Archive for October, 2008

A Monday in October in Kansas City

My night: 

After work, I went to the grocery store, with a great episode of NPR’s “This American Life” talking through my iPod. Ira Glass’ squeaky/ geeky/ addictive voice explained it all while I picked up some cereal, milk, tomato-basil tortillas (perfect for wraps of all shapes and styles), and an enormous amount of pasta. I Love pasta. It’s one of my favorite things to eat, and absolutely my favorite thing to make. It’s easy. Boil water, thaw meat, add pasta, cook meat, stir occasionally (pasta, not meat), drain, add sauce, combine, prepare salad and toast or rolls or bread (if desired). It feels good to make food. Plus, it gave me an excuse to rewatch “Casino Royale” during the prep and with dinner. I hadn’t seen it since theaters, and I wanted to revisit it before its sequel “Quantum of Solace” comes out in November. (Please see the poll question)

I actually liked it much more this time. It is a bit laborious, true, there really is no NEED for an elaborate set piece at an airport, and during the course of the movie, Bond makes it past not just the usual host of bad guys and deathly stunts, he also survives a massive heart attack and some ingeniously painful torture. Still, it’s Bond. Daniel Craig gives the character just what he needs – he’s a cocky, blunt instrument with just enough style and brains to realize that the villains are smarter than he is. His character has not only an origin, but a genuine arc, and all of the violence in the film is painful and visceral, less glossy and sleek.

So three-cheese wheat and spinach tortellini with a cheesy marinara sauce, topped with diced chicken and James Bond. Not a bad Monday evening. Afterwards I continued editing my film until far too late in the evening, but that is a separate blog.

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The Aesthetics of Dreams 2

The second dream is simple, with a simple plot, simple payoff. I am in jail, on death row, waiting to be executed. And in the meantime, I am running on the prison track. In fact, hundreds of people are, all of us on death row. But you wouldn’t know it. We’re chatty as we run, and one older female inmate is trying to hook me up with a younger one. I politely decline. Round and round we go, and on the side of the track is a single file line – people whose names have been called, and they are being executed today (they’re calling hundreds of names each hour, everyone must go). So round and round we go. At one point, because of how crowded the track was, I ran into a beam, a bit of subconscious slapstick one may conclude. Jump cut to me running again. Then, it dawns on me I am going to die. So I stop running, write a letter to the judge, or whoever is in charge begging for a stay, because I have no idea why I’m in jail, I must be innocent. Then, my name is called. I get in line, but I keep trying to make people go in front of me. Finally, I sneak off to the guard’s computer and somehow check the status of my mail. It wasn’t written in time, so it wasn’t sent yet. A JAILER comes and asks what I’m doing, takes me back to the line. I try to explain, to no avail. Back in line, my mind starts racing with all the things I wanted to do with my life. Missed opportunity after missed opportunity. That’s where it ended. With utter dread at a wasted life and impending death.

 

Briefly: My dream contained the following buzz-words – Jail/Prison, Jailer, Running (in circles), Death

JAIL – Death row = death of unhappy relationship OR, PRISON – Loss of Freedom, Punishment, etc.

JAILER – Treachery at the hands of a woman (wtf?)

RUNNING – Going in circles – pretty obvious – trying to escape a situation move forward, and no progress is ever made. Right back where you started.

DEATH – My own death – fear of being taken advantage of or manipulated

 

Charlie Kaufman was recently on Fresh Air, with Terry Gross. I had no knowledge of this before I decided to write about dreams these last couple of days. I knew he had been on the show, but I’d missed it, so I had to download it, which I did and I listened to it while stretching for my run. Running, which appeared in my dream, which Charlie Kaufman talked about before I went running today. Which I also did in my dream. In the interest of full disclosure, Charlie Kaufman was not in either dream I had, nor has he ever entered any of my dreams. I do not know why he hasn’t, and if you want to know I can only refer you to the team of Dream Producers somewhere in my subconscious mind. They would know better than me.

Kaufman: He’s written films like: “Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” This month his first film as writer/director comes out, called “Synechdoche, New York.” It is an absurdist drama about a theatrical artist so very fearful of death that his life and work become about its avoidance. He is always and only looking back. The movie goes in circles, a lot of circles within circles within circles. He spoke of it as a dream. He clarified that the movie is NOT one of those, “It was all a dream!” movies, but it often FEELS like a dream and is structured as a dream. And then he talked a lot about dreams. His dreams also have a narrative (is this common with writers?) and he explained he constantly dreams of being stuck in an old, broken-down elevator, about to snap. He explained his fascination with the way stories are told with dreams. “They’re so structured that I keep the ending from myself until I get there, and I don’t know how I do that, but…sometimes there’s a surprise ending, and it makes sense. But I made it up! So therefore, how do I lead myself to that without telling myself what the ending is?… I wake up often from dreams feeling so emotionally affected. Um, Devastated. And I can’t shake it from an entire day…” 

