Archive for January, 2013

1. Eating meat

I’d wanted to give up meat since I was a little kid. Anyone who knows me knows how far-fetched that concept seems. I subsisted on a meat-atarian diet for about 20 years, and yet here I am – nearly 3 months into a vegetarian diet.

I eat so much better than I used to. I am happier about it, living closer to my vision of myself, and feel a lot better about going out to eat with people (even if it’s sometimes hard to find a food option!)

2. Soda

I went on a hard-core water binge when I lived by myself in Muncie two years ago. And there I was – knee deep in the old soda habit late last year. I started drinking a lot of soy milk after I quit meat, and that made things a lot easier.

Mostly, I’m just glad to be away from it. Sticky, sugary, and altogether gross.

3. Facebook

Because I have trouble with self-control. Zadie Smith really turned me around, but at the end of the day I just wanted to feel more connected to people. I hated feeling like a piece of data, and I still do. I don’t think our communications are meant for everyone, and I want to cultivate that truth.

Some decisions you don’t look back on. I haven’t regretted this one for a second. If you want to talk/skype/call/email – I’m here. But I need to talk to you, and you need to talk to me.

4. Twitter

Because, people, I AM WEAK.
I replaced Facebook with Twitter, and I can admit that. At the end of the day, it falls prey to all the same pitfalls – and so do I. Not enough moments in a life, and not enough of them spent making my real life better.

5. Tumblr

Because we will do things that prove we hate ourselves until we stop doing them. Some stones are better left unturned, even if you think you want to know – you don’t.

Leaving tumblr meant making the harder choice. I’m trying to live, incidentally.

6. Pornography

Because I value men and women. Because the re-wiring of the brain makes me nervous. Because the week I quit I asked someone out, and was rejected, and learned how to take chances. Because I would rather be shitty at sex and honest about it than have learned everything about intimacy from a computer screen.

7. Sex

It was indiscriminate and ugly. It was like The Days of Wine and Roses bad, folks. I liked myself less, everyone else liked me less, and I realized that I have an insatiable and powerful appetite for taking. So yes, I tell myself no every morning. And every time I walk down the hall. And every time I go to dinner. I tell myself no a million times a day because if I don’t I lose myself in myself.

Today I am trying to be more than my want.

8. You

“It is the curse of an addict to chase the thing that destroys you.”

Shane Hawley (Wile E. Coyote – 2010)

“Dear Lord come save me,
the Devil’s workin’ hard,
He probly clockin’ double shifts
on all of his jobs.”

Kendrick Lamar (HiiiPoWeR – 2011)

I woke up today as an addict.
I will go to bed tonight as an addict.
My addictions do not give me strength,
overcoming them does not give me strength,
I am a man dealing with circumstances within
my control – I am the spirit trying beyond,
beyond the body.

Tomorrow I will wake up.
Tomorrow I will forgive myself.
Tomorrow I will pronounce my own name.

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Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window 1

And here, Alfred Hitchcock delivers one of the great cinematic treats – a film positively bubbling with kinetic energy, thought, and commentary on the cinematic experience.

I first watched the film in my eighth grade class – we were instructed to think about perspective in relation to storytelling. Mostly, we emphasized the idea of voyeurism – of just why we look at others, and what the gaze means in storytelling.

In viewing the film nearly a decade later, some different aspects pop out. Let’s talk about them –

1. Well, what could be said for James Stewart? He is ever the darling, and comes across as a deeply charming (if patriarchal – and we’ll get to that) everyman. He doesn’t want to get tied down, clearly values his career over romance, and has a strong sense of social justice.

2. The film really works as a commentary on the viewing experience. Take for instance the fact that we’re almost always watching things from Stewart’s perspective – that the through-the-window sequences play like a drive-in-movie, where we are always watching what takes place on the screen. The division of rooms serves as a series of cuts, and Stewart’s gasps act as a sort of recall for our own movie-watching experiences (especially the scary ones!)

3. And how about that interesting moment where Grace Kelly kisses James Stewart? Or the closed-mouth murmurs of their love-making. You can feel Hitchcock’s tendency toward the dream-woman, and Kelly’s character is (problematically) ideal. The glossy quality of her initial entrance serves as textbook Hitchock – the woman is always a dream, no?

4. Curiously, the movie felt smaller to me this time around. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen it a few times now, but I thought the whole thing felt positively hand-crafted. Still, the viewing experience holds up in spades, and I don’t think anyone would claim it’s not a fun one to watch. That mix of smarts and action – and how clever to ensure that every action sequence is structured and stilted – is why we keep coming back to it.

5. I wanted to take a moment to address some gender issues in this piece. Nevermind that Stewart is an itinerant bachelor (or a peeping tom) – the relationship between him and Grace Kelly is, yes, problematic for me. The whole discourse (and this reminds me of the film Brave) implies that male/female (or working class/wealthy) relationships exist on a sliding scale. When Stewart dresses Kelly down for her frilly attention to clothing (and yes, this begets another conversation about the anti-feminist rhetoric men use to construct fashion as frivolous) he’s buying into a curious dialectic.

