Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Saimon se fue p'al norte...

I have never had such a huge hurdle to overcome in my life... But now, in a naively ambitious trip, I will trek across the entirety of Chile.

Wish me luck. I don't think I'll be writing posts while there, but perhaps I'll upload photos when I'm back.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Confronting Reality

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video

Confronting Reality: Stories from a Sabbatical Year is a collection of seven stories I hope to put together. I have edited the first three; the rest will be completed after my Chile odyssey.

Meanwhile there's this... An audio recording of my going through each story, describing its ethos, its incidents and messages. It's 35 minutes long; I don't understand how anyone would be willing to sit through its entirety.

I split it into two parts because it was too heavy to upload as one video... The background image was originally going to be this arbitrarily chosen one, but it made the video heavier for some reason. I had to simply slap on my profile image in the end... Not that it makes any difference.

Something I was going to mention at the end of this recording, but forgot, is that I'm like that "Shakespeare actor who always plays himself." Even though I try to write broadly, about a number of subjects, it always seems the same and somewhat monotonous... This could be remedied by attending Creative Writing classes, but I'm quite stubborn about that sort of stuff... Alas.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Review #25


Three Colours Trilogy - Kryzstof Kieslowski

Having taken the ten biblical commandments as an instigator for his series Dekalogue, Kieslowski took another moral lesson for a trilogy of three feature films. He used the colours of the French flag: Blue (Liberty), White (Equality) and Red (Fraternity).

A native Pole, with no grasp of French, it may be that Kieslowski undertook this project because, after the the fall of communism, it left more room creative freedom. To work with French crews, distributors and settings may have been a welcoming prospect after having worked under the watchful eye of an authoritarian regime. The higher budgets from these production companies, no doubt, was also an enticing prospect.

Far more pressingly, the themes that could be developed out of these moral lessons were limitless. Already using elements of French culture in The Double Life of Veronique, which some say was a way of expounding a political allegory, Kieslowski was given rein to use this foreign culture to develop themes and moving stories.

Kieslowski films depict characters struggling in their daily life with cultural myths. Strongly evident in this trilogy, each protagonist experiences some sort of strife with the moral codes of their community; they ultimately learn to acclimatise themselves to their conflict and find strategies of solving their issues.

Blue is a film that centres itself around emotional, not political, liberty. Julie, played by the beautiful Juliette Binoche, is wife of a renowned composer. The film begins with a car crash where she is the sole survivor, surviving her husband and five-year-old daughter. She thereafter cuts herself off from the rest of the world.

The film follows her through her isolation, discovering that her husband had been unfaithful. What fortifies the film is the perennial presence of music: whenever the protagonist closes her eyes to think, there is a fadeout superimposed with lush orchestral music.

Kieslowski said that cinema is inferior to literature because of its incapacity at showing 'the inner life,' but he does find ways of ameliorating this by depicting characters' inner thoughts. Curtailing the explicitly of cinema, he nuances the level of obviousness often prevalent in film. Everything in Blue is centred around the character, so all her surroundings become detached. Kieslowski makes every common triviality - a cup of coffee, a television set, backgrounds - lose importance as she continues to banish the world around her.

The Binoche character eventually comes around to integrating herself into the world again, completing an unfinished symphony of her deceased husband and beginning a relationship with a contact. Her emotional liberty is reciprocated and resumes her activity again.

White is considered the weak link in the trilogy, but if you consider it in its own terms it is an excellent piece of film-making. It follows the misfortunes of a Pole stranded in Paris, who is abandoned by his adored wive, leaving his him as a vagabond. After a whole series of events he becomes a rich entrepreneur after having connivingly acquired an expensive spot of land.

At the time of the film's release there was a sudden explosion in suspicious dealings and investments. For instance, people like Chealsea football club owner Abrahamovich amassed a great fortune because they managed to acquire enterprises cheaply after the dissolution of the communist hierarchy. Kieslowski was clearly unsettled by this and felt the need to comment on it.

Red no doubt features the most benevolent protagonist, played by the beautiful (how many French beauties are there?) Irene Jacob. A student who does modelling for spare cash, she runs over a dog, feels guilty and returns it to its owner. Having sought him, she finds that he is rude and cold to her. This solitary man lives isolated in a small house while monitoring tapped conversations of his neighbours.

This man turns out to have been a former judge, who now seems to be displaced with the world. With the assistance of this kind model, they establish a friendship and he turns himself into the authorities.

A concurrent narrative is of a law student's fraught love relationship. Like in Double Life of Veronique Kieslowski revels in mirroring interconnected lives. This young law student is perhaps a missing link between each other's destinies; that perhaps, had they been born in the same time-frame, they may have had a relationship.

