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Eric Talks About: Tokyo Story (1953)

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Kyoko: Life is dissappointing, isn’t it?
Noriko: Yes, it is.

I am not old, but I am now old enough to appreciate Tokyo Story (1953). When I had watched Ozu’s revered Magnum Opus, I was 18, I had not yet moved out of my parents house, and I hadn’t truly grown up yet. My experience was too limited. I had a taste for genre film, that has not yet truly abated, and I was more interested in the visual aspects of filmmaking – color not the least of it – than the emotional elements.

It is good that I gave this about 10 years to marinate. For a long time, I hated it. It was boring, and mind-numbingly slow. It’s tatami mat aesthetic, where the majority of shots sit at a Zazen level on the floor was redundant, and repetitive. The human portrayal of being was trite, and uneventful, and the story meant little to me.

The film, I realize now, is meditative. I have more experiences now. I am aware that I grow older, that I age, even though my mind remembers youth more clearly than it did when I was young.

For those who are not of the cineast variety, Tokyo Story is a 1953 film by Yasujiro Ozu, focused on an elderly couple visiting their children in Tokyo for a vacation. During the vacation, their children, adults, and with lives of their own have little time to care for their aging, bored parents who have little to do in the bustling city, as they approach the twilight of their lives. it is a 136 minute that feels infinitely longer, as the majority of it is shot statically, with shots that linger for too long, and much of the story moves at a measured, patient pace. Image result for tokyo story

It is a film that requires some understanding of the neuroses of Post-war japan, for certain. The sense of loss, and grief for an era that has now left, torn cruelly asunder, and seemingly forgotten amidst the modernizing, west influenced Tokyo.

Like Short Story subtle writing, those americana’s you see listed for the O. Henry prize, or shortlisted by MacArthur fellows, this film inhabits negative space, and emphasizes, to a large extent, the humanity of failure, and disappointment. These topics continue to grow in appeal for me, as the years wear on.

The characters as presented are unfailingly human. As shots linger on Shukichi Hirayama (Chishu Ryu) drinking Saké with his long suffering, but ever smiling wife Tomi at his side (Chieko Higashiyama), discussing his willfulness in youth, and his penchant for drink, one envisions that time when his hair was a deeper shade, his body not so rictus with age. One can see him coming home late at night – as he does later in the film – stumbling, with his wife sitting, thinking about all the things she could have done. All the people she could have chosen, but instead chose him, to take through life’s journey. All of it communicated by not speaking out loud. by speaking to human failings, rather than contrived ones.

It is how the human heart suffers. Instead of characters broadly announcing their existence, loudly, and succinctly, the story moves over them with a brush-stroke rich in its minimalist qualities. Instead of truly villainous children, who don’t care about their parents at all, we are given one of those low-grade ore horrors of growing up: a job, a life, children of their own. No time to spend on people. Their failings are real, and byproducts. There is no malice aforethought.

Ozu goes out of his way to humanize all the characters, making none of them anything less than human. Whether it is the Older Gentlemen shooting the shit over Saké at a bar, being escorted home by police; whether it is Noriko’s kindness masking her loneliness; or whether is their children being dutiful, and loving, but only just enough to pass the snuff: there is no villainy to be had here. Just people being people, and all those dinghy’s bumping in the night.  Image result for tokyo story

It still feels long, but different than it used to. Instead of feeling ponderous, it feels like the camera is in a Zen Buddhist posture, reciting a haiku with the syntax of its shot composition. The shots move together with seamless grace, moving form location to location, never veering from the upright lotus, simply observing, watching, being.

The emotions are pure. The water clarified by this sense of stillness. A peace that pervades the loneliness of the characters. There are no tropes being exploited, or big moments. It is all in the details, that accrue carefully over time. Each little gesture or trait being folded cross ways with another, until a latticework of humanity is presented in the origami of its characters.

In a word: beautiful.

