Tuesday, February 25, 2014

smouldering

I came to this Gulf of Mexico island ten months ago, with smoke wafting out of my ears.
Figurative smoke, anyway.
Wounded. Bloodied. Raw. After a journey of several years that had left most of my emotional defenses disabled, i'd become so sensitive to all the fear, loneliness, and aggression in the world around us, that normal exposure to those things left me sickened in my stomach. I'd grown so accustomed to that feeling, that i couldn't doubt i was on my way to ulcers and worse. I had also become an occasional insomniac who almost never slept straight through the night (as had always been my habit previously).
The reasons for all this were spiritual, with a side of writerly dedication. I wanted to experience emotions more directly. We all carry a mind-bogglingly complex construction inside us called "self-identity". We're perpetually creating this construct every day, and through it we process ALL our cognitive inputs. Most of our emotional/intellectual responses feel natural or unconscious - this is because we've spent a lifetime training ourself in how "we" feel and think about everything.
So i wished to deconstruct my own identity, to better understand myself and others. Whether i actually succeeded, or just engaged in an enormous intellectual conceit, is perhaps neither here nor there. Focus determines reality, and mine became extremely attuned to the inner life of everyone around me, including my own.
The result? I willingly walked right into mild clinical depression.
People in this society exist in an ongoing state of isolation and misery, made livable only by powerful coping mechanisms. Hardly a revelation...but perhaps you think life's not so bad? That might be because you've spent your life subconsciously maintaining intricate rationalizations, or engaging in perpetual escapist behavior (or both, maybe). Like all animals, we have the ability to endure the seemingly unendurable. Nothing is more powerful than the compulsion to survive. There are single mothers out there working 100-hour weeks, with no sex life or similar release at all...yet most of them somehow endure!
Becoming more attuned to my own pains and joys, i can tell you that highly self-aware, unbuffered loneliness (combined with the touch-deprivation endemic to this society) is the most crippling feeling i've ever known. This is not how humans are meant to live...yet i know that what i'm tapping into is just the state we're all in, minus a few layers of denial or drugs.
So i came to...this island! For healing. Partly in pursuit of a truer friendship than i'd ever known, and partly because tropical warmth and water had always been purely joyful to me.
How's it all turning out?
The friendship part has been a disaster. The warmth/water part, a slow salvation. I haven't been consciously aware of my stomach hurting, for many months. My insomnia is gone, and i sometimes sleep through the night. Helping this process is the fact that an atypically large bankroll (for me, that is) has taken away any need to work. I've worked some, but mostly just helping others, and largely on my own schedule. I can't recall whether i even have an alarm clock.
I've been more of a hermit than i might have wanted, but perhaps in some ways that's helped, not hurt (though i know the deepest healing can only come through being loved). I'm occasionally reminded that my depression isn't gone, the most obvious manifestation of which is anti-social tendencies. I still also occasionally feel depression's inertia - i took a nap the other day, and when i awoke i just wanted to not move. And i understand now better than ever, one particular drug that humans in repressed pain turn to - food (particularly the kind that really bang on the brain's pleasure centers: fats, salt, and sweets). Once or twice, i have put a HURTING on a bag of chips in one sitting. Once or twice, i've felt like i was returning to my youth, when good, white-bread folk had sugary sweets as a part of every dinner(!) For a human in distress, food is the cheapest, most non-stigmatized drug there is...so what does it say about America that we're the fattest country in the world?
As good as i've become at understanding (and trying to fulfill) my psychological needs, there is still an unhealthy streak of protestant work ethic in me. Some well-indoctrinated rat-racer might want to scream that i'm doing nothing, but my life is often humorously reminiscent of the Hugh Grant character in ABOUT A BOY - days broken down into time units (60 units of music, 60 units of reading, 60 units of beach yogasthenics/swimming, 150 units of eating, 180 units of masturbation...just kidding, it's often only 120). Aside from the fact that i myself don't consciously think of time in terms of units, the parallel holds up. And of course much of my time, often hours a day, is devoted to writing. But the point is that even in my devotion to healthy leisure, i'm almost always moving from one activity to the next. I rarely experience stillness with no sense of forward momentum...a stillness i need to open myself to more.
And it's funny too, how so many of our attitudes, even "scientific" ones, are based upon assumptions that have no basis in reality. For example, the inertia that psychologists ascribe to depression...how much of that is simply the desire to escape from a modern life that's staggeringly unnatural? People are depressed after years of doing the same thing forty hours a week? Be amazed that more of us aren't just killing ourselves outright (though those numbers certainly are trending up). Current science shows that the natural state of humans, for around 99% of our history (before we became hunter/farmers), was a life of 2-3 hours work each day. The rest of the time? Farting around, presumably. The notion that humanity's lot improved after the agricultural revolution, is the second-greatest mistunderstanding ever (after that monogamy thing). Seen in that light, clinical inertia should be the assumed state for any homo sapiens attempting a forty-hour workweek.
Anyway...
It's beautiful here.
Feel free to join me.
Take that any way you wish.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Supergirl"

