Saturday, October 29, 2011

Martyrs: Film parody


I had no other purpose in mind than telling a story I felt connected to, doing a film I had faith in, and doing it with all my heart. When I was writing MARTYRS, I couldn't see another way to talk about all the things that were surrounding me. On a metaphorical way, horror was the perfect tool to react to the feeling I had, like a sad intuition, that the world we're living in right now is a brutal and unfair one. I mean, very brutal. It seems that the cynism and the power of the winners has killed everything. It seems that our urban societies are more than ever driven by the forces of jungle laws, by rules created by the strongest and the dominant people. I'm not saying anything original about injustice of our times, but it was strong enough in me to create the necessity of doing that film. The system creates a lot of losers, a lot of suffering weak people I feel very close to and MARTYRS in its way tells about them. So I would say that the horror genre is a way to talk about things that preoccupy me a lot. As a fan, I always took the films from the masters Argento, Carpenter, Polanski and dozens of other great artists as their own personal visions of life. That's why I liked them humanly too. And that's why I love horror so much. 
Pascal Laugier

So visionary
I really wish I had known a bit more about the film Martyrs so I could have skipped wasting the 1 and 1/2 hours I put in trying to watch this. Just word-of-mouth that it was supposedly "one of the best horror films ever made" made me decide to watch it. I'm not a fan of horror particularly but I enjoyed being scared by films like The Exorcist and Poltergeist, and I'm interested in good films regardless of genre. I did not catch on to the fact that the same people who were praising Martyrs probably thought that August Underground's Mordum was a masterpiece, and this naivete is what led to the experience I ultimately ended up with.

My experience watching this film was similar to the expereinces I had trying to watch El Topo and 120 days of Sodom and is probably the last attempt I am ever going to make to objectively view or understand anything in this niche of European films. I sat through a huge amount of gratuitous violence, torture, and depravity in the hope that at some point I would begin to find the beginning of the thread the director was trying to spin to at least justify all the crap that had gone before. Once I got to the point where I realized that such a moment was not coming and that despite the director's claim , there was actually no story being told, I stopped watching. In Martyr's case this occurred around 1:20:00. I really wish it had been less.

Martyrs is basically a snuff film that uses a 5 min monologue by a nameless character on a ridiculous paper-thin premise to justify the extended scenes of graphic torture and abuse of young girls.  Here's a synopsis of the film : a shadowy organization systematically drives young girls insane with hideous torture and abuse till they begin to 'see things that others can't'. That's it. fin. If a 16-year old high school student had written the screenplay of Martyrs for a term paper she would have gotten a D-. In this regard it's very similar in execution to 120 Days of Sodom. where depiction of the kidnapping, sexual abuse and murder of a group of teenage girls and boys is justified by the kind of  idiotic liberal moralizing that makes your ears bleed listening to it.

It's society that's killing you, stupid.
It's not the fact that Martyrs is exploitation torture porn that bothers me - there's hundreds of films made and being made like it, and films like Saw and Hostel are constantly trying to push this so-called genre into the mainstream. But the fact that people actually consider this film to have any kind of creative merit says a lot more about human nature than what was depicted in the film.  And it's the cynicism of the director/writer of this film that is a lot more disturbing than watching teenage girls in their underwear getting tortured. So apparently the trend in horror no is to see how many extended scenes of graphic torture can fit into 2hrs and just under an 'R' rating. And then some idiot on the Internet gets to write about how the destruction of innocent girls represents the death of God and of innocence and so on and so forth...

Maybe torture porn should become a recognized and clearly-labelled genre like XXX (TTT?) so stuff like this would not have to share the same space with The Exorcist and Poltergeist and The Ring. Directors could celebrate nihilism and depravity all they want without having to carry the bourgeois burden of plot, character development, etc. All that would be required would be a simple 5-minute setup scene - an analogue to the beginning of movies where a 19-year old girl dressed in short shorts and stripper heels walks in on 5 guys playing pool and tells them her car broke down and she doesn't have any money for a mechanic or taxi.

In films like Evil Dead or Alien the violence and fear and gore provided a visceral experience, but one whichwas always embedded in something larger - a fantasy about some unknown thing in the dark that we all have this primeval dread of, like the supernatural or alien species. The ordeal the characters went through always had a rationalization you could accept as necessary to the fantasy. Films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th and Halloween have always been about nothing more but entertainment - the kind of stuff you go see when you're 19 and with 10 people and you immediately forget as soon as you leave the car park. Nobody tries to sell House of Wax or Final Destination or I Know What You Did Last Summer as anything but 2 hours of teenagers getting killed in ways which were similarly gruesome and comical. But to me Martyrs is less horror film than parody. It's just a vehicle for sadism and depravity; that's all I can say about it. There's no difference between and it and any movie starring Lisa-Ann as Sarah Palin or Sasha Grey as a doctor.
Better than Martyrs
At least movies like the above don't insult your intelligence and pretend they're anything more than pandering to people's desire for visceral excitement. People who enjoy watching  torture and abuse will like Martyrs and praise it just as they did Cannibal Holocaust and every Italian and French exploitation film they come across. But here's a question to anybody who sees any artistic merit in Martyrs: why did the writer choose young women to be 'the most sensitive' to the supposed 'transformation'? Why couldn't it have been old men who were chosen to be 'martyrs'? The answer is that nobody wants to see old men in their underwear tortured, abused, and degraded. I guess that's not artistic enough.