As I move forward, getting older, not perhaps getting any wiser, but aging. As making time for people seems to become more difficult, I find myself struck by the film’s pace. It is the ever progressing nature of time. That final shot of Shukichi alone in his house, incense drifting up lazily has the elements of honesty that hit closer to home than I’m comfortable admitting.

It is one of those things that rewards rewatching, which is why, I think, I will. But at a later time, when I have gotten older. When the heart has darkened like wood because it must, and symptoms of time moving forward are in evidence.

Until I am not disappointed.

Thought and Sentence Fragments

I suppose it is rather absurd for me to lament feeling lost, considering my usual schtick.

Tonight, I am up later than intended here, in this digital expanse that is nowhere in particular. I am here because I must be, and because flexing muscles is necessary to avoid atrophy, even the ones made of neurons. I also need sentence practice.

I am, at the worst times, rather prosaic.

I recently discovered I’m fond of the word Synovial Fluid; I don’t know why. It just rolls off the tongue. It is also, evidently, the fluid in between the joints of magisterially named Phalanges…uhm, fingers, and is what causes that satisfying cracking noise, when you crack your knuckles.

Synovial has all the sexy phonemes in it: Sin, o, and vial. No tortured baby cows involved. It has a nice onomatopoeia flavor to it. Fuck, onomatopoeia is a pain in the ass to spell.

I don’t know why I do things, sometimes. Other than a need. Need is ultimately something I find incredibly interesting for incredible non-reasons. First off, what is need, really?

Need is like, this illusion we maintain, well, partly, we do need to eat and shit and shit like that. But often we don’t really think about the things we really need. We don’t just need to survive; we are human; we require multitudes of needs.

We require needs that often seem more like wants. Sometimes we need to take risks. We need to walk to the edge of a jagged cliff, a face of certain doom, and look over the edge. We need to know that that cliff is sheer, and that it entails pain. We need to know that failure is a part of a possibility when jumping off the cliff.

And we need to know that, once we step off, our wings can unfurl.

Perhaps that is overly optimistic of me. Perhaps the wings we believe are just those lies we tell ourselves to keep ourselves in the comfortable anticipation of a jump.

I’m in a very not knowing mode tonight, and I’m doubting my expressions. But I’m feeling it, regardless.

I’m just letting my thoughts go, a little bit. I hope you don’t mind. If you like James Joyce, you may even find some tangential comfort in the freeness. Or Montaigne, whom I love, despite morally opposing his central thesis of failure.

When we enter the mind, are we going to a different place? Is the internet a geographical location? Am I a bit crazy, and sleep deprived. I would argue, all of the above.

I wonder what it takes to get me to be un-self-referential, and actually go with the flow. Perhaps it takes courage, or some other unidentifiable quality of honesty that doesn’t really give a fuck, and doesn’t need to deflect uncomfortable impulses because they tickle like an open nerve ending, suppurating slightly in a sphincter of pain, but inverted. An anterior position and an exposure to light.

Emptiness of a certain variety scares me. Scares, scares, double dog dares. Witches, the scottish play; tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Perhaps peut-etre est un mot prefere; Yo, I want to get those accents down. French is beautiful and that beauty is uncreate. A verb from long ago that isn’t long ago.

Why are these public? Montaigne wasn’t genuinely wandering the corners of his mind. He was precise, needle like in perambulations. His circumlocutions weren’t circumspect. He wasn’t trying to appease some sense of ego. He was trying to capture, like the best artists, that elusive moment where the past and the future join.

What happens when I want
a haiku of beauty in
this blog of no form

But that’s not a very good haiku. Haiku is visual. It arrests the sense with delicacy and sweetness.

I wonder if Basho ever got down on himself for silly reasons. I wonder if, in composing his best 16 syllable gems, he would doubt his ability, and suddenly write a series of jokes in haiku form to calm himself. I wonder if Murasaki Shikibu had a sense of humor. She comes off as a very sad individual.

Then again, she doesn’t feel the need to sit at her desk at midnight, and type out a series of thoughts that go nowhere.

But then again, neither do I.

