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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Aliens

This is a re-post that I reworked and trimmed down. There are no additions though.

Truth will be revealed today, everything will be laid bare and explained, every bit of it.
To start with, the latest talk in the Indian world-scape is the escape of the American suspect Ken Haywood which has triggered conspiracy theories by trigger happy Indian luckkas about the American double game aimed at de-stabilizing the Indian subcontinent by fomenting sectarianism and how Indian and Pakistani luckkas are katputlis in their hands; puppets in the great post independence puppet show.
Hmmm so far so good. Its normal you know to say he is doing it, she is doing it. (a bit weird in this case, but never the less, the gossip windmills are churning fantastic flights of imagination and this includes a luckka like me too)

In the film “Starship Troopers”  Earth declares war on aliens called Arachnids or “Bugs”. In one scene, small cute children are shown smashing bugs (cockroaches) as they belong to the same species as the Arachnids (as it is an all-out war and the very question of the species/race becomes the main defining factor) or may be the director is confused and wonders about their origin and as to from where they could have come in the first place (may be shaitan ‘Satan’ put them there). This is understandable as the west is predominantly defined by its religion which due to its inner law/dharma, always ends up equating their own kind with Earth, which become synonymous at some point (at the unconscious level of its lived reality) and thus everything else gets marked by alien and demonic evil and as the cockroaches are the front end in the Arachnids game plan to populate the universe with their own types, they are natural targets.
The film was a blockbuster hit.  But interestingly it follows a common pattern discernible via other Hollywood blockbuster hits such as “Men in Black” and “Independence day” which as we know was followed by the super virtual blockbuster September 11 and the American declarations of all out War on all things Alien (which not surprisingly targets Americans primordially (from the outset) as the patriot act targets their own kind rather than aliens). Anyway, these Spielbergian war games “War of the Worlds” are played out on Indian subcontinent as Ken Hollywood oops sorry I meant Ken Haywood as he flees from Delhi-India in mysterious circumstances completely defeating Indian Intelligence. (while Indians both Hindu and Muslims are left cutting each others throat)

Again so far so good.
In the film “The independence day” the president of United States discovers the ‘core’ mind of an Alien creature (when that creature tries to take control of his body and brain), he says: that as the creature tried to take over his mind he got a glimpse into the inner working of the creatures own mind in that brief period when their minds merged into one and for a few seconds had become one and the same. – the essence he says of these creatures are insect like, like a Locust they suck up the resources of planets and move on to the next.

PixarsA Bugs Life

(by the way Locust is the swarming of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae, many of its type have become extinct and in fact it is today almost an endangered species, but they seem to populate religious literature and happens to be one of their favourite metaphors)

Back to the film, even advance yogis have a hard time getting a glimpse into the inner working of their own mind, but the Hollywoodian as well as the real Bush and Blair were/are exceptions. :)
Now there are other ways to look at this scene from the film. lets say he was simply projecting his own rejected self, a face that he would not dare to accept as his own. This projecting of his forbidden world reflects the sentiments of the familiar and common, after all films don’t get made in void and for a void. Now suppose that the President of United States in the film was simply superimposing his own rejected instincts and dispositions, that is, his innate sense of the Ideal or we may for the sake of this post claim as imagined, a face seen through the prism of the Ideal and the True, and so to be what he thinks he is, he has to lie himself out of reality, from the actual into the ideal and only by this turning away can he hope to achieve some sort of Idealized inner stability in his otherwise self-destructive and mutually opposing self images.

Now, what is remarkable here is that the background intelligence; the deep shared symbiotic language or consciousness animating and equipping their sense-making-ability, this the ‘Symbolic World’ happens to equip the writer and his prospective audience only through negative inflections, no different than the Nazis inability to define themselves and their Self-Image any other way other than via negative self projection, that is retro projecting ones own darkness onto the other. Thus the devil incarnate is always found out there in the other while they end up doing the very things that they discover only in the other of the other, nevertheless by this stance they remain free from the guilt that otherwise belongs to them. I think this is a very clever strategy, nevertheless coming back to the film, we now know that the president is blind and does not see that what he thinks is an Alien mind is nothing other than his own forbidden and rejected piece of his schizophrenic self, his double reality, the dark and the white (darkness is after all a lack of self reflection, a species specific :) inability to light the deep recesses of its own natural psyche/body/politics) and the aliens after all happens to be none other then our own hidden truth that gets projected as our other and as we happen to be embedded creatures who are hard wired by evolution to take certain existential stance (which is usually translated into my nation, my religion, my world etc.) and as this evolutionary switch is built right into our genes and thus order the ways our mind and body functions. They (the American politicians in the film who happen to be no different from us) have no way to confront this darkness, and so they end up encountering themselves, or their rejected selves in a mythic and filmic battle aptly named “Independence day” and as willed by the director, they win this Jihad. But, how could they win! And in winning haven’t they lost one of their most precious opportunity’s, a challenge which would have lighten up their lives and healed the split between the Ideal and the real.

In contrast to Hollywood the Japanese animation giant ‘Studio Ghibli‘ in their breakthrough film “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” takes a holistic approach to the whole problem of Earth. (naturally the Buddhist concept of pratītyasamutpāda ‘dependent origin’ plays a major part in the self orientation of our Japanese directors) The story takes place 1,000 years after the “Seven Days of Fire”, an event which destroyed human civilization and most of the Earth’s original ecosystem. Scattered human settlements survive, isolated from one another by the Sea of Decay Literally translating as the Rotting Sea, Sea of Fungus, Sea of Corruption or Toxic jungle in the English version, the Sea of Decay is a jungle of giant plants and fungi swarming with giant insects, which seem to come together only to wage war. Everything in the Sea of Decay, including the air, is lethally toxic. So the creatures of this sea that is Insects and fungi are clearly a visible threat to the world, but all it needed was a young princes Nausicaä, a skillful fighter to change the inner self ordering perspective of her time. She is by instinct humane and peace-loving having an unusual gift of communicating with the giant insects (particularly with the Ohmu, the gigantic, armored, caterpillar-like insects who are the most powerful and feared but also the most intelligent creature in the Sea of Decay. She is also noted for her empathy toward animals, humans, and other beings and all it needed was an adventure into the heart of darkness (the common-sense understanding of her people and others) to discover that the insects are in reality working toward some sort of secret harmony and the lethal fungal forest seems to have a vital role in Earth’s new ecosystem…and that, it is humans who are being written off by evolution (or seen as a threat rather then as a friend (Mitra) of earth. Naturally Earth belongs to Insects more then it does to man and this changes the fundamental religious understanding of the west, it rather inverts it.

This also reminds me of someone’s dream, Though this is a deviation from our theme, nevertheless it goes like this: “I’m inside a very large dome, maybe 100 yards in diameter at the base. It seemed to be made of a gray, opaque material something like eggshell.
The floor of the dome is a sort of terraced park with trees and little ponds and waterways connected by paths and bridges.
It reminded a bit of a chinese landscape with tiny people (there must have been three or four of them) in the distance.
The inside of the dome seemed to have its own weather system and as I stood on a bridge, I could feel the air growing humid as if a storm were threatening.
A big pipe, about three feet across projected from the ground a few feet away. I knew I had to squeeze through the pipe. (No panic here; it was just something I had to do.
Then there was a crash like thunder, and the earth shook, and I was very frightened. A big chunk of the dome overhead cracked and broke loose, and a beautiful blue light streamed down from outside (it hadn’t previously occurred to me that there WAS an outside.)
And I was lifted up in a beam of light — almost like free-falling upward — with a great sense of peace and well being, and … above the dome there was only this luminous pale blue everywhere, and I floated weightless in it. A feeling like swimming or free-falling but with no air or water around me. It was like swimming in light.

