Monthly Archives: March 2010

Lone Wolf

Two films by famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, Yojimbo and Sanjuro, both feature actor Toshirô Mifune playing the reluctant samurai Sanjuro Kuwabatake. Toshirô was directed to act out the mannerisms of a wolf for the role. Throughout the films, he walks with his arms in his kimono. When the arms appear the visual is more strongly associated with violence than the unsheathing of his sword; a wolf bearing its teeth. Also, Toshirô shakes his shoulders as in an involuntary twitch; a wolf shaking off fleas. This may or may not have something to do with kitsune-tsuki, or fox possession. Yojimbo was remade as a spaghetti western starring Clinton Eastwood, A Fistful of Dollars. Maybe I’ll watch that next.

Dog carry hand Runner carry car keys

Kurosawa challenged his assistant directors to envision the most menacing introduction to a town gone bad, but the best idea turned out to be his own; a dog wandering the empty streets carrying a severed human hand in its mouth. Yesterday I got suckered into purchasing a high resolution digital copy of this photo from the Hartford marathon’s photographers. Two striking details; my friend Eliot appears in the frame, out of focus in the background, and I carried my car keys the duration of the race, visible in my right hand. This second fact seems to mark the photo with an indelible time stamp. Runners probably did not carry their car keys fifty years ago. Fifty years from now, they probably won’t either, and if they do, it will not be in their hand, but under their skin. If there are cars.

Dog carry hand 2

“This interstate is like a knife wound all across the country. Sure- you could do this sort of thing from here to California. Anyone who wants to, though, had better hurry. Before long, to go all the way across by yourself will be a fossil experience. A person or two. One car. Coast to coast. People do it now without thinking much about it. Yet it’s a most unusual kind of personal freedom- particular to this time span, the one we happen to be in. It’s an amazing, temporary phenomenon that will end. We have the best highway system in the world. It lets us do what people in no other country can do. And it is also an ecological disaster.” Karen Kleinspehn, geologist, as quoted by John McPhee, from Annals of the Former World, .

Sunday Coming

Work monkey

How work makes me feel. Today I work a double.

Rollergirl Don’t Worry

Skateaway

RIP Jayzik Azikiwe. The poet, songwriter, singer, and rollergirl from Dire Straits’ video, Skateaway, passed away in January 2008. She wrote the unofficial anthem for The Gambia, still available on YouTube: “Be at one with nature. Eat fresh fruits on the beach. Travel ’round safari style. Try the local treats.”

Three decades ago, live.

Paw on hand

Sleep is dangerous. Creatures of the sea, lizards, birds… these tend to rest half the brain at a time. Its nothing to do with smarts. Dolphins log at the surface of the wide ocean. One eye open. Only land mammals sleep both brains at once. This is supposedly because a marmot once dug a hole, and was safe for the night. Habits change over time. Nowadays we terrestrial beasts sometime snooze two to a sofa.

Vegans Don’t Get Cheetos Fingers

Foot murderer

I cranked the elliptical up a couple notches. In sharp contrast to all the hopping gym bunnies, I moved in super slow motion. My heart pounded out my chest, 170 times a minute. Perspiration drenched my bathing suit to the point it looked like I peed myself. A wet ring of sweat encircled the machine when I left.

I opened the window and the fresh air permeated through the stale cavern of my basement abode. Roly Poly perked up, inhaled deeply. Invigorated as a man’s armpit in an Irish Spring commercial, he sprinted around the apartment like a jackrabbit. Rewilded, feral-again, he bit my foot and made it bleed. Drunk on spring air, he then curled up beside me and went to sleep.

I waited on four young women on a Friday night. Emboldened by a kombucha ripe with living bacteria, I flirted with them using the complex signaling of drink toys. A differently colored, large naked mermaid in each of their cocktails. These toys aren’t for kids. One of the girls asked me, “Do you ever play Marry, Fuck, Kill?” I said we sometimes play “Would you rather?” in our restaurant. She asked if I’d rather go out with her very pretty friend or the very pretty hostess, or the male food runner. I said no to the male, and that the hostess had a boyfriend. She has a boyfriend too, the girl said, about her friend. You lose, she said.

She asked me would you rather have permanent Cheetos fingers or lifelong body odor? I’ll take the body odor, I answered confidently. I reasoned that in some countries body odor was a good thing, a status symbol. The girls laughed at me. They said they would all take Cheetos fingers. The food runner came over and said he would choose Cheetos fingers too. You could just wear gloves, he said. Plus Cheetos are so damn tasty. He licked his fingers. They loved it. “It ain’t easy bein’ cheesy,” I retorted.

RT @nytimes Why We Travel

The ice stabbed into my back

LYING ON KUNMING LAKE AT THE SUMMER PALACE IN BEIJING, FEB. 18, 2010
Feng Xiwen, 22, a fourth-year medical student from Chengdu, Sichuan. “This is my last winter break before I graduate, so I came to Beijing with a few friends. I really love traveling, and always do it during my school vacations. Sometimes I skip school to do it but don’t tell my parents. I’ve been to Qinghai, Guangxi, but never to Beijing, because I thought it was too boring, with nothing to see. I came because I recently saw a movie called ‘Summer Palace,’ and there was the most beautiful scene, really short, set at the lake in the Summer Palace. So I decided I really wanted to come row a boat in this lake. I didn’t know it was going to be frozen over! I came with a friend, who got lazy and went to find coffee. I trudged down to the lake by myself, got mud all over my shoes, and just lay down. The ice really stabbed into my back. On the train ride back to Chengdu, I decided I don’t want to be a doctor anymore. It is a very difficult profession, and I didn’t think it through clearly when I decided to go to medical school. I want to work in the film industry. You get to work everywhere in the world.”
As told to Xiyun Yang

From the slideshow Why We Travel, on nytimes.com.

