Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Pepperpots

Watched Bladerunner 2049 and might watch it again to check my impressions and get a bit more of the story. When you have a movie theater nearby where you can catch a show for $5/6, it becomes not ludicrously expensive (mwah, Grand Lake Theater) to do extravagant things like...see a movie twice.

I saw what everyone is saying about mammary glands. Yup. Accurate.

(Not really spoilers.)

This isn't a review, but two impressions that I took away.

First, something I liked: you sit with set scenes and experience them in distended theater time. The characters in this movie are at home in these magnificent otherwordly sets but you, the viewer, are not. The scenes are lingered on and you're given time and space to experience them, to get grounded in that universe. There's no dilution of your own impressions by seeing them through the eyes of another (for the most part - and I think when that shifts it's maybe intentional - as in, K maybe did not see before that these things were worth pausing on and exclaiming over), though there is ambient music/sound which does prep you for certain feelings. Contrast with a scene like this:



It's SO FAST and you see it through the eyes of Judy: she is impressed so you wanna be, too. And it is impressive!

Blade Runner 2049 is not like that. It takes a different approach to give a sense of both distance and immersion through the set-usage, purposefully, I think, to give us a taste of how a replicant might view the world: no attachment, no comment, just moving through and doing what you were programmed to do.

Which, second, leads me to a disappointment. On the macro level, I felt like the world was really excellently conceived. On the micro, at least for the city scenes (and maybe one or two others - but mostly the city scenes)....ehhhh.... It felt like it wasn't the bustling metropolis in the original and seemed...almost empty? Sterile? Too neat. The original somehow conveyed the sense that this was a mish mash of cultures in extremely tight quarters - but without explicitly showing much:



The new one? Not so much.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film. EXCEPT for accidental circumstances. I happened to sit in front of two really loud teen? college? girls who, at first, kept up a conversation in tones louder than the movie... Until enough people craned their necks to stare pointedly at them and they finally got this rather subtle hint.

BUT they were also the sort who scream out "OH GROSS!" or "what's he gonna do!?" and the like. So the entire movie was a bit of a purgatory. They reminded me a bit of this skit:



Sunday, October 08, 2017

Simon Says: Rocks, broken bones, and load-bearing

There have been two moments in life when the presence of God has become almost tangible - where I call out and He responds like a dead weight crushing against my consciousness.

One moment was many years ago. I was praying for a boy I'd never met who'd been in a horrific car accident. My friend, the boy's brother, had broken down crying when asking a group for prayers. He then left the room, shading his eyes, covering his sorrow: the situation seemed hopeless. I went into a nearby chapel, knelt, and prayed. No voice spoke in the stillness, but an absolute certainty settled upon my heart that God had heard and God had answered. That being that, I thanked God, genuflected out of the pew, and left - dipping my fingers into the holy water on my way out. There was a trail of ants leading to it, drinking on that hot day, from that same font of incomprehensible mercy.

A few weeks later, the boy was well on the path to recovery.

But I don't know God through moments of ecstasy or flashes of certainty - and don't expect that any personal experiences will be convincing to others. Honestly...I find personal testimonies rather more suspicious than convincing.

Mmm. But here gotta be careful. Because, epistemologically, I do find witness convincing (see: Apostolic succession). But the personal testimony flavor leaves me cold. It might be because I've known too many people who hear the experiences of others, when I think of my own experiences, and wonder: "Why HER, why not me? What is it that **I** lack?" You hear the miracles granted to others, you expect miracles, and, then,  when you scream from the depths of the soul ... you only hear an echo of your own voice that becomes faint and fainter before being absorbed by a universe of implacable rock-faced walls.

That feeling is why I believe, to be, perhaps, too overt in parallels. I find it repugnant to think that so many voices should be crying out because a burden, not of their choosing, has been placed upon them - to think that so many will end life in an agony of fear, anger, pain. To never, ever, be made whole. I cannot accept that. I will not accept that.

SUCKS TO BE YOU, KIDDO? SHOULD'A BEEN BORN TO DIFFERENT PARENTS IN AN AFFLUENT COUNTRY!!! YOU HAD ONE SHOT AND YOU BLEW IT!

There but for the grace of God? Do such as they not also have God's grace? Is that supposed to make that person who went *there* feel like they are worthy of love, of dignity? Or even that the person carrying some heavy burden feels like they're somehow blessed? Really? That's what you say and not: oh, hey....That looks....heavy....can I help you carry that?