Free Verse

Lately, in the boston
Metropolitan area, the sky has fallen
Repeatedly.
I wish I pretended to care more.
the quiet white
Albatross,
Plumage pushing in clenching silence
As the world
Descends to meet it
A skyline receding
And falling ever downward
Like the wars of attrition
Fought as a last resort
In the middle of blood filled trenches
The sight of light long forgotten
The smell of soil, humus, death
A taste of the night in the air
Even in the pall-bearer grey air
Funereal and attuned
To the sum total
Of silence.

Falling

It fell from a great height
This
Moment, through the air
Pressure pushing patiently
Against the skin
Running along the pores to invade
Looking for those weak spaces that

Are death valley crevasse to
The city of dustmites that feel the air flow
The yaw of descent

Into stillness

A Series of Thoughts in no Particular Order

Fuck, it got hot.

There is something about summer suddenly rushing onward, without any consideration for what’s here; summer rushed because it took its sweet time getting here, wending weary ways along April showers, and somehow bypassed Le Sacre du Printemps entirely, much to my disappointment.

My mood tonight is free-jazz, and my heart is pumping sanguine beats.

I thought about Kendrick Lamar today, and my struggle to enjoy his music. It’s not that I hate him, or that I think his music is bad; actually it’s literate, rebellious and super on point. But I just don’t vibe it. And that seems to no longer be good enough. Instead of listening to a record, setting up your particular groove – whether that be a nice vinyl cut, some sweet ass-headphones open back for premium mindfulness music, or just an iPod – there is a growing lack of acceptability of just listening to a piece of music, and having no reason for liking it.

A lot of things I like are for no reason at all, which is the best reason, honestly.

I am Hindu to the bone, but man, Lao-Tzu dropped mad-truths. The universe in its requisite is straight chillin’ in the Taoism…unless you’re all up in the Upanishads, and love yourself some Brahman (not to be confused with Brahma). But Lao-Tzu’s old, accreted and untraceable ideal was the basic idea of balance, harmony, but more importantly the role of dichotomy in reality.

Because, if we’re being honest, up is down, if you look at it the right way.

If there is a reader I don’t know about, I imagine that last sentence was mighty frustratin’, so let me walk you through that particular logical conundrum.

But actually, no. that wasn’t the way
The tao cannot be quantified
And you cannot
Look through some magical
Lens of reality and suddenly
Taste the fruit of enlightenment

That’s just way too much effort, and I’m here to ramble more or less incoherently.

But in Taoism, up and down are not so much two different things, but the same thing expressed in two different ways.

If you’re heading south, you’re technically moving forward, because you are facing forward. And if your orthogonally challenged, like myself, then that means up, because metaphors.

But seriously, you only ever face one direction: the direction you are facing. and the first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club; but that’s just a circular logic.

When you face that direction, that direction is always, incontrovertibly forward. It may not be the forward on the map though. You could be moving toward the southron horizon, moseyin’ along the plains and the planes are flying high above you. And you see blue sky and…wheat fields for days. In this place, forward and backward are irrelevant; only the asphalt truth of the road matters in any meaningful way.

But it’s only determined that you’ve gone backwards after the fact. The truth of it is you were walking in a forward direction – to your perception – and suddenly you realized that the direction reality was pointing was behind you.

Which, if you’re following along (and I don’t sound like a crazy person) is backward. Forward was backward, the whole time.

You took a wrong turn, and ended up on the wrong side of Minos who’s ready to wrap his tail repeatedly around himself to determine which place you gon’ end up at the end of all of this. With the fires licking your ass like some Hieronymous bosch painting.

Ok, that was trying too hard.

But my friend, my companion, the old master. He saw what I illustrated poorly: if you’re on the spectrum of existence, you’re on it. The demarcations, the delineations, the parsing out of passing particles pointing pathways polar opposite of each other are just a singular state of being. The wind knows know limits; it only knows how to blow.

And that, that’s kind of beautiful.

I wish I knew where I was headed with this, but it’s been feeling like work for so long, it’s nice to go forward, and then find myself moving in reverse, down the long forward wheat plain that occupies the space between tomorrow and the landscape of my dreams.

