this, that, and the Other

identity, alterity, and everything in between

Category: Silliness

an anecdotal review of a film i saw on a weekday once

It begins at a mall with my father and youngest brother. It is interesting where we begin, or rather where we find ourselves beginning to speak. And it’s a mall, across the street from yet another mall, and it’s my father who says it’s a fun movie which I doubt, and it’s my younger brother who tells me I probably won’t like it. We pay. We watch previews and advertisements respectively which, given their ordering, I am assured are discrete things. Welles was obsessed with the camera as an eye. As a view and an ordering of things. Cinema is an answer. Maybe the questions are always asked after the fact, but what you walk into a film asking seems salient at any rate. And when walking in, and yes, paying, paying to be let in, and see The Avengers, one asks questions or presumes them.

The ultimate feeling one gets before the giant vision of a screen of men is an comforting finitude.  There is a woman somewhere in the film who thrives on the insecurities of less heroic men. Some have made mention that this is a radical statement about the subjectivity of being a woman or maybe it’s a radical statement about the movie industry or maybe it’s an ironic critique of the sidelining of women or how sexuality is always a failure. Maybe we are all black widows to the corporate America we are led to believe S.H.I.E.L.D. fails to be. Tony Stark succeeds and we know this because he is an all American heterosexual white male hero—a category the slightly flaccid Rogers reminds Stark he fails at. Supposedly the ending of the film disproves Rogers because Captain America fails to have wings or a jetpack or anything really other than nationalistic virtue and a proclivity for sticking around. Tony Stark due to presumably not going public or by dipping into the company pocketbook bravely teaches us that only CEO’s can enter the void of the universe. This is what the film means by vengeance.

On more than one occasion the film whispered to me I was Banner who is perpetually avenging himself against himself which gives him definite contours of self-reflexivity. Banner is something of a William Burroughs without conviction. Perhaps the most relatable in his awkwardness, which is yet another failure, but also most complicit in his passivity, Ruffalo plays a sort of Kubrick Joker or Alex or whatever Tom Cruise’s titular male porn star character in Eyes Wide Shut was called. This is perhaps why Mark Ruffalo makes so many romantic comedies. In both his romantic comedies and The Avengers, Ruffalo’s nudity plays a prominent role.

Stark wants you to think the Hulk is the real Banner or that Banner is some alter not-Hulk, meaning the dissonance or resistance to capital is a sort of negative narcissism. To be angry is to succumb. Unless of course you smash which is something sadly Banner never quite does to Stark or S.H.I.E.L.D. but who knows what will happen in the next movie or two. For now he dares not destroy our big American submarine-boat-helicopter, but of course we do with our imaginations, if not for justice ,at least for the spectacle of justice. And this is why they chose Loki as the protagonist of the film—an honestly corrupt fellow with nude paradoxical limbs rendered seamlessly explicit.

And here we have these various men who bring with them worlds, both literal and metaphorically literal, and politics and ideologies and general mythos to bear on our protagonist’s oedipal problems. We are led to like this or that particular instantiation according to plot and whim.  These moments of dissonance, world scraping world, seem the most pleasant—who doesn’t love the frottage of a Captain America and Iron Man after all? Of course we know the phallus of corporate America will win out in the end, the flaccidity of post-WWII America having become an overstated albeit nostalgic fact.

I must tell you at some point in the center of the film I left to use the bathroom and I don’t think I missed too much or rather I experienced something other people in the theater probably didn’t get to. There is a fight near the end and some extra stuff if you stick around through the credits which, as an exercise, is meant to lead us to believe is not part of the film. When I saw Thor eating a sandwich it was the closest I came to sympathy with any character throughout the film. Oh and someone died near the beginning which was sad because he was being paid by the government to make guns.

We left shortly thereafter and argued about this and that about the film but really we were talking about each other and how afraid and guilty we all are. If we could truly love each other I bet I would’ve liked the movie a lot more. If I had to remake the movie I think I’d cast Jack Kerouac as Captain America, Esther Newton as Tony Stark, GWF Hegel as Thor, Teddy Roosevelt as Hawkeye, Bjork as Black Widow, Loki played alternately by Michel Foucault and VI Lenin, Leonard Cohen as Bruce Banner, and Nina Simone as the Hulk. Of course Samuel L. Jackson would reprise his role.

We would film on location at the edge of the universe and the earth respectively and I imagine we’d shoot on an iPhone. I’d then project it on my breast, film it with my webcam, and upload it in segments to youtube. Naturally, I’d sue any theater or distributor who dared play it for copyright infringement (and maybe something about distributing pornography as well). No one would die though and we’d open with everyone eating sandwiches and end with a shot of Charlie Chaplin as a marine alternatively crying and trying on outfits but sort of smiling in between. If you stuck around until the very end you’d get to see a special little scene where we show you the names of all the people who worked on the film.