Lets sum up the dream: The dreamer finds him/herself inside a very large dome…opaque material something like eggshell…floor of the dome …terraced park with trees and little ponds and waterways connected by paths and bridges….the dome seemed to have its own weather system… air growing humid as if a storm were threatening. (the green house rot both psychic and outside as they are the same(each mirroring each other) -no escape from it) crash like thunder, and the earth shook…dome overhead cracked and broke loose… beautiful blue light streamed down from outside …which is the inevitable escape into negativity or nihilism of pure subjectivity from a pure artificiality (teraforming…loss of home and the withdrawal of home friends..they all happen simultaneously..no this without that.)…and I floated weightless in it. A feeling like swimming or free-falling but with no air or water around me. It was like swimming in light.

What immediately strikes us is the Si-Fi nature of the dream: One only has to pick any of-the-shelf popular sifi magazine, or pick a recent science fiction novel, or just switch on the discovery channel and one is immediately persuaded to watch appreciatively the miracles of our mind, (which like its predecessor ‘religion’ with its miracles of God and saints) ends up doing the very same to our psyche, that is it numbs it, in its own way silences it, while scientist (our Dawkings/Hawkings) are all buckled up and are at pains to persuade us how science is moving and evolving life beyond our wildest dreams, how in future man will be able to move to the moon, stay there, live there, and begin the teraforming of Moon and Mars. -all visions of great achievement that fills in the void left by the departure of awe-inspiring religious tales of saints and their life defying powers.

Religion be it faith in science or dogma, never tires from reminding us of its miracles and wondrous deeds, of how so and such man in his trance and deep faith severed his head, ran miles with this thing held tightly in his fingers, only to enter a church or a temple and poof, he miraculously comes out with his head intact and healed, that crazy thing that was just a few minutes back in his hands now rests firmly on his neck. All lovely pictures of the miraculous.

Science too has its wonders and miracles but like their predecessors, have no way to protect Earth, teraform it, bring back the flourish that it has through its own blind drive destroyed. This earth, our only dwelling in the whole universe is reduced from its original sense of dwelling to that of a substance, that is minerals, fuels, chemical compounds etc. And these very wise men have the audacity to dream of terraforming the Moon and Mars (while Earth is systematically sucked out of its creative juices and distorted beyond its wildest imaginations.)

So in the end we ask ourselves, whether there’s a way to heal that very thing which gave us our being, can we heal it using the very instincts and tools that we fashion to milk it dry of its resource. So when we cannot even take care of things here and now, how much are we to put our faith on the projections and graph-works spinning massive illusionary picture of man and his future. Don’t we start resembling the protagonist of the film Independence day and do we not become the Aliens who are found sucking up the resources of planets and moving on to the next till they too are sucked dry, and then its time to move on to the next and so on and so forth.
Who then are the true bugs and bug faced Aliens?

In an another hollywood film by Disney called Wall.E, the disease is shown to return to their mother planet earth just when it is in the process of healing itself from their previous violence.
JaiHo Disney.

But a question that still bugs me (thanks to Disney hit “A bugs life”) I wonder as to what exactly is wrong with us Indians, can we still self-reflect….ever. What do we know of our own Earth, Insects, Ufo’s and Aliens. (Now that we are close to the launch of chandrayaan1 to the moon with its primary goal being remote resource mapping.)

PD*29622966

Neda Agha-Soltan, aged 26, transformed from living young woman to dead human and living icon, is now enmeshed in the distortions which death bequeaths.   For those on the side of “the Green Revolution” she is a potent symbol, an emblem of innocence and youth and all which that implies – hopes for a future, possibility, life, and this case life thwarted and broken, a metaphor for the youth of Iran.   Conversely, for the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (for clearly that is what it is, with “the President” merely the visible figure-head of other powers), she is apparently a dire threat.  So the government of Iran has issued two scenarios to explain Neda’s demise:  that she was shot by a sniper of the “terrorist opposition” forces, precisely to create a martyr and symbol, or, alternately, that her killing was arranged by a British documentarian, Jon Leyne, so as to spice up a film he was making.   That either of these explanations stretches credibility to the limit seems not to bother the propaganda arm of the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad gang, or, more exactly, it shows just how bothered they really are.  One more lie lathered on the rest, the delusions of power gone mad.  Thinking they could crudely jiggle the vote count to secure a giant mandate against the evidence of real opposition, they opened a Pandora’s Box, and now must follow its logic.  The consequence will be fatal, the usual trajectory of despots, a history from which they never seem to learn.

From UK Guardian:

Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said.

“We just know that they [the family] were forced to leave their flat,” a neighbour said. The Guardian was unable to contact the family directly to confirm if they had been forced to leave. [...]

Amid scenes of grief in the Soltan household with her father and mother screaming, neighbours not only from their building but from others in the area streamed out to protest at her death. But the police moved in quickly to quell any public displays of grief. They arrived as soon as they found out that a friend of Soltan had come to the family flat.

In accordance with Persian tradition, the family had put up a mourning announcement and attached a black banner to the building.

But the police took them down, refusing to allow the family to show any signs of mourning. The next day they were ordered to move out. Since then, neighbours have received suspicious calls warning them not to discuss her death with anyone and not to make any protest.

A tearful middle-aged woman who was an immediate neighbour said her family had not slept for days because of the oppressive presence of the Basij militia, out in force in the area harassing people since Soltan’s death.

Whether or not, as the Iranian government has asserted (and they have good historical grounds to do so), the CIA or the Soros Foundation or other such NGO’s operating at the behest of dubious interests had a hand in fomenting the present unrest, it is clear that a meaningful sector of Iran was interested in some change in their social arrangments;  in showing themselves  and their interests they provoked their government to showing its real hand and nature.  Iran is a police-state; like most police-states using brute physical force, a monopoly of arms and the major propaganda systems, and control of the economy, to consolidate power for a limited self-interested selection of people.  In this case the major players are apparently the Revolutionary Guard, formed by the clerics during the Revolution in 1979,  and which is the dominant owner of production and its wealth; the military is a power unto itself, and the Shia clerics another.  Among them, they – like the oligarchy which runs the USA – own and control almost everything in Iran.   In the minuet of forces which are used to keep such systems functioning, it seems the Iranian authorities badly overplayed their hand, and looking for the appearance of a massive public endorsement and mandate for their policies, they insulted a significant sector of the populace sufficiently to produce a reaction toxic enough to have set them back from whatever plans they had, and even to in due time induce their own collapse.   The post-US illegal invasion of Iraq chatter of Iran’s consolidation of power and influence in the middle-east has gone up in smoke.   Iran will be fortunate to stumble along at all, riven with internal contradictions and social disquiet until in due time the present controllers are overthrown by their own people.  In the poetics of politics, Neda will be named as the spiritual source, however incidental and accidental her death.

JackalOnce there was a little Jackal”

The Gathering: ‘The Impossibility of a Dialogue’


“We live through troubling times” said Bholu the ghoda, “The world as we know today as ours will disappear from the face of this planet. Today our little island formally known as Jambudwipa is surrounded by an ever growing understanding that pretends to know better than what we always knew to be good for us. They seek to change and transform us for our own good and for the sake of our own soul, for they worry too much about the terrible fates that await us and they think in their broad wisdom that the only way we can save our misguided selves is by letting them work over it. Today we have come to doubt the very word ‘Self’. So I would invite our esteemed friend and guide the Jackal to come over here and speak to us about matters relating to our Self and what possibilities open us to a state of dialogue with forces that seek to change it with the pretence of saving us from our-own-dark-and-lost-selves.”

