Category Archives: Uncategorized

Kickstand

A few years ago, I picked up a copy of After Dark by Haruki Murakami in a library book sale. Five for a dollar! I peeled the duraseal off, scrubbed away the patches of glue it left behind, and put it away for later. (See: tsundoku.)

Flash forward four years, and I finally got around to reading it last week as part of my 2017 Only Reading Books From Years Ending in Seven project (the English translation was published in 2007). The book is slight, a diversion, although – in typical Murakami style – it does hint at an opaque world of unsolvable, half-drawn mysteries.

One such mystery particularly caught my imagination, and it comes not from the mind of Murakami but from a previous reader. Library books are supposed to have many readers, after all; you can usually only guess at how many, and who they were, and what impression the book left on them. This reader, however, made three notes over the course of After Dark’s 200-odd pages. Each is in the same black ballpoint pen.

Here’s the first, from page 47:

After Dark: a strong kick, why?

There’s plenty of overwriting in After Dark. Murakami quite indulges himself by giving his omniscient, disembodied narrator full licence to describe the least consequential aspects of a scene and wax rhapsodical about these tiny moments of city life and what it all means. This technique is effective in building a small world of rich detail, but it can make for dull reading.

This previous reader, though, got hung up on Murakami’s (and translator Jay Rubin’s) decision to modify the motorcyclist’s ‘kick’ with the adjective ‘strong’. Now, I’m no line-by-line editor, but this choice seems quite reasonable to me; it draws attention to the motorcyclist’s physical presence, and to the machine’s weight. I feel like underlining their ‘Why?’ and writing the same thing alongside it.

Later, on page 79:

After Dark: a big kick

Now the kick is ‘big’, and that’s caught the reader’s eye. There’s no annotation in the margin this time. I can appreciate that ‘big’ is not as descriptive as ‘strong’, but is its inferiority as an adjective the reason for its underlining? Perhaps the reader thought ‘strong’ was too much, where ‘big’ is just right. Perhaps the reader is a motorcyclist and takes issue with Murakami’s representation of ignition. We can only speculate, because the reader isn’t giving us any more.

Finally, on page 172:

After Dark by Haruki Murakami, with accumulated saliva on the floor

Now there’s an image worth underlining, an image with real feeling. (!)

(See also: Inside David Foster Wallace’s Private Self-Help Library, a great piece in The Awl by Maria Bustillos. Now there’s a person who could write a good annotation.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Japan, Uncategorized

A study in disappointment: Tokyo Story (1953)

2379355012_5867d95fe6_b.jpg

Sake. Photo by cleber (Flickr)

It is our nature to disappoint ourselves, and each other; to fall short of expectations, over and over, until we accept our flaws and lower the bar. We cannot bank on others to be there when we need them; to act nobly and selflessly in times of trial. Likewise, we cannot hold ourselves up as paragons of humanity because in the end, we all have a limit at which we give up and go back to looking out for ourselves. Everyone has to go back to work eventually.

***

So, there were three guys sitting next to each other in the front row. Two of them knew each other, the third was a stranger. For the first half hour or so, the older guy of the two who knew each other kept murmuring comments to his friend, and eventually, the third guy shushed him loudly. The older guy stopped murmuring and stared at the third guy, the guy he didn’t know, in what I judged to be a mixture of disbelief and rage. I readied myself to jump the row of seats and wade into the fight, but he calmed down and went back to watching the movie, and he didn’t talk again.

***

The classic, knockout, heartbreaker exchange in Tokyo Story comes near the end, between the naive and good-natured youngest sister and the ceaselessly graceful and understanding sister-in-law, who is ultimately the core of the film.

“Isn’t life disappointing?” says the younger sister.
“Yes, it is,” says the sister-in-law with a smile.

I waited for the subtly momentous emotional release of these lines throughout the film. I looked forward to the encapsulation of the entire film in Setsuko Hara’s beatific smile. And when they arrived, about half the audience laughed, including the guy right next to me.

I suppose it is kind of amusing, in an absurd way. The total acceptance of the sister-in-law is so at odds with our base nature that it seems unbelievable. And there’s the culture clash between 1950s Japan and 2010s NZ, one concerned with long working hours and emotional reserve, the other with mental health days and instant gratification.

And I suppose it was fitting that my expectations for that scene were disappointed by the reaction of my fellow cinema patrons.

***

I first saw Tokyo Story when I was 19 and didn’t really get it, though I could acknowledge how formally magnificent it was; a perfect technical expression of an artist’s vision within the limits of the medium. I’m now 31 and have a lot more first-hand knowledge of the various disappointments we are destined to experience, and of my own inherently flawed nature. The film’s central premise is therefore closer to my grasp, and exquisitely expressed in the writing, and by the actors, who perform their roles with a rare mix of functionality and precision.

