“We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.”
— Jeremy Irons
(note: this was written before having read any one else’s email/posts about Inception, so as to not blur/influence my initial thoughts, so this is probably missing many things other people have already discussed. this doesn’t really have any big spoilers but you might avoid reading the Inception part if you haven’t seen the film yet and are going to.)
memories, dreams and reality – how distinguishable are they? i have fairly vivid dreams almost every night, and also a lot of memories i’m not sure are real, so this topic is of high interest to me personally. the function of dreams has been studied at every angle from spiritual to physiological, and the psychological process of creating memories has been well studied and recorded. memories and dreams have been the subject of art and films for as long as can be traced, as these realms are difficult to understand, and seem to contain keys to human consciousness. recently i read that recent experiments with sleep deprivation and “dream withdrawal” showed that if a person is deprived of dreams they begin to show psychotic tendencies while awake, and therefore maybe the function of dreams is to allow for a time of quiet insanity and that maybe it is not sleep that is necessary for well-being, but dreams (sorry, cannot find citation).
I. 2 weekends ago we watched Waltz with Bashir (available on Netflix) – a mostly-true film about participants in the 1982 Lebanon War and the horrible civilian massacre that occurred (warning: i was unprepared for the actual real footage of this event shown at the end of the film). the mission of the main character is to determine which of his memories of such a chaotic and traumatic period as a solider are true. the film is done in absolutely gorgeous animation, which supports the dreamlike quality.
i found this film not only educational (i myself had no idea what happened in that war, as i was an American and only 6, but i remember Beirut being a city name i heard on the news quite often during that time), but brilliant in that it captures not only the confusion that soldiers feel in chaotic wartime (forgetting all training/orders and acting only in self-defense, mass hysteria, trauma), but also the crux of the question of what memories are and how they are created. all but one of the characters in the film is a real person, and each of them, through the series of interviews, questions who/what/where/why/how. if 2 people are in the same place at the same time, but each remembers it differently, how does anyone ever know what really happened? i highly recommend Waltz with Bashir not only for its beauty and history, but for the bravery to question traumatic political events that collectively have a million different memories contributing to the public understanding.
II. watching Inception last weekend [SPOILER ALERT: STOP READING HERE], i have to say i was unimpressed by its lack of creativity and i got bored. my brain just kept returning to every other film on the relative subjects of the intersection of dreams, memories and consciousness manipulation i’ve ever seen (Waking Life, Scanner Darkly, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dream a Little Dream, and the director Nolan’s previous film, Memento), and most of all, the classic Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. the idea of the film was simple but the execution was overly complicated, and somewhere around the “third level” snow scene i was completely bored and wondering why we were being taken through all that ridiculousness. for other people that was probably a very entertaining part of the film, but i’m not someone entertained by shootouts and explosions and special effects, so it all seemed incredibly superfluous and that last 1/3 of the film just dragged on forever for me. that, and the whole embedded love story, there to give personal weight to the intentions of the main character and provide another plotline (and possibly a whole subplot of her participation not brought to light in the film), seemed entirely unnecessary to what otherwise would have been a fairly straightforward idea: we plant an idea in a dream, and make the dream complex enough for the dreamer to believe it was their own, and s/he wakes up and changes life course. however, the big question on that premise, for me, was this: has a dream ever made you actually change YOUR life?
the final question laid in front of the viewer in the final second of the film was just so OBVIOUS – was it ALL a dream? if so, whose dream was it? – that i am not even interested in addressing it, because i think 1. the point is that you will never know, and 2. the script doesn’t seem mature enough to actually have a tight resolution to that even if you watched the movie 100 more times looking for “clues” (here’s a link though if you want to).
the psychological aspects of the film are of more interest to me than the film itself, and while i understand they are all intertwined, the substory of the wife going mad after spending 50 years in a dream and not believing “reality” (i guess i should put that in quotes) was much more intriguing to me than the main plot, looping back to the idea of what it means to remember, and what our consciousness decides our story has been, and how.
i am more intrigued by the ranting homeless people i see screaming at bus stops or cases of extreme savants and schizophrenia: science-fiction unnecessary, there are humans on this planet at this very moment who are living in an entirely different world than we are. those of us who consider ourselves “sane” are only such because our brains have set up layers of filters for the infinite amount of sensory data it receives. what if those filters were to disappear? many suggest that perhaps this is what manifests in our dreams.
i know i am going very wide with this, but i have very little use for fiction unless i can relate it to and question real life (i guess that makes me a “plausibilist”). i am not big on fantasy, and i have little suspension of disbelief when it comes to films. so i spent most of the time watching Inception thinking about all of these other things, and caring less about the plot and the characters. is that what the film was supposed to do? if so it did its job, but i could have done without the blockbuster bits (i much prefer Linklater’s style).