The Jackal walked quietly to the centre of the canvas. The fire was burning bright, the sky above was blue and the stars lit the heaven ever more brightly. From a distance a flickering orange hue appeared to drape the trees as the flicker of fire outlined all who sat in its circle eager to hear what the little silly Jackal had to say.
Bhalu the bear was there too, infact he had seated himself in the front row where the grass was green and silky.

The jackal walked to the centre and looked around staring blankly into the darkness that filled the air. His sides were lit golden. He began with a slow and deliberate voice.

“Friends” he said, “This is a strange topic and I am expected to speak something enlightening, but as I stand here in front of my own country men, my mind is soaked with doubts and dilemmas. For quite some nights, I have spied on his whereabouts and have even caught him a few times wandering into the dark and unknown worlds and particularly that forbidden and forgotten loka known to us as the “The Impossible”. You may wonder as I do, that if this ’speech’ about whose nature I stand here ready to speak happens to be ‘the impossible’, then why accept this invitation and pretend to have a dialogue with my fellow men. You have guessed it right my friends that I indulge, inspite of the fact that I have no reason for such indulgence, except if it means that I derive some sort of subtle pleasure from my lenience, which as you may have guessed only happens in cases of extreme pervertedness. But this ‘impossibility’ of which I am about to speak, is like the morning darkness, the darkness that moves revealing in its bosom a golden spark, if not a golden dawn. Mind it, it is different from the golden light of silence about whose realm I spoke so enthusiastically just a few months back, the guiding light, the speech of all speech, the eye of eyes that could be glimpsed and gestured only through a poetic and meditative eloquence. But I have to admit that this problem of Dialogue too is spirit like, and cannot be spoken in any literal and direct way. And still, I say it is spirit like and not something demonic.

Gentlemen, today I no longer can pretend that I know of a way or have a universal recipe that I can tear a page from my cookbook and hand it over to you; Rather I find myself completely at odds at the impossibility of such a task, especially about these strange things about whose nature I am today asked to articulate and convey to a mass audience by our esteemed friend Bholu the ghoda. Thus I will not waste your time any further, but will get over quickly of this ‘pretense of knowing’; because that is all one can talk and speak, nothing more and nothing less.”

“Forgive me” the jackal cleared his throat; “Reality that we know and are so familiar with is in-itself often quite painful and harsh, but nevertheless you will all agree with me that there is nothing solid to gain by denying facts, but then the question begs as to ‘what are facts’! Or for that matter ‘reality’!”

“On the other hand,” the jackal continued; “there are no overwhelming advantages in seeing “HOW THINGS ARE” nor in endless musings as to “how things really should be”. So I often end up asking myself these questions, that is; Is there a way, a way free from all inherent self-pretence, free from all self deceptions, an open house, an open-space where a culture for the sake of its religious and political prejudices can enter into a fruitful dialogue with itself free from its compulsive loyalties, allegiances and commitments.”

The Jackal paused, looked around and a hundred faces flickered back at him soaked with a golden hue.“I am pained” he gestured “pained by the thought of the impossible, saddened by the impossibility of it all. I become aware of the dark and forbidden in us, and you will agree with me my friends that sometimes becoming acutely aware of how-things-really-are hangs like a curse on your head, and there are no spells under heaven that can free you from this understanding that hides in its palms the seeds of your doom. Now you may be wondering as to what nonsense I am babbling about. What has all this gibberish got to do with the problems of communication. But that’s not what troubles me, and I can only speak about what troubles me. What troubles me is this pressing question, that, how is one to get away from this mental disease, this self-awareness that there are no hidden paths that lead us from within the system that we happen to find ourselves in, that is our world, or for that matter call it our primordial ‘Self-orienting-fields’. An area of awareness from where one can look into one’s own inherent self-deceptions and their high minded distortions, and upon that this darning awareness that all dialogue are on all levels always shot through and through with one’s own innermost biases and let me add, our prejudices. Why else will one defend or take a stance on things that matter to us in the first place, or even think of entering a dialogue with someone. Think about it!

Now aside and apart from all the misty smoke screen of goodness and all the rhetoric’s of charm and their hidden lies through which all such dialogues are found to proceed in and through a breathtaking series of self-evasive maneuvers…plots…schemes. Now I may sound naive, but then why pretend that there is something more to it.

I also wonder and there is this growing awareness within me as to why one even bothers to enter this self distorting space in the first place, naturally when I use such words such as ‘this self distorting space’, it may seem that I assume to-much and that I pretend to secretly know some lost Shambhala, a kind of original and pure region, a hidden dwelling, a carved space uncorrupted and undefiled by human cunning, a utopian world order totally free of human distortions and limits, but that’s besides the point, the point is why even think of entering here, why bother, why spend sleepless nights worrying about it. And for that matter with what purpose other-than to change someone’s mind about oneself, and worrying to death as to what it thinks about us, Its Image of us as some one fallen and misguided. Is it not enough to know that all madness arises in trying to be what one is not.

So why bother to enter this self distorting space in the first place. Will the knowing of the mandalic ins and outs of its missionary zeal, that sacred mark of the forces that today surround us and especially those that seek to change us, transform us into their own self-righteous image which like the touch of Midas that automatically transformed everything it touched into what it thought and understood as pure gold, that is into his own obsessive monolithic self image to a point where everything looked the same, felt the same, thought the same. Now suppose that by some strange and magical chance this mythical Midas happens to approach you, would you run away in fear of becoming something OTHER, something gold like, something which is nothing else otherthan an imagined product of his bewitched mind, would you fight it, kill it, or try to convince it through dialogue and persuasions. How I ask will you conduct yourself when faced with such a strange and uncanny situation.

Nevertheless one can safely conclude that more than ‘difference’, it is fear itself that is something to be feared and get over with. The touch of Midas after all only affects his own cursed perception of things.

Now speaking about fear, dread, difference and discontinuity, I can think of several reasons as to why things are such and so, and one such reason I can honk out loud to all of you who are assembled here is that all “self” identities, be it whatever, are always and everywhere found to get its mark only from in and within ‘that’ hidden but ever present hand and its perception enabling legs, that golden and lit womb of referential wholes, and it is here, and in relations to which, all dialogues are found to proceed through fiery frames, and frameworks of rising projections that emanate like fumes seeking and securing a way out in the open and the given. Like Spotha, that unavailable mind which is found by the wise to be always ahead of everything, that which hurries along to arrange and order distant surroundings so that we and our things can be at home. Nevertheless, be assured, that when aliens overwhelm us, they will inevitably order us and our environment to their taste and pleasure, because it is not the aliens as such but ‘that’ very space is what grants and delivers to them their true Self. It is ‘this’ what guides them, and mounts their thoughts with wings. It is this very mounting that marks and frames their common-sense understanding of us and things. In the same vein we can safely conclude that projections and perceptions are actions that unfold in the fitting, adjusting and slotting of things that we happen to encounter to our own pre-given understandings of how things appear to be as what they are; and this appearance, this understanding as to what a thing is, happens nowhere else other than one’s own pre-given and ever-present primordial world, an invisible world, a landscape lit and illumined by billion stars, and each star a bright sun shining over things through its pre-articulated web of evolving relations. Relations where differences are already from the outset pre-defined, otherwise they would not be seen and entered upon. A space where ‘to reason’, ‘to understand’, can only mean that ’seeing’ and ‘being’ always proceeds from that which is defining and powering its consciousness from-the-very-outset, that is, even before it decides for itself, everything is already decided for it, and this means that we can never ever be conscious of it. So much for a dialogue with it.


