Monday, September 08, 2014

Landscaping Project Day 1

Today we began landscaping at The Buddhist Temple of Chicago. Two crews, 8 guys, 4 large pizzas, 15,000 pounds of stone. 
Three of us were at the Temple today, and going to be there all week while a rather major landscaping project is executed: a few of us have been planning and meeting and facilitating this project for a few months. I really had a wonderful time today. I love organizing and getting this sort of thing done. I love the Temple which was designed around the Dahrma Wheel. You can see the Dahrma Wheel motif on the from corner of the Temple. Inside the Temple are all walls and furniture and offices that are made on wheels. The garbage pails are even on dolly boards with wheels. Our "bookstore" is on wheels. (I'll try to post a picture of that later).

The Temple was built ten years ago but landscaping was out of the budget until now. We had all these stones surrounding the property. and kids and dogs ran across it. Dog owners would use the stone property to walk their dogs (god knows why they would use such a building to let their dogs shit?) And kids having fun would run around on the gravel sending it out on to the public sidewalk.

So we needed to have a salvaging service remove the stones. Then a landscaping company is paving, and digging down 8 inches and removing gravel littered earth. Then pouring new soil in it's place. Then we are planting some small trees and flowers. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Even In Death There Is Life, Even In Life There Is Death

"I GET IT!" Stagg and I finally did it. We watched THE SOPRANOS. Neither of us had even seen five minutes of the series, ever. We went in totally not knowing what to expect other than it being a goodfellas premise. Holy shit!!!! It's not unusual for me to watch a tv series years after it has been popular. It's kind of how I watched tv all my life. I watched Hill Street Blues, Rockford Files, Barny Miller, NYPD Blue all years after they had originally aired as reruns.  Stagg and I already knew we would like this show... it was just a matter of getting time to watch it and getting our hands on all the seasons. This summer we began. We started out slowly in July. Taking a break and then binging like crazy the last two weeks. This really just might be the greatest tv show ever made. No wonder people obsessed over it. For me....every day I have been thinking about the episodes. Part of my waking state has been like a dream thinking about the actors body language, looking over my shoulder with paranoia. Filled with dread and laughing and laughing. I also cried a lot during the show. It is really one of the most saddest and profoundly life-affirming experiences.. At one point I had to stop and go research the writer. A some point during the seasons it becomes apparent that whoever conceived the show is a deeply thoughtful, wise person who has suffered...? And research about David Chase confirmed this feeling. The show is about the voice. I mean duh, right? "the sopranos". ha ha ha.  It's about vows of silence, codes of speaking and not speaking. Decorum of words, rolling rules, breaking these rules. It's about "talk therapy" and keeping quiet. It's about the human act of speaking revealing who we are. All hyper infused with life and death. People live and die by what they say or don't say. A subtle comparison between the code of doctors, therapists is mirrored to the code of old world Omerata which existed because social structures and people in power were corrupt so ...the little guy made their own codes and laws. As we learn from the play Hamlet that humans know who we are by talking and listening and reflecting...The Sopranos portrays this all the way. There wasn't anything that wasn't pushed to the limit and explored completely artistically and professionally and spiritually. The last thing I expected was the show being a spiritual narrative (much like like David Lynch's body of work). So cleverly disguised as a crime drama. The series was totally self-aware of itself...down to characters almost saying they knew they were superstars and cult heroes. The characters endlessly watched movies and tv shows and referenced gangster stories and anti-heroic figures. Like us, they found themselves in art and in speaking and repeating and cycling...they replayed their lives and memories and grudges over and over like home movies or classic movies. In fact, the series has about 30 actors from "Goodfellas"'s that self aware. (and there are only just so many Italian American actors out there). Over the years of the show James Gandolfini changed physically morphing more and more into a likeness of Buddha. In some scenes he sat in Buddha poses.  When James Gandolfini died last year, I knew we had lost a great actor. I had no idea we had lost a soul mate.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Grammar, Glamour, Spell, Spelling

“Like it or not, there is a deep psychic importance to that whole set of rules and conventions for writing which we tend to sum up loosely as grammar. Grammar is glamour. They are the same word. Like channel/canal or guard/ward or porridge/pottage, the two words just started out as two pronunciations of the same word — a mere matter of regional accent. For grammar was glamour. If you knew grammar you were special. You had prestige, power, access to magic; you understood a mystery; you were like a nuclear physicist.” 

