Regarding Sarah, among other things

Frame from 'Regarding Sarah'

In a discussion about music becoming meaningless, these two great moments:

“e.g., a type of music symbolizes rebellion rather than provoking rebellion, symbolizes outrageousness rather than being an outrage…” (frank kogan in the first issue of why music sucks, 1987)

i am afraid of the analogous phenomena happening: blog as signifier for experience, rather than experience itself.

I saw a great short film recently that had some smart ideas in this vein. Regarding Sarah is about an aging woman who starts videotaping her life because she is afraid she won’t remember it. Hilarity ensues, and eventually it becomes clear that the short film itself is Sarah’s final “highlights reel” about her life; once she completes it she will give up her recording habit.

(Aside: I wish you could watch this film online. How does that work for indie filmmakers? Is it helpful to show more people the film, or does that screw up festival applications and such?)

I remember the turning point of the film being something to the effect of, “It got to the point that I could allow myself only one hour of real living each day, or I wouldn’t have time to edit and review all the tapes.”

This was so analogous to the kind of media overload that people complain about on the internet— there are so many blogs to read that I don’t have time to write my own blog, there is so much writing to do in my own blog that I don’t have time to see people— that I may have started to hyperventilate.

I definitely started hyperventilating when Sarah began turning all her cameras off, one by one, saying for each one “I will no longer record myself sleeping, but I trust that I will still sleep,” and so on. (By the time the directors’ Q & A came around, I was all squeaky and kind of hiccupped out my question. It was dumb. Next time: deep breaths.)

The film ends with something like, “and I trust that God is recording everything perfectly, so it’s ok if I don’t remember it.”

I thought this was a new and strangely technological role to give to God. This is the first time I’ve seen a relevant spiritual reaction to excessive urges to record and interpret your own life. “When there was only one set of footprints, that’s when I blogged for you.” That would actually probably be comforting for a lot of bloggers.

The ending also brought a very old quote bubbling up from the depths of my memory. I’m afraid it is Perry Farrell.

I get off on athletes when they start getting all inspirational
Then they gotta go and mention Jesus and ruin it

I have no interest in relying on God to make life meet my expectations, whether by counting on a higher power to record my legacy or by any other method. I thought all those good ideas about media, time, memory and experience could have been pushed further than that. (My internal meanie-meter is going off right now, but I can’t find a way around it.) Why settle for faith in complacency when you could have a weird epiphany about technology, right?

I don’t know what that epiphany could be yet, but I think it might have something to do with these star employees from the tragic half-baked ideas department:

  • we are all fundamentally alone (an oldie but a goodie, right?)
  • lowering your standards is one way to trust more easily, but there’s a more powerful way that has something to do with love (this one is half-baked both in the sense of “that’s deep, man… [exhale]” and in the sense of “not very thorough”).
  • expectations: if they are wrecking your life, they are probably the wrong ones. (Also known as, “just because you want something impossible doesn’t mean God should do it for you.”)

And… insert some kind of joke about how I’ll keep you posted, except if I figure this out I’ll have no urge to post, by definition, but I’ll probably post anyway… except, you know, funny and not morose like this. Whee!

Erotics of sports?

Chinlone players from the movie Mystic Ball.

Here are two things I’ve been trying to combine in my head since June:

  • I watched the World Cup soccer games this summer. I’ve never been a sports fan. The competition seemed meaningless, like it was wasting its potential. It was still fun, but I wanted something. Surely atheleticism and competition could add up to more than some arbitrary, slightly psychotic spectacle.
  • In his workbook The Erotic Mind, Dr. Jack Morin wrote that “eroticism is the process through which sex acquires meaning.” That made me think immediately of sports, believe it or not. I think my experience with sports might be like boring sex, without any erotic framework.

I’ve just been kind of storing that partial idea, pending further inspiration.

But, I think I found a film I need to watch. I spotted it in the Vancouver International Film Festival guide (after the festival was over— argh!). It’s called Mystic Ball.

Chinlone is a unique combination of sport and dance, a team sport with no opposing team. The focus is not on winning, but on how beautifully you play the game.

For director Greg Hamilton, what begins as a physical exercise soon becomes a meditation and a dance with gravity. Mystic Ball follows Hamilton as he evolves from an awkward beginner to a teammate capable of soloing with the greatest chinlone players in the country. During numerous trips to Myanmar and the city of Mandalay, Hamilton is embraced by a community that shares his passion. We see the development of his friendship with the “Golden Princess” Su Su Hlaing, the greatest chinlone solo artist in the country. And we learn what chinlone means to a couple of elders who have been playing the game everyday for the last 70 years.

