Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not here the darkness, in this twittering world

140 characters is goddamned few, and the worst thing is that it tempts you (me) into "cleverness."  How many times have I tried to tweet some thought or other, and then swerved aside into whatever formulation seemed witty at the moment?  When I first was learning to speak German, I went through an interesting period when I was limited to the truth: I didn't yet know enough of the language to think I could try to defend myself with subtexts and shades of meaning.  I had my handful of substantives and a few rudimentary ideas about verb tenses, and from this I had to construct my social world.  It was bracing, and though I would like to say I learned a lot from this time in my life, and now I'm a new person, more in touch with my authentic self, PLUS I also speak German, it's probably not the case.   It was just a thing that happened, and this is now -- back to the intolerable wrestle / With words and meanings.  Back to Angelus Novus, watching the warped meanings and inauthenticity, wreckage upon wreckage piling up as one struggles to express oneself, to say even one moderately true thing.

But this is my own fault for not having paid enough attention in deconstruction class.  Or maybe I paid too much attention.  "Don't overthink it, now!" the marvelous Julie Snow used to say to me.  I didn't, or maybe I did, but now I use words as machines to build mechanical clocks where the cuckoos pop out and show you your friends, your pornography, or what you think you think of yourself.  It's a living!

[And in my spare hours I construct subtexts and double meanings, machines that live below the surface, and that rushing you hear might be the steam and the pistons and the fire underfoot, or only the wind through the grass.  I shoot cannonballs disguised as clouds, or maybe the other way around.]

In conclusion, let me conclude that I like to tweet, love to tweet, that I was born to tweet, etc. -- but, dear reader, may I confess?  The only reason I'm saying this is because it's a nice little twist on a quote from the end of Philosophy in the Bedroom  -- did you recognize it?  Aren't we clever?  Because actually, I don't feel that strongly about tweeting, nor that I was born to tweet.  Perhaps I should have left the original quote unaltered.  I don't have the French version memorized.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

On a Savage Encountering Netflix for the First Time

Attention must finally be paid!  Out of my cave (or perhaps back into it, to watch the shadows flicker on the wall), being so over the local library's meager offerings, and too chicken to torrent, I've decided to enter the wonderland of Netflix.  

Initial reaction: O joy! My opinion is desired! I will discover my authentic identity, just like in a Cosmo quiz! I immediately dived in and started hurling thunderbolts right and left.  Sucked! Awesome! Indifferent! ...but then, I started wavering.  For example, I really thought "Memento" was boring.  It would have made a great short story, but -- watching the trick play out over full movie length was like watching a ball fall through a pachinko machine.  A neat trick, but the whole story was just logically determined by the beginning -- there were really no surprises, and I didn't feel like the movie had a heart.  On the other hand -- lots of people whose opinion I value (perhaps you, dear reader?) really liked this movie.  If I rate it "2" (my inclination), will I deprive myself of the opinion of Memento-lovers in whose other clusters I would dearly like to be included?   Or how about my deep-rooted love for "Smokey and the Bandit," or "Animal House?" Dare I confess it to Netflix, or will it constantly tease me: "Hey, check out 'Porky's II' -- you like that kind of crap, right? Heh heh heh..."

Despite my misgivings, I was brutally honest -- Netflix had become my therapist, and I wasn't going to hold anything back --otherwise, how could it reveal my True Desires?

So, having rated 120 movies, and already streamed 2 (Aimée &  Jaguar, A Brief Encounter), here's a sampling of what Netflix thinks I should watch:

The Return (2003)
The Sheltering Sky (1990)
Double Indemnity
All About Eve
Raising Arizona (which I dearly love -- good guess!)
The Squid and the Whale
Fighter (2001)

All delightful, I'm sure -- but as one who has been acquainted with the vagaries of machine learning clustering algorithms, I still prefer the human touch.  Indeed, there is a list waiting for me elsewhere, compiled by someone who knows me mainly through the briefest of 140-character flashes of myself upon the virtual wall -- but who has deftly made of the scattershot glimpses a sensitive zoetrope of my inclinations, and seems to see quite clearly which way the horse is running...

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I saw a bullfight once, in Barcelona.  I went with a group of German architecture students.  They all bought seats in the cheapest area -- I paid extra to sit down with the elderly Spanish men, and took my sketchbook.  I really wanted to see what it was like.  There were six bulls, as usual.  The first bull came out angry, charging, and took down a picador with his horse.  But he had no chance -- a bullfight is really no fight at all, just elegant slaughter, as the bull is at first bled out by picadors and banderilleros, and then finally murdered by the matador with a lights-out thrust to the neck.  There is a lot of blood as the bull is lanced; his body is drenched in red, and he's staggering and slowed by the time the matador appears.  You don't want a man to die, but it seems unfair.  This fight proceeded as expected, and ended with more blood in the ring, as the bull's body was dragged out across the sand. 

The architecture students were all green, nauseated, and heading for the exit; I grabbed a sausage, and went back down to watch the rest of the corrida, a bit unsettled because I was in a sense fascinated rather than viscerally repelled.

I don't think I have anything fundamentally new to say about the ritualized killing of bulls for pleasure.  I have my own feelings, which tend to favor the primitive and passionate, and I see the corrida as part of an essential human wildness, and I like that.  But I also have nothing but sympathy for the bloodied beast, teased into mindless rage, murdered for the pleasure of the crowd.  The corrida drags me in both directions at once, holds me suspended in pity, rage, and pleasure, with no clear exit...