VIDEO SURPRISE

SO. I made a video. I hope you like it. I read some old poems and a new poem and chat too much but I was feeling chatty. I also started talking too soon. ENJOY.

BTDUBBS: I realize I said something weird about tallow coming from milk fat WHEN WE ALL KNOW it’s rendered beef fat. MY BAD. It also was and still is in some places used in feed. So like, cows are eating cow fat. Gross, I know.

New Poem and Disclosure

Readers!

Forgive my lack of posting. I’ve wrapped up grad apps (the rejection letters should begin coming in) and been editing a rather long (collection of?) poem(s), all while of course working and just having moved to a new place. So. Been busy but far from unbearably so.

Given the edit edit editing I took a small break to toss this poem out–which is nothing really at all like the poem(s) I’m editing. I hope you enjoy it though and have all been having much love and peaches and hugs and flowers and oh such loveliness.

 

 

what the net leaves behind

 

 

Maybe it begins with a rustling—

you in your top hat and me

 

smaller, beside, your grand

father’s racquet in my hand. He

 

played a game so well, turning

to walk away, you’d cry. What of

 

the pieces of photo of him in the

cabinet, under last night’s toothbrush

 

and paste? Sometimes it’s developing

that’s backwards: and there’s a burning.

 

I do not want this bowl of cherries.

I did not ask for your glass eye. Some

 

day I’ll stuff these crayons down my

throat, lick the bowl, shit a rainbow.

a Creed

I believe in the mothers

who bore the earth and who bare the earth still

like so much clay on their shoulders,

and for whom the earth groans

deep in the joy of its naked flesh;

 

I believe all is conceived in the

darkness of a miraculous sorrow and

born into a light of a name which,

if we could speak, would make us one

 

even here so far below heaven;

 

and there is a profanity so holy

we can only taste of the womb thereof;

 

that we must grind ourselves down

to mere pulp or ash of the bark

of some tree before we can whisper

its name into the ears of our sleeping fathers,

 

who are the great devourers of all and lovers of all

 

and whose night-dreams are never ending;

 

I believe in the holiness of the breath

of everything that dies, whose breath

both in the worm and mother alike

is the same in life and prophecy;

 

whose singing is dance

and whose song is the body

which is forever and always being born

and is forever and always beautiful, even though

you will hear it is never beautiful enough;

and the soul too is beautiful, far more than enough,

and its beauty is the beauty of all things,

a beauty that, if you could touch,

could change the world, and all things in it.

Top 5 things I hate being asked in a bar; OR: on the frustration of labels

Forgive the lack of blogging recently—I’ve had yet another occurrence of strep throat (a somewhat common relapse for me) plus was writing a piece of music for a new music concert (the piece is called Things arise and she lets them come—catch the Tao reference, huh? huh?), and thus was a little out of the blogging loop. That being said, I finished the piece (feel free to shoot me an e-mail or post a comment or whathaveyou and I can send you a copy) and am getting over the strep.

So. In order to ease my way back into the comfort ability that is my blog, I thought I’d post a list of the top five things I get super frustrated at when asked at a bar (and by super frustrated I mean answer with a smile and no noticeable difference until I wake up steeped in depression or frustration the next day).

Number 5: Are you a vegan for health or ethical reasons? The answer, of course, is YES. This question was really annoying back when I smoked, because it often took the form, “WAIT, you’re vegan??? BUT YOU SMOKE??? THAT’S FUNNY!!! HAHAHA” etc. Like. YES. I get the irony that smoking causes cancer and that red meat increases the risk of cancer but you know, that’s not the ONLY reason for being vegan. Like. There’s that whole commercialization and reduction of life to a commodity. You know. That part. Of course when I would tell the person this, upon hearing the word ‘commodity’ used in a non-positive way the person instantly would go through this thought process: “commodity, huh? sounds like Marx… therefore communism.. therefore Stalinism… therefore fascism.. therefore some offensive analogy involving Hitler!” If the person is nice, however, they usually list all the positive things about veganism and why they *can’t possibly* be vegan. This ranges from being allergic to soy, gluten intolerance, anemia, and other such reasons that if you know something about veganism aren’t very good excuses at all.

