The Unswung Bat

Monday, May 23, 2005
 
Numb as a Statue

't'ain't nothin' special
when the present meets the past.
I'm always takin' care of business,
I've paid my first and last.

I'd dearly like to uproot this insomnia. This latest round has been nice enough to leave me, inconsecutively, ten hours of sleep in the last seventy-two. That is, about five hours total on Friday and Saturday nights, and last night, none. I've been known to say I had "no sleep last night," meaning a minimal amount. This time, though, my brain did not for one minute flip to an asleep state. I gave up at 6 a.m. It was already bright out. Somehow the fact that the world was beautiful regardless was a consolation.

I've just come dripping from the shower. I feel like I might pass out, gratifyingly, from exhaustion. I do not believe this will come to pass. I'm still too busy thinking.

It's an endless rivulet singing through my head that keeps me awake while I contemplate the backs of my eyelids and the conscious acts of breathing. I'm reeling through an enormity of things I'd wish to fix about myself. The inability to shut up and go to sleep, for one. Quietnesses, loudnesses, things too vague to explain or too specific to mention. Things I didn't do or shouldn't have. It's not unlike me - in fact it's happened much more than once - to walk too far after turning down a ride, to make things difficult, walking away from what was waiting for me, for no reason other than to wander longer and worse. I would - have often, come to think about it - more probably press into blank forest than follow a path laid before me in untrodden leaves wanting wear, as the man said. I must want wear too.

To put it shortly (as if I haven't blown that chance already,) the kinds of things everyone stays awake thinking, sometimes.

Actually I want either to drop where I stand or wake up. Or really, both.

I want to count back down from my enormous number to zero and lose those superfluous things, find the truth of the basic state, close my eyes, exhale indefinitely and glide un-knowing through scattering secrets.

Does any of this mean a goddamn thing?

I don't care if it's superficial,
You don't have to dig down deep.
Just bring enough for the ritual.
Get here before I fall asleep.

Friday, May 20, 2005
 
Jump to Lightspeed

Anyone remember the unwordable excitement at the beginning of the new Star Wars Trilogy? Not just from the hardcore fans (like me), but normal people too. Everyone was excited about seeing what came next. And the anticlimax was implosive. I'm not even gonna talk about how terrible and ham-handed the two first movies were. I completely wrote off the new trilogy as uninteresting reels of crap festooned with ugly exposition and CG effects. Going to see Episode III was more or less something I did to just wrap up the series because I couldn't stand to walk away from it, miserable though it was.

I should say, though, that when I first saw the theatrical preview for Revenge of the Sith, I began to hold a tiny, guarded New hope. Much like Obi-Wan Kenobi watching at a distance over a young Luke Skywalker growing up in exile on the sandy wastes of Tatooine, I had the sense of a promise - which I needed to protect from overexposure until (and if) the time was right - that the mess of the new trilogy could be overcome, redeemed even. But I did not let myself go crazy about it.

I don't think you might understand how much I liked the original movies.

There was a time when I knew everything about Star Wars.

Every name, every book and its author, every ship, its workings and significance, every alien and planet, the serial numbers of each droid mentioned in any source - the movies, short stories, comics, not the cartoons because those were crap, technical manuals, scripts, novelizations. Seriously, I knew everything.

Not only that, but the story was alive to me, in a way ordinarily reserved for a great book, which, I'll readily grant, the titanic amount of Star Wars material was not. I can't explain exactly what nerve twinged in response to the stories to make them and their characters and ideas so significant, but if you're reading this, probably somewhere inside of you is a little fanatic who knows exactly what I mean. Possibly not, not everyone I know was into Star Wars. But almost everyone was.

I will say, after watching Revenge of the Sith once, from the very beginning they did it right. From the first shot I was excited, a little tense, engaged, and not only that, but - in a way I had pretty much forgotten about - happy with the movie. I was smiling like a ten year-old.

I won't say there weren't a few things they could have done without, some artless dialogue, an overreliance on computer effects that cost a certain needful grittiness and realism. But it all flowed right, and not only that, it did what a story should. It didn't waste itself on worthless setup and premising: everything was layed out right to start with. And nothing was given away from the beginning.

Note that, because it's key. If I was to complain about the first two prequels, I would find their deepest fault to be not the awkwardness of their telling or the gaudiness of their presentation, but their awful, drudgeful, indefensible boringness. Any surprises in them were at how stupid their characters could be, or how much time could be wasted on a scene - or a whole act - with absolutely no relevance. Otherwise, everything in them happened as though events were running along a track that was plainly apparent to the audience. The universe we'd thought was so cool before had been reduced to a landscape of cutouts and automatons unvitalized by any imagination.

