even news

January 31st, 2004 § 0

more than a few drunken words
less than random infidelity
silence deep into the winter night
rains acid on my stainless heart

armies gather, generals scheme
africans starve, legions offshored
terrorists forged, unpaid mortgages
our souls vagaries not even news

but you see them, loud and high
a tsunami of emotion breaking
into timeless centuries in your steps
in these strophes of mourning

and i thank you for this. for one day
you and i really exist. and i wonder
why it is we cannot pass paradise
and in silence collect our bliss.

31.I.2004, toronto

lost in translation – the end of dialogue

January 26th, 2004 § 3

finally saw lost in translation tonight. would have preferred to have been working on my own film, but on the strength of astrid’s recommendation and out of the need for human society of some kind, i ventured out into the (very) chill toronto night over to the revue cinema.

i was astonished by what i saw and heard. or more significantly didn’t hear. there is almost no dialogue. i had thought this film was supposed to be about two disparate people hooking up and exchanging things from their different lives.

historically, under such circumstances the individuals in question speak to one another. and through language learn of the other.

here they are almost silent.

in general i thought the film much overrated. the beginning gears up nicely through the car ride from the airport, the estrangement of bill murray’s character at the hotel and at the tv spot shoot.

the totally useless and ineffectual translator on set is closer to the truth than most people realise. international commercial shoots can be a nightmare that way. many times on my own commercial shoots in moscow, horrible misapprehensions – the kind to warp an entire shoot day or performance – were created by interpreters. disaster was regularly averted only by close monitoring of these conversations and their translation.

there are some scenes that will ring true to anyone who has ever been in a longterm relationship. when charlotte’s husband comes home and talks about his day at work with the japanese, he totally fails to see that his young wife is swimming in alienation and unable to connect with these mundane concerns.

certain other problems pertain more to the privileged elite of america. the endless conversations about carpet colour for the redecorating.

some well-drawn parallels were shown between bill murray’s bob harris and the scarlett johansson’s charlotte. both make phone calls of desperation to their distant lover and fail totally to connect with the loved one from whom they seek a compassionate ear.

this is certainly true of most current north american relations. it is almost senseless to call anyone for existential questions. the answer will inevitably be, i’m busy call me when you’re feeling better.

frankly i wonder if this indifference to the interior lives of one’s loved ones contributes to the suicide rate in any kind of a positive way.

but i don’t criticise these north americans anymore, for indeed their way of life and their work preclude any other reaction – stretched to the hilt by circumstance and obligatory personal ambition, they have no time except for the practical and/or aspirational.

i remain shocked though that even when characters connect – recent yale philosophy graduates and a self-avowed serious actor (harris says he’d rather “be doing a play somehwere”) no less – and they have almost nothing to say to one another.

truly the end of language.

and in this absence of communication i feel the film fails on most levels. there is no connection between any of the characters, whether it be husbands and wives, new lovers, work colleagues, friends or family. bleak as my world view may be at this specific moment in time, people do talk, people do connect.

thus the film becomes an aesthetic fabrication, untrue at its core. pretty pictures and interesting sequences cannot save what rings false through the center.

in fairness to ms. coppola, much japanese cinema is almost mute (i.e. imamura’s eel). perhaps the silence is just a quiet homage to japanese cinema. i doubt it.

FURTHER REFLECTIONS

if lost in translation were a french film, i think it would only rate as very good. much of its acclaim has come from the absence in american cinema of well and freshly shot film working strongly with personal material. i.e. the absence of high quality auteur work coming from hollywood. in this sense, lost in translation is a wonderful contribution to american cinema. it may wake audiences up and open the door for more wonderful films to come.

modern leda

January 16th, 2004 § 0

seductive the sun
wherever she wandered,
followed wrack and ruin,
light to dark, the sky ever dim.

immune to time, she laughed
and passed the glade once more
hoping for more than is given
on this earth to man or woman.

but gods mate no longer with mortals,
no zeus or apollo, no olympia beyond
the horizon, instead another city
more cafes and bars and empty talk

loved by many but keeping none,
the fragile self hardens and wears thin,
sudden the light not so bright,
the love not so fierce, desire inane.

rules of life in germany | cheating at the game of life

January 6th, 2004 § 0

after my daily swim at trinity bellwoods in toronto, i met some men and from one of them heard an amazing tale.

this fellow has a friend, you see. and the friend moved to germany. the friend is some kind of an engineer and likes to put in long hours.

he was stymied in his desires. when he arrived at the german company he was given a ten page book of work rules. highlights include.

  • no eating lunch at your desk. a fireable offense.

  • obligatory half hour of socializing in the lounge with co-workers after lunch. not a fireable offense but warnable.

  • mandatory six week holidays. not taking everyday of your holidays and sneaking into work to put in extra time, again a fireable offense.

the taleteller went on to relate that he had two weeks holiday and worked five twelve hour shifts a week in the automotive industry.

no wonder most in southern ontario are stark raving mad, desperate creatures badly dressed, with frayed nerves and (in the case of the women) unfinished or absent makeup.

no rest for the weary, no respite for joy.

they are astonished that somewhere on earth people take their lunches, enjoy vacations.

life as it is meant to be lived. you go to work, work hard, finish your work. go home or go out. enjoy your family and friends.

still not convinced?
allow me a simple metaphor.

games have rules and so should life. there should only be so many hours the players (employees) should be allowed to put in. anything more is really cheating and ruining the game for everyone.

kate hudson | 2b pc or not 2b

January 6th, 2004 § 0

fionnuala suggested i see le divorce – not because it is a good movie – but because of the subject matter. english language film set in paris.

dropped by rottentomatoes.com to have a look at the synopsis. a priceless quotation from the lovely kate hudson.

