D R O W N   M E   I N   B E A U T Y
D e s i g n   A r c h i t e c t u r e   A r t   F a s h i o n
Posts tagged TELEVISION
PBS just aired a two-part, five-hour, pleasingly conventional documentary about Woody Allen. It was informative but didn’t go nearly deep enough to get at the sources of his humor, his ambition, and his romantic beliefs. But the first hours, which documented his rise as a standup comedian, were inspiring. Unlike a lot of other comedians, Allen didn’t deliver one-liners, he told stories. And, unlike a lot of other comedians, he wasn’t desperate to be in the spotlight. He started out as a writer and was perfectly happy writing. So much of his comedy is about language — about a perfectly turned phrase that floats in the air for half a beat until its meaning (and its sarcasm, and its affront) sinks in. It was Allen’s business managers, two old-school cigar-chomping vaudeville veterans, who pushed him on stage to act out his jokes and build a name for himself.
That reluctance to perform is evident in the tortured relationship the young comedian has with his microphone. Watch him on this television show to see how he rests his elbow on the stand, dances around it, plays with the cord, and grips the mic like a weapon that he’d rather not be in possession of. It’s a fine and elaborate choreography of dread. To use Allen’s own language, he’s “perspiring audibly.” There’s in this physical anxiety tremendous charm and humility, something that’s lacking in a lot of his movies. In fact, his own presence is lacking in a lot of his movies. The standup Woody Allen is a remarkably appealing performer, if only he would want to perform.
Right now I’m helping clients install a new washing machine and my parents install a new flat-screen television, so I’m especially attentive to the magical powers of shiny new machines.
Sculptor Danh Vo made this piece, “Oma Totem,” from gifts (television, refrigerator, washing machine) his grandmother received from a Roman Catholic relief agency when she arrived in Germany in the 1980’s from Vietnam. It’s intentionally soulless, drained of power. There’s none of the glamor of new machines, the splendor of church iconography, or the drama of Vo’s grandmother’s personal journey. But the piece captures very nicely how inert appliances really are. They’re just implements that help us get things done.