If she is pursuing fashion, or art (she works at a gallery) she’s not tough enough for him. He won’t take her with him on his shoots around the world. So the movie offers up a series of tests for her (she brings over a small suitcase, breaks into the room across the street) and ultimately succeeds in persuading Stewart that yes – let’s call it what it is – she’s man enough.

The last frame shows Kelly in androgynous clothing – a far cry from the buoyant dress she enters the film in. Still, the rhetoric of re-fashioning (which is perhaps the driving force of Vertigo) seems all too present. She doesn’t have to prove herself, Hitch.

6. A final note for the cool meta-filmic qualities present in the flick – the fact that quasi-diegetic music appears throughout (courtesy of a composer across the street) and the orange-blur visual effects that appear when James Stewart uses flash-bulbs. Also, the fact that many of the folks Stewart observes throughout the film appear out of focus in shots centered around Stewart’s room. Hitchcock is at play here, and for that we can be thankful.

In sum – Rear Window stands as one of those great, playful films that works as thoughtful film criticism and pure entertainment. It’s also, for the record, quite funny. Perhaps Hitch’s greatest trick is creating those moments of recognition – like Stewart holding Thelma Ritter’s arm in panic as his on-screen love is attacked. We can feel the pain and shock on his face – and haven’t we, the audience, been there so many times before?

James Stewart - rear window - & Grace Kelly

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This is how the morning went.

The song is dinging in the background – quiet, french. Maybe swedish.

Everything is melting. We are all thawing out.

And in the rush, while my body is hot with clothes I should not have worn – too heavy, too old – it is hanging there.

A single white cross hangs off the lowest branch on the tree. I stop.

I am kneeling beside the tree. My face is in the bark, dirt and bloody. I am praying harder than I have ever heard before. The singer’s voice is like a mantra, and this is holy.

Beneath the dead limbs, with the cross hanging over me, I ask Jesus for everything he has. To take hold of, to transform, all of this cataclysmic nothing I feel on this morning.

I pray for everything to blow away, and to feel whole again. To heal the swollen bruise that was the night before. To teach me how to love simply, and honestly, and all too well.

I ask him to please crack me open and let the vulnerable spill out. That someone, somehow, will know my heart better than this silence.

And they are all watching me at the bus-stop – the boy with wild hair and grass on his shoes and mud on his knees who is praying, praying, shouting so deeply within himself.

The cross hangs over me like the man I could become.

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cut off my right arm to be someone’s lover.

(J. Lekman If You Ever Need A Stranger [To Sing At Your Wedding], 2004)

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They really liked Cormac McCarthy and had a certain fondness for Yann Tiersen.

I don’t know why I think about it so much right now, especially when they’re somewhere off in the deep.

When I walk so far in the cold and wind I can only think of my failures. How everything, spinning, became a helix when you danced by.

I know you don’t love me, stranger. We’ve been here so many times before, but you’re on my mind.

When the earth freezes over I’ll still be here.
I will love you over.
I will cover your bruises.
I want you here tonight.
I don’t know how you came to be bigger than the sun, but I would stare directly into you if you’d come out for me.

For me.

My angel with paper-mache wings. Tearing my skin apart in all this ice. I don’t know how you came to own this part of me.

Wish you were with me this winter. Wish I never had to dream you up again.

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Every shade of red kills me.

Every one is a blazing sunset, and I a faithless pilgrim seeing for the first time.

Red, I find you in the cheeks of my cherokee indian. She is so tight pressed up against me I can feel the rain dance coming on, read the sign of the compass, know that if nothing else lasts my wanting burns like a hang-dog kick-drum.

Red, your glasses magnify me. When you sit there all smirked-up I recall for the first time what we could have shared. You are kissing him now with your stocking rolled around your knees and I will meet you again and we will laugh. It will be all I can do to reverse my collapse.

Red, you are the shade of fun. You are songs I cannot stand and the promise of press-tight wall within reach need. You are whiskey and pink panties and against the dresser. You are in the hallway and my indiscretion. You are refusing to look me in the eye and in recovery.

Red, you are one time after class with the one who eyed you during the lecture. You feel disgust afterwards but she’d been growing her hair out for three months for this and her need is greater than your numbness.

Red, you are the color of the bed and the first time. Like Rothko, I will be stuck in this palette forever. I will twirl your trestles forever. I will hate myself through them forever. I will be faithful to red forever. My blood will be red forever.

Red, I call you by your name. In every shade, and every season, and the one I love most of all.

Red – I am slain.

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You were made in a museum.

I think I like you because we burn in the ether. When you tell me about your family I realize we share bits and pieces. I love the way you take care of your sister like your daughter.

I like you best as a bird. I love that you, your blackness, don’t resemble any other creature.

Even when you try to molt your way through me, you remember the way I dragged my claws across you and neither one of us escapes.

Both of us are always trying to escape.

Sometimes these things are rendezvous, but you birdie, you are a caged thing. Every time we ignite in fire it is like both of us are burning to be alive.

I know I’m not supposed to want that shit, but you make it so appealing. Even in the toxic midnight air of your fragrance, and even though our star exploded millennia ago and we have yet to realize, I take up your wings endlessly.

You are the only one, and I don’t ever want to lose you / see you coming back / want you here again.

Just fly by night. Kiss me when you make time. Remind me what soaring feels like.

Come home some night.

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