Déjà Visité

Small moon small fires

I had the only window at this point, and I looked out, and doggone if the moon wasn’t visible in the daylight right straight out the top of the window. I know they’re doin’ their job right because the moon’s right straight ahead and that’s where we’re pointed and they’re gonna launch us right straight to this thing.

In Africa, there are a lot of nomads out in the desert. Clear desert nights you see the fires from all of them. These little yellow dots that represent fires from all these nomads camping out. Then you recognize the broad area you’re looking at and each of the little dots represented people, other humans that are out there in an environment that I would consider more strange than the environment they might think about me.

Module window Minds window

When you’re out there in this little command module you see the risk you’re taking because you realize if the glass breaks or the computers quit working or the electrical system quits working you’re not going to get back. You have time to contemplate this, you have time to think about it, you have time to run it through your mind a lot of different times.

My mind’s one that just goes constantly. I took a sleeping pill, slept like a baby. I had one dream that was very vivid. In my dream we were driving a rover up to the north and you didn’t really feel like you were out there. It was untouched. The serenity of it… had a pristine purity about it We crossed a hill, I felt, “Gosh I been here before,” and there was a set of tracks out in front of us. We asked Houston if we could follow the tracks and they said yeah. We turned and followed the tracks, within an hour or so we found this vehicle, looked just like the rover. Two people in it, they looked like me and John, had been there for thousands of years. It was not a nightmare type situation, nothing like that. Probably one of the most real experiences of my life.

A small step

All four of the excepts above are from Al Reinert’s 1989 documentary, For All Mankind, a film cut from the images taken during the Apollo missions, in the words of the twenty four astronauts who went to the moon. A couple of notes- the first picture, of the moon hanging above the launch pad, is actually a photo that the director and his film crew pasted on a hatch cover at the Johnson Space Center to illustrate Ken Mattingly’s description of what he saw in flight. This was done without much controversy (director fakes moon launch!) and in is an example of Herzog’s ecstatic truth in action. The fourth excerpt is an account of the first remembered dream a human being has had on the moon, a dream about déjà vu. Small steps take us back.

Siempre En Mi Mente

Leopard skin pillbox hat

Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin’ like that
Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

Coral Colonies Are Like Human Cities / Human Brains

crouching hidden

The TV images flashed in my mind. A high-definition encounter of the four hour kind that I could not shake for the sake of sleep. Brüno (a film I rented to watch with my aunt, on Errol Morris’ recommendation; “The best film of 2009,”) asking the martial arts instructor how to protect yourself from a white dildo / a black dildo / two dildos at once. Young Kobe Bryant talking about younger Lebron James, (More Than A Game; sports documentaries are my popcorn flicks) who as a junior in high school appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated; “If he believes in himself, he’ll be alright.” The mile-high glaciers of North America’s last ice age draining the ocean’s waters, Florida emerging like a belly of land and growing to three times its current width, processes reverse and melting begins. The great warming of the Human Age; boob jobs, orange skin, millionaires in convertibles… Miami Beach; the Ocean Drive street sign eclipsed by waves and gone under the rising waters.

Lines in the sand

In the morning I ate a breakfast of seaweed and ran to the ocean.

El Topo

Alejandro Jodorowsky is El Topo

The story begins with a gunfighter in black on horseback, his naked son riding along. They stop somewhere in the desert and dismount. The gunfighter tells his son to dig a hole, and in it to bury his favorite toy and the only photo of his mother. That got my attention. Then the title screen… “EL TOPO. The mole digs tunnels under the earth, looking for the sun. Sometimes, he gets to the surface. When he sees the sun, he is blinded.” I picked up El Topo in the experimental film section of the video store. I expected that like many experimental films, it would be abstract, disjointed, difficult to absorb, lacking the narrative thrust of a normal picture. Instead I found El Topo to be like a modern videogame filmed in the desert of Mexico in the late sixties.

El Topo, played by director Alejandro Jodorowsky, abandons the naked boy at a monastery. A woman love interest joins him in the saddle. She says she only wants to be with the best; to gain her love, he must challenge the master gunslingers. El Topo tells her the desert is a circle; they will ride in a spiral to find them. The master gunslingers are imaginative and the fights are satisfying. However if this was all there was then El Topo would be a cheap Seven Samurai. The fun is in the details, what Jodorowsky would call the symbolism. The level of violence exceeds Quentin Tarantino, and nothing is sacred. Bandits rape monks, children shoot themselves point blank in the head, and in one memorable scene, a cactus fruit is used to simulate cunnilingus.

Cactus Fruit Cunnilingus

Roger Ebert handles the meta-tags: “What is El Topo seeking in the desert? Why, he is seeking symbols, images, bizarre people and events, with which to fill the film. The ceaseless shocking images on the screen, are what made “El ‘Topo” an underground hit in one New York theater for months in 1970. Not the story, not the performances, not the stars (Jodorowsky himself plays El Topo and the child is his own son). The images… physically challenged characters; amputees, people with Down syndrome, dwarfs, those whose bodies end at their trunks, men who talk with women’s voices, women who talk with men’s, a man without legs riding on the shoulders of a man without arms, and one of the most persistent images in the director’s work, a symbiosis between a person without arms and another who stands close behind and allows his arms to act as the other’s.”

Cazador de Mariposas

Bullet with butterfly wings

“You want to fight me? How will you do it? I haven’t got a gun anymore. I traded the gun for a butterfly net. You’ll have to fight with your fists. Strike! Strike! Strike! You see, my net is mightier than your bullets.”

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