Archive for the 'Some Thoughts' Category

A Happy Death

April 5, 2012

 

Everyone knows The Stranger but fewer know the novel that Camus wrote before it – A Happy Death – with a character also named Mersault, also around 150 pages, also split into two parts, where the first part involves a murder that is supposed to guide the character, throughout the second part, to The Truth.  Fewer know because Camus never published it; it came out ten years after his death.

First of all, I’ve always thought it a brilliant idea for an artist to make a matrix of characters in one piece and then go through many other subsequent pieces where the stories are totally different stories but characters have the same names.  Except they’re not the same – they’re different characters (i.e. they act in totally different ways; they’re linked by name only).  This instance of Camus is basically this – though he never used Mersault again.  I’ve always thought of the Tom and Hucks in Tom Sawyer followed by Huckleberry Finn to be switched around characters.  And so forth.

In addition to this thought: this can happen, in a different way, with actors.  Cassavetes sort of does this by constantly casting the same people in his little adventures.  Same actors isn’t quite the same as same character name.  But it’s all very psychological for a view.  I have some thoughts on this, see if I ever write on it.

Anyways!  Second of all, there’s been some academic debate over the connection of A Happy Death and The Stranger.  The former was written 1936-1938.  The Stranger finally came out in 1942.  In that time he also wrote Myth Of Sisyphus, which, if Albert is anything like most people, probably took a lot longer to write and involved a lot more thought than either of the novels.

But anyway, that time frame is a long one – four years.  A lot happens in four years.  Story time: I was talking to someone who will not be named, but relevantly was ate the age of 48.  I said I had known someone “a long time.”  He asked me to be specific.  “A year and a half,” I said.  My friend scoffed – this was no time at all.  But this is for a 48 year old.  Camus was 23 when he started writing A Happy Death (a great age for a first novel, if I do say so myself), and 29 when it was finally published.

When you’re 48 (apparently?) some things slow, you ease into a certain disposition / mindset / way of thinking / way of living, and so “a long time, AKA a year and a half” turns into something closer to five years.  A lot happens in a year and a half when you’re in your 20s if you’re living right – and Yes, that is a value judgment I have just made.  When you’re in your mid-20s, and you’re living, and maybe traveling, or moving; working, and interacting with people externally as well as yourself internally, and absorbing, and thinking – then a lot can happen in a week, much less a month, much less a year.  And of course, 48 year olds can do all these things quite easily (especially the one in question!), but the passage of time (or perception of it) changes the older you get.  To not be agist or make a value judgment on something I don’t actually know what I’m talking about, I’ve heard it argue that it’s biological.  So.

This leads me to wonder how much A Happy Death and The Stranger are really connected.  The philosophy is different, and interestingly, changes from Death’s pro-life to Stranger’s pro-death-which-is-pro-life.  This is the obvious difference, it’s the main argument in the academic sphere of how little they’re connected.  And it leads me to wonder what happened in those years between the two.  I’m sure further clues are in The Myth Of Sisyphus and some asshole academic’s secondhand literature.  But life’s too short – I’ll save the secondhand material for when my life isn’t changing every other day.

With it being said that I’d imagine the novels are different, I guess I should say that I’m a little surprised.  Because that much time had passed – all inside of Camus mid-late 20s – and Camus was still knitting the ideas of one thing with the ideas of another (see first paragraph for specifics).  I suppose it makes sense that both Mersaults lead a laconic sort of life (not mentally, but physically… and attitudinally).  Perhaps Camus rested easy on his laurels in his 20s?  Before Combat and the Brown Shirts, of course.

SXSW – Bruce Springsteen

March 20, 2012

 

1. “Steven Spielberg”

The reason that Steven Spielberg fucking sucks at making movies is because he’s a fucking idiot.  And the reason I can say this with authority is because he lets me.

What I mean is this.  Steven has a secret life, which isn’t so different from yours and mine.  He’s flesh and blood.  He’ll belch or fart.  He might have, on some sweltering summer night, taken a huge shit at a friend’s house, and plugged the toilet, and had to plunge it violently, sleeves rolled up, mopping the sweat from his brow, and the friend’s on the other side of the door saying, “Steve, you okay in there?”  He’s faulty, dirty, flawed – and you never woulda thunk it cuz he looks so sweet and dignified.

That sweet dignity is old classic Spielberg – the public life.  And the thing about “public” is that it’s mine and everyone else’s if we care to buy some stock (and fortunately for America: Talk Is Cheap!).  We buy it all the time, seemingly for free, and with it we can make it whatever we want and be right.  Because I’m not actually saying anything about Steve the Human Being, the Secret Man on Planet Earth.  He’s Steven Spielberg – the public persona, the constructed identity, the product of a publicist and decades of money.

