Category Archives: People of Interest

Blue White Noise (I ATE TIONG BAHRU): by Stephen Black

Floor

Photograph by Stephen Black

Two of the walls are dirty mirrors. Caught between them, the guts of this place are repeated and jammed into grimy centers of infinity. Red plastic chairs, white Formica tables, the fluorescent lights, the people; all are mirrored and squeezed. In back, two young mainland Chinese women boil and cut yong tau foo. They’re silent.

Below the streetlights a river flows. It may flood again. Angry and worried, a small Chinese woman in a tight pink dress: the taxi stand, her watch, the taxi stand, her watch, the rain, the taxi stand, her watch… On TV, subtitled Chinese promises of eternal love by a couple wearing something like Gucci,before cutting to a lit match above a gagged woman sitting in gasoline. She tries to scream.

The man near me leans back and his orange hair enters the mirrors. Three shopping bags by his sandals, nothing on his table. He begins combing.The Filipinas drink Coke and make phone calls at a table covered with Tiger bottles and globs of chocolate cake. Young Bob Dylan rushes by with a newspaper over his head. Bob’s red-faced, with a platinum blonde Chinese woman on his arm. Bob’s wearing a Nirvana Tshirt. 5AM in anywhere.

The vacant field, the Tiong Bahru Estates. The small blue signs of Kim Pong Street. The rain.This shop has a month to live.

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Stephen Black is usually easy to talk to but often difficult to explain. http://glossi.com/bookmerah/4438-half-black-stephen-black-2012-review

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A Ship Sails to the Edge of the Sea: On Brian Oliu’s LEVEL END

You read LEVEL END by Brian Oliu: the end, point of change, point of loss–the loss of love, memory-blur, or like the way a house sounds when it is emptied of what it possessed before you awoke, alone. It is in and through spaces such as water, sand, foreign lands, or a children’s song park where you slip into the labyrinth. Yes, this is the end. It is here where you confront final bosses, save points where hearts help, but fade, too. The music is always changes when you enter. The levels that you have completed, the missions and journeys along the way, are told in the context of this level end, this final boss or save point–the most crucial spot for reflection, for it is here where you could die or lose. In these zones of confrontation, a pixel-tapestry of story (it’s all story) emerges, a mind in recollection, “re-membering” a life into something other than it was or a life as it is recalled–skewed, blurred, beautified, something solid yet watery, fleshy and transparent. You will not hold this in your hand, for how can you palm a labyrinth without balance? This is not a platform from where you move jumping across grassy fields, down chutes, up gold staircases to rescue princesses, squash foes, and gain life for more power. The platform has morphed into a network of mind-tunnels sewn loose enough for you to catch glimpses and trails of Oliu who hides himself under the shadow of a final boss. But do not come too close, for as you approach and try to grasp the treasures, you will fall into yet another tunnel of dead flowers, jeweled sugar, a garden. For, although you won’t know it until you reach the end–this level end–there is a magic in these lyric essays that outlasts the slim number of pages you receive. A text is deceptive when you must put it down for fear of losing yourself in the puzzle it presents. Approach with caution and caution is given. You may want to rest, you may need a hard bed for the night or an inn to rest for lack of a church. Heal your wounds. Here is where things burrow up from the ground, where women made of feathers dance with self-seeing eyes or brothers who control weather. If you are like me, it will not be enough for you to read this only once. There are lives within these pages that give the reader more life and that, when it comes through a book, is magic and do not think of dogs or how dogs die in water as if Oliu is only speaking of dogs, which he may be, but he may be speaking of how children die or of how things and girls and people go away and die and the words we use in the sense-making of such loss are never enough, too much to say. It is better to be silent. It is better to know that when you enter the room where the final boss awaits your coming, the music will change. I tell you this so you will know that what you are entering into when you enter into LEVEL END is more consequential, more beautiful than a peaceful end. It is an experiment in attempting to give weight to a complicated mind, a mind that feels the ways in which things fade, die, drown. When you were living in Japan, you came across a word in the Japanese language called “yugen.” It is an odd word that denotes the way one sees a ship sail to the edge of the sea where the sky meets that sea and that ship grows smaller and smaller to a speck and then gone. It is the feeling of wandering into a woods and not knowing whether or not you will return–you will not. It is something to be treasured.

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A List of Ten: On Cinema at the Cinema

1. For Tim Heidecker: cinephile supreme, Gregg Turkington: perpetual guest/loyal #movie friend. Connoisseurs of not only fine cinema, but all cinema. Two who honor film with bags of popcorn, sodas, or champagne at the Oscars.

2. Because the seas of knowledge have twisted into an edited helix, a tangled reel of pure film-joy (ThingX). The empty theater where friendship creates impressions. The unending trail of film–upset words.