Justice is a large part of why I believe.

God is the only lens through which suffering in the world becomes something not-pointless. I won't say acceptable or even tolerable. Not on a human-experiential level, at least. I would, instead, say intellectually passable. God does not will physical evils in se (and moral evils in no way). But He does will to allow physical evils so that some good might come about. The problem is this: clumsy speaking lends itself to misunderstanding. You get your dream job? God's will. You become deathly ill? God's will. The implication is that if this is God’s will, then it is also good and to be embraced (or even desired) as such. And, when you expand that without making distinctions, you get all sorts of crazy messed up ideas about mercy and justice.

God's grace moves beyond what we can see and He will wipe away every tear. If not in this world, then in the next: the Lazaruses will find respite. God forbid we should find ourselves on the other end of that great divide.
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Edit: This should be read and is quasi-related - but it is dark so do not venture if it might be too much.

Friday, October 06, 2017

This Week

This week was pretty hellish and my mood was like so:


But it is no longer quite like that.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Anime Music Videos






 


In Him we live and move and have our being

Lotsa people feel isolated from their Catholic Community, from what I see/hear/read.

Parishes try to encourage the formation of community by having bible studies, youth groups, young adult groups, parish events, and whatnot - throwing a hodge podge group of people together and being all "halloooo, Catholic hoomans, here are other Catholic hoomans! Ain't religion just the thing?"

And it doesn't work (if that's all it is) - it's like kids with playmobils mashing toy faces together.

There's a strict delineation some have between Church-friends and friend-friends. Occasionally, a Church-friend might slip into the friend-friend category but it is not (in my experience) because the circumstances surrounding this transition are inherently conducive to nurturing this development. They're rather the opposite: here are utter strangers - you sit awkwardly around a table and make small talk, read the bible, go to Mass, and agree that having a Catholic Identity is Really Important.

Then you part ways, go home, and forget these individuals even exist -- unless there's a t'eh fetching guy who catches your eye and makes your heart race and then you catch yourself using heart emojis and smiley faces everywhere and sternly say to yourself: "Self," you say, "he's probably one of those Nice Catholic Guys."*

Part of the problem is we romanticize Catholic Community as something other-worldly: this community will be holy and help us get to heaven and it will be set apart from and above our regular day-to-day world of drudge work, commutes, and making dinner for the fam while squeezing in an episode of some tv show. This is the CITY OF GOD, maaan.

Well, yes. And no.

The "yes" bit is that yeah, we are signed and sealed by the Holy Spirit, our destiny is shared and heavenly, and we are supposed to (1) get there and (2) help others get there (sorry, sounding like an airplane oxygen-mask PSA). This earthly home is not our final home and our hearts yearn for something greater and beyond. There will always be this yearning and dissatisfied feel because that's how we are, structurally, due to the jarring disunity effected by original sin. THANKS, ADAM AND EVE. GREAT JOB, GUYS. [Nb: they must be really sick of people on earth saying stuff like this.]

The "no" bit is how we understand that role and how it affects us on a practical level.

We are not pure spirit. We need support on a physical and emotional level as well as the spiritual. We have passions and hopes and dreams for this world which are legitimate and worthwhile: of getting a better job so you can support your family, of having a family, of having people around you that you can simply call up and say - without pretext - do you want to be with me in some way?

I'd argue you cannot effectively engage on the spiritual unless you're also engaging on those other levels. Catholicism is not at the expense of these lesser worldly things: it's the context for them, the giving of a proper order.

And that's one reason why (not THE reason, but A reason) - I think - we sometimes feel disconnected from our local Catholic Community. Because so much stress is placed on the spiritual, the rest feels immaterial or unimportant. And it's not. So it is that while we may be brothers and sisters in Christ we've never cooked a meal together, never watched a movie (unless it's a *religious* movie), never read then discussed a book, (unless it's a *religious* book), and never shared our interests and passions (unless they're *religious* ones). And unless you reveal who you are, people cannot connect with you or you with them: you can't build or have a community that feels or is real.

I don't really have any solutions except to say: creating an authentic Catholic Community is not about shoving the world into some neglected corner. God saw that it was good. It's not THE GOOD, but it's aight. We need more of a permeation of the Good News that settles into our bones and breath and every aspect of our daily lives and less of the "NOW IZ RELIGION TIME! ALL T'EH REST IS IN A DIFFERENT SPHERE!!!" feel to Catholic gatherings.