How DO we keep the endings from ourselves? Am I making it up as I go along? If so, I’m a damn good writer, because the payoff is almost always satisfying. At least interesting. Or, does my mind have it all written out? Is the mind busy at work those first few hours of sleep, trying to make the 4:17am deadline when my dream is scheduled to start? And what about when there is a double feature? And if this is the case, if the mind is capable of creating a structure and events and dialogue and characters that are not only actual, but MEANINGFUL, and if the mind can keep all of this information from me for as long as it wants, then it begs the question: What else is my mind keeping from me? And/Or, are there external forces helping to create the dreams? What is going on in those uncharted depths of the mind? Is there a mechanism in there at work without my knowledge? Does my brain have a mind of its own? And if so, who’s in charge?

The Aesthetics of Dreams 1

Well, you all asked for it, so here it is. FINALLY. A two-part excursion into the nighttime excursions (read: dreams) I had between October 24th and October 25th.

 

For about a year and a half I kept a catalog of all my dreams. I would wake up in the morning and immediately write them down for the next 10-20 minutes. My memory of dreams is startlingly good. During this period, my dreams began to evolve in two ways. They became increasingly 1) macabre and 2) driven by a narrative. My dreams grew longer and larger. They took on a story, with plot points and a payoff, and things spoken which were not always what they seemed. They involved deep double-crosses and often ended with death, and at least two times my own death. 3) Celebrity Guest Stars – my dreams were full of them. My guess is the Producers of my Dreams, those artless fat-cats, are throwing in celebrities in order to make my dreams more marketable to a mass audience; that is to say… me. There was the one where I was dating Samantha from “Sex and the City” (not the one I WANTED to date… or was it? And cue to portent-filled music (omen?). Or the time Benicio Del Toro was chased through a forest by the A-Team, even as I, myself, was being chased by the police after robbing a bank. Or, one of the earliest, the time when I came upon Brad Pitt and Colin Farrell in plush white cotton robes, sitting head to toe on a bed, at which point they told me Halle berry wanted me in the hottub.  Then-recent Academy Award winner Halle Berry seduced me and offered sex-in-a-hottub with her, which I turned down because I had a girlfriend. This logic, within the dream, is staggering, a point which Colin Farrell wasted no time in telling me later in the kitchen when I was looking for some food. 

 

It has long been my contention, and it still is, that the manner in which an individual dreams is as unique as that individuals specific canon of dreams. That manner may change or combine with other dream-styles. I was shocked to find my dreams becoming more, in a sense, written, while maintaining their surrealistic and expressionistic elements. Basically every -ism I know is presented in my dreams. Impressionism is a big hit when it comes to people I know and love. There are, of course, many dream dictionaries and charts and some useful books (unread by me at this point), and one major element for many dreamers is COLORS which appear in the dream. This fascinated me, because colors are almost never a part of my dreams. I do not remember the colors, I remember the story. This is not to say that I dream in black and white, although I DO dream in widescreen usually, and there are cuts, which suggests a)editing b)multiple camera angles c)CAMERAS!!! d)dream as record of self, ie – recorded (and later written down often). This is not exclusive to me, either.

 

But back to color. Last night, I had 2 dreams, 1 of which involved 2 ex-girlfriends, a friend of an ex-girlfriend (a third ex-girlfriend, who was absent from the dream), and a friend of mine, who happened to date that friend of the missing ex-girlfriend for a time. I was supposed to spend the day with one ex-girlfriend, but she got mad at me and left as another one appeared, bringing along the other two people. I asked if they would let me join them, I had food and drink provided here in this handy set of pure BLUE coolers. We carried them, climbed under a bridge of some sort, and that was it. The color blue, according to one interpretation, means: spirituality, art, culture, philosophy. (Another color guide suggests that blue means inner peace and contentment. This guide obviously does not know me.) The blue was neither light nor dark, so those more specific interpretations do not apply. Am I carrying my art, culture and spirituality with me, am I asking others to carry it? When one rejects it, need I simply move on to another, who WILL help me carry it. Also the notion that other persons in life are not simply romantic interests, but also friends, even friends-of-friends. If the coolers are me, and if there were 4 of them (one for each person) and there are 4 categories that BLUE means, then is it suggesting that each cooler is a separate idea, or are the ideas mixed in with each other? Turn it positive, perhaps it is saying that there are many different interpersonal relationships that help carry us through life, not simply the romantic. I have not even touched on the bridge, or the idea of “life as a picnic,” and nor do they seem integral to the dream.

 

(And now you see the manor in which I begin to break down my dreams.) 

