Friday, November 03, 2006

around and in between

There are people around me, floating like clouds except under the water, and they are interested in some specific things.

It´s getting cold outside and Anna wants a hamburger.

On a cold day, a lonely day when you´re listening to a borrowed bossanova disc waiting for your friends to wake up, thinking of Michael Jordan helps your poetry apparatus make sense.

That is what happens to incredible thoughts when they are cut short by hamburgers.

Monday, October 23, 2006

More Touch

I´d like to thank the 230 visitors I´ve had in the last few months. I really appreciate having you guys check my blog, even though I´m not able to post my thoughts as often as I´d like to.

My last post proved to be a popular post, and although it is a major deviation from the “film” blog, I´m okay with that and am going to try to roll with the punches here.

Right now, I´d like to revise my last post to make these ideas a little bit clearer.

As humans we are guilty of making our own world pathetic. Wars, famine, & discrimination happen routinely, as well as genocide. It can be debated whether or not we, as a society, can actually make decisions at all. I think the answer is obvious: regardless of the decisions we think we make, we are really not making decisions as a people.

Our biological situation is such that we can´t feel what others feel. Very rarely do two people connect, and when they do connect, it is usually only for a short time. We spend most of our time reasoning out our own situations, rather than imagining the situation of another. We are dangerously unaware of tragedy, and while each man is well equipped to avoid danger, our society is absolutely blind. Only imagination can help us to become someone else, to connect with another person or people.

But even imagination has limits, even when left free, and our world has been so thoroughly dominated by reason and calculation that we very seldom have time to try and imagine the situation of another person.

Our unawareness and inability to feel as another does is the primary, THE PRIMARY cause of our wickedness and instability. The answer, by the way, is not “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” because this simply isn´t big enough anymore. In this global world, we have to love our fellow planetary citizens as we love ourselves, and unfortunately for the human heart, proaction is not a requisite for love. A person can “love” an imaginary person suffering in Somalia, but he will rarely be compelled to action.

The solution, therefore, is to CONNECT. If it were possible that a man was a soldier on each of the opposing forces, would he be able to fire his gun?

What I´d like to know, and maybe this is religious but it´s meant to be and that´s okay (Ginsberg), is what would happen if a person spent an hour every day imagining in silence the life of another person (also imaginary) on another continent, in a different place, with a very different life. If he could imagine, with some help (a description of the country, of the life, of their sufferings), and some practice, well enough to bridge this gap, well enough to stop firing the gun?

Biologically, we have no tools to do this, and may in fact be a doomed civilization as a result. The only thing we can do is imagine and try.

I think the worst thing about this mess we´ve got is that our society has actually built rules that prevent us from connecting. We don´t touch, and connections are methodically eliminated by the choices we never made.

The writer in me is trying to figure out where his hope comes from, because my mind is telling me that there is no hope, and that all we can do is celebrate what is worth celebrating as the sun sets on human existence. Making this hope tangible requires the defeat of Leviathan, and to defeat Leviathan, somebody will have to fly, for real.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Touch

Connection.

I am extremely concerned with a pattern I´ve noticed in contemporary film, some books, and retrospectively in poetry, which is always ahead of everything else.

If you read my Huckabees post, you´ll hear me talking about the lack of a man-man connection, that is to say that we are islands etc. It´s been expressed in any number of forms, be it sociology, philosophy, poetry, or music. But it´s different now, and I don´t know if my duende style is going to cut it right now. I don´t even know if my book is going to cut it, because my task is enormous (you can´t know this task. Let´s just say I´m taking on Leviathan).

Man is biologically strapped to any number of horrible desires, but the biological feature of man that is most potent is simply the construction of his mind. If we could briefly imagine as many forms that a mind might take in alternative worlds, we can see more clearly our own minds. A mind could be shared. A mind could be telepathic. A sentient being could feel anothers feelings.

