Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The benefits of academia

In the reply to an email I sent to one of my lecturers at college, she said "I feel that you are an academic at heart" and, not matter how much I hatefully rail against academia, perhaps this is true.

My examination results for my A2 English exams were disastrous and I consequently discarded all together the idea of applying to university. Prior to starting my A-levels I was hateful to universities and all things academic, but over the course of time I have felt that academia can be beneficial. I thereby changed my mind again and decided that I will apply to university.

Autodidactism is characterised by its eschewal from academic learning, but it is possible to fuse the two. Independent study and academia can be combined and undertaken simultaneously, and I think that the two interconnect and complement one another.

But I think that the real reason I rejected academia is because I prefer solitary learning and undertaking tasks on my own. I've always hated group activities or even sitting in lessons with groups of people because I prefer sitting on my own in a room and reading a book. I've always despised group thinking and interacting with others as a means of acquiring information, but certain goals and aims must be attained this way.

'Art' a lot of the time is infused by academic learning. Many novelists, painters, etc have learnt their craft through a university education, but I still think that it is a terrible mistake to assume that the merit of an artist's work is indebted to their university education. Ultimately, learning can be stimulated by anything, such as the sky or a tree, rather than solely by academic education. Many noteworthy artists haven't had the slightest academic training, and many people seem to be surprised by this.

One of the reasons why I want to study philosophy is that it is a strict discipline that can benefit me in a way that other subjects can't. Certainly, the study of this subject could contribute greatly to my life and craft. I feel that the study of abstract concepts and technical procedures would challenge me and provide a groundwork for many of my activities and pursuits.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Misconceptions of mental health

I feel that there is a widespread misconception about mental health. This 'misconception' is often perpetrated and fabricated by psychiatrists and other academics. As someone who has had 'issues' with mental health problems, I have encountered many people of many different ranks who cherish values I simply consider to be wrong.

'Mental illness' is non-existent. Someone who suffers from a mental illness isn't in a state of mind that would be considered 'inferior' to someone who is mentally healthy. 'Schizophrenia', 'psychosis,' 'depression' or 'autism' are all states which are equally valuable as healthy states, and many perceptions can be extracted from them that could be beneficial not only to the individual but also to society.

When I was at the cusp of my episode I wrote on my blog (which has subsequently been deleted): "I want to deviate with the reality I see. I want to make my reality strange. (...) I want to test people's values of reality, which I consider to be wrong. I want people to find answers to themselves via unconventional tendencies (which reside in dreams or drug-induced fantasies)." I feel that, if I ever became a published writer, this would be the message I'd like to espouse and to bear testament to the provincialism and narrow-minded attitude most people seem to believe when it comes to mental health. The general view people purport when it comes to mental health is that being 'healthy' is of utmost importance and people with mental illnesses are a threat to themselves and everybody else. This is simply wrong.

As a result of this, people attribute crimes to mental illness. People assume that serial killers, pedophiles and rapists are all culpable because of being mentally unhealthy. Society deems mental illness as a contribution to crimes and shenanigans and consequently take this notion and apply it to every person experiencing a mental illness. 'Schizo' or 'psycho' is often synonymous with 'criminal'.

Ultimately, society always alienates and oppresses the pariah. If the pariah drifts into a life of madness, he will be institutionalised and medicated to the point where he can't function anymore. Centuries ago this was the case, and in present day I see no effort to integrate the 'pariah' into society and cherish the person as a worthy and valuable human being.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Film by film: Godard's French New Wave period

Breathless (1960)

A film very iconic of its time, this is also generally seen as the manifesto film of the New Wave's aesthetic, where many of the ideas from by people by Bazin were put into practice. Its main stylistic feature was the jump cut. Scenes chaotically led onto others without any sort of continuity. This was a result of attempting to cut the film to a shorter length as a subsequent request from the producers. There are many allusions to pop American culture; the protagonist idolises Humphrey Bogart and reads William Faulkner, and falls in love with an American journalist. The film deals with how the Jean-Paul Belmondo character commits a murder and eventually gets turned in by the American. This film is a lot more light-hearted and has a lot more levity than people give it credit for; it could be essentially be seen as a love story with elements of high art in them. It the film that made Godard a household name and it was to become his only commercial success.

Le Petit Soldat (1960)

Dispensing with the unorthodox editing use of Breathless, this film used far more conventional cinematographic devices. Arguably, it could be seen as Godard's most coherent feature. It dealt with the Algerian war, with a person who works for the French intelligence to avoid getting drafted. Due to the sensitivity of the situation of the war at the time, and due to lengthy scenes depicting torture, this film was banned for three years. It also starred upcoming model Anna Karina, who became Godard's wife while filming and would become the quintessential Godardian actress, appearing in most of his subsequent New Wave films.