Sure Martyrs is disturbing. But if I wanted to be disturbed all I have to do is get on the net and pull up pictures and news about the Somali famine or the DRC or Sierra Leone or Liberian civil wars. There's enough real-life suffering and depravity in this world to last 1000 life times. I really don't need films like this to supposedly tell me how screwed up life is

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jamey Rodemeyer

Watching this kid you can tell that he never tried to hurt a soul in his life. It's so ridiculous the answers he got on the survey he did - "Gay marriage shouldn't be allowed because it's wrong and disgusting and goes against the Bible." Right but psychologically abusing a 14-year old boy to the point where he commits suicide is A-OK.  But that is the wisdom of the foolish - it's just this way in Trinidad and Uganda and Nigeria and other 3rd-world countries. People will condone and participate in the most immoral and unethical and evil things but God help you if you are LGBT. Jamey Rodemeyer may only have been 14 but he had more courage and strength than most people I know.

It's not really surprising, actually, what happened to him and then after his death. When I was younger I used to believe that stupidity and hypocrisy and evil somehow arose in people's hearts after they became adults. Like that part of humanity that had its logical termination in Nanking and Dachau and Stalin's Gulag and Pol Pot's Cambodia, somehow is absent when we are children. But obviously this isn't the cause. People like Charles Taylor and Bosco Ntaganda and Robert Mugabe didn't just decide one day to act as they did. A lot of people, maybe the majority of people are born evil. It's just their Purpose I guess  - to appropriate a line from The Matrix. The only way that humans can move forward is to understand the way not to live - to cull people like those who bullied and tormented Jamey from our race. At least with technology we can now put a face on some of the nameless victims, whether from New York or Liberia or Sierra Leone or Rwanda.

I really don't know why things like this are allowed to happen, or even if a question like that makes sense. I don't know if his parents and friends should look above for a hand that could have intervened and stopped something like this. Death is part of life - only reason I'm here is that billions of people died before me. A lot of those people were like Jamey - innocent victims of evil people. But I mean from Death comes Life: stronger, smarter, more creative, more compassionate, more giving, more beautiful. Jamey Rodemeyer is dead but the innocence and courage he had inside of him will live on. I think everyone who listens to his Youtube channel videos or reads his blog and understands what he went through, will carry a piece of him wherever they go in life.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Under the vine


So Jonah gets pissed off at the world, forsakes mankind, retires to a hill above Nineveh to ponder and reflect while awaiting the fireworks which he had been promised, and which, suffice to say, he had been considerably inconvenienced for. And a gourd vine grows over the sulking Jonah and gives him shelter from the sun for which he is quite happy about, but curses when it dries up and dies. And then God shows up and goes LOL Y U MAD THO?

This day my major concerns were:
  • Taking care of my dog who had surgery on her ear yesterday and convincing her to wear an e-collar.
  • Worrying about finishing work for this open-source project I'm horrendously late with.
  • Debating whether backbone.js and/or JavaScriptMVC is worth learning and using over plain old JavaScript.
This day the biggest issue for tens of millions of men women and children in Africa, and hundreds of millions all over the world, was whether or not they're going to get a drop of water or a bit of food, and whether or not they're going to be alive tomorrow.

So I've been pondering how many gourd vines have been sheltering me. I am so accustomed to thinking that everything I have is somehow the result of my own efforts, but the reality is far from that.


It's the kind of circular existential question which is strictly illogical and makes no sense, but still plagues us: What if I had been born somewhere else? What if instead of sitting here in my yard feeling the breeze, watching the sunset and writing a blog post,  I was trudging dozens of miles in the desert with my emaciated children to get to a horrendously overcrowded relief camp on the off-chance I might get some grain or water, which would postpone starving to death another day.

I didn't build this house - my grandparents and aunt did. The only reason I'm sitting here is because they worked all their life to provide for their family. The only reason I can read or write or use a computer is because they sent me to school. Having the chronic pain of depression and dissociation and social phobia is pretty terrible and leaves me wrenched and exhausted at the end of each day, but still why do I have the use of my two hands or two eyes or two legs or anything that works properly on my body, when so many people in this world don't? At least I have the ability to work towards getting better - while so many with chronic, debilitating illnesses have nothing. My life is a long way from perfect or even happy but why do I even have the things that I have when so many people don't? My family doesn't have a lot but still, why are our cupboards and fridge always filled? As much as evil has touched my life, why have I been spared the kind of horrors I see on the news every night - violence, destruction, death? Luck, chance, fate, karma, what is it? It's nothing I did, that's for sure. It's sort of frightening how little I have actually contributed to my own existence. The truth is that, like Jonah, I haven't had anything to do with the vines that have grown up to shelter my life.

