Tuesday, October 31, 2006

file under: mindfreak

saw the prestige monday afternoon with N (who may or may not approve of today's somewhat sarcastic title). i was having trouble sleeping, so i got up a little earlier than expected and we did our best to take advantage of the sunny and crisp fall day.

i can't remember the last movie we saw in a theater (oh, wait - it was that documentary on ed "big daddy" roth). nothing seemed to be worth the effort (and cost) of the theater experience after that, and even that one was more of a snap decision after brunch than a real desire to seek it out. plus, we're doing the zip.ca thing, so we've had a steady stream of dvd's to keep up with at home.

anyway, i liked the prestige well enough. i had accidentally stumbled upon a description of the plot twist online, so my experience was a little compromised. it did mean, however, that i could fully appreciate the little hints carefully laid out along the way.

as we walked home and chit-chatted about various aspects of the movie and our impressions of them, about what worked and what didn't, i found that what i may have enjoyed most was the subtle connection drawn between the story unfolding on the screen and its similarities to the film industry and the modern movie-going experience (ie, that audiences know about the real world, but want to be amazed for a while, even if they know it's just an ultimately disappointing trick). that was a smart angle to layer in there, mr. nolan.

not to mention the heady joke of making a movie obsessed with doubles (where two people - or two birds, for that matter, or two cats - are assumed to be the same individual) by using the same person to play more than one role (like hugh jackman, for example). ha! nice meta, guy!

Monday, October 30, 2006

file under: two scenes

1) from la jetee, in which the protagonist watches his love interest sleeping (this is a past event, a memory to which he is anchored). although the movie is composed entirely of black and white stills with accompanying narration, the stills in this particular segment follow each other at a quickened pace so that the images start to form a "film-like" fluidity of her opening her eyes and looking back at him. the sound of birds increases from the background to the foreground as this simple moment of two people looking out/into each other stretches on for a long minute or two, then is suddenly cut short by a jump to the face of the protagonist's doctor (now in the present), studying the protagonist coldly. there is nothing but darkness in the background, and no sound. the transition is bracing.

2) from fellini satyricon, in which the hero stumbles home from a debauched party with an old poet (a mentor of sorts), someone who has very recently been scorned, dishonored, and abused by the host of the party. they stop to rest in a field tilled for sowing, stretching out over furrows of raw earth. as dawn approaches, the old poet talks about leaving the young hero the varied and beautiful things of the world (the trees, the sky, the many clouds, etc). there is a shot of the young man's arm stretching up to the sky as he listens, grasping at clouds that are far away. the poet dies, but the youth is unaware of the passing. he is thinking of a young lover that left him for another. to himself, he says, "even though you left me, i still love you" (can't remember the exact subtitled line just now, but that's the sentiment). there is a quick image of his object of affection, just a momentary flash, then the young hero is jerked to his feet as he realizes he is no longer in the field but laying on a beach, in chains, about to be corralled into a slave ship with many others. again, the transition is jarring.

both scenes catch us in the midst of a private reverie, a moment of nostalgia and yearning that takes us away from the world (only to shock us back into the present like an unexpected dousing of cold water). seeing the first one yesterday reminded me of the other instantly. i like when that happens.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

file under: in bloom

N usually sleeps with the tv on while i'm at work, so i'm often greeted by the fresh prince of bel-air when i come home in the morning. we've talked about it before - i find the constant flicker of the cathode ray and the laff tracks too, i dunno, distracting while i'm trying to sleep. she feels the same way about music, which is my preferred form of background noise. she gets too involved with the songs to really sleep. i guess we've got our sleepy-time media divvied up and staked out.

anyway, she was away at casa de RP/BB this weekend, so i left the tv on as a way of keeping her in my thoughts (yes, i realize that doesn't make any sense). our music collection was in the other room, and i was too sleepy to get up and find something to listen to (why i didn't think of the radio, i really can't say. i've been meaning to listen to brave new waves more often, but finding the time has been tougher than expected).

i couldn't determine which channel would be the most sleep-inducing, because i hate most sitcoms and didn't want anything too "flickery" (thus no music videos). i decided on cnn, figuring the drone of tele-journalists would be narcotizing enough.

the problem, apparently, is that the wee hours were full of pundits speculating on the proliferation of wmd's, so i had fitful half-dreams of mushroom clouds and toxic spores. would the food channel have been any better? maybe the weather channel next time?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

file under: gravity's rainbow, p. 148

- (Quietly) It's been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home - only the millions of last moments... no more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.


i have a habit, much to the chagrin of used booksellers everywhere, of underlining passages in books that i like. i'll probably share them from time to time, when i've revisited some be-smirched book for one reason or another (in this case, from picking up gravity's rainbow and skimming the underlined parts as a sub-routine of my ongoing attempt at reading william vollmann's rather daunting europe central. the two novels are actually quite nice companion pieces to each other - factualized fictionalizations of wwii that bring a surreal warp to an otherwise unbearably grim time in history).