“Buying stock,” i.e. talking shit, feels good and it seems like nothing’s lost, is only seemingly free.  The price is actually buying into an illusion.  You think you’re saying something about Steven when you say Spielberg is a fucking idiot and his movies taste like shit.  I’m sure Steven cares if he hears it, but – he is not his movies.  It’s far beyond my knowledge if he knows this fact – I’ve only known him through public appearance.  Maybe he really does tie himself up to them as tightly as he lets on.  But he still does something when the cameras and lights go off and the curtain closes.

Buying into an illusion hurts you and everyone you love, hate, and don’t know – a lot.  It hurts them because they do it too, and so does everyone else.  And then you’re living with an illusion all around you, and keep the illusion going.  And this just perpetuates everything the you claim to hate, that Spielberg claims to hate, that even… The Boss claims to hate.

 

 

2. “Woody Guthrie”

So Springsteen gets up on stage in front of 1800 screaming fans at South By Southwest and yells, “Happy birthday, Woody!” to long-dead Woody Guthrie’s ghost and proceeds to sing one of his songs.  Because he likes solidarity, he also harkens to not-long-dead Clarence “Big Man” Clemens about 69 different times in the next three hours before going back to Woody one last time.

Did Bruce ever meet Woody?  No.  Do I know this for a fact?  No.  Does Bruce have a lot in common with Woody?  No.  My source?  A story that I don’t remember the author of, which went like this:

” Woody Guthrie played some songs for a bunch of record executives one time in nineteen-whatever.  It was at the top story of a skyscraper in Manhattan.  Why he was there?  Probably because he was summoned, he’s a free spirit, he had nothing to lose just for showing up.  So they’re watching him, these execs, and they say, ‘He’s great!!  Though he could use a little make-up…!  And maybe some of this… and this… and we could sell him easy with this…’  et cetera.  And while they’re going through this banter, Woody Guthrie wanders to the elevator, takes it to ground floor, and wanders out into the Manhattan streets, strumming his guitar, smiling, singing, ‘I ain-tuh! got no hommme in this-a-world anymore!’ “

Springsteen has nothing in common with Woody Guthrie except that he can sing, and the lyrics can be topical.  Springsteen worked hard to get a major label deal with Columbia, and worked hard to make Born To Run a chart topper.  That’s pretty anti-Guthrie.  And Born To Run is quality music!  But so is Dust Bowl Ballads.  So there.*

3. Reminder: You Are Trapped

This is the 21st century.  Just like few would ever choose stoicism over a facade of a personality – since Stoicism can give an air of nobodyhood (when in fact real nothingness is more likely to reside in the choice for facade), few would ever turn down a major record deal because it would render their convictions false and their ideals worthless.  You’re fucked if you want to be serious in the 21st century.  You’ll never bring about a change by yourself.  You can be a cog in the wheel of change, but there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed, and the price is your time (you’ll definitely notice) and individuality (you might not notice).  This is why and how the worstkind of irony is claiming the day.

 

 

4. “Bruce Springsteen”

Once I was sitting in Pizza Brava in Seattle in 2006 or maybe 2007, and this guy walks in ranting, “I’ll be a slice for anyone who can name for me one good thing that George W. Bush has done!!”  Everyone sort of thinks, probably more amusedly than seriously.  I thought I was thinking seriously, but possibly more because I’d dig a free slice of pizza.  I couldn’t think of anything!  He kept yelling and taunting and daring until the owner yelled, “Get out!  I said get the hell out!

So.  Now.  Has Springsteen ever done one good thing?  For the world, I mean.  Since that’s what he postures with his ideals from stage.  Has he done more good things than George W. Bush?  Let’s say Springsteen played on the campaign trail for John Kerry and Barack Obama.  George Bush actually ran for president.  Say what you want about how he did – that’s the course of action that’s bolder, more courageous, and puts your convictions where your world is way more than raising your guitar in the air and warbling, “I’m a souuuldjaaahhh!”  But is there a real point to that?  Maybe not, except that being President of the United States, even when you’re shitty at it, is a better avenue for “doing good things” than being a fucking rock star.

People think The Boss is “the genuine article” and they’re idiots.  It’s not because the man Bruce Springsteen isn’t a genuine, kind, compassionate, caring, sweet, talented handy man.  He is.  Or he isn’t.  I don’t actually know, and you don’t either, and it’s not because we’re not up on our Boss trivia.  It’s because we only know the Symbol of Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen, and that Symbol is utterly worthless outside of music.  So, yes to you haters – when his latter day albums suck, then Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen is totally worthless.  (fortunately, everything up to and including Tunnel Of Love kicks fucking ass, right??)