It's like the older I get the list of things that are really important shrinks,  while the list of things that aren't important grows and stretches by orders of magnitudes. But the list of things that I realize are in my control also shrinks, while the list of things that are really outside my control also grows. Not coincidentally, each list aligns with the other.

There's so many people who go to such extraordinary lengths to acquire the things that are not important. The ignorant ones bow down to their idols: money, cars, clothes, parties, sex, approval, popularity, recognition. The evil ones lie, cheat, steal, injure, slander...every abomination and inequity their conceit can fashion, to acquire what their stupid small minds lust after. They both stack these things up like some massive altar and gaze on them, as if it can compensate for how stupid and empty they are inside. Everyday on these call-in programs on TV you hear people lamenting on how bad things are in this country. And I feel like if we could question the politicians and magistrates and lawyers and doctors and engineers and business owners and everyone in this country who have been given responsibility for other people's well-being, and force them to answer truthfully what they consider important, we might see the reason why things in this country are the way they are.

I've always wondered what it is people see in these meaningless things. It's just like Wallace said in the quote in the last post: when you've drunk your fill of these things what are you going to do? I can't understand how people can be so uncaring and selfish and ignorant. If you think life is only about having the most money and driving the best cars and having the most people comment on your Facebook profile, then do you realize what little control you actually have over what you acquire in this life? And when you lose them, which for most people is inevitable, then what are you going to cherish and hold on to? What about the people like in the picture above? Do people realize how close they are to being in a state like that: how easily fate could have given them that burden to carry? Do the billions of impoverished and disadvantaged people in this world really mean anything to anybody?

But I suppose that while most things in life change, a few things don't. The sun and moon and stars and planets change. The earth itself changes - the day that comes tomorrow is never the same as the one before. Knowledge changes, science changes, technology changes. But people don't change. I guess that's one of the main reasons I picked up reading the Bible - the recognition that the stuff that goes on today is exactly the same as the stuff that's been going on for thousands of years.

The truth is that as much as I want the same things other people want, I'd rather work for $20 an hour and go home to a one-room hut by myself and read all night, than to covet what most people in this country covet, and to act as they act. Because what is in my heart is the only thing in this world I can control. Whatever life brings or takes away I have to accept. I can't even control my own health or emotions or thoughts. But the one thing I can control is whether or not I do evil towards anybody else. And as much as so many things weigh on me, just like they weigh on everybody else, the thing that is most important to me is that I try to keep a clean heart. Covetousness, selfishness, deception, hypocrisy, ignorance, and all the myriad ways of evil people - whatever vines grow over me or fall down and dry up, the only thing that I can really control is how far I distance myself from these things.

I always remember back in July 1990 A.N.R. Robinson declaring "Attack with full force!" fully knowing the thing he heard next most likely would have been the gunshot that killed him. It was like the first time in my life I had ever really seen a politician in this country who believed in something beyond their own existence. It was like for one minute somebody put something greater before themselves. Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday, two of our greatest sons of the soil, had managed to find themselves elsewhere on that day, when their country needed them the most. I have a hard time seeing them do something like that. It's not really hard to see what they really believed in inside - what they thought was important.

 If somebody asks me to help them and it's within my power to do it then I usually do it. I've had so many people including my supposedly close friends take advantage of me for this, but it's cool. Because I believe it is what we were asked to do. And the truth is that I actually am an extremely selfish person. Whatever other people want or take from me they can have it - if it wasn't worthless I wouldn't give it. But see I'm not doing it for them. And I know that is something they will never understand. The real reason I do it is because maybe one day when I really need help, somebody or something might help me. Maybe if one day I'm stretched out hungry, emaciated, dying somewhere with the sun beating down on me, a vine might grow over and shelter me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Even in darkness

Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship--be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles--is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.
David Foster Wallace-Kenyon Commencement Speech 2005

Sooner or later in life you're going to realize that the only people who have the opportunity to not believe in Something are the people who have been spared something really terrible happening to them. For the rest of us belief and worship of something good - some intangible thing inside of us that seems beyond reason yet everyday tells us to take another step forward, to bear it one more time - belief in something like that is sort of mandatory for survival. 

The crimes perpetrated against human beings like Jaycee Dugard and Elisabeth Friztl are so staggeringly enormous as to be impossible to comprehend. Everyday in this world we read about things like that and ask the same thing - how could men be so evil? Why are these things allowed to happen? That's one of the main reasons I suppose I always rejected believing in Something. There's just no way that something all-powerful but benevolent could allow what happened to those innocent people. But watching and hearing Jaycee Duggard get interviewed about living through an experience so horrifying as to be unimaginable, you can't escape one fact: she survived. Or rather the thing inside her, the thing that she believed in, kept her alive.


The knock against Generation X'rs - people like me who came of age in the late 90's and 2000's - has always been that we believed in nothing. We had no war to fight, no country to build. Most of us had sex as soon as could - we stopped believing in family and God and everything our parents held on to. The music we liked was subversive, counter-culture, a general FU to the whole pristine world of being an adult, transmitted by Nirvana and Blind Melon and NWA and Dr. Dre and Naughty by Nature and Soundgarden....We had nothing to test us and the things we believed in most.
 
