09 December 2010

Beyond Seattle

I never thought I would settle in Seattle. Hell, I've been here a year and a half already (minus two months in Hawaii), and I never thought I'd stay that long, honestly. So I'm wondering what I'm going to do when my lease is over at the end of April.

I want to start this bookstore -- I'm eager and anxious to do so, actually, as if the possibility of pulling it off is only effervescent, which is nonsense. I don't think I'll have the capital, or more importantly, the emotional wherewithal necessary for opening a business, by spring.

More than that, opening a business isn't just -- or even, isn't really -- about opening it. I will be tying myself down for years, to one place and one job and one dream. On the one hand, that's awesome. I get to really do it, to drink deep and suck all the marrow out of life. I love that. I think I will sincerely adore running my bookstore. But simultaneously, I am scared shitless of that responsibility and that self-made cage. Since October 1st, 2008 -- just over two years ago -- I have lived in twelve different places. (Those count all the addresses I've lived at, an extended motel stay, and "my car.") I do not have a history of geographical steadfastness. I am an inconstant place-lover. I cheat. A lot. Hell, I couldn't even claim in the first paragraph above that I'd really been in Seattle for a year and half because that time period includes Mountlake Terrace, WA; Ninole, HI; Hilo; HI; and the actual city of Seattle, WA. I mean, hell! I know that I'll be okay in one place with something good going to hold me there, but the historical evidence is severely lacking and I doubt myself.

So I doubt I'll be opening the shop in the spring. Where does that leave me?

I could stay at the cafe until inspiration strikes or they go broke, either of which may happen at any moment. I could build up the life I've started in Seattle. I could grow some roots. hat's tempting, interesting, a different kind of adventure. I could learn to really love it here; I'm already further along that path than I expected to be. It's a possibility, at least for awhile. This bookshop is not a Seattle shop; it's a Midwestern one. So I would know that I'm leaving, no matter what.

I could run away to sea for awhile and get my head straight. It'll be the beginning of sailing season, perfect for running off. I could perhaps get a job on a ship, although my lack of experience makes me pessimistic about that. But I could cook. Or spend some serious time on the Nyckel. I miss the sea. A lot.

I could move to Iowa, or whatever other place looks good for my bookstore. I could start setting down roots there, learning all the things only locals know, get a better feel for where and how to set my shop, see if I can handle living in that place for so long, etc. That sounds fun, honestly.

So I don't know. I've even toyed with the idea of moving back to Pittsburgh for a bit, but that's just this strange bout of homesickness I'm going through. Pgh is where I'm from, not where I'm going. So...no idea.

01 December 2010

Avatar review (SPOILER ALERT)

For dinner tonight, I had pasta with pumpkin-peanut sauce, pumpkin beer, and the movie Avatar. (I'm talking about the one with blue people, not M. Night Shyamalan's latest catastrophe.) I was prepared to dislike it; I had heard from some people that it was overrated, that it won its Oscars for the effects, and that the analogy to present day Earthling racism, genocide, and war profiteering was so heavy handed that viewers should wear helmets.

Those people are assholes. I have seldom seen such tight writing in an effects-laden blockbuster in my life. It was -- is -- epic, in every integral sense of the word. It's the story of becoming the man you were born to be, of leading a people to victory -- a planet to victory -- with nothing but guts and faith to guide you. Shit, if that ain't cinema I don't want to watch what is.

It's beautiful. The ecology feels like a real ecology, like it all could have evolved together. The Na'vi, the blue people on the posters, their skin is even blue realistically! Everything on this planet glows with phosphorescents, so of course the intelligent species does too.

Some of the signposting is obvious, but I would not say that it is too obvious. After years of avid movie-watching, I can tell where I'm being led, and I personally don't mind that most of the time. I did not mind it here; it's just normal signposting. Of course Jake becomes a Big Bad Archeopteryx rider. Duh. The clans have to be united under a common symbol, and there he is. Boom. It's not beating the viewer over the head to tell them beforehand, "Hey, dude, there's this old symbol of a badass archeopteryx rider uniting all the clans in time of need. It's sweet, right?" That's actually called good writing.

But that isn't the themestick I heard Avatar was beating people with. That themestick was the Bad White People Destroying Good Natives And Good Nature Because They Are Bad allegory. Now, to start with, that's not just some allegory that's tacked onto the screenplay in order for some producer to feel good about himself. It's not an unnecessary twist of the core themes like the Bush critique built into the V for Vendetta movie or the exhausting Christ imagery and evils-of-war panoramas in Children of Men.

