Saturday, October 30, 2010

Socializing on Facebook

The movie The Social Network made me feel a little funny about ever using Facebook again.

In it, a genius student at Harvard, shafted by his beautiful girlfriend, goes back to his lonely room and writes nasty things about her on his blog and starts a website demeaning college women in general. From that he becomes a minor college celebrity, co-opts an idea from a group of privileged rich boys and starts Facebook. Law suits follow him for the rest of his days in the brilliant script by Aaron Sorkin (the movie flashes back and forth between the history of Facebook and the various depositions), which winds up at a time vaguely "the present," but before the real genius of the story, the real Mark Zuckerberg, came up with his plan to donate $100 million to the public school system of Newark.

The movie is in line for a lot of Oscars, and will win most of them. The writing, as I said, is edge-of-the-seat compelling, the characters quirky and contemporary, and, even though we know how the story will come out, and we assume much of it is truth, we find ourselves wondering how much of this really happened in this way. And we emerge from the movie not quite knowing, but thinking we do. Zuckerberg is portrayed as a serious version of some of the boys we might see on "The Big Bang Theory," but I wondered if he had mild autism or perhaps Asperger's Syndrome. Actor Jesse Eisenberg had me totally convinced he was Zuckerberg, likewise Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Savarin, Zuckerberg' friend who gets passed by on the way up. The character of Erica, who starts the Facebook ball rolling in the film, was made up out of the whole cloth--but Rooney Mara, the actress who played her, is beautiful and winning--she clearly has a big future in the movies.

Leaving the movie, my date asked me how many of the people I related to on Facebook had become real friends. I had to think about that because I could only think of one that I had met in person having only conversed on the social network. I have 182 "friends" which is a small number in Facebook terms. Many people have friends in the thousands. I try to keep the number at around 180 by editing out those whose posts I'd rather not see or those who simply never post. Of my 182, about 30 constantly respond to my posts and write posts themselves that I am compelled to comment upon, but I've never laid eyes on. Many of those have invited me to visit if I'm ever in their area. Another 50 or so are people I know slightly who comment occasionally. The others simply refuse to play Facebook; I don't know why they're on it at all.

I enjoy Facebook, but suspect that like any addictive activity, my interest will fade of its own accord as the comments get stale and I tire or outgrow it. It has a way of replacing real life with a virtual one. That, I would think, makes it very seductive to the retirees and people who live alone, but there is something unsatisfying about the experience when you have actually had a life. I have a friend who has written a hilarious blog post about his resistance to the whole idea; his post can be found here. The movie, however, is for the ages--it is a time capsule of a moment in history, this very moment.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Acting and the Professional Woman

Sally Hawkins and Cherry Jones in Mrs. Warren's Profession

When you go to see a play written by George Bernard Shaw, you can expect a little whiplash of the brain before it's over. You think you're going to a glittering comedy with lovely sets and costumes of a bygone era--and you are--but before it's over you have been challenged right and left as you try to decide whom to root for, if anybody.
Mrs. Warren's Profession, a smart-looking antique with a stellar cast, will give you food for thought on the topic of working women, Victorian hypocrisy, and how the world has and hasn't changed in the last hundred years.

Written in the late 1800's, the play was first produced in 1902, causing great scandal in London. The "profession" of the title is one of the world's oldest--that of madam. And the play went on to make fun and scalding commentary on the manners and mores of the day. Shaw said, according to Wikipedia, that he wrote the play "to draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing, and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together."

Fast forward to the new production at the American Airlines Theater in New York. Playing the role of Mrs. Warren is the dazzling Cherry Jones, who originated the Meryl Street role in Doubt, among other Broadway triumphs, and has the critics at her feet every time she steps onto a stage. I was delighted to see her and am pleased to report that she was a marvel to watch. I also enjoyed the work of Sally Hawkins, a young English actress who plays Mrs. Warren's daughter.

I went back to the NY Times review after having seen the play and was disappointed that the critic had all but dismissed Miss Hawkins, in spite of the sterling performance I saw. It seems he had seen this play in the 2005 London production in which Brenda Blethyn essayed the role of Mrs. Warren and he thought the play belonged to the daughter, played by Rebecca Hall in her stage debut. I'll just have to differ, not having seen the London production. In the Roundabout Theater's version there is a constant battle for the sympathy of the audience, and some are bound to choose one side or the other. I rather liked the old dragon (played by a not-old Miss Jones) but I could see why the daughter was distraught at the old way of doing things and ready to change the world for women of the future, one of which I am.