-directed by Jeannot Sczwarc
1984
Welcome to the movie that was born to be tortured. Purely in self-defense, that is - if you don't torture it, it will do far worse to you. In a minute, i'm going to try to lay the plot on you in a single sentence, and there's a good chance you'll think i'm making it up. If you managed to live through the 80s without seeing it, you should either cherish your ignorance forever, or watch it with a group of friends whose sense of mockery is keen. Alone, you'll be capable only of muttering "why..." or "how...", unable to believe that there was any semblance of intelligent intent, or that it was connected in any way to the Christopher Reeve franchise (though admittedly, i haven't seen 3 or 4). Yet the irrefutable evidence will be staring you in the face - Marc McClure (SUPERMAN 1-4, BACK TO THE FUTURE 1&3) as Jimmy Olsen. SUPERMAN was admittedly no MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, but you'll be unable to reconcile the obvious fact that SUPERGIRL was intended for adults (or teens, at least). Vaccaro's presence can ONLY be accounted for by Dunaway's insistence that she have a friend on-set for all those long days of shooting. Perhaps the greatest mystery of all is how the film lost only twenty million dollars.
Okay, here goes (innnnnnnnnnhale)! A kryptonian city survives in an alternate dimension, powered by a spinning ball which Peter O'Toole (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, VENUS) loses, forcing Helen Slater (CITY SLICKERS, THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN) to leave her mother Mia Farrow (ROSEMARY'S BABY, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS) and chase it into our dimension where it lands on Earth and gets picked up by Faye Dunaway (BONNIE AND CLYDE, NETWORK), a second-rate con artist who drives a Cadillac and lives in an abandoned amusement park with socialite Brenda Vaccaro (MIDNIGHT COWBOY) and warlock Peter Cook (BEYOND THE FRINGE, THE PRINCESS BRIDE), who realizes her plans for world domination can finally be achieved, and sets to work doing so by putting a love spell on a hunky gardener, while Helen becomes Supergirl and enrolls at a girls' school where she has a shower, then the gardener sees Helen first, then Jimmy Olsen visits her roommate Lucy Lane (never mind that she's sixteen), but their face-sucking is interrupted by the invisible demons and construction equipment Faye sends to get the hunky gardener back and destroy Supergirl, who are sucking face on a beach even though her home city is about to be destroyed, then she's thrown into a dimension where she loses her powers and Peter (O'Toole, not Cook) is waiting to die, never mind that he knows how to get out, then Helen pops back onto Earth, where Faye sends more demons, who turn on their master and everybody goes home!
Phew. And the dvd actually has a director commentary track...with a historian too, to provide, um...lots of perspective, one would hope.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Space Rangers"

1993-1994
Space-action eye candy that didn't aspire to be more. Second-rate, but with enough charm and potential to make its first-season cancellation a shame. It follows the adventures of a starship crew of Rangers on the fringes of the known galaxy, where resources are stretched thin. Jeff Kaake (VIPER) plays the cranky captain with a heart of gold. Marjorie Monaghan (BABYLON 5) is the tough-as-nails pilot. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (LICENCE TO KILL) is the non-human enforcer/pilgrim who uses a collar to dampen his aggression. Clint Howard (THE JUNGLE BOOK, APOLLO 13) is the clumsy base doctor. Linda Hunt (DUNE, KINDERGARTEN COP) is the base commander who takes the heat for her overeager rangers. The only indelible episode is "To Be...Or Not to Be", starring Buddy Hackett(!) as a down-on-his-luck comedian who crash lands on a prison planet.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"The BUST Guide to the New Girl Order"

-edited by marcelle karp & debbie stoller
1999
Bust is a girl-power feminist magazine, born in the early 90s and still going strong. It's mostly wonderful! Even though third-wave feminism itself isn't as brainy and empowered as the waves that came before, its best thinkers give cause for hope and pride. Bust happily outs female outlets like Cosmo, Glamour, and the Lifetime Channel, as idiot's paradises (but also gives permission for any woman to occasionally indulge, as a guilty pleasure). The articles in this anthology may leave you laughing or fist-raising. A few might make you sad, as you realize how trapped and unevolved even many of the smartest women still are, when it comes to sex and romance. The subtext in those articles feels like nothing so much as "I'm so damaged i don't know up from down...it's all so horrible i don't even have the first clue as to WHY all this happened, WHAT i actually need from life, and HOW i might begin to find it." The worst example is "Don'ts for Boys" - it starts off feeling smart and honest, but soon descends into a depressing morass from which the obvious stupidity of Vogue would be a welcome release. But the far, far greater portion of the book is devoted to wonderful, smart articles on bodies, beauty, sex, men, childhood, motherhood, and celebrities. Has Bust changed me? Indeed. With corroborated testimony that the best cunnilingus may be coming from another species altogether (woman's best friend?), there may be some upcoming modifications in my technique. Get the book, get the magazine...for your friends, your children, your men, and yourself.