infinity on repeat

"It is the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality. It seems, in the last analysis, to have something to do with our self-preservation; and that, no doubt, is why the expression of it, the sound of its words, helps us to live our lives.”

Category: prose

Rumpelstiltskin said all magic comes with a price

When I first attempted fiction writing I composed the most elaborate, fantastical allegories without any inhibition. They were full of clichés and dull allusions, but I gave them every bit of soul and care that I could muster. My first story was about a girl who I never named, instead solely referring to her as She.

She lived in a sanity warehouse, a factory that assembled sterile minds. The walls were white, the floors damp gray, the rooms shaped like cubic cells. Every morning her nurse brought the pillsː two blue rounds, one white ladder, one orange capsule. She had been taking them since her first day in the place, a day she could scarcely remember anymore. It had been at least a year, she thought. Her recollection of life outside the factory varied by day; at times she had vivid flashes of her former existence, images of her body moving through tasks, places, faces, crowds. She did not know what her prior occupation was, she knew only of her life as it surreptitiously looped around her cell.

I can hear someone shrieking from where I sit. A boy is crying in the library, two girls are patting his back. He just sat in the desk behind me. He is saying, Oh God. He is sobbing, wheezing, hysterical. Does he know that I am right in front of him? A girl just walked over toward him laughing a little, telling him he is okay, not to cry, that she can’t deal with emotions. She is saying “you’re fine dude, you just got drunk and wrapped up in the drama.” My sympathy evaporated upon the mention of the word “drunk.” This is the library. There is nowhere else to go for quiet focused solace— which is slowly becoming a pipe dream, even here.

Situations like that make me ache with loneliness, not for myself so much as for the entire world. No one on this earth will ever know the absence of loneliness. But now my patience is plummeting, the same group is laughing now, louder and louder, playground noises. What ever happened to recess anyways? Is recess in adult life available only by the bottle? We have robbed our own lives of any semblance to play, and left now to our closest imitationː a chemical elixir. How ugly how fast.

She wandered out of her cell one day, leaving her silhouette behind. Similar to how twins might play tricks on their teachers by trading places for a day. That has been one of the greatest regrets pushing my life forward through the years ː that I was born twinless, that I sprouted in complete form, that I wasn’t granted a carbon copy for reference. I want something that looks almost exactly like I do, looks like and looks at—
                 looking looks for a counterbalance ː tandem, center weight, pull of poles.

We could have done so much more in two bodies. But without a twin I have been forced to become a Rumplestiltskin of forms.

But all at once the door opened, and in came a little man,
and said, good evening, mistress miller, why are you crying so.
Alas, answered the girl, I have to spin straw into gold, and I do
not know how to do it.  What will you give me, said the
manikin, if I do it for you.  My necklace, said the girl.  The
little man took the necklace, seated himself in front of the
wheel, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three turns, and the reel was
full, then he put another on, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three times
round, and the second was full too.  And so it went on until
the morning, when all the straw was spun, and all the reels
were full of gold.

Who is the girl and who is the strange creature? I hear the whirr, am I spinning the gold? How will I ever know?

 

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what i think i have learned about writing so far

  • style is simple. even butterflies know that
  • pictures first
  • you have to finish the line
  • unlearn everything you have learned since the age of 3
  • never try
  • listen with raw honesty
  • there is no talent, only obsession
  • write with humble gratitude toward your reader
  • reject your religion but keep your devout
  • chase experience madly
  • remember everything
  • work harder each day
  • you are the sum of your questions
  • collect inspiration from all disciplines
  • always hope to be wrong
  • a writer is the vehicle, not the source

listing prose

BELIEF & TECHNIQUE FOR MODERN PROSE
Jack Kerouac

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

“every way of seeing is also a way of not seeing”

I am what I see.

I become every detail of my surroundings—looking closer constantly, obsessively searching for patterns, meditating on the curvature of peeling paint, morphing objects by changing angles.  I like how billions of people inhabit this earth and if time stopped for just one second, every single one of those people would have a different image in their visual scan. I like how no one can own the thing being looked upon.

I am hyper-aware the materials around me, and even more so when I travel. Some of the hyper-awareness comes from my unfamiliarity with the place & from paying extra attention so I don’t get lost… but mainly it is the sheer freedom to indulge in my gaze, to revel in the feeling of floating anonymously, almost invisible. It is pure ecstasy to wander alone through a strange city and feel yourself slowly disintegrate.

Loving to see also means loving the limitations of seeing. I know I will never capture the air condensing, and I know I will never capture the essence of a person in an image. I am starting to understand why some people believe taking a photograph of a person is an attempt to steal a part of their soul… photographing a stranger without asking is robbing them of their self-definition, because whatever story that photo will go on to tell will be the photographer’s story, not the subject’s. Telling a true, whole, human story is the spirit of making films, so as a filmmaker I have to take constant care to avoid voyeur. This is even more dangerous in still photography… I’ve noticed that in the past months, faces have appeared less and less in my photographs. Of course, I will take pictures of my friends and family, but we use pictures of our loved ones to celebrate our histories together, not to trap them in space and time.