Yahtzee

Trying too Hard

I’m trying too hard.

You can always pinpoint the exact moment you recognize that sensation – a confluence – a coalescing – too many thoughts all going a million different directions: I should do this, I should do that. I should be doing this right now. Why am I not doing this? Am I a bad person for not doing this. What is doing this? That word is losing meaning and I think I’m going to flow a little unpunctuated I’m a bit too anti-style and my blog makes no sense how taoist of me but not really that’s an an asinine remark I should be more considerate of taoism. Phew, need a breath here. There’s so much I want to do and I’m a perpetual commito-phobe; not because I think any things are inherently bad, but because I’m so crowded internally I have to do everything at once. It’s a great paradox, really, The harder you try, the less you accomplish. Try to do everything accomplish nothing. It’s all a matter of time, really. You can’t tell when i’m interrupted in a  sentence like this. I kinda suck at research; maybe I should fix it. Isn’t the semi-colon a nice punctuation mark? I have so much respect for montaigne, man, like you have no idea. This is trying too hard. This is like Joyce at the end of ulysses, but there isn’t enough to grab onto. No sensory details about that cypress on the edge of forever, nestled between a legitimate thought, and lilies falling from the sky like a shower of mid-light and John grant’s singing softly in his endangered dulcet baritones and Leopold bloom is there for some reason. This is too experimental. It isn’t edited enough. I’m not edited enough; I’m only restrained. Danger, danger, danger will robinson. Not enough hyperlinks. Too many obscure references, but not really. This paragraph has gotten frustratingly long, and unnecessarily meta: a biography of Eric’s writing style. Third person, ew, perhaps I should drift to that place called happy. There aren’t any cypresses there, and there is no reason for them to be there, but I like the premise. The palace of open spaces in that limitless unknown of the mind; not the brain, though, because the brain is finite, it is looped, it only suggests the lamniscate – which a fancy word for infinity – and it suggests it poorly, in a mirror, like a hall of them. These masturbatory exercises in form are frustrating to even  me. I can’t muster the energy for sarcasm. It requires too much from me. It would require sitting up straight in my busted leather chair, with a slight incline that’s just high enough to be good, but not enough to be endearing. I have to look at this constipation of text, and be ok with it, somehow, knowing that, at best, three people will read it. I have no point, but I find it more honest than having one. And perhaps that point is lost in today’s consequential lifestyle. Things not people, all that pretentious mess. And I watch it from my pretentious perch. a little white tower taken from some sci-fi poster on a van der graaf generator album that you’ve probably never heard of, and don’t need to have heard because prog rock is a pretty tough genre to stomach on the best of days. The desire to be consequential hampers everything. I need to improve, to genuinely improve. After writing this significant block of frustratingly non-dense text, with few allusions, I’m going to sit down. tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. It is always the horizon that intrigues isn’t it? The sun that  sits resting gentle despite the space of millions of miles, so far that light fails its instantaneous message to earth. The photonic necessity of earth is diminished by 8 minutes and my obssessive compulsive feelings, not disorder, never disorder, is about something less than that, somehow. Something more too. And I see all the oblique angles, all the lines that go nowhere. And this is trying to go somewhere. Trying to be something. Forcing itself to be clever, or witty, but it’s a giant block getting gianter, how many times do I have to repeat my comfort at being invisible, before it becomes evident i’m lying to myself?

Honestly, I don’t know. Once I stop trying thought, maybe it’ll get better.

Boarding House Reach – Jack White

 

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This album is infuriatingly compelling; damn it.

Garage-Rock Revivalist and King of the Hipsters Jack White returns with Boarding House Reach, his third solo studio effort and it’s hard to talk about this record. It makes me feel like Schrodinger’s cat, somehow in love with it and utterly frustrated by it.

Of Hemingway’s many stylistic features, his most famous is the extensive use of parataxis, which – aside from being a very fun word to use in a sentence – is a logically tricky technique where, instead of using a conjunction that defines the relationship of two ideas, favors the logical placement side by side of the two words: instead of saying, but, use and.