(btw if you haven’t seen Ellen Page in Hard Candy, i highly recommend that deeply twisted film.)
now that i’ve written that, here’s some good bits of what other people have written about Inception:Filed in dreams, personal favorites, philosophical ramblings, tv, books and movies | Comment (0)
i would stop _(buying) (driving) (eating) (watching) (smoking)_, but _(i/he/she/we/they)_ _(need/can’t/don’t have) _ (…..)
i would start _(exercising) (carpooling) (biking) (buying real food) (shopping local) (learning)_, but _(i/he/she/we/they)_ (can’t/don’t)_ (…..)
you keep yelling about how this is America! so why do you keep making excuses? are excuses the American Way now? or are you just too comfortable with all that you have to give anything up for what you say you want? do you actually want it?
(before you accuse me of being high and mighty, i apply this to myself – nearly every day – as much as i would anyone else)
.::.Filed in personal favorites, things you can do | Tagged with adbusters, rant | Comment (0)
- there are certain songs that when i hear them on the radio, in my head it gets replaced with the high school marching band/jazz band version (i was in band from grade 6-12, was 1st clarinet and played sax also). i am not enjoying the HS jazz band version of China Grove in my head right now.
- i still listen to “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley all the time. that song makes me so happy.
- last night i resuffered the dream that i wasn’t passing calculus again (IRL i got an A), and this time (the nth time) i noted that the lack of achievement in that respect directly correlated to lack of hooking up with the boy i had a crush on, who is also usually in the dream.
- when we were in europe, there was, in Prague, a clash with some local street vendors over a purchase. someone made a deal they shouldn’t have, and then they tried to force jay into paying more for it afterward. i got very nervous and freaked out and sort of ran away, especially when more appeared out of the shadows and we were obviously outnumbered. i slipped into another shop and then down the street while J&J worked it out. i was randomly thinking about this last night and in retrospect, i should have probably stood with them, as most men will not do anything to a woman, and the situation probably wouldn’t have escalated and then dragged out the way it did. especially not on a crowded tourist street. if i would have been the one to forcefully say “WE ARE LEAVING RIGHT NOW”, what would they have done? or maybe that’s a stupid idea. more to the point is the fact that i run away when scared.
- we are going to see Ezra Furman and the Harpoons again soon. I can’t recommend this band enough. i am way more into Ezra than Lady Gaga (even though this little piece of Gaga reporting is awesome).
- WARNING: i am currently typing this while watching the American Idol finale, so there are going to be tweet-like comments interjected into this otherwise totally cohesive blog post.
- last night i watched the Biggest Loser finale. i have watched the whole season. i enjoy this show. it teaches people things that are hard to learn. losing weight is hard. nutrition is not complicated, but it isn’t necessarily intuitive either. i was really rooting for Cheri to win. oh well. footnote: i think Australia’s Biggest Loser is better (which you can, um, find somewhere on the internet), particularly because of the mini-nutrition seminars . and motivating yourself to exercise? that’s a whole other animal. i like BHJ’s approach.
- i also watched the last 1/4 of the Dancing with the Stars finale. i’ve only seen about 1/20th of this season. it’s not that i’m not impressed; it’s just superfluous. as is this American Idol thing.
- this AT&T ad with the orange silky looking things is very rip-off of Christo. oh, wait! there at the end of the ad there is some fine print that says Christo had nothing to do with it. interesting.
- who sold David Bowie’s music to Lincoln commercials? fuck.
- this ad where the girl eats KFC on the bus to help her ignore the loud talking cellphone guy? i’d be just as annoyed if someone sat next to me eating a bucket of KFC.
- oh, Xtina! hot.
- oh, wait. this is boring.
- where was i?
- ok, so on April 30 i went to the ER with neck/shoulder pain and then on May 4 jay crashed really hard on his mountain bike. we are both currently recovering and doing mostly well, although we do both complain like a couple of senior citizens about aches and pains. i am repeating this as a way to explain all of the television watching referred to above. there’s not a lot to do when you’re on painkillers.
- i really don’t care that Simon Cowell is leaving American Idol. i’d rather see Billy Idol in his seat anyway.