But people love to take pictures of other people. A part of me wonders why that has become such a common practice, especially in tourism. Tourists take pictures of locals as if they are statues in museums. I really hate it. When I took the above photo, I had been filming the waves wash in on the shore of Puerto Morelos. The two girls approached me and started asking me questions in Spanish. I love kids so I liked talking to them even though we really couldn’t understand each other. They wanted me to take their picture… I pretty much always do whatever a kid tells me to do, but I felt vaguely guilty about the situation. I asked them what their names were, but I didn’t have anything to write with and I have already forgotten what they were. So now, like tons of other tourists, I own a picture of a face for which I have no name.

puerto morelos, my mexican dream cloud

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things” -Henry Miller

I was dreaming over guava juice and sandwiches outside of the internet cafe with Allie. We made friends with a dog and fed him chips and took pictures of him. There are so many gentil doggies that roam around Morelos, and I’d been wondering if they’re strays or just have chill owners. Turns out the chill owner theory is correct, as told by our second new friend of the evening– a shaggy haired guitar-playing cutie named Bryan. The dog’s name is Bongo. He and Bryan are friends because they both come to the cafe often, but Bongo has an owner whom Bryan has only seen a few times. Bryan is from Mexico city, and he’d never seen Mississippians in Puerto Morelos before. He said since he moved here a few years ago, he’s seen tourists mainly from Canada, and the few from the states are mostly from California. I asked if people came to Puerto Morelos because it’s beautiful, or if some came because of the Mayan presence–some, but not many. The ones who do come for the Maya know their stuff, though, and have inspired him to learn more about the culture. He described this distinct mystical energy– how he is continually amazed by the way things unravel serendipitously here.

Spirits are swollen. Dreams are the blurry film on our sunglasses after a day on the beach.

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Letters of Note: Greetings Worm

Greetings Worm, 

We have enough rehearsal time, but not as much as in L.A. Still, I think Love and Death will be easier than Sleeper as there is not a lot of…falls and spills and water stunts…Our dialogue exchanges should be brisk and lively…but we’ll get into that …so snookums…speak with you soon. 

Also finished 1st draft of 2 New Yorker pieces. Hey! My book—Getting even—is a hit in France. Go figure. You remain a flower—too, too delicate for this harsh world & Dorrie is a flower & your mother is a flower & your father is a vegetable & Randy is a flower in his way & Robin is a cat. And I remain a weed.

Will call. 

Woody

from this lovely collection of letters from Woody Allen to Diane Keaton Letters of Note: Greetings Worm.

scattered magnetic postcards

Once, I was so afraid of my humanity that I resolved to become my own vacuum and suck it all up…
It was how quickly reality shed its skin. I could not trust the simplest object to be what it was, or rather I could not trust my eyes to see what it is they should see. Are you sure that is a pencil? Do you not wonder if nothing is what it appears to be? I thought I needed to get revenge on reality for fooling me. I thought it could bring me back to people. I was confused.

~

The Velvet Underground could have never split open Poor Little Rich Girl the way The Everly Brothers did. I think Edie & I danced around in black leotards to the same song when we locked our bedroom doors and chopped all our hair off. I had been peeling a carrot when I thought how nice it would feel to have my stringy membrane removed as well… I could reveal my gleaming, raw carrot soul! Bye bye, lonliness! Bye bye, emptiness! I think I’m gonna die-ie!

~

Lit a cigarette and opened my notebook to a draft poem about how stalkers shared a common bond of heightened consciousness. I couldn’t return to the truth I was getting at. Lost another one. I have to finish writing whatever I start writing when I start writing it, and then I will edit it for days. Anyone who tells you they write a line of poetry a day is full of bullshit. Flow is most important. Words don’t float alone, you have to make a little boat for them. Make the boat then steer.

~

Instead of working on worksheets, I spent my hours in the language lab with his Jewish Spirituality book, translating great mystic poems into French. I guess I was spitting in the face of some old guy who already translated each poem into English for me.

~

There was a heightening sense that the value system our parents had instilled in us was wrong. Our influences were people who had failed us; people whom we had failed, whose expectations of us prompted our deep and silent anxiety. We had been taught, essentially, to only fear reproach and punishment, but the absolute dissolved like a mirage surrendering to desert expanse. We didn’t know how to navigate the sticky hazy nothing we had found.

~

We were technology babies, born into the cool blue energy of the digital age. We were the first generational crop to have the entire world introduced to us as our playground:

You can be anything you want.
You can do whatever you put your mind to.
Everyone is a winner.
Everyone is special.
If you don’t know the answer, Google it.

