Actually, it was because I was taking some time off from blogging in January, and because I wasn't sure how to fulfill one of the central requirements of the award: saying something interesting about myself. But I'm getting ahead of the game a bit, so perhaps I should explain.
Here are the KB Award rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
Thank you, Dennis and Greg! You are both men of obvious good taste. More seriously, you are both good blog pals, and I'm very grateful for your company.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
See the links above, and please spend time perusing their excellent blogs! I know you won't regret it.
4.Name 7 Things about yourself that people might find interesting.
Ah, so here's the crux of the problem. So, let's come back to this after I've mentioned the remaining rules.
5. Nominate 7 Kreative Bloggers.
Well, I'm always coming to these parties late, so chances are all of these folks have been chosen by other bloggers already. But I will name:
-- Brendan Riley, captain of the Digital Sextant;
-- Blogger, bon vivant and TCM guest programmer Self-Styled Siren;
-- That Little Round-Headed Boy, even if he does seem to be taking an extended hiatus from the pitching mound at the moment;
-- Kimberly Lindbergs at the swingin' nightclub known as Cinebeats;
-- Academic and cinephiliac omnivore Paul Johnson, at Expressive Esoterica;
--Edward Copeland, whose return to blogging is the best New Year's gift a lover of smart film criticism could ask for;
--Ed Howard, whose blog Only The Cinema is a model of breadth and depth, and radiates with a passionately poetic love of movies.
6. Post Links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
Done and done (and done five times more).
7. Leave a comment on each on the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.
So, the question remains-- how, in the words of Toby Keith, do I "talk about MEEEEE"? In a sense, this blog is always a memoir, even if in a slightly displaced way (it's like when someone asked Pauline Kael when she was going to write an autobiography, and she replied, "I think I already have"-- it's all in the way you look at other things). While I've sometimes talked more directly about teaching, or travel, or family, for the most part I feel more comfortable addressing objects of pop culture and letting the personal seep through, slink around, reflect off of the movies, comics, political figures, or pop songs under discussion. Actually saying, "this is me" is a bit disconcerting (and also a little alluring-- I suspect there is an exhibitionist quality inside every blogger I suspect).
But is it interesting (or, to bring it back the award, kreative)? Well, you be the judge*:
1) I was once hit by a car in college. There, violence is a grabber, right? It was late on a weekday night. I was coming back from studying at the student union, and going to get coffee at a nearby living-learning center that had a javahouse in its basement. I started to cross the campus street, a wide thoroughfare that, in my mind's eye, I now see in a chiaroscuro of pitch-black shadow and blue wash. There was a long line of cars slowly moving up the road towards the performing arts center, and given the darkness and the long row of vehicles, I misjudged how fast they'd move. WHAM! Everything moved in slow motion, the heat from the front of the engine pushed against my leg, and I was knocked to the ground. I was fine-- more shaken up than anything, given that the car was moving, at most, about a mile-per-hour. The driver was very nice, getting out of the car to check on me (I'm sure he thought I was crazy as my embarrassment caused me to quickly mumble, "I'm fine, I'm fine," and scurry away). For months after, the screech of car brakes, even a mile or two away, sent shivers up my spine. But the most lasting consequence was musical: that long line of cars was heading towards an Indigo Girls concert, which forever burned an aversion to didactic folkie music into my brain.
2) I had the good fortune to interview blues singer Koko Taylor in college for the Indiana Daily Student (which I think has now shortened its official name to the IDS). I remember my friend J.J., who played in a blues band, was jealous: "You're interviewing Koko Taylor?!?" It was really just timing: she was coming to Bloomington that summer, and the reduced staff during the office in those hot months meant I got the gig. She and I talked about her career in Chicago, "Hound Dog," and her love of Elvis Presley's voice. I only wish I'd known more about her then, so I could've asked better questions (but I thank her for being such a good sport as I "ummed" my way through our phone call). I felt really sad last year when I heard of her death: I only talked to her for maybe fifteen minutes over the phone, but her kindness and wry sense of humor really came through, and I still think of that summer when I see her CDs in record shops.
3) I played "King Rat" in our fifth-grade musical production of The Pied Piper, and could still sing you some of my lyrics, if you asked nicely. "Today I rule these rats!/Tomorrow, I'll rule this town!/For I am the king of the rats!" And yet, Sondheim never called...
4) Last bit of celebrity name-dropping: I got a special thrill when Jonathan Demme gave me the thumbs-up last fall. Demme came to Oberlin last semester, to do a joint lecture with his friend (and Oberlin alum) James McBride (the novelist and screenwriter who worked on Spike Lee's The Miracle at St. Anna). Two of his children go to school here, and he was kind enough to do a table reading with Oberlin cinema and theater students of his current screenplay-in-progress, as well as participate in an "Inside the Actor's Studio"-style talk/Q&A with McBride. And let me tell you-- he could not have been nicer. Seriously, every Oscar-winning movie legend should be as warm, funny and down-to-earth as Demme was that weekend. He had great anecdotes about working on his movies, he talked about the politics of cinema in a generous, un-self-righteous way, and he displayed a cinephile's true geeky passion when they showed a clip from John Carpenter's The Thing (McBride and Demme decided they wanted to bring clips of films that inspired them-- I think The Thing was one of McBride's choices): the look of pure joy on Demme's face, and the whoop he gave out when the clip was done ("that was cool!," he exclaimed after Kurt Russell took a blow-torch to the monster) was, as Chris Farley might have said on SNL, really awesome. What I mostly remember was how he took every opportunity to turn the spotlight away from him and on to others: McBride, the students, the folks in the audience. He showed such a generosity and curiosity about everyone around him that it was easy to see how his own work-- which I've loved for years-- was an extension of his personality.
So, the Q&A is breaking up and Demme's saying hello to folks who approach him. In my official Oberlin capacity as a teacher, I don't want to completely geek out, but c'mon-- how many times am I going to meet Jonathan Demme? So, I tentatively approach him, put out my hand (which he shakes), and thank him for coming, and for the great table read the previous afternoon. He smiles and nods, and then I say, "I don't mean to completely geek out, but I wanted to tell you-- my girlfriend and I drove across a lot of the country this past summer, and a lot of that ride was spent listening to the Rachel Getting Married soundtrack." His eyes light up and he smiles and gives me the thumbs-up. "Alright!," he says. Yep, totally worth geeking out.
5) In high school, I sang in a vocal jazz group. I do a mean scat, daddio.
Yep-- exactly like that.
6) Babies sometimes intersect with movies. I was born on a military base in New Jersey, as my dad finished up his stint in the army. One day, late in my mom's pregnancy, some friends asked her if she wanted to go with them into Manhattan. She demurred, saying she felt tired and didn't know if she really wanted to make the trip. When she next saw those friends, they excitedly told her that they'd "seen a movie filming outside the Plaza Hotel. And Robert Redford was there, and Barbra Streisand!..."
Of course, it was the filming of the final scene of The Way We Were, one of my mom's favorite movies, and a scene she knows by heart. I think of that story whenever I teach the film.
7. My favorite comic book character is Spider-Man. I can't imagine a single reason why I'd identify with a nerdy guy who makes corny jokes while battling bad guys. It's a mystery, really...
*Some of this also appeared on a Facebook note/quiz I was tagged in last year. I know it's supposed to all be brand-new, but I only have so many anecdotes about myself, alas. Hope this doesn't violate the spirit of the award.