Although it is often the social organism that ultimately nourishes his body, man can barely fathom his own participation in this construct. We can look at this in a variety of ways, from sociological points of view to more avant garde ideas like Actor Network Theory, which states that every man is an agent, and every agent whether human or non-human is simply reacting to one another. I don´t buy into this, because I´ve recently seen an incredible contemporary dance and I can see that man is not an agent. The key here is that the social organism is not concrete in the sense that man can feel what another feels, or that a man has a social consciousness. There are social interactions, and these have all been well explored, but these interactions and combinations are largely creations of the mind, as memes pass from brain to brain etc. Although various social constructs have necessary commonalities, the variety we see through the ages tells us that the mind, the individual mind, decides on a one-by-one basis the shape and form of our world.

The problem is that our choices have been off-key for as long as know our own history. It is sad that we barely know our own history, and it´s sad that of the billions of people that have already died since we started swaggering out of the jungle are completely forgotten, though celebrated.

Then came the machine. Systems. What Mumford and Ellul called "technique" or "tecnics." And now we are faced with terrible times. Our technology has allowed for larger populations, and any economic downscaling we might do (if it happened to solve a problem, which we are incapable of doing anyway) is rendered impossible by the number of dead, starved people we would have. Although anything is possible, our ability to construct a social organism capable of equality across ridiculous political borders is not to be trusted. We´ve got destructive bombs, bad religions, and we are actively seeking (the US, here) someone to start a new arms race. Oh god, we´ve gotten ourselves into a pickle.

And where is this going? The point is that artists are desperately trying to make a connection with you. They are trying to bridge this gap, and they are throwing aside better art, better narrative techniques, other ideas, all the alternatives to simply touch you. Few artists are commenting about this movement to connect with the audience on new levels, and I hope I´m the first to really notice this movement. It is widescale, and it is everywhere. Especially in film.

I think the act of trying to make a connection is in itself the most important feature of this. If the artist actually makes the connection, what would they tell you? Would they tell you the secret of life? Would they give you the formula for eternal life?

I think, if we interpret this (screw stanley fish)(and maybe the duende of these artists defies self-interpretation) correctly, it is to say that artists are sensing that it is the gap between us that needs to be bridged in order to, essentially, save the world.

The gap has always been there, but I don´t think it was identified as the primary reason for our fuck ups until recently. To prove that this has not been an entirely universal feature of poetry, if you look towards the higher romantics (shelley, keats, wordsworth, coleridge, blake, byron), they aren´t going out of their way to connect with you. They are going out of their way to connect with Albion, eternal man, inspiration-wind-nature, but they aren´t defying their own narrative impulses to get to you. They are, in fact, celebrating individuality and imagination (I think that imagination is about the only way we can really connect).

Unfortunately, I don´t have time to make a complete excavation of modern cinema, art, dance, music, or books, but if you watch for this, just watch what artists are doing to connect with you. In cinema, a recent example of this is lady of the lake - the entire film is constructed to reach out and touch a specifically American audience - the consequences of not touching are exactly as I have pointed out - and you can see that the director is really, really trying to connect (although stiffly, almost academically).

Now, I think it´s quite obvious that our lack of connection is really at the center of this debacle. The fact that there are people starving in Africa, being slaughtered in a variety of places across the earth tell you that we are incapable of connecting to each other. Now, if you were yourself and a starving African at the same time, would you be starving? If you could feel it everytime somebody died of starvation, or died as blood was spurting from ruptured artery and dripping from the pieces of shrapnel lodged in your abdominal cavity, would we have a war?

The effect of a lack of connection is really like those new beds you can see advertised where the person on the left can jump up and down but the person on the right can´t feel a thing, and is able to sleep while you try to pull the knife from your belly.

I´m not going to start conjuring up solutions here. I try to connect with people, and sometimes there is some magic and sometimes there isn´t. I´m not sure what a person should do when they find a piece of magic. I think we ought to touch more, and then when people notice each other, when someone gaits into your life and your auras are having conversations and you are connecting (man is not completely biological), you should touch.

Good god, we should be touching! I don´t know what else we can do but try to touch each other. If we just started touching.

I´m not sure what the hell I´m doing. I´ve got some duende, I´ve got something special and people have been simultaneously telling me that I´ve got something special and that I´m not living up to my potential for a long time now, and I´ve recognized this pattern, and I am in the know. I´m trying to get to this with my story, but my story isn´t really getting where it should be getting. Maybe I need to write non-fiction?