This is why, as much as I rage against it,  I can't really fault entirely all the people in this country who worship the incredibly stupid and banal things in life - money, cars, clothes, cell-phones, looks, sexual allure, and sitting on top of the totem pole: the opinion of others. It's just I suppose a logical extension of what I used to believe. But what we were criticized for ten years ago seems a lot worse today. The kind of nihilsm that pervades the culture of young people today is frightening to me. At least people from my generation believed in creativity, being individual, making something new. Pearl Jam and Wu-Tang Clan were all about a new sound - something that had never been done before. But it's like the thing that people in this country fear most is not being part of a crowd. Like in our society there's two default roles: you have to be the guy on stage waving the towel or in the crowd following his directions. There's no place for real creativity or wanting or believing in things different from everybody else.

The kind of stuff that people worship today - it's not just, as Wallace says, that it's going to consume them and leave them broken and impoverished and disiilusioned in the end. But when something really terrible happens to them then they're not going to be able to hold on to anything.


In the Quran and the Bible and I imagine every major religous work is written the same thing: God sends the rain to fall on the good and wicked alike. He alone chooses on who He sends blessings and tragedies. Some people can live their whole life and never meet the psychopaths and sociopaths that stole so many years from Jaycee Duggard and Elisabeth Friztl - the kind of people who believe preying on the weak and vulnerable is what the world was made for. But a big part of the reason I like war films like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, is that they teach us in the midst of destruction and cruelty, human virtues shine through. Courage, loyalty, hope...even in darkness the best of what's inside us, what we believe in, shines through. It's a strange duality but the older I get the stranger life becomes. It's as if the things my family believed in and tried their best to teach me might actually have been true.

Elisabeth Friztl and Jaycee Duggard survived the most horrible atrocities imaginable, but it's like even in the darkest hour they found a way to fight through, to survive. That's really all the human race has been doing, from the beginning of time. And whether we know it or not there's no such thing as peacetime. We all fight, every single day, against evil, darkness. And maybe there is Something that could have intervened, but didn't, in order that something brilliant and dazzling could be discovered. If people choose to offer themselves up to the false idols that will consume them then I can't help them. But I'm not like that and I will never be. I went through the darkness. I know what I believe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rick Ross - Teflon Don


Rick Ross gained considerable notoriety after he was outed as the only rapper in the known history of hip-hop to have  fabricated and/or exaggerated his drug-selling, crime-kingpin past. It is a well-known fact that rappers never make songs claiming things they never did nor adopt exaggerated cartoonish personas for the sake of their music. Many a loyal fan were aghast at the incredible revelations that Ross (not even his real name) did not in fact move cocaine between Miami and South America in such massive quantities that he was friends with ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noreaga, and Colombian drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar. It was also suspected that Ross does not have million-dollar piles of cash laying round his house nor does he sleep with a different XXL Eye Candy model every night. Even the title of his latest album - Teflon Don - was controversial since no rapper till then had ever taken on a name or used an album title or spit lyrics that  paid homage to past legendary and sometimes fictitious gangsters.


Suffice to say this is the only Rick Ross I find worth listening to all the way through. It's not that the songs are any different in theme or content from his 3 previous albums - but what Ross does on this album is hit harder than he has ever before. From the first track to the last Ross rips on the high-flying  beats spinning incredible tales of crime and debauchery and death. Ross' rhyme skills have come a long way from Port of Miami and it seems he can hold his own against anybody these days.


I'm not particularly a fan of the message that rappers like Ross send kids about what's important in life, but I mean you don't send kids to watch Scarface or The Godfather in order to learn life skills (or at least you shouldn't.) This is adult entertainment for adults.


It's not very original or ambitious but the point is that Ross has finally done a complete album and pretty much answered his critics. To me this is what I like the most about him - he refused to back down in the face of criticism and attacks. There's a couple of weak tracks like M.C. Hammer and the B.M.F-style pounding beats get used too often but this is clearly one of the best rap albums of 2010 and should have gotten Grammy nod.


 

The really ironic thing is that Ross might be the most genuine, 'realest' rapper in the game today. The music and videos of Teflon Don are so over-the-top and dramatic that no-one could really connect any of it to what real-life is. Rick Ross delivers pure unabashed entertainment and that is what rap should be about.


Monday, June 06, 2011

It's better to be good

There's a phrase that people use in every arena of competitive human life, from pro basketball to warfare: it's better to be lucky than good. When two NBA superstars battle each other to a standstill with their supreme skills, and some 36 year-old washed up veteran on a minimum contract hits the game-winning shot from way outside his range, you hear it. When the newest, greenest kid in the squad gets shot at point-blank range and the round ricochets off his helmet and into ground leaving him without a scratch, you hear it. 'Good' meaning smart, skilled, experienced, strong. But there's another way to look at it - the other meaning of good - something that you can apply to the whole of life I think.

