Snippet of Futurism

A few snippets of enjoyment and a foray into futurism, amidst my misery.

I have joined a team that is entering the 48 Hours film competition this year. Hanna and a bunch of the folks working on her movie are in it. At least one of the team was in the group that won the South Island section last year with Bruised Gold. It’s just one of the many excellent short films on Cactuslab‘s nzshortfilm.com.

Not a film but a (Flash) movie, this ragdoll model of Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung is virtual about as visceral as I’ve found – and a heap of fun.

But the thing I’ve rewatched the most in the last couple of days is this nicely made short movie of They’re Made out of Meat, a short story by Terry Bisson.

I’ve been experiencing a rejuvenation of my interest in the social forces that drove the development of the abnormal brain size that humans have among primates. It seems to me that the social patterns of our lifestyle in the Web world have more in common with those of hunting or raiding in bands than with furrow-poughing, and pyramid or ship-building. It’s just that the scale of the connections is expanding so rapidly that we can barely cope. It makes sense, therefore that we are building machines (Google, etc) that can aggregate the responses of hundreds of millions of people and make them discoverable.

The only catch is that even what is discoverable will soon (five decades?) overwhelm us. The accelerating edge of the rate of change will impinge more and more closely until these precocious jungle animal brains can no longer cope, even with abstractions. Just as well life, or at least something we’ll probably recognise as like it, as it whizzes by, is emerging in the mediated environment to surpass us in sentience and, probably observe us with incredulity and, we hope nostalgia, rather than detachment.

Chicky Babe, Rebecca from Circle Research and Jane

There are a million things I’d like to write here. This is first. I got a little close to a new someone. Chicky Babe, her name is. It isn’t of course, but pratt/wannabe that I am, I called her that and it stuck. It could be that it’s useful to have a pseudonyms for my girlfriends because otherwise how could I blog about my relationships with them without violating their privacy. You know, Jane’s dead… and our relationship was pretty public anyway, by the time that she died. I’ve been pretty conscious of her privacy notwithstanding all that. But any new one, even Jane at that early stage of our relationship referred to in my last post, would not exactly be WWW material.

Course you (and maybe Chicky Babe) would have noticed my use of “girlfriends”. Maybe you think I’m doing them concurrently, or even wilfully serially. Well, I tried in parallel, in the most modest way and I don’t like it. Me: one at a time, earlier rather than later. But who really knows what (or how many) will happen? For all my investigations into the intricacies of relationships it certainly ain’t me. I wouldn’t have a bloody clue, three quarters of the time.

OK, as I said CB (I like her) and I got a little close. Don’t get carried away here. A little, right? Try telling my unconscious that, tho. First sign of a little niceness, it went straight into fundemental dilemma mode. Back in the womb, simultaneously united with god and cornered by a predator. Least that’s what it felt like. Sure, I was a little connected. Comes a point in hanging out and having a nice time together, it just isn’t a matter for decision-making any more. It just is.

And so it was. Fear, sadness, old friends, bastards, bowled right in. For a day I dragged my arse, leaning into it like a bitch to get anywhere. Trying to shake it off. Why do I have to be such a mess? I knew what the fear was about but where was all that sadness from? Felt like a fat bladder full of tears. But a tied up tight one, just bulging around inside me.

At about four o’clock, I was expecting a call from CB. The phone rang “is that Mr Spears?”. “No”. “Is that the household of Jane Spears and Mr Spears?”. “Who’s speaking please?”. “It’s Rebecca from Circle Research” (maybe I got the company name wrong – it doesn’t matter). “Rebecca, Jane died…” we ended our conversation. As my finger closed on the “off” button on the phone, I arched back and then convulsed into an explosive expulsion of tears. It was like, not being swept along by but being the cause of, or being an actual dam-burst and flash flood. I don’t think I have ever shed so many tears in such a short time. It was Jane, of course.

Thank you, Rebecca, I thought, when the storm had blown itself out. I felt almost weightless compared with how I had before. I was even able to be sociable when I met up with CBabe for a burst round the park on our bikes and then a movie (Match Point – i hated it), some dinner and a bit of sunday nite tourist shopping.

I started writing this a few days ago. At the time, my favourite song in the universe was “King Straggler’s” Good Man (you can download it from the SXSW site). King Straggler features John Hawkes of Deadwood (I so have to review that) and Me and You fame.

