Dad

Friday, 31 March 2006

One of the first mem­o­ries I have of my Dad is crawl­ing un­der­neath the “tent” he made with his leg. I was small enough and he was big enough that be­ing un­der a bent leg was con­sid­ered a tent. This was most like­ly at our house on Franklin Street. My dad was a big man. 63″ and over 200 pounds when I was grow­ing up. It was easy to sit on his shoul­ders to put a bas­ket­ball through the hoop, and from him I learned that the hoop is big enough to fit two balls through side-by-side. Other things I learned from my fa­ther in­clude how to jig for crap­pie and bait a night­crawler. For the most part I feel like I was a great dis­ap­point­ment to him. We had dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests, and while I didn’t re­al­ize it as a child, I don’t think we con­nect­ed as peo­ple very well. He en­cour­aged me to play base­ball and bas­ket­ball, but I spent my time in left field chas­ing but­ter­flies and any brief court time I had, trip­ping over my own feet. That’s not to say we didn’t en­joy some of the same things, fish­ing and clas­sic cars are both things I have a great in­ter­est in to this day. I even helped him and one of his bud­dies re­store a 1970 GTO. Since my dad was a me­chan­ic, he un­der­stood all about en­gine guts and I main­ly ran the sand­blaster and was go­pher.

When my mom filed for di­vorce I saw a side of my fa­ther that I’d ei­ther nev­er seen be­fore, or had been obliv­i­ous to. One vis­it with him re­sult­ed in a long dri­ve around the coun­try, for hours, as he yelled about all kinds of dif­fer­ent things, and an­oth­er in­ci­dent so scared me that I jumped out of the same GTO we’d re­stored be­cause I was afraid of be­ing beat­en on­ce we got to his place. After that in­ci­dent, most of my con­tact with him ceased. It has been some­thing around ten years now since I’ve spo­ken with him. I think I still want his ap­proval, al­though I don’t seek it. The love and trust that I had for him as a child is so tan­gled and com­pli­cat­ed by hind­sight and the new sides that I saw that it is eas­ier to main­tain my cur­rent space than at­tempt to es­tab­lish civil and diplo­mat­ic re­la­tions.

I don’t spend much time think­ing about him, but when I do, I main­ly won­der about the lessons I missed dur­ing my teenage years, and how I might be a dif­fer­ent man [bad or good?] to­day as a re­sult of them.

Interview Round II

Thursday, 30 March 2006

I made it to the sec­ond ses­sion of grantee in­ter­views last night, out in Mt. Pleasant. We in­ter­viewed six grant-seek­ers over at three hour pe­ri­od. The seg­re­ga­tion of Cleveland prop­er was re­al­ly brought home to me dur­ing this time. The Neighborhood Connections GMMC is quite a di­verse bunch of peo­ple, and by ne­ces­si­ty. Also by ne­ces­si­ty, peo­ple that don’t live in the neigh­bor­hoods that send the grants are the ones who de­cide which grants get fund­ed. This helps avoid con­flicts of in­ter­est, but al­so cre­ates some awk­ward-feel­ing sit­u­a­tions. I’m the youngest mem­ber of the com­mit­tee and a mi­nor­i­ty on it since I’m white and a dude. 

The ap­pear­ance of our sub-com­mit­tee doesn’t ex­act­ly re­flect the di­ver­si­ty of the whole group, though. I’m afraid that to many of the folks com­ing in, it looked like black folk com­ing to white folk for mon­ey. My sub-group [of which I’m just an al­ter­nate] is com­posed of 3 smart and ex­pe­ri­enced wom­en, two white and one black. I main­ly sit back and let them ask the ques­tions and act like a sponge. It is sur­pris­ing­ly easy to tell how pre­pared some of the grantseek­ers are, how en­thu­si­as­tic they are about their pro­gram, how vi­able their pro­gram is.