5. “You”

And he’s not alone.  Spielberg’s with him.  And they’re not alone – most everyone’s in there with them both.  I could argue that as rock stars of film and music, they helped mold this kind of Illusion-building bullshit system like few others.  And I will.

But I won’t explain myself.  I’ll just say that the relatively few rock stars of film and music are the precursors to nowadays where every person with their facebook account is a rock star, with their look, their shades, their attitude, their shitty grammar, and their bullshit record of life’s events since 2005.  That’s what you see, that’s what you get, and when they log off, you’ll never guess that they’re not an asshole, that they wish they were understood, that they’re anxious and wish they could relate.

 

 

You see, when Jack Nicholson (note how I don’t remember the character’s name but I sure remember the mug that played him) says, “It’s hard to be free when you’re bought and sold on the market,” in Easy Rider, this is what he’s talking about.  So Bruce Springsteen holds his guitar up and cries out, “It’s hard out there!  We gotta be there for each other!”  That’s bad because it’s just a shell-body saying shell-words.  But the worst is when the 1800 facebook accounts watching (or shall we go with WordPress accounts??) raise up their hands to him and cheer up a deafening roar.  That’s them thinking that the battle is won.

Me.  I haven’t done goddamn thing thing to change the world for the better since March 15th, 2012 when I saw Bruce Springsteen at South By Southwest.  And if I didn’t then I can assure that no one else did either.  And I can say this with authority – I was the most benevolent person and the deepest thinker in the whole Moody Theatre that night.  And — and this is sincere, really really — I liked the show and was glad I saw it.

(and):

*Yes, I’m aware of “Woody Guthrie” and perceptions of him.  I don’t know how he got so famous.  Probably because of Bob Dylan and the folk revival of the early 60s, and all the publicists behind that.  …OR Woody has his own publicist.  He is maybe or probably illusion.  Wait a minute!  — Dust Bowl Ballads was released by RCA Victor??  During his lifetime?!?!  What the FUCK??

SXSW – King Kelly

March 13, 2012

 

1. Subject

King Kelly is a condemnation of “the” narcissistic Me-Generation.  This is both good and bad.  The good is that it doesn’t necessarily treat it as one-dimensional issue with a one-dimensional character.  Everyone gets to show some deeper colors, which is appreciated.  The bad is that it doesn’t really broach any causes.  It does a little – it blames society, but that’s a little empty after a certain point.  Society is like Wal-Mart; it didn’t build itself.

But there’s only so much time in the day.  For what it is, it admirably tackles an topic that deserves tackling with a push for creativity in its visuals and a preference for a realistic performance that can show flaws in a character as if it were flaws in the acting — as opposed to Natalie Portman doing a “flawless” performance.  Or some other actress just doing a shitty one.

2. Performance 

Roderick Hill, who played Poo Bare, did a really wonderful job.  He’s a desperate, pathetic man who seemingly wants very little.  His desire is actually vast, but for his part, he’s only tapping the ice berg of actualizing his desires in the “real world” (i.e. one that isn’t in his basement, in a bad chair, in front of a bad computer, with his bad cock tight in his bad, bad hands).

It’s hard for me to tell what is actually realized in the performance, as far as I saw it.  Rod has expressions and mannerisms that convey his character’s slow realization that he’s actually free – just like everyone else.  And with great freedom comes great worlds of possibility.  Poo Bare is a state trooper, but his gradual self-actualization / self-discovery isn’t about a schtick of police authority – he’s far more than a caricature, or else he’d have to embody some one / thing that created “King Kelly.”  He’s becoming a human being out in the real world with the possibility of fulfillment reached in confluence with another human being.  And it’s a beautiful portrayal.  My thoughts on it were a bit more colorful just after having seen the movie.

As for “King Kelly” the character, she is played also very wonderfully by Louisa Krause.  The crux of her character is that she’s a young lady constantly “empowered” by having a camera on her at all times – presumably to post all these videos of herself on the internet at a later date.  Her character is a horrible human being, and also larger than life, not too intelligent, constantly using sexuality as power and currency.

And there are a few times (one in particular) where it breaks.  She freaks out or apologizes at certain points, but there are moments where she really becomes pathetic and morbid.  The knee jerk reaction would be to say, “The ‘King Kelly’ I see throughout the movie is a phony (to put it politely) but that scared, pathetic look is the REAL person underneath.”  I don’t know if that has any veracity – people are multi-faceted.  A lot of people seem to put on a lot of appearances, often for some sense of empowerment or to impress others.  A lot of those people, and everyone else, seem to have a more quiet, sadder, more thoughtful persona in more personal, intimate settings.