This is a great film in every way.

Leave a comment

Filed under Film, Japan, Uncategorized

A 5000-word spam comment

Here is a 5000-word spam comment I just received for a post on this blog, copied and pasted in entirety — a reflection of its likely origins in being copied and pasted from other sources, which may have also have been spam comments copied and pasted from elsewhere. That’s a lot of copying and pasting. The spam hall of mirrors.

The line breaks are theirs, not mine.

*

Excellent blog here! Additionally your site loads up very fast!
What host are you the usage of? Can I get your affiliate hyperlink in your host?
I desire my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol
Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
you made blogging glance easy. The total look of your web site is magnificent,
let alone the content!
I’m not positive the place you are getting your information, however great topic.
I must spend a while learning much more or figuring out more.
Thank you for excellent info I used to be looking for this info for my mission.

You actually make it appear really easy along with your presentation however I to find this matter to be actually something
that I believe I might never understand. It seems too complicated and very huge for me.
I am looking forward to your subsequent post, I’ll try to get the dangle of it!

I have been surfing online more than 3 hours lately,
but I by no means discovered any interesting article like yours.
It is lovely worth enough for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made excellent content as you probably did, the web
might be a lot more useful than ever before.

I do agree with all of the ideas you have introduced in your post.
They are really convincing and will definitely work.
Still, the posts are too quick for beginners. May just you please extend them a
bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.
You could certainly see your expertise in the work you write.
The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe.
At all times go after your heart.
I’ll immediately grasp your rss feed as I can’t in finding your email subscription
hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you have any?
Please permit me realize so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

A person necessarily lend a hand to make seriously articles I would state.
That is the very first time I frequented your website page and thus far?
I amazed with the research you made to make this
particular publish extraordinary. Magnificent job!
Great website. A lot of helpful information here. I am
sending it to several friends ans additionally sharing in delicious.
And of course, thank you to your sweat!
hello!,I like your writing very so much! percentage we communicate extra about your post on AOL?

I require a specialist on this space to solve my problem.
May be that’s you! Having a look ahead to see you.
Great tremendous things here. I’m very glad to peer your post.
Thank you so much and i am having a look ahead to contact you.
Will you kindly drop me a mail?
I just couldn’t depart your web site before suggesting that
I actually loved the usual information an individual supply on your guests?
Is gonna be again regularly in order to inspect new posts
you are in point of fact a good webmaster. The site loading speed is amazing.
It sort of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick. Also, The contents are masterpiece.
you’ve performed a great process on this subject!

Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you actually recognize
what you are talking approximately! Bookmarked.
Please also visit my site =). We can have a link alternate contract
between us!
Great paintings! That is the kind of info that
should be shared across the web. Shame on the seek engines for
not positioning this publish upper! Come on over and visit my web site .
Thanks =)
Helpful information. Fortunate me I discovered your website by chance, and I’m shocked why this
accident did not happened in advance! I bookmarked it.

I’ve been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of
house . Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this site.
Studying this information So i am glad to show that I have an
incredibly just right uncanny feeling I came upon just
what I needed. I most certainly will make sure to do not overlook
this web site and give it a glance regularly.
whoah this blog is fantastic i like reading your articles.

Keep up the great work! You understand, a lot of people are searching
around for this information, you could help them greatly.

I savor, cause I found just what I used to be taking a look for.
You’ve ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless
you man. Have a nice day. Bye
Thanks for any other wonderful post. Where else could anybody
get that type of info in such an ideal method of writing?
I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the search for such info.

It’s actually a nice and useful piece of info.
I’m happy that you shared this helpful information with us.
Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you
for sharing.
magnificent put up, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don’t realize this.

You should continue your writing. I am confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

Whats Going down i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It positively useful and it has aided me out loads.

I am hoping to give a contribution & assist other customers like its aided me.
Good job.
Thank you, I have just been searching for info approximately
this subject for a while and yours is the greatest I’ve came upon so far.
However, what concerning the bottom line? Are you sure in regards to the supply?

What i do not understood is in truth how you’re not actually a lot
more smartly-preferred than you might be right now.
You are very intelligent. You know thus significantly in relation to this subject, made me for my part imagine it from numerous numerous
angles. Its like women and men aren’t interested until it is something to accomplish with Lady gaga!
Your individual stuffs excellent. At all times handle it up!