This "high-handed theme" is not just a theme. It's the fucking plot. And that plot is not more over-the-top than, say, Fern Gully or The Lorax. Anyone who thinks they've been smacked in the face by it ought to be smacked in the face again, because they are just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

With that out of my system, let me talk about what I really thought was cool in this movie.

1. The effects. Hell, yes. The entire non-existent planet looked real. I had no idea the Na'vi would look so good, or so natural. It's amazing, and the visuals actually served to help bring me into the world-building, to make me care about the safety of this bizarre, beautiful world and what would happen to it. I nearly cried when Eywa took Grace. I flew with our main pair when they soared. It was beautiful.

2. The humanity of the bad guys. Yes, it's there, and not just in Trudy. The Colonel is a wretched son of a bitch -- which some people are, especially (I expect) when they've spent the better part of their lives fighting for their lives in awful terrain against hostile civilians. He's a character you see a lot in Vietnam War histories. That shit gets to you. So, good job on a believable villain. Now, Parker, the commander -- there is an interesting piece of work. He's driven by his job, by fears of disappointing the people in charge of him, by probably many things of which we are ignorant. He gives the orders to kill the Na'vi, and he gives them staunchly. But he can't watch the Home Tree burn with the Na'vi still inside it; he has the monitors turned off. He turns away rather than watch the bombing mission on the Tree of Souls. He does exactly his duty, and I get the idea he doesn't sleep very well at night or like himself when he looks in a mirror. That's fascinating; I wish we got more of that, but it would jeopardize the integrity of the story. And anyway, the story isn't about him.

3. Jake's identity crisis. This is what the story is about. Personally, I think questions of identity are at the heart of every good story, so I guess I'm biased. Jake's identity struggle is blatant, however, and relayed through his video log voice overs as well as through his actions. He says the life he lives as a human becomes the dream, and his Na'vi avatar's life is the real one. He's a double agent who defects. A John Smith who actually does go native. He's Dances With Wolves. It's simple, yet it becomes brilliant through Jake's integrity, fearlessness, and depth of attachment to the world of Pandora. His experience is what sells the world -- and the story -- to me. He is a true warrior, and I cannot fault that. I wasn't sure I'd like him until the scene when he first wakes up in his avatar's body and runs just because he can, because these legs still work. (I nearly cried then too.) A lesser story would have succeeded in sedating him.

4. And ultimately, I think that is why I love this film. It never holds back. In the words of Vincent from Gattaca, it doesn't save anything for the swim back. It runs straight forward, does not pull its punches, does not stop to make sure the audience is following every step, does not ask forgiveness or permission. It just runs -- and then flies -- straight to the inevitable conclusion to its well-developed premise. That is why it is not high-handed. This is not a story sitting around waiting for viewers to catch up; every scene adds something to the story, to the characters, to the world. Every character is stock. Let me repeat: every character is a stock role. The idealistic scientist. The greedy, violent soldier man. The double agent who goes native. The chief who refuses to listen. The jarhead next chief. Pocahontas. It's not that the story is original, it's that it is played with such depth of feeling, and every stereotype fleshed out into a real individual, that it becomes its own singular story despite all that. I love it. I will watch it again. I'll even pay money for it. :)

And damn but I wish I'd seen it in a theater.

30 November 2010

Paradise Regained!

I just discovered a link I posted in 2008 to a flickr account I forgot I had, in which I posted all my best photos of Jordan and Cyprus. When I switched from my Mac last year, I put everything from the hard drive that I wanted to keep -- including all of my photos -- on a flash drive. The flash drive was lost or stolen in Hawaii. I am so so glad to have these photos back! Thank you, blog!