Number 4: Some demeaning question about being a poet. This one can take a few different forms, but it typically rides off of being asked where I plan on going to grad school or what I plan on studying. It usually is followed by the other person proceeding to tell me how they really loved poetry in junior high and wrote some great ‘haikus’ (‘haiku’ is plural, damn it!) and got one published in the school paper and it was swell and they wish they could’ve followed their dreams of being a professional haiku-ist but then they had to get like a real job and start earning money and being a real member of society. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone give me a compliment for trying to take my poetry seriously without being extraordinarily patronizing or demeaning. One annoying aspect about being asked about my poetry is it tends to lead to the other four annoying questions, i.e. “oh what are your poems about?” “Well, it’s often me processing through ecological, personal, and sexual issues by taking up the metaphors of each, so, like seeing what sort of ideas and images arise when we put queer theory and say animal rights into a poetic blender and see what comes out.” Blank stare, slightly confused and disgusted face upon hearing the words ‘queer,’ ‘animal,’ and ‘blender’ in succession. “Ummm… animal rights… uhhh… so are you vegan (if so, for health or ethical reasons?)” ETC.

Number 3: Music composition grad? So… are you in a band??? This question can also take the form of, “Composition… huh…. so… what instruments does that mean you play?” or “Oh yeah! Like John Williams” or “oh wow—I play guitar!” Now. I love music. And I love talking about music. But for some reason people feel the need to categorize and label everything about someone when in a bar, and most people don’t know the labels ‘concert music,’ ‘art music,’ ‘contemporary classical,’ or a host of any others. Which causes the confusion of thinking I write film music. Let’s get one thing straight—I. DON’T. WRITE. FILM. SCORES. I have loads of respect for people who do, but, as should become obvious at this point in the conversation (people normally have blazed through a couple of these questions before this one), I DON’T WANT TO WORK FOR DISNEY. I’M NOT A HUGE FAN OF CAPITALISM. I don’t know how this could not be excruciatingly obvious by this point.

Number 2: So you went to Biola/a Calvary Chapel High School, so you’re a Christian then? This means one of two things. Either the person is about to list everything about contemporary evangelical Christianity I hate as the greatest thing since sliced bread (I LOVE CHRISTIAN ROCK!!1!!—this tends to lead to, WAIT, YOU WRITE MUSIC, ARE YOU IN A CHRISTIAN ROCK GROUP  ❤ !!1!), or they are about to preach to me all the woes that Christians have tragically done to certain people groups at times and places. I wish saying, ‘No no, I’m not like them—I’m ANGLICAN/EPISCOPELIAN’ was a valid excuse, but, you know, like Anglicans can be pretty evangelical and the whole fact that the Church of England was killing Quakers and Puritans and such was sort of how that whole colonization/conquest of the Americas kinda got underway doesn’t help either. And I wish saying I was a liberal or secular or materialist or even atheist Christian clarified. But. This usually results in *more* hostility seeing as the other person most likely hates organized religion, but is a quasi-Cartesian dualist (but the kind that would even make Descartes twinge), who loves talking about ‘soul-mates’ and a ‘feeling of the beyond.’ When I say I think ‘soul’ is just another means of talking about the body and concerning oneself with doing good in order to be rewarded in an afterlife is ressentiment, you shouldn’t *need* a reward in order to be nice, AND I think liturgy and prayer and meditation are great, well… it doesn’t always go over super well.

Number 1: So you like boys, right? OR: So you like girls, right? One. NO. I happen to like consenting adults, thank you very much. Secondly, WHY WHY WHY do you feel entitled to ask me who and why and when and how I have sex? Is that anyone’s business other than my own and the people involved? Seriously, people. I have told people I’m straight, bisexual, pansexual, queer, questioning, and demisexual all while at bars—all only kind of true—mostly false and just a means to avoid conversation. People want a simple label. And it frustrates me to no end that I can’t share a drink with someone, chat maybe, without them feeling like they ought to label and appropriate my entire sexual identity into a neat little category so as to prevent them having to adjust their worldview (usually a neat homo/hetero binary). I don’t exactly feel like going into my entire psychical and sexual history with someone I don’t know in order for us to drink together—and the few times I have it hasn’t exactly gone well (‘ahhh… so you’re in the closet!’; ‘but you *would* sleep with so-and-so’; ‘so you mean you’re bi? Yeah—me too! I kissed a boy/girl once!’; ‘well, I only ask because my friend thinks you’re *really cute*’ etc).