Generally I do not read post on blogs, however I would like to
say that this write-up very compelled me
to check out and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me.
Thank you, quite great article.
Hello my loved one! I want to say that this post is awesome, nice
written and include approximately all vital infos.
I’d like to look more posts like this .
of course like your website but you need to test the spelling on several
of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it
very bothersome to inform the truth then again I will definitely come back again.

Hello, Neat post. There is a problem together with your website in
web explorer, could check thisK IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a large component to folks will pass over
your wonderful writing due to this problem.
I have learn some excellent stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for
revisiting. I wonder how much attempt you set to make the sort
of magnificent informative web site.
Hiya very cool site!! Guy .. Excellent .. Superb ..
I’ll bookmark your blog and take the feeds alsoKI’m happy to seek out
so many helpful information here in the put up, we need work out more techniques on this regard,
thanks for sharing. . . . . .
It is actually a great and useful piece of info.
I am glad that you simply shared this helpful information with
us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

great issues altogether, you just received a new
reader. What might you suggest about your post that you just
made a few days in the past? Any certain?
Thank you for every other informative site. The place else
may just I am getting that kind of information written in such a perfect manner?
I’ve a venture that I am just now running on, and I have
been at the look out for such information.

Hello there, I discovered your blog by means of Google whilst searching for
a similar subject, your website got here up, it appears to be like good.
I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
I think other web site proprietors should take this web site as an model, very clean and great user genial style and design,
as well as the content. You’re an expert in this topic!
As I site possessor I believe the content material here is rattling great
, appreciate it for your efforts. You should keep it up forever!
Good Luck.
I’m so happy to read this. This is the type of manual that
needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that is at the other blogs.

Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.
Wow! This can be one particular of the most beneficial
blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject.
Basically Great. I am also a specialist in this topic so I
can understand your hard work.
Great I should definitely pronounce, impressed with your website.
I had no trouble navigating through all tabs as well as related info ended up being truly easy to do to access.
I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least.
Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, web site theme .
a tones way for your client to communicate. Nice task..

Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my
neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this.
We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more clear from this post.
I’m very glad to see such magnificent info being shared freely
out there.
I haven’t checked in here for some time as I thought it
was getting boring, but the last several posts are good quality so
I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend :
)
I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I
used to love this site. Thanks , I’ll try and check back more frequently.

How frequently you update your web site?
Hey, you used to write wonderful, but the last several posts have been
kinda boringK I miss your tremendous writings. Past several posts are just a little out of track!
come on!
I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting!
Carry on the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll.

I think it will improve the value of my web site :)
Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your web-site is very
cool. I’m impressed by the details that you have on this website.

It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject.
Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles.
You, my friend, ROCK! I found simply the info I already searched everywhere and
just could not come across. What a perfect web site.
I have recently started a website, the info you offer on this website has helped me greatly.
Thanks for all of your time & work.
I really appreciate this post. I have been looking all
over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made
my day! Thank you again
Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that.
And he just bought me lunch because I found it for him
smile Therefore let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

Great write-up, I’m regular visitor of one’s site, maintain up the nice operate, and It is going to be a regular visitor for a long time.

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this web site.
I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming also.
Actually your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own site now.
Actually the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly.
Your write up is a good example of it.
Good site! I really love how it is easy on
my eyes and the data are well written. I am wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has
been made. I have subscribed to your RSS which must do the trick!
Have a nice day!
Hiya, I’m really glad I’ve found this info. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossips and internet and
this is really frustrating. A good site with interesting content,
this is what I need. Thank you for keeping this site, I will be visiting it.
Do you do newsletters? Cant find it.
I was just looking for this information for a while. After 6
hours of continuous Googleing, finally I got it in your website.
I wonder what’s the lack of Google strategy that don’t rank this kind of informative websites in
top of the list. Generally the top sites are full of garbage.

I keep listening to the news bulletin speak about receiving boundless online grant applications so
I have been looking around for the finest site to
get one. Could you advise me please, where could i
acquire some?
There is apparently a bunch to identify about this.
I suppose you made some nice points in features also.
Keep working ,splendid job!
Great website! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more.

I am bookmarking your feeds also
Hello. splendid job. I did not anticipate this. This is a remarkable story.
Thanks!
You made some good points there. I did a search on the theme and found mainly persons will go along with with
your blog.
As a Newbie, I am continuously searching online for articles that can help
me. Thank you
Wow! Thank you! I continuously needed to write on my site something like that.
Can I include a part of your post to my site?

Of course, what a splendid site and illuminating posts, I will bookmark your blog.Best Regards!

You are a very bright person!
Hello.This article was really interesting, especially
since I was searching for thoughts on this issue last
Tuesday.
You made some good points there. I did a search on the subject
and found most individuals will go along with with your site.

