Tiny Furniture (2010)



Lena Dunham’s the writer, director and star of Tiny Furniture, a drama/comedy that had a tiny budget of less than $70, 000.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Tiny Furniture, being more familiar with the work of Dunham’s artist mother Laurie Simmons, but what I found was a gritty self-portrait. Aura (Lena Dunham) inhabits a strange directionless place, the movie plot mirrors this directionless feel that in turn mirrors a directionless time in Aura’s life.

What I liked most about this movie was Aura, as vague as she is, because Aura is average looking, however, you won’t find her on the ‘Clapham Omnibus’ – she clearly comes from a wealthy family with a loft in Tribeca. Aura isn’t vain, she’s not a Hollywood size 0 and rather than portray perfect young love, cool kids and easy social interactions Dunham paints a realistic portrayal of a time that struck a nerve and turned a light on hazy memories labelled ‘my 20’s’.

The film’s title in part refers to Dunham’s mother and her career photographing dolls and doll house furniture. The name Aura and the way in which this movie skirts the edges of Dunham’s real life has me wondering about auras, reproductions and Walter Benjamin.

Tiny Furniture tells the story of Aura, recently graduated from film school at an Ohio college. She’s suffered a relationship breakup and returns home to live with her Mother (Laurie Simmons) and sister Nadine (Grace Dunham) with one piece of work from film school, a video of herself in a bikini.

Aura’s sister Nadine, (Grace Dunham), about to graduate high school is more successful than Aura – she brings an element of sibling rivalry. At a party Aura runs into childhood friend, Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), who helps Aura find a job as a hostess at a local restaurant. At the same party she meets Jed (Alex Karpovsky), a You Tuber who rides a toy horse while quoting Nietzsche. Aura waits for her best friend from college due to arrive in a couple of weeks, as they have plans to rent an apartment together.



While her mother and sister are away visiting prospective colleges Aura invites Jed to stay for a week, and on her mother’s return she fights with Jed, her mother, her sister and her best friend from college. She gets high and has unprotected sex with a junior chef (David Call). And it’s here at the sex scene that I struggled, because I found the scene both unexpected and jarring.

Not only for people of Aura’s age this movie’s for people like me – a forty something who imagines their 20’s were actually carefree. Tiny Furniture serves as a reminder for the forty something with late teen to adult children who might be experiencing the transition into adulthood. If you’re looking for a feel good coming of age movie with a ‘breakfast club’ this isn’t it – Tiny Furniture won’t be to everyone’s liking.


Image – tiny furniture | Culture Blues. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cultureblues.com/2012/01/the-instant-movie-club-tiny-furniture/tiny-furniture/12.7.17

Watch It: ‘Tiny Furniture’ & ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ – hard.in.the.city. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://hardinthecity.com/2012/05/31/watch-it-tiny-furniture-bill-cunningham-new-york/12.7.17






I wait for you and while away the days – A Villanelle


I wait for you, and while away the days

I shake my coat and reset time again

I sense your irritation at my gaze


We lost each other in that strange malaise

I feel your absence like an open chain

I wait for you, and while away the days


So many sad excuses and delays

There you stood unravelling your lament

I sense your irritation at my gaze


Tonight’s dark presence obscures your distaste

I look up to see motes of dust ascend

I wait for you, and while away the days


Midway on our journey I found a trace

White noise obliterates your discontent

I sense your irritation at my gaze


My cold skin is blemished with hope and praise

Today I will be melting in the rain

I wait for you, and while away the days

I sense your irritation at my gaze



Catherine Russ







Deutschland 83

Last night I watched the last programme in the Deutschland 83 series – a gripping German spy thriller. Rich in detail and intrigue I can hardly wait for the next series. Set in the Cold War era Deutschland 83 opens with Lenora (Maria Schrader) a seasoned handler of East German spies in her Bonn office as she watches Ronald Regan on television. Lenora is one of the many highlights of Deutschland 83. A strong, powerful woman who dresses impeccably and don’t get me started on her green telephones.