It's not a easy play, aside from the lovely sets and costumes, and I heard ever so many comments from my fellow theatergoers to the general effect that they couldn't understand the accents, much less the points being made. To see a play by George Bernard Shaw, surely these sophisticated New Yorkers, most of whom were greyhairs like me, one has to expect to strain the brain and ears a little. I wanted to make an announcement: "Come on, people. You can get this. You are my tribe--you've been attending plays for fifty years or more, and this is Shaw! It's not Shrek the Musical or The Addams Family. It's the kind of play we were raised seeing, with nuance, character and plot and elegant dialogue. You must remember plays like this!" In short, Mrs. Warren's Profession is an old-fashioned play in the best sense. It's a workout, but leaves you with much to ponder, decide, smile about, and remember.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Me in the Machine Again

For some reason the buzz of the alarm clock didn't bother me this morning. I almost never have to set it, but today I had an appointment at Hoboken MRI at 7:30 and to be on the safe side I set the clock for six. Often I'm awake by 5:30 but truly, I never know.

The orthopedist wanted a better look at the knee joint, from all angles, to decide what therapy to apply next. A program of lubricant shots, physical therapy, more exercise, less, or some new drug or other. I endured his first injection, which he said was a combination of novacaine and cortizone, but it made little difference in the pain in my left knee. An x-ray had revealed arthritis, but nothing more.

I expected to feel draggy and glum as I walked, with my left leg in a knee brace, to the offices, which are across from the PATH terminal and a 20 minute walk from my apartment even on a fast track. However, the cool weather was invigorating, and it was a joy to experience a damp fall morning just as shops were opening, lights were being turned on, and well-dressed young business people were filing out of their buildings and heading toward the PATH station alongside and ahead of me. There was a puddle here and there from a shower last night, and the leaves were just beginning to appear on the sidewalks. The trees are just beginning to turn here; fall weather is still welcome and makes the thoughts turn toward eating apples.

When I got to the office, however, I was in for another kind of experience. I had a full body MRI in July of last year, which I wrote about in detail here; this spring I had an MRI of my jaw before having oral surgery. The former was a nightmare for me, with my tinge of claustrophobia. The latter was brief and quite easy. I expected the knee MRI to be more like the jaw MRI, but instead it was more like the nightmare. I didn't have to be rolled into a cylinder--my head was exposed--but I had to lie completely still and listen to clattering sounds, for almost an hour. When I first felt the machine go over me I felt my blood pressure rise, and I immediately began to employ every meditation technique I could muster. They played tacky music, which the technician said would keep me calm; it made me want to jump out of the machine and bolt from the room. At one point, however, I could hear over the ambient noise of the MRI machine an old tune from Elton John: " beautiful life is, when you're in the world..." and I tried to climb inside that tune--where had I heard it, who was I in love with then, what year would it have been, was it Sir Elton or someone else, how old was I, where was I living? I wouldn't have minded hearing it again. But no, they were on to something really abominable.

An announcement came into the room: "You're doing very well, ma'am, just a little more," and I figured I was at the halfway mark. I croaked, "Okay," and went on waiting. Another fifteen minutes or so and another announcement, "Just eight or nine more minutes" and I figured it would be another half hour at least. I also got an announcement at the "four more minutes" mark, and I tried to keep count this time just to prove they were lying. It must have been ten minutes at least--I was counting the songs and trying to count the seconds.

But I did emerge at last, and I got the films. It was too early to take them to the doctor, but he'll get them before the end of the day. Then I'll know the future of my left knee.

I wonder when I'll have to go into one of those damn machines again. I hope by the time I do they don't make so much noise and somebody in charge learns the meaning of soothing music.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Some Day You'll Find Me

I haven't been posting here lately, but had reason to add a few posts to my Fairhope blog, which you might find interesting. My mind is in Fairhope these days, and that's a good place for it, as I'm working on a novel in that setting. Over the weekend of October 1 I was at a symposium at U Penn about Wharton Esherick, the sculptor and artist in wood, who lived a little over a year in Fairhope. It was very inspiring, and my Fairhope blog will reflect some of my inspiration for the immediate future. You can find it here.

See you around the Internet!