I am continually searching online for posts that can help me.
Thx!
Very good written article. It will be helpful to anyone who utilizes it, as well as myself.
Keep doing what you are doing – for sure i will check out
more posts.
Well I really liked studying it. This information provided by
you is very effective for accurate planning.
I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals.
I certainly enjoy reading all that is written on your site.Keep the aarticles coming.
I loved it!
I have been examinating out some of your posts and i can state
nice stuff. I will surely bookmark your site.
Awsome article and right to the point. I don’t know if this is really the
best place to ask but do you folks have any thoughts on where to hire some professional writers?
Thank you :)
Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it
is really informative. Im gonna watch out for brussels.
I will be grateful if you continue this in future.
Lots of people will be benefited from your writing.
Cheers!
It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.
I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or tips.
Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article.
I want to read even more things about it!
Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed!
Extremely helpful information specifically the last part :) I care for such information
a lot. I was seeking this certain info for a long time. Thank you and best of
luck.
hey there and thank you for your info I have certainly picked
up something new from right here. I did however expertise a
few technical points using this website, since I experienced to reload the site lots of times
previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your web hosting is OK?
Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances
times will often affect your placement in google and could damage your high quality score if ads and marketing
with Adwords. Anyway Im adding this RSS to my email and could look out for a lot more of your respective exciting
content. Make sure you update this again very soon..

Great goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too fantastic.

I really like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you’re stating and the
way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it sensible.
I cant wait to read much more from you. This is actually a great website.

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed
browsing your blog posts. In any case Ill be subscribing
to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I
will bookmark your weblog and check again here regularly.

I’m quite certain I will learn lots of new stuff right
here! Best of luck for the next!
I think this is among the most vital info for me. And i’m glad reading your article.
But want to remark on few general things, The site style
is ideal, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers
We’re a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
Your web site offered us with valuable info to work on.

You’ve done a formidable job and our entire community will be grateful to you.

Unquestionably believe that which you stated.
Your favorite reason appeared to be on the
net the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people think about worries that they plainly
do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out
the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal.
Will likely be back to get more. Thanks
This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger.
I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post.
Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!
Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your
useful info. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return.

I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here.
The sketch is attractive, your authored material stylish.

nonetheless, you command get got an nervousness over
that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come further
formerly again as exactly the same nearly
very often inside case you shield this increase.
Hello, i think that i saw you visited my website so i
came to return the favor.I’m attempting to find things
to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your
ideas!!
Just want to say your article is as astonishing.

The clarity in your post is just nice and i can assume you’re an expert on this
subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed
to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please
carry on the enjoyable work.
Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the
book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of
that, this is magnificent blog. A great read.
I will definitely be back.
Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how can we communicate?

Hello there, You have done an excellent job.

I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
I am confident they will be benefited from this website.

Excellent beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your website, how could i subscribe for a blog
website? The account helped me a acceptable deal.
I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear concept
I am extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog.
Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this
one today..
Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in
accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts.
Any way Ill be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

My brother suggested I might like this blog.
He was totally right. This post actually
made my day. You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this info!

Thanks!
I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought
this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you
are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already ;
) Cheers!
Heya im for the first time here. I came across this board and I find
It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back
and help others like you aided me.
I was recommended this website by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post
is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble.

You’re amazing! Thanks!
Great blog here! Also your website loads up very fast!
What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol
Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging
for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website
is wonderful, as well as the content!
Im not sure where you’re getting your info, but great topic.
I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
Thanks for fantastic information I was looking for this information for my mission.

You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something which I think I would never understand.
It seems too complex and extremely broad for me.
I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

I have been surfing online more than three hours today,
yet I never found any interesting article like yours. Its pretty worth enough for me.

Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you
did, the web will be much more useful than
ever before.
I needed to create you that little word so as to give many thanks again
on your awesome suggestions you have contributed in this case.
It’s simply extremely generous of people like you to convey unreservedly all that many people could possibly have offered as an electronic book
to help with making some money on their own, most notably considering the fact that you might well have tried it if you ever wanted.
The smart ideas also served to become a great way to be sure that other people online have similar interest like my own
to learn more concerning this matter. I believe there are a lot more pleasurable occasions up front for many who looked over your website.

I want to show appreciation to this writer just for bailing me out of this type of dilemma.
Because of exploring through the internet and
obtaining solutions that were not beneficial, I thought my entire life was done.