The day-to-day sorrows and joys are what we bond over as human beings. We care about beauty regimes, sports teams, dancing, authors, and art. We glory in the beauty we see around us and weep at the pain. It's not an either/or. It's a both/and (so long as by 'the world' you don't mean it in the sense of 'worldly').

It's not the intent to create the suggestion of these different spheres, I'm quite sure. And it is true that we must put God before all things: learn to know Christ more, Church Fathers and other befitting works, etc. But that's not ALL that we must do with others if we want to be friends with them, if we want to form a community.

This is all terribly, terribly abstract and vague - and also based off of personal experience with these types of events - yes.  Sorry. This is about Things I've Observed and Conclusions I've Drawn.

----
* This is a pejorative. Many Nice Catholic Folk unthinkingly - even blasphemously - use religion as a pious mask for some truly messed up crap.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

French Animation

French animators are doing some super cool things these days:












Friday, September 15, 2017

Dribs and Drabs

I read this essay, recommended to me by someone in real life, and he proposed the following:

Such folk as these should not, properly speaking, be called philosophers - they should be called assholes. Would you invite them to your philosophers' club? Would you invite them to a dinner party? Would you invite them into your home unless it were to remonstrate with them in private?

On reflection, I think he's right. You can absolutely hold that (1) such and such a person made a great contribution to philosophy but (2) demonstrated a significant lack of intellectual virtue and therefore (3) is not, properly speaking, a philosopher.

I certainly would hesitate to class Frege or Heidegger (alas, much as I like Heidegger and, yes, there is debate -- but things seem rather damning) with the likes of the gently insistent Socrates or the poetic Pieper. It feels a bit obscene in setting them alongside each other.

Everyone has their blind-spots and compartmentalizes their beliefs so that incompatible ones don't accidentally touch and explode - if not on the purely intellectual level, then as regards how these beliefs are applied in practice. Yes, here is a universal principle...but it doesn't apply in these particular circumstances. Ayiii, practical syllogisms.

But there is some point at which you cannot say both that this person is pursuing truth, is a gen-uuuu-iiine lover of wisdom, and yet holds certain patently false - even self-acknowledged as irrational - beliefs. It seems incompatible.

Will such folk ever not be called philosophers? Probably not. Nevertheless, I do not think we should call them as such. Call them Frege or Heidegger, call them a great thinker, but do not call them a philosopher.
-----------------
In other news, I am starting on a fantasy short story about a cockroach:


Once upon a time,
There lived a small cockroach named Hugo underneath the boards of a great house. Hugo had many brothers and sisters who would dare each other to amazing feats when food was scarce or when they were just plumb bored. One dare was to crawl on a human’s flesh and see how long you could stay before being flicked off and the human went shrieking and wriggling away, doing a funny dance. Another was to run across the floor of the ballroom when there was a party. If you made it to the other end alive, you got an additional mark on your exoskeleton - but it didn’t count if you lost a leg or antenna or something.

One night, there was a particularly huge party on the floorboards above - the biggest in living memory. All the cockroaches peered through the cracks and jostled each other for the best view. There was a fairy and a centaur who were making high pitched keens and deep rumblings at each other over a bassinet.

“Bet you can’t run across,” his sister Frida mouthed at him, cuffing his unmarked back.  The other cockroach siblings sniggered and nudged each other.

“I can so TOO,” Hugo cried out.

A sudden silence up above made him afraid that he’d been heard. Then he realized that was impossible.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Self-Abasement

My first writing class is over and it drove home a realization: writing is HARD. There's much crafting that goes into every story: refined ideas, minute word choices, plausibility, pacing, arcs, endings. Few people are gifted such that this all comes naturally. I knew this on some level but had hoped that I was among those gorgeous shining ranks that set their pen to paper and...magic would simply happen. Ink would neither blot nor congeal: it would flow and be set aflame, burned into paper, into minds and hearts.

After reading, men and women would stroke their beards (or the beards of their male friends) meditatively and quote extensively.

Friends have told me that I have a gift for writing. But experience has taught me to be suspicious of the estimation of friends. They see and want the best - and sometimes cannot bear to tell someone dear to them to drop a pursuit, to say that there is no actual potential, that their strengths lie elsewhere. Listening to friends' estimations has led to some grievously embarrassing moments in life: the equivalent of the wedding banquet where the man who sets himself in the seat of honor is told to take the lower(est) seat. These experiences engender hesitations and hiccups.