Now think about what I have just said, for here at last one begins to glimpse if not fully comprehend as to why ‘No Voice’ or ‘Belief’ ever wants to be subverted, cause no ‘Belief’ exists to be dissolved and all ‘Dogma’ and ‘Religion’ in its broadest sense are found to be always and everywhere inherently conservative and driven by its own innermost ‘Will’, which inevitably builds up organizations that seeks fellowship and control. This explains at least to me as to why any sort of dialogue by such an embedded being on all fronts both overt and covert are “Often” inherently colored by prejudices and why all such genuine or contrived attempts by others to express, explain or understand its being is “Often” seen by the powers that be, to be basically nothing more than a veiled subversive act. And all dialogues my friends in such situations can only be a drawing of circles, a subtle and cautious exercise in constructing divisions and borders, to fortify and explore kinks in one’s own armour and a looking around for areas of weakness in others which could then be exploited and exposed by its own pre-articulated understandings of what it thinks is a true faith and a true belief.
Further more, any change that might threaten the very meaning and therefore the very existence of that group or individual, or its Self or the organization and its power relations would tend to be rejected, perhaps subtly and tacitly or in extreme cases forcefully by entering a frenzied state of War.

Also, be mind-full that I am not proposing that dialogue is a state of war by other means, where the decisive act of judgement is procured not through a well argued reason or by the very genuineness of one’s belief but rather on the opinions of the multitude, or whichever side is able to dramatize and present its case in the most sweet, subtle and persuasive form.

You must also grant me the fact that such matters like the one we are entering into, such as debate and dialogue are in itself very risky affairs. Nevertheless, the facts as they stand today is that when one party wants to self preserve its self[identity] at the cost of its own inner dharma and the other by its imagined rights granted to it by its imagined God wants to convert the other because it has been asked by his or her lord to do so and not doing so or arguing against such a decree or voice would tantamount to blasphemy.

Nevertheless, of us to think that one can enter a dialogue from outside, that is from a self understanding that in some sense happens to be value neutral, and thus by some freak accident happens to operate from a self-understanding whose rational grounds and self actualizing world for the sake of which it stands, and takes a position and all done because it worries about it, and which by a freak of cosmic accidents as noted above happens to be over and above and outside our and the participants own innermost referential totality is my dear friends to self deceive oneself utterly.
On the other hand, to take positions from within the self articulations of competing beliefs is in one sense to commit complete spiritual Harakiri.

Meanwhile, inspite of all our good efforts, every-one is found to proceed in the only way they know and by that which guides him or her and in that which they can put his or her trust, whatever this ‘in which he puts his or her trust’ means, one thing is certain beyond an ounce of doubt, that it never ever is other than his or her own familiar ground. Having said that one can now safely assume that all dialogue in its pure as well as its corrupted form is nothing more than an exercise in a subtle reducing of everything unfamiliar to one’s own self understanding of it, and all judgements about things it pretends to concern itself with only ends when all the other competing differences are reasoned out and done away with, so that all that remains in the end is its own pure and uncorrupted cosmic monology.

So I return to the core of the problem, that is, is there a way to articulate and defend that which makes possible for difference to arise and be different in the first place. Not through dialogue I say. And having said that, I risk to say that on what rational and sacred grounds can I pretend to speak decisively over such matters of great hazard: That is about ‘us’ and what is ‘ours’. But can we even speak about these without first universalizing this ‘our’, that is universalizing and absolutizing our little ‘ours’ to ‘Man’, and make this ‘Man’ a theme of our universal concern, that is proclaim and make note of the fact that “Man’s very future today depends upon whether he can still or ever will be able to see this and deal with it without pretense, deceit and self deception”.
Because ultimately the question boils down to this, that is: Is there something call ‘Man’ independent of what defines it.
This is my dilemma and my impossibility.”

The audience was quiet, This nonsense was not what they had expected inspite of the fact that they knew the Jackal quite well. Slowly one by one they got up and left, deserting that very ground that had just a few hours back gathered them into its own. “Next week…next week” shouted Bholu the ghoda, “next week we would speak about the same” and he too disappeared into the moonlit night till his trailing shadow merged into the growing darkness. Meanwhile the fire had started to glow softly with its white beard leaping up for the sky. The jackal too walked leisurely back to his house. On the way he was approached by Bhalu the bear who complimented him about his speech.

“The Long Walk”

“Tell me” the Bear said, “Do you really think that any sort of dialogue with our adversaries in an impossibility.
“And what do you think Mr. Bear”
“I think that having dialogues are essential because it is only through such intimate dialogues can we overcome our limitations and arrive at that which happens to be the most essential to us.”
“That is how it is Mr. Bear, or at least what appears to us on the surface of things. But more importantly, I would qualify, that dialogue is the production of reason, and reason after all is that essential condition whose possibility exist in the mingling of two opposing ideas and the people who amplify them. We often say, you are being unreasonable when that essential, that is the enabling condition is side stepped”
“Yes, true”
“And still, can we blame someone for being unreasonable if all he ends up doing is voicing his own way in all possible dealing, especially in matters relating to things and ways that happen to be for him the most important, insofar that it defines his very being and world.
“What do you mean Mr. Jackal.”
“You will agree with me Mr. Bear, that, that what moves us is what we intimately assume to be the most important to our lives, and as it is often the case, this something is nothing other than our sacred Laws, or our most cherished ways; Ways that have been our friend and like sun and moon have guided us to our fields and on nights safely led us to our home. It is in its warm society that we have learned to celebrate life and spread joy and glory in its company.
“Certainly.”
“And you will agree that they define our best interest because we feel at ease in them and to loose them would be equivalent of becoming homeless orphans in our own world.”
“True.”
“So you must grant me the fact that the ‘basic condition of reason’ and reasonableness does not hold its own ground if such be the case.”
“I am not sure!”
“Why would a person even want to enter a state of dialogue on the condition that being reasonable means giving up his world and self. Except if he is forced to do so by circumstances beyond his control”
“So what is the enabling condition or reason for the sake of which one would enter…dialogue!”
“Fear is one such reason, and the other I can safely presume is change.”
“Yes, fear of change, and for the sake of change, but it seems to me that you mean something else by ‘change’”
“Change has two moments, one that is visible and one that is invisible. ‘Fear of’ and ‘change for’ are related to the visible and modern man is often found oscillating between the two, but Mr. Bear, there is an invisible side, an invisible aspect to change.”
“I don’t follow, but please continue”
“Let us suppose Mr. Bear, that what we thought to be our sun and moon no longer are able to guide us to our true homes, because they no longer are in tune with the essence of our time, or it may be that we no longer fancy our homes to be as comfortable as they used to be, for example as we had experienced life and savoured the magic and mystery of festivity in our childhood days.”
“Yes…But, then, that’s why we seek out change!”
“Yes, but that hardly changes anything, or do they!.”
“I suppose they do!”
“It may seems so, but much deeper I say Mr. Bear, is the moment out of which arise all motion; So I often ask myself as to what brings us to this impasse, this feeling of being lost, what makes us feel and experience this loss, what compels it, brings about this mood of doom. And what throws us into this frenzy of being and becoming… -What throws us my friend is this very things that I name as the ‘Essence of Time’; This momentous space from where everything flows and all relations are shaped and all destinies are found to be thrown into their various becoming. On the other hand, the visible MR. Bear, is what follows and so any change arrived from the visible changes nothing.”
“I still don’t follow your invisible’s and their essences Mr. Jackal, but the visible certainly relates to us, especially to us young ones, who will witness my honored friend, a growing internal strife and social and political meltdowns at our boarders and our in-ability to conduct and bring order in our lives and our world.”
“So you think entering a dialogue with the visible is your way out?”
“I have though about this Mr. Jackal, and to some extent I agree with much that you have said, but what worries me is how and with what shall we replace them with…If not it!”
“I hope you will excuse me for my Ignorance Mr. Bear, cause like you I too don’t have an answer to this; And, to further complicate our dialogue, I claim that I am not even proposing a solution, cause the holy or what we call the whole, is not something ones just concocts out of necessity. These things arise out of a thousand years of sacred companionship with things and worlds; The mountains, the stars, the rivers, the sky and the gifts of earth. But I am sure we can try to coax one out or atleast pretend to see into an another thousand years of becoming, a supernatural view if you may allow me to use that word, a glance into an far remote future, where our fellowship with what uproots us today finally brings about the ‘New’ and the ‘Novel’.”

