it’s not magnolia

Hello, readers.

It’s Wednesday. It’s occasionally rainy with patches of it will rain again in a minute just you wait. I’ve taken a deep dive into Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It is, as most of Murakami’s books, both mundane and exceedingly weird. A man loses contact with friends. He meets a man who tells a story about his dad meeting a man who knows he’s going to die and tells a story about how when you know that you’re going to die you can see the true colors of a person’s heart.

Also.

Joss Whedon is still talking about Avengers.

…it’s not Magnolia, where you’re telling all these separate stories that are just vaguely intertwined. They’re doing some of that job for me. By the way, if it was Magnolia, it would be the best movie ever made, but I can’t reach for the stars, people. I’m just a man.

Also, also, and on the same topic.

Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir

Even Joss Whedon, an undoubted pop-culture genius, cannot create that kind of significance from whole cloth, at least not after two dozen or more generally similar superhero movies have worn out the cultural resonance of the form. It would be foolish for me to sit here in a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows and proclaim that the era of the comic-book movie is coming to an end. That’s not happening anytime soon (and anyway I threw that jacket away). It might be accurate to say instead that superhero cinema has reached a decadent plateau, a long-term steady state of self-nourishing bigness and reverberant meaninglessness. Whedon moves on from the Marvel empire not as its Augustus or its Spartacus, but more like one of the later, non-terrible Christian emperors who won some battles, made some reforms and convinced everybody that the glory of Rome would endure forever. Was it worth doing? That depends on what you think of Rome.

Some of that rings true for me. Except, I don’t think the cultural resonance has worn out of the form. Because the form of superhero films is not anything in particular. Superheroes are a genre in the way that romance is a genre which is to say it’s a genre that can be built on top of any other genre. It’s just going to take a different of superhero story to resonate in the way that Dark Knight did (a superhero noir/crime thriller) or the first X-Men (a superhero coming out)

There will be amazing superhero movies to come, a few of which will take everyone by surprise. And I don’t mean in the way that Guardians of the Galaxy was amazing. But, I mean, in the way that Buffy was amazing. And the first X-men with Bryan Singer was amazing. I mean that someone, somewhere, is going to make a superhero movie that’s personal and has something to say.

I’d bet on an adaptation of a novel written in the aftermath of this superhero renaissance.

Also, also, also.

There’s a bit of blue sky out there, between the clouds.

I’m so excited to see what Whedon does next.

 

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hyperbolic surfaces

Hello, readers.

The Guardian wrote about a collection of Jillian Tamaki called SuperMutant Magic Academy which, by the end of reading the title, you probably know whether you should take a look at it or not and the answer is of course you should in case you were still wondering which I don’t know what to do with you if that’s the case.

In essence, this is a book about raging hormones – think existential crises, black moods, impossible crushes and extreme lethargy – that just happens to come with a little magic on the side. (One character is too lazy to get up off the sofa and grab his wand, for all that he’s longing to use it to conjure up some nachos and guacamole.)

Also.

In the 21st century, only corporations get to own property and we’re their tenants

Also. Also.

I listened to THE GRANDEUR AND LIMITS OF SCIENCE on the walk to The British Library. It’s the episode of On Being wherein Krista Tippet talks to my new favorite person in the world Margaret Wertheim. I’m not sure why I bother to point out that this is my current favorite person in the world as though there are other worlds with other people which might result in my having different favorite people on different worlds and now that I think about it there’s a certain One Direction-al logic to it.

Wertheim writes, and acts, to place the worlds of math and physics in the context of their role in the world of experience (culture, crochet, what have you). She’s published books: Pythagoras’ Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender Wars and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, to name two. She started an institute called the Institute for Figuring, whose acronym (IFF) recalls the logic of if and only if and works to bring the aesthetic dimensions of science and mathematics to people. She gave a TED talk: The beautiful math of coral, about the beauty of coral and hyperbolic space and how that can best be understood through crochet.

About cyberspace.

Well, you know we do so much online. We’re in chat rooms. We’re in video games. I think generations of people bought up experiencing literally a sense of themselves existing or being and acting in a virtual universe. I think that generation will not accept pure materialism. And I think this is the great revolution of the cyber era, of the Internet era. The coming into being of virtual realities is representing that reality is not just matter in motion through physical space. And I think that’s absolutely wonderful.

She said smart things about god.