Friday, October 27, 2006

file under: old stories

i wrote a short story a long time ago about an artist losing his eyesight due to a physiological adjustment to his abstract/expressionist style of painting. he starts seeing the world the same way he chooses to represent it, and then spends a lot of time on a park bench trying to figure out what other personal malfunctions are his own fault.

it was for a short fiction contest sponsored by the local free weekly (very short - 500 words or less, maybe?). i called it sense and sensibility (i know, i know), which made me instantly worried no one would read it, ever, based on the title alone. i couldn't resist, despite the risk. i was of the younger age, then - that's my excuse.

the short story that won the contest was a mildly graphic account of andrew jackson having sex with a slave (from the slave's point of view), with vaguely political allusions swirling in the background. i think the prize was a $100 gift certificate to one of the city's better bookstores.

i'm telling you this so that i can forget it for another decade and then revisit it only upon sifting through october 2006's archive some rainy day.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

file under: wonderland

someone locked up in one of the pysch rooms keeps yelling "hey! hey! heeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyy!!!! hey!" all night.

in some ways, it's a common, everyday detail of this particular working enviroment.

after hearing it for a few hours straight, though, you sometimes wonder: "what kind of place is this?"

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

file under: hypertaxonomania (.com)

i'm sure that, in the future, doctoral dissertations will expound upon the increasingly complex decision making process of naming a new website without drowning in a sea of "that name is not available" messages from those ever-proliferating domain registries.

i'm also sure that future web addresses will develop their own internal language rules, and am secretly hoping they look something like the early spam headlines N and i used to e-mail each other a few years ago.

(ie, not much like recognizeable english at all. basically a corrupted version of english, more or less - englitch, maybe? i think that's already taken and isn't web-talk specific enough. ng1tch would be closer to what i'm looking for but is already irritating to look at. i think you get the point).

i've been known to quietly bemoan the lack of something like a URL "white pages" for this very reason; why is it so hard to randomly browse URL's? how are you supposed to find addresses you don't know the name of (other than searching by content, of course)?. you would think that such an index would be one of the most basic services imaginable. why one hasn't been compiled and maintained confuses me; is it just that i haven't been looking in the right places?

anyway, it's therefore vaguely satisfying to stumble across a website with a URL that is both concise and fetching. and it's in that spirit of joyful discovery that i present my favorite URL of the day, the charmingly named

easy mentalism

[postscript, nov. 1: oh no! now it's broken! somehow, i killed easy mentalism! shit.]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

file under: more sounds per hour

i have come to believe that there is now entirely too much recorded music in the world. despite being a somewhat dedicated fan of sound, i'm finding it impossible to keep up with the neverending influx of new, old, reissued, and re-formatted material that comes my way on the daily. THERE'S TOO MUCH OF IT and i don't know how to deal with that.

i mean, how do you scale back when scaling back is necessary? stay away from downloading, as tempting as that might be? ignore the emerging stuff until it gains a certain amount of critical momentum? reduce the amount of historical investigations? eliminate entire genres that are either over-represented in the collection or are only represented "to broaden the horizon"?

seriously, i'm not sure what to do. i hardly even have time to listen to the CD's we've bought over the last few months. at best, some of the older ones have been itunes-d and shuffled into my ipod's randomizer. that's okay for the most part, but i recall a time when it was possible to sit down and listen to something from the first track to the last. now everything's been exploded and atomized, hurtling out at speeds only a broadband line can capture.

not that i don't enjoy the rush of things coming at me faster faster faster; i definitely do. it's just distressing to find that i'm not even close to keeping up.

Monday, October 23, 2006

file under: improper curries

it's been rainy on and off all day (still) and i wasn't in the mood to go to the supermarket, so i ended up making an ad hoc curry with onion, chickpeas, horribly freezer burnt green beans, a can of crushed tomatoes, some katta sambol (used in a blatantly non-traditional manner, i'm sure) and a jar of store-bought madras curry "sauce". nothing sublime, but it felt better to make something up in the kitchen rather than order delivery again.

i think that was my major achievement for the day, aside from some basic kicking of it in the APT with N. sundays can be low-impact like that when it's crappy out.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

file under: requiem pour un camera

about ten years ago, i bought this cheapie minolta camera so that i could "take notes" while walking around the neighborhood. its lens didn't have much range, but it served me well nonetheless.

since that time, it's made the journey to the east coast with me, was the sole provider of images from the nyc days, and even helped me familiarize myself with toronto for 2 1/2 years. but i think the time has come to admit that our digital camera has relegated it to the dustbin of the 20th century.

it took me 8 months to get through my most recent roll of 24 pictures, starting in the beginning of the year with a snapshot of my favorite local store signage

strictly culture in a roots radics sense of the word

on to failed attempts at capturing the dirty snow (with cigarette butts!) of late february, followed by shots of the local mural near the no frills

murals are becoming an obsession of mine

then on to my first trip to a cottage in the summer, followed by an august wedding in ottawa (at which point i must've taken this utterly baffling masterpiece)


through such fleeting moments as this from-the-hip ambush shot of N in our building's hallway

somewhat like champagne bubbles

and finally ending with one shot of the building under demolition i mentioned yesterday. it was almost fitting that the roll would wind down so resolutely on that day.

