Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My last review

And from the absurdity that excessive creativity can have on the classic boy-meets-girl movie, to the absurdity of pure excessive creativity. Drawing Restraint 9 is the first movie by Matthew Barney that I have seen, although he has a series of acclaimed movies: the Cremaster cycle (viewed already by Xin). I knew what to expect in style, which meant there was no shock of its extreme arty movie style.

I liken watching truly arty movies as like listening to a symphony. It used to be that people could listen to classical music and enjoy the flow, build-up and climax of pure sound, the building of a motif to its ultimate realisation etc. etc. Then came pop music which its thematic creation which drowns out such appreciation. The same could be said with dance and ballet. Likewise with movies, the simple observation of crafted symbolism, recurrent motifs, trained performance, simple beauty could be missed in this movie to the unaccepting eye drilled in the patterns of commercialised movies. But if you let such a movie come to you, hold it within your minds eye, let it brew, wait for association and meaning to form slowly and form it is a refreshing experience. You feel cleaner by the end of it.

Of course, I loved the film, after all, it has the coolest tea-set on the face of the globe. It was sensual and cryptic. The sound of this movie is overpowering. Matthew Barney's wife and co-star is the irrepressible Bjork (although her acting her is definitely one of restraint to the natural) so naturally this is to be expected when an artist is given such a responsibility. The music is an even more extreme demonstration of the pure music shown in her recent album Medulla. Lyrics are a scarce commodity in all the music and to those wanting to hear that voice it could be a disappointment. But for the movie, the abrasion, repetition and flow of the whole soundtrack are undeniably apt. I had seen reviews of the soundtrack on Amazon.com and the screams of protest from Bjork fans at the minimalism of it all – and the lack of Bjork's crooning. But that is to forget that it is a soundtrack. I had been rather sleep-deprived for two straight nights, and at times did shut my eyes. Xin aided in my reawakening. But this is the kind of movie you can appreciate well with your eyes shut.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Movie Reviews

With a film festival, there will always come reflection on films, their qualities, the thoughts they inspire, as well, as well as reconsidering the reasons we choose particular movies, or watch movies at all.

Thus, here are my reviews and reflections on the three movies I have watched in the 2005 Auckland Film Festival.

Sympathy for Lady Vengence

This is the third in the Revenge trilogy, three independent movies based on retribution. After watching the previous two (Old Boy and Cut) I was awaiting another dose of plot trickery, kinetic action and general sadism. Regrettably, having such high expectations can lead to disappointment and regrettably this was the case here.

A woman is released after her 13 year prison sentence for the crime of kidnapping and murdering a young boy. The film sets out exactly how it was that her though innocent, was convicted and how she set about in her plans for vengence on the true perpetrator of the crime. Needless to say, a lot happens in between, it is rather tiring to decipher the relevance of it all.

Park Chanwook, the director, built on the bag of tricks used in the previous movies thatching together a complex cohesion of segments into this film. The time line, even more than ever, is shattered and we are given fragments from various times, while the main segment proceeds.

Amelie-esque whimsy is often used frequently with daydreams, fantasies, and general trickery used within the general flow. At times, this is a pleasant break, at other times it is disorienting, not knowing what is really true. Did it happen? We might never know.

The ending was the weakest point, lengthy and removing the significance from the preceding journey. She discovers vengence is not hers to deliver, and this is drawn out further and further. And then in an ambiguous segment (is it true or is it fantasy), the film ends.

The Science of Sleep

Stephane is a wildly creative person, a dreamer, if you will. But dreams, and their separation from reality can make life difficult, especially for a fool in love, and even more so for the object of his affection. This film is one of the most amazingly creative movies I have seen. Almost half of it is conducted in the confines of Stephane's imaginative brain revealing his desires and doubts. He is plagued mercilessly by his suspicions that Stephanie, whom he was besotted, really loves him and is not attracted to another.

Strangely, a lot of my criticisms for the last movie are strong points of this movie, showing it is delivery rather than the tools itself. The jumps from fact to fantasy could have been confusing, but we grasp the frustrations of Stephane even more strongly - this was clearly intended. The trickery too is the nature of the film.

I'm quite familiar with work of the director, Michael Gondry. He has done several movies notably The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and memorable for me is the Bjork music videos he has done (Bachelorette, Human Behaviour, Army of Me). Some scenes even directly recall them to mind. He has even done an acclaimed music video for the NZ band Stereogram.