And it seems Mr. White’s new songwriting style is paratactic, to greater and lesser success.

This album is a glorious mess; Zappa in its essence by way of AWB, Earth, Wind & Fire, and sometimes, White’s own series of malaprops that define the best of his work. There is a chaos and disorder that I love; and I’m not sure why.

Image result for boarding house reach

Track to track, there is no flow. None of the tracks have any sense of continuity. The downbeat synth gospel “Connected by Love” is followed gracelessly by the meandering “Why Walk a Dog?” and then there is a very distressingly intentional 5 minute jam on “Corporation”. And then there is “Abulia and Akrasia”. Each of these songs is concocted half-heartedly, and exist painfully in the negative space. The funky white boy jam of “Corporation” never quite coheres, with the vintage keys and synths clashing with the guitars, and abruptly changing tone with each vamp on the original musical idea.

And instead of building up, or flowing from one contour to the next, there is a splatter paint aesthetic to the pastiche and stylings. White steals liberally from the sounds of Kid A on “Hypermisophonia”, and then takes a hard left turn into 90’s hip-hop sounds on “Ice Station Zebra”. At no point do these songs feel like they should follow one another.

As we progress through each track – with an interesting drum beat here – a little throwaway vignette here featuring healthy steinbeck sounding big words like some frankenstein abjuration – a thick garage rock fuzz guitar riff, there is no propulsive lift that makes the album become more than itself. The plane is turning down different runways and tracks, increasingly kaleidoscopic; but only ever obscuring, never clarifying.

It feels like something Frank Zappa would have done; and, at times, I feel like I’m re-listening to We’re Only in it For the Money, or Uncle Meat, where the song fragments never really add-up, and it’s on purpose. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that White is secretly listening to The Mollusk on infinite repeat.

And I’m not sure that works. Those records rely heavily on the fact that Zappa and Ween don’t take themselves at all seriously. The humor is from the absurdism of the personalities of

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Zappa and the Mothers, as much as the music on the record, which never stabs the serious; never approaches that kind of intent that would convey some kind of point.

Jack White has never affected that kind of persona. He’s always struck me as rather self-serious, even when making a joke. His humor always has a very in-group vibe; the kind of joke told by the kid who is reading Camus to his horn-rimmed wearing, plaid laden, group of friends, all the way in the back corner, laughing at the absurdity of Sisyphus.

And that doesn’t quite gel with what Jack White excels at: tightly written rock music. I’m all for weird jazz, technical prowess, and musical cavalcades of chaos, but it doesn’t feel genuine on this record.

And and and and yet, I can’t stop listening to this record.

Despite the high signal to noise ratio of cognitive dissonance this record induces, White does a lot of things right: the production is damn near flawless, even when the songwriting is oblique and off kilter. His guitar tone still sounds like that sexy-fuzz that I’ve always known: like sugar dipped bacon, gritty, sweet, but still just salty enough for character.

Despite the song’s often going nowhere, with disjointed musical ideas never quite adding up, there are some particular killer cuts on the back half of the record “Over and Over” is pretty great. The instrumentation is often interesting, and the sound immersive.

By the end of it, even though I’m frustrated and  dreamlike, I still want to explore the record again; as if re-listening to it will somehow make the confusing thick production into tighter written songs; and the equation will make itself known.

The chaos isn’t controlled; Jack White isn’t Frank Zappa; and this record is a confused mess; and I kind of love it anyway.

Until I don’t think like Caravaggio

Qualified Like

If you like this record, check out: Uncle Meat, The Mollusk, We’re Only in it for the Money

To the Pointless: 2/28/18

Winter is dying, yo, and not just cause of Global warming.

The herald of the end times of sad times arrives on the doorstep and I am all for it. My seasonal affective disorder will not permit me to not get excited about the sun existing for longer and the dark existing for shorter. I can hear the sovereign desultory salutations of the first blossoms in the distance; I can hear that winged feather duster angel and all her glory as the seasons balance themselves out, and life becomes a tad more comprehensible for a time.