Living minus the approaches to the problems you’ve fixed all
through the write-up is a critical case, as well as ones that would have adversely
damaged my entire career if I hadn’t noticed your blog. Your main natural talent
and kindness in taking care of every item was precious. I’m not sure what I
would’ve done if I hadn’t discovered such a step like this.
I’m able to at this moment look ahead to my future.
Thanks a lot so much for your impressive and effective
guide. I will not think twice to recommend the website to anybody who needs and wants support on
this problem.
I definitely wanted to develop a note to be able to thank you for some of the precious instructions you are giving out on this site.
My long internet research has finally been rewarded with good facts and strategies to go
over with my close friends. I would express that we site visitors are extremely blessed to exist
in a very good community with so many marvellous individuals with very beneficial concepts.
I feel extremely blessed to have come across your entire site and look forward to plenty of more cool moments reading here.

Thank you once again for everything.
Thank you so much for providing individuals with an extremely nice chance to check tips
from this website. It’s always very superb and also stuffed with a good time for
me personally and my office mates to visit your web site minimum thrice per
week to find out the newest secrets you have. And definitely, I’m so usually
pleased with the wonderful tips and hints
served by you. Certain two tips in this article are certainly the most beneficial I’ve ever had.

I wish to point out my love for your kind-heartedness in support of persons that
need help on this important subject matter. Your real dedication to passing the message across became particularly effective and have regularly empowered girls like me to attain their goals.
Your new interesting guideline implies this
much a person like me and substantially more to my office workers.

Best wishes; from each one of us.
I and my friends have been looking through the best procedures located on your web blog then all of
the sudden I had an awful feeling I never expressed respect to the site owner for those techniques.
Those boys were for this reason thrilled to study them
and already have simply been using these things. We appreciate
you being really accommodating as well as for
selecting some remarkable useful guides most people are really desperate
to be informed on. My sincere regret for not saying
thanks to you sooner.
I’m commenting to let you be aware of of the brilliant experience my friend’s child gained visiting your web site.

She figured out a lot of things, with the inclusion of what it is
like to have a wonderful coaching character to make
other individuals with ease know just exactly a number of advanced subject matter.
You really did more than our own desires. Many thanks for distributing these
good, trusted, informative and as well as fun thoughts on your topic to
Emily.
I simply wished to appreciate you all over again.

I am not sure the things that I would have followed in the absence of the tips shown by you regarding this
area. It had become the daunting circumstance in my view, however , viewing the very well-written approach
you processed it took me to cry for happiness. Now i’m grateful for the support as
well as pray you really know what a powerful job you have been undertaking educating many others
through a web site. Probably you haven’t met all of us.

My spouse and i have been quite excited that Raymond managed to complete his homework through the entire precious recommendations he was given
using your web site. It’s not at all simplistic just to happen to be giving out procedures a number of people might have been trying
to sell. We really consider we’ve got the writer to appreciate for that.
The illustrations you’ve made, the simple
site navigation, the relationships you will make it easier to engender – it is most terrific,
and it is assisting our son in addition to us believe that the situation
is brilliant, which is exceedingly mandatory. Thank you for everything!

Thank you for every one of your effort on this site. My mother really
loves setting aside time for investigations and it is easy to see why.
I hear all concerning the dynamic method you give both useful and
interesting guidance on this website and even increase response
from other individuals on that theme plus my child
is always being taught a lot. Take advantage of the rest of the new
year. You are doing a pretty cool job.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A new Brand of democracy, the unfocused revolution

In the last month or so, British comedian and writer Russell Brand has called for a revolution against a political establishment that, in his view, serves the wants of corporations and those who wield political power while casting aside the needs of a majority of the general public. Brand has been speaking and writing passionately and eloquently around this topic for some time, particularly in The Guardian, and he’s gained plenty of notice on social media for it, but his interview with the famously hard-hitting political journalist Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight brought him into a new realm of Facebook and Twitter shares:

If you don’t see yourself as part of the powerful establishment in Westminster-based society – and very few do – then it’s easy to climb aboard Brand’s revolutionary bandwagon. We live in a world in which legislation is passed with a purported mandate from a slim majority of the population, whether or not they all understood what they were voting for; if you are part of the 40-something percent that didn’t vote for the mob in power, your opinion is discarded. Then there are cases such as the GCSB Bill in New Zealand, which allows the government to spy on its own citizens, and which was not part of any political agenda at the 2011 election but is now law by governmental decree, whether the electorate wants it or not. A lot of the political process appears to me, looking in from the outside, to be tied up with balancing the desires of powerful lobby groups that often represent large corporations. Meantime, poor folks in UK council estates or state housing in South Auckland struggle from paycheck to paycheck without anything approaching an equal voice in the democracy.