Un Femme Est Un Femme (1961)

Godard jokingly called this "a neo-realist musical comedy". This is perhaps Godard's only joyful film; it has an upbeat and uplifting feel to it that isn't present in the rest of his features. The Anna Karina character plays a stripper who wants to have a child, a wish that's hindered by her lover's reluctance, so she turns to his best friend instead.

Vivre Sa Vie (1962)

By far Godard's most serious and 'poetic' film to this date, this work is drenched by bleakness and despair. It is subdivided into twelve parts, which could be seen as an approach of a film essay on prostitution. Its tragic veneer is in part indebted to Godard and Karina's personal life at the time: she had just suffered a miscarriage and had been left infertile. Karina plays Nana, a woman who drifts into a life of prostitution to pay the rent. The film is characterised by an unorthodox use of camera angles: characters are filmed from their backs, there will be sustained shots of close-ups and unusual lighting. The film shows a strong affinity with film history, with Nana attending a performance of a Carl Theodor Dreyer film. Nana's eventual death seems to reach a very sombre conclusion.

Les Carabiniers (1963)

Haven't seen this one yet.

Le Mepris (1963)

This film mainly originated from been a US co-production and a to have a great deal of investment in it, after producer Carlo Ponti approached Godard. Indeed, it could be seen as the only 'properly made' Godard work. It is a meta-film, that is, a reflection of cinema within itself. An American producer hires a French playwright to rework a script which is in the process of being filmed by director Fritz Lang but quickly runs into problems and turmoil. The film is perhaps best remembered for featuring tame nudity from star Bridgette Bardot, which was mainly put into the film after the producer's insistence in the hope that it would raise the profits. Ultimately, this film is more interesting by its process and production than for its end result.

Band A Parte (1964)

A very playful and entertaining film, this is perhaps most remembered for its dance scene, which would later cast its influence on Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Karina plays a naive young girl who gets caught up amidst a couple of thugs who carry out a robbery in her own home. Filmed in the streets of Paris, this imaginatively re imagines the gangster genre in a way which is enjoyable and entertaining.

Un Femme Mariee (1964)

Haven't seen this one yet.

Alpaville (1965)

This is Godard's blend of science fiction and film noir, as well an unusual comment on the individual and totalitarianism. It is notorious for starring Eddie Constantine, an actor famed for B-movies and for generally not being a 'good' actor. He enters Alphaville, a strange alternate world that runs a totalitarian regime, where people are completely robotised and anyone speaking up is murdered in unusual and inconceivable ways. Head of Alphaville is Alpha 60, a computer system that dictates logical science. It gives long monologues which are actually quotations from Jorge Luis Borges' Refutation of Time. Anna Karina plays a resident of Alphaville who, like the rest of its inhabitants, doesn't understand the meaning of 'love' or 'conscience'. In the end she acquiesces to the Constantine character by declaring "I love you" which Godard brilliantly pulls off by not making it appear melodramatic or soppy. My favourite Godard film.

Pierrot Le Fou (1965)

This is where Godard looked back at his career to date, where he made a reworking and renewal of all his former themes. Jean-Paul Belmondo falls in love with his babysitter played by Anna Karina and they embark on an expedition to the French Riviera. The tension between the lovers present in this film strongly mirrors the state of Karina and Godard's marriage at the time, as their relationship had by now crumbled. This film is also notorious in that it increasingly breaks away from the levity embodied by the French New Wave and integrates an growing political edge which would now predominate in the rest of Godard's features. The films following Pierrot would concern themselves with an increasingly political agenda. By now Godard merely used narrative as a way to connote his ideas on politics, cinema and aesthetics. Like Le Mepris it is shot in bright primary colours by cinematographer Raoul Coutard.

Masculin Femenin (1966)

Haven't seen this one yet.

Made in USA (1966)

A farewell to Anna Karina as well as the spirit of the New Wave, this film sees Godard blending his politicised sensitivities with elements of a crime thriller. This film was done as a favour to his producer Georges de Beauregard to fund another film. Karina gets entangled in a conundrum of political fervour. Ultimately, in the final scene Godard seems to reach the conclusion that neither the left or right is the solution as Karina drives away to salvation.

Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1966)

This is a demanding theoretical discourse. It follows a French woman going into prostitution to pay her bills. Instead of the title suggesting that this is centred of a woman, the film in fact deals with Paris and the state of consumer culture and the Vietnam war. It is most famed for the coffee scene, where the camera zooms into a steaming cup of black coffee as philosophical discourse is interjected over it.

La Chinoise (1967)

Haven't seen this one yet.