All the films are riddled with symbolism. One recurring theme in each of the film is of an old woman scavenging over to a waste disposal to trash a bottle. In the first two films the characters simply see it from a distance; in Red, as an act of solidarity and fraternity, Jacob helps the elderly woman.

Finally: I am not one to praise, nor even notice, the cinematography of a film, but here it is unavoidable. Each film is tinted with its respective colour, in addition to being accompanied by setting and props of it. Not many directors can be acclaimed for taking content and cinematography in consideration simultaneously, not separately, but Kieslowski is one of them.

An extraordinary trilogy and definitely the most impressive piece of contemporary film-making I have encountered. Strongly recommended.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Wednesday films 2010/11

For the last three years I watch a film every Wednesday. Here and here are the previous links. This is a little ritual of mine.

I'm going to Chile next Wednesday, so this ritual has no come to an end. I hope to practice it during my stay at university, too.

Most of the films I enjoyed enormously. The two Fellini and Godard films were excruciatingly tedious, though. I also saw many films in addition to these throughout the year. I hope to see the last film on this list, Enfant du paradis, soon.

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Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino)
Crimes and Misdemeanours (Woody Allen)
Deconstructing Harry (Woody Allen)
October (Sergei Eisenstein)
Intolerance (D. W. Griffith)
M (Fritz Lang)
Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau)
Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Sunrise (F. W. Murnau)
The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (Robert Wiene)
8 ½ (Federico Fellini)
La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock)
Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock)
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock)
The Third Man (Carol Reed)
Jules et Jim (Francois Truffaut)
Masculin Femenin (Jean-Luc Godard)
Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen)
Hannah and her Sisters (Woody Allen)
Stardust Memories (Woody Allen)
Le Regle de Jeu (Jean Renoir)
Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray)
Three Colours: Blue (Kryzstof Kiesloswi)
Three Colours: White (Kryzstof Kieslowski)
Three Colours: Red (Kryzstof Kieslowski)
Gertud (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Sanjuro (Akira Kurosawa)
Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)
Hidden (Michael Haneke)
Enfants du Paradis (Marcel Carne)

Monday, 20 June 2011

Review #24

Bat Chain Puller - Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band

After the fiasco of his two Mercury albums - Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams, both released in 1974 - Beefheart was a lost cause. In vain he released two self-conscious bids at commercial success, but it fired back: not only did these pithy albums sky-rocket in the charts, it also alienated his own fan-base. It was a fan-base that had grown to appreciate him for all the eccentricities that that made him so special.

A stint in Zappa's band followed, until the bearded musical polymath agreed to fund his next album. This album, sadly, has yet to see the light of day.

Beefheart's contractual situation was always wrangled - conflicting papers from different record companies claimed his ownership. Most decisively, Zappa sued his own manager and, in that complicated legal process, prevented the release of the album.

This is a huge shame. If the album had seen the light of day it would have announced Beefheart's comeback with aplomb. Beefheart, throughout the seventies, had been making compromises. Due to the obtuseness of his music, it was always clear that it could never reach wide audiences. Failure after failure followed until Van Vliet realised that all he needed to do was do what he did - and do it well.

The only way to hear the album is through bootlegs, meaning that the mixing is not as it should be and that the sound isn't crystal clear. There are good copies available, though: the one I stumbled across in Soulseek is fine.

Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) is wrongly regarded as a re-recording of this album. Only five of this album's tracks appear on it, and anyone has taken the time to seek out a copy of the original BCP will realise that it is a different kettle of fish altogether. Ten of the twelve album tracks would be re-worked in his three subsequent releases: Shiny Beast, Doc at the Radar Station and Ice Cream for Crow.

The music in the album returns to the unbridled wildness of his earlier days, though it still has a little more cohesion. It is far less frenetic than the controlled mayhem in Trout Mask: the guitars sound angular and the complex signature drumming is there, but it doesn't rocket ahead so fast rapidly and anxiously. The drumming in Trout Mask, though it may not seem so at first, was centred around the other instruments. This is also the case here: the scraps of music are held together by the arhythmical drumming, though it is more paced and relaxed.

The opener 'Bat Chain Puller' was centred around a drum rhythm: the windshield wipers in Don's car. And the rhythm sounds just like that. Drabber than the version on 'Shiny Beast', it is a funky and foot-tapping in a strange Beefheart sort of way (my dad once put this on thinking that he had an African music cd on the player and he started dancing to it - which he never does - completely unaware that it was Beefheart!).

The lyrics are back to free-association and weirdness. While Beefheart's voice by this point was gravelly and cracked, he couldn't really sing as he used to, but he delivers it methodically and humorously. "Bat Chain" he deadpans. "Bat Chain Puller," he continues, before vociferating "BAAAAAAAAAAT CHAAAAAAAAIN PULLER." Again he draws from rural and wildlife imagery, the subject of his expressionist oil paintings, to flesh out these non-sensical - though hilariously entertaining - lyrics.