 It grew increasingly clear that something had gone wrong; something was missing although we had plenty. How could we have asked for more?

toward documenting multifacetedness

Blogging out my thoughts on my documentary to help me conceptualize it…

So last week in class I was going back & forth between two ideas for my documentary: 1. The movement for sexual equality in Jackson 2. Sights and people I encountered in Canterbury/Paris. Things about culture, assumptions, different ways of looking, etc. Someone suggested, quite brilliantly, that I combine the two… It sounded really difficult so of course I set myself out to do it, ha. I’ve been editing smaller bits of footage and thinking a lot about how I am going to tell this story; and honestly, what story am I trying to tell?

As I read through my travel journals, I found this Anais Nin quote: “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives other souls.” I guess that’s the heart of it. All of the places I travel to in the documentary– both physical and metaphorical– are ones in which I am, in a sense, a foreigner. But they are places I love. I am not gay, but this gay rights movement in Jackson means very much to me. These men & women are standing up for those who have been wronged for so long. They have an enormous capacity for forgiveness & love, made evident by the fact that they have not left Mississippi; they care enough to stay and make things better. They refuse to be oblivious to, or paralyzed by, the harshness of reality. Instead, they have the courage to change it. We are responsible for each other; if people are hurting, humanity is hurting… and the movement is necessary but very few straight people have joined it. That is what infuriates me. No societal structures will change if we ourselves do not change. We need to feel the experiences of others as if they were our own. These gay/lesbian/trans-gendered men and women are only foreigners in our culture because the majority has been told time and time again that their sexual orientation is the norm. But there is no norm to human existence, really. We experience each other in small flashes of shared feeling–and that’s the parallel I am trying to make with traveling. In a foreign country, you are keenly aware of difference. Language, music, religion, social dynamics, fashion, food, money… The differences are on the forefront of our consciousness. We immediately become accustomed to not knowing how to act, how to be, how to speak, etc., and have to trust people to get by. We become free to explore similarities and connections that otherwise go under our radars. Our eyes are peeled.

We quit the bullshit.

So… piecing together footage from three different countries to illustrate the rant above is the challenge. I really admire Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ability to weave separate but complete stories into a larger, more complete story… I took all my footage and pared it down into one story for each of four cities– Jackson, London, Paris, and Canterbury. I think I’ll use a map image to show the different physical locations in the beginning, but I am going to show the stories thematically rather than chronologically… I.e. an image from one place that responds or connects to an image from another. Right now I am putting it together with all the audio silenced so I can focus on cohesive visual storytelling. It won’t be a completely silent film, but it won’t have a traditional narrator/ interview style either. I’m thinking there will be parts with voice-overs from my footage, and parts with just music and ambient noise. I want the images to speak for themselves as much as possible, both for the documentary’s purposes and for the sake of practicing technique.

So yeah, hopefully I will be able to make it turn out the way I see it in my mind.

~

This article on multi-linear plot from Open Magazine does a pretty good job describing how multi-linear films lend themselves to a more comprehensive story…
“The world in these films is poetic and spiritual, and the director moulds the films to transcend the natural linear logic of human narrative. He achieves a state of existence in his films that is dreamlike. He tells you what it means to be human by giving you a world where time and space do not matter any longer, only joy or suffering does. This style of multidimensional narrative is best described by English novelist Virgina Woolf when she talks of her own ‘stream of consciousness’ approach. ‘Life,’ she says, ‘is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.’”


notes

Sounds in the cabin before take‐off: stale generic buzzing, carry‐on bags shifting overhead, knuckles cracking, diffusion of encapsulated air. I sat on the edge of the middle row. A woman in the seat in front of me was separated by the aisle from her husband and two year old son. The child cried and whined, his distress increasing as the plane begins to move across ground. As speed gathers to a point when the floor rattles and turbines begin their violent whirling, his mother’s hand reaches across the aisle. She wraps his fist in the sprawl of her fingers. His eyes multiply; silent, white, two saucers holding an ink pool of black. Dilation: pupils expand to make a tunnel and allow the calm rush of busy air to enter inside. What is inside?

At the precise moment of lift, he is hushed. I close my eyes and go to the space between  pavement and air. I grow into the decompression, the wheels recoiling. The gap becomes. A lark releases her grip on the branch. At the same moment, feathers are peeling off feathers. A slant space for light to break through grows beneath her rising wings.

A bubble pops, and then there is flight.

this week’s exhaustive elucidations

I had a whole coca~cola for the first time.

I watched south park for the first time.

I read to Anna the poem I wrote about her step father’s death and shared untouchable raw pain without flinching for the first time.

My brother flew in from England. We sat talking for hours and he quietly agreed that the rest of our family had given up on me. I trembled & sobbed, repeating “I just want a family”. He held onto me and repeated “I am your family” . It was the first time I forgot for a moment, about all my running.