I´ll tell you, I want to pick you up, whoever you are, and take you with me. I want to show you the source of my powers, take you into my spirit and show you why it is that you need to start touching people. I want to show you how it is that I am able to touch people. I want to show you how it is that I encompass everything, that I am a bird watcher, a prostitute, an office man, a boss, a tattoo artist, a poet, a universe, and that inside of you there is the whole world. But I´m not Walt Whitman.

And so I put my head down, look into my lap, and wish you luck.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I Love (Heart) Huckabees


I Love Huckabees

I´ve seen this film a couple of different times, and all I can say is wow. What a way to say that we are really just stuck in middle of a lot of shit. I´m glad that I could see it with you.

After watching Huckabees, while walking downtown, you said that you forgot to call your dad for his birthday. Well, I said, we are surrounded by infinity on all sides, man, I think he´ll be okay if you call him tomorrow. How huckabees is that?

Maybe not all that huckabees. Maybe really huckabees? It is hard to make heads or tails of existentialism. It is hard to make heads or tails of anything. And so this is more or less the state of mind of our humble main character as he starts the film. Shit just doesn´t make any sense anymore.

Well, that´s what happens these days, really. I´m serious now, and you probably know this already, but I really think that the world we know has been going to shit for a very long time, perhaps since Walt Whitman walked the earth with his mortal bare feet. I think that the world will continue to go to shit until it has positively gone to shit. That doesn´t mean we can´t take our shoes off. In fact, the only way to save the world, right now, is for everyone to take their shoes off and get in it. The barefoot connection that would save the world - oh, we are all desperate for a connection, aren´t we? Well, that is why we have barefeet - to make that connection.

And I think that any intellect that is following worldwide developments with a very close and careful eye will see the erosion of our democracies, the erosion of any misplaced values we might have had. I think that any careful eye will see that this will continue until the world has gone to shit.

So it´s like looking down a barrel of a gun and seeing yourself at the other end. You are not waving but drowning.

And that is not entirely just existentialism, but then again everything is existentialism these days, goddamn. But it isn´t practical existentialism. Practical existentialism is people without a God understanding their temporary nature here on earth. Huckabees existentialism is more about a sense of responsibility within our condition. If you are reduced to your actual size, and if you are the choices you make, as Jean Paul Satre says, in a Huckabees world you are doing a real bang-up job. We do not have a purpose without a god, yes we know that. But without that god, says huckabees, we are entirely incapable of making decisions that would have beneficial impacts to our society. We are culpable.

And we´ve got barefeet. Everything might be connected - everything might not be connected, this is the cover story of Huckabees. This is the debate between the dueling existential detectives, but this is the cover story. The real story? Why are we having this conversation and asking these questions in the first place. That is oil, that is Iraq, that is hunger, starvation, rape, aids, people without water, food, clothing, love, or shelter, and Mark Wahlberg isn´t crazy. This is where these questions are starting. It isn´t about a god anymore or lack of purpose. It is about making that connection, bridging the existential gap that seperates man from man so we can see, perceive each other clearly and make decisions that work on a human level. Please let´s take off our shoes.

This is a very good film. It is thoughtful, intelligent, serious, funny, smirking, and underrated. It deserves a study, which I could do but don´t have the tools (I don´t have a decent tv or dvd player, nor do I have time). Well, I´ve got my shoes off, we´re writing this post together at the Suarna cafe with cokes and potatoes, you´ve got your shoes off, and we are saving the world a toe at a time.







Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stranger than Paradise







So I went to the movies last week. Went to see a film called Stranger than Paradise by Jim Jarmusch, which happens to be his first feature film. Right now, I´m just kind of writing to you across this space, listening to some new music I picked up, dealing with a small dose of bad news, and trying to cope with Stranger than Paradise.

Personally, I really like Stranger than Paradise. What I find really hard to deal with is the absolute coolness of this film. I´ve been averse to hipness for a long time now, though at various points of my life you might have called me hip, though that may be wishful thinking (didn´t I just say I was averse to hip?). Well, hip is one of the top ten new words of the last century, so how about that?

So how do we deal with a film that is so hip, if hipness is not part of our criteria?