Apparently, Mt. Pleasant has a lot of crime and a few times the group stopped talk­ing grants and start­ed talk­ing com­mu­ni­ty ac­tivism, which I sup­pose should be ex­pect­ed con­sid­er­ing no one is a mem­ber of the GMMC un­less they are ac­tive in their own com­mu­ni­ties. I’m won­der­ing about the de­clined grant-seek­er process. I won­der if the com­mit­tee gives rea­sons why a grant is de­clined. I think it would be use­ful, be­cause some grants would be awe­some if they could be im­ple­ment­ed or or­ga­nized a bit bet­ter.

Jungfrukällan [The Virgin Spring]

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

A part of this view­ing list: Criterion Collection Spine #321: Ingmar Bergman’s Jungfrukällan [The Virgin Spring].

tree.jpg

The Virgin Spring is based on a Swedish bal­lad called “Töre’s Daughter in Vänge” that, for the life of me, I can­not find on­line [al­though it is avail­able as part of the lin­er notes for the Criterion edi­tion of the film]. This bal­lad re­counts the rape and mur­der of a vir­gin on her way to church and the father’s ret­ri­bu­tion. The bal­lad is short and was fleshed out sig­nif­i­cant­ly in Bergman’s fi­nal treat­ment, with added lay­ers of con­flict, pathos and ex­is­ten­tial strug­gle to sup­port the weight of a fea­ture length film. I re­mem­ber a cou­ple of film ma­jors who hat­ed Bergman when I was in col­lege. I’ve nev­er re­al­ly had that an­i­mos­i­ty, I like the state­li­ness of his style and the re­spect with which he treats his char­ac­ters. The Virgin Spring is no slouch when it comes to this, and Ang Lee’s in­tro­duc­tion [ap­par­ent­ly The Virgin Spring was the first art film he ever saw] seems to back up my own feel­ings on Bergman.

The sto­ry is a mir­a­cle play, a moral­i­ty play and a folk tale. There is great ten­sion be­tween new­ly con­vert­ed Christian Swedes [many of whom have no idea what a church looks like] and those who still wor­ship Odin & Co. There is gen­der and class ten­sion as well, and an un­der­cur­rent of the su­per­nat­u­ral that the char­ac­ters rec­og­nize as pow­er­ful and use­ful, al­though they are too hu­man to use it them­selves.

Blonde-haired Karin is the spoiled on­ly daugh­ter of Töre and Ingeri is a dark and wild fos­ter­ling who does most of the work. They are nec­es­sar­i­ly an­tag­o­nists and Karin’s to­ken Christianity is bal­anced by the fer­vor of Ingeri’s pa­gan­ism. Similarly, the Christian fer­vor of Töre’s wife Märeta is bal­anced by her hus­bands spir­i­tu­al­ly shrugged shoul­ders.

Karin gets all spiffed out in her best to go de­liv­er some can­dles to church. Ingeri sets off with her but gets freaked out by some creep­tas­tic guy who mans the ford at the river. Once she es­capes, it is too late for Karin. She’s al­ready deep in the clutch­es of three herders who spout things like the wolf says to Red Riding Hood. She is raped [a scene which was heav­i­ly cen­sored at the time of re­lease in the US, but seems rather tame now, es­pe­cial­ly in com­par­i­on with Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs] and af­ter the act, her hys­ter­ics cause one of the herders to club her to death. They strip her of her fin­ery and run off, leav­ing their lit­tle broth­er who is wracked with guilt, to guard the body. [If ever there was a time for a joke in poor taste about “If she didn’t want to be raped she shouldn’t have dressed that way” this is it. Bergman’s treat­ment keeps the vic­tim­hood with Karin though. She is not at fault.]

As Fate or the Allfather or God would have it, the herders show up at Töre’s farm and beg guestright for the evening. Töre of­fers it to them and they break bread. The lit­tlest herder gets sick be­cause of his guilt, and the fact that he knows they are in the house of the daugh­ter they killed adds ex­tra suf­fer­ing. Later that evening one of the herders of­fers to sell Karin’s clothes back to the moth­er. This part strikes me as slight­ly con­fus­ing, un­less he knows that he is pro­tect­ed by guestright and just wants to rub in his act, why would he give those clothes back?