but for reals: if it takes me that long to take 24 shots, despite having so many picture-worthy opportunities over 3 seasonal interludes, it can only mean we were using the digital camera most of the time. sadly, our little trooper of a minolta has outlived its utility and needs to be put down. rest in peace, my trusty travelling companion - we'll always have the box of photos to remember thee by.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

file under: demolition

during a random walk on the streets around the workplace, i came across a building being demolished.

i'm always drawn to construction sites - the swarm of detail hidden away under a building's facade always pulls me in.

because they're exclusively a working environment, and because something is just being built or torn down, there's an austerity to what's happening, a formality to the process at hand.

despite this fact, that they're ostensibly zones of pure function, of just getting something done, there's nevertheless a strong aesthetic component to what's going on that i can't get enough of. i have to get close. i have to take pictures.

Friday, October 20, 2006

file under: confession

i have a thing for artfully deliberate lip-syncing in movies (or tv, i guess). there's something oddly macabre about it, like it's a minor form of possession or something. hypnosis, maybe.

scenes that made me this way:

- many parts of the bbc version of the singing detective.
- many parts of the hollywood version of pennies from heaven.
- dean stockwell miming "in dreams" from blue velvet. i think that was my first. it's gorgeous.
- udo kier's hotel room pageantry in my own private idaho (a slight cheat, as he sings along to a recording of a past performance, but still qualifies for me)
- ben gazzara doing that frank sinatra song in buffalo 66 (apparently, the recording is of gallo's father singing) .
- rebekah del rio's "llorando" in mulholland drive.
- when i was younger (but not so much now), the "day-o" scene in beetlejuice was fun (a minor form of possession, indeed)

so maybe it's really a love for david lynch's infatuation with dreams (with what some call a total lynch rip-off by vincent gallo thrown in for good measure), plus the dennis potter thing.


that could easily be the deeper attraction, because the scene in twin peaks where audrey horne is in the diner and starts slowly dancing to an angelo badalamenti instrumental while saying "isn't it dreamy?" and also that scene in mulholland drive where betty elms says "and now i'm in this... DREAM PLACE" are both great great great moments for me.

are there more things like that in the world? how do you even look for stuff like that?

regular studio versions of songs dubbed in later do nothing for me, however. in fact, i get really annoyed when tv commercials feature actors whose voices have obviously been re-recorded or dubbed later. i often yell "voiceover!!!" at the tv in accusatory tones. j'accuse!! etc etc.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

file under: dream from earlier this week (plus a vision from work)

when was this? maybe monday. i'm in the living room of a one story house with a (male) friend, who it is i'm not really sure. it's murky in the room, not exactly dark but very muddy. it's bright outside, but there are yellowish drapes drawn over the window and everthing is cast in this ochre or amber light. we're there talking with a (female) friend, who is telling us that her husband abuses her. my male friend and i are there to "set him straight", as it were, once the husband gets home.

a guy walks out of another room and i grab his arm. "is this him?" no, she says. he's my... neighbor. clearly, they are having an affair. he looks like tobey maguire a little bit. i let go of his arm and sink into a low brown chair almost directly across from the front door. my friend says, "it's dark in here and bright outside - his eyes won't adjust right away." as marcus used to say, it's about to go down.

i wake up with that anticipatory feeling in my body of approaching someone who doesn't see you.

[completely unrelated: last night, 4:30am or so, walking toward the elevator bay to go up to the 6th floor vending machines, no one around and no one really moving anywhere in the hospital, an elevator door unexpectedly opens and a middle-aged man hastily finishes wiping tears out of his eyes. he walks out quickly as i'm walking into the elevator, clearly having used the elevator ride down to break down a little and then compose himself again before going home. someone he loves must be dying or hurt badly - visiting hours ended long ago. it was such a brief moment. almost a cliché, really, but still moving.]

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

file under: work-related

seeing a friend's name on an admission slip from the ER was strange. i had to call N at home just to verify that it was indeed the person that we know. luckily, it wasn't an injury or anything trauma-related and she was able to go up to the 16th floor without much delay.

the porters wheeled her bed right by my desk as they headed for the large elevators that take patients up from the ER. she was on her side in the bed, her head turned away from me. i recognized her hair.

watching her pass by and not saying anything was such a strange feeling, but it would've been awkward to get her attention just then. i would later sneak up to the floor after my shift was over, before visiting hours officially started. it was tuesday morning by then - a surprisingly rainy day. she had a bed by the window. everything was gray out.

i was thinking about that on my walk to the subway tonight, how the ER is actually referred to as "emerge" in canada. i've never heard anyone call or refer to it as the ER, which somehow strikes me as odd. usually, it's abbreviated as "ED" here, but sometimes the rarer "EMG" gets thrown out as well.

just as it was occurring to me that EMG are also the initials for our friend that was admitted the previous night, i heard the unmistakeable crunch and pop of a snail's shell being crushed under my foot. i cringed reflexively and quietly muttered a "fuck" under my breath, too late to tread lightly.