What is remarkable about Jarmusch´s film is, similar to what I creatively said in my post on Two Lane Blacktop, the sense of enormous space he gives you and the accurate visual portrayal of the United States of America. Yes, folks, that is pretty much what it looks like (while Eddie remarks that it´s incredible that you can travel to a completely different place and it will look eerily familiar…).

That new music I picked up, you know the one I mentioned above, it´s changing my analysis as I speak. These smooth 70´s beats are making me feel like, well, how bout a cool motherfucker? And I just realized that I´m a cool motherfucker writing about a great motherfuckin´film, though they never say the word motherfucker in Jarmusch´s film.

The film starts with jet planes. I, for one, love jet planes, and within this sense of space, the going nowhere sense of the film, the lack of promise & future, the incredible sense of real-time (each scene is composed of a single shot that does not cut the diegesis into pieces, consequently offering a nearly absent narrator), we have them coming and going.

The world of people is so much bigger than Willie, Eddie, & Eva. While they are wandering hipsters experiencing firsthand the American wasteland, there are jet planes going to and fro. The only time Willie, Eddie, & Eva join the big world is when they fly. Driving doesn´t count - not when you´re listing to Screamin´ Jay on your mini tape player.

You can see a poor review by Roger Ebert here. It just sucks. I realize that if I say too much, I´ll lose my hipness, and therefore my credibility. Damnit. Let´s go see some kung fu. We can´t talk to much on this one.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Talking about The Vue by Joshua Mosley







Watching a film of any kind is different during the day. It´s hot outside, and we ate lunch after checking out the exhibition. I´ve read 4 reviews since I got home, and none of them mention anything about watching the film during the day. Some of them mention very little.

It´s interesting, you know, The Vue. I´m glad that you knew something of that statue (George Washington Carver), and I´m glad that you admitted to reading the Wikipedia entry at work last week, even if Wikipedia can suck sometimes.

So The Vue was short. 7 and a half minutes. It featured little dialogue and a 150 foot statue of George Washington Carver. A man cleans the statue for a living on behalf of the small town surrounding the monument. He meets the cousin of a general store cashier, who is a public relations figure for a company producing fiber optics equipment, whose factory nowadays supports the town.

Everything is artificial, you said when we ate lunch, in the film. Thinking about it now, it seems that way to me too. Joshua Mosley has taken us into some strange thoughts. You´re slurping on some pasta with muscles, shrimp, and calamaris. I´m eating the biggest burrito ever made.

George Washington Carver was a great man, but his rise to fame is due to more factors than his genious. He is still known by many as the inventor of peanut butter, although he did not invent peanut butter. I did.

What does it mean to worship George Washington Carver´s statue? Well, history as we know it is never accurate, so caring so delicately for this statue (representative of our illustrious US “history”), while it is a commendable venture to care for a country´s history, doesn´t really make as much sense as we would like it to.

It´s off. Off center. Off target, I told you while we waited for the check. Off target to worship a statue of George Washington Carver. You say that we shouldn´t worship any representation of the past, no matter the grandeur of the figure represented.

I, knowing too little of George Washington Carver (other than your Wikipedia summary), am a much better critic of today. Unfortunately, the lady with whom he has the affair is in no better situation. She says that she´d like to settle down, and then she jumps on a plane and leaves romance behind. Talk about worshipping something so silly.

Well, you´ve just called me to talk. You told me that you can´t figure this place out, why we´ve got to work so much, why we do the things we do - but we both know the answer to this. We just don´t believe it, that´s all. But, choosing to avoid monumental worship of the past, we´ve got nothing to stand on except 7 and a half minutes of appreciation.


Two Lane Blacktop









You look tired. I feel a little tired too. Half the cinema left before the film wrapped up, and you´ve been talking about that since we left. I can´t believe it either, that they just left like that. Then we stop talking and just walk for awhile.

The night is so real after Two Lane Blacktop. The way my feet make scraping sounds when I walk, the way you turn here and there to avoid bikes, signs, and puddles. The way the rain has piled up, and we´re afraid it might actually be urine. We walk down to a little place called the Café Paris, unfortunately decorated with leopard print chairs. Isn´t it unfortunate? It is, because they´ve got some good music in there.

