So last night’s episode of Lost was pretty good. It prominently featured Desmond, so that’s an automatic win. What I didn’t like was the scene where a couple of red shirts get blown up and random guts and/or water hit the camera lens. UUUUGGGH. I actually said outloud, despite the fact that I was alone: “NO! Why? Why the hell would you do that?”
I know many filmmakers think this adds to the realism and highlights the tragedy and/or humanity of a life lost by an explosive device and/or hand-made prison shank. Yes, I get it. It can work very effectively when done in the right context or style, being: the whole film or show operates on that premise (e.g. Saving Private Ryan), with that style (e.g. Children of Men), or with continual instances of metafiction (e.g. Hot Fuzz).
First, let’s not confuse Metafiction with Realism. Metafiction is a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the conventions of fiction, i.e. it lets you know that this is a film, or that this is a written document. This does not necessarily create realism. Realism can be achieved through the creation of a fictional world existing within its own verisimilitude (in its literary context, is defined as the fact or quality of having the appearance of being true or real). This is what Lost had done brilliantly. However, when those guts and/or water splash across the camera, it immediately breaks the fourth wall, in a highly inappropriate metareference to the fact that there is a camera there at all.
I hate, hate, hate it when films that have a wonderful fictional reality suddenly destroy it. Part of what works with Lost is the fact that this elaborate mythology works; that you believe it in and of itself. It is simply ruined when you throw in something that harkens back to the “real world” of the filmmakers; it carelessly reminds you that this is just something created by mere fallible humans, and that characters die for reasons as slight as the fact that the actress got a DUI. It just doesn’t jive, fool!
I browse Amazon a lot. It is never my intent to spend the next hour in the online equivalent of window shopping, but I do find it a strenuous exercise in targeted marketing. I go to look at one thing, and the wonderful wizards at Amazon immediately crop up with “Customers who bought this item also bought….” And so I proceed to add it to my ever-growing virtual shopping cart – the contents of which I will probably never, ever purchase. I think my running total is up to something like four hundred and eighty-seven dollars. Anyway, I was browsing through the Lou Reed catalogue, wondering whether I should finally buy Berlin or just leave it in my cart for another lap around the imaginary store. I clicked on Metal Machine Music, which is Reed’s most, ahem, “experimental” album, that is, consisting of just noise. Really. Lo and behold, what is the ONLY thing purchasers of MMM also buy? Why arguably the world’s first postmodern novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne. Huh. Wow. Life is so surprisingly perfect sometimes. So ironic in the sense that it is entirely devoid of irony when irony is what we usually expect. I could elaborate on how I have come to that conclusion, but I think it would rather betray the artistic purpose of each work.
I love my magnetic poetry… not the regular kind, but an “indie” magnetic poetry (which is to say, not legally endorsed by the makers of Magnetic Poetry[TM]) called William’s Wit Kit: Create Your Own Shakespearean Insults. I rearrange the words on my fridge and pretend I’m wearing tights and a cod piece while slinging verbal fisticuffs with Christopher Marlowe.
Ugh, I feel like a Scrooge. Except my Scrooge won’t exist in some winterland nightmare; my Scrooge is relaxing either a) poolside anywhere, b) at a backyard barbeque wearing the most stylish pair of tartan shorts known to humankind, or c) anywhere but in Surrey circa January/February (aka, peak suicide time). I hate the snow. It’s beautiful, I know, but so is Tyra Banks and would you want to deal with her for four months at a time? Yeah, me neither.
I’m sitting at work, waiting for a ride, and work has that eerie after-hours buzz, like how you’d imagine the deserted streets of New York would be post-apocalypse. I look like a loser sitting here. Good thing no one is here to see me. I’m reminded of some adage about a tree doing something in the woods. Doing what? Probably updating its blog.
—So what’s your slant?
(He’ll start and end with this question.)
The bus winds slowly up a hill…
slowly back down.
—like sardines, he jabs.
The cynicism rolls off his shoulders and
lands with a sickening thud.
I’ll appreciate it less every day.
We—the hundred collective—cling to
something like prison bars to keep afoot.
— So what’s your slant?
I shrug. Still,
But slightly prouder of my ambiguity.
I wear it like a badge.
This year, I will:
– NOT make some idiotic proclamation that I will do anything productive for my intellectual self, like, say read the complete works of Charles Dickens or plan to go out to a play at least twice a month or anything, as I am barely finding enough time to catch up on LOST, and what’s the point of intellectual growth if I drive myself mad in the process? Rather, I:
– WILL ignore entirely the pile of unread books that only seems to grow with each trip to Chapters, as well as the list in the back of my notebook of classic films my cave-type living situation has ensured I’ve never seen, and especially the need to feel somewhat cool by discovering a random new indie band each week via the wonder of the internet, and I:
– WILL continue to listen to all of The Clash, all of the time, on my hopelessly outdated CD-playing stereo, while re-reading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time, and watching repeats of Friends.