So what is my beliefs? And I’d like to put it this way: I don’t know that I believe in the existence of God in the Catholic sense. But my favorite book is the Divine Comedy. And at the end of the Divine Comedy, Dante pierces the skin of the universe and comes face to face with the love that moves the sun and the other stars. I believe that there is a love that moves the sun and the other stars. I believe in Dante’s vision. And so, in some sense, perhaps I could be said to believe in God. And I think part of the problem with the concept of, “Are you an atheist or not?” is that our conception of what divinity means has become so trivialized and banal that I think it’s almost impossible to answer the question without dogma.

About particles and waves.

Yes. Physics, for the past century, had this dualistic way of describing the world. One in terms of waves, which is usually conceived of as a continuous phenomena. And one in terms of particles, which is usually conceived of as a discrete or sort of digitized phenomena. And so quantum mechanics gives us the particle, as it were, discrete description. And general relativity gives us the wavelike, continuous description. And general relativity operates at the cosmological scale. And quantum mechanics operates so brilliantly at the subatomic scale. And these two theories don’t currently mathematically mesh. So the great hope of physics for the last 80 or so years has been, “Can we find a unifying framework that will combine general relativity and quantum mechanics into one mathematical synthesis?” And some people believe that that’s what string theory can be. And it’s often — when contemporary physicists write about the world, they talk about this as being a fundamental problem for reality. But it’s not a fundamental problem for reality. It’s a fundamental problem for human beings. The universe is just getting on with it.

One of the things that occurred to me while listening is how this is one of the places I live. In this particle/wave world in which depending on how you ask the question, I might answer in one or another or a third way. And thinking about the word “live” the thing I thought was that I really enjoy traveling between different worlds of thought in the way I enjoy traveling between different countries. Restless in body and mind. Descartes would probably say it that way. But with more words about stuff.

Happy travels, readers.

 

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13 (early) thoughts on daredevil

Hello, readers.

Daredevil premiered on Netflix a bit ago. People have said things. Rotten tomatoes gives it a score of 97%. Which begs the question, when did Rotten Tomatoes begin doing television?

Here is a list of things I imagined saying before I wrote them down and made them no longer imaginary.

  1. When did ‘bald’ become synonymous with evil?            title
  2. I swear to all the flying kung-fu spaghetti monsters in all the multitudinous realities that if one more person screams their need of an unknown name, I will yell “MOONCHILD!” and expect luck dragons to fall out of my television.
  3. This thing where everything’s happening in real time is really kind of cool.
  4. I should be watching Agent Carter.
  5. There are a lot of different kinds of evil on this show. Heroic evil. Gentrified evil. Lazy evil. Ambitious evil. Cowardly evil. Aforementioned bald evil.
  6. I’m not sure trunks are all that different from fridges when it comes to women but, Rosario Dawson. She’s cool. Not always in the show. But, in general.
  7. I’m on episode seven, and there’s a thing I like in how much Matt Murdoch sucks at this superhero thing. Which makes sense. He doesn’t have any mentors. Magical or otherwise.
  8. The dialogue wavers between pulp awesome and pulp dumb with dashes of Foggy said a funny thing.
  9. Drew Goddard began running the show and left. Steven S. DeKnight took over. Both Buffy alums. From them comes a certain benefit of the doubt and so far it’s been rewarded.
  10. Real-estate may be the source of all evil in this show.
  11. Murdoch has had some backstory. Very little for everyone else. This show is told in PRESENT TENSE. Fascinating.
  12. That is all. For now.
  13. Except. Violence. There is that. Not any worse than OLD BOY and not any better, either, but there’s an exhausting fight at the end of episode two that’s so long I cringed with empathy.

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rain and wardrobes

Hello, readers.

In the bedroom, a man is taking apart and putting together our wardrobe. The bottom bit, once slanted and running away towards the floor, will now be put straight and brought back in line. Perhaps, fixed, the wardrobe will open onto a new world in which I can go and become a wizard and live a very long happy life where I can fix my own wardrobe.

It’s finally gotten cold in London. Scarves and overcoats abound. I’ve decided I need an overcoat. It would be good not to be cold. And also to look good. When I was younger, I knew that it was better not to be cold, but I didn’t understand how to look good–or rather, how to feel good enough to want, or believe, that I could look good. It seemed impossible. I was chubby and not cool and everything was expensive. It was much better to buy 4mb of RAM so that I could play Space Quest 6, than it was to think about having a really great pair of pants, or coat.