Peter Elbow in Writing With Power

“In classical Greek and Latin the word [grammatica] denoted the methodical study of literature (= ‘philology’ in the widest modern sense, including textual and ├Žsthetic criticism, investigation of literary history and antiquities, explanation of allusions, etc., besides the study of the Greek and Latin languages. Post-classically, grammatica came to be restricted to the linguistic portion of this discipline, and eventually to ‘grammar’ in the modern sense. In the Middle Ages, grammatica and its Romance forms chiefly meant the knowledge or study of Latin, and were hence often used as synonymous with learning in general, the knowledge peculiar to the learned class. As this was popularly supposed to include magic and astrology, the Old French gramaire was sometimes used as a name for these occult sciences. In these applications it still survives in certain corrupt forms, French grimoire, English GLAMOUR n., GRAMARYE n.” 

from OED

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Rewatching

I watched The Counselor again last night.
It’s a strong combination of Michael Mann meets Jim Thompson.
I really really like this movie.
I like how it goes directly to the fall.
I made a mistake at first with this story about the protagonist. For some reason I thought he was somewhat sympathetic. And he still is sympathetic by the end of the movie for me…because of his grief. It is quite a tough philosophy I feel about the story now.
I feel that we don’t see why he falls, or fails: The story conflict is about indicting the human who does not understand the price of moral decisions.
The real criminal in the movie is The Counselor. Everyone else knows exactly the life they lead and the price it costs to live that life due to the moral choices they live.
And in a way it doesn’t seem to matter if they are conscious, environmental choices, from childhood nature versus nurture. It doesn’t matter….it’s how hard and powerful one plays the life out.
Life is a grind. Life is one energy consuming another energy.
I love how the movie portrays one food group devouring another food group incessantly. The Counselor does not see this chain. His crime is not seeing that when you understand this chain of events…and you decide to participate willingly…there is a cost. His crime is that he thinks he can intellectualize this energy. Westray, Reiner, Malkina don’t think they are smarter or immune to the struggle….they know if one decides to make a game of it, then you better win.
I have heard a few people say they thought that Diaz and Cruz should have switched roles. I don’t agree with trading Diaz and Cruz for the others role.
I think Cruz is very good at portraying when she realizes who The Counselor is…When they are at a horse race or table outside and a former client named Tony comes to them. How he sees The Counselor is so interesting. He is confrontational, bitter and snide. Tony’s girlfriend is actually afraid they will get into a fight.
The scene suggests a nasty side of The Counselor. Tony says the lawyer is not to be trusted. Tony seems to be the character that lets the audience know…this lawyer is not so loyal to his clients. I thought it touching that the character who lets us know who Fassbinders character is named Tony. ( made me think of late Tony Scott).
That Cruz’s character is so nervous and emotional during this scene is interesting. The camera shows us as she reaches for The Counselors hand to hold him back from getting into fight. Then as Tony leaves….the camera closes on the couples hands and we see Fassbinder isn’t actually holding Cruz’s hand…he has his own hand grasped…for punching Tony? Or to reject her involvement and intimacy?
I thought it was a great choice to film that.
I think Cameron diaz is better to be played by an icy tone. She appears so superficial and fluffy in many ways. Diaz isn’t bringing us inside her character. She tells us a lot about herself…yet it is with a kind of removed attitude so very different than dissociative. She isn’t dissociative…she is beyond the pain of existence. She doesn’t need to block out pain. She seems to have accepted the lack of community intimacy most people crave and cultivate.
Her intimacy in life is within the structures of game and winning. I don’t think Cruz would be able to portray that better than Diaz.
I believe Diaz has been undervalued in this part because it’s so difficult to imagine a real life person who is so much game. Her role is more like a pimp or a madame for the sexual trade. If she was playing that literal part/career I think she’d be more understood. Natalie Dormers character does not understand Diaz…at first, but Diaz’s power is made clear to Dormer. And Dormer has to run away.
I love when The Counselor is resisting the truth of his life…and when he hears that anecdote about the fried and the poet who loses his love. The Counselor says “But I’m not a poet”.
It’s as if we might learn the crime of life is when you aren’t a poet.