Week End (1967)

A vast collage of political ideas and ruminations, this is Godard's final New Wave film and his final feature that was made commercially. Around this time he swung to Maoism and arguably lost his way. Week End is a film which showed a complete disgust and rejection of its own society, as well as a prescient document foreshadowing the 1968 student revolutions. The film portrays an anarchic world which very nearly emerged after the film's premiere. Two bourgeois characters go an outing to the countryside, where they get lost in maddening world of cannibals and philosophy-spouting eccentrics. There is a famed - and notorious - tracking shot of a traffic jam, which lasts for seven minutes. The ending intertitle of the film was 'End of cinema'. From here there was no turning back.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Ipod shuffle #2

1. Ausencia - Violeta Parra

This is a beautiful song by a renowned Chilean folk singer, Violeta Parra. The lyrics are full of passion and, as well, nostalgia. Parra wrote many songs about Chile while living in Paris, but this song deals with that of missing a loved one. Her music is very raw; the guitar and vocals are by no means 'beautiful' in the original sense of the term, but the song reaches the listener through quite an idiosyncratic approach. Parra also drew from many other folk songs preceding her time, and she is also a blueprint for the 'New Song' Chilean movement, later to be led and pioneered by Victor Jara.

2. Scenario - The Fall

Due to the prolific work ethic of Mark E. Smith and The Fall, they are bound to release quite a bit of dross now and again - Reformation Post TLC falls under that category. Still, this song is one of the least turgid ones of the album... What I like about this song is that Smith makes reference to a Captain Beefheart song in Trout Mask Replica - "it don't make me high, it can only make me cry." But instead of the lyrics dealing with the veteran day poppy of the Vietnam war, this deals with the November poppy commemorating the First World War. Smith's lyrics can indeed often resemble Beefheart's and it is perfectly apt that he draws from him; he has the same child-like view of the world, but with a far more in-your-face cynicism veneer to it.

3. November 25: Ichigaya - Philip Glass

This is part of the soundtrack for Paul Schrader's biopic Mishima. Glass is the most famous exponent of minimalism, and this segment does indeed use repetitive patterns to great effect. This piece has the aura of a war sequence, and even if I haven't seen Schrader's film, I can see it used as background music for one of narcissistic Mishima's confrontations. The piece becomes more intense as it progresses; the marching drums increases momentum, as well as the strings, until it all seemingly evaporates and can't go any further.

4. Muscle Head - Napalm Death

Fucking ludicrous grind back when Napalm were playing grind. The song went by so fast that I didn't have time to write about it while hearing it! Indeed, Napalm's songs often sound like a premature ejaculation... Grindcore takes death metal and injects it with the speed of punk, which ultimately results in a flux of exhilaration and energy. Additionally, there are pseudo-political, indecipherable rants.

5. Moon Dreams - Miles Davis

After leaving Charlie Parker, Davis formed his own band and began pioneering what is called 'Cool Jazz', later to be collected in The Birth of the Cool along with pianist/arranger Gil Evans. All the performers seem to have their own role in this track; they each solo with one another, often playing the title theme along the improvisations, blurring the distinction between predetermined notation and improvisation. The track is also very laidback, as its title 'Cool' may suggest.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The comics of my youth #2

Here I devoted a whole post to Martín Conejín, explaining that, because I didn't have a scanner, I couldn't upload any of the comic strips onto the internet. Now that I do have a scanner, that is possible.

Though that's not the only reason why I uploaded them. One of my cousins in Chile has a little toddler called Martín, so my dad has taken a powerpoint presentation for Martín to see them.

I didn't read these as a toddler, I mainly read them as a nine-year-old. The reason why I liked them so much is the same reason why I like them now: they make me giggle for some unfathomable reason. Like the last 'comics of my youth post', these strips are all drawn by Themo Lobos.

Click on them to make them bigger.













Monday, 9 August 2010

Review #14

Stalker - Written by Arkady Strutgatsky and Boris Strutgasky; Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

I suspect that if I hadn't seen a Tarkovsky film before, I wouldn't have been all that impressed by Stalker. When I saw his other science fiction film, Solaris, I had mixed feeling; the film came across as too ponderous and slow. Yet, months later the film reappeared in my dreams and I couldn't stop thinking about it. The film haunted my mind, there is something in Tarkovsky that clings to the subconscious mind. Seeing Stalker, I actually found myself engaged and riveted (despite accounts I've since read on the internet that describe the opposite). Tarkovsky's films take time to reveal their secrets.

A writer and scientist are led into 'The Zone' by a figure called 'The Stalker'. The Zone is sealed off by the authorities, and allegedly has a room that grants one's deepest wishes to come true. The Zone is highly hazardous place that affects anyone who enters it both physically and mentally. This place is a metaphor for the character's psychological torments, as well as an allegorical representation of the intellectuals trek into the unknown. In this context, 'Stalker' doesn't mean that of harassing someone else but of approaching an unknown location.

The film is unsettling in its oneiric aura. The characters roam across dilapidated industrial wastelands and waterways that are part of the aftermath of the meteorite that fell. These landscapes affect the characters in much the same way as Solaris affected me; they are even shown lying asleep for a very long time, part of the landscapes' influence on their subconscious.