All this is to say I’m kind of sick of going out and having to squirm into other people’s categories or feel like I have to deconstruct everyone else’s worldview when all I want to do is have a drink.[rant and self-pity therein concluded thusly].

the Five (updated) Solas

This post is in response to a post on Ex Animus’ blog. Both him and I have expressed our disgruntled-ish-ness at people who, one, invoke the five solas as if they were dogmatic, and, two, completely misinterpret them. Although I may not have the complete support of Kevin here (author of Ex Animus), I thought I would “update” the five solas because I feel like being reactionary. For those of you who do not know (or easily forget) he are the five solas that are often invoked by Lutheran/Reformed types as being demonstrative of the Christian life:

Sola scriptura—by Scripture alone

Sola fide—by Faith alone

Sola gratia—by Grace alone

Solo Christo (or Solus Christus)—through Christ alone

Soli Deo Gloria—glory to God alone

Not that these five solas are insufficient per se, but I felt the need to update their language in part to be snarky and also to proffer how I think most of the five solas are to be interpreted. Enjoy.

by scripture alone–>by the World alone

It strikes me that all knowledge I have of scripture, “divine revelation,” comes from and is based upon previous but equally divine other knowledge, what is called “natural revelation,” such as my knowledge of language, interpretation, genre, history, etc. In short, the fact that I am in a world, a created world that is endowed with meaning and life, precedes any understanding I have of scripture. The world is the most primordial (and convincing) “argument” for God and our only means of communing with the divine (why else would God become man?).

by Faith alone–>by Love alone

Faith has nothing on love. It is only by moving beyond myself to feed and clothe the poor that I may enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 25.31-46). Further, faith is only “seen” or given fleshly existence by and in the act of love. Love precedes all belief, faith, and knowledge.

by Grace alone–>by Humility alone

This is more of a specification—I am saved by and participate in the grace that is Christ’s humility. It is only in Christ’s emptying, his becoming “truly” man, that I may meet him face-to-face in this life by equally emptying myself and becoming truly man. It is only in recognizing oneself as worthless, dying to the old man, realizing I am the last, poor, naked, wretched, etc. that one can be seen to already be the first, the new man, rich beyond imagination, and part of the Kingdom of God. Humility is realizing what you are as such and further realizing you do not deserve it.

through Christ alone–>through Everyone-Except-Yourself alone

I personally think this is what solo Christo means to begin with. Love everyone as if yourself, that is to say, love yourself only in loving others—it is in this way you love God. Who are you justified by? At the risk of sounding new-age-y, everyone except yourself, for the image of God (that is Christ) is in everyone, no matter how “fallen.” Every single one of them has something to teach you and save you by—the only place you learn about Christ in this world is through other people, whether that be the experience of the trace of another in the scriptures or through the face of a loved one.

glory to God alone–>glory to the other alone

…wherein “the other” is God, Christ, the Trinity, humanity, your neighbor, the poor, and, perhaps most of all, your enemies. Once again, I think this is what soli Deo Gloria is supposed to mean to begin with, but thought I would strip it of all poeticism for the sake of this post.

As most of these descriptions say I essentially think this is what the five solas are intended to mean on one level or another, but I felt the need to “personalize” and update the language due to absurd abuse I have often seen. Feel free to polemically disagree.

the thing and the natural world

“there is a difference in operation
and thus somehow a difference in value” you think
as you pass by the stripped leather office seats
alongside a mismatched dining table;
the owner Buddha-like eyes beyond the
polka-dotted beach umbrella and lunchboxes and boxes
of old cassettes as if to say, “come, look,
these are the extensions of my body, turned inside out for you,
do try the a.m. transistor radio or this
slightly worn through papier-mâché mobile
made and worn for you, or this, a hanging
crucifix here is time used up for you,
these records replayed to the vinyl bone
and split like memory are spread out just for you,
here how they crackle when played,
and this buddy holly bobble head doll
is language, my prayers and swearing taken up
and felt and smelt and put down and taken up
and put down again somewhere behind the silverware
and stained linen tablecloths which were my mother’s,
just for you” and your eyes seem to say right back to hers
“no thanks, I have plenty of stuff in my garage, I even
rented storage space down the street so I really doubt
I could use possibly anything more, but then again,” you falter,
“I wouldn’t mind thumbing through that box over
there, after all, I have an insatiable love for buddy holly.”

Pasta

Oh, empty package of dollar
penne noodles tossed aside to trash,

what small taste of Italy you have
in your bright packaging

and 7-8 minute cooking time.
Your brother, Pomodoro sauce,

beside you glistening in the afternoon
glare of summer, specked

with small crusts of aging
parsley and fennel, in streaks

of browning tomato plum.
I have slowly and weekly hollowed

you by large heaps in the microwave
topped with bagged Romano,

Reggiano, Parmesan;
let you grow cold

while I fed on chocolate chip
cookies or ice cream even;

forgetting how much like
time or consciousness you are,

imperturbable in re-heating
again and again on Sunday afternoon,

sustained in your every moment
more miraculous than a thousand

creations, but mostly your uncanny
habit of staining each white shirt

I own right on through with
your boiling crimson.