Two Lane Blacktop. Two Lane Blacktop. Technical achievement is the culprit here - that´s why people left - you say. To enjoy a film like Two Lane Blacktop, you´ve really got to see a lot of movies, and it´s so sad that people don´t understand, leaving the theatre like that.

Movies are easy to see. I´m sitting now, recalling our conversation, at a little Italian café underneath my piso. They´ve given me a nearly cold coffee, and have been giving me cold coffee for a long time. One day I was in a hurry and asked for cold milk, and he never forgot. After this coffee, I´m going to the cinema. The point is, you see a movie in an hour and half or two hours. If people just chose better movies, they could advance to even better movies, and sometime they could watch Two Lane Blacktop, maybe, like us, and enjoy it. I know you enjoyed it because you´re not saying much.

You liked the outdoor shots. I liked them too. I´m looking down into my coffee cup, when I realize that it is impertinent to talk about this film. Maybe we´re just too lonely to say anything?

About a month ago my good friend that I don´t write enough told me that it isn´t easy living anywhere, and he knows because he lives in Albania. He tells poor, suffering Albanians about surviving the American wasteland, and he is right.

My mom lives down in Kansas, and I drive down there when I visit her. It´s about 14 hours. I´m driving straight, and I´m all alone. I´m listening to some good music. I´m positively rocking. I´m at a gas station, I´m reading a magazine, I´m buying a Pepsi. I´m not taking pictures. I´m rocking again, I´m stretching out, casting a big shadow, as big as I can, but I can´t even cover the hood of my car. The sun is dropping over the corn fields, and I can now see the shadow of my car next to me. I can wave at myself, drowning in the universe.

And Two Lane Blacktop is vast, enormous, casting an even bigger shadow. The Driver, The Mechanic, and the Girl are swallowed by distance, swept away by time under disguise as velocity. Two Lane Blacktop is where other films go to die. It is expansive.

Back in the Café Paris you tell me that it´s the narrative space that achieves this as of yet unspoken sensation. I think you´re on to something with that, really. Narrative space and time. Gerard Genette didn´t have anything to say about Two Lane Blacktop, but if he wasn´t such a snob he might have added something to our conversation here.

But he didn´t talk about narrative space like you and I are about to. My head is spinning - I´ve got a tiny coffee and I just keep asking for them because this isn´t right - I´m supposed to be drinking enormous cups of coffee - and these cups are tiny so I just keep asking for more. It´s fucking up my narrative space, this space, where I´m reaching out to you, trying to touch you.

Narrative Space, you say, is the fictional equivalent to real space, with a fictional relationship to time, that is the sum of all its parts and gives sensations based on our sense of space, that are similar to those we get from real space. Jesus, you´ve confused me. You tell me that this only works if you´ve suspended your disbelief. If there is anything I can do well it is suspend disbelief.

Okay, so a narrative has space too, and when you watch a movie, as you become part of that film, you become enveloped by narrative space, which has qualities arising from it´s particular narrative features?

The lack of dialogue combined with the space of the fictional American horizon creates space. The lack of dialogue creates more space between the characters, making them smaller (relative to narrative space). They are traveling across space and they are only getting smaller. I´m in there too, I´m small too. You are lonely, and I am small. Myophobia. I´ve got it. You´ve got it. The universe is swallowing my narrative, which is quietly journeying over the atlantic, looking for a Two Lane Blacktop to Kansas, to South Dakota, to Kentucky, not knowing how this is going to end.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Zelig



















Just watched Zelig. It occurred to me that this blog is all about the pie and coffee you never had, nor I for that matter. Do you like to go out for pie and coffee after a movie? Have you ever skipped pie and coffee because your accompanying person didn´t want to go, not understanding the purpose of pie and coffee? Even worse, have you went for pie and coffee and found your friend to be absolutely incapable of carrying a meaningful discussion of the movie, instead turning the conversation to dull matters like work?


Let´s have cyber pie and coffee, okay? Sometimes things cyber are better than their real counterparts (I haven´t chatted since I was 17, so don´t read too far into this), because we can imagine them. I imagine you with a fruit pie. Not many people order fruit pie, but you do and you´re in luck - it is the best pie ever. We have a great conversation about the movie we just saw - Zelig, and all this takes place in a diner adequately christened The Zelig.