'Seam Cooked Sam' is a song with very complex guitar lines, which coalesce and intertwine atonally. Beefheart 'reads out' a surreal poem. This intriguing oddity never resurfaced in any of the later re-recordings.

'Harry Irene' is far superior to the Shiny Beast version. It's mainly the timbre of the keyboards that make this one special, ironically sounding like a lounge combo. The good thing like a track like this is its levity: something good to be placed amongst an abundance of complexity and difficulty.

There is a return to 'spoken word' tracks on this album. Two are featured on the album. 'Poop Hatch' is a little repetitive, not helped by Beefheart's tired delivery that a critic remarked sounded as if he were reading from an extensive shopping list. The closing track 'Apes-Ma' is full of his characteristic humour, clocking in at 40 seconds. "Your cage isn't getting any bigger, Apes-Ma."

And then there's two instrumentals. 'Flavour Bud Living', here played by the drummer and musical arranger John French, is substantially different on this version. It is played far more quietly and contemplatively, in contrast to the more accelerated and Oriental-tinged version rendered by Gary Lucas on Doc. The lovely guitar and piano duet 'A Carrot is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond', a very melodic and cohesive piece, is exactly like the version that appeared on Doc.

The 'Brickbats' version that appeared on Doc is much better because here the cacophonous sax is mixed far too loud, obscuring all the stimulating musical activity. Every time I put BCP on and this comes on, I root for the skip button.

There are two rollicking blues-rock tracks which, by Beefheart standards, are fairly orthodox... yet still far from normal. 'Floppy Boot Stomp' and 'Carson City' they are played with more vigour and bite than in the Shiny Beast versions, though Beefheart's delivery on the BCP tracks are below par.

By far, the album's highlights are the tracks 'Odd Jobs' and 'The Thousandth and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole'. They sound like what would have happened if Stravinsky had been persuaded to write a rock song. Both clocking in at over five minutes, which for Beefheart is long, they are meticulously crafted and superbly rendered. The lyrics are memorable as well, the former track describing the absence of a charismatic tramp and the latter a tongue-in-cheek Beefhearterian allegory. These two songs are the best tracks from Beefheart's late period material.

The Zappa family trust own the rights to the tapes, yet they continue to abstain from its release... Hopefully if more laudatory reviews and write-ups like this appear on the internet they may get their finger out... Release the fucker!

Friday, 17 June 2011

The big mystery

One of the worrying factors about studying a literary course, or any course to do with the arts, is the ridiculous amount of in-depth prescriptive analysis required. One of the reasons I read and write is (excuse the excruciatingly pretentiousness and ponceyness of the phrase) 'the big mystery'.

A lot of the time to go through page after page with a red pen in hand, strenuously analysing every single page, can tear apart the life and soul of the work. Some academicians may argue that this is essential to 'comprehend' a text, but a lot of elements of literary analysis - characterisation, use of time, setting - are pretty superficial anyway. Often these analytic techniques won't delve any further than what any intelligent and attentive reader can sense on a first or second reading of a book.

Many works that leave themselves open to interpretation intend to be cryptic and ambiguous anyway. Many people seem to be quite puzzled when they encounter what seems to be a 'puzzle' or 'tapestry', something that perhaps doesn't have a cohesive thread or a clear meaning. People will think that some sort of elaborate analysis is required to 'get' the work, without realising that the forte of it lies in its ambiguity and its enigmatic appeal.

In academic circles there is an abundance of theses and academic studies analysing such art. Studies of people like Beckett or the films of David Lynch, intellectualising numerous aspects which may or may not be there. The great dilemma Estragon and Pozzo face while waiting for something that never arrives begs to question, for many people, the necessity of spirtual belief. The complex tangled web of narrative in something like Mulholland Drive leads to numerous psychoanalytic studies.

Ultimately, I don't entirely turn my back on rationality and intellectualisation. I simply feel there should be a place for 'the big mystery', which I feel is consistently neglected in favour of the methodic analysis that anxiously strives after meaning.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Routines

This week I have set a routine in motion: I get up every morning at eight, arrive at this pond at nine and then come back at home to read and write. There are few variations to this schedule on other days, but on the whole I try to remain faithful to it.

I realised that I am only able to concentrate on reading and writing if I get up early in the morning. When I oversleep until 12:00 AM I'm not in the mood for anything.

And that's what the year has been like prior to this week: lethargy. I used to sleep in ridiculous hours, which left unmotivated for the remainder of the day.

I really despair at how I only came to realise this late on. During this week I have been (for the most part) at my most fruitful, using my time to the full. This has only come about as a consequence of having a routine and getting up in the early hours in the morning.

