Monday, September 25, 2006

How I Wish for You Today

After a visit to the exhibit on Sikhism at the Rubin Museum of Art and nearly missing a sighting of the Dalai Lama in the lobby of the museum, I went to see the film Old Joy at Film Forum. The emphasis on art related to Buddhism was an inadvertant though seemingly appropriate preparation for the film. Though my eyes closed during some of the early scenes of nature outside of Portland, Oregon, I was fully engaged by the time the two protagonists reach the hot springs at which there is a moment of connection in their friendship. I was excited to see the film because of the endorsement of my favorite film critic, who imbued a personal narrative with political meaning:

Yet if Mark and Kurt’s excursion resembles any number of classic adventures across time and space, the film is also insistently about this specific moment in time and space. Namely, an America in which progressive radio (actually, snippets from Air America) delivers the relentless grind of bad news that Mark can only listen to without comment and with a face locked in worry, a face on which Ms. Reichardt invites us to project the shell shock, despair and hopelessness of everyone else listening in across the country.

(Dargis does something quite similar in her review of Half Nelson, though the politics in that movie are much closer to the surface.)

I was not quite sure what to make of the film on Saturday night, but I found myself thinking about it this morning on my drive to work. The melancholy of lost affection is so strongly imparted by the characters; it is difficult to resist the impulse to contemplate one's own lost affections and the attenuated or diminished desire for connection to friends and family. In New York, 9/11 caused many of us to be jarred out of our complacency and diminishment, though the pull of work and the push of everyday life in the city quickly regained strength in our lives (at least for those of us who did not lose people at the towers or in the wars that have followed). This film quietly disturbs, perhaps only for one Monday morning drive to work. But it disturbs nonetheless.

Long Road, performed by Eddie Vedder and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in 1998 at the Not In Our Name concert from The Sky I

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

As My Tail Lights Fade

I saw the film Good Will Hunting again a few days ago. I'm not sure why I return to it periodically (Manohla Dargischaracteristically slices and dices the plot in her recent feature on Matt Damon). I think the movie seduces me with the idea that we are all like Will Hunting and have infinite talent to contribute toward human progress and personal happpiness, but it is only our inner demons -- eradicable with a hug from a working class therapist -- that hold us back. As we attempt to prop up our flagging will and drive toward some goal, these kinds of stories raise hope.

But should they raise hope? What does a fictional genius character from South Boston who prefers to lay brick than work at McKinsey ("McNeil" in the movie) or the NSA say to me as I struggle with my more prosaic challenges and potential? Can repeated viewings bleach out the meaning and play instead to our over-stimulated emotional sensitivities? I don't know about the deeper question of the influence of fictional narratives on our lives, but the scene in the movie in which Affleck sets Damon straight and causes him to start living with courage rather than in fear always gets to me. I know it doesn't happen in a single conversation with a best friend, but it seems plausible as a turn that life could take.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Wave Came Crashing

Listened to the waves today and felt deep peace from the eclipse of neighboring conversation by the sound and the connection to the sun. Last summer days in New York and I took one for myself. As I grow older, this ritual becomes more important to me, especially in the last days when Autumn is imminent. It means I don't do a hundred other more directly important things, but so be it. I paid little mind to the others there today, unlike during other visits, and felt the surroundings more deeply.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Kindler Gentler Policeman's Hand

Here's some video that's killing me presently:

It's kills me to watch a young band sing an explicitly political song with the immense audience moshing in the mist.