When I was in Standard 4 - I guess I was 8 or 9 - I had this teacher called Miss Nagir. I can't remember if she was married or not because we called all our teachers Miss, but anyway she was very forward-thinking about some things. I say this because I remember we had a spelling test where we had to spell the words PENIS and VAGINA and CLITORIS; which for many of us was the first time we were hearing those words and had no idea what they meant, which caused all kinds of hilarity for the rest of kids who knew what they were. I can't imagine the looks on some of the parents' faces when they asked their kids what they did in school that day. But anyway she had this policy where all desks had to be co-ed - one boy and one girl to a desk. Which was quite exciting for many of us because it would be the first time we would actually not be sitting with somebody who was the same sex as us. Growing up as we did in a small village, we were always shy and tentative with regard to the opposite sex. Maybe it's different in the schools in bigger places. So anyway I had to sit next to this girl named Maria and we started talking and at some point she showed me how she could whistle with her fingers and asked me if I knew who taught her how to whistle. I said no and then she said "my boyfriend." All I remember doing is picking back up the thing I was reading and thinking to myself what an odd thing that was to say to somebody you just met and what a curious thing it must be to be a girl.

I didn't get it then and I still don't. I've never been good with that stuff and I never will be. Part of the reason I like working with computers and math and stuff is that it's always a binary, black-and-white thing: you're either right or wrong. Your program either works or it doesn't, your proof is either correct or flawed, you either understand something or you don't. A model or theory or design either succeeds or it doesn't. Even with trying to write it's always you either suck at it or you don't and most people can't really conceal it one way or the other. My whole life I've always loved knowledge like that. I really never had any opportunity to practice those shadow arts of looks and signs that men and women use on one another, speak in secret alphabets as Jim Morrison put it. People who really know me know that I'm pretty blunt and forceful with regard to showing my feelings. I also never had much use for deceit or manipulation or scheming. You can't scheme your way in or out of set theory or system administration or quantum physics. So this is the model I always applied, quite disastrously, to everything in life when I was younger.

I know, now, that many if not most women wake up in the morning and before they put on their makeup they put on this lying mask and they go through the day with it on, lying to their parents and friends but most of all to themselves. They try their best to cover up how ugly and deficient they are inside with pretensions and charm, and many times they succeed. This isn't something that I knew when I was younger because I was just fortunate or unfortunate enough not to grow up with women like that. The women who raised me, for whatever reason, had very little use for artifice or deception or even nuance, either for the sake of their family or the men who loved them. If you did good they told you and if you screwed up they told you, usually several times, in quite a loud and forceful voice, and that was it. Whatever their faults and shortcomings my family was always open and honest about everything. Coincidentally or not these women didn't seem to invest much time in envy. When the people they knew were happy, they were happy for them, and when they were hurting or brought low, they tried to comfort and pull them up.

So, for better or worse this is how I was raised. I'm not being simplistic when I say that I don't understand envy because it is the truth. I guess I envy Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or whoever's dating Taylor Swift...except that I really don't and I never will. I want to get my own things in life - I want to create new things. I want somebody who loves me for who I am - the real things inside me. I don't have any interest in what other people have and I never will. The three things that I have always wanted to do in life from since I knew myself were to understand, create, and love. I don't have a lot of interest in anything else. But there are a heck of a lot of men and women who seem to be only interested in destroying things, deceiving people, hatred, malice, and envy.

I also don't understand women who like to hurt their friends because of envy. For better or for worse I've always been very black-and-white with my friends. It is inconceivable to me to try to hurt in any way somebody who I thought of as my friend, especially for the sole reason that he or she had something that other people liked and I did not have. Of course people aren't black and white and part of the wisdom that you get as you get older is that there are different types of friends - different levels of trust. Women I guess if they're lucky learn this from early on, but I daresay many men do not not. I can never understand why somebody would actively work towards hurting her own friend who trusts her a lot, just because of envy. This is the one thing I find unforgivable about envious people - they have no concept of what it means to create your own destiny. They see life just as whatever you can get by whatever means. But I mean that's just how the world is. If you're lucky enough to be smart and wise you might be able to avoid trusting these people, but if you're not then you will basically end up hurting yourself and the people who really care about you.

The wisdom of this world is survival of the fittest - you have to be smart and strong to survive. But it seems to me, no matter how smart you are, you are always going to meet people who are just stupid and low-minded enough to connive and scheme and do and say anything to satisfy their small minds. No matter how strong you are, you're always going to meet people who are going to exploit your vulnerabilities and betray your trust. But I believe, just like C.S. Lewis wrote in his Narnia books, that there is a wisdom that is older than this world. I believe that the one thing you can teach your kids to equip them for dealing with this world, the most important bit of wisdom you can impart to them, the thing that my family always taught me, is that goodness always wins in the end. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far you fall, no matter how irreparable the things you do may seem, in the end life is a circle. Everyone will get what is coming to them.

