Unless you’re reading this on another day. Or you’re a ghost. In either case, I think we’ve proven that things are rarely as obvious as they seem.
Still. I love the phrase, Let’s get the obvious out of the way. It seems wise. We have to get what is easily seen out of the way so that we can see more than we imagined possible.
Second. I enjoyed the dread of Saint Maud.
Also it’s possible during the film that I very nearly had a panic attack. I’m not really sure how these things work. Words. Panic. I focused on my breathing and gravity and these things helped.
I love this article about the actress who played Maud, Morfydd Clark.
Here is one of my favorite bits:
To prepare for the role, Clark studied Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. She also kept coming back to Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly, which both Glass and Eternal Beauty director Craig Roberts had suggested she watch. She was inspired by the ways those films deal with terror. “When the fear is so real you could easily be dominated by it,” Clark explains. Glass and Roberts were both drawn to the actress’s ability to use her porcelain veneer to hide a fraying mind. “Those are the kind of parts a lot of actors want to have: the characters that seem calm on the surface but are Travis Bickle inside,” Roberts says. “She’s able to get moments in the silence with her reactions. It’s a gift that she has.”
I enjoyed this whole thing. I don’t remember how I found it. Here are some bits.
Smart people have a problem, especially (although not only) when you put them in large groups. That problem is an ability to convincingly rationalize nearly anything.
Everybody rationalizes. We all want the world to be a particular way, and we all make mistakes, and we all want to be successful, and we all want to feel good about ourselves.
We all make decisions for emotional or intuitive reasons instead of rational ones. Some of us admit that. Some of us think using our emotions is better than being rational all the time. Some of us don’t.
Smart people, computer types anyway, tend to come down on the side of people who don’t like emotions. Programmers, who do logic for a living.
Here’s the problem. Logic is a pretty powerful tool, but it only works if you give it good input. As the famous computer science maxim says, "garbage in, garbage out." If you know all the constraints and weights – with perfect precision – then you can use logic to find the perfect answer. But when you don’t, which is always, there’s a pretty good chance your logic will lead you very, very far astray.
Why are we as humans so delighted hearing things we have known in ways we’ve never imagined? Perhaps this question answers itself. These are my favorite sorts of questions.
Yesterday I listened to the Baby Driver soundtrack and this led me to listening to some Sky Ferreira. I have also been listening a lot to Marina. It has been a very long time since there was a world in England where one could imagine going out and doing things. I think we’re all a bit rusty. I think it helps sometimes listening to people whose songs call on you to move.
I hope wherever you are, readers, that you have the right support beneath you. I think sometimes of a thing Lynda Barry said of those formless things that give things form. It reminds me of how being grounded helps the sparks fly.
This reminded me that mashups exist. Also that I have always been in love with things that existed in combinations both thrilling and perfectly strange.
Here are some of my favorite mashups:
Radio Soulwax Presents: As Heard on Radio Soulwax pt. 2 (link) A Stroke of Genie-Us (link) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Here’s a New Yorker article from 2005 about mashups called “1 + 1 + 1 = 1.” (link)
Here is a quote from that article:
“Mashups find new uses for current digital technology, a new iteration of the cause-and-effect relationship behind almost every change in pop-music aesthetics: the gear changes, and then the music does.”
Once upon a time I wrote a paper about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, describing it as a sort of mashup of genres.
Today I am wondering if my fascination with mashup culture might be placed under the heading of AN INCREASING UNDERSTANDING OF MY EXPERIENCE OF LIFE AS NON-BINARY. Which is a funny thing to think, I think, considering that most mashups derive their power from the splicing together of two things which remain, in their union, recognizably distinct. Someone should probably invent a symbol that captures our binary experience of a universe that is at heart entirely non-binary. Oh, wait.
This is a thing I’ve been thinking about, of late, readers. I was already who I am before we arrived here. I was already Luke Skywalker and Marie Antoinette and an alien with two hearts and a boy in love with Penny Lane and a girl in love with longing to be part of the world. I didn’t think of this as strange. I thought of it as true.
As G’Kar says of his time on the space station Babylon 5:
“Let me pass onto you the one thing I’ve learned about this place. No one here is exactly what he appears…My warning is sincere. Ignore it at your own peril.”
In my life I tend to be seen as a man. Very often, though, I am seen as a woman and then upon closer inspection (or hearing my voice) said observer will apologize for their mistake.
However I see myself, and however difficult and somewhat vertiginous to accept, some part of that self that I am is a collection of all those moments of being seen by others.
And, so, in that part of my heart that is made of how I am seen I suppose you could say that there are two images:
Man and Mistake.
I do not doubt this experience of being seen as—
THE TOTALLY DEFAULT EVERYTHING IS FINE HERE THING
—has something to do with my fascination with stories like Beauty and the Beast.
Also my desire to DESTROY ALL BINARIES.