Everyone knows what the ending of Episode III will be, but - crucially - the question of how it will come to be seems important. Gripping, even. There was one, central fight for the duration of which my heart was pounding. Also, this movie actually rewards those who have an eye for details and know the story set out in the previous trilogy, whereas the other prequels, it is virtually unanimously agreed, causes those same people to unite in cringing wonderment at how they could have got so wrapped up in this Star Wars thing. I would see this movie again tomorrow at a moment's notice. I'm still jazzed about it - obviously it's reflected in my writing.

Here's the real thing though. I feel like I could watch the old movies again not with nostalgia or just because They're Star Wars, but to see how they all fit together, follow the end of Revenge of the Sith through till Return of the Jedi, follow the story again. I could even read some of the books for new ideas - though I'd be noting style problems and where the language should be changed, of course.

Some of the first stories I really took time thinking up were, like with a lot of kids, continuations of Star Wars stories I'd gotten caught up in, that I didn't feel should've ended where they did or that I wanted to make differently. It's as good a place as any to start being creative, though I've moved a long way away from there. I've just been reminded that it's a great imaginary world to let one's own imagination zoom around in. None of it's real, you know. And with a nudge, unless you want it to be . . .

Tuesday, May 17, 2005
 
Letters from the Bowels of the Beast

I've made my opinions on Scarborough and the satellite campuses it knowingly harbors and abets as well-known as I could without actually getting out of my chair. So, though coincidental, it was appropriate that my mp3 player was singing the songs 'Never Again' and 'Road to Nowhere' as I made my way back into those obnoxious halls. Okay, it turns out that first song's actually entitled 'Not in this Life,' but the point still stands.

Whilst I roamed, the device started playing Pink Floyd's 'Time,' which was suitably bleary, but I was hoping that The Innocence Mission's 'Prayer of St. Francis' would shuffle to the top of the playlist.

The song itself is more than serene enough to reorder a mind scrambled by wanderings of the campus's cynically self-doubting floorplan, even without the beauty of the prayer the music surreally intones, whose words I managed not to actually hear for the first 2 or 3 years I had the song. More to the point, though, the ridiculous UTSC building, which seems to be the bastard stepchild of the Bauhaus and Baroque movements driven insane by a comittee, could benefit immeasurably from a bit of the Franciscan philosophy of simplicity, purity and humility, which has in the past been applied to architecture with great success. Maybe it's just as well I didn't invade that reactor core of confusion with such antithetical principles. I might have opened up a black hole.

But that's an aside.

The building itself, and the elliptical logic of what frazzled intellects framed its fearful asymmetry, deserve nor demand no further comment. This time around I actually found my target - the library again - fairly expeditiously. The key is to start by giving up. If one can relinquish one's worldly thoughts of coming to any point, one reaches a cartographical Zen and finds the forgotten destination in the white space between thoughts. What is the sound of one map clapping?

I passed a couple of sights along the way - the load-critical books are still ducktaped steadfastly to their shelf in front of the library's no-access porthole, and I also came across a curious black metal door, wide enough to force a bison through sideways, that opened into a room no bigger than a closet. By and large, though, I was focussed, and I reached the library in an amount of time no more than triple the theoretical minimum, orders of magnitude less than it took me last time.

I was there to pay for a book I'd lost as part of the wacky adventures involved in my last Scarborean expedition. The staff gave me a choice between paying a flat $140 fine and a second option that cost only $30 but necessitated an unthought-of third trip to UTSC. I was sorely tempted to just splurge, but that annoying work ethic that, thank God, only rears its studiously well-kempt head for sidereal or esoteric matters, won over.

Thus, satisfactorily, concludes my second and hopefully penultimate schlep through the Wastelands. I wonder how Chris and Bettio put up with the daily commute. I burned easily two and a half hours on TTC property, though the second half of this time was cheerfully filled with writing this on the back of a scrounged bus shelter rent ad, and the first half was occupied by various acrobatics of Farsi grammar - an activity at least 5 times (minimum) more exciting than it sounds. Also, it's nigh on 4:30 now and I haven't eaten anything all day, and I'm feeling oddly unhungry. So that's pretty much been André's Fantabulous Tuesday.

The comments things are gone, though the guestbook's there same as always. I'd like to think there's a couple people out there reading me silently and without compulsively scratching responses into the internet. I'll do things like that sometimes. Was that last sentence ambiguous? Not that anyone should take this as an injunction from signing the guestbook.



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