- tonight we went for momos at the Cafe Tibet on University in Berkeley. and then i had an incredible eggplant dish, although next time i’d rather have the wild rice than that weird cinnabon-textured bread ball thing. never had a momo? they’re little steamed tibetan dumplings filled with all kinds of delicious things. you’re missing out.
- fruit, vegetables, yogurt, eggs, cheese, beans, lentils, rice, nuts, coffee, wine. all as organic as possible. moderate: soy/tofu/fake meats, popcorn, tater tots. avoid: bread, pasta, sweets. never: meat or fish. that is basically my diet.
- what is this, YACHT ROCK IDOL??
- this should stop…..
- this dreadlocked Idol finalist reminds me: not long after we first moved to California, i went out in L.A. wearing baby blue corduroys and phish t-shirt in matching baby blue. we got made fun of by some LA bimbo at the door of a club. i was indignant. do you ever look back at photos or remember versions of yourself and wonder who that person was?
- this Idol finale is watching people sell out in real time. it’s terribly sad.
- ok i will admit i still have a soft spot for bret michaels. esp after Apprentice.
- despite being laid up for a couple of weeks, both jay and i have been trying to get back in shape. that’s a weird term, “in shape”, but you know what i mean. to feel better. to live longer. to look hotter. me, since December, him, the past several months (i don’t know exactly). i haven’t lost much weight (i don’t think i had much to lose, but let’s not discuss that here, ok?) but jay has. my boyfriend looks hot. the larger point is that when you start really paying attention to your body it’s fascinating, all the fluctuations in energy,hunger, weight, satiation. it’s easy to get obsessed. the funny thing is it’s also easy to fall off the wagon.
- 2 dudes from Foreigner were on a local program last night singing “Feels Like the First Time” acoustic. i was pretty impressed, actually . it was way better than this Chicago number on Idol.
- oh! yes, jeez i knew i was forgetting something. saturday night i went on a bus party for a friend’s birthday. the rest of that story is fairly unpublishable. except at the end we all sang “Don’t Stop Believing” really loud from the shores of Treasure Island while some people did gymnastics in their underwear on a wet lawn. i am not making that up.
- sunday was the 4th annual False Profit “Spring Training” outdoor party-picnic in the oakland hills. i was there for 9 hours. it was super fun. neva and i had a great time. aforementioned hot boyfriend also played a killer set. lucky girl.
- in wanderlust news, i have the following in mind between now and mid-September: Utah, Chicago, Chile, Peru, Burning Man, Bali. we shall see how many come to pass.
- i guess i can just come totally clean now and admit i’ve also been watching the 2010 Giro d’Italia. i feel like there’s nothing lazier than laying in bed watching other people do sports. the bike races intrigue me though, and there aren’t tons of really annoying commentators or guys with light pens or beer commercials. it’s very simple: ride bike fastest. through incredible scenery. i like that.
- dude, Paula Abdul is totally wasted. i also can’t believe what she is wearing. who made that atrocity? and it’s like NEON fuschia too. file under: “i was high when i got dressed”.
- i heard a punk rock version of Billy Joel’s “my life” on KALX yesterday, and it was great. i wish i had looked to see who it was, actually. on the contrary, these group sing-a-longs in Idol make me want to hurl. i can’t believe this isn’t over yet.
- Janet’s surrogate is looking good. except it sounds a lot more like Michael than Janet.
- Obama was here in SF yesterday, and even here in the “bluest city in the nation” there was a whole crowd of protesters, everyone from central valley tea partiers screaming (with good cause) about the state budget debacle to environmentalists wanting to know what Obama was doing fundraising when the entire Gulf Coast is in a state of emergency. retort: you need Dems in office to deal with oil reform. i have no idea who you need in office to fix California.
- some days i feel highly dysfunctional on a lot of levels. today was one of those days. this blog post is making me feel better.
- i have no investment into which one of these humans win idol. oh, wait….well now that it’s announced i guess i was sort of rooting for the girl.