A lot of people have a lot of variations.  Which one is the real one?  Why does one have to be the “real” one?  Why can’t they all be real? If we’re free (again: if) then they were all created by some means and can all be destroyed if so desired.  It’s not necessarily simple, but it never is.  So if they’re all “real” then what does that mean for identity – King Kelly’s, yours, mine, anyone’s?  What does this mean for the meanings the movie makes and tries to have an audience interpolate?  What does this mean for this generation, and the previous one?  What does this mean for society?  What does it imply we ought to do?

3. Further

King Kelly wasn’t a perfect film, but that’s not really a criticism.  The main flaw I felt was a lack of larger dialogue.  I asked the director Andrew Neel what “research” he’d done for the film (perhaps I should have asked the writer?).  I didn’t get a sense from his answer that he’d read much academia on the subjects of the young generation (“the me-generation”), narcissism, technology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, anthropology.  Or that shit.

This is a snobby point of view, but that don’t make it junk.  Academia, in realms that both are and aren’t strictly scientific, propels itself further towards progress by taking that which came before and expounding on the ideas.  While any of the sources Andrew Neel named that he was expounding on (namely trash on the internet) are worthy, they’re also easy.  The opinion expressed in the film, I feel, could have been broadened and enriched by more academic cornerstones, namely on narcissism, and motherfuckers like Heidegger and Adorno who worry about technology in every day life, or whatever they do.

That’s just my opinion though.  See the movie – you reading this!

*4. Last Minute Appendix*

There is a further thought of mine that is mostly superfluous to the film itself, but more about the film business.  The film itself has a tone of anti-technology.  It almost builds a narrative around this.  Potentially.  It seems to ask the question “What is technology doing to us?”  And as the film ended, everyone on their iPhones and such finding any preliminary reviews or reactions on the internet.  Perhaps they’ll find this (hi!), but the point is that it exists inside of a large tragedy.  How do you make a film pondering technology in a potentially conservative way, under a potentially negative light, and then market it?

That’s the 21st century – it’s the current method of the machine.  How does this movie get bought and sold, and to what end?  How does the success of this film effect the message of this film?  It’s the ole double bind, and I hate to say it, but really any art being made falls into this trap.  If it’s art, made by a half-intelligent mind.  There really is no escape.

Except with one potential exception:  Anonymity.  The pseudonym.  The artist is dead, delivering an anonymous manifesto into the landscape.  This narcissistic society is dying for you, me, the artist, and – most obviously – the character of King Kelly to make a “name” for ourselves.  FYI, it’s not a name, it’s an identity, it’s not “for ourselves,” it’s for everyone else, and it’s not real, it’s a cover to influence and manipulate others perceptions, so that we’ll either be loved, laid, accepted in some phony fashion, or be seen and validated by the largest number of people possible.  And we want to – it sounds great.

And so.  King Kelly directed by Andrew Neel, starring, written by, produced by, DP’d by, special thanks, etc etc etc.  All those names are “names” now, and I swear to God that this is a positive review (if you want to call it that).  It’s just not without its element of tragedy.

Grendel & Veganism

February 29, 2012

In “The State Of Nature,” no one is a vegan.  But that’s not where we are.

 

 

1. GrenDel’s Time

Grendel defines himself in contrast to man, and man defines himself in contrast to Grendel.  This could actually be phrased in a few different ways.  As Grendel is told from Grendel’s point of view, I could say, “Grendel lets man define himself in contrast to Grendel based on how Grendel treats man.”  Etc.

Grendel, in some ways, is a stand-in for nature – pointless, meaningless, accidental, the logic of chance; destructive with the option of merciful, with death at the end.  So it could really be said “Nature lets man define himself in contrast to Nature.

There’s a bit in Grendel where he watches mankind build up civilization to a certain point.  But only a certain point.  So what about now?

2. 21st Century Time

Disregarding Beowulf wasting Grendel by ripping his arms off, man stands in a precarious spot to nature.  I know some people that you may have heard of either disagree or willfully don’t give a shit, but it’s true.  There’s trash all over the place, and sometimes you’re standing on it and sometimes you work inside of it.  And sometimes you eat it.

If we define ourselves in contrast to nature nowadays, then I’m not really sure what that says or means.  I live in New York City – my tap water comes out with a thick, cloudy, white, bubbly shroud in it that eventually dissipates.  But if I take the time to taste the water at any point, I’m pretty sure I taste chlorine.