In many ways, the dreams sequences are realisations of a wickedly kinetic music video. The soundtrack often kicks in during the dreams too complementing the weirdness of the dreams. The effects are eyepopping. Huge hands, cardboard cars, an antique toy horse charging around a field. The dialogues are littered with wordplay and language fun (done in three different languages, but mostly English). Almost the whole cast are oddballs, with the exception of Stephane's mother and housekeeper.

Overall, it was a ball. Highly recommended by me. A review of Drawing Restraint 9 will follow my viewing of it on Monday.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


A quick blog from an otherwise frenetic life. I chose, almost at the flip of a coin, to do some relief work for my last language school. This reduces my time for everything else of course. In amongst the buzz, I've officially become a contractor to my latest client. Things will begin soon and surprisingly, they already have 7-8 students lined up "without much trying" and only from one section of the business (albeit the largest section). I went for a forest walk on Sunday and went for a jaunt in the CBD and my ankles felt fine. My back seems to be holding up well with my regular back stretches (even if the beautiful music it makes causes James to cringe).

So perhaps I'm emerging from the mire of my unwellness. My personal economy will hit a small boom (for the first time in I don't know when). And I can't think of anything else depressing right now... Except for the petrol price - that's bad.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Unity of all Things

One of my tightly held philosophical belief is the unity of all things i.e. that all things, despite our tendency to differentiate things, are essentially part of the same thing (just different forms).

One interesting thing about listening to Radio NZ on Saturday afternoons is that they play a plethora of different music, from hip-hop to country, to house music to metal etc. Usually music tends to get a little tribal - especially if you are younger. It is perhaps when you become musically wise when you realise that music cannot be chopped up. It does have different forms but it remains an intact art. It is a unity. It is then you can listen to almost anything.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Life as an errand

It took me one hour to leave F & P Healthcare today, which was essentially four different errands. Afterward I charged home on another, go waylaid by another, then decided to wash the dishes at my Dad's home before going home (in passing doing another errand).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Now we're cooking with gas

In Xin's house, we have instituted rather austere restrictions on power and water use. There is no need to be profligate with resource use - efficient routines and habits are the key.

I'm also housesitting my father's house while he and his family are away on travel. He has no qualms about power use. It took me two weeks to notice he had the bathroom towel rail on. And another week (now) to think to run down to his bathroom to turn that one off. The shower here doesn't sprinkle, it saturates, and does so faster than the shower can drain the bottom. He has a wastemaster for scraps (we have a worm farm and a compost heap). His uses gas to heat the whole house (fortunately I don't need to use that).

It is a constant contrast.
A First?

Edwin asked one day what was something that could really be considered strange that I had done or something that I had done that no-one else had ever done before or something like that (feel free to say the exact question, Edwin). Some people are wont to call themselves strange, y'know, without any decent reason (apart from the idea that you vary from the norm, well who doesn't).

Anyway, although I may or may not have answered satisfactorily that day, perhaps another thing to add to the hypothetical list is a telephone-call where Xin and I simultaneously brushed our teeth for the first few minutes of the call tonight.

But naturally one doesn't know if other people engage in such adventurous combinations of ordinary tasks as we do. And at the same time, there is no strange in reality without comparison, and it was thus I answered that day, in the main.
New Adventures in HiFi

When you go from dial-up to broadband, it is like the first time you enter a chocolate shop. You gain access to secret places, drop the semblance of temperance and it's like I was blind but now I see.

Sheer delight.

One of the delightful Zen phrases goes like this: "Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water." It gets to the root of all the endless abstraction, eliminating the mental dross we accumulate in our efforts to grasp the Absolute. After all, usually if the Zen disciple asked irrelevant questions to the master, more often than not he gets thwacked with a rod.

The modern equivalent would be Wash Dishes Vacuum Floor of course, and that is one of the things that comes to mind. General regular spring cleaning is wonderful at clearing the mind. Find a stain, eliminate it. Find a task, do it to completion to the best of your ability.

After doing this for most of Tuesday, I walked up the road and was quite disgusted by the rubbish. I'm reminded by a promise made to myself to go for a regular rubbish picking up stroll - it just needs to be regimented into my schedule - then it would be done. It is interesting to contemplate the origin of all the rubbish. A proportion of it is recyclable rubbish that had been correctly placed in the recycle bin only to fall out when the collecting men did their running grab. The hours after collection are often when the street looks worst. Rubbish, once loose, is no one's responsibility. Similarly bad weather on a rubbish day can have a similar effect. Empty plastic bottles are naturally wont to be blown from the bins, let alone paper from overfilled bins. Other bits are people's general laziness. In the playground, littering was often a sign of coolness, as it was in opposition to the goody-two-shoes labouring to the bin to discard. But when older, you wonder what is the general perception of litterers.

