It seems I forgot to take my St. John’s Wort last night. Mistake! I’ve been moody and thoughtful all day, without it being particularly fruitful. No fabulous insights, just moodiness and a little obsessiveness, thought-wise.

I had been on Xanex (sp?) for a number of years after I got married – I was having trouble handling my natural depressive mentality in this new family environment. I used to be able to just sit in my apartment, moodily. But now I was in an environment with two young kids and my new wife, and moping was no longer an option. So I found SSRIs, and they were awesome.

But three or so years ago I stopped that, and started taking St. John’s Wort instead, and it seems to work perfectly well. Couple it with the nice climate and it does wonders. If I add in some light exercise, even better.

So, tonight, SJW.

Llewyn vs. Hustle

Abstract: I enjoyed and was moved by Inside Llewyn Davis. I was annoyed and bored by American Hustle. I am irritated by the fuss being lavished on Hustle, and disappointed at the lack of love being bestowed on Llewyn.

I can understand why Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t generating any Oscar buzz – it features a non-lovable central character who is not being played by Meryl Streep. Even for the Coens, that’s a risky move. But it makes me sad. The character wasn’t overtly lovable, but he was dedicated to his goals, and skilled at what he did, though overshadowed by Bob Dylan, and I respected his craft and drive (and he was very nice to that cat!). Aside from the nature of the central character, the film was beautiful to look at, and the music was wonderful. Even if you wouldn’t buy folk music to play on your commute, it’s wonderful in its own way, and the movie treats it with great respect. Mrs. Basch pointed out (I would not have picked this up otherwise) that each song is played in its entirety, giving the soundtrack a central place in the structure of the movie.

I found Llewyn’s story moving and compelling.

American Hustle seemed to me a movie about hair. It seems to be claiming that people at this time really wore their hair like this; it was not. I was there, and I know. Hair, as it is shown in the movie, was rare, and would be noticed and mocked. It’s crazy-person hair. Okay, I have seen some elaborate combovers; that was realistic. Aside from the hair, the production design had a bloated, oily quality (especially noticeable in the posters; I first thought it was the Donald Trump Story, from the Jeremy Renner posters).

As for the clothes, I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone walk around with décolletage down to their navel all the time, as in Amy Adams’ character. I mean, all the time, every outfit! Formal, business casual, sporty… all had the same décolletage! Did the character shop at a specialty clothing store, where every outfit had this crazy décolletage? Frontless Frocks? Sartorial Sterna? (that’s the plural of sternum) Classy Cleavage? (though, to be perfectly honest, Amy Adams has the tidy, discreet physique that doesn’t lend itself to interesting or dramatic cleavage)

As for the plot, the “hustle” part seems to only happen in the end. The rest of the movie seemed full of odd pseudo-improvised dialog, with weird repetitions and boring language. Mrs. Basch noted the resemblance to Scorsese movies (cf. Taxi Driver). I was also reminded of actor friends of mine taking acting classes in the “Meisner” style, where they did these repetition exercises. I was never trained that way (I did straight “method”), but Hustle sounded like those exercises; actors can be very excited about what they do in class, and tend to repeat it in bars, afterward.

I do give credit to Christian Bale for putting on a lot of weight; though I’ve always found it pretty easy to do. I thought he had a plastic torso, but Mrs. Basch tells me that no, he actually put on that weight via food. Well, good for him. I know the Academy loves actors who uglify themselves, especially if they act ugly on top of being ugly – Bale’s waddle to emphasize his bulk does the trick. That way, we know it’s not really him – he’s really slim and fit, see, handsome too. He’s just so devoted to his craft, that he’s willing to be all ugly, in the name of art. And acting.

It would be disingenuous to claim that I think that the Oscars are some kind of meritocratic exercise. Merit is just one of many factors. But still. I’m sad.

Reading: American Nations, by Colin Woodard

I have been reading (full disclosure: I’ve actually been listening, to the very well-narrated audiobook on my hour-long commute to Pasadena) American Nations, by Colin Woodard. After I had listened to the first half-hour, I had to turn it off for a while – the explanatory power of his premise is so profound, so right, that I needed time to let my thoughts and preconceptions rearrange themselves.

I won’t describe the book, as the author has an excellent page here and does a better job than I could, along with links to purchase. I will say that I understand my cultural heritage and those of my parents much better now! I’m a classic New Netherlander, born and bred, and proud of its open-minded, accepting culture – come one, come all! As long as you can sell stuff, you’re welcome to stay! I’m of two minds about its lukewarm commitment to democracy, though. I mean, democracy = good… right? I guess it depends on who’s voting…

My father was an immigrant to New Netherland from Germany, and my mom was from New France. She immigrated to New Netherland but always retained many New French characteristics, harmonious as they are with New Netherlandish customs.

I now live in El Norte (which I would have thought was really the Left Coast – haven’t got my head around that yet), in a neighborhood that seems largely made up of emigrants from New Netherland, the Midlands, and Yankeedom.

My fantasy is that Colin Woodard will work on something with Nate Silver. Mr. Silver is on an unwelcome – to me – hiatus, and seems to be refocusing his attention on sports instead of politics. I can’t tell one ball game from another (well, they use different size/color balls – I can see that), so that’s a big loss for me.

But I’d love to see Nate Silver use his statistical wizardry to measure political movements according to Colin Woodard’s scheme of American Nations, rather than our 50 states. I have a feeling there would be revelations there.

American Nations is an eye-opener. Read it. I hope the DNCC is…