“I think I already have some answers of my own, but would like you to throw some light on the higher nature of the new Laws that has been proposed by the council in the wake of dangers that today threaten us.”
“Much depends Mr. Bear, whether one is in any position to undertake such an arduous task? ”
“I see no reasons why we cannot indeed accomplish such a task, after all we have common concerns and often what worries us happens to be related.”
“All right if it be so, I will try to relate as to how a particular mode of study comes to define men and things, and whether it leads a man or for that matter any one of us to a seat of authority and if so, then, what can such an authority tell us about our homes and how we should conduct our lives, celebrate our festivals and take care of our dead.”
“I see no difficulty in conducting such a study Mr. Jackal, but do tell, by particular mode do you mean our intimate knowledge about ourselves and what matters to us the most in our daily copings.”
“That too, Mr. Bear, although I have in mind the ancient conflict that arose between the the Sankhian Asvabhisth and the Vedic Manoratha, and how their insights have led us into some of the most intriguing and fascinating ways we modern’s have come to look and study ourselves through overarching universal truths. And the strange ways we go asking interested questions about ourselves that often get the better of us in the hope of bettering our lives and the promises that promise to order our world and our future.


“So how are we to arrive at the true and the real?”
“How? Mr. Bear, I thought you already knew how, But speaking for myself, personally for me, it is also about truth as such, and I am sure no one really wants to order one’s life and get answers to one’s questions from ways that are simply Imagined. ”
“Are you saying that, that what constitutes us is no way related to our true selves.”
“I am not sure If I mean exactly that, cause it assumes too much, but then, someone has to know what he is doing.”
“So, what should he know before authority is trusted upon him, and if the past and accumulated Laws are not what guides him, then what is it that does, what speaks through him and what claims him?”
“I don’t know if there are any straight answers to that Mr. Bear, because a lot would depend on whether that which speaks through him and that which guides him and prompts him to make such claims on us indeed has some sort of universal absoluteness about it and are not merely a product of some fancy. Interesting fancy but never the less a fancy of his. Our answer also hinges upon whether a particular mode of thought can in some way tell us something about ‘us’ independent of its unquestioned assumptions.”


The Jackal paused and turned his head towards the heaven and sighed,“How can he be so sure. And how can he know that, that what he has stumbled upon happens to be universally binding, which if it be the case, then by the dint of this very insight he wins the right that once belonged to our seers who saw further than any of their peers and had truly become the eyes and ears of their times.
The Bears eyes shone with excitement “Indeed Mr. Jackal, Indeed…”
“Now” the Jackal continued, “there are several in and outs and many of these depends whether any one of them are true or are merely imagined and superimposed. If they be true then one can know something about ourselves and in some ways come to control and relate our future in a manner more worthy than simply leaving everything to chance or laws that have lost their efficacy. Modern technology in one such example that has given us great control over our human and physical nature. But this control which promises a better ordering of our lives, selves and our world hangs on the thread whether its findings are merely historical, that is relative to various histories or independent of of them.
“And what do you think of it, cause I have much faith in Modern Technology and its efficacy.”
“I have my doubts Mr. Bear, I doubt whether they can tell anything about who we are.”


They walked and as they walked they could feel the moist of dew that had started to rub their naked feet wet.
“All right, lets return to the beginning, cause I fail to follow your lead here Mr. Jackal” spoke the Bear with great earnestness. “are you saying that our Sacred laws have in reality only come about by a certain way of usage that a community of men have evolved over time, in which case they are merely cultural and historical and rarely says anything truly about ourselves any more than how a particular culture, in our case modernity came to articulate and compose things. ”
“Again you have to pardon my ignorance Mr. Bear, because the answer to that question also depends whether or not the categories which composes things as much as they compose us today are in fact universally binding, or are there as many worlds with their own immutable and irreducible laws as there are groups, cults, nations cultures and civilizations, each with their own unique maps, compasses, sights and sounds. Technology after all arises out of craftworks and commerce and the laws that they give rise to are related to propriety and not what we consider as sacred and binding.”
“And how does all this relate to what we have been discussing all along.”
“I don’t know, and I fail to realize as to what exactly are you are asking of me Mr. Bear?”
“All I am asking of you and all that I want to know is as to what is it that makes a man a lawgiver and someone who truly sees.”
“Oh ! Well then, you will agree with me Mr. Bear that if things are so relative and so diverse as I have just noted above, then there cannot be a definite answer independent of who what and where the question gets asked.


“What if we simply chose the most eloquent and the most wise among us, someone who like a good father is deeply concerned with our good, someone whose character one could clearly discern by his deeds and speeches” replied the Bear.
“He would still in my opinion have to know more than what we all know, for we often find him worthy who happens to represent our deepest interest, and in some sense embodies our deepest concerns, and already within ourselves we have such a diversity of opinion that it is almost impossible to represent them all in any sort of just manner.”
“What if we simply claim that our new Laws are divinely inspired and by the nature of that revelation its authority, that is, by the very fact that they are new revelations they are to be accepted as Laws over and above our mere opinion and thus universally binding to one and all, and by this master-stroke simply overcome the problem of origin and representation once and for all.”
“But already our Laws are claimed to be handed down to us by Gods, are’nt they, and if their previous words were eternal and binding, why would they think of changing them now, do the Gods change their minds so often?”
“The Gods don’t speak to us any more” mused the Bear, “and I doubt they did to us in the past and still the only way we can have the multitude accept the Laws is to present them as divinely inspired.”
“And if anyone dares to doubt such obvious lies, then he must be punished in the most severe fashion as to inspire fear and obedience in those who dare, or we would be back to where we started.”
“Well that danger is always there, How else?”
“Don t look at me like that Mr. Bear, I did not propose such a tyranny.”


“You were speaking of Manoratha, how does he concern us here.” The Bear tried to steer the topic away from their previous wanderings.
“The problem that confronts us as far as I can remember first surfaced some thousand years back at the time of the Sankhian Ashvabhisth. Ashvabhisth you know was the first to notice and identify this problem of relativism even though all his work remains to this day a bold attempt to transcend it.
“Yes we call him our Father”
“But isn’t it true that even he at the very end of his life considered himself a failed man or so speaks the legend.”
“Indeed.”
“We are reminded of one called Manoratha” continued the Jackal, “who claimed to be a student of Vishvarupa the Vedic seer who the legend informs us, destroyed all the fine arguments that Ashvabhisth had labored so hard over the years and to this effect, he Ashvabhisth had publicly admitted that his Sankhyan categories did indeed lack solid grounding and thus could not be accepted by all as universally real and binding, something which he had hoped to achieve by discovering the universal laws that were independent of ones culture, upbringing and history.
“Yes, that’s how it was if the legends are to be believed”
“And” continued the Jackal, “All his life he had believed that there were universal laws behind the usual diversity of sights and sound. And that he had some how hit upon a method of extracting the universal out of the particulars.”
“True.”
“Now in spite of Manoratha’s destruction of his universal categories, he saw no better way to wade through the warring diversity of opinions other than to arrive at the universal by calculating the best among the many laws and their various opinions by first extracting out of their noble differences, their innermost essence, and by this distillation, he had hoped to arrive at the universals by the fabled Sahkhian technique of abstraction and division…a sort of Absolutism if you excuse me.
“Please continue”