Brand followed up his rant on Paxman with an editorial in The New Statesman titled ‘We no longer have the luxury of tradition’. As far as I can tell, Brand’s revolution starts in the mind but veers off disconcertingly into whatever you care to make of it:

“To genuinely make a difference, we must become different; make the tiny, longitudinal shift. Meditate, direct our love indiscriminately and our condemnation exclusively at those with power. Revolt in whatever way we want, with the spontaneity of the London rioters, with the certainty and willingness to die of religious fundamentalists or with the twinkling mischief of the trickster. We should include everyone, judging no one, without harming anyone.”

Notice that he condones the London rioters – who destroyed hundreds of small businesses and made life hell for the people living in the streets they pillaged – on account of their spontaneity, then pleads vaguely for a lack of judgment or harm. The rest of the editorial is similarly rambling, unfocused, and inconsistent; certainly eloquent, brilliant in places, but amounting to what? Is Brand’s voice that of the disenfranchised, venting a scream of raw frustration? It can’t be: in the same piece, Brand relates a story about attending a Reclaim the Streets march while working for MTV and getting called out by someone clearly lower on the ladder of wealth and entitlement than he was. How can he speak for the disenfranchised when he is such a prominent citizen? And he is even helping?

Robert Webb, best known for his collaborations with David Mitchell on Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look and a contemporary of Brand in British comedy, responded in The New Statesman with a rebuttal to Brand’s apparent cry from the heart. Webb reminded Brand that effective democracy demands engagement, with particular condemnation of Brand’s call to abstain from voting:

“I do think that when you end a piece about politics with the injunction “I will never vote and I don’t think you should either”, then you’re actively telling a lot of people that engagement with our democracy is a bad idea. That just gives politicians the green light to neglect the concerns of young people because they’ve been relieved of the responsibility of courting their vote.”

Webb went on to strongly criticise Brand’s call for revolution, reminding him of the death and destruction wrought by revolution in the past. Indeed, for a recent example, Brand need only look back as far as those ‘spontaneous’ London riots. Webb’s practical response was to rejoin the Labour Party and helping the UK’s main opposition party fight a Conservative government he believes “scapegoats and punishes unlucky people”; to actively engage with politics in an effort to further legitimise it by adding his voice as a paid-up member; to literally buy into democracy. In response to Webb’s response, Brand invited Webb to check his privilege: “If you went to Oxbridge, if you went to a private school, no one is coming for your kids. They’re not coming for you if you’re from Oxbridge. That’s my open letter to Robert.”

It was about this time that Russell Brand offered up, for me at least, the final straw:

Russell Brand | V for Vendetta | Protest | Smartphone

When it spills from the pages of The New Statesman and The Guardian into the town square, Brand’s revolution looks the same as every other impractical anti-establishment protest of the last few years: a V for Vendetta mask and a smartphone, both manufactured on production lines in East Asia by workers paid a pittance. Brand was presumably tweeting to his ~7.3m Twitter followers about the power and collective energy of the occasion, rather than scrolling idly through BuzzFeed listicles, but it hardly looks inspiring after all the promise of his language.

I posted the above photo on Facebook with the sarcastic and cynical caption ‘This is what revolution looks like’, which many seemed to take in earnest. It led to a debate with a friend, who wrote the following:

Brand’s response to Webb is better than Webb’s response to Brand. It’s about disillusionment with a system that repeatedly fails a group of people and repeatedly serves another, with some minor variation for those in a privileged position (such as Webb).

To which I replied:

I think Webb’s view is considerably more coherent and practical than Brand’s. The Westminster system of democracy, which seems to inevitably lead to two parties exchanging power, seems far from ideal but I can’t think of anything better; certainly not revolution, whether through violence or apathy. Brand may articulate the views of the disenfranchised eloquently and compellingly, but as this photo shows, his cries (so far at least) don’t add up to anything more than V masks and smartphones for all.

After some more back-and-forth, my friend later came back with this, with which I agree:

I think Brand’s disillusionment with the results of the current system is pretty much spot-on, but beyond that it’s hard to see what kind of system would produce better results while still being morally acceptable. It’s a dilemma. Disillusionment is easier than the search for a solution, but it doesn’t change the fact that disillusionment may well be justified. Some form of democracy obviously remains the ideal, but presumably Brand wishes rednecks didn’t vote (we’ve all been there). My dissatisfaction comes from how certain groups have power to distort the system (i.e. media influences voters, corporates have access to lobby politicians well beyond the influence of poorer people etc.), and I think it’s entirely reasonable to pursue reform in that direction. Just a thought.