She was particularly intrigued by the French willingness to say almost anything, no matter how seemingly outrageous or controversial, and to utterly disregard any notions of political correctness. “However they feel, whatever they want to express, they just say it,” she notes. “They’re quite a passionate people.”

it turns out in europe one can actually say what one thinks.

a wonderful way to live.

let me out of this madhouse (north america).

more on the myth of the american dream

January 5th, 2004 § 0

in this weekend’s globe and mail, there is more debunking of the american dream. apparently, for the less advantaged if you really want your children to live the american dream, you’d be better first stepping across the border to canada.

You know how it goes: The kid born in the log cabin becomes the president of United Steel. The prairie girl takes the bus to Hollywood and Vine and gets her name in lights. The ghetto kid makes it in the NBA.

It may be called the American dream, but it is far more likely to happen in Canada. We owe this observation to Miles Corak of Statistics Canada, who analyzed more than 400,000 tax files in the first really major and credible study of “intergenerational mobility.”

A kid born to a poor family in Canada (that is, a family with an income below $28,000) has only a 25-per-cent chance of earning the equivalent amount of money in adulthood. There’s about the same likelihood that he will earn up to $46,000, a 20-per-cent chance he will earn up to $65,000, another 1-in-5 chance he’ll make up to $95,000, and a 13-per-cent chance, better than 1 in 10, that he will pull a six-figure salary.

In other words, as my colleague Margaret Philp noted in a close look at Mr. Corak’s work, if you’re born in the bottom fifth of the income ladder, the odds are 3 out of 4 that you will do better than your parents. If you’re born at the bottom 10 per cent, you have less than a 1-in-6 chance of staying there. And if you’re born into the bottom half of the great divide, there’s a 40-per-cent chance you’ll wind up in the top half. We do get to see how the other half lives.

And how do our southern neighbours compare? Not so well at all. Mr. Corak compares different countries in a number of ways. In terms of interclass mobility, Canada ranks near the top, along with the northern European nations, no matter how you measure it. The United States and Great Britain rank fairly low. Mr. Corak concludes that the odds that a poor Canadian will make it into a higher snack bracket are two to three times better than for an American.

degas sculpture | the emperor has no clothes – again

January 5th, 2004 § 0

visited the AGO today for the last day of the degas bronze scuplture exhibition. loathesome work. the degression of scuplture since the greeks is astonishing.

of course, i love rodin’s work. the power of his bronzes. the scale of the work. but degas’ work in scuplture is largely an afterthought. he only created one bronze for exhibit in his lifetime, la danseuse à quatorze ans.

all the rest are fabrications. another sculptor went in and working on the basis of wax and plasticine models of dancers created by degas for his paintings.

why would degas create these things if not as works of art? ever tried keeping a constant supply of modeling dancers around? not easy. it makes perfect sense to capture their poses in 3D to better transpose them to two dimensions later.

moreover, the one finished work, la danseuse à quatorze was the only one which looked finished. her skin is smooth. the details of her face are precise, the costume is worked out and is even partly in real chiffon.

in contrast, the artist’s life bronzed life models are almost all roughly hewn and imprecise. just the notion of motion captured in their limbs. and of course dancers’ bodies in motion have a certain magic. but not when their limbs, faces, joints are unfinished blobs of sloppy bronze.

in any case, the gallery was full of the usual fatuous bourgeoisie cooing over what happened to fill the rooms of the second floor of the AGO.

in praise of the exhibit, one of the largest rooms was devoted to sketching from life models. when i was there on a sunday afternoon, the life model was but a jointed wooden skeleton, but all the walls were plastered with visitors stab at degas’ style charcoal drawing.

much closer the spirit of his fabulous drawings.

the emperor has no clothes yet again.

it’s not just me – not just social justice disappearing in america…

January 3rd, 2004 § 0

social opportunity is on the run too. in early december, businessweek noted that significant social mobility had dropped by two thirds from 1978. the nation poses the question if you wanted to create a caste society how would you go about it…

One thing you would definitely do is get rid of the estate tax, so that large fortunes can be passed on to the next generation. More broadly, you would seek to reduce tax rates both on corporate profits and on unearned income such as dividends and capital gains, so that those with large accumulated or inherited wealth could more easily accumulate even more. You’d also try to create tax shelters mainly useful for the rich. And more broadly still, you’d try to reduce tax rates on people with high incomes, shifting the burden to the payroll tax and other revenue sources that bear most heavily on people with lower incomes.

Meanwhile, on the spending side, you’d cut back on healthcare for the poor, on the quality of public education and on state aid for higher education. This would make it more difficult for people with low incomes to climb out of their difficulties and acquire the education essential to upward mobility in the modern economy.

And just to close off as many routes to upward mobility as possible, you’d do everything possible to break the power of unions, and you’d privatize government functions so that well-paid civil servants could be replaced with poorly paid private employees.

It all sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it?