3. Turkington: To be possessed by The Hobbit, to fall in love with a classic.

4. Because forgetting titles, lines, botching names, arguments over Star Trek, disagreeing and then bumbling the rating systems are all more human, more beautiful than any polished review in this, the age of the raw.

5. Cinema for life. Cinema is life.

6. We inhale Hollywood on cinema at the cinema: you will find us seated. You will find us spooling ourselves in film until the dim comes.

7. Heidecker: the world is watching at the cinema.

8. Because bubbling up from beneath, spreading laughter from unpredictable angles, from how social media infiltrates the media landscape: podcast, video, Twitter and beyond. These are the reasons we watch.

9. Turkington: “Film Buff”

10. The sheer immensity of output, audio file, web clip, a mashing of movie-landscapes to leaves us confused, giggling silly and full of wonder. Yes, this is cinema.

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The On Cinema Podcast

On Cinema at the Cinema

Tim Heidecker

Gregg Turkington

On-Cinema

Contemplating the “Indirect Path” (Execupundit)

garden

Michael Wade over at Execupundit recently posted two provocative questions under the title, “Indirect Path.” His two questions are as follows, “Is happiness something that is captured or achieved?” and “Or is it more likely that happiness will climb our steps when we are not in active pursuit?”

What I would like to do here is to simply open up these questions and in doing so hopefully give readers of this blog and his, some food for thought in the contemplation of these matters.

First, if happiness is something that is “captured,” from where do we capture it? How does one “find” it? Could it even be possible that happiness exists apart from our attitudes toward what we do and how we experience life? Or, does one, as Herzog might say, “wrestle it from the Devil’s hands?” If happiness is achieved, then what does that tell us about such things as perseverance, effort, accountability and responsibility? Could it be that the pursuit of these leads one to a “happier” life because they align one with one’s purpose? How caught up are happiness and purpose?

And, to address Wade’s second question, does the direct contemplation of happiness somehow eliminate its manifestation? Any student of David K. Reynolds’ “Constructive Living” should be familiar with the adage that one cannot will oneself to be happy. Or, is it that happiness is a performable feeling that one can actually will into existence by the performance of that feeling? Also, does the direct desire to be “happy” have any meaning whatsoever? Is there a state of happiness apart from one’s own unique life circumstance in which that term “happiness” takes on whatever relevance it may have to that person in that circumstance? How has your understanding of happiness changed over the years? Is it the happiness that changed or your own changes in how you interpret things?

Additionally, how is happiness discussed through mediums such as television, radio, film, books and the Internet? Which medium would be most useful a platform for learning more about what happiness could be and how it manifests itself in our lives? Which “stories” that you may live by most influence your understanding of happiness? Does it matter which story we use as long as it “works” for us?

Somehow, for me, in the thinking of these questions, some kind of internal calm overcomes me and I daresay I feel…happiness? I’m not sure. Perhaps this tells us something. But what? Is it that the right questions somehow guide us closer to a more lucid understanding? But without a purpose in mind how do we know what to ask? Why is happiness so sought after?

The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living: Demetri Martin’s “If I”

I haven’t spent much time with Demetri Martin’s comedy material, but through some great stroke of serendipity, stumbled across this hour-long special for the BBC, entitled “If I.” To my delight, this performance is not simply “stand-up,” but examines such things as communication, choices, life-making, creativity, meaning and thinking. Martin unpacks the word “if” and uses it to point us in the direction of how our lives are influenced by our choices and the power of imagining our lives through the “if.”

While watching this video, I couldn’t help but be drawn back to Lee Thayer when he wrote, “…there is no dynamic in what ‘is.’ What stirs the human mind to life is not what ‘is,’ but what could be, or what should be, or what might be (from “Pieces”).”

In addition, Martin uses original artwork, music and photography to help pull us into “his” world. He is a brilliant public speaker and I hope you can use this video (and the other five, which can be found on Youtube) to enhance your life in some meaningful and constructive way.

William T. Vollmann: 8 Audio Links (Interviews/Conversations)

william vollmann

A working list of William T. Vollmann audio pieces drawn from various websites. I have not listened to all of these interviews/conversations in their entirety yet, so cannot vouch for which one is “better” than the other. With that said, as always, if you know of any Vollmann audio links that I have missed, please drop a comment or get in touch via email. Thank you and happy listening.

Eight William T. Vollmann Audio Links

NPR: Riding Toward Everywhere

Drinks with Tony Vollmann Interview

Vollmann discussing his book “Uncentering the Earth”

Vollmann on Trains

On Rising Up Rising Down

Another Piece on Rising Up Rising Down

Vollmann on The Royal Family

Vollmann on The Bat Segundo Show