I really, really used to wish I was smarter and stronger when I was younger - I might have been able to avoid a whole ton of hurt and pain both for myself and for the people I really cared about. But the thing that I've realized is that it's not really about that - those aren't the most important things. I'd like to posit that trying your best to do the right thing, to help others, to at least avoiding harming others, to be sympathetic with other people's joy, to not be envious, to believe in the right thing; to me that is more important than being really smart and really strong. Samson was the strongest man in the whole Bible - no army could defeat him - but he still got deceived by somebody he thought he could trust. But in the end God still crushed his enemies; not because he was the strongest but because God believed him to be good inside. And the truth is that I've never seen the stupid, small-minded, ugly women who wanted to hurt me and their friends for no good reason except pure malice and envy, succeed in anything they do. And I have never seen the women who were pure and beautiful and perfect inside not be blessed and happy. So as far as I see, I'm not very strong or smart especially where women are concerned, but I did always try my stupid black-and-white best to do the right thing. And that has always been the most important thing.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Lil' Mama - VYP (Voice of the Young People)


This album actually surprised me. After hearing Lip Gloss, G-Slide, and Shawty Get Loose I figured I knew what to expect from Lil' Mama, but it turns out that the first 3 singles, for some strange reason, aren't really representative of what the whole album sounds like.
 
It was actually surprising to hear how 'normal' the rest of the album sounds. Like she chose to drop the whole cartoony high school diva dancer schtick and just tried to be a normal person. The fact that she writes her own lyrics are enough for me to give her props. But it's also good to hear a female rapper who doesn't feel the need to maintain an over-sized personality all the time, and wants to be judged just by her music alone.
Musically the album is pretty varied, thankfully, and it's quite decent. What It Is, Swim, Truly In Love, Broken Pieces, College, L.I.F.E, Girlfriend Remix are all quite good. VYP isn't The Catcher in the Rye, but just really good songs about what young people think about these days. Ironically the songs I usually skip are the first three singles I mentioned above, but I'm a dyed-in-the-wool music snob and every debut album needs songs that get made into videos that the kids listen to that push sales. The fact that she made a track called One Hit Wonder and stuck it at number 02 on the album, to me says she's at least given some thought about who she wants to be career-wise. Rap is all about bragging and made-up persona's sure, but even in her videos Lil' Mama isn't projecting something that's catering to the lowest denominator. She is who she is - and who she wants to be. All in all it's pretty good - like I said it's just good to hear a female rapper who doesn't need wigs and fake voices and rapping about shooting up clubs or selling drugs or how many places they've had sex in.

Monday, May 02, 2011

This is freaking hilarious

NMA continues to be the most awesome news show ever.





EDIT: The original vid seems to have been pulled due to fear of backlash...but I think today is one of times we should embrace and cherish free speech...

video

Perfection



Like other people have said, I still can't get over this dress. It just takes your breath away. It's like something out of King Arthur. I'll never get tired of looking at it.


In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me,
‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is sort of like this dress: short, simple, perfect, deadly, unforgettable. It's a book you can finish in a few hours and no matter how many times you read it you never get tired of it.
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless and with her chin raised a little as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it—indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in. The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise—she leaned slightly forward with a conscientious expression—

then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room.

‘I’m p-paralyzed with happiness.’

She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.)

At any rate Miss Baker’s lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her head back again—the object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something of a fright. Again a sort of

11

apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of complete self sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me. I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth—but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered ‘Listen,’ a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.


It's passages like this you read that make you want to be a writer.

One of my most vivid memories is of coming back west from prep school and later from college at Christmas time. Those who went farther than Chicago would gather in the old dim Union Station at six o’clock of a December evening with a few Chicago friends already caught up into their own holiday gayeties to bid them a hasty goodbye. I remember the fur coats of the girls returning from Miss This or That’s and the chatter of frozen breath and the hands waving overhead as we caught sight of old acquaintances and the matchings of invitations: ‘Are you going to the Ordways’? the Herseys’? the Schultzes’?’ and the long green tickets clasped tight in our gloved hands. And last the murky yellow cars of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad looking cheerful as Christmas itself on the tracks beside the gate. When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

My friend reminds me from time to time, in an indirect way, that one of my biggest problems is the inability to accept that perfection doesn't exist in this life. There's no perfect solution to any problem, no perfect computer code you can write. No perfect situation, no perfect people, no perfect friends, no perfect relationship. The only thing that's going to happen to me if I don't drop this obsession with perfection is that I'm going to smash myself into bits and have nothing to show for it. Which is true to a large extent - and has happened to a large extent. A lot of times I wonder just how much the components of my pathological personality - avoidant, borderline, narcissistic, obsessive, self-destructive - are just manifestations of my inability to accept that myself and other people and the whole of life can't be perfect . Like I start a dozen things and abruptly leave them 1/3 finished because I can't bear to not get them absolutely right. I see people in very black-and-white terms - I either like them and go all out for them, or I don't even acknowledge their existence. In anything I create I can't stop myself from searching out the tiniest imperfection and then throwing the whole thing out and starting over.