- and that is probably the most i will blog in a while.
the end.Filed in autobiographical, culture and random linkage, music, personal favorites, tv, books and movies | Tagged with american idol, ezra furman, false profit, prague, wanderlust, yacht rock | Comments (4)
“I give thanks to America, a country insane enough to declare the pursuit of happiness to be an inalienable right.”
i’m reading Susan Sontag’s most excellent book In America: A Novel, about a group of well-to-do Polish people who give up everything – for some of them including fame and wealth – to become farmers/settlers in Southern California around 1876. why would these people, who had everything, give it all up to work as field hands? the book is amazing at expounding on the thoughts/ motivations of the such early immigrants – The Dream of America was *so big* that even those who had everything in their homelands were willing to give it all up for a shot at The Dream. how many of those dreams came true?
relatedly, yesterday i shared on gReader and facebook this piece from Adbusters written by Michael Larson, a philosophy teacher from Pittsburgh:
That dominant ideal of modernity is tied to a notion of ever-expanding progress and limitless consumption. The oil crisis of 1973 signaled the onset of the postmodern malaise. “Our future was all of a sudden mortgaged,” writes Bourriaud in Altermodern. So while capital has continued expanding its reach in other areas, there has been a lingering denial – an inability to mourn the lost object and the dream’s impossibility. If this was the death of the dream, then our present reality of global warming, water and food shortages, market collapse and the continued proliferation of violent factionalism make it clear that we had better get on with mourning and confront the sorrow we have been trying to repress. Putting it off has only allowed the problems to grow.
We have had a century of continuity in which the basic operating assumptions of the economic system have been hegemonic. In fact this version of “modernity” was to have closed the book on history: We have reached the best of all possible worlds; there are no alternatives. Proclaiming the end of history intimates that our desires have been satiated and that there is nothing further to strive for.
i don’t read adbusters too much anymore because i think a lot of it IS too hopeless/ armageddonist/depressing, but i still subscribe to the online feed and what caught my eye about this one is that there has been something in my mind for a really long time now with respect to my particular demographic – educated middle class americans with plenty of food, clothing, shelter – that goes something like “WE HAVE EVERYTHING. WHY AREN’T WE HAPPY?”, which seems simple, but it is all heavy with a million questions about both of the words “everything” and “happy”, and extends way beyond myself and my community to America as a whole, and our self-image of always “the best. america is the best. the best of everything is here. it is yours to take if you work hard enough”.
but it turns out that maybe, just maybe, that isn’t true, that the American Dream was a fallacy, or, even worse: what if the “everything” isn’t enough when you get it? what if, when you get to the top run of the ladder – the house, the yard, the boat, the kids, the degrees, the “everything” – what if then that isn’t enough? it must be really depressing to get to the top and realize it’s not far enough.
my speculation is that, like the early Europeans who came from perfectly good lives with solid communities to risk everything on the American frontier, there is a part of human nature that is utterly insatiable, no matter what you give it, and that the “everything” we want isn’t as physical as we’ve been lead to believe – via consumerism, marketing – the “everything” is something intangible, and possibly unattainable. it’s what drives us as humans to do what we do. if it were attainable, how would we evolve?
my generation (X), and the next (Y) seems to be the first in a few to really FEEL this. we were taught, growing up in the 80s especially, that once certain things were attained, peace and happiness would follow. but all after our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents hard work, building industries and fighting for civil rights and freedom, those of us in the educated middle-class who have access to all the things our forefathers dreamed about, here we are, standing on the top rung of the ladder, and we’re still not happy, and the world – and the rest of the world – it’s even more of a mess than before.
that is why the one sentence that hit me most in this piece was “Jean-Paul Sartre described anguish as the recognition of responsibility and the ensuing need to act without guarantee, without hope.“ as Americans, we have a lot of responsibility in this world, as we consume most of the resources and control a lot of the politics. but what hope can we feel now about it all, when it seems we inherited a wealth of square pegs but none of them fit in what turned out to be round holes?
so then finally, the author asks:
So we find ourselves in this moment of rupture, precariously exposed to risk and perhaps devoid of hope. Can we think of these facts as possibilities? Can we confront our situation and imagine what things might be like otherwise, even without guarantees? The end of history has reached its end. Can we be the ones we have been waiting for?
i also felt a lot of this, but wasn’t able to express it, during Obama’s HOPE campaign, like all of Democratic and minority America felt like everything had been done – all the groundwork was laid out, and now everyone was pinning their future on one man/one moment that was going to seal the deal. HOPE is what Obama tried to sell us, and for the election season, we bought it. but here we are 1+ years later, and people are getting depressed because the whole world didn’t change when Obama took office.
