for sunshine after storm

“I would say that he has a rather limited and uncreative way of looking at the situation. You want to know if I understand that this is a mental hospital? Yes, I understand that. But, then how can I say that you are Don Octavio and I am a guest at your villa? Correct?” – Don Juan DeMarco

A few months ago I experienced something unusual. I was tense. I couldn’t think clearly. I couldn’t grasp my thoughts. A fog had descended over my brain. I couldn’t visualise or access the parts of my brain where all the interesting stuff was. 

I love reading and literature. I could read something but I couldn’t access the memory drive or whatever the technical term is for that, where I hold all the allusions and reference points to my previous experiences and all of the other shit I’ve read in my life to form a picture or an opinion or expand on, or even understand what the writer was trying to say (intentionally or otherwise). It was an incredibly frustrating experience.

I was stressed out from long hours. I was physically and mentally jaded. My brain and body had effectively hit the ‘safe mode’ á la Windows 98. All my body and mind was interested in was the basic functions of survival and protecting myself to stay alive. An ancient, hard wired evolutionary response.

Your body is designed for two primary functions: reproduce and survive. When you’re faced with stressful situations, the only parts of your brain you can access are the ones which perform the basic functions of keeping you alive. If you’re about to be lunch for a sabre tooth tiger, your mind couldn’t give a shit about the nuances of James Joyce’s Ulysses, only the threat at hand and keeping you alive. 

It actually took me a while, to regain my sense of self. I don’t like feeling jaded or having my mind clouded over. I enjoy the sensory aspects of living. How pretentious as fuck does that sound? I started trying to increase blood-flow to my brain and break the shackles of the stultifying fog.

I started looking for outlets and later it was by chance I became interested in playing guitar again. I don’t profess to be even a proficient guitar player. I’m working on it. However I became fascinated by the possibilities of the instrument and the creative process. I eventually started to think outside of the box again and started looking beyond the conventional idea of the instrument. If you’re playing an electric guitar, essentially, the guitar is actually the platform and your instrument is the amp. I started messing around with various effects pedals, which are actually addictive. I started looking beyond the guitar in the conventional sense of playing chords and became interested and intrigued in the various multi-faceted possibilities. Utilising the various quirks of the equipment to create interesting sounds, rather than spending hours tediously practising ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ to make it sound like it does on Led Zep 4, I thought it was more interesting just messing and playing around. Creating my own sound. I didn’t care. The stress was gone. This is freedom.

I had internalised the greatest lesson from James Joyce’s work, the creative process is essentially for your own amusement. Art brings stillness and fulfilment. It doesn’t mean shit if people like, appreciate or even understand what you’re doing, it isn’t a means to an end. You do not create for visceral reponse. It is an outpouring of spiritual repose.

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Enmity and Compatibility: Revisiting The Godfather

Although it was not my intention to do so, this article is the bastard twin of the piece from last evening.

This takes a look at the relationships from The Godfather. The scene following ‘the night of the long knives’ where Michael settles the scores, Kay’s realisation and look of horror in the closing moments as she realises your man isn’t the man she was with at the beginning of the movie is vastly underrated.

Kay’s part in Michael’s transformation, and her role in the Godfather series is also vastly underrated. Most don’t appreciate how her character underpins Michael’s legacy.

We see from the introduction of the two characters in the wedding scene, where Michael is fairly unremarkable, even appearing amiable and genuine where one can assume he does have a genuine level of affection for her up until the double-murder in the restaurant which is Michael’s unwitting realisation of his true nature and identity. (It’s actually also somewhat notable that where Michael seemingly lacks self-awareness, Vito is all-of-the-time acutely aware of Michael’s true nature. Vito doesn’t want Michael to be involved in the family business and hoped he would become a senator. This has nothing to do with Michael not possessing a disposition or character entirely conducive to the family business. As Michael unwittingly scolds Kay without any sense of irony for her naivety when she tells him senators don’t have people killed. Also in the families dubious links with political figures which are mentioned on a number of occasions)

The scene in Sicily where Michael is ‘thunderstruck’ and dumbfounded by the beautiful local girl are essential within the crux of the transformation. Apollonia shadows his own Sicillian mother, who is quintessentially quiet and clement in not involving herself in her husbands affairs throughout the first two movies, until her own death. Similarly, Apollonia in personality plays a quiet, unassuming and passive role in the background as we see when they are visited by the Sicillian don. She has no interest in involving herself in her man’s affairs. Her virtuousness is in being a loving homely wife.