But it's cool.  Because the first act of creation - that act of giving birth - is always painful as hell. I am all these things and I am trying to do better, but I'm prepared to accept that these things will always be part of me. And whatever I go through, to me it's not really that important. Because I might not be a good person, but I'm not an evil person either. I know this for a fact because evil - envy,  selfishness, deceit, malice, hatred, hypocrisy - is purely about destruction. Regardless of what I've done in this life there isn't anybody on this planet that can say that I partook of these things. Every day I try my best to avoid these things, to do what is right, to do no harm to anyone. I don't always succeed and a lot of times I end up doing the exact opposite of what I intend to do, but I do try. Because I have knowledge - that wisdom that was given to humans to know the difference between good and evil - to understand the difference between creation and life, and destruction and death. I try my best, every day, not to hurt people. A lot of times I don't succeed but whenever I hurt people,  the vast majority of the time it's just an indirect way of hurting myself.

I'm pretty sure that Sarah Burton and F. Scott Fitzgerald got called a b---- and an a-- frequently and had people who hated them, who felt they were too arrogant, too sure in their own ability, too obssessed with getting it right all the time, too impatient with other people. But I'm pretty sure they had that knowledge and wisdom to understand the difference between good and evil. And the fact is that the people who pretend not to know the difference, who pretend that they never received that wisdom, who say in their heart that this world is, was, and will always be the same so let me get everything I can regardless of what I have to do to get it - those people are the absolutely worthless ones in life. They are born, live, die and are forgotten. They care not about making something new, something that will be remembered, something that will last when every stupid thing their small minds crave has passed away. This planet needs new things, new creations, new solutions. There's billions of people in this life who go to bed every night wishing somebody, somewhere would find something new to help them - maybe some new technology to help them get enough to eat from their land, or some new cheap hardware and software they could use to organize their villages into a potent enough group to fight the politicians who oppress them. Or even just some book or essay or op-ed, written by someone somewhere letting the world know that not everybody fights on the side of darkness, not everyone is blind and doesn't care. Some new, small thing to help them and give them hope.

So maybe I will just end up as debris, victim of a massive implosion caused by a fruitless lifelong search for the things that are perfect and right. But if, just one time, I can ever create something perfect; something that takes your breath away; something people never get tired of looking at or reading or using or listening to; something that causes a spark inside someone, somewhere, that reminds them that perfection and wisdom and truth and knowledge and beauty and love do exist in this life; if I can ever create a moment like this for someone, then it would have been worth it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Strokes - Room on Fire


This is the first Strokes album I ever listened to and it's still my favourite so far. They really do remind me of the Beatles, or how the Beatles must have sounded to music listeners back then.



Their music relies on melodies and original instrument and recording techniques instead of driving heavy riffs like the Creeds and Pearl Jams. of the world. It was one of the first pop/punk/alternative/whatever records I listened to and I really like it. The lyrics are throwaway, mostly, and it seems like every album they put out they put out Julian Casablancas' delivery becomes more and more lackadaisical. But it's still entertaining.



 There isn't a song on the whole thing that I don't like. It's really a great album - one of my favourites.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wu-Tang Clan - 8 Diagrams

The very first time I heard 8 Diagrams, I admit I was disappointed. It sounded, weak, I guess is the word, the first few times I listened to it. A lot of it was minimalistic and stripped down, which was especially surprising after the busy, amped-out flamboyant production of Iron Flag. A lot of it had these big orchestral arrangements with R&B crooners like Eryka Badu and (a feature of hiphop which RZA himself had apparently dissed on the intro to the 2nd disc of Wu-Tang Forever.) It was so unlike anything Wu-Tang had ever put out as an official group project - and it was their first album in 6 years. I wasn't the only one not really feeling it; not just some fans but some members of the Wu-Tang spoke publicly about their dissatisfaction with the album. Let Rae break it down:




It's the perceived shortcomings of 8 Diagrams that led directly to Raekwon's Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang which has been called an unoffical Wu-Tang group project. The title says it all I guess. But after two or three years I've been going back and listening to it and now, I really, really like it. It's not just that music has grown on me - but after I heard RZA on Carry It, it pretty much confirmed something for me about RZA.



The thing is this: RZA is a genius. No doubt about it. The depth and scope of his musical talent is amazing. He had and always will have this massive vision for Wu-Tang - a large part of which has been realized.. He always has had a very clear idea of what he wanted to - both musically and professionally. And unfortunately, having a big vision and single-mindedly aspiring to it will always put you in conflict with other people that don't see what you see, even if they are your fam. and you love them the most. 8 Diagrams is a lot more melodic and finely-crafted and experimental than the previous Wu-Tang albums but it's still pretty good - better than Iron Flag and The W in my opinion.




The only other producer that could/would put out a song like The Heart Gently Weeps is probably Kanye. In fact it was right around the time I started getting in to 808s & Heartbreaks that I put 8 Diagrams back on heavy rotation.