Following that – it’s the view of liberals everywhere that we’re ruining the planet.  Given how my water is, and the fact that I grew up with the empirical knowledge that Puget Sound smells like a septic tank, I guess I agree.  So we’re all ruining the planet; like 98% of human beings on the planet are responsible (I’m sure far less than that know it).  What does that make us – really?

I don’t know.  I also don’t know what that makes nature.  I have no doubt that it makes nature a fan of the sneak attack.  My favorite people I’ve met on the whole planet so far are the ones where you think they’re stupid, naive, ignorant rednecks when really they’re intelligent, mindful, worldly metropolitan types (or vise versa).  It’s ultimately a sign of amazing variation, but in a way, their true strength is their sneak attack.  Let me believe one thing, slowly unveil the truth.  Nature’s similar – it’s sneak is that it’s a killer.  After we’re long gone, the Earth will still be here.

3. Yours & My Time

Mankind can define himself collectively (and sexistly, as I’ve now proven, man) but can an individual define himself individual when his fellow genus-species is fucking the place up for everyone (and everything)?  I don’t know, but sometimes I’d like to think so.  Sometimes it could make some kind of difference to stand up on some high-ish stand and say, “It’s all goin down anyway, but when it does, you can count me out!

Probably not.  But you could hypothesize that the planet is being ruined, and it’s by us, then that’s no time to let idealism fall.  You can still act to the best of your ability, by being mindful of how you act, how you think, what you consume, and all that great stuff.

Man is defined in contrast to nature.”  This doesn’t have to be true.  Man can be a part of nature.  Indeed, I think man is a part of nature.  Man actually likes to think that he’s apart, defined in contrast, by how special he is and how he stands out – superior intellect, which will soon bring his end.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

 

Freedummies

February 22, 2012

I was thinking about the nature vs. nurture argument regarding how people come to be who they are.  It doesn’t leave much room for freedom in the same way any deterministic argument would seem to reject it.  If I am free, what’s to stop me from killing you?  I got to thinking some about belief.

It’s possible that I can go to church at any time, but would I not be acting if you didn’t detect the doubt in my eyes?  I’ve wandered down a sidewalk on Broadway surrounded by yelling, sign-waving protestors for Occupy Wall Street and I felt bored and alienated.  Could I have grabbed a sign and yelled, “Not in my house!” and meant it with all my heart?  If you told me to get up and do the funky chicken and I was feeling charitable, would you not see the graceless hesitancy in my elbows?

It’s because I don’t believe it, because I think it’s a performance.  Or do I know it’s a performance.  Holden Caulfield holds everyone in contempt for being a phony.  Some people are incredibly transparent.  So what makes them transparent?  They’re probably doing what they want to do, even if they’re acting.  So what’s the red flag they’re waving that’s telling me they’re acting.  They want to do it; why don’t they want me to believe it?

If we’re free.

I want to be anyone and everyone, but I’ve had the unfortunate role assignment of being nobody.  But I want to be somebody, but I want to be somebody real.  Of course, nobody is somebody, but I mean, I’d like to have some real, substantive and sincere qualities that a massive amount of people could appreciate if such a number knew me and of my existence.  All qualities are ripe for my choosing, sure, anytime?, sure, and yet so many of them are fraudulent.  Like church, like believing in God, I could try it out, but I don’t really believe, and so eventually – even if I don’t want it to happen – the bottom is going to drop out because it’s hollow.  Lou Reed said it best when he said, “I’m set free to find a new illusion.”

I’m just wondering: where does my freedom to choose who I can be rub up so miserably against my fundamental belief that all is phony?  And when?  And how?  😦

Protected: A Professional

February 17, 2012

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February 15, 2012

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John Locke, The Character

February 10, 2012

I’m progressing into season 2 of Lost.  I don’t trust the writers / the network not to fuck this up.  But you, dear reader, may already know how bad Lost gets.  If anyone is actually reading and wants to comment and let me know if I should just stop watching, DO IT PLEASE.

Okay.

 

 

Lost is neither perfect, nor great.  It isn’t free of its limitations – probably because network TV, despite what folks of low standards say, sucks, and sucks by nature.  Be all this as it may, Lost is far from worthless.  This is a fact, but I’m not going to prove it.  I’m just going to talk about it’s highest light, the most interesting character in season 1 of Lost – John Locke.  If you disagree, it’s because I hate you.  You might as well keep reading, I’ve already got your hit point.

One of the ho-hum factors in Lost is that everyone’s backstory follows one theme.  ex: For Sawyer, it’s revenge; for Jack, it’s savioritis, daddy issues; for Kate, it’s that she’s the most innocent criminal ever (bleh), etc.  Whatever.  As an aside: I feel it’d be better if everyone’s themes were switched up all the time – that mirrors life better, plus it’s actually more interesting storytelling, in any instance, ever.  But it is what it is, and plenty of the backstories are actually really good despite this, and rich, and leave me begging for more.

And Locke has the most interesting backstory of all.  His theme in season 1 seems to be determinism, which is both a strength and a weakness.

Starting with why it’s a strength.  Everyone’s Island Persona is a little different from their Real World Persona, which is roundly a good thing narrative-wise.  But Locke is the most polar opposite – a sad-sack, gaming, crippled, aging man with no prospects or special features apart from what’s going on in his head – a confidence he’s too afraid to express.  But you don’t know that until awhile; you only know that he’s the King Of The Jungle in Island Persona.  I don’t know if this sounds good spelled out as I’ve just done, but executed on the screen, it’s up there with the best things Lost season 1 has going for it.

Determinism as a weakness is – what’s so interesting about determinism?  With narratives about free will vs. determinism, the answer is the problem.  Whichever is settled upon, the settling makes the piece boring; it breaks it, it makes the theme broke.  Locke’s historical dynamic makes him fascinating, but there’s something to the fact that he is determined that doesn’t always work (i.e. isn’t always well told).  Let me be clear – Locke is determined… or he acts like it, at least.  He has stupid rants about “destiny” (Terry O’Quinn does his best at acting them, but they’re horribly written), he believes both in past and present that everything happens for a reason.  He’s made up his mind.  This doesn’t have to be bad, but it’s often written retardedly, and the sad reason for this is that Lost has to be made for idiots (already went over this).

Island Persona Locke is the best because the Island Determinism is way weirder.  Why does he do what he does?  Because he believes he’s there for a reason, doing what he is doing for a reason – being led.  By the end of season 1, he’s a self-proclaimed “man of faith.”  But he’s not a church goer.  Like Kierkegaard, he’s probably likely to lambast institution.  An institution would co-mingle in the juices of Jack’s reason (Jack being “man of science” according to Locke).  No, Locke’s faith isn’t in God, it’s in “The Island.”  …Which might as well be God, and his action’s Kierkegaard’s Leap Of Faith.  The metaphor isn’t quite perfectly analog or clear-eyed.  And that’s why it’s one of the best things Lost season 1 offers.  It’s based solely on emotion and conviction, not reason.

In addition to determinism, Locke also believes in struggle. I do too, so that’s an point of attraction.  The Island is his determiner, the struggle is everywhere, and eventually becomes the hatch.  The hatch is an open metaphor in this way, and, again: that makes it beautiful.  But in this case, it’s beautiful for a specific reason.  Any piece of art that can successfully make an inanimate object into this living symbol or embodiment of meaning to someone – that’s very specific to them but not us (so religion / religious artifacts do not count) is beautiful.

This is because it’s relateable.  We all do it, everyday.  It’s the 21st century, where people die a little inside when they, say, lose their cell phones.  I’ll be damned if it’s over the body of the phone, the circuitry, or even the money they’ve put into it (unless they’ve loaded it with apps, or they’ve just paid a huge bill, or something).  The phone is their connection to other people.  It’s one of many, but right now, “cell phone” is so much the primary mode of community that “cell phone” seems like a misnomer (but no one’s come up with a new name yet).  So you lost your phone.  You can bottle it up stoically or talk about it, but the usual fact is that there’s a little regret, a little longing, wistful missing.  And then you hear people say, “OMG I’m so glad I’M not the kind of person that gets all bent out of shape if I lose my phone,” or, “Isn’t it ABSURD how society just flips out when they lose their cell phone??

I don’t want to be an apologist for the “iPod generation.”  They’re destroying the planet.  But I will say two things.  A) No, it’s not absurd.  Consider what it is that’s lost.  Just because it’s the newest method of community doesn’t mean it ought to be contrarian’d to death too fast.  B) Is it not the “iPod generation” that makes these comments more than anyone else?

 

 

Oh yeah, about Lost – let me tie this back around to the beginning.  I’m halfway into season 2.  It has some serious problems, and I don’t trust the writers / the network not to fuck this up worse than they are so far.  But you, dear reader, may already know how bad Lost gets.  If anyone is actually reading and wants to comment and let me know if I should just stop watching, DO IT PLEASE.

Lost, Season 1

February 9, 2012

 

1. How I Work With TV

It’s the same with just about every TV show that I feel like is worth seeing.  I miss its broadcast but have intentions to see it in some broad stroke at an undetermined future date.  To hunker down for as long as it takes and sweat it out to the end.  The ideal result is fulfillment, plus now I can know what all the hype is about.  I always hope to do it before somebody spoils the ending for me (e.g. all the characters that are alive at the beginning of the series are dead after the end of the series, understand?).

It’s obviously tougher when the show isn’t as good as I thought it was.  Specifically this problem arises when I’ve actually seen some of the show before.  In this case, it’s Lost – the second half of season 1, and the first bit of season 2.

I finished season 1.  I remembered it being so pleasantly layered, and the character development being so fantastically unique.  I’d call it one of a kind, but I don’t know the history of TV that well.  I should mention that I’m a fan of dual narratives.  I remember when I was young seeing an episode of the cartoon Gargoyles in a hotel one time (the only episode I ever saw).  There were two timelines on top of one another – one where the main Gargoyle and his Gargoyle girlfriend were friends, and another where they were enemies, one being hunted by the other.  I remember it was great, and there was a lot of pathos.  Some kinda irony, maybe (or whatever literary device) that would not have worked otherwise.  Enough of that.

 

 

2. How Lost, Season 1 Works

Lost isn’t great.  It’s not because I know it goes downhill (“know” = I’ve heard it does, but I don’t know how).  The problem with the season 1 is actually rather specific.  But for starters – what’s good.  I admire the ambition: how many doorways open and plots begin.  There’s a vague sense that the writers are making it up as they go (I’ve heard this is how it was; perhaps how it is with every TV series).  But beyond that, the ideas that they try and tap into are sometimes deep, and I appreciate that.  Broad, large, philosophical, complex narratives and characters are never bad for primetime network TV, and I know this for a fact because it’s incredibly rare for primetime network TV.

The problem.  Specific issues with the writing.  Everything suffers when the writers cram it all in and ram it all home.

For example: Jack.  Jack is the hero who must save everyone.  They try and ram this idea home constantly over the season, but it’s all a little doughy, a little undercooked.  And that’s why Jack’s character is awful, and he’s annoying, and if you disagree, it’s because you didn’t get passed how hot he is.  If you’re still reading, keep going.

Whenever the whole thing becomes beholden to a plot, it falls.  How does this make sense?  Read this for my opinion, as if it was worth a damn.  My good episodes versus my bad episodes: the good ones are just open, free, develop a character’s story with their deeds and foibles in flashbacks; just let it flow, just let it be.  Bad ones are oriented, directed, every flashback is 2 minutes long or 12 minutes too short, just quickly make a point (“Jack is the HERO, LOOK!!”).  For the archetype or school of philosophy that any character is supposed to embody, the writers should have read up just a little more.  This is specific though.

On a more broad scale, it over reaches, and it does it almost off the bat.  It’s going for deep, and the structure of the show (in season 1, at least) allows it to be that way if it can or if it wants to.  Sometimes it can’t – the 45 minute runtime just isn’t long enough.  And this is a travesty, because  almost all the stories are good deep down (between you and me: the stories I can’t stand by the end are Jack’s and Kate’s).

The space and time to wander around the identity of the characters is vital.  The all-too-common brevity only serves a few stories well, the rest seem ruthlessly, forcefully ground down to the bare minimum.

3. How TV Works

I have no idea how Lost developed and progressed.  Yeah, J.J. Abrams had some ideas and some input.  Unfortunately, he’s proven himself a dumbass (both before and after Lost), but maybe he was put in a corner and only allowed to pipe up when Star Trek or Star Wars need a reference.  Blah blah – what I’m saying is I don’t know how much control the creators and writers had versus the network.

When you try and start a series, you write a pilot.  When you write a pilot, you write a pilot.  No whole season, no whole series, and nobody wants to hear ideas for where your thing goes.  Quote me on this cautiously, there are exceptions to every rule, especially if your name is David Milch.  …And probably J.J. Abrams at this point, but I don’t– I can’t believe that J.J. thinks too far ahead.  Slam.  You have your pilot, and have your high concept idea – that’s how it starts, and that’s probably how Lost started.  It’s big in execution, particularly when stood next to the rest of the horseshit on primetime TV.  But in the beginning, it could be summed in a sentence just like the rest.

No one person has full control over a TV show.  Every plot is guided, every plot point is overseen, every character arc engineered, and almost every goddamn line of dialogue is probably changed at some point.  And it’s never to make it more poetic for the brilliance of viewers.  Never.  The opposite.  To make it more stupid.  For the stupidity.  Of idiots.

(by idiots, I’d like to add)

So – with any TV show – a whole story unfolds from a sentence.  I can’t condemn that; it’s the overall function; the gears turning.  It’s controlled and regulated and digested by a stupid machine.  A passionless, emotionless, redundant, derivative, unimaginative, unessential, metallic piece of steel, robotic shit is shat into the world.  And please believe me – because it’s already being taught to children in the right classes — the closer the TV show is to this description, the longer it will last.