What is the meaning of Zelig? We ask each other this, both noting that Zelig is clearly allegorical to something Woody - is it allegorical to his creative process, creative development? You suggest that maybe it was allegorical to some relationship he had with a beautiful busting buxom. Zelig´s progression begins with the death of his father. He goes from normal to strange, and begins blending in with everyone he speaks with. After his sessions with Dr. Fletcher, he is completely outspoken, having been shaped too far, via positive reinforcement, and after a few more sessions he is exactly what Dr. Fletcher wants him to be, which of course Dr. Fletcher is unwilling to admit to herself (really she didn´t change the underlying desire for approval on the part of Zelig). He then goes into remission, from which he is pulled by Dr. Fletcher during a Nazi war rally. After so many twists and turns, we agree that what was originally extremely allegorical grew out of its direct correlations either because Woody was having fun with his script, or he just couldn´t bear to have the film so directly allegorical with his creative process or development. You take a bite of your pie, a sip of your coffee, and tell the waitress that we are doing fine.

And of course, we agree that he is making a commentary on conformism and honesty in the artistic process and at large, but we decide that this just isn´t interesting enough to carry on about.

You´re pie is delicious (you´ve got a scoop of icecream too), and you wash down a few bites with a drink of coffee, which you take black, absolutely black. For my part, my chocolate pie is very good, but I wish I could trade you. I´ve got cream in my coffee, and it swirls like multiple scenes from Coffee and Cigarettes.

Other Woody - I´m glad you brought it up. The two films that instantly come to mind as direct commentaries on the artistic process are Bullets Over Broadway and Deconstructing Harry. Zelig is, of course, a similar deconstruction. I note that Bullets Over Broadway may be a commentary on stealiing or borrowing from other writers/filmmakers, and you note that Deconstructing Harry talks about an author´s real world experience and how it affects him. Zelig, then, is a deconstruction of the author´s perceived relation between himself and his audience. Woody covers everything - artists and their real lives, artists and their audience, real or imagined, and artists and other artists.

You turn a little red, mention that the moment at the end where Woody rectifies his position to the world by trying only to please one woman is magical, an intellectual surprise on all accounts (we should have seen it coming but we didn´t - we couldn´t get that worldly Woody out of our heads). I mention that, considering Woody, we could very well read that one woman to be THE WOMAN in general, a quiet homage to the female.

The intellectual conversation is a little killed, but you bring up Woody´s love life - we feel guilty for talking about this mundane trivia - sensing our discomfort, you bring us back to the film. Mia Farrow, you say. Thank you.

Mia Farrow, we agree she´s beautiful. Her performance was absolutely subtle but commanding, filling the role believably, really because her role specifically was quite believable, as were the torturous actions carried out by other doctors. It was, of course, quite common that drastic measures were taken to solve psychological problems - leading to numerous art related feats like Hemingway´s suicide in Ketchum, Idaho or Allen Ginsberg´s pharma inspired Howl.

As we wanted to believe the film, and what it was saying to us - suspend our disbelief while understanding our disbelief simultaneously (after all, it is a mockumentary), we were able to believe more than any other aspect of the film Mia´s Dr. Fletcher´s love for Zelig.

It comes to you that Mia´s performance could be the third player here, the outstanding performance without which the show could not have worked, without which the show would have been awful. If Mia Farrow, in the end, is likened to the creator´s perceived audience, it means a great deal whether or not she loves the creator or not. She does love the creator, which suggests that, on an individual level, everybody wants to create the creator in their own image.

Oh, it is a great phrase that you have remembered - create the creator in his own image and likeness - we ask the question whose fault is it that Woody must change into a Scottish, into a Rabbi, into a fat man? Woody definitely takes the individual level here - there are two ways he could go. The first, every reader or viewer wants to control the creator in some way, shape, or form. The second, which is present in the film, but I think in a properly diminished form (intellectually), is the same except instead of an individual we have a mass. I think that had Woody wanted to go in this direction, he would have morphed into a singular cool figure, like George Clooney or Clint Eastwood. You laugh as the check arrives. I pay the bill and you give me a 5 spot, and we walk out of the diner, to the car, and you drop me off at home.