so what about now? we have to stop waiting for the thing that is going to save us. we have to stop standing on the top rung of the ladder, thinking there is no where else to go. we have the tools to build a new future. we are what we have been waiting for.Filed in culture and random linkage, most linked/commented on, personal favorites, philosophical ramblings, things you can do | Tagged with adbusters, democracy, happiness | Comment (0)
a blurry line, illuminated,
between hope and the future
a swaying platform of change
unsure of who or what
pubescent with insecurity
with all eyes looking forward
belief in the future
overriding the past.
starting with the january oakland riots,
and my love for my city dented, bruised
in february i became an aunt
and for the rest of the year my heart was pulled homeward
in march i visited the family
and stopped funding my 401(k)
in april we went to new york
and i was braver than i’ve ever been on a runway
may brought hot springs and Nine Inch Nails
and in july there was again Priceless
with the addition of a family trip to mexico
and then came september, with it’s gorgeous autumn days and finally
a long-awaited extended vacation to Europe for 4 weeks
where we wandered and enjoyed, aimless with bounty
when we returned life was somewhat subdued, and shortly after then is when my body pain started
-i’m at the end of 7 weeks now-
and since then i feel i’ve been focused so hard on my body that
i can barely remember what else has happened in november and december,
some wonderful things, i know, and much love and support from all the humans in my life,
but it all seems very foggy, muddled, like the light from a frosted bulb.
i know from all the things i’ve read, seen and quoted this year that i have been thoughtful, but it seems not a lot of that made it into words written here. all very internalized, it feels. i spent a lot of time this year in my head. cerebral.
and so i end 2009 a little broken, edges a little ragged, vision a little blurry, soul a little tired, but grateful, and yes, optimistic.
for 2010, i make no grand resolutions, other than to strive to be well and hope for balance and clarity, inside and out, personally and professionally, logistically and artistically. if i can do that, it will be a great year.
here’s to you and yours, and thanks for following along.Filed in autobiographical, not poems, personal favorites, resolutions | Comment (0)
another reason i blog. if i didn’t say things about myself, i’d feel no room to say anything about anything.
also, on the flip side, if you believe you are perfect, then by logic you must believe everything else is perfect too.Filed in blogging, personal favorites, QOTD | Comment (0)
i wear a lot of costumes. i dress up for fun, often for parties late at night, sometimes at 9am on a tuesday, or when i’m running errands on sunday afternoon. what i wear affects how i feel, what i feel like doing or what i can do, where i go, whether i bike or walk or drive, and what kind of energy i put out into the world. taking some time to dress myself up is almost a sure-fire way to put me in a better mood. and on the flip-side, looking plain or disheveled definitely makes me feel dull. uninspired. and before anyone decides to call this “vanity” or “shallow”, i maintain that we are all actors in our own lives, and you dress the part you want to play. dress codes and uniforms play a huge part in enforcing our roles: you are a student. you are an employee. you are a soldier. you must dress and act your part.
i refuse dress codes and don’t have one at work, so now and then i get down on myself for getting lazy and dressing default. jeans, t-shirt. black pants, button up. BORING. i will only live so many days! why do i even have things in my wardrobe that are plain? what a waste!
but then i remember, it’s because sometimes, the “costume” i put on, it’s not weird, or funky, or sexy, or anything outstanding. it’s totally “normal”. it’s “i’m being normal today. i am going to go to work, do my job, go to the gym, eat dinner, watch tv/read a book, and go to bed.” and i need those days. i need that costume. i can’t spend every day weird, inspired, creative. it’s too exhausting and unstable for me.
for adults, halloween is an annual chance for those who may not have the time, energy, or desire to “dress up” other days of the year to be someone else for a while. try on a different persona. i think this is a really important ritual, and while i do it many days a year, i love halloween because for 1 (or 4) day a year everyone feels comfortable doing it, and all week i’ve been smiling seeing people in SF wandering around dressed up on the streets.
so happy halloween y’all – may yours be fun and inspired. i have a long night of costuming ahead of me, as i’m part of the Bad Unkl Sista performance crew doing on and off performances all night long at the Spider Ball in SF.
and to all those people who “hate costuming” and aren’t dressing up, i say: even if you’re not dressed up, you are. whatever you wear, that is your costume. your character. your role. your persona. your choice.
Filed in autobiographical, fashion, personal favorites | Tagged with badunklsista | Comment (1)
I don’t wake up in the morning. It’s more like an irritable emergence into the costume of my humanity. I leer in the mirror, suspiciously. What will I be today? A husband? A dad? Someone who goes through the motions at work? I get dressed up. I act like a man. – BHJ