The main character in Deutschland 83 is her nephew Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay), a 24 year old East German military officer. Lenora recruits Rauch to work undercover in the West as an aide-de-camp for West German General Wolfgang Edel (Ulrich Noethen). There’s a culture shock for Rauch when he wakes up in the West after drinking a cup of tea laced with sedatives. The viewer sympathises with Rauch as we follow him through the series.


Jonas Nay as Martin in Martin Deutschland 83.


Deutschland 83 was created by Anna and Joerg Winger and written by Anna Winger. It’s subtitled and it’s brilliant.

Here’s a link to an interview with Anna Winger. 


And finally the soundtrack – love it!!!





smoke and mirrors – a deustchland 83 blog — mariberlyn: Lenora Rauch (Marie Schrader) in… (n.d.). Retrieved from https://rauch-nicht.tumblr.com/post/133489865856/mariberlyn-lenora-rauch-marie-schrader-in

Deutschland 83: ‘A lot of people were happy in East Germany’ | Television & radio | The Guardian. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/jan/03/channel-4-cold-war-drama-deutschland-83#img-1


A Villanelle is a verse form of French origin consisting of 19 lines arranged in five tercets and a quatrain. The first and third lines of the first tercet recur alternately at the end of each subsequent tercet and both together at the end of the quatrain.

Within the rigid structure of the Villanelle is a sense of the ancient and a wisdom as if these words might have existed in the far reaches of our time and the poet has called upon words – an incantation with repetition that keeps you in the moment.

Here are some ideas if you want to tackle a Villanelle.





And some Villanelle.

I enjoyed listening to M. Mark discussion on Elizabeth Bishop and the ‘typography of silence’ before she reads ‘One Art.



Cornelia Parker

English born Cornelia Parker (1956) is a practitioner who works primarily in sculpture and installation. Drawing on her wide-ranging interests Parker’s work explores and questions human existence and our relationship to the world. To examine existence Parker utilises materials as “both medium and tool…”.[1]

Cornelia Parker


Parker engages in a destructive unmaking and remaking as she explores the potential of an object that she may subject to a violent transformative process –  explosions, being shot, squashed or stretched.

Parker’s process renders the ordinary with new possibility and meaning for the viewer. The transformative process applies a consciousness to familiar objects and in doing so rejuvenates or alters its meaning. Gaston Bachelard considers this idea in The Poetics of Space.


Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991 by Cornelia Parker born 1956

Parker, C. (1991). Cornelia Parker, ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’ 1991 Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. Retrieved from http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/cornelia-parker-2358



In 2016 Cornelia Parker curated a group exhibition at The Foundling Museum with more than 60 artists, writers and composers who responded to the word ‘found’.

The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury, central London, ‘tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, established by merchant seaman Thomas Coram in 1739 to give a home to London’s poorest children – an act of finding those who had been lost. In the 18th century, the parents of the children who left them there were asked to deposit a token so that they could identify them later, in case they were ever in a position to take them home.’




[1]     Parker, Cornelia, Iwona Blazwick, Yōko Ono, and Bruce W. Ferguson. Cornelia Parker. New York, N.Y.: Thames & Hudson, Inc, 2013, 11.

[2] Miller, Juliet. The Creative Feminine and Her Discontents: Psychotherapy, Art, and Destruction. London: Karnac Books, 2008, 124.

Found art: Cornelia Parker and Jarvis Cocker share their spoils | Art and design | The Guardian. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/may/25/found-art-cornelia-parker-and-jarvis-cocker-share-their-spoils


The Things That Make Us — Cornelia Parker. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.thethingsthatmakeus.com/podcast/2016/7/6/cornelia-parker

Surrealism and Free Writing

Surrealists were influenced by psychoanalysts like Sigmund Freud as a way to stimulate the creative process.




André Breton was born on February 18, 1896, in Tinchebray, France. In 1920’s Paris he was one of the founders of the Surrealist movement. He penned a manifesto encouraging free expression and the release of the subconscious mind.