The funny thing is a lot of the real hardcore hiphop fans actually like it - it's something different and progressive and when you decide to be different and progressive you're always gonna have people who don't quite get it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Black Keys - Brothers






Holy crap, listening to Brothers by The Black Keys for the first time just blew me away. I can't remember the last time an album just wowwed me on the first listen. Their videos are insanely funny and crazy too.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Trailer



Oh boy. Well, I'm looking forward to it. It'll be interesting to see what they did with it because Atlas Shrugged is like one of those books that defy film adaptation. But I'm psyched for it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

thirtysomething

When I was 7 or 8 I couldn't wait to be 10. Just imagine, I'd have two whole numerals for my age. Now I actually seem to dread birthdays. So many good memories since I turned 30:

Adieu hairline, I hardly knew ya. I wish we could have done some more fun stuff together.
Those gray hairs make you look mature and experienced...yeah right
I'm how many pounds overweight???
Congratulations on your first root canal!!
The girl in the shop "Lemme go in the back and see if they  have your size."
No this shirt will not fit, no really nope no forget about it, wait maybe if I pull it...no no just stop
What exactly is this on my face - is it a mole? a wart? a pimple? good grief
Women hit their sexual peak after 30 you know... and?
Just like Martin Amis wrote in Yellow Dog, chicks in their teens and twenties seem to look thorough me rather than at me.

Bur there's like so much stuff I understand better now than when I was in my twenties. I'm not just the same person inside, I'm better. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks: it was worth it

Most of the negative reaction about the trade is just buyer's remorse. Ok Melo could have been had for less, just like you could have paid less for that 2nd-hand car you bought if you had waited till summer. Or it could have been gone forever.  Do you really want Donnie Walsh to say he passed on 'Melo for Timofey Mozgev? Nope. Yeah the Knicks went all-in for 'Melo and maybe it won't work out, but it's the kind of gamble every NBA team has to take in order to make themselves into championship contenders. As Donnie Walsh said in a radio interview, you have to choose whether to get your superstars now and build the supporting cast later, or vice-versa. The Knicks chose the former. Miami is probably going to contend for the next five years at least - the Knicks aren't getting out of the East without superstars to match the Heatles. That's how the game is today - you need superstars to win. Even if the Knicks don't win in the near future, the chances of CP3 or Deron Williams signing here in 2012 with 'Melo and Amare and forming their own supergroup just increased massively.

Billups, if he comes ready to play, is an upgrade over Felton until 2012, especially in the playoffs. Billups ran the Team USA offense under D'Antoni very well or so they say. Chandler was most likely gone after this season without a much bigger contract that would have eaten into the Knicks cap space, so that's no big loss. Gallinari had potential...but that's all he had. He's just very inconsistent and only D'Antoni would probably play him as a starter. Anthony replaces both those guys, plus the Knicks got a whole gaggle of swingmen like Walker and Azubuike and Williams and Brewer to step into that position. The biggest loss to me was at C and PF. Mozgev...well he looked like he had potential, but D'Antoni's ridiculous small-ball system froze him out for most of the season. Ditto Randolph. So I mean it's no point holding onto guys that your coach isn't going to play. The real test is for D'Antoni to effectively utilize Anthony in his system. If he can't do it he's most likely gone after this season. Donnie Walsh is also gonna have to work some more magic to get the Knicks a legit big man up front.

But to me one of the most appealing things about the trade is just simple karma. The pieces the Knicks gave up represent fair value for Denver. They can keep them, or flip Gallinari and Mozgev to New Jersey for first-rounders. But there's no way Denver fans can say 'Melo stiffed them and left them with nothing or less than what he was worth. So maybe the basketball gods will smile on New York, just for once.

The most puzzling question is exactly what part Dolan and Isaiah Thomas played in this and how much Walsh was on board with the bigger offer that was made. But I doubt very much Walsh will consider this  a bad trade. He's the guy who pulled the trigger on Amare for $100 mil in the summer, when everybody said it was overpaying the guy. And so far Amare has been worth every penny - when last did a New York Knick start and drop 29 in a All-Star game? My respect for Donnie Walsh has grown a great deal - he's not impatient like Thomas but he's also not afraid to go all-in on a true franchise player when a real opportunity arises.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Honestly the best thing about this movie is naked Kate Winslet followed in 2nd-place by old Kate Winset. I understand where it was trying to go - a polemic on German guilt juxtaposed with an unconventional love story but it just didn't pull me in, except right down to the end. Everything in this film has been done to death before. Just like Revolutionary Road - fantastic individual performance by Kate Winslet over a pretty plain film.

Revolutionary Road


Well I imagine the book is probably a lot better. The most interesting thing about this film was supposed to be "Kate and Leo" 10 years after Titanic, in their thirties living in suburbia. But the dialogue between them for most of the film was just bland and stilted and unnatural and sounded  forced a lot of the time. I guess they tried to stick to the book's dialogue - which probably wasn't a good idea. This needed a better screenplay The worst thing about this movie for people who haven't read the book was its predictability. From the opening scene you could easily guess what was going to happen in the next scene, and the next and the next...and less than 1/3 of the way in you could probaly guess how the whole thing will turn out.

All of the dialogue and scenes were just bread-and-butter American post-war fiction. If you read John Updike then you have a good idea. There's nothing new here really. Winslet gave a fantastic individual performance but that was it.