CB (I really want to use her real name now) and I had dinner and sat around listening to music on Tuesday night. Some email during the days. We met up on Wednesday night and it was lovely again. We wrote lists of things we’d like each other to do for us. We played. We talked. We were gentle and kind with each other. We met once more, for the last time, on Friday night. It’s not a particularly long story but it’s our story, for here purposes. It makes sense to me but damn it hurts. I knew I was vulnerable to being hurt but then slam. It’s not as if this was a great love. We both knew its limitations. But it was so nice, such lovely easy gentle fun. I got what I wanted. To feel some connection with someone. To have some fun. Why did it only have to be a few weeks, tho? And why did I have to feel all that pain last weekend and why do I have to feel all this pain now and when will it stop? I don’t want to ache and cry all the time. I just want to have a normal life with normal nice things and some one to share them with.

Damn, I miss you, Chicky Babe. I can’t tell you 100% that these tears are about you and not about Jane or about me and just wanting to have a nice time. I can tell you that I loved playing with you and that I know about your strength, gentleness and integrity. And I know that you have seen some glimpses of me and also of what might be possible between us. This is probably the right thing to be doing. I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that I am glad that with you, I went with what felt right. Gut guide, take me forward to more fun, more delight and more (frgn) pain.

Carry Me Home

Perhaps I shouldn’t be thinking about new love. Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried to find love in the first place. Perhaps I shouldn’t have listened to Ryan Adams and Emmylou Harris sing “Sweet Carolina” 17 times today and tried to sing it myself 27 times.

I looked in Jane’s diary today. Not a private one, just the dates one that she transcribed from year to year. April 30 has:

email #1 (2003)

The legend goes that I was sitting at home at Keswick St, 6 weeks out of my previous relationship thinking “must stay single… must stay single… i wonder whatever happened to… ” when I googled Jane and emailed her (I still have it, of course):

Subject: long shot
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 22:54:07 +1200
From: Dan Randow
To: : j.spears@whitireia.ac.nz
Hi Jane,

Found your email address while googling old friends.

If you happen to be the Jane Spears from Dunedin, tramping, correspondence and other adventures that I warmly recall, I’d be gladto hear from you.

cheers

Dan von Randow

You better have the next bit of this little story.

A day passed. Then half of another day passed. And then, sitting in what’s now our cup’o’tea room at Kenton Chambers, I received:

Subject: long shot hits target
Date: Fri, 02 May 2003 12:16:33 +1200
From: J Spears
To: D Randow

Would that be the same Dan von Randow who once wrote:

“I’m sure we’ll meet again and when we do, I’m going to slaughter you…” (4.3.80)

“And I also know that we will meet again many times and at one of those times I’m going to gouge out a piece of your character and stomp it intodirt.” (2.4.80)

“It doesn’t mean that much to me to mean that much to you – Neil Young (10.6.80)

“I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned. Show you. Sometime.” (26.11.80)

“P.P.S. I’ll never forget you Jane”

And you haven’t. But don’t worry – I don’t expect you to keep your other promises!

By my calculations, it’s 23+ years since we last met. I have been waiting for the karma to kick in, so I am delighted that it has.

Jane

We had both kept our old letters. I have quite a decent set now.

This morning, about three years later, I woke up in my bed. After a while, I opened my eyes and looked across a pillow to a gap and noticed it. I closed my eyes and imagined a naked woman. Not with my eyes, with my hands. The feel of her flesh under my fingers. Her arm, ribs, abdomen, hips, yielding softly to the track of my touch … Initially, her face belonged to someone imagined from either the future or the past (i can’t remember). Then she seemed too cool. Not springy. My eyes were open and she (her body anyway) was blue, grey. 60 or 70 kg. Well built (as in the report from the Pathologist who did the autopsy).

So, here now. Jane has been dead for nearly nine months. Insight into male psyche (mine, at least): my first thoughts that I was free to ‘play the field’ occurred the day that Jane died. I could put it down to denial. I carried on.

Being in the relationship with Jane was my dream come true. It was luxurious. We used to hold each other, gently, look into each other’s eyes and then gently draw each other into a new embrace. Exhaling to new eye contact, with a little levity, we would joke about our mutual indulgence. “Could we get any smugger?” was the joke. As if “smugger” was an illicit substance.