For that reform to be pursued, Webb’s Labour partisanship still seems more effective and meaningful to me than Brand’s outright dismissal of the establishment. Brand’s great trick is to paint all politicians with the same grubby brush: a self-obsessed, money-hungry, cronyish lot with zero interest in the lives of those who struggle. This is true in some cases, but it is not the whole truth; many politicians enter public life with the express goal of making a positive difference and helping people to have their voices heard, and they work hard for decades to pursue those goals. And just so you know, I went to an expensive private school as well. Does this mean that like Paxman and Webb before me, Brand can cast my opinion aside in a single line?

Genuine democratic change, which remains the best option available to us, demands an electorate that is well-read and politically engaged enough to understand what is wrong, vigilant enough to call out those who do wrong, and optimistic enough to see a future that is more right. Then you have to keep reading, and stay politically engaged, and stay vigilant, and stay optimistic – in as much of your life as possible and for as long as possible – to promote what you consider a better society.

You also have to be realistic enough to acknowledge that not everyone will agree with you. Here’s what another friend said in the same Facebook thread about Brand:

But he has at least started a debate. And a smartphone gives him an audience. Can’t just stand in the town square and ring a bell anymore. And you can’t send pictures via Milo tins and a piece of string. I’m sure when they develop a vegan, biodegradable, solar powered, decaf phone made under good working conditions, he’ll be into it. Or not. Maybe he doesn’t give a shit about a bit of hypocrisy to get his point across.

If one thing’s for sure, we’re all hypocrites in some way or another. I’m no exception. Neither is Robert Webb, and neither is Russell Brand. And my friend is right: Brand has started a debate that has helped clarify some of my ideas about democracy, and mobilised me to engage more in effecting social and political change. I’ll just be moving in a different direction, away from the messiah.

Leave a comment

Filed under New Zealand, Uncategorized

The Marmite Matrix

This story is completely true and happened to me just now. No, really.

So I was walking briskly back home from indoor soccer. We lost, but it got the Marmite shortage crisis off my mind for a couple of hours.

The walk was enlivened by:

  • noise-cancelling headphones and an MP3 player;
  • my mind meandering around that amazing moment in The Matrix where Neo finally ‘sees’ the code inside ‘the world that has been pulled over our eyes’.

I rounded the last corner with Rihanna wailing in my ears. “We found love in a hopeless place,” over and over. The suburbs of Wellington are not all hopeless — especially not this one, with its promise of a massive Countdown supermarket in the near future — but the lyrics fit the mood of a particularly blustery night.

And then I noticed a strange object in the gutter.

Marmite in the gutter | Surprise Marmite

The obnoxious red and yellow markings were unmistakeable. MARMITE.

Marmite Found | Unbelievable Marmite

I paused to pick it up, shaking my head. It was empty, save for a few black streaks inside the jar. I looked up and down the street; there was no-one to be seen.

What could it mean?

Dazed, I wondered if New Zealand had descended into civil war. The Chosen Ones, the ones who had managed to attain Marmite before stocks were depleted, had consumed it all and were hurling the empty jars at the Vegemite-loving and/or Marmiteless hordes. Their Marmite-fuelled throwing arms would turn the empty jars into deadly weapons. (The horror.)

And then suddenly, gloriously, my two fantastical trains of thought – Neo sees the Matrix vs Marmite Anarchy – dovetailed down a single terrifying path.

I was the Chosen One.

The empty Marmite jar was a message from some Sanitarium Morpheus, sent to yeast-extract me out of my cotton-wool world and into my destiny as a saviour: the One who would lead the people of New Zealand back to a land of limitless Marmite.Marmite-related confusion | What could it mean?

And then I went home, made a peanut butter sandwich, opened up my laptop and blogged about the whole thing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

‘Drive’: Machine Versus Horse

IMDb / Ebert
Rating: Recommended
Alternate JW Title: ‘Hero Story

The opening sequence of ‘Drive’ had me thinking all my expectations about the film were correct. The Chromatics’ ‘Tick Of The Clock’ kicked things off, setting the tone with its confident, sinister, minimalist rhythm, with a telephone conversation laying out the terms of the agreement and a splendid pan across a barren room out onto the street lights below. A helicopter shot showed Los Angeles at night from above, sources of yellow light illuminating the city like controlled balls of flame, establishing LA as a character like Michael Mann’s ‘Collateral’ did. The initial getaway job played out like a scene from ‘Driver’, a ten-year-old PlayStation game: all rough atmosphere, near collisions and police radio sounds. The whole film was going to follow in the same vein: a dimly lit, pulsating thrill ride through city streets and bad deals.

What I hadn’t picked was that ‘Drive’, and the nameless hero played by Ryan Gosling, would instead be cut from the same poncho cloth as the great Westerns. Throughout this opening sequence, and for much of the film, he is as silent and imposing as Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name; he even chews on a toothpick with the same brooding intensity. In the film’s bare-bones plot (which is little more than an accessory on which to hang a combination of allegories, images and music), Gosling’s driver appears from nowhere, changes everybody’s lives forever and then rides off into the sunset. There are good guys and bad guys, in that the bad guys must do bad and the good guys must try to do good.