So Lost.  How bad is it?  I speak for Season 1: it’s not that bad, because it’s not a cookie cutter show that is identical to what is described above.  But it resides in “the machine,” who wants Lost to be that description above.  And it seems like there are people working hard to try and keep it from being that.  More failures than successes.  Shrug; I have no doubt that everyone has a good time on it.

At the end of the day, I don’t think Lost dodged greatness.  I think it was pulled out of the way.  And hell, what do I know?  It could be very possible that this pulling is the reason why it saw the success that it did.

 

Naked

February 3, 2012

 

1.  Cuba Si, Hollywood No

One night last weekend I went to couple places in Manhattan with a group of five.  I was the youngest.  The oldest was named Werner.  He was in his 70s, and he was a man of the world, but philosophy seemed to be his bread and butter.  He’d taught it, he had one of his own, he’d written – I admired it all.

At a party in the lobby of the Ace Hotel, while Cuba Gooding Jr. danced his way out the door in a style I’d never quite seen before, I asked Werner what he thought of philosophy in films.  He said it was neicht good and cited Mindwalk.  I knew what he was talking about, but tried to explain a kind of underlying presence of philosophy that I meant.  I used Kubrick as the easy example.  Maybe I meant richness of ideas, in opposition to films that have none (which, in my world, number far too high).

He said something about how when philosophy permeates art too deeply, it ruins the art.  He suggested that, in fact, it is art that informs philosophy – that’s how it is, and necessarily must be.  He said Nietzsche said it; I think he named others too who felt the same.  I’m scared — a) I don’t know whether to agree or disagree with art advancing all things, b) I have no cited sources, and c) I don’t really agree at all about the ruining effects of philosophy.

2.  So!

I happened to see Mike Leigh’s Naked recently.  I’m someone who, in a way or two, sees David Thewlis’s character Johnny as a hero.  Not because he’s a misogynist – he is one according to the rules of misogyny – but because he doesn’t adhere to many rules at all.

Not adhering to many rules at all is how and why it’s easy to see him as a mooch (in addition to misogynist, asshole, et al), and this is why I will now refer anyone to start reading this blog from the beginning.  Johnny-lite?  …And I gave up masturbation for 2012…  At any rate, he uses people, but it’s not like he isn’t giving back – everyone seems to learn something from him, or he leaves them something to take (arguably).  So doesn’t that just make him unwittingly generous?  It’s just the way the world works.  Most people are pissed when they realized they’ve learned something from someone they disagree with.  Especially when they weren’t asking for it.

But you can always learn something from someone you disagree with.  They say opposites attract – I don’t give a shit for how long; if you haven’t wrapped your organs around someone you have little in common with, then I beg you to get off your ass.  (in this proverbial picture, I would also like you to be attracted to them, or else I’d have worries for your self-esteem)

3.  Philosophy In Art

It’s more good than bad.  This is my opinion; there is no scientific method for this.  Maybe I could study up on formal logic?  I could prove anything.

The presence in the world of Films Without Ideas depresses me – I wouldn’t wish ’em on my worst enemy.  But are there actually films without ideas?  Is it a similar question to ask: are there films without art?  Ask George Lucas.  He just made Red Tails (starring Cuba Gooding Jr., ballet genius) and/but claims it will be his last “blockbuster.”  He’ll now go on to make smaller films that will only play in “arthouse theatres.”

Oh, so megaplexes don’t have art?  shrug  Often they don’t.  Who’s defining?  Well, George Lucas just implied it.  I know, I know, he’s a fucking idiot.  Maybe I go asking famous people I may or may not know?  For some reason, everyone seems to have the same ideal – God, I’d love to be great.  Like fuckin’… Kubrick!  Or Cassavettes!  Like Jimmy Stewart or Katherine Hepburn!  Like X, where X=don’t trust the person that doesn’t love X!  And yet, they shit shit into the world, making it shitty, diluting your / my / their / our culture.  Making it hard for good* things and easy for bad* things. (*weasel words).

Not hard to fix.

4.  PS: Johnny Johnny

What does it mean for Johnny to be a role model?  He’s far more admirable than, say, James Bond.  Bond never saved shit, or else there wouldn’t be further Bond movies (I’m a fan of the joke that Bond kills all the Bond Girls to make way for the next one).  They’re both misogynistic, but Bond only has some kind of tactical intelligence.  Does he actually know anything about ontology; ever utter profundities aloud?   I don’t even want to think about this anymore.