That movie might be beyond my New Age threshold (Golden Princess?), and the sport sounds suspiciously like Burmese Hacky Sack, but I’m going to file it away just in case.

Of course I needed an anarchist’s perspective

Why didn’t I think earlier to look for anarchist and class-struggle critiques of V for Vendetta? I came out of the theatre thinking that the movie, in which the politics are less extreme, made me appreciate the book’s take on anarchy and revolution all the more. The movie was a good foil for the book, in other words, besides being a fun movie.

This anarchist’s take on the movie covers lots of good ground, especially, I think, regarding modern anarchist ideas as something of a fairy tale— fitting for an action movie.

The comic, and to a lesser extent the film, are often viewed as anarchist. I would submit that they are “anarchist “ mostly because at the time of the writing, the anarchists had the most new, vibrant and semi-underground white subculture. … I think it’s mostly seen as anarchist because anarchist theory is so heavily mythological when it comes to revolution.

The general strike has historically been the mythical event that was most often cast to usher in the new world. Leaving the caveman fetishists aside (who, no, I don’t view as “real” anarchists), the critique of vanguardism and political manipulation has left anarchists, in a post-revolutionary union world, without a grounded theory of revolution. Paris ’68 suggested that students spraypainting walls, refusing to attend class, and fucking in the streets might be enough to disrupt the “Spectacle” and push people towards true awareness of their role in society of oppressed and oppressor. …

… Many anarchists and fellow travelers are so starved for positive signs that we mistake repackaged hipness as revolutionary art.

Mostly I like seeing him criticize the theory in the movie, while still obviously appreciating it as an entertaining movie. So balanced, so personable.

Off to read the further commentary linked from that post!

Weird weekend

Yesterday I spoke on a panel discussing the film Petals, which follows a photographer who creates a collection of vulva portraits. In one of the scenes, a woman who has studied some kind of native southwestern or Mexican sexual tradition is naming different vulva shapes. Deer woman, buffalo woman, dancing woman. OK.

Towards the end of the scene her explanation gets away from her a little and she starts just stringing animal names together, at which point Galen and I both cracked up despite ourselves, and despite having the film’s producer sitting with us. “Sometimes you’ll see a woman who is half deer, half sheep, and that’s called a fox, and…” Stop, stop!

During the post-film discussion, a woman in the audience asked about the vulva names and where she could learn more about deer woman and company. It suddenly sounded a lot like the fabled 100 Inuit words for snow. The panel didn’t go there at all, but I wondered what I would do with 100 words for genitals, how that would help me communicate or think. (Howard Rheingold’s They Have A Word For It is a great book on this theme.) I’m not sure I want to get into categorizing body shapes and types. What it really made me want to know was 100 words for feeling weird, because I was deferring a lot of weirdness at that moment on the panel.

When I showed up for the screening, the film festival director didn’t recognize me when I said hi, even though we’ve met several times and my name was in the program. He still didn’t know who I was when he invited the panel to come up front, and instead of covering with any grace he just sort of squinted at me with his mouth open. The producer I was sitting with piped up with my name, so it sort of worked out. Then the panel turned out to be unmoderated, no one got introduced, and the director wrapped up the discussion by walking in front of the stage and shouting “Is that about it?” like a reluctant teacher interrupting a boring student presentation. Whoa.

So I’m looking for a word, English or otherwise, to explain the general sentiment that “This would embarrass a lesser woman, and I’m sure glad that I know better than to let this ruin my weekend. Where are my usual friends and when can I hug them?”

I’m also in search of a word to express my reaction to a photo shoot I organized on Saturday where somebody invited about 30 extra models (quadrupling the total population of the shoot), and other various things. We went to a barbecue and the address was abandoned? Galen was moved more than once, this weekend, to declare, “At least we still have our dignity.”

What is the word for this kind of weekend, and what language has catalogued silly angst in this level of detail?

Ranty movie moment (Kill Bill)

Galen and I watched the second part of Kill Bill last night (yes, I’m always late watching movies…), and it was kind of weird for both of us. I was prepared to dismiss it as basically an idiotic pastiche of Tarantino’s favourite pop culture, but then I watched the “making of” bit in the special features. It amounted to all of the actors verbally fellating Q.T. for half an hour about his operatic scope and his ability to write better than Shakespeare did. Yow. I hope I never get myself into a position where no one will critique me to my face.