Now, I don’t think about RAM so much. Computers take care of themselves. We’re post spec.

When I was younger, the most I thought about clothes was that they could be big and baggy and hide who I was, and that if I didn’t put too much thought into them, then they wouldn’t say anything about me or my thoughts. Now, I think that saying your clothes say nothing about you is very much like saying stories aren’t political, which is to say that everything is political and, of course, how you present youreslf says something about you, however much you do or don’t think about it.

I do think about having a nice coat, now, and clothes that fit. My shoes come in a variety of colors. My scarves are bright. I’m happier with myself and happier to be seen.

Sometimes, being seen is a political statement.There’s something to be said here for wardrobes and closets and singing in the rain. I will leave it unsaid, though, as one must leave room for the reader to see for themselves.

Happy Monday, readers. You know who you are. If you don’t, find out. And then show someone else.

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what.

Hello, internet.

Last week, the name Bo Burnham graced these pages(1) because of what. and how it’s the future of comedy, what with its singing, dancing, miming, and deliciously meta and sometimes surprisingly heartfelt riffs on reality, consciousness, comedy, and, um, riffs.

One of the things I loved about his performance, though, is something very old fashioned. Story and theme.

Bo’s up there at the beginning, and he’s stalking about, roaring like Godzilla, and then he’s reading from a notebook that he shows you is blank and wonders, ‘Why am I lying to you?’, and then he’s playing a song and wondering how to make sense of the sadness and why is everyone laughing? Very soon, it’s very apparent, that this routine is less stand-up and more avant-garde one man show in which, for better or worse, you’re watching a comic and performer struggle through a David Foster Wallace level of noise-drunk, self-involement, searching for some sense of meaning in the cliche’s, in the weary punch lines, in the routines of comedy past. Bo Burnham loves burying jokes and casting aside one-liners in a style deliberately out of sync with expectation.

Every generation grows up believing they know everything. It’s never been true, but lately, it’s been closer to the truth. We are so far post-modern that I think most of us can agree we’re post-reality and looking back and in and out trying to find out when we passed reality by and how we can find it again. Something real. Something genuine. I watch Bo Burnham in what., and I see a comedian five-steps ahead, assuming his audience is at least three-steps ahead, and so left wondering, how the fuck do I tell a joke when I, and everyone, already knows how all of this works? And what’s the point anyway? We’ve had comics before. I’m just another guy on a stage doing the same thing everyone else has ever done and how can I be new and me and real when whatever I do feels like a copy of someone else?(2)

And Bo, like DFW, does the only thing you can, really, which is to dig in and reach out and try to create something, anything, out of the noise. There’s such joy in watching Bo mix live and pre-taped bits. For some, perhaps, watching a man mime playing keyboard, after, you know, already actually playing the keyboard earlier might seem silly. But, I think, while it is silly, it’s also brilliant, because all the mixing of live and pre-taped stuff begins to feel like a comment on the noise, tangible and intangible, real and unreal, that all mixes together until we get to that place post-reality where so many people don’t care when they go to see 2NE1, or Girl’s Generation, or watch reality TV, or a YouTube video, whether it’s really real, or kind of real, or so fake it’s hyper real.

There’s this bit, by the end of the show, when voices off-stage begin taunting Bo (calling him a fag, offering to make him rich if he’ll just focus more on his brand, wondering why he acts so arrogant on stage and then so shy off). It’s brutal, honest, and a little scary, watching him cower in the dark, all light dimmed to a spotlight on his body, and the voices calling from the darkness, name-calling, name-dropping, naming him whatever they see fit. Earlier, Bo does something similar in a routine of Gollum-like split between his left and right brains. Then, he figured how to unite his logic and emotion into comedy. Here, he does something different in that he’s not explicit in what he’s doing. He doesn’t explain or analyze or undercut the punchline of this joke because there’s no joke, there’s just this, Bo raising a hand, cutting the voices into a refrain, ‘We think we know you. We think we know you.’(3). It’s so eery and awesome and then, he turns, he moves his hands a different way, and he begins remixing the voices that taunt him into something like a dance-pop-revolution, into something beautiful and alive and not burdened by fear or shame or logic or anything of what he’s been talking about all night.

It’s brilliant.