Thanks you Mr. Bear. Now it was known to Ashvabhisth, that there were many laws and each one of them were said to be divinely inspired and because of their diversity and difference, their authority over their people was never wholly above doubt and as always, there were those who had already started to challenge their authority on the assumption that how could the Divine speak in such diverse and often such conflicting tongues. And even if they were all granted their divine reach, it nevertheless made choosing and deciding, and not to mention unifying them into a common stock of code, that which could be universally binding almost an impossibility.
“True, there were many proposals to abandon them all, and simply derive our laws based on human nature and their necessities”
“And still he is said to have believed that his newly found universals were indeed true and could not be directly challenged by anyone because they included the best of everyone and because of its diverse singularity, they belonged and still did not belong to any one of them in particular. And if the best could not be arrived at, then at least one could warm oneself on the second best, that in-spite of its abstractions, did claim to do justice to all the waring voices, by preserving in their formulations the best of everyone.”
“Yes” nodded the Bear, “It does seems so”
“On the other hand” chimed the Jackal, “’Manoratha’, the legend informs us had said that what Ashvabhisth had actually accomplished was but a dense mist which once entered there would be no hope of coming out. A democracy of illusions.”
“But Manoratha was wrong I suppose.”
“I don’t know Mr. Bear, for legend tells us that he knew of a secret way, which according to him the Seers fearing common abuse hid their sacred insights within the obvious and the commonly understood and thus there was no logical way they could have showed up in the absurd reductions of Ashvabhisth.”


The Bear was silent, and as they walked, they could hear the cracking of the crickets and in the heat of their talks they did not realize at least till then that a soft and cool breeze had started to blow over their perspiring bodies.
“So”, the Bear broke in “This beings us back to where we were before we started on this long walk. I wonder as to where all this would lead us into?”
“I don’t know Mr. Bear, why don’t you come over and have some fish at my place.”

“Sure…”

cont: “The Human”

Relayed by Twitter, YouTube, by blogs; shot with cellphone or small DV camera,  events in Iran now spill out across the world, carried on tenuous waves of electrons, much as the thoughts and feelings each of us have are carried by the same ephemeral waves, leaping synapse to synapse.   In impressionist flurries, as if a dream, handheld cellphones rushing in fear, in exhilaration, transmitting not only the fact, but the feeling, as if an emerging global consciousness enveloped us in an electronic web, to show us ourselves:

Her eyes seem to recognize something, then a flush of blood rushes from her mouth and nose.   The Iranian regime is finished – if not this week, then next, or next year.  Whatever legitimacy this government – like all governments, a kind of gang, with enforcers, costumes, rules – had, it is finished now.  Done by Twitter, by the viral flow of information in which the effort to block that flow is its own information.  The more the “authorities” (to say, “the presumptive authors”) attempt to deny information, the more they reveal of themselves.  The young woman is dead on camera;  in dying so, she becomes an angel of annunciation, delivering a final message to the powers which killed her.

All the force of a Greek tragedy (I am sure the Persians have their own variants) flows in these fleeting images, and like those tragedies they are universal.

June 22.

[A day after writing the above I came across this description on the blog Lede in the NY Times:]

Though her name, the location, and the cause of her death cannot be confirmed, the video refers to the woman as Neda, Farsi for “the voice” or “the call.”

And this item at Tazahorate Ma.

Watching the videos coming out of Iran I was struck by a handful of things. One is that many of the stonethrowers are in fact the basiji, and police, which suggests either that the government doesn’t really trust them enough to give them more lethal weapons or that the government is still holding back.

Another is the seeming failure of the demonstrators to take some elementary steps at street fighting tactics.  For several examples:

If one wore thick working gloves, one could (attempt to) grab the batons of the charging motorcycle basiji; if one could hold on and pull it would have a good chance of pulling down the bike and its riders, leaving them in a very vulnerable state.

Similarly if one took a short metal or even strong plastic or wooden rod as these vehicles passed the rods could be jammed into the wheel spokes of the bikes, immediately bringing down the vehicle and its 2 riders.  Watching how these basiji behave, in packs, if one could bring down a lead bike, the others would likely pile up after it.

In other images I have seen that the police are clearly very vulnerable to attack from those on the higher floors of the buildings.  Any object thrown from above would be dangerous, the more compact and harder the better.  Or a molotov cocktail from above would likewise prove intimidating.  Imagine 100 persons per block game to shower the advancing basiji in such a manner?   The basiji, being considerably outnumbered seem to hold into tight groupings for self-defense, this makes them vulnerable to molotov cocktails, or similarly, to being hit by quickly moving vehicles (preferably ones hi-jacked for the purpose – buses, trucks).

If this prompts the basiji or police to enter the building to go and get those who threw the items, one might note that if they take the elevator one could know where the power for the elevator was and turn it off trapping the occupants, or, should they take stairs, this is another point of instability and vulnerability, either to such things as oil covered stairs coupled to a push from above (using perhaps a long pole): down go a bunch of basiji. Or another molotov cocktail in an enclosed staircase could be problematic for those ascending, especially if the stairs were slippery.

It seems clear that the government is going to clamp down harder, so the response if the opposition is to succeed, will similarly have to escalate tactically and strategically.

Prosaically

molotov cocktail design

And more elegantly

molotov-cocktail

packing up100

The house is a bit of chaos, piled with boxes, the litter of yet another move.  I long ago lost track of how many places I’ve lived, so this is all quite familiar.  I’m rather expert on packing things in boxes.    Next week it’ll all get shoved in a truck and driven 10 or so miles to another place, a little two story storage shed of a sort, where we’ll spend the next year.  New place will be bigger by maybe almost 50%, is more centrally located in city so the punishing thought of an hour each way to do more or less anything will be cut in half, and it is cheaper.  Or in Korean fashion, almost free:  here you can put down a fat deposit, returnable on departure, and have no rent.  Just what they do with the money to make this a paying proposition for the landlord, I don’t know.   But it is normal here.   So all these boxes will be moved along, and the next day Marcella and I will get to the airport and fly to London where we have 9 days to see friends, go to museums, plays, and such, and then on to Galway, Ireland.  There we show some films – Marcella’s first feature, Landing in the Morning Calm, and then a film we did together, a documentary portrait of Steve Lack entitled Rant, and then the little throw-away short, Mr Right.

A&J park1d

Landing in the Morning Calm, by Marcella Di Palo Jost

STEVE 2 HEADS OPEN (2)

Rant

AREUM PETIT

Mr Right

The occasion for the screenings is the Galway Film Fleadh, a festival.  A friend of mine in Ireland, Joe Comerford, tried for some years to get me invited, and this year they finally did so.  I confess I did a little of the final bit myself, more or less inviting Marcella and myself.  We’ll be doing a 5 day workshop too, with, if all goes well, a public screening on the last day of the festival of the things made.   So it should be a busy time.  Afterward we’ll take a week to see the Irish west coast, and I hope to do a bit of shooting with the new Excam.  Landscapes I think, but we’ll see what we see.  Taking a little tripod, and some cheaper storage chips that I got after some web-research: 16 gig chips for $100 rather than Sony’s proprietary ones for $500 for 8 gigs.  After Ireland we fly to Bologna to visit Marcella’s sister in Rimini, and some other relatives near Bologna.  I’ll make sure to go to Ravenna, to which I’ve never been, to see the mosaics.  And perhaps to Rome to shoot a quick film, though I think better to pass on that for now.  Then down to Matera in Basilicata, where we’ll nose around the region, while Marcella visits parents.    I return to Seoul end of August, and Marcella will stay on another month to be with family a bit.