His reaction to seeing Kay upon his return couldn’t be more different. Kay at this point represents Michael’s idealised image of the woman he thinks he should be with as an Italian-American immigrant living the American dream. As a person, this lack of realisation and acceptance towards his own his true-identity, and his relationship with Kay which borders on using her to preserve his self-styled image as a family-man, and man of good-conscience is probably his ultimate pitfall and actually also the thing which ultimately most contrasts him from own father who for his own failings within his business is loved, respected and admired as a human-being, as through his wife he can acutely put distance between his family and his family. Although the waters may appear muddy at times, there is a clear distinction and his wife plays a pivotal role in this through her passive disinterest in the affairs of his business. For Michael, there is no such distinction, because Kay is not a woman of the same inclination, disposition or nature as his mother or Apollonia. Aswell it must be said, we see this in his murder of Carlo where the lines between the interest of his two families are deeply and irrevocably blurred beyond retrieval leading in towards Kay’s realisation in the closing moments.

On top of this in terms of relationships: his father actually quite obviously values and appreciates his wife. Michael can’t, because after Apollonia and his return to America he is simply lying to himself, about who and what kind of man he is, what his values are, and what he represents. Cinema at its finest.

Ambiguity and Compatibility: Reinventing the Tedious RomCom

The Tao of Steve plays with the premise of the RomCom. We’re all familiar with the tedium of handsome boy meets attractive girl. Nothing remarkable happens. Girl falls in love. The end.

Dex is a lothario. He is also overweight, lazy, unambitious, uninspiring. He’s certainly not looking for love. Dex is not entirely without qualities though. Dex has an impressive array of philosophical knowledge. He has also developed a profound theory for attracting women, which he calls the Tao of Steve. The premise of which can be distilled as follows: 1) be desireless. Here he quotes the Buddah. He reflects on Steve McQueen. One of a number of Steve’s who give clepe to his theory. Steve McQueen is the archetypical. Steve Austin, Steve McGarrett. The man who is not overwhelmed by his desires. A man of purpose. Of course this is not purely a characteristic of people called Steve. James Bond is a ‘Steve,’ he propagates. He is dedicated or perhaps devoted to his cause or craft. Perhaps his craft is his cause, who knows. A woman however doesn’t come in the way of this kind of single-mindedness. The focus is always on the job at hand.

The second, 2) be excellent. Dex’s excellence derives from his capacity for quoting Kierkergaard, so we presume. An ability or resounding quality. One’s usefulness, or perhaps primary cause which ties in with point one.

Thirdly, 3) be gone. The antithesis of the hapless and needy. This is the man who is accomplished, and focused on his own life and cause. There is a certain visceral selfish quality about this however. A man who is determined by his own self-amusement. Naturally in the movie, Dex meets his match and breaks his own rules. There is allusions made to Don Giovanni: a man who seduced thousands of women because he was afraid to be loved by one. Whether he gets his woman in the end, we can’t really say. An interesting premise and take on romantic attraction. The movie ends ambiguously. Does Dex have the capacity for change? That is also left unresolved.

In ‘The Lobster’ we meet a stoic, paunchy Colin Farrell in a dystopian future for the Tinder/OkCupid generation. Filmed on the stunning West Coast of Ireland, our man has just had his wife leave him. Quite a disaster in a society where not being married carries perilous consequences. As we learn when we meet his brother who has been transformed into a dog. Our man Colin has forty-five days to meet a new love from a hotel’s pool of inmates, lest he be turned into an animal of his choosing.

David (Farrell) is stripped of his clothing, and given new ones. As he’s given a new pair of shoes, we find there’s no ‘half sizes.’ It is a swipe left or right moment. Everyone is expected to fit neatly into a box, or face the consequences.

The inmates are something of a motley crew. David befriends Mr Limp (Ben Whishaw) and Mr Lisp (John C. Reilly). As the days quickly elapse, relationships form based on perception of compatibility. All relationships and the concept of compatibility in the movie are thus defined by an impediment or handicap. A perception of mutual suffering. After being unable to meet someone with a limp, Mr Limp feigns nosebleeds to be compatible with a lady who suffers this very encumbrance. David meanwhile endeavours to attract the cruel huntress Heartless Woman. He feigns being emotionally cauterised. His bluff is destroyed when he cries after she kicks his brother to death signifying the death of compatibility. This is the end of their relationship. The end of the first act. We shift from the darkly absurdist Ballardian, Wes Anderson modus vivendi into the realms of Huxley’s Brave New World.

For, in the second, David escapes into the woods where he meets a group of loners led by Spectre heroine Lea Seydoux. In the wilderness, there is a prohibition on romantic entanglement lest they face brutal consequences. Polarisation.  Naturally, it is here David falls for the short-sighted girl played by the stunning Rachel Weisz. David hunts rabbits for her, they invent their own sign language. Their relationship however goes sour when short-sighted girl becomes no-sight girl. David looks set to walk away as their compatibility through mutual suffering ends. David however vows to blind himself in order to regain their connection. It is here the screen goes black.