1. DAMON ALBARN
+ THE OLYMPICS
DAMON ALBARN MIGHT DIRECT THE OPENING CEREMONIES OF THE 2012 OLYMPICS.
I can think of no one on this planet better qualified to curate the opening ceremonies of THE MOST BALLER EVENT IN THE WHOLE WORLD than Damon Albarn — world music afficianado, frontman of one of the best and most nationalistic bands the host country has spawned in the past few decades (no, actually not talking about Gorillaz) and, most crucially, one of my biggest celebrity crushes of all time. Olympic Committee, if you have even the slightest doubt that Damon is the perfect man for this job, I ask you to envision Graham Coxon ripping through an unbelievably gnarly solo while a man of ambiguous ethnicity wearing a track suit of ambivalent national colors pole vaults 40 stories overtop the Olympic the stadium and soars through a giant ring of ambivalently-hued fireworks, while, on the vibrant Astroturf below him, all the athletes of the world hold hands and sing the gospel choir part in the chorus of “Tender;” HOLY SHIT, I have goosebumps.
This news is exciting to me on a very personal level, since the only thing in my life more enduring than my crush on Damon Albarn has been my wholehearted, so-intense-it’s-sort-of-frightening-to-those-around-me love for the Olympics. I think it began during the 1992 winter games; I was six years old. Smack in the middle of my short-lived stint as an aspiring figure skater, I didn’t just watch every televised minute of skating as it aired, but I also taped each event so I could later sort through a meticulously labeled library of “1992 Olympic Figure Skating” VHS tapes and relive the magic Kristi Yamaguchi’s exhibition routine over and over again. Around this time, and much to the dismay of my parents, I developed a strange and forceful affinity for Tonya Harding. Though I remained innocently unaware of the later Kneecap Thwack Heard ‘Round the World thing and, in retrospect, I realize this affinity arose solely out of an admiration of her outfits, I’ve since come to regard my pre-teen Tonya Harding obsession as a sort of character-defining moment in my young and increasingly unladylike life.
Last year, circumstances aligned in a way that allowed me ample time to rekindle my love for the ‘Games: they happen to span the two weeks after my summer job had ended and before the semester began. So basically, for two glorious weeks I had little else to do than sit back and watch the Olympics. And watch them I did. It began rather casually, and then I was suddenly sucked in with a fervor I hadn’t experienced since 1992; I began to cancel plans on the nights that gymnastic events were to be televised in prime time (which, as Olympic watchers know, amounts to roughly twelve of the fourteen nights of network coverage). Before long, I was completely entwined in all the drama. I got so worked up about China blatantly trying to bend the rules about age qualifications that I could barely sleep at night. I woke sleeping family members with a bloodcurdling shriek when Alicia Sacramone fell in the team competition. And, when Nastia Lukin won her much deserved gold medal, I cried tears of wet, hot, American joy. Like the fabled 1980 hockey team’s victory, that all-around medal represented a golden moment when America did what it does best — grabs the quill pen of justice and tags MISSION ACCOMPLISHED all over the face of anybody who steps to us. Did my mascara run that night? Indeed. But if you think that means these colors do too, get real.
So, if you’re trying to make plans to hang out with me in 2012, you’d better forget it. I plan on spending the better part of the calendar year sitting outside the Olympic stadium in a fold-out chair, getting prematurely pumped for this particular collision of awesome things that I love by encouraging passersby to join me in chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” and blasting Parklife out of my camper’s soundsystem. And even if I don’t snag a coveteted ticket to a gymnastic event, the games will not be without a silver lining, for we can all be absolutely certain that Oasis will not be performing at the 2012 Olympics.
2. JOHN KEATS
+ JANE CAMPION
BRIGHT STAR FINALLY RELEASED IN DC THIS WEEK.
When I heard that Jane Campion was directing a biopic about John Keats, I thought that a very tiny elf had crawled into my ear while I was sleeping and stolen the premise of my wildest, nerdiest dreams, or at the very least, that he had hacked into my laptop and read all of the term papers I’d written for school in the past year. After a semester during which I concurrently took a Romantic Poetry course and completed an independent study on female directors, Campion and Keats had emerged as my latest academic superstars. Both were so inspiring to me because they were critically misunderstood. Keats, the unpretentious “Cockney” poet who critics called “effeminiate;” Campion the rare auteur who dared to make bold, uncompromising films about women’s issues. I gobbled up everything I could find on both of them. I fell in love with Campion’s early shorts and found endless insight in Keats’s letters. I was spellbound by Sweetie; “Ode to a Nightengale” was my jam. So, as you can imagine, when I stumbled upon the in-production IMDB page for Bright Star, I nearly fell out of my chair.
