Secret Pop

Aug 28, 2005

HBO Phones It In

HBO's original series are so reliably popular that the network doesn't really have to do much to support them. Not all of them catch like wildfire, but none of them seem to crash and burn. (Wait. What ever happened to K Street?) I've been watching my stories as much as I can recently. Mostly just Six Feet Under. And now that's over, so I can feel free to take a trip or use the phone again. Anyway, I've been seeing the promos for Rome, and I keep hearing this line in the voiceover: "The sexiest ancient world yet seen on TV." And this amuses me. As I think it is commonly accepted that very little of the ancient world can be considered sexy unless you can get past abhorrent dental hygiene, sporadic bathing, and constantly dirty feet. I mean, maybe you think Genghis Khan would be a sexy character to make a show about, because he was a leader and vicious and largely successful, but the Mongols NEVER bathed. They wore their clothes until they literally rotted off their bodies. (Note: If HBO makes an original series about the Mongols, I'm suing.) And think of the ladies of the past. When did hair removal even become popular?

I've always fantasized about time travel, and I'm certain that I'd get a kick out of seeing the world of my forefathers, but comfort is tricky for me, and I can't imagine I'd have a lick of fun if I didn't have my travel case along.

I just think television marketing can be lazy at times. And I hope that the "sexy" aspect of ancient Rome isn't the only thing that intrigues people about what went on back then. I hope the History Channel doesn't start having to try and make the past seem sexier just to meet its numbers. I don't know that there's much you can do to gussy up abject poverty and rampant disease. Although a lot of folks were very thin.

For the record, wilderness survival is also not sexy.

I went to see that amazing Tim Hawkinson exhibit at LACMA yesterday. I feel guilty even mentioning it, as it closes today, and if you haven't already seen it, you probably won't get to. And oh the things you missed in your apathy and inaction. It was amazing. Curious and breathtaking and strangely pragmatic and then thoroughly inspired. I didn't get everything. Even though I couldn't help but overhear a guy -- unasked -- explaining to a kid and his mother, "It's about colonialization in the time of the tall ships." He credentialed himself in this manner: "I know a lot about Tim Hawkinson. I'm a high school teacher." I try not to be guilty of this myself. I try not to accidentally eavesdrop and find that someone wants to know something I can tell them. I try to wait to be invited into the conversation. But some people can't help themselves. And I judge them. And then I judge myself for being so judgmental. Because I label things so easily as despair or greed or an unjustified try.

I had had me a customer service jack before I got to see the show. When I went to pick up a ticket for me and my friend, I found that my LACMA membership needed renewing, so I asked the man at the Members counter if I could just go ahead and renew right now. And typically, people wanting to give them money makes the staff at the museum perk right up. I've been contributing at the Patron level since I moved here in 2001. And I always assumed they appreciated that. But this guy tried to send me over to a membership table they had set up in the brutal hot sun a short distance away. I asked if I could just take care of it with him, and he said, "Not with these lines." And I turned and looked behind me to find not a single person standing there. No one. Those stretchy cordons defined a nice empty corridor. "There's no one in line at all." He said, already testy, "Ma'am, it really would be easier if you went over there." I smiled and replied, "Not for me." He just looked at me, frustrated and stone-faced. I turned and gestured toward the absence of a line. "There's NO ONE here." He didn't look at me as he got a membership form from the rack and began to mark it up. "$75 dollars please." "I usually contribute at the Patron level." "Okay." Then he took my credit card and charged me and gave me my two passes and sent me on my way without making eye contact with me again. He didn't give me my temporary membership card, and he didn't thank me. And I really find that hard to believe. Another museum employee came and asked him a question as he was "helping" me, and he acted all flustered and passive aggressive. He shrugged and muttered something about not having time. And, of course, once I stepped away from the counter, no one stepped up to it. And I'm sure he found that infuriating.

But that didn't really ruin anything for me. The exhibit was more than enough distraction to push that guy into my memory's recesses. And afterwards, we visited the permanent collection (I always do). They're rearranging the museum a great deal, and I'm not fond of change. A lot of my lovely LACMA lawn has been paved over. They're building on it. I'm sure it will be something great. But there's far less picnic spot. And that's a shame. Even within the galleries, many things aren't where they used to be. It happens when visiting exhibits require things to be shuffled around. I was afraid I wouldn't get to see my Rothko. But it was there. Just not in the same spot. And not shown in the same light. And what a difference that makes. We also visited the André Kertész photographs and the Jacob van Ruisdael landscapes. The Kertész exhibit made me want to go out and take pictures. In a city with some history. And possibly from somewhere up high. I loved his self-portraiture. I take comfort in seeing that I'm not the only person in the world who thinks there is value in photographing one's own shadow or one's own reflection. Mostly, I just missed taking pictures in black and white and seeing them appear magically in a darkroom bath. I have to get my Canon A-1 fixed. Still. The spool busted outside a roadside store somewhere in Arizona. Shortly before I tasted ostrich jerky for the first time. It was disgusting. But probably mostly because it was so old. Last year, I bought someone else's Canon A-1 and took it with me to Coachella and snapped hundreds of photos with it. But the light meter on that needs fixing, too. A trip to Samy's is in order.

"I put him at that time in front of an ultimatum," is how Anne Douglas describes the way she confronted Kirk Douglas about one of his infidelities. Everyone in the world should be French. I love the poetry of translation.

I don't love that this embarrassingly personal piece about the Douglas family is on HBO's roster. It makes me feel bad for them. And it also made me look at a photograph of Dalton Trumbo sitting in a bathtub writing. How dare it.

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