Refn’s camera is almost fetishistic in its appraisal of Gosling. He is allowed to leave his chiselled features virtually motionless in many scenes, simply present and immaculate for our appreciation. He’s shot from low angles when driving or doing violence, the skills he has honed well enough to be his vocation, and from high angles when sharing scenes with Carey Mulligan, the woman who steals his heart. In place of a poncho, he has a distinctive jacket that he continues wearing even when it is covered with blood. These stylistic choices establish the driver as a hero, which is the chief purpose of the film (which, again, reminds me of Westerns more than any other genre).

This is what makes the central element of an extremely effective soundtrack – indeed, the film would not be nearly as interesting without it – so interesting. College’s ‘A Real Hero’ plays twice during the film, once during the sweet ‘getting to know you’ scenes between Gosling, Mulligan and Mulligan’s son, and then again at the film’s conclusion. The lyrics, over an unforgettable synth motif, repeat over and over:

A real human being
And a real hero

Gosling is certainly a clear hero, a classic Good Guy of few words driven to do the right thing to the right people and the wrong thing to the wrong people. Virtually the moment he sets eyes on Mulligan, one gets a sense he will protect her to the death – which he does, to all intents and purposes. Though a getaway driver, aiding criminals on a regular basis, his rule of only giving them five minutes of his time gives him a moral footing above that of his employers; he simply drives, until confronted with circumstances that force him to either flee or kill the ones who wish to kill him and the other Good Guys first. Being a hero, he faces his responsibility. He kills.

But Gosling’s driver is not a real human being. He’s a character in a film, as starkly as any character I can remember in recent memory. It’s because he is such an obvious, perfectly troubled, archetypal hero that he is not a real human being. A trick of a film called ‘Drive’ is that it leaves you wanting to believe its central character’s purpose was to drive, that cars gave him meaning and purpose, but they are merely a tool he uses on his heroic path. As are a hammer, the heel of his boot and a very sharp knife. The most human moments he has are those shared with Mulligan and her son, but these exist only to deepen his mythical status as a hero.

Indeed, Mulligan is the only truly human figure in the film. The mobsters, chiefly those played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman, are also archetypal Bad Guys or antagonists; they serve their own evil ends, gaining from others’ misfortune and eliminating anyone who gets in their way. Mulligan’s son, too, is unrealistic, a child with little purpose of his own other than to be offered a father figure in Gosling. Mulligan, however, lives and breathes every second of her performance as if it were true. She flirts awkwardly with Gosling and feels shame when he finds she’s kind of been leading him on. Her face demonstrates all the emotion of a young, conflicted woman.

One scene makes the contrast between the two characters and their respective world absolutely clear. As Gosling apologises for his involvement in an act that has changed Mulligan’s life, she slaps him – and immediately shrinks, looking down at the ground, scarcely able to contain her anger but dreadfully ashamed to have expressed it with violence. A stranger intrudes, and after Mulligan and Gosling reconnect with a time-stopping kiss – a bridge between their two worlds – Gosling brutally murders the stranger in front of her. She recoils in horror. As far as I can remember, they do not see each other again; Mulligan’s path leads to a continued life in the real world, while Gosling’s leads to heroic duty and death.

But he doesn’t die – at least, not that we get to see. Like Eastwood’s The Man With No Name, or – even more so – like Charles Bronson’s Harmonica in ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’, he ensures the heroine’s survival and then disappears. His function is almost machine-like, reminiscent also of the T-1000 in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’. (You get the point. Film hero. Not human being.)

I guess this makes Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’ a strange kind of character study – not of a believable person, but of a film archetype most notable in Westerns. It certainly isn’t the all-driving, slow-moving actioner I was expecting – and it is much better for it. It’s growing in my estimations with each passing hour since I left the cinema, when I usually tend to revise down my opinion after getting past the initial adrenaline rush of seeing a film on the big screen.

Two things to note before you go in:

1) With a film so caught up in genre concerns as this, the suspension of disbelief is essential, as is a willingness to forget whatever importance you place on plotting. The plot of ‘Drive’ is a framework for the exploration of genre ideas; in fact, there’s enough in there that I wouldn’t be surprised if other viewers read the film along different genre lines than I did.

2) The few scenes of violence in this film are completely visceral and brutal, mostly carried out with analogue implements to make it that much more tactile. You will likely flinch. Just remember: it’s only a movie.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized