Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One Day my Wish will Come True

Today I only have a few random things to impart, and it is in that spirit of randomness that I include a picture of a little pig with two noses and one eye (but all heart?). Because honestly, nothing is more random and fascinating that disfigurations resulting from mal-accomplished animal husbandry.

I first discovered that on a trip to the Kunstkamera Museum in Russia, which houses Peter the Great's collection of freaks. My friend Sabrina and I thought that we would be all over this little vacation destination, but in fact lost heart after a significant amount of time in the human fetus room. There was a pretty fascinating attention to detail, however, a testament to the dedication of some of the first scholars of anatomy. For example: a tiny human hand, not only perfectly preserved, but accompanied into the formaldehyde afterlife by painted nails and a little lace cuff.

My mother thought that the museum was the cat's meow, and she's successfully brought four children into the world. So it's possible that Sab and I are just wussies. Always something to consider.

The past few days have found me more than a little homesick for Russia - or perhaps not just Russia, though the memory of seeing the St. Petersburg streets gussied up for Christmas with snow and faerie lights tugs at my chest. I guess I'm a bit heartsick for wide open spaces, adventure and strangeness. Sometimes this leads me to read job postings in Appalachia, just for the hell of it.

A large part of my mood - both good and bad - is being governed by my continued participation in National Novel Writing Month. The concept always gave me a bit of indigestion before this year, because I thought it cheapened and made (mere) craft out of the work of writing. But as an actual participant, I'm really enjoying it. Mostly I feel the flexing possibility of actual accomplishment: yes, the novel I am writing now, in its current draft and formulation, may be bunkum, but I have written 64 pages in 12 days. I can write 64 pages of something, and not hate them all (just some)!

The writing of 1,667 words (at least) per day is wreaking a bit of havoc on my free time, however. It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the goal, which means that I don't ever want to go out to dinner, go to an improv show, or even watch a movie. It is a little bit wearing.

But it feels like a very different world from my actual job, where I am bound by duty to spend 8 hours of every day. Most months out of the year, when I get home it will take me a little while to unwind, and when I do I won't want to stop. Actually getting to work on my writing, as opposed to reading, watching a movie, or drinking a glass of wine with Dave, seems like an uphill road. But since beginning to work on a NaNo novel (or whatever...I still find the abbreviation silly), writing has become a separate and welcome world for me. Though some days I may end up only half-satisfied with what I've produced, I always wish I could continue. Certainly, I've been reminded that 8 hours a day on the novel and maybe 2 (or zero) in a desk job would be preferable.

But that's a pretty airy and distant dream. Not a bad sort of dream to have.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

You Mean you Don't Know?

Not to beat a dead horse, but I did finally see The Darjeeling Limited this past Friday. Much to my surprise (because I hadn't clicked on or read any of the mini-ads that are popping up all over the NYTimes.com, though now I somehow can't miss them) the Hotel Chevalier short was attached to the feature film in theatres, so now I've seen it three times. I cannot help but ask myself, Why?

Although I preferrred watching Hotel Chevalier in theatres for its higher resolution and saturation of color, I was disappointed by its interplay with the full-length feature. As a short supplement to a richer and more complex storyline, Chevalier could have come off quite well. The details in the brief picture are all in the implications: everything remains unsaid between the two ex-lovers (played by Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman), forcing us to imagine why she might have bruises on her arms, why he has run away to gay Paris. Knowing that this 15 minute interlude is a mere prequel, we are ready for the complexity that certainly must be coming to sustain a feature-length film with these characters.

But it never comes. Wes Anderson, for all his cult following (and believe me, I still get a brief thrill up my spine when I think about watching Rushmore for the first time) seems to have faded away into his own self-conscious aesthetic. While the characters in The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic were charmingly oblique, we were at least able to discern the limits of their motivations - their various births and implications. In The Darjeeling Limited, however, Anderson never quite moves beyond the coy characterization of Chevalier. It's up to the audience to decide whether or not the people he sets before them are real, and that's not quite fair.

Those in attendance with me on Friday expressed a similar ambivalence.

"Did you like it?" we asked one another, chewing on our lips in anxiety.

"Um, sort of?" came the inevitable reply.

Perhaps this type of storytelling - implication over explication - is an appropriate method for a generation of people stuck in their twenties, trying to look cool while we flail around for something to do. Indeed, perhaps all of us, desperately seeking respect and engagement from a world which considers us too young to have a family and too inexperienced to have a "career," are meant to see some echo of our own disembodied techno-freak personalities in the wispy, unsatisfying Anderson (and similar - this also seems to be a symptom of a lot of short-story writing these days) protagonists. We have the attention span for as much knowledge as we can get on Wikipedia: perhaps we don't deserve to watch characters who know any more than that about themselves.

It's the new cool in inner life: if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

Or maybe I'm just stressed out about National Novel Writing Month and paranoid about my own artistic output. It's only fair to put that option on the table too!

*** Image credit: http://www.visionarts.ca/photoillusion.htm
It's actually a bit more interesting in this location, because the original website is equipped to play up the optical illusion. Don't you see the moo cow?

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