That is not all that’s on my mind, readers, but it’s enough, and all that I’m writing about today.

Happy post-reality.

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(1)Webpage. Witness the linguistic skeumorphism! At some point, far off in the future–when apes or aliens or robots or [insert surprising but inevitable overlords of humanity] rule the earth–someone will ask someone else where the term webpage came from and that someone (probably a magical analog cyborg) will say, ‘Well, my little Farfanoog, a long time ago people used to worship trees, and the spiders that lived and wove webs between the leaves, and they used to strip the wood from the tree to make their own webs in which to write words and one day they learned how to weave their dream weavings into the clouds and they called these floating images that graced their glass, webpages.’

(2)Before the internet, before we had everything, it must have been easier to feel unique, mustn’t it? Or is that just generational exceptionalism?

(3)It’s a phrase that seems as much about how people think they know Bo, as it is a phrase of how, in the YouTube generation, perhaps more than any other celebritied generation, so much of the fame is based on the idea (real, unreal, magic) that fans and artists know each other, that there’s this intimate connection wherein your videos are you, and you are your videos.

The Great Perhaps

Hello, readers.

Recently, I began reading Looking for Alaska, John Green’s first book. More recently, I finished it.

Here are some thoughts about my thoughts.

Thought #1: That’s a lot of cigarettes.

Thoughts about thought #1: The characters in Looking for Alaska burn through more words and ideas and cigarettes in one scene than a great many characters sniff at for an entire novel. They smoke in the shower. On the soccer field. Under a bridge, by a lake, in a spot they call the “The Smoking Hole.” And while they smoke, they talk about writers, labyrinths, the last words of the famous dead, and, on occasion, a little bit about themselves and the mysteries of being themselves and wanting to be closer to the selves of others. They talk about themselves, and their ideas, the way they burn through cigarettes, as though their lives depended on burning through the very things (cigarettes, themselves, each other, their ideas) that might one day kill them.

The story of Looking for Alaska is, in so many ways, so terrifically small in scope–there’s a handful of teenagers attending boarding school. But, it’s so much bigger on the inside, so full of what Miles, the main character, calls, ‘The Great Perhaps.’

Thought #2: There was this girl.

Thoughts on thought #2: A very great many stories could begin with the words, “There was this girl…” And it’s a problem on the whole, because, on the whole, it tends to reinforce the idea, so very often idea-ed in stories, that women exist as something for people to stare and wonder at, and be transformed by rather than, you know, for them to exist as and for themselves. Stories of, “There was this girl…” include: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Leon, Scott Pilgrim vs. All the Things and Stuff , and Anna Karenina. And, of course, in some of these, the girl in question is absolutely a character unto herself rather than existing solely as a symbol for whatever thing about life the writer wants to write about, or a fulcrum around which another character’s life pivots. In the case of Anna Karenina, for example, we get it all, because Anna has her own story, her own arc, as well as, more or less, functioning as a symbol for, um, I don’t know, the existential horroradventure of being a woman in late 19th century Russia, both bursting with and being swallowed by love and convention. In the case of Looking for Alaska, Alaska is also, like Anna Karenina, both herself and a symbol, if in very many fewer pages, and with far more smoking and drinking of Strawberry Hill than probably Anna Karenina or Tolstoy would go in for. Alaska is a character unto herself, with a past, and concerns, and sorrows. But she’s also a symbol for the Great Perhaps, for those mysteries and sorrows of the larger world for which Miles, the ‘main’ character, has set out in search. Also, possibly, she doesn’t have terribly much of an arc. But, in this book, in this story, there’s something to that, because unlike Anna Karenina, our narrator here is not Leo Tolstoy, a.k.a. possibly god, but a sixteen-year-old boy, Miles Halter, who may not understand the arc of Alaska until later, until, looking back, he understands his story through the stories of others.

Corollary Thought to Thought #2: Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) gets thrown around a lot of late, possibly beginning with Eternal Sunshine, and continuing on into this day. It refers to a girl in a story who exists as a mess of wonder and terror (very often sexy, very often with a slight bent towards death and destruction, or endless joy, which is a kind of death, all situations of stasis–whether of joy or terror or anything in between–being a kind of death) that awakens the hero (generally a boy) to the mess of wonder and terror that is life. It’s very much a part of the larger canon of stories referred to in Thought #2 as “There was this girl…” I happen to have loved a great many stories of said type, and several MPDGs (Clementine/Eternal Sunshine, Ramona/Scott Pilgrim, Summer/500 Days Of, Anna Karenina/Anna Karenina, Penny Lane/Almost Famous), but I’m aware that the best stories, the best tropes, transcend themselves, and that the MPDG trope is part of a larger and always necessary trope of how sometimes, in your life, someone appears at just the right time and changes everything, of which movies like Almost Famous and Once are perfect examples in which there are so many manic pixie dream guitarists and girls and vaccuum repairmen that enter into each other’s lives and all of them are changed by it.

