Thursday, 30 March 2006

Interview Round II

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.

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Jungfrukällan [The Virgin Spring]

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

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Hazardous Waste Spill

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.

Monday, 27 March 2006

Antici…pation

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.

Friday, 24 March 2006

Phlegmatic

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.

Wednesday, 22 March 2006