Or something.

I have problems with being able to express myself meaningfully and then not immediately backpedal or make light of it. I suppose it’s a sign of insecurity, but there has always been something that feels vital to the process. You know, sorta like how you have a nasty habit, and then you decide not to break it, cause it’s familiar.

But I do find a weird, perverse value in self-referential-deprecation of my own work, although it dilutes my point like roman innkeepers and falernian wine.

Falernian.

As stated this blog is pointless: its hardly a blog. I don’t have a reason to write, other than to do so. So if you’re reading this for any reason other than to look at the ramblings off the tip of a stranger’s tongue perpetually spinning, occasionally going for the pretty, you might be in for some unfun times. I do have things that are actually coherent. But there’s something enjoyable about meaningless nonsense too.

Except for Finnegans Wake, which is distinctly unnonsensical. That portmanteau works.

Maybe I could go all mezzanine like Nicholson Baker and introduce extensive footnotes at the end of my blogpost that end up diminishing the value of my insights, as perpetual lists of contrary evidence array themselves in neat little formations that frustrate and amaze.

Maybe  I could go full joyce and slip into dedalus labyrinths holy shit I just realized his name is dedalus and the labyrinth is his mind and all its weird references to art and life and everything oh my god I just had that realization now now now now and now i’m quoting Molly Bloom too unsubtly for my taste but hopefully at this point you do begin to realize that you need space in your writing. You need periods, man.

But I don’t know why I needs to be public. Maybe it’s  because i’m sick of bottling up my private little neuroses in some back corner, where it’s safe, and easy, and can’t be exposed to the light. Where those fingerprints of contrary evidence can’t touch its sullen exterior.

Someone’s talking about the Tao and doesn’t know it.

Maybe I could dip into some Zen Buddhism Koans for a change, instead of constantly referencing Taoism. Maybe I could talk about Sikh’s (pronounced Sick) or the Muslim folk, or my formally informal conversion to Hinduism (little heart eyes emoji).

But this nonsense is most assuredly nonsense, and I doubt it’s meaningful either. Unlike all of the above.

So, if you like that, we can be friends. Honestly, we can be friends probably cause you’re a pretty sweet person. Or maybe you’re a Nazi, that seems to be a common problem these days. That and the aggressive need to be right.

I need to be wrong more. Or at least I need to make the effort to let myself be wrong more. To be incomplete and unfinished.  A pastel painting where it’s half blank because the person who painted it has OCADD and is too distracted by their rituals to do anything about it.

Or I could try to be Montaigne, not quick, but definitely lovingly pointless in his desire to be insignificant.

I think its honest when artists desire to be forgotten. I think I’ve said that before. That said sad that before, and I think that’s actually rather pretty, in an off putting way.

But why do I feel you need to know this? Perhaps its to show off; I certainly seem questioning tonight. I feel like I’m trying to be David Markson and Kate at the of reality. Always revising some Wittgensteinian (I think a word) tractatus and the world is already the case, but you havent discovered the case yet, so it’s something like Godel’s incompleteness theorem.

And now my attempts are perspicacity are most certainly contrived, and that makes me sad.

But what is the internet other than a bunch of mindless or mindful rambling on topics that don’t really matter, for people who aren’t really there, to justify an opinion you don’t really Hold?
Perhaps that’s mean spirited.

Consistency seems to be a challenge for me. So let’s take bets on how long this goes. I’m not banking on it lasting more than a month, but i’ve been proven —

Stop.

and reverse

Light blinks

Turn

Is this wise. I don’t know. Is it healthy. An even greater, and more fraught question. Is it worth it.

Well, I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.

The best things in life are worth doing poorly, or so I’m told. I wonder how many abstractions I’m missing in here. Probably a fair bit. this is, after all, a snapshot.

But I think a snapshot is worth more than the essay that it could have been. That’s not true.

And I don’t know what is.