Also, also. With my tendency as a child, not seeing anyone really on screen that both LOOKED and FELT LIKE ME, to develop a habit of seeing myself in everyone and seeing everyone in myself. The world is much less lonely if you open yourself to imagining everything is, in part, a representation of you and you are, in part, a representation of everything.
But. Yes. Where were we? Oh, right. My heart.
In that part of my heart that imagines itself in terms of its own design, fashioned through an arrangement of symbols absorbed in books and films and THE REAL WORLD and also the natural world and also human conversation—i.e., crafting a sort of mental self-projection not exactly unlike how Neo projects an image in The Matrix—I look much more like what American society might describe as A GIRL. Possibly because those things I valued and felt to be ME included a great deal of things considered as GIRL THINGS. You know. Sensuality. Emotions. Intuitiveness. A deep capacity for surrender. A deep love and need for connection. An interest in jewelry and fashion. Etc.
And. Wait for it.
Here’s the thing.
I grew up not entirely trusting the conceptions of BOY and GIRL as generally encountered in the world of 1981 – I’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN WE GET THERE.
I particularly did not trust the conception of GIRL in my society.
I particularly, particularly did not trust the conception of GIRL by MEN in my society. (p.s. Girl by Men sounds, I think, like an excellently weird name for patriarchal perfume)
And, well. By most accounts at the time. I was an American on his way to becoming a MAN, and therefore how could I trust any part of myself that imagined itself in anyway to be a GIRL!
Which most likely means that if one imagined my once and future heart as a triptych sort of summation one might imagine titling the panels as such:
MAN + MISTAKE + A GIRL WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE IN HERSELF
Two out of three of these things, you’ll notice, indicate a misunderstanding. And by you, in this case, I of course me.
I don’t really think of myself these days as a boy or a girl or a man or a woman. I am, as the New Yorker title suggests, a summation of more than two things which all add up to one thing. This is, more or less, the definition of non-binary.
It is a bit strange to think of myself in this way. It is also entirely natural. I like math. No one here is exactly what they appear.
Any time we bother conceiving of ourselves as more than we imagined, or deeper than we imagined, or in any way differently than we imagined, there is a chance we will wake up like Neo in The Matrix.
We will be more vulnerable than we can remember being.
We will freak out a bit.
We will need teachers.
If we are lucky to find those teachers, we can hopefully look forward to a period of rapid learning on such topics as kung fu, firearm handling, and the timey-wimey nature of reality.
This is where the world finds itself, I think, these days. The gears are changed. The music is new. We are all trying to make sense of how we got here and where it is we’re going. Apocalypse is, after all, just another word for revelation.
In other news.
The other day I sat with a stranger by the sea. We talked. We read poetry. We watched the sunset. We were by the time we parted transformed perhaps into humans slightly less strange.
I hope that, for all of you, there is a moment this week, or this month, or sometime soon where you can sit with someone and feel less strange.
Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a person. It could be a film or a poem or a mashup. You never know.
And, of course, in this case you means you know who you are.
I am reading Cabinet of Curiosities. It is a wander of a book through the wonders of Guillermo del Toro, co-written by Marc Scott Zicree. There are here, among other things, mentions of multiple skeletons, a distinctly delightful moral philosophy gleaned from Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life, and a storm window in Guillermo del Toro’s office that, at the push of a button, flickers and sounds in such a way as to recreate the feel of being cocooned inside on a stormy night.
This is what del Toro says of Defending Your Life:
“When people talk about heaven and hell, I always think of Defending Your Life, the Albert Brooks movie. I think that you have a responsibility not to propagate the cancer of despair, resentment, and envy. You have the responsibility to make the right choices for the people around you and yourself. We are not going to be important, but I think the collective choices that we make are. We are going to be extinct or not by the accumulation of these choices.”
Here is what Guillermo del Toro says about love:
“In the end, perfection is just a concept—an impossibility we use to torture ourselves and that contradicts nature. We pursue it—God knows we have to, as artists—but ultimately, like Hundertwasser says: A straight line is pure tyranny. In art, as in life, the love of imperfection is the perfect love.”
I love these words.
And I love this book.
In some ways, I suppose, in all of my travels around the world–there is something in this blog of a portable cabinet of curiosities. The glass case in which shelf after shelf of obsessions, wonders, and, most likely, a skeleton or two. It is definitely haunted.
In news of other, stranger loves, here is a trailer for the film opening Cannes Film Festival:
There’s great stuff here about coffee and laptops and the discipline of desperation. My favorite thing is this thing that Bill quotes by Willy Vlautin.
“Always be a fan first.”
I love this. And I love Bill.
Speaking of fandom and love. I discovered today that Heath Ledger produced in his characterization of The Joker such an embodiment of terror that when Michael Caine first encountered him in a scene he was too scared to remember any of his lines.
I loved The Dark Knight a lot when it came out. I saw it five times in the theater. It’s coming back to theaters in London this summer. Perhaps I will visit it again. Time transforms love, I think, but it rarely erases it.