Marcella’s film was casually pieced together, initially without a real intention to make a proper film, just shooting with a cluster of Americans living in Seoul, using a little Sony HDR HC9, with its on-board mikes.  After a bit this began to form into a film, in which Marcella and her friend Amber Hill, who plays a lead role, collaborated in developing a minimal bit of story, and in the span from October to March, a film emerged.    I think it came out quite well, an interesting glimpse into the lives of these 20-somethings out in the larger world while still cocooned inside their youthful incestuous smaller one.  Luckily a number of them are musically talented, which Marcella put to good use.  Landing has been sent to a number of festivals, and we’ll see how many take it.

Minnie cuLanding in the Morning Calm

Rant was shot in two bursts, back in 2006-07, on a whim.  I’d met Steve Lack originally when making All the Vermeers in New York, in which he was the lead actor.  We got along well, and on my visits to New York afterward I’d try to see him.  At some point we rather casually thought to make a portrait, and on the next visit, we – Marcella and I – started to shoot – just goofing around without too much forethought aside from my decision to shoot most of it in a slow shutter mode, to have a “painterly” kind of imagery which I thought would be fitting to his work.   Marcella edited the first chunk, and we decided we needed more to fill it out, and on another visit to the East Coast we spent 5 days hanging around with Steve, going upstate to his house and studio near Saratoga, and got another sizable chunk.   Steve digitized pictures of his paintings, we got his son Asher’s first album, Reichenbach Falls, with his band Ravens and Chimes (very nice music) and Marcella set down again to wrestle it into form.  About a year ago it got pretty much finished, running just over 60 minutes.  But somehow it didn’t quite work, being a little too soft.  We sat on it a while, and then I took a look at some material Marcella hadn’t included (or, as it turns out, even looked at), and without changing much in her edit, I added a few things that seemed to give the film a needed bit of bite.  Now runs 87 minutes.   It was pretty much a 50/50 collaboration between Marcella and me, in all senses.  I shot most of it, Marcella did a bit of camera too, she edited mostly, and I added a bit.  It’s our film.  And of course, Steve’s.

STEVE HOLDS PAINTING (3)Rant

Mr Right was shot last year with my students at Yonsei, a little sketch of the lives of these students, revolving mostly around the matter of love, getting married, under the pressures of Korean cultural norms.   It screened at the Rotterdam festival this year in the context of an omnibus work including 2 other 30 minutes shorts done by my students, titled Love in the Shadows.

MIRA2WIDE

Mr Right

However, out in the larger world, while we may imagine moving time, it is much more that time moves us.  Currently playing out in the world’s attention is the drama in Iran, seemingly heading toward some kind of conclusion.  Listening to the night-time chants of Allah Akbar, echoing from the rooftops and windows of the city, there is a sense of the organic communal life where hidden in anonymity, the many become one.  Those in power surely must find this sound haunting and deeply threatening:

Just as the populace finds these men threatening.

basij iranian militia

basij militia, the police force of the political powers of Iran

teheran image

Off stage, at least to much of the world, another confrontation is occurring, one which, however seemingly distant, is directly enmeshed in each of us:  as with the conflicts in the Nigerian delta over oil extraction, this one, in Peru, has to do with the re-ordering of indigenous cultures – or of wiping them out – in the interests of corporate powers extracting raw materials to support our “modern lifestyle.”   This is the price:

peru police garcia president

peru thomas quirynen marijke deleu

On a more “personal” level, this past week a cousin of mine died, Cis Porter-Chambers.  She was my age, give or take a year, and had lived what I suppose was a thwarted life.  She wanted to be a writer.  She became a mother, had her children abducted by her husband, and then was estranged from them (in a scenario a bit normal for those – like the mother of my daughter Clara – who seize their children like objects, keeping the other parent from contact, and then indoctrinate them as they will).  For the past years Cissie struggled to stay afloat, and then a year or so ago was hospitalized with colon cancer, had a good piece removed, and then last week was hospitalized again with infection which overwhelmed her.   She had found an English teaching job at a community college which she liked and had begun to think of writing, started a blog.  And life is sometimes cruel.

Moving On 1992

No More 1992

A Walk from the Cage 1986Paintings by Steve Lack

RAVENNA

And now back to the boxes and the myriad last minute things of setting off for a trip.

mother-image-2-grand-format

Last night, enticed by the enjoyment had from Bong Joon-ho’s The Host, we went to see his latest, lauded in Cannes, and opened a week or two ago to BO boffo here in Korea.  Mother by title, starring now middle-age star Kim Hye-ja as a real ajjuma, and TV series heart-throb Won Bin as her mentally slow 28 year old son.  Kicking off in his observant style with a very Korean little shop, where mother labors away peddling various herbal items, he promptly shifts gears into a commercial hook:  Do-joon, the not-swift son is side-swiped by a Mercedes on the small town street outside the door of Mom’s shop, and we get a quick dose of smashing cars, blood, and obligatory commercial tension.  Do-joon prompted by his smarter “friend” takes off to exact revenge at a nearby golf-course, an episode which lands up in a police station.  This is mere set-up, to underline Do-joon’s not-all-there state, Mom’s desperate love for him, and to sketch in the provincial small town setting.   The real stuff arrives later, when a school girl is found dead leaning over the roof-top parapet of a building.  Duly evidence points to dim-witted Do-joon, who is prompted to a confession by the local good-cop bad-cop guys, and Mom, ever protective kicks into high gear to prove his innocence.  One plot contrivance falls tidily into place after another as Bong delivers adrenalin jolts, a touch of comedy, blood, a scrambled time-sequence, repeats of earlier scenes, Hye-ja in melodramatic high gear, and hyping the thriller tension with various devices, some rather well-worn as the genre cliches pile up.  All this leads to an ever less believable story when at end it turns out that indeed Do-joon did do it, and Mom in turn kills the witness who saw it, sets fire to his place, and wanders (suddenly less bloody that she should be) off into a lovely grassy field, the same one in which Bong had begun the film with Hye-ja strangely dancing.   Had he concluded the film here, it might have lingered as an elusive vaguely Lynchian weird one.  However Bong lays on another 15 minutes or so of further explication which serves only to underline the heavy plot contrivances which he’d laid out to make his story.

19100513_w434_h_q80

As you might gather, I was not much taken by this film, though there were many things I did like and enjoy.  Bong has a very clean and direct cinematic visual style, and his observation of real-life seems acute, at least for things Korean.  Settings, gestures, behavioral actions are clearly drawn from his close view of Korean life, and the texture he sets his stories in is richly drawn.   Likewise the sets and the lighting are all credible, utterly lacking in the glossy falseness which pervades Hollywood films of our times.  Unfortunately in this case he seems to have felt compelled to cram a connect-the-dots commercial pot-boiler into this setting, flawed with far too much plot contrivance, and further damaged by a dim one-note performance by Won Bin, who may be a tube hottie, but he’s no actor.  His characterization boiled down to an asymmetrical lip curl and bugged eyes.  A few other performances were less than great as well (a secondary detective comes to mind).

mother_3

Given Bong’s gifts for observation, his succinct visual style, and his usual ability to evince strong performances, I’d like to see him do something less plot driven, along the lines of Hou Hsou Hsien, something that perhaps tells a very simple story while simply showing Korean culture as it is.  I would think he could  do something very wonderful along that line, though it seems clear that neither the Korean film industry would be inclined to fund such a non-commercial film, and perhaps Bong would have no interest either.  Pity.

mother

coraline-and-the-secret-door-7

Prompted again by Jean Poulot, we went last week to see Coraline, the stop-motion animated film funded by Portland Nike zillionaire Phil Knight (much maligned back there for myriad dubious corporate behaviors).   We went, of course, owing to Jean’s animation interest, and I suppose as well a little bit of a kind of Portlandphilia, thinking of friends there, including one, Mark Eifert, who turned down a job on this film as he didn’t want to deal with the long commute to southern ‘burb where Nike’s campus is. And I was again curious about the state of 3D and what people are doing with it.

coraline_film_0202

As with Monsters vs Aliens, I was duly impressed with the technical qualities and capacities, but as well with deeper narrative elements and the underneath subtexts.  In this case the animation was a hybrid of stop-motion sort of cleaned up digitally, so that seams in the puppets were erased, and some of the basic crudeness of stop-motion work was tidied up.   Visually it was certainly distinctly different from the CGI of Monsters, with the characters more puppet-like in both looks and movement, a natural by-product of the techniques used.  On the other hand because they were “real,” the clothes, hair, and other elements looked, well, not like high-grade CGI facsimiles, but like “the real thing” because they were, albeit miniaturized to fit the puppets standing a foot or so high.   The result was a pleasingly familiar quality of home-made-ness, which in fact fit the Oregonian setting: gloomy rain forests and cloudy atmospherics.

