The Witness of These

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

You do not con­sist of any of the el­e­ments — earth, wa­ter, fire, air, or even ether. To be lib­er­ated, know your­self as con­sist­ing of con­scious­ness, the wit­ness of these. If only you will re­main rest­ing in con­scious­ness, see­ing your­self as dis­tinct from the body, then even now you will be­come happy, peace­ful and free from bonds. You do not be­long to the brah­min or any other caste, you are not at any stage, nor are you any­thing that the eye can see. You are un­at­tached and form­less, the wit­ness of every­thing — so be happy.

Astavakra Gita as trans­lated by John Richards

Great thanks go to Robert Millis & his doc­u­men­tary The World is Unreal like a Snake in a Rope, a trailer of which you can see be­low.

Much re­spect also to Matt Wascovich & Scarcity of Tanks for be­ing the draw. Their newest al­bum, Bleed Now, is fun­da­men­tally awe­some.

Armageddon

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Bruce Willis IS America (Pre-9/11, now it's Kiefer Sutherland)

A part of this view­ing listCriterion Collection Spine #40: Michael Bay’s Armageddon.

Despite the laugh­able fact that this movie is in­cluded in the Criterion Collection; and the al­most cer­tain fi­nan­cial & busi­ness-tac­ti­cal rea­sons for its in­clu­sion, I’m go­ing to try to re­view this film in good faith. This Michael Bay block­buster came out in 1998, and that’s im­por­tant, be­cause I can’t imag­ine a film like this be­ing made at all post-​9/​11. Yeah, I went there. The film is a self-con­grat­u­la­tory pro­jec­tion of America at the height of its pride, but be­fore it had got­tenth to the fall; an America that fan­cied it­self so in­vin­ci­ble that it could kick a Texas-sized asteroid’s ass in 18 days. An America with no prob­lems. This is a movie made in an America that had for­got­ten what it is like to be hum­bled. (And if you think it’s just co­in­ci­dence that the as­ter­oid is “Texas-sized”, you’re an id­iot).

Despite the not-so-laugh­able fact that the en­tire world is threat­ened by the as­ter­oid, the only ones who can save the day are Americans. Americans who are ar­ro­gant dicks. (Redundant, I know.) America is the theme of this movie, not cos­mic an­ni­hi­la­tion. Most no­tice­ably, there are flags draped every­where, they are like sa­cred ta­pes­tries, and nearly every scene is con­structed to honor or pro­mote American-ness in some way. Plus, Bruce Willis; prob­a­bly the most stereo­typ­i­cally “American” ac­tion hero. There’s noth­ing orig­i­nal here, the film is ba­si­cally a HGH ver­sion of the played-out “can we dis­arm the bomb in time?” trope.

Armageddon might be the most quin­tes­sen­tially American movie of the post-WWII era. Its ge­nius is that of an id­iot sa­vant, but be­cause this movie lacks any­thing ap­proach­ing self-aware­ness, the glory of its bravado & ob­vi­ous tack­i­ness cap­ture what it means to be American in the purest of terms. Michael Bay set out to make a block­buster about America’s big balls and suc­ceeded, but in his quest to present us with two hours of sub­con­scious mas­tur­ba­tory zeit­geist-stroking (thereby turn­ing us into lab rats who don’t even have to hit the crack but­ton) he man­aged to re­move any­thing vaguely ap­proach­ing a com­pelling nar­ra­tive.  The movie is pablum; there is no there there, and that is the only rea­son it is pos­si­ble to make the grandiose claims I’m mak­ing about this film. If you are a thought­ful per­son, let­ting the tits, ex­plo­sions, & smart-mouthed di­a­logue flow through you is like sit­ting zazen and pen­e­trat­ing through the im­pen­e­tra­ble mu of the American psy­che through the force of sheer baf­fle­ment. You will grasp for any sort of mean­ing and come up empty, and at the ut­ter­most depth of your de­spair, when you sur­ren­der to the id­iocy; en­light­en­ment. This film is the ar­che­type.

How Becoming a Parent Changed Me

Friday, 1 October 2010

Becoming a par­ent does change things. I’ve heard that nearly my en­tire life, but no one has been able to suc­cess­fully ex­plain what the hell the state­ment means. It just rings a bit hol­low as an un­ex­plained tru­ism. However! I think I’ve fig­ured out a cou­ple of ways to ex­plain things; or, at least, ex­plain how be­com­ing a par­ent changed me.

Nostalgia

Watching Bram dis­cover the world al­lows me to dis­cover it again. I used to boast that I’d never lose a child­like sense of won­der, but watch­ing the lit­tle bear wig out over a train or an or­ange car shows me just how much I’d lost of that amaze­ment. One of the com­pletely un­ex­pected and un­de­served ben­e­fits of be­ing a par­ent is the abil­ity to re­live those first mo­ments of won­der vic­ar­i­ously. This vic­ar­i­ous feel­ing is sweet­ened and en­hanced by a nos­tal­gia born of re­mem­ber­ing things you’d for­got­ten you’d known. Being with Bram when he saw a freighter leave the mouth of the Cuyahoga from the Coast Guard Station at Whiskey Island pro­vided me with lay­ers and lay­ers of emo­tion stretch­ing from my own child­hood: nos­tal­gia at that level of en­thu­si­asm, the joy of re­mem­ber­ing some mo­ments of my own tod­dler ex­pe­ri­ences; and into the present: vic­ar­i­ously ex­pe­ri­enc­ing that emo­tion again, grat­i­tude at be­ing present for your own child’s mo­ment of satori, and pride that you in some way fa­cil­i­tated the process.

Extrapolating from here, I imag­ine that grand­par­ents feel much of the same; a third chance to ex­pe­ri­ence child­hood with the added bonus of a sec­ond chance to ex­pe­ri­ence par­ent­ing.

Reference Manual

I’ve gained a whole new per­spec­tive of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the par­ent­ing ex­am­ples of my par­ents. When I find my­self in a sit­u­a­tion where I’m un­sure of how to pro­ceed, I can think back to what worked and didn’t work on me, and adapt those lessons to what­ever I’m try­ing to fig­ure out with lit­tle bear. If I find my­self sec­ond-guess­ing or un­sure of my de­ci­sions, I know I’m just a phone call away from a to­tal pro.

So, par­ent­ing has changed my life by the ad­di­tion of con­text; vic­ar­i­ous nos­tal­gia by al­low­ing me to com­pare my child­hood to my son’s & a whole new ref­er­ence man­ual of be­hav­iors com­ing from what I ob­served about par­ent­ing be­fore I be­came one my­self. I un­der­stand that some folks don’t get why oth­ers would want to be par­ents, and that’s cool. For me, it’s al­ready pro­vided a wealth of new and old ex­pe­ri­ences that I never would have ex­pected, and that I ex­pect will never end.