It was not all like that, tho. I will never forget the helplessness of the painful moments. Jane felt helpless, too. She couldn’t tell me what her concern was without getting a negative response from me. She was already turning herself through hoops to be gentle with me (or, to conform with my ‘criteria for communication’). Her style in conflict, after all, as she made plain to me up front was pugilistic. For all of that, tho, when the tension was high, my inner being seemed raw at all edges. I wanted to listen, to somehow let in how the world was for her. But any small edge on her way of letting me in on it jagged at me. I wanted her to see that I was for what she wanted and not just critical of her way of getting it across. I wanted her to love me, not to see me as bad. But i didn’t want to prostrate myself, to be assailed without saying that that was my experience. It is old, easy and perilous for me to do that. Like this, we wound each other into a frenzy of increasing agony.

We could get out, eventually with declarations of goodwill. Entering the full terror of the situation and finding a way through it had still to come for us. But it was early days. And we had journeyed to unknown places together from the start.

That I will some day enter a relationship with someone who is as willing to say yes to me, and to whom I am as willing to say yes.

When Jane died, she left rather a gap.

I grieve. You know cos u read it here. I know cos I feel it. The new bit for this account is how i have expresssed that grief in a search for another, and how that search has also been, gradually, the resumption of an old search for love. So the vacant positions are Jane’s and the vacant position made possible by Jane’s departure. It is not clear which I have been seeking to fill. It is clear that my search has been an expression of longing, of all my loverness with this phantom lover, a waxwork looking exactly like Jane but catatonic, to whom i keep relating but who does not respond. Will someone step into that waxwork, be Jane and respond to me?

Will someone enter that other vacancy? Maybe. But what is their guarantee I will not pressgang/project them into the first? Maybe, hearing the romantic tale, they’ll secretly quite like the idea. Maybe I’d even quite like that. Even in the supposedly really vacant slot, whoever steps in is going to have their ear filled with tears before delicate tongue traces, or at least right afterwards. What a mess.

Maybe, tho I over-estimate the grieving-for-Jane element in this heartache that i feel. Maybe it’s old yearning, perhaps for those universals, the unwitholding breast, the womb itself, being a single-celled organism (union with god).

Dear Walter said “hunger is not pathological” yesterday.

And I know that for all of this stuff, and whomever I become involved with, no matter at what level, this drama is enacted in all my relationships. Sometimes, much of the time, repetitively, but, when there are moments to be conscious of it with others, that is the deep magic of relationship happening: two willing participants in collaborative exploration of the unknown, both within and in relationship.

So, towards the unknown…

Statistics to be believed, my heart will keep beating until I am too expensive for any public health system. I’ll play “Heartbreaker” another 1,000 times. I’ll sing “Sweet Carolina” 100 times. Could my next partner please sing like Emmylou?

I recall that Jane liked Ryan Adams:

Oh my sweet Carolina
What compels me to go?
Oh my sweet disposition
May you one day carry me home.

And now I know that I like Sheryl Crow:

No one said it would be easy
No one said it’d be this hard
No one said it would be easy
No one thought we’d come this far
Oh, and look, we’ve come this far

Hope in Devastation

Barefoot Gen

Rating: 5 out of 5

Author: Keiji Nakazawa

My Mum (thanks 🙂 sent me all four of the Barefoot Gen series (I’m still not sure whether there are four or ten in total). I read the first two last year: Jane got them out of the library. The third and fourth succumbed over the weekend. They’re 250 pages each. Usually one of those would take me two months. I did these in a sitting (well lying) each. They are graphic novels. Manga. Comics.

Complete with “pow!” and “wap!” and salt-shaker-shaped lumps on people’s heads, these books are peppered with graphic violence. Characters are gullible so that if something works for one, the others will all try it. The scenes (frames?) are all melodramatic, whether they are of catastrophe, intrigue or poignancy, or the sun rising, setting or just shining.

The effect is a rocking ride. I literally could not put them down until I’d finished them. It was merciful that they were graphic novels or I would have had people kicking down the door.

Of course, Barefoot Gen depicts the holocaust in Hiroshima. It’s from the point of view of a small family, some of whom miraculously survive. In particular, Gen, a boy is plucky and resourceful. He can equally be charming or savagely vindictive. What he values the most, tho is hope and respect. He drops everything to help people, even if it is just to treat them as human. He sees red at injustice. Through a world devastated by violence, or wearied into indifference, Gen weaves a thread of love.