There’s this great line Michael Chabon wrote in his story, “Ocean Avenue” and it goes like this:
“If you can still see how you could have once loved a person, you are still in love; an extinct love is always wholly incredible.”
Here are some things of a nature perhaps commensurate with the human capacity for wonder.
Last week, I watched this one film called Dick. It made my heart sing. Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are two of the best humans who sometimes pretend to be other humans. And, while the story reminded me a bit of Being There or Forrest Gump—in which there is cynicism and there is wonder and people stumble through history, changing its course somewhat haphazardly—this film is not exactly like that. These characters do not just bumble through history—they bumble and they learn and they make choices and take action against what they see as wrong.
I keep hearing this voice in my head. It sounds a lot like Bugs Bunny.
Perhaps, for many of us, this is the feeling of being alive in 2021. That feeling that we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. Maybe a grimey sort of self-doubt. Perhaps born out of a habit of hiding. Or being asked to hide.
Maybe it feels new. It feels a bit new to me.
I think, perhaps, this is how it always feels, though.
It is like love in that way. Or, at least. Like falling in love. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Something like this happens everyday.
Also. Always. I am suspicious of these visitations of feeling. Like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. This self-doubt could be a bit of undigested nutritional yeast.
And yet. I know, like Scrooge, these ghosts are here as omens. As guardians. As guides.
Everything that protects us is a monster.
Earlier this week, I read some of George Saunders’ A Swim in the Pond in the Rain. I thought. Oh. This is how it feels to wake up inside of trauma. I thought. Would you look at that.
I cried a lot. I’m not sure why. Also I know why. I am lonely. I am grieving for those things not entirely gone. I am filling my life with as much joy as I can stand. And sometimes it’s too much. And sometimes it’s not enough.
It has been a very long time. It has been a very long time for us all. Since we met. Since we held hands. Since we hugged. Since we kissed. Since we made love.
Separation isn’t easy.
Perhaps, for some of us, that grew up in the grips of one form of depression or another, that grew up queer in one form or another, it is easy to imagine things are worse than they are—not just because this is an aspect of depression or loneliness, but because one can remember becoming attached to these feelings of loneliness, of monstrosity. That feeling that no one wants to touch you. That feeling that no one wants to be touched by you. That feeling that there would in holding hands be something overwhelming and scary.
And so much of everything comes down to this.
The desire to hold hands. The fear to touch and be touched.
There’s this scene in It’s a Sin, the new Russell T. Davies show. In this scene there is a character and they scream, “Don’t touch me! You can’t touch me!”
They say, “You can’t touch me because I have AIDS.”
I cried a lot here, as well, and I knew why. I knew because of now. I knew because of growing up in the shadow of a disease that so many used as a confirmation of their culture’s collective nightmares about sex. About touch. About queerness. About pleasure.
There have been days and weeks during these past months that have been some of the clearest and best days and months. It is strange. And, also. I suppose. Really. It’s not strange. My partner and I separated a little while ago. It was maybe not the best time to do that. But, also.
Once, not all that long ago, I heard someone say something like, “Right now, every one of us needs more than anyone has left to give.”
And, so. Rather than sharing all this with any particular person, I have shared it with the internet.
I have written my doubt into the arms of the ether.
I hope it is not too much. I hope.
In other news.
It is Wednesday and, I am reading Neil Gaiman’s retellings of Norse Myths. There are here mostly stories of Thor and Loki. Gaiman, in his introduction, points out the lack of stories concerning other gods and goddesses. He points out that too many stories have been lost.
The other day I asked Em what they thought of Loki. They said that Loki represented the sort of energy I don’t want anymore in my life. They asked me what I thought. I said that Loki, like The Coyote or The Monkey King or Doctor Who, possibly represented something like the energy of the mind, racing, feckless, by turns delightful and infuriating. In the stories Loki seems to be the cause of everyone’s problems and also the source of so many of their blessings—Thor’s hammer, for example, came about from some of Loki’s mischief.
Things I didn’t say: I identify a lot with Loki. I identify a lot with all of these characters defined by their reckless race from one shape to the next.
Em asked who is Coyote. I told them about the trickster and my lamentable lack of knowledge about the specificity of Native American myth.
Wait, Em said. Like. Wile E. Coyote?
Well, I said. It’s right there in his name, isn’t it? The wily one, endlessly chasing that which is unattainable.
I’ll say this for Wile E. Coyote, though. He’s one focused son of a gun. Nothing stops him from going after what he wants, not rock or anvil or gravity. When Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff, he acknowledges his mistake, and then he falls, and then he tries again.
I wonder if he’s enjoying himself, though?
Perhaps it’s a Sisyphus thing. Perhaps we must imagine him smiling?
I’d rather not.
I’d rather imagine that one day Wile E. Coyote reads adrienne maree brown’s book, Pleasure Activism and begins a journey of recalibration in which he reconnects with those aspects of life which turn him on. I like to imagine this. I like to imagine Wile E. Coyote sitting still, contemplating the beauty of a single flower, remembering what it means to grow.