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Saturday, September 1, 2001

Even though I was prepared to go alone, I talked Mom into going to see Ghost World with me this afternoon. I was as hesitant as she was, because I wasn't sure it was the kind of movie she would like. It's not exactly a mainstream film, but we've been to many independent films that we've both liked. She's open to different kinds of experiences, and this was a much a chance for her to get out of the house as it was for me.

Theater 2 at the Rialto is one of the larger ones, but this showing early in the afternoon was sparsely attended. I'm not sure what all the other people whose cars crowded the lot were seeing. Possibly The Deep End, or An American Rhapsody. Maybe Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Wherever they were sitting, I hope they were more comfortable than we were. I don't know whose idea it was to have soft theater seats that you sink so low into that you almost can't see over the row in front of you — even if no one's sitting there! And these seats rock. Not as in "these seats rock, dude!" I mean every time someone took a bite of a Bit O' Honey, the whole row shook like a 3.2 temblor. (Simile exaggerated for dramatic effect.)

One thing I do like about the Rialto is that there are no ads on the screen before the movie starts, and none of that awful canned music. The screen is blank, and the music is chosen especially to set the mood. In this case, it was Jill Sobule's first album, which was very cool.

I don't know anything about comic books, or graphic novels. I bought comics when I was a kid, but all I did was read them and pass them on to my best friend. Come to think of it, I don't think they ever flowed the other direction. Anyway, I didn't collect them. I loved all the Superman comics and even wrote a fan letter when I was about ten. But I lost interest over the years, and I came to this movie without the background to know what to expect of a film based on a novel-length comic book.

The visual aspect of the movie, both in the set decoration and in the artistic creations of the characters themselves, was impressive. I should have expected that. But the music used to flesh out the character's lives was equally diverse. It almost seemed even more eclectic than my own music collection, although I never thought that possible. Steve Buscemi's character collects rare old records, and we get to hear Delta blues, Dixieland, ragtime, and "Jaan Pehechaan Ho," by Mohammed Rafi. I think I must have this soundtrack.

As amazing as Thora Birch was in American Beauty, she's even better as Enid in Ghost World. She's so good, in fact, that at times I felt eighteen again myself. The alienation from the society she's being thrust into after graduation is palpable, but that's a pretty standard theme. When you can look into a character's face and see the conflicts within her as she tries to find her place in the world, that's real art. She's such a vivid character in her own life, and yet she's often overlooked or even dismissed by the people around her.

Trying to fit in while maintaining individuality is the flimsy wire we all walk as we face the world, and not only when we're young. It's just that the possibilities can seem so overwhelming that you don't want to make a mistake, and take the wrong path. And yet, as the lucky ones eventually discover, even a dead end has a way out, if you're willing to look hard enough for it.

It's funny that I think of going to a movie as a more productive use of my time than sticking around the house (as usual), working on spreadsheets or pulling up weeds. All I did was sit in the dark for two hours gaping at the colorful images on the screen. I do a lot of that at home, only the screen is smaller and I can hit the pause button whenever I feel like it, and yet I don't think of that as productive.

I guess going to a movie isn't productive after all, just different. And in a sense, doing anything outside the ordinary is a beneficial variation in routine. It's so much easier to sit at home and watch the movies TiVo has picked out for me, one after another, than to make the effort to change the pattern. In that sense, I guess, even going to McDonald's would serve the purpose (although in a less satisfying way).

taken a week and a half ago

Looking across my back yard in late August 2001.

After the movie, we wandered around town looking for a place to eat. The first place we decided on was closed, so we wandered a little more until we found ourselves at the Wild Hare Tavern. It's the kind of place I hung out in when I was in college, with pool tables and a jukebox. The difference: no pinball (there was some kind of arcade game that wasn't getting any action, and I didn't bother to inspect it to see if it was Pong. If it wasn't Pong, then it was post-college era, as far as I'm concerned.)

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