I think there are only four volumes in the series but if you run out, you could go for the equally gripping MAUS books by Art Spiegelman (he writes the preface in one of the Gen books).

Tags: barefoot gen hiroshima manga

Small Epiphanies

Look Both Ways

IMDB

Year: 2006

Writer: Sarah Watt

Director: Sarah Watt

Rating: 5 out of 5

Those stars that I put on these reviews? You know that they don’t mean “it’s good”, don’t you? What they mean is I like it.

The Aussies have done it again. Strangely, only I added Little Fish to the list with Lantana. But “Look Both Ways” is on it too now. Maybe it’s my growing liking for Australians, skin moistened with perspiration and humidity and ground constantly crawling with ants. Maybe it’s the attractiveness of the “new love” story. Maybe it is the “death” theme. I don’t think so. The Aussies are aceing us at movies.

Look Both Ways is about life, love and loss. Simple pulsings: further apart, closer together. Ordinary people, each with their own reasons to be cautious, careless, searching or unthinking. Lives intertwine and small shifts happen. All a boy needs to be happy, and sad.

Animation is used terrifyingly and hilariously. Images from TV, the press, the Web, coloured pencil sketches, watercolours and street, park or pool-scapes interweave the inner and outer worlds of the participants.

What do you call those scenes which cut from one character or small group to next, showing a series of simultaneous moments of melancholy or sweetness? Look Both Ways does this about every five minutes. And you know what? I don’t mind. Yes, I do compare it with Magnolia.

I must read “the Dubliners” again.

Btw, I’ll post something other than a movie review soon, honest.

Tags: movie lookbothways

Disposable fascinations

Capote

IMDB

Year: 2005

Cast:

  • Truman Capote: Philip Seymore Hoffman
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

    It works because it plunges me into a dilemma. Capote is singularly single-minded. Can anyone quote his line as he bribes the Prison Warden for access to visiting Perry? But is his work really his sole motivation? Yes, if you count his identification with Perry as providing the content for his literature. “It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he went out the back door and I went out the front.” We don’t so much love him as get drawn into the question.

    Capote doesn’t love Perry either. He’s just drawn into the question. The fact that, apparently, he isn’t horrified by him is all that distinguishes their relationship from ours with Truman.

    Of course Philip Seymore Hoffman deserved the Oscar. I was a fan already. He commits from the outset. Effete, right? As the audience moves on to its next fascination, PSH is the only one who isn’t disposable.

    Tags: capote

    Capote

    IMDB

    Year: 2005

    Cast:

  • Truman Capote: Philip Seymore Hoffman
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

    It works because it plunges me into a dilemma. Capote is singularly single-minded. Can anyone quote his line as he bribes the Prison Warden for access to visiting Perry? But is his work really his sole motivation? Yes, if you count his identification with Perry as providing the content for his literature. “It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he went out the back door and I went out the front.” We don’t so much love him as get drawn into the question.

    Capote doesn’t love Perry either. He’s just drawn into the question. The fact that, apparently, he isn’t horrified by him is all that distinguishes their relationship from ours with Truman.

    Of course Philip Seymore Hoffman deserved the Oscar. I was a fan already. He commits from the outset. Effete, right? As the audience moves on to its next fascination, PSH is the only one who isn’t disposable.

    Tags: capote

    “No. 2”: Feel-Good I Feel Good About

    No. 2

    IMDB

    Year: 2006

    Writer: Toa Fraser

    Director: Toa Fraser

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    I don’t usually like feel-good movies. I like gritty. I cut a little slack for NZ movies. I liked Whale Rider. The reason that most feel good movies get up my nose is their sentimentalism, simplistic emotion, schmaltz, sugariness or, worse saccharine. If I’m going to feel really good at the end of something, I want it to be for a reason, hard-won in some way that has some depth, that illuminates something about the world or humanity.

    Yes, I liked Me and You and Everyone We Know. I even liked “the Station Agent” (it went right to the limit, then pulled back). But I really did not like “Amelie” or , “Erin Brokovich”, as examples.