But there's a difference, I think.

I will never be a great dancer: I do not have the imaginative prowess to act in the moment, to be un-self-consciously performative, and my body is simply incapable of executing or holding taxing movements. I cannot even do a push-up.

One of my philosophy professors was sure that I would become a great name in philosophy. His convictions were mighty strong - but he was woefully unacquainted with the natural laziness that resides as a beast within me. An autodidact I am not - nor an original thinker. There has not been one original thought coursing through my brain (to my knowledge). If anything, my virtue in studies lies in sitting with ideas: offering them a cup of tea and observing their outlines or sideways glances. But that is merely surface-scratching.

Writing doesn't *feel* like those cases, though.

When non-vested strangers tell me of some glimmer that caught their fancy, some passage that affected them, something that kept their eyes following the words that plod across the barren white expanse. When they laugh or are touched by something that touched me, I feel as if the imperfect might, possibly, be brought closer to perfection.

And people in the writing class told me that.

It is not like throwing oneself against some implacable wall of actuality. There's a path. A hard path, it's true, but a path. So I signed up for another writing class, starting November.

Until then, you might expect more blog posts.
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Addendum: on re-reading, it sounded like I was denigrating the support of friends so I edited the post up a bit. It's more that...I showed one story to several irl friends, asked for their honest opinion, and they praised and thought it perfect. On showing it to my writing class, there were pages of critiques, but also moderate praise.

I *know* my writing is faulty and when friends insist there's only perfection, or refuse to breath a hint of criticism, well, I understand they're being supportive and I do appreciate that, but don't entirely trust what they say. Yet, if these friends hadn't told me I had a gift (their words, not mine), I probably would not have attempted a writing class, so I'm incredibly grateful to them for providing me with the impetus and for seeing something worthwhile.

Mish Mash of Current Listenings



Friday, September 08, 2017

My Friday Night

'D, watcha up to this evening?'
'Oh. The usge.'
'Wanna grab a beer?'
'Mebbe not tonight. Kinda tired.'

Reality:


And this is the usge - meds via infusion 1x/month! It's a weird experience. I share rooms with cancer patients who have little time left as well as rooms with other sufferers of autoimmune diseases: observing their families, seeing how they handle this strange reality, how they face their mortality.

I come by myself because my treatment is fairly mild (relatively). Others come surrounded with dear ones, ready to sit for at least four hours with the patient. The man being treated opposite me tonight is sharing Chinese food with his son and they were chuckling happily over the discovery of soy sauce packet that they thought had been forgotten with their take-out. His family has been calling him - they end conversations with 'I love you.'

His voice is barely above a whisper and it's beautiful.

But there are those who talk to me of the daughter who never comes.

Pray for all these folks.
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*Fixed the phone editing.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Seek Suffering

Right now I'm supposed to be working on my short story that's due in a little over a week. But my soul feels achy so I will post a quote that's been returning to my mind -- and then go to bed.
If the evil-doing of men moves you to indignation and overwhelming distress, even to a desire for vengeance on the evil-doers, shun above all things that feeling. Go at once and seek suffering for yourself, as though you were yourself guilty of that wrong. Accept that suffering and bear it and your heart will find comfort, and you will understand that you too are guilty, for you might have been a light to the evil-doers, even as the one man sinless, and you were not a light to them. If you had been a light, you would have lightened the path for others too, and the evil-doer might perhaps have been saved by your light from his sin. And even though your light was shining, yet you see men were not saved by it, hold firm and doubt not the power of the heavenly light. Believe that if they were not saved, they will be saved hereafter. And if they are not saved hereafter, then their sons will be saved, for your light will not die even when you are dead...You are working for the whole, you are acting for the future.
-Fr. Zosimov in the Brother's K by Doestoevsky.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Maybe

“But you believe, don't you,” Rose implored him, 'you think it's true?'

“Of course it's true,” the Boy said. “What else could there be?” he went scornfully on. “Why,” he said “it's the only thing that fits. These atheists, they don't know nothing. Of course there's Hell, Flames, and damnation,” he said with his eyes on the dark shifting water and the lightning and the lamps going out above the black struts of the Palace Pier, 'torments.'

“And Heaven too,” Rose said with anxiety, while the rain fell interminably on.

“Oh, maybe,” the Boy said, “maybe.”

-Brighton Rock, Graham Greene