This is a very slow film. Long, long shots and many ponderous conversations. It also lasts for three hours... Yet it all lead to a fascinating finale when the three characters enter a sand dune room, yet they never enter the room. Tarkovsky has been compared to Dostoyevsky in his philosophical approach, and watching his work in a certain way can be like reading Dostoyevsky at his densest; there are many inconclusive moments and many moments of frustration.

But, ultimately, I don't think it's Tarkovsky's philosophical arguments that overwhelm me, it's the cinematography. The monochrome colour and long, long takes create this impact that stays with you and lingers at the back of your mind.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Monday, 2 August 2010

'Juvenilia: An Unacknowledged Literary Prodigy'/My State of Mind #15

Juvenilia: An Unacknowledged Literary Prodigy

16 short stories by a master of the form. Some of these stories have flashes of inspiration, others are excruciatingly painful to read, others are simply embarrassing. This book has undergone a gestation of more than three or four years; I wrote the first one at the age of sixteen. Since I am now twenty, I am no longer a prodigy and any more of my literary efforts have no place in this compendium. This collection comprises my 'best' (but still quite wretched) stories written between the ages of sixteen and nineteen.

I have made slight alterations to a few of the stories, and there is also a new preface. I have produced ten copies of the book, and two of those copies belong to me. Initially, I wanted have a spine but I had to go for spirals because the other option was too expensive.

PRICE: £O.OO

If you're interested in acquiring a copy, email: simoncangas@hotmail.com

My pseudonym for this book (and for all my future work) is Saimon A. King.

--------------------------------

I've felt frustrated today after been assaulted by constant noise. I really fucking hate it when I can't accomplish an activity I have in mind and I have to settle for another one. I've gone on the internet as a refuge from the fucking racket all around me.

But there's no need to be morose! This summer holiday has, at least during the beginning, been pleaseantly productive. And, what's more, is that I have the house to myself for three weeks starting tomorrow! But over the last two or three weeks things went downhill a bit; I stopped writing fiction all together and I loafed around. But this will hopefully be resolved soon and I'll hopefully make the most out of these upcoming weeks.

I am more invisible and insignificant than ever: this blog is testament to that. But I shall just immerse myself in this anonymity.

There is a fan-club in dronfield of the Chilean Everton football club started by English Everton football club fans! Incredible! My dad only met the leader of this club recently. He went to the guy's house to drop off some Lukas books in his house and former professional football player Mario Salas was there! He's currently involved in coaching Universidad de Concepción youth team and is involved in administrative work in the Everton football club. He played for the Chilean national team and was in the glorious Union Espanola team in the mid 90s. They told my dad that in the next day they were going to a friendly between Sheffield United and Argentinean club Estudiantes, so I accompanied him to the match! Prior to the match we went to a pub with all the Everton fans. I had a really long conversation with Salas and he sussed me out straight away; he said "Eres un bicho raro" (you're a "weird bug") and realised straight away that I lived a very solitary life. His aim is to become a football coach, and he was quite critical of Bielsa's team in our conversation, saying that "son muy robotizados" (which is quite true) and that football FA should invest more money in the infrastructure of Chilean football rather than in Bielsa's enormous salary. The conversation, inevitaby, veered to more 'philosophical' areas.

-----------------------------

After the last world cup ended, I felt cheated. Uruguay made it to the semi-finals whereas Chile could only get to the second round! Why? Because of the fucking draw! This is a once-in-a-lifetime Chile team - the Uruguayan one isn't. Fifa is corrupt.

Here I will make a list of all the games Chile would have played had they been in Uruguay's draw. Believe me, everyone would have been far more blown away by Chile than Uruguay.

Chile 3-0 France

(Chile would have destroyed France's calamitous defense. Uruguay were too nervous by the prospect of playing such a giant. This Chilean side never gets nervous + they would have scored far more goals than against Honduras because France are a far bigger mess.)

Chile 3-1 South Africa

(They wouldn't have smashed the African side as much as Uruguay, and they would have conceded at least one goal after letting themselves exposed to a counter-attack.)

Chile 1-1 Mexico

(Chile would have struggled against Mexico far more than Uruguay, but I suspect that they'd still got a point.)

Chile 2-0 South Korea

Chile 2-1 Ghana (AET)

(Uruguay robbed Ghana this match, but Chile would have done it fairly and would have had most of the possesion. Still, they would have been neutralised - something this Ghana team proved to be experts at.)

Holland 3-2 Chile

(This Chilean side would have really gone for Holland even more than Uruguay, but they would have let in three goals by three griveous defensive mistakes.

Germany 3-2 Chile

(This German side is also quite defensively naive, but playing against Chile it would have been excited end-to-end stuff. The Germans would still win because they are Germany.)