I saw the film yesterday afternoon, and it surpassed even my impossibly high expectations. It’s stunning — undoubtedly one of Campion’s best. Visually, Bright Star is absolute bliss; nearly every frame is gilded with sumptuous flowers, fluttering curtains and other things of beauty. But Campion’s most impressive feat is how deftly she sidesteps every one of the modern biopics’s empty truisms. She never succumbs to cliche, and she doesn’t even do it the honor of subversion or parody. She simply proceeds blithely forth, and — as she did with the wonderful Janet Frame ‘biopic’ An Angel At My Table nearly twenty years ago — transcends convention to create a stirring, imaginative, and brilliantly focused film. The emphasis of Bright Star is not on Keats the figurehead, the marble bust, the Poet, but on a single writer’s personal interpretation of Keats’s love affair with Fanny Brawne. And by filtering out all the unnecessaries (the trite, psychologically explanatory childhood sequences, the constant hammering home of how important an artist Keats was to become, the unbelievable temptation to cast, like, Stanley Tucci or Jack Black in a comedic supporting role as an opium-smoking Coleridge — in short, the stuff Hollywood biopics are made of) — Campion creates one of the most unique, intimate and deeply felt representations of love I’ve seen on film in a long time.
Since Bright Star was such a delight, I can’t help but wonder what kind of collabo I can expect the next time my filmic and literary heroes bump heads. Are you going to tell me that Lars Von Trier working on a disturbing-on-purpose conceptual piece about Virginia Woolf? Are you going to tell me that Ricky Gervais has, at the last minute, overwritten John Krasinski’s directorial credit on the forthcoming and sort of terrible-looking Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, and, while he was at it, made everyone involved with the U.S. version of The Office issue a formal public apology? Universe, if you’re reading this: please.
+ HAPPY HOUR
Z-BURGER MILKSHAKE HAPPY HOUR.
As I learned recently while accompanying an out-of-town friend on a Monday afternoon trek through Dupont Circle, happy hours rarely start at 2. A select few of them do start at 3, but, something about arriving promptly to a happy hour feels sort of shameful. As if to say, “Hey, I was going to drink a beer about half an hour ago, at an equally sort of unseasonable time in the afternoon, but I figured I’d wait around a couple of minutes and kill some time until it’d be a few dollars cheaper, and also I don’t have a job.” Not exactly a feeling you feel like toasting . A fact that I have done my fair share of field work in proving, though, is that there is no such thing as a shameful time to drink a milkshake.
So kudos to ZBurger — Tenleytown’s answer to Five Guys, if Five Guys boasted 50 different flavors of milkshakes — for creating a happy hour that I feel no shame about arriving promptly to: Milkshake Happy Hour. That’s right, every Monday from 3-6pm, Z-Burger sells milkshakes for the decidedly guilt-free cost of $0.99.
And further kudos to ZBurger for recently offering its customers free WiFi. Because when you’re unemployed and have not yet sprung for an internet connection in your apartment, Milkshake Happy Hour is reason enough to hop a bus to the old neighborhood, laptop in tow. Because sometimes a girl just needs a quiet place where she can apply for some government jobs that she’s tantalizingly close to being qualified for (though not quite, the required department-specific questionaire gently reminds her) while sipping on a Banana Oreo milkshake that’s so delicious that it momentarily masks all of her earthly troubles. But sometimes a girl has trouble coming up with more synonyms for “managed” and “organized” when a minor Counting Crows hit playing from above has been cranked up loud enough to drown out her every thought. And then the 3:30 wave of noisy, high school hooligans (girl can’t believe she just said hooligans, worries she’s already past the yuppie stage and into full curmudgeon territory) isn’t helping her concentrate either. So sometimes, against all better judgment and for reasons that later feel very flimsy, a girl ends up back on the very WiFi friendly campus of her alma mater, updating her resume in a quiet, unspecified location and ducking behind vending machines every time she spies someone who sort of looks like her Career Center adviser from behind.
I will close, and cleanse your mind of this sad (but completely true) scene by asking you a question that I have given academic levels of consideration during my continued unemployment: Is there anyone in the history of time cuter than Damon Albarn circa 1994?
(The only acceptable, if not correct, answer would have been, “Graham Coxon,” as evidenced below. )