There are homes with fences peppered by little scraps of rubbish - on Dominion Road some items of rubbish are many years old. When you see faded labels and the like, it would be interesting to know whether the residents of the homes nearby actually notice them, or whether it is just there to see.

A few days ago, I noticed a sopping wet thin strip of carpet left in front of a neighbouring house when on a march for a Sally Lunn bun. Last night, it had moved three metres down the road to be in front of our set of units. Perhaps the neighbour, knowing it was not his, had moved it onto us.

Rubbish is a wonderful study of society.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nobody told me there'd be days like this

Some people know that I have fears about the deterioration in my memory and judgement. I'm generally a optimistic person, but my confidence in my general competence has never been that high since I was about 20. Only in a few spheres of life would I claim any self-efficacy or genuine self-assurance in doing things. Xin is often amazed at my ability to screw things up or break things. My day-to-day memory is appalling at times. Sometimes I fear my spoken language is also going to hell in a flaming handbag.

It is hard to know whether such paranoia is justified, whether it is just a self-fulfilling prophecy, dietary or perhaps even a medical issue. Could doctors look back on posts like this and claim that it was the first symptoms of early onset dementia, Alzheimer's (insert random brain affecting disorder).

I don't know but what I do know is that I have had some bad days, and this to a certain extent, is one of them. Today I destroyed a laptop - pushed it off a keyboard "drawer" off a computer desk onto the ground. Perhaps it is something that anyone could have done but I might have a higher probability than others. At another time today, I got into the car and realised I didn't have my cellphone. I ran back into the house and took forever to find it then almost left before discovering I had put down the keys in the middle of my search and had to retrace my footsteps to find them. The day before I was very close to locking my keys in my father's house (he is in the Phillipines) - only a moment reflection stopped me from doing it.

Of course, the most common occurrences are the near misses. Like the time I reversed the car near the bulk food shop almost hitting the car parked behind. Or the time I nearly ran down a bus driver outside the museum. I'm still a car accident waiting to happen. The world is fortunate that along with being wildly unreliable, I'm also rather lucky. Also I'm fortunate that I am a rather stable individual - I'd be desperately frustrated with myself otherwise.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Interface of the Reality

Belief systems are ways to understand, grasp, and interact with reality (regardless whether a formalised recognised one or the net beliefs of a person). One model of understanding of the workings of the body is that the body works via qi (ch'i), another model is centred on chakras, another one might even work with reference to the recognised anatomical features we all share. The different understandings might explain equally well or alternatively show great disparaties in deduced truth. Chakras and qi are unproven to even exist but at times can be useful in explaining phenomenon. One interesting point I heard that a qi blockage can cause poor circulation (cold hands), which western medicine treats as a natural disorder (something to be managed rather than solved). Apparently this is not true in Chinese medicine. I have poor circulation, hence my interest.

Economics and politics are the same in this way. The power of logic and authority might create an allegiance to one understanding of truth. I am rather straddled over the conservative/liberal divide because the explanations for both are both quite compelling and can explain different phenomena.

There is a taoist saying, "Once you've caught the fish, discard the net" which pretty much explains my thoughts on the topic. The fish (truth) always is paramount, the net (belief system / ideology) is the most dispensible. Yet as is often noticed people love their nets. The net offers consistency and stability. Thus it removes people a step from truth and reality.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Another interesting factor in moving out is the move towards complete self-sufficiency. At home, although I was a paying board, eating 95% my own purchased food, cooking that food, washed dishes, paid internet and phone etc. I often didn't do some of the housework such as washing tidying etc. Now that I have moved it gives me a direct ownership over doing things and also making some things 'my own'.

I have always enjoyed washing dishes; the process-based, meditative aspect of it is really pleasant. I have never been bored doing such tasks and now I have so many more routines such as taking care of the lettuce and tomatoes we have growing, collecting condensation, weeding, making various food (gourmet porridge, dosa, hummus, attempted chapattis, squeezed orange juice, spirulina, soaking beans for evening meals, sprouting alfalfa and fenugreek etc.), doing the washing, tidying, tending the worm farm and the list goes on. In other words, I'm thoroughly domesticated. I could be the ideal house-husband!

And then there are domestic projects abound for the future: Making tofu, Essene bread, bread bread, going into the ceiling, fixing the phone, finally tidying the house properly, selling off or donating all unnecessary spacetakers etc. etc.

Ah! Such freedom to do interesting things.