Return of the Queen

I feel I need some kind of explanation for why I left this blog so many months ago and have now returned to it. I started This Car Is My Pants with Steve as part of a half-baked plan to win a year-long job blogging on a beach in Australia. (Literally, this was the job.) Obviously, we did not get to Australia, but the blog became something that we shared during our relationship, even though the updates were as sporadic as ever. I liked the thoughts I expressed there, and still do, and I feel that I grew during that time. However, now that we've broken up it seems wrong to continue writing in that blog. It was something we did together, not something that either of us could just pick up and continue separately. So here I am again, on my own personal blog, which is an appropriate analogy to the way I'm taking back my own life. I never realized how much of it I had given to the relationship, how much I wanted to let my self dissolve into that couple-closeness. I don't think I'll do that again -- well, at the very least next time I'll know better what I'm getting into and be prepared to watch myself against it. I'm developing a much better idea now of who it is that I really am, under all this bullshit and fear and the layers of social conditioning. I am really, really cool. Under all this, I am fearless and invulnerable and supremely loving. I worry a little about all the changes I'm putting myself through and whether some of them might not turn out for the worse, because I can't see all the effects at this single pinprick in time. I know they are though. I just ask the little bastard voice in my heart (the one that always tells the truth) and he cackles and says, "Yes, of course they are! Are you a moron?"

Well, yes, sometimes I am. I am starting to become okay with that. Of course I'm a moron. Would I ever be perfect? Someone once said that the quest for perfection in art was the greatest protection against creating good art. I am starting to really identify with that sentiment. I am amazing; why would I wish to become perfect? It's also helped me to stress out less at work. Last night I broke a whole tray full of dishes and nearly had a coronary. But thinking calmly, what is the point of that coronary? They were just dishes. We have plenty. Nothing is truly hurt.

I came back to this blog because I'm sick of starting new ones, thinking that each one will be my iconic blog, the one where I finally begin exploring deep truths and funny topics and get lots of followers and generally starting giving a shit about making a good blog. That blog will never happen. It certainly will not happen now, no matter what format or forum I use, because I am just not that dedicated to blogging. I hardly ever sit around and think, "Hey, that would make a great blog post!" It is just not in my head.

What is in my head is who I am, who I have been, who I can be in the future, where that person is going, what I can do now to help her get there, what frailties I exhibit that I've never given dignity to before, what strengths I have always taken for granted. I cannot honestly explore these in a blank slate, a brand-new blog with no past to reference, no frailties of its own, designed to cover up the moron I have been all my life. That's disingenuous. I came back to this blog, to Wandering Slade, because here I have been a moron. I have an even more moronic Livejournal that I am still ashamed of, which I will have to address at some point. But this blog is the height of the stupidity and foolishness that I can look at and recognize as me. This is where/when I started to grow. I feel comfortable here. So I came back, gave her a new paint job, and here we are.

Let's roll.

23 October 2010

Radical Honesty Dilemma

If I posted here, or in any public forum, everything I really think, or managed to convey how I see the world, I would be committed on the spot. Anybody who cared about me would advise me to seek help. But total honesty with myself -- for me, specifically -- involves a high degree of honesty with the people I care about, because I am so intimidated by their opinions. If I'm not willing to be vulnerable with them, then how can I be vulnerable ever? How could I respect myself if I just cowered in a corner dodging bad vibes from everyone on the dance floor and never standing up and courageously getting out there and doing my own thing. Opinions are just wordtrash and emotional residue, and they only have the power I grant them.

So does everything else. (Big thought. Another time.)

I'm babbling. This isn't really about opinions, it's about honesty and self-respect. Dishonesty makes me respect myself less -- so I guess I won't be lying about the product codes for bulk foods at the grocery store anymore. (Dammit.)

Tonight I've been wrestling with a related dilemma. (Well, all dilemmas are related. It is one mind, after all.) Part of me wants/needs to go forward, and the other part is very well-entrenched exactly where it is, keeping the other part from being able to go far. They are at constant war in my psyche and the energy expenditure is draining. The entrenched part, the me that wants to go nowhere at all, is miserable and always has been and feels at home in misery. The forward-part cannot fucking stand this and needs/wants to get the fuck out of that misery space. Entrenched part cannot abide that kind of change, unknown, risk, potential happiness and success, potential despair, etc. (Emphasis: It hates success and happiness, which it does not understand or trust.) It doesn't trust anything it doesn't already know/have and cannot make the leap of faith necessary to take big risks that the forward-self desires to take. The entrenched self just holds back the forward-self so that the forward-self's repeated attempts to leap to the other side of whatever chasm I'm facing always fall short and never succeed.

The center cannot hold. This aggression will not stand, man.

So, real question I'm really asking because I do not know the answer: How do you get your whole self on board for serious change? Not just getting the balls together to start a bookstore (which I want to do), but to overhaul my personality and the way I see the world. How do you un=entrench yourself?