The Crazy Masters

A French film by Jean Ruch I saw in Brisbane at GOMA one time. The narration is all in French, and the subtitles are uselessly in Italian but honestly it’s worth watching just for the imagery. From memory it tells the story of a group of men (and possibly some women?) in the Ivory Coast who practised ritual possession. The incredible part is the unique ‘characters’ they each play – one possessed by ‘The Governor’, another by ‘The Soldier’, another ‘The Captain’, all former colonial spirits. There’s also a scene with an animal sacrifice I recall.

I think it ends with them all ‘back to normal’ and just living their lives like it’s all no bid deal. Anyway, it’s worth watching. It’s in three parts. (Also there’s a version with spanish subs on YouTube if you

Depicting God

It occurred to me, while watching this clip, that if you’re going to depict ‘God’ you might as well go all the way and make him/her/it like this. Certainly it’s probably more faithful to the ‘nature’ of God, or at least more faithful to the idea of God. In comparison to the Morgan Freeman-as-god trope, this is practically biblical by comparison! =P

Of course, another way to go about it is to prohibit the depiction of God, which is what I believe Islam prescribes. You could definitely read certain passages of the Old Testament (“Thou shalt have no grave images”) in exactly the same way. I wonder if the OT authors would have thought the same if they had the ability to animate, or simulate and model with computers.

Just some idle thoughts.

Oh, and as a summary of what’s going on in the clip, the uploader says the following:

The main character, Nishi, has just died an embarrassing, cowardly death and ends up in “purgatory”. There he is approached by a constantly changing incarnation of God who basically tells him “life sucks, deal with it”. Not happy with this answer, Nishi runs back towards “life” while God cheers him on.

Damn that capricious Ophiopogon japonicus!

‘I hope to prove that, both in its normal and abnormal operations, mind is essentially the same in man and other animals.’ In yet another article in the Journal of Mental Science he extended his claim to the vegetable kingdom. Plants, he claimed, possessed many aspects of mind – purposiveness, sensation, choice, forward planning, and even eccentricity or caprice – and this showed that ‘will and consciousness may exist quite independently of the brain’.  – Richard Barnett and Michael Neve, ‘Dr Lauder Lindsay’s Lemmings: Mad Beasts and Misanthropy in a Victorian Asylum,’ Strange Attractor Journal 4.

Readers with a keen memory may remember I argued something quite similar about this time last year, though I never would have ever been such a creative thinker as to ascribe ‘caprice’ to a plant!

(As an aside: yesterday’s exercise seems to have unstoppered the dam, as it were. Today I wrote almost 1500 words, all of which I am reasonably proud of. Yet more proof that my fingers just needed to remember how to talk.)

((Second aside: Ophiopogon japonicus would never be capricious, I just needed an obvious target and Mondo grass is my favourite. I trust it will not take it personally.))

More bullshit public diarising and things

So I’ve been having a pretty shit time of things lately, and for no good reason. Things are going pretty good for me right now – I’m working hard on my thesis (even if I’m maybe not quite as happy about progress as I would like to be) and I have no major dramas or problems. But hey, sometimes you just feel like shit and that’s enough, right?

Like, we’re not talking ‘a couple bad days’ here and there, I mean like consistently being in a kind of ‘manic’ state for a couple weeks here. I’m vacillating between maniacal hysteria (I laugh at my own jokes a lot, but especially right now) and crushing anxiety over… nothing. Or almost nothing. I feel like I need a holiday, but I can’t really justify taking one because every day is precious at the moment. Or at least, that’s what I keep saying to myself as I peel back the days on the calendar counting down to March 2013. That’s submission day, and I want to have a solid, well proofed, mostly watertight thesis ready for then so I can hand it in, stick up my middle finger at the administration and hang around in North America for a few months. I’m set on going to NY for a while and just seeing what happens.  Never been there before but I have heard enough, and know enough amazing people who live there, to know that even if I hang around for a month or more couch surfing I will probably not run out of things to do.

So the source of one of the major roadblocks to that eventuality is obviously this thesis thing, which is kind of at a bit of a standstill. I wrote a whole bunch for my talk the other week which I need to turn into a more fleshed out chapter, but I don’t really feel motivated to do that. So I went over to another section to do some work and flesh it out a bit, but found myself wanting to do more research, more reading, think different about it… So I bounced around from section to section not making a whole lot of headway (I’m enjoying some stuff I’m reading though, and plan to write a lot more about that, some of which has been flowing) but as October blitzes past it’s worrying me that I’m not churning out the daily wordcounts that I probably need (or would like to). But I guess I didn’t really set up a daily goal either, so maybe that’s a thing worth doing.

Whenever I feel anxious I feel like writing. I think that’s because writing is as much a part of my thinking as anything else. I think with my whole body (seriously), but writing is like the process of evaporation that crystallises the salt from the saline solution. It makes the salt easier to see and touch.

But what happens when I want to write, but I can’t write because what I want to write isn’t clear, or I want to research more? A negative feedback spiral, a weight on my chest, a tension in my jaw. I lose control of my emotions as they detach from any object that could be generating affect. Like the last space shuttle undocking from the ISS and preparing to head home, emotion spins in space on a fixed an immutable orbit. I search for an environmental source or reason for the affect and, finding none, ironically the affect and anxiety intensifies. I want to scream or yell or run away or somehow short circuit the process.

The only thing that really helps is music. Music is the mood regulator. Music reaches deep inside through my hearing and chances the tenor of experience, lays down a blanket of affect to cushion the fall. Music is an atmosphere that offers precious resistance, slowing the flatspin capsule jumpers and manic-depressive-types alike.

Music can be my meditation, when I can’t meditate (I don’t really meditate). There wasn’t really a point to this piece for you, reader, except to see perhaps the working of my hands and my mind and the thinking-writing process. I think I did need to get some of it out on paper, if only to remind my head and hands what it is like to write words freely and unencumbered. Sometimes that’s enough. I strongly suspect that is enough.

Waterfowl encountering water for the first time

video via a RT by @ben_hr

There is something in the ducks behaviour that is oddly familiar – something recognisably “human” in a way. The initial trepidation and refusal to encounter the new and the strange (in this case, water) which is in fact perfectly natural insofar as an affinity for water is biologically, or evolutionarily, expected (beneficial?) for ducks. The amount of cajoling and “forcing” them into the water that they have to endure reminds us of our own stubborn behaviour in comparable situations. For me, I distinctly recall a few of these moments: the first job search, the first painfully, awkwardly forced manifestation of desire for another person. There is something very human (or if you prefer ‘animal’, or ‘biological’) in the difficulty experienced by people/animals/things breaking these encrusted habits and expectations that fail to serve a purpose or no longer reflect the reality of their lived environment. There’s something very humbling about (re)discovering something innate about oneself, something that had either been forgotten, lost, unlearned, or suppressed. I think it’s important to take a position of care for these people/things, and to be resolutely on their side. It seems important for my own sense of humanity…