– NOT vow to upkeep some ridiculous diet plan and exercise regime that only leaves me feeling like the flabby noob with lily white sneakers and sweaty, red face at every gym I attempt to go to, only to abandon the plan sometime around mid-February and thus eat more to curb the sense of utter failure and inherently gain more weight. Rather, I:
– WILL learn not to stress about my weight and embrace who I am, knowing that losing weight will not cure any self-esteem issues or solve my problems, so I will learn to like (we’ll work at ‘love’) myself as is, and know that I will be healthy when I am simply happy.
– NOT worry about keeping my house clean with the laundry filtering through the washer on a strict, orderly schedule and no dish sitting in the sink for more than two days and the floors free of dust and cat hair and dirt-yes, dirt. Rather, I:
– WILL remember an adage I saw in a store in Helsinki, “a clean house is a sign of a wasted life,” while I sit on the couch eating Mr. Noodles, staring aimlessly at my unused elliptical machine while disc one of Sandinista! replays for the third time.
– NOT make any insane resolution that no one will notice or care if I keep or not. Rather, I:
– WILL enjoy being single; stop and smell the roses; live in the moment; not worry about upward mobility or money or “improving myself.” I will spend this one year happy with my lot; ruminating on my life as is; exploring the built-up calculus of my inner conscience and the joy of my current companions; be happy.
And I will not beat myself up if I don’t keep this anti-resolution.
Why is it when you meet someone they always seem to perfectly match some stock character on a crappy television program? This comparison sticks in your head for a while… allowing you to the guileless pleasure of believing your life to be so hilarious it could be a Fox (at best) sitcom. However, then you actually get to really know this walking stereotype and they grow in dimension, slowly taking shape like one of those ‘grow your own boyfriend’ joke toys you stick in water for twenty-four hours until it bloats up like a captive whale. These people take shape; you begin to see their complexities and nuances. They become more than types; more than the archival stock footage label you mentally pressed across their forehead. You realise they are more than their television equivalent. They are real; they are layered; they are complex; contradictory; they are far less funny. Ultimately, you fail to recognize this in any wise, objective, observant way. You just begin to hate your life (and if you’re like me, you thus write a lot less).
What does this actually teach us? That television promotes a dumbed-down version of reality where laugh tracks have to prompt an emotional response? That any art of actual value promotes characters with surprising depth played by actors with an real sense of backstory and without offensive stereotypes and ridiculous catchphrases (Are you havin’ a laugh? Honestly?)? Ha. Fuck no. Anyone who watches this shit isn’t likely to pick up on much beyond the facade that skinny, attractive women love overweight dead beat men and it’s cheap and trendy to live in New York; covert sexism and Greenwich Village on a barista’s wage- the new bestseller by Candace Bushnell.
What we subconsciously pick up on is the idea that real people are two-dimensional; that there is nothing beyond my neighbour’s blue overalls and trucker cap. Do we ever give people a chance anymore? Or do we spend five minutes on them, associate them with some inane archetype and write them off: filed away as irrelevant without ever hearing about their fondest childhood memory? Of course we do. We judge people on insane things: their fingernails, their facial hair, their facebook profile picture. How do we respond? Do we make an attempt at change? Give the benefit of the doubt? Do we beg for substance over style? Ask hipsters if they are aware that the black and white checkered scarves they wear mean that they support Palestine? Ask them to point out Palestine on a map? No, we just know how to present ourselves in a manner accustomed to the archetype WE wish to be labelled as. Because we know no one is ever going to see through us. Everyone is simply too busy labelling themselves. I see a viscious cycle.
Today I was talking about superstition. Now, I’m believe in superstitions about as much as Richard Dawkins, yet sometimes something simply clicks in your brain that makes you question your entire belief system. I’m sure many Catholics might have gone through this when they found out the Pope used to be in the Hitler Youth. Well, they probably didn’t, but unwavering faith is what comes with being Catholic, I suppose. Anyway, an old Hindi superstition was recapitulated to me that if you leave your cupboards open it means that all the money will flow out of your house. *PING* Lightbulb. That explains everything. Not only the odd broken dish on the floor. Now I have an excuse for my blinding poverty. I NEVER close my cupboards. My Lion King coffee mug is waving ‘Hello’ to me as we speak. My kitchen-NAY- my entire house looks like a looted Sainsbury’s. This past fall I travelled all over Europe, cupboards gleefully akimbo the entire way! I was in London the day Lehman Brothers went under- it was because I left the locker door in the hostel room wide open. I left Canada in August, the economy relatively stable, and I came back to an inner circle of hell, all because I don’t think I closed a single cupboard the entire time I was away. Damn… this whole thing is SO my fault, isn’t it?