Though it isn't all that rosy. Because of having such a fixed schedule, any intervention that comes about infuriates me. Since it was my birthday this week, my sister stayed for about three days and was unable to do anything for an entire day. I am very sensitive to sounds of any sort and, add to that the presence of my sister, and I was fuming. I had my first full-blown tantrum in years, which traumatised my sisters and prompted my parents to have a 'serious' discussion with me. I'll have to learn to make my schedule flexible.

What's worse is that the Job Centre have bullied me into work experience. Next week I'll have to work at a clothes shop from 5-9 PM every day. Again, I'll have to think of ways of accommodating it into my schedule.

Now I understand why so many writers write in the early hours of the morning. I used to follow the Kafka route by writing at night and going about it only when the inspiration kicked in. The problem is that, if you follow this approach, it only comes off when you are very inspired.

When I get up earlier I feel sharper and it all just flows out of my fingertips with greater ease. I have always placed myself in 'hedonistic' camp, but now I feel very tempted to move into the 'craftsmen' camp. I guess that I waver between the two at the moment.

I guess the Flaubert maxim is fitting: "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work." I just have to look at writers I admire, like J. G. Ballard, and realise that this is true.

Real shame I only had this epiphany now... I should have practiced it throughout the entire year. In two weeks' I'm going to Chile, then three years of uni and finally I'll probably get a job, where I won't have anywhere near as much latitude and freedom as I have now. Oh, well.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

21

I turned 21 yesterday. At this age I am still an anonymous non-entity... Most of my school peers (the cunts) have completely forgotten about me while I continue to wallow in this untraversed cosmic zone... I may get out of this zone and enter the real world when I attend university, but... I very much doubt that. Doomed.

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Recent acquisitions

The main reason I wanted to make this blog post is that I have got my hands on several books, two of which were birthday presents. They are listed below.

The Andrei Tarkovsky Collection (DVD)

I don't actually have this yet, it's pre-ordered. Birthday gift. It's released on the 27th, a day before I set off to Chile. I will only get my hands on it once I come back in September. I really wanted to watch Mirror a second time, but it'll have to wait. Shame.

Selected Non-Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges

On a trip to London, my dad took me to what is definitely the greatest book shop I've ever set foot upon - Daunt Books. They order a great proportion of their books by country, so it thrilled me to see stacks of books from Latin-America piled together, most of which I had never even seen in a book store before. This deluxe edition of Borges' non-fiction works made my cock stiff, so I didn't hesitate to take it out and gorge on it. Short on cash, my dad said he'd buy it for me as a birthday gift. Eternally grateful. Most of Borges' output actually consisted of non-fiction, and his short stories actually blur the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction anyway.

Tres Tristes Tigres by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

On the way to London I asked my father, "Out of all the book shops in London, do you think there is a single copy of Guillermo Cabrera Infante's Habana para un infante difunto?" "No," he answered. Well, I almost did find a copy; I found a copy of his more celebrated work Tres Tristes Tigres in The European Book Shop, a store selling books in foreign languages. I've been wanting to read Infante for a while now; he specialises in linguistic games, making all sorts of Joycean tricks with language.

A Brief Life by Juan Carlos Onetti

I've already read this novel in Spanish, and I consistently place it in my Top 10 Books of all time, but I was overjoyed to find it in my local second hand book shop. I never buy gifts for people, but the one day I did buy a gift was on the date of my birthday! I've decided to give this copy to a friend (the only one I have) because I know that he'll appreciate it.

Poemas y antipoemas by Nicanor Parra

I've been buying all sorts of Spanish language books from my second hand book shop - what a treasure trove Rare and Racy is! Parra is a famous iconoclastic Chilean figure, with a wry sense of humour. I've never read him in the past and this the first book of his that I've bought. Apparently his poetry is simple, playful and tongue-in-cheek. He's a really clever guy, too - he is the foremost translator of Shakespeare into Spanish.

Cuentos by Horacio Quiroga

Another Rare and Racy corker! They have an excellent selection of Hispano-American books, and I presume that I'm the only person who buys them. Quiroqa is a classic of Latin-American literature and was a blueprint for the entire century. His widely-read stories, which I've never read in the past, are read and adored by children and adults alike.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Unregistered comments enabled

I have now enabled unregistered comments, so, for anyone who reads this blog and doesn't have a Blogger account, you can leave comments anonymously.

Can't say this will boost the meagre amount of comments I receive... A very vain decision indeed.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Antonio Di Benedetto

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Audio of my effusive recommendatory praise for the Argentinean writer Antonio Di Benedetto.

I make quite a few slips and grammatical mistakes during the recording. For instance I say 'economic' instead of 'economical' and there's quite a lot of verbal repetition. It's oral language, not written, so there are bound to be some inconsistencies.

Hear my voice in all its glory.