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I address the far less hopeful 2nd dream

Running, My Life

 

I’ve been running consistently to semi-consistently for about 3 and a half years. Spring break my junior year of college, I just thought one night, let’s go for a run. Now I’m addicted. I’ve gone back and forth, running outside, running on treadmills, on indoor tracks. Nothing competes with running outside. Nothing comes close. Usually, in the fall and winter people lose the nerve. Rain is a good excuse. Snow’s even better (to be fair, ice IS no good for running). Last couple days, got some new gear, and I intend to keep it going unless snow and ice take over. Here’s the checklist:

 

Accessories

Accessories

 

 

Under-Armor Gloves – Keeping the hands warm, they look slick, too. NikeFit Headband – big enough it keeps ears warm, keeps the headphones in, my head-mop looks wild, but it’s out of the eyes. Thick Black Socks – want to run happy, keep the feet happy, momma didn’t raise no fool. iPod – never leave home without it. For longer runs, my motto is – start with a podcast, end with the muzak. Strong blend of rock, rap, and jams. Cheap Watch – if it keeps time, it’ll do.

 

Gear

Gear

 

 

Nike Performance Mesh Shirt, Shorts – looks killer, breathes like a dream. Champion Nylon Windpants – when it rains. I prefer to wear some under-armor under them, I need to buy some.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoes

Shoes

 

New Balance Running Shoes – Get to know your shoes. They tell you secrets you’d been keeping from yourself.

Right now, my regimen is as follows – Approximately 10-mile run every 3 days, and I’m going to add about a mile a week until I hit 14 or 15, then level off back at maybe 8. 8 miles is a good run. Also, the day before each long run, I do a 25-30 minute 3-4 mile jog/run. Yes, I run a lot, but many people run much much more than I do, and they run much much faster than I do. The idea is to do a half-marathon. When? Where? Not quite sure. 

I could talk about running a whole lot here. It affects all. I feel better, I think more clearly, I am more creative, I feel more in touch with myself and the world around me. When I’m having a terrible day, or I am stuck on something, a solid run is positively purifying. The physical opens up the mental, it sharpens you, your goal becomes evident. Immediate. And you are simultaneously emptied out and finely tuned. There is certainly a spiritual component to it, too, a symbiosis with creation and life. Sometimes I pray while I run. It’s easier to talk to God, easier to be thankful, less cynical, more open-minded. I listen better to Him.

I may talk more about running from time to time, but this gives most of the relevant information. Anyway, I highly recommend it. Start slow and small. Run a little, walk a little, run a little more. And always, always remember to stretch.

Jesus Likes My Website Better Than Yours…

On my podcast recently, I spent some time ragging on a movie I haven’t seen, called “Fireproof.” It stars Kirk Cameron. I won’t restate my annoyance with this film (or rather, its trailer), let’s just say it’s the Christian-movie version of “Ladder 49.” And that phrase “Christian-movie” is important to point out. Not Christian, but Christian-movie. The two are distinct and separate entities.

I am a Christian, but not a Christian-movie. I’m always curious, and suspicious, of Christian-movie types. And to be fair, books, music, all “Christian Art” is held under this microscope, just as all Art in general is held under it. I’m not playing favorites.

And then the other day I stumbled across a website called “GodTube.” (click HERE to join the revival) You read correctly, GODTube. Like YouTube, but with less sin. Okay, hold on. Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. I will hold back my instinctive criticism of this website and assume its creation was primarily to act as an online marketplace of Christian videos, and not as a Holy alternative to YouTube (Are there parents out there who would forbid their kids to go on YouTube? Is this level of restriction inevitable?). The real test is, are the videos on YouTube AND GodTube, or only GodTube? I don’t know the answer, and investigation isn’t on my agenda for the day.

Here are two videos I came across, one terrible, one decent (further criticisms – couldn’t embed their video onto the blog, never had any problems before):

VIDEO 1 –

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=6986dcf5f7df79b9b00e

VIDEO 2 –

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=d1345dd8fe4e481144d8

Answer: The first one is the terrible one. The premise is interesting – what would it be like to literally hang out with Jesus in the Flesh, as they say? The problem is that Jesus is caught between two roles – Leader and Friend. He’s supposed to be ALL God and ALL Human, here he is 50% of both instead, so the dynamic is off. As well, Jesus is… sortof a dick in these videos (this is a series). Know what’s missing? Forgiveness, which I thought was THE definitive characteristic of Christ. The scene meanders upfront, covering the same dilemma of whether or not to take God’s advice, and once he makes the choice, the wrong choice, Jesus doesn’t correct him so much as he rubs the guy’s nose in his failure like a dog. This is when the scene SHOULD become interesting, but the writers cop out and go for an easy (and I think wrong-headed) moral.