    No. 2 I like because it is about life. Old Maria recognises the stuckness in herself and the system around her. A legacy from those who have gone before, the second world war, colonialism. In her irrascible way, she makes an intervention. Not a didactic or particularly calculated one but a disrupting one, none the less. She has been reading social complexity theory. It works because something shifts. Gradually, the associating, eating, singing, dancing, fighting, truth, love and leadership that she wishes for all emerge.

    Maybe I am naiive, but for all the simplicity of the plot, I can’t say I found it predicatable. More, easy to go along with. And it was beautifully portrayed, with many funny scenes of ordinariness. I think my favourite was a dialogueless moment between Maria and Charlene in Maria’s bedroom. Yes, the music was stirring but the interaction between the two was rich and profoundly moving. That’s gotta be a measure of acting and directing.

    I say “Yes” to this celebration of life with vivid performances from everyone in the cast.

    No. 2

    IMDB

    Year: 2006

    Writer: Toa Fraser

    Director: Toa Fraser

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    I don’t usually like feel-good movies. I like gritty. I cut a little slack for NZ movies. I liked Whale Rider. The reason that most feel good movies get up my nose is their sentimentalism, simplistic emotion, schmaltz, sugariness or, worse saccharine. If I’m going to feel really good at the end of something, I want it to be for a reason, hard-won in some way that has some depth, that illuminates something about the world or humanity.

    Yes, I liked Me and You and Everyone We Know. I even liked “the Station Agent” (it went right to the limit, then pulled back). But I really did not like “Amelie” or , “Erin Brokovich”, as examples.

    No. 2 I like because it is about life. Old Maria recognises the stuckness in herself and the system around her. A legacy from those who have gone before, the second world war, colonialism. In her irrascible way, she makes an intervention. Not a didactic or particularly calculated one but a disrupting one, none the less. She has been reading social complexity theory. It works because something shifts. Gradually, the associating, eating, singing, dancing, fighting, truth, love and leadership that she wishes for all emerge.

    Maybe I am naiive, but for all the simplicity of the plot, I can’t say I found it predicatable. More, easy to go along with. And it was beautifully portrayed, with many funny scenes of ordinariness. I think my favourite was a dialogueless moment between Maria and Charlene in Maria’s bedroom. Yes, the music was stirring but the interaction between the two was rich and profoundly moving. That’s gotta be a measure of acting and directing.

    I say “Yes” to this celebration of life with vivid performances from everyone in the cast.

    Walk With Me

    Dear Jane,

    Soon it will be six months since you died. Tomorrow I will travel to Bannockburn to be with Con and George, Kat and Rogan and Christopher and Barbara. Anthea is travelling with me. On Monday, we will inter your ashes in the family plot in the Cromwell cemetery. Kat and I are planning to build a cairn in your memory.

    I know that your memory will be with me. The only times that I have been to Bannockburn before were with you. And before you died,the only times that I was with your family was with you. Those are not the reasons, tho. Over the past two and a bit weeks of my holiday, your memory has been with me. You have been with me, Jane.

    You weren’t so with me in the rush to finish the year’s activity and depart but as soon as the pressure retreated, there you were. There you were in the travel to Tyl’s, in the Christmas accounting and at each step of the holiday that I would have been sharing with you, had not that crazy event happened that changed everything. And of course, had we agreed to change the holiday plan that we had for Hautanoa to one for Auckland and environs. Each step of each walk across sand, through bush, on and off ferries, through malls even, was echoed by your silent footsteps beside me. Each surfacing in the water lacked the sight tho not the anticipation of your grin.

    Of course you did not read my posts here that I was not ready to let you go, or even contemplate it. You did not notice as I began to get on with my life without you: working, rearranging the house, having fun, being single. You do not notice that you have returned to occupy this non-space near me. Or do you? Jane?

    You felt closest when we visited Allan and Madge. Young Allan, Miharu, Hana, Leo and Haluka were there too. You had pride of place, absent at the dining table.

    I remember my pledge, at your funeral, that I am going to keep the love you gave me close to my heart, Jane. That I am going to stay happy. Just now, I feel a little sad. I’d like you to be a little more materially with me, my Lovely. I know that you have changed me, though, given me something that I can’t lose. That you are with me as some kind of part of me, a knowing that I have, a strange extension, an expansion of me, gradually coming to fit better. Some how you remain alive, the life that you give me giving you life.

    You were here. You left. You are still with me. Wherever I go, you are walking with me, Jane. I know that you always will be.