The characters exist to transform each other and themselves.

So, if at the end of your story in which “There was this [insert appropriate pronoun here],” the person referred to by the appropriate pronoun has not undergone any change, has not experienced a story of their own, you might want to look at that again and wonder over whether your story might not be bigger and better for having a MPDLGTBQETC. that is not simply magical and mysterious, but also mundane and unambiguously a person capable of growth in their own right.

Thought #3: Someone once said that every story is about sex and death.

Thoughts on thought #3: Yes. Sometimes there are lasers, too.

Thought #4: That’s probably enough thoughts, for now.

Thoughts on thought #4: But about the fox hat? Or the labyrinth? Or last words? Or all of those discussion questions John Green helpfully answered and posed at the end of the book?

Thoughts on thoughts on thought #4: I’m hungry and want to eat lunch now.

Happy Wednesday, readers.

Go seek your Great Perhaps, wherever and with whomever it might wait.

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Some notes on notes

Hello, readers.

At one time, I kept a journal in which at the end of every day I wrote about the aforementioned day in the form of the following lists:

1) What did I do today?
2) What was I afraid of?
3) What did I do despite my fear?
4) What will I do tomorrow?

I did this for well over a year. It became a mental subroutine that, after some time, ran in the background throughout the day and then, rather easily, loaded up in the evening and generated output.

Three things I really loved about this.

1) I felt on top of things. I kept myself accountable. If I didn’t get something done, no worries. I knew that I would put it down in my journal with, more than likely, some thoughts of how to get it done.

2) Fear became conscious. Writing about my fears meant that pretty soon when I was scared to do something I would recognize that fear and think about how that night I would be writing about having felt that fear and how it influenced my actions. I felt stronger knowing my future self would be looking back at my present self.

3) I found having a schedule for reflection very helpful. Otherwise it’s all nostalgia all the time. My mind adores going over the past over and over again. Having a set time to reflect on my day, and its fears and hopes, was freeing.

One day, I stopped journaling. I felt that the sub-routine was so much a part of me that actually writing it all down felt unnecessary. And it was.

But lately I’ve missed writing a journal. I have and still do write all my stories long-hand, but what journaling I’ve done has been mostly in the form of this and other blogs, or notes stored in an Evernote notebook called Thoughts.

It’s not my favorite Evernote notebook.

It feels cumbersome to open Evernote and decided if my thought goes into the Thoughts notebook or another notebook.

Yesterday, I downloaded the Day One app and Vesper with this idea in mind of how to reflect on my life. I could use a notebook, but with my habit, lately, of always moving I am weary of collecting more notebooks than necessary (see above re: writing stories longhand).

Having Evernote, I did wonder if it was possible to have too many note apps. The answer of course is yes. Another answer and concern is that sometimes it feels like downloading apps replaces real action.

In this case, though, I feel like the different apps provide different contexts and so trigger different ways of thinking. Evernote, as some say, functions ike a big filing cabinet. Vesper will, I hope, function as a small notebook that stays forever tucked in my back pocket. I’ll take it out and make notes throughout the day and file the best ones away in Day One, or in Evernote.

And some of those thoughts, however filed, may end up here on the blog. Like this post. Which I wrote a large amount of in Day One when I was thinking of how I spent yesterday.

I don’t imagine that will happen too much.

Also, I’ve been thinking about creating a video blog. Which is a whole other thing. I wonder in what context, I would draft scripts? There’s an app called Drafts I might try.

Using all these apps, maybe I’ll keep my Evernote cabinet, and my mind, uncluttered by shards of half-considered inspiration. Or is that what I want? A cabinet full of the land of was and might be. I don’t know.

I don’t want to be fragmented in an unconscious way. I want my life to be chaotic and tagged, whimsical and precise. We’ll see how it goes.

Happy thoughts, readers.

Love.