Once Töre dis­cov­ers that he has fed and shel­tered the mur­der­ers of his on­ly daugh­ter he de­cides to take vengeance. First he takes a pu­ri­fy­ing bath, and while he goes out to get some birch branch­es, de­cides to rip the whole tree out of the ground in his agony and anger.

He pre­pares him­self, with the help of Ingeri, and then mur­ders all three herders, in­clud­ing the boy, most vi­cious­ly. Wracked with guilt that he so eas­i­ly act­ed unChris­tian­like and stuff, he search­es out Karin’s body and has a heart to heart with God. Tore says that he doesn’t un­der­stand God, but asks for for­give­ness any­way, and promis­es to build a stone and mor­tar church [the stone and mor­tar is a big deal in 14th Century Sweden] on the site of her mur­der. In covenant, a spring ap­pears where Karin lay and the film ends.

Down to fun­da­men­tals, the film wrestles with emo­tions and de­sires that are re­strict­ed by moral and spir­i­tu­al codes. It is no less im­por­tant that Töre broke guestright than he mur­dered a child and dis­card­ed his new faith. The vi­cious­ness of the rape is nec­es­sary to bal­ance the depth of Töre’s rage and lat­er re­pen­tence. In the fi­nal wash, Bergman seems to be say­ing that life is of­ten self­ish and ter­ri­ble, but those same ter­ri­ble acts can act as spurs to acts of self­less cre­ation. I guess.

Criterion Essay by Peter Cowie
• Max Von Sydow Gallery from The Virgin Spring

Hazardous Waste Spill

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Threes days gone down the by the road rag­ing sybarisms and in­tac­tic redac­tions sin­gle-mo­lar in­tran­si­gent men­di­cant med­ica­tion repli­ca­tors, re­state rewrithe in­ter­me­dia ne­ces­si­tate in­ter­alia re­cal­i­brat­ed the one washed where­with­al danc­ing on a ball en­tranc­ing sea­son­al spring rea­son­able thing this that there loaf­ing in the wings of han­ker hangar han­ky-panky in­cor­rec­ti­tude and a di­et rich in amoral fiber rich and lo­gy with prick­ly thick­ets of thought thinkers loaf­ing on breads of self con­tained syl­lo­gisms tasti­ly un­mag­i­cal­ly de­cant­ed pre­cip­i­tate and fall out on the bounce with scim­i­tar slide gui­tar rankling wran­gler ha­rangu­ing around down­town with lit­tle to do and no one to pay me for it.

Antici…pation

Monday, 27 March 2006

National Poetry Month doesn’t start for an­oth­er week, but I’m al­ready psy­ched. I don’t think I’m go­ing to have a haiku or po­et­ry con­test this year, since en­tries have tailed off sig­nif­i­cant­ly since I was in col­lege, but I will on­ce again do my po­em-a-day thing that I start­ed last year. I feel like I’ve been bork­ing things up for the past mon­th or so but hope­ful­ly I’m emerg­ing from that galac­tic weird­ness with new fo­cus. Hopefully this will re­sult in bet­ter po­et­ry than I’m used to writ­ing.

Phlegmatic

Friday, 24 March 2006

My apart­ment cur­rent­ly looks like what most peo­ple ex­pect a bachelor’s apart­ment to look like. It is in post-sick­ness dis­as­ter re­cov­ery mode right now. That means that I’ve picked up all of the sop­ping hand­ker­chiefs and thrown away all the snot­ty tis­sue. I’ve yet to wash all of the sticky with dried or­ange juice dish­es or throw out the toast rinds and co­ag­u­lat­ed chick­en noodle soup. Clothes, blan­kets, socks are strewn about, a pic­ture is awry be­cause I bumped in­to it, and for some un­known rea­son, there is a pil­low in the mid­dle of the kitchen floor. I guess I know what I’m do­ing this week­end. That’s right. Coughing up phlegm that is so dense it sinks.

I Have Mad Cow

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

that is, if dele­ri­ous rav­ings all night and a vi­o­lent chest cough is mad cow.