It was ‘Andre Breton, leader of a new grouping of poets and artists in Paris, who, in his Surrealist Manifesto (1924), defined surrealism as:

pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.’[1]

Here’s a short video on Surrealism…



And here’s some free writing inspired by the Surrealists and the word ‘radio’.



Grandad had a radio. It sat in his shed so he could listen to the horse racing. Margaret named the shed Casablanca. She’d painted the name on a piece of wood that hung above the doorway. If I had a shed I think I might call it Casablanca too. In the Summer Grandad sat smoking a cigarette in his deck chair. We were allowed to blow out the matches. The races would drone in the background. Early autumn they started getting ready for duck shooting season. Duck decoys and planning for the maimai at Lake Ellesmere. In May they sat in chairs outside the shed plucking ducks. Feathers floated all over the back yard and into the shed.





[1] Surrealism – Art Term | Tate. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/s/surrealism

Image of Freud – formation psychanalyste, Bordeaux Poitiers Limoges Toulouse. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.formation-psychanalyste.fr/

Image of Breton – Andre Breton. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.surrealists.co.uk/breton.php

Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Life of Ma Parker’

Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp was born in Wellington, New Zealand on 14 October 1888. At school one of her teachers described her as ‘a surly sort of girl’ who was ‘imaginative to the point of untruth’.[1]

Mansfield left New Zealand aged 19 to write in England.






Mansfield is described as having ‘revolutionised the 20th Century English short story.

‘Her best work shakes itself free of plots and endings and gives the story, for the first time, the expansiveness of the interior life, the poetry of feeling, the blurred edges of personality.’ [2]

She died at the age of 34 after spending her last five years with tuberculosis.

‘Life of Ma Parker’ (1921) considers themes of death, loss, social dislocation, class barriers, the role of the female and poverty.

The story considers a few hours in the life of an older woman who works as a cleaner for a gentleman living on his own. Ma Parker has suffered a terrible loss – the death of her beloved grandson Lennie, and as her thoughts turn to Lennie the enormity of her own tragic life unfolds through a series of flashbacks and Ma Parker is overcome.





Mansfield establishes character and class division in the first few paragraphs. She does this in two ways. Firstly, the clumsy way the literary gentleman enquires after Lennie’s funeral, and while the reader might see this as an awkward social interaction Mansfield clarifies the literary gentleman’s character through his thoughts:

‘You simply dirty everything you’ve got, get a hag in once a week to clean up, and the thing’s done.’

And further when he alludes to the disappearance of a teaspoon of cocoa:

‘Very strange. I could have sworn I left a teaspoonful of cocoa in the tin… You’ll always tell me when you throw things away – won’t you, Mrs Parker?’

Ma Parker’s character is developed by her thoughts and humble approach to the literary gentleman:

‘the floor was littered with toast crusts, envelopes, cigarette ends. But Ma Parker bore him no grudge. She pitied the poor young gentleman for having no one to look after him.’

Mansfield uses metaphor and simile in her writing:

‘sad-looking sky, and whenever there were clouds they looked very worn, old clouds, frayed at the edges, with holes in them, or dark stains like tea.’

‘There was a great lump of something bubbling in his chest that he couldn’t get rid of… his eyes bulged, his hands waved, and the great lump bubbled as a potato knocks in a saucepan.’

Towards the end of ‘Life of Ma Parker’ Mansfield describes what Ma Parker sees on the street:

‘The men walked like scissors; the women trod like cats’

While the story is focussed on Ma Parker it is when Mansfield describes (with incredible insight), the men and women in the street, that the context is broadened and the rest of society is drawn into the story.

Here’s a link to the short story –





[1] Mansfield, Katherine – Biography – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3m42/mansfield-katherine

[2] NZEDGE Legends — Katherine Mansfield, Writer — Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nzedge.com/legends/katherine-mansfield/

Image – Unknown Mansfield stories found | Stuff.co.nz. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/books/7332071/Unknown-Mansfield-stories-found