The story is basically a rather simple moral fable:  A little girl – whose character was clearly willfully less than snuggly-cute, but instead somewhat obnoxious, a real kind of brat – Coraline, has parents who are recognizable types, self-involved and giving minimal time to daughter.  Dad is a writer computer-geek, and with his wife is writing a catalog on gardening though they can’t stand dirt or gardening themselves.   Coraline, moved to the sticks outside Ashland, Oregon, is bored, and in her dreams invents Other Parents who are what her real ones aren’t.  Except in due time the ideal Other Mom morphs into a veritable skeletal witch and is bad news.  Coraline, after some traumatic adventures bee-lines back to the home hearth, and in a final sop to decency Mom gives her the wool gloves she’d hankered for earlier in film and been refused.  Sandwiched into this are a handful of wacky characters who live in the same converted mansion, plus a little boy who befriends our anti-heroine.

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The tone of this modest fable is another story, more Brothers Grimm than Disney by a very long shot, so much so that in the audience I was in some young ones could be heard crying.  I don’t think, having seen it, I’d take someone younger than 10 or 12 to it – too many dark turns, and frankly I felt the overall content was more adult than child-aimed, and I doubt many kids would really get it, however much they might like the fantasy world constructed.  And then, on conclusion I had serious doubts about the actual content of the story which boiled down to “better to accept the real world you have than take chances on changing it.”   Tell that to Phil Knight’s south-east Asian sweat-shop shoemakers.  I’m sure he does.   The Grimm tone of this film seemed reflective of a certain Republican frame of mind, making for a little too much of a down-to-earth landing which subverted most of its imaginative fantasy and left one with a distinctly down-beat feeling at the end.  Perhaps Mr. Knight’s Adam Smith’s unseen hand at play?

The 70-year-old Nike founder has done hundreds of separate stock sales since mid-April, collecting $1.05 billion – well ahead of his $780 million cash-out of shares in 2007. That’s the year he placed 14th in Vanity Fair’s ranking of windfalls made by the rich from selling stock or family empires.

At Knight’s current pace of selling his shares, the one-time track star at the University of Oregon is likely to pass reigning cash-out king Bill Gates, who topped Vanity Fair’s windfall rankings last year at $2.8 billion in stock sales. [May 2008, just before the market crash....]

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And then there is Playtime (1967, Jacques Tati), much beloved of critics, many of whom place it on their “top 10″ of all cinema lists – not that anyone who has not seen every film ever made has any business making such lists, and no one could possible see all of cinema in a single life span.  We went to see it at the Cinematheque here, in a traveling retrospective for which the French cultural institute made sparkling new restored prints, so we were spared looking through a veil of scratches, splice marks, fade chemistry and could see pretty well the 70mm splendour.  Well, sort of.  I think we were watching an HD tape of a 70mm to 35mm print.  Still it looked rather good that way.
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The problem for me was, well, uh, heretically, the film itself.  Starting off in a seeming hospital turned airport turned cubicle office-ville, our reluctant central character Monsieur Hulot, Tati’s alternate self, is found lost in the modernized wonder of the new Paris: sterile 60’s architectural glass boxes announcing the future.  It is said Tati no longer wished to play Hulot, whose character had made his name in Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot, and carried on through Mon Oncle and Trafic.  But the cruel invisible hand of Mr. Knight’s beloved market dictated otherwise, and in order to obtain the funding Tati was required to shamble along as Hulot, yet again.  In this case he materializes as a minor thread in the film, bumbling through the maze of modernity playing something more akin to “Where’s Wally” than a character.  Using his 70mm visual acreage to maximum effect, Tati plants his various characters across a deep space, the screen – a least in the opening passages – speckled with minor figures carefully orchestrated, with little comic incidents in the far background, or anywhere else.  M. Hulot also may be anywhere else, hence where’s Wally.

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The major thread through which Hulot attempts to knit his non-narrative is a bus-load of hokey American tourists, who are duly skewered for being hokey American tourists. We follow them on a their tour of the spanking new anonymous Paris, in which the old Paris occasionally materializes as a reflection in the glassy mirrors of the new: the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Coeur, and other emblematic icons slide by in the turn of a door. The one “real” slice of Parisian life is an old lady at her flower stand who is used by our tourists as a prop, and likewise by Tati.  Several other nationalities are duly skewered.

Following the deep space escapades in the bland cubicle-land, Hulot is whisked away by a friend from the army to a bland glass-fronted first floor modern apartment where socializing seems to consist of watching television, fully exposed to the street. This scene is replicated as in new apartment buildings, in the next apartment and the next. Ha ha. This set-piece falls rather flat.

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The film now moves along to a newly minted nightclub, where many a spratfall is made on the basis of its just opened (almost) state, and the screen is crammed with diners, musicians, the staff of the club, and the spectator is tiresomely bludgeoned with increasingly more frantic, repetitious and less funny humor. Of course the bus-load of American tourists arrives, and Mr Hulot/Wally wanders in and out.

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At end the club closes, a rich obnoxious American who has played major role in the nightclub sequence retires with friends to a cafe for a cuppa, and the American tourists depart in the bus. The film does not end, it deflates in a merry-go-round traffic circle of not-so-funny montage, and Tati closes the curtain on his career.  Well, almost.  Despite the allegedly fatal effect on his career, Playtime was followed up by Trafic (more of the same) and Parade.

Back when it was released audiences apparently voted with their feet, and this film, costly by the standards of the day, was a flop from which Tati never recovered. The critics of the day were mixed, but slowly Playtime has clawed its way to a place of reverence in critical circles. In my view the audience was right – this film is a turkey, and despite occasional flashes of brilliance (mostly at the beginning), it fails to sustain anything, uses its threads (Hulot, the American tourists) as cheap devices to string together a sequence of essentially unrelated set-pieces, and collapses in the unfunny chaos of the closing night-club passage. Its handful of funny concepts are usually driven into the ground with repetition, just as its satire tilts towards the overly obvious and far too easy.  It was apparently unscripted, and in the pejorative sense of it, looks it.   That Tati shows flashes of brilliance in his use of the screen space does not salvage the utter failure to orchestrate time, an essential element of any work which operates in time – be it music, theater, or cinema, or cover for many of his jokes which are facile and worn.

What this seems to say about critics is that if you’ve had a run-in with the business, or worse yet, the audience, this must be ipso facto evidence that you are far ahead of your times. Never mind that the evidence on the screen is that you made a flop, an incoherent pastiche of set-pieces which don’t really hold together, resorted to dim slapstick, repeating of the same jokes to exhaustion and culminated with a long and boring finale which fails miserably to pull it all together. That this was done on 70mm, includes some visual panache here and there, doesn’t really matter. This film is a god awful mess, and the hoi polloi were correct. The critics were and are wrong.

Wally/Hulot lost his way, and is not to be found.

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