The second one is interesting. Simple concept – Religious vs Christian – how do we present ourselves? Are we self-congratulatory or sincere? Judgmental or Relaxed? So, good so far. It makes its point clearly, I think, without over-simplifying. The only thing I dislike is that it perpetuates perhaps THE biggest Christian-movie cliche by being a pop-culture rip-off. Christian-movies are the guy who always arrived late to the party. By the time they heard about the party, figured out what to wear, how to get there, the party’s peak has come and gone. Now, to be fair. This isn’t merely a Christian-movie cliche, it’s a comedic- and dramatic sketch cliche. It’s done, because it’s easy. In fact, you could make the argument that Christians came late to the party of ripping off pop-culture iconography, too! And of course, the entire website is a rip-off.

What do I make of this website? I’m not sure. Most of the stuff I’ve seen on there is junk, and I looked at the top played videos, so, what else am I to conclude? I’m sure there are good videos on here, but there’s a lot of crap too. Which makes it about par for the course. But why? Why are most Christians, and well, most people in general, content with this low level nonsense? Are most people really this boring? Or am I just being pretentious?

The Obamanator vs. McCAINia (a better name than before) – Round 3

I have forgone the scorecard for this debate. Sometimes it is best just to watch and take things in and see how you think and feel at the end.
Round 1: Obama 26, McCain 21
Round 2: Obama 19, McCain 16
Round 3: Winner, TKO – John McCain

This guy?

This guy?

McCain won the debate, although his final speech wasn’t as punched up as it should’ve been. He was at his most clear and direct, Obama was at his weakest. Perhaps this has to do with sitting, not standing, particularly if you lend any credence to my categorization of Obama as a very strong Stage Presence. It is worth noting that while McCain fluctuated during the 3 debates, Obama got steadily worse. His first was his strongest. I suspect this is due to Obama’s lead. He didn’t need to come out with anything new, only to maintain. At times, though, he seemed like the political equivalent of a basketball team, ahead by, say 4 points, with a minute left in the game. Their goal isn’t to score quickly, it is to take as much time off the clock without letting their opponent get any closer. Will this help or hurt him with swing voters, or does it matter to his campaign at this point?

McCain’s line that “I’m not George Bush…” was a huge success, a fantastic point to make, and something he should have said, oh, 3 months ago. And tonight, he should have repeated it and reiterated it more. Once is never enough in politics. Now the question is, was tonight’s win for McCain enough to gain my vote?

No. Obama is better on the Economy, Health Care, Education, and I think once he gets into the White House, he’ll see that his views about leaving Iraq on his time table are too simplistic, and he’ll either change them to something very similar to what McCain suggests, or else he’ll make a bigger mistake than, according to him, the war in general was. Or, the quality and dependability of the Iraqi military forces will happen to coincide with his time table, and he’ll luck out.

On the other hand, the annoying majority of liberals underestimate McCain and, yes, Palin, and if they get elected we’ll see nearly as much reform, great foreign policies, Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to improve, the economy will rebound in different ways, and spending will be cut. Either way, we’re in for something new, something better, and progress. Just because liberals overcompensate their dislike for McCain compared to how cool they think Obama is doesn’t mean Obama is more qualified. In fact, in 4.5 hours of debates, Obama hasn’t been able to prove he’s stood up to his party nearly as well as McCain. And before a Democrat asserts that this is merely because Democrats aren’t wrong as often as Republicans, allow me to laugh uproariously in your general direction. As many have pointed out, we were promised amazing changes and improvements in 2006 when Democrats gained a majority. Two years later, an extensive showing of hands will amount to nothing in particular.

Your thoughts, as always, would be welcomed. Please share. And let’s leave ‘Joe the damn Plumber’ out of this one, shall we? Man has a job to do.

December(ists) in October

I haven’t posted my favorite bands and musicians yet, but if you asked me what band I’ve listened to most in the last 2 years, the answer is unquestionably and unabashedly The Decemberists. The full details must be saved for another time. For now, just think of folk rock, alternative, and music that still believes in existing in movements, tied together by the indelibly fable-esque storytelling of lead singer Colin Meloy.

I also like bands that release small things in addition to full albums. A good EP can go a long way. Think of “Woman King” by Iron & Wine or “Broken Bride” from Ludo. Now, in leu of their new album “Hazards of Love,” out next year, The Decemberists have released Vol. 1 of a 3-part EP called “Always a Bridesmaid,” about it all just not quite working out the way you wanted.

The songs on Vol. 1 – “Valerie Plame” and “O New England” are both upbeat, fun, and sortof thrilling in terms of sheer momentum. All 6 songs, according to the website, were songs too good to be scrapped but that didn’t quite make the cut for the new album, although they establish what seems to be its driving theme very nicely. A $2 investment (which can be made either from the website or on iTunes) will keep me at bay until November 4th when Vol. 2 is released.


It Has Come to This

October 2008
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