Really, I was enjoying the movie as a vacant piece of cool-looking entertainment until about the last 15 minutes, when…


… The Bride starts explaining why she ran away and her only story was that finding out she was pregnant changed her whole personality and made her quit her job. Add that to the insistent way that her unborn baby gets referred to as a person— repeatedly, during the entire two volumes— and I got a little creeped out by Tarantino’s take on reproductive rights. But, you know, oh well, artists have statements, the whole plot was minimalist, and the guy was probably just looking for some kind of primal, female motivation for his Amazonian lead. I can deal. I’m even pro-choice about the right to enjoy misogynist entertainment.

(end spoiler)

More annoying to me is that during the “let’s fellate the director” special feature, Uma and Quentin both make points about The Bride being so empowered, and about this movie featuring empowered women empowering themselves with power. Is this seriously what passes for empowerment among movie stars? Blond babes acting out the director’s girl-on-girl fantasies by kicking the shit out of each other? Chicks who are mortal enemies because they dated the same guy? Women who wimp out because of their uteruses? A main character who gets specifically attacked in her various woman parts— shot in the tits, rendered infertile, raped, manipulated through her child?

Presumably the celebrities consider these characters empowered because they can kick ass, but every time this prowess gets mentioned in the movie it is in the form “she’s pretty good… for a girl.” Top female assassin. Deadliest woman in the world. The chicks even refer to themselves that way, while they are killing some of your deadlier male assassins. That’s dumb, and distracting in a movie made since 1970.

When I rant like this, I get self-conscious about being a feminazi. This kind of rant doesn’t seem like an activist manifesto to me. My parents and almost everyone I know understands this stuff. I was raised in this context. A lot of my life plays out in a post-feminist context, if I may toss around some jargon for a moment. Ranting like this is sort of the same as complaining about an overpriced restaurant. You don’t have to go back there yourself so there’s no further action that needs to be taken, but you might as well warn your friends in case they care about the same things.

Penguin romance will not be silenced

The original French version of March of the Penguins puts words in the penguins’ mouths, for an anthropomorphic romance. At first I agreed with the producers that such a sentimental approach would never fly in North America, but then I took my gramma to see it in the theatre.

The whole crowd was old people and little kids: two groups who tend to talk through movies.

I think the French version could be reconstructed from the voices that the little girl next to me improvised to her mother.

(baby voice) ‘Oh, I’m so happy to see my daddy. Hello daddy!’

(deep voice) ‘Hello son! I missed you so much!’

And my favourite,

(mom voice) ‘Here, eat this. (barfing noises)’

inspirational, celebrational…

galen and i rented the best of the muppet show and disc one of season one, then went back the next day for disc two. there is so much muppet show in our house now— children’s dvds are only $1 to rent for a week!

when i was little, i thought the muppet show was for adults because it was so violent and unfunny and confusing, and not remotely educational. now i watch it and it’s obviously made with little children in mind— half the skits are pre-verbal and make heavy use of colourful blobs.

but it is really weird. it’s about a bad variety show. that’s a rather complex angle for a tv show— celebrating weirdness without making it cool at all, just loving these bad performers with monobrows, and never letting them finish their acts or get applause. i remember finding the lack of closure really dissatisfying as a child. someone would start singing and just fall off stage and it was over. fozzie never got to upshow the hecklers. it was frustrating to watch!

i thought this would just be silly tv to watch after work or during dinner, but i’m finding it deeply satisfying. affirming, even! it’s such a complete vision of love and bad art and diversity (and puppets).

predictably, my favourite parts now are the parts i found most confusing when i was young: gonzo and sam the eagle.

gonzo is at max power in the first season. i never really understood that he was a performance artist, not just a chicken fetishist. “and now our resident artist, gonzo the great, will eat a rubber tire to the music of the flight of the bumblebee.” (booing ensues.)

sam the eagle is practically the president of the US right now. it’s comforting for a weirdo such as myself to see moral righteousness coming out of a grumpy blue bird instead of a man in a suit.

but i think my absolute favourite moment is seeing sam the eagle in a chorus line of male muppets in the opening credits of later seasons, singing “it’s time to put on make-up”.