For years, I thought I was an unnatural monster. Is that a phrase that means anything? It's the creature of Dr. Frankenstein, created by humans—out of arrogance, out of perversity, out of cruelty—with no destiny other than to fail in its inadequate imitation of life. The creature seeks to destroy the doctor, because the doctor is the only thing in all the universe that the creature stands in any relationship to. Together they will go down to oblivion.
But the Gorgon is a natural monster. This circumstance is very different. Nature supports and confirms her. Descended from Echidne the matriarch, she comes from a long line of snaky ladies. Her monstrosity is a function of what the human society can support and recognize, not something inherent to her constitution. Reflections of her can yet in all the places where civilized society breaks down. Humans did not invent her, any more than they invented the night sky or the spilling of blood.
The Gorgon is a creature of the earth. Earth is the element I am most distant from, whose ways I understand the least. But I am coming to understand that as long as I keep some body part in contact with the ground, like Antaeus, I have this untapped reserve of energy available to me. Or a skate, it could be a skate.
You can only take a step back from something if you have something else to step onto. Earth is the least responsive, least forgiving, least illuminating of the elements, but it is always there and always, always the same. "We meet again," says Jacob the Pathfinder. In derby we spend weeks learning to fall. If I can keep one claw on that firmness, the newfound balance will bring me capacities that have always eluded me.
It's a little overwhelming, this energy, but it endures, and I endure it and endure with it.
I blew way too much money on books last weekend. How marvelous to utter that sentence! To be able to buy books, to buy too many books, to think of buying books as a thing one is capable of doing, to remember to buy books, to remember what books one wants to buy when presented with the chance to buy them, too many, in fact. And the first book I am reading is Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. I'm loving it, even as the obsessive recircling so prevalent in Fun Home winds in even tighter spirals.
I've only spiraled through the first three or four chapters, but I'm enjoying just seeing some of these experiences in print, having a girlfriend, having a therapist, having a girlfriend and a therapist, inappropriate dreams about your therapist, reading psychology texts to gain insight into your therapist, transference, both witting and unwitting, the unwitting transference of talking knowingly about your own transference, the true self and the false self, thinking that "Winnicott" sounds feminine because of "Winnie," the self-absorption of thinking someone is accusing you of being self-absorbed, Virginia Woolf.
I don't think I get myself tangled up in quite as many loops as Bechdel seems to, but maybe I do, maybe I do. For the record, though, I have never gone on midnight walks past my therapist's house.
Reading, I've missed you. Writing, I've missed you too.
MILLICENT'S VOICE: Look at the night table for a note from Adele.
MALE VOICE: Adele died of lung cancer last night. You may stay on if you like.
( Millicent's final monologue from Synecdoche, New York.Collapse )
On Facebook I've been fangirling over the new trailer for the Cloud Atlas movie, directed by Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski. Tywer's made some good movies and one great one, but he's also responsible for the execrable Perfume, which I note was also his last foray into big-budget Euro art films. (Is it on the Hate list? No -- but maybe it should be.) The Wachowskis have a good visual sense and a not-completely-naive philosophical sense, but haven't really done anything artistically significant. (V for Vendetta definitely is on the Hate list.)
I am distressed to see that critics and trade writers, with one eye on the bottom line, keep evoking The Fountain, which not only resides on the Hate list, but practically rules it. But the concern is well founded, you have to admit, and not just because any philosophical rumination that gets too close to Hollywood deliquesces into New Age goop, feel-good sentiment, or both.
Readers of this blog know how (uncharacteristically, I hope) invested I am in the character of Sonmi-451, to the point of naming the blog after her segment in the novel. I could and probably should write a whole post about that. (Maybe I already have?) But right now I am possessed by certainty that the movie is going to fuck Sonmi's segment up. And maybe all the segments. Why?
I've been re-reading the novel, more to cope with my disintegrating personal life than with an eye to any critique, and what I notice is that one of its themes is the relation of the life of the text to the life of the author. The six segments are, within the narrative, six documents, of more or less questionable authority and provenance. One of them is presented "in-world" as fiction in another segment. Another story -- Sonmi's story -- is revealed to become unintelligibly lost as time goes on.
I won't say that film can't do this kind of thing, but it almost never does. Some films do question the authority of what they show on the screen (</i>Rashomon</i>, famously), but almost always by showing you what might have happened. But to question the validity of what's on the screen in a way analogous to what the novel does-- I guess you'd have to show the movie getting made. That opportunity exists here (Sonmi watches Cavendish's story as a film; Cavendish makes self-conscious comments on how to film his story, as well as evaluating Rey's story in terms of its filmability) but I'm hard-pressed to think of many films that do it and do it well. (The Muppet Movie comes to mind.)
But Sonmi's story is all about this problem. How odd to notice that for all the tragedy of her story, she's barely a protagonist in it, because her agency is so completely circumscribed by necessity and violence. All she can control is what she thinks and feels in response, and even that is circumscribed because she can't really trust that anything that happened to her wasn't scripted for the benefit of others. Her commitment to truth makes her reliable in that sense, but all she can report are her reactions to others' untruths, and so the ultimate meaning of her story is far from certain.
For this reason, the danger is that in the film she will become a passive waif in need of rescue, where in the book her vindication is her preservation of her integrity in spite of the impossibility of her rescue. (Another danger with these stories is a focus on freeing of slaves, when the reality the novel seeks to face is that most enslaved people are never freed.)
It would anyway be very challenging to depict the changes in Sonmi's mind on the screen, or her reflections on her former self. But without these things, the story would become very thin indeed, and I fear the temptation to rescue her would be irresistible.
I think about these things all the time, since WPA has a lot of the same concerns. Cloud Atlas is probably the closest thing I have to a direct influence, and I'm sure some the lines one could draw would be embarrassingly stark. (Six characters, huh?) But also because it exposes a way that film could have developed, but never really did. It's almost as if we decided that photos were too enthralling ever to question, even as we grew more and more skeptical of the written word. But maybe it's just the medium: it's impossible to mistake a word, even from an eyewitness, for the thing it reports.
Well, anyhow, I'm prepared to be disappointed. But I still recommend "An Orison of Sonmi-451" to anyone who'll listen to me.
"To cut off Medusa's head without being turned to stone, Perseus supports himself on the very lightest of things, the winds and the clouds, and fixes his gaze upon what can be revealed only by indirect vision, an image caught in a mirror. I am immediately tempted to see this myth as an allegory on the poet's relationship to the world, a lesson in the method to follow when writing." --Italo Calvino
WWPV is the local college radio station. I usually enjoy listening to them, but one time the DJ was so incompetent, he broadcast nearly a minute of dead air, interrupted at the twenty-second mark by the words "dead air." Tonight they found me this, which touches my Western heart.
They also play a lot of Crystal Castles.
You may recall that five months ago I could barely skate at all. Tonight I passed basic assessments. Now I can join the league.
I pick up opinions quickly, but I hope this is countered by a tendency to quickly put them down again. It's in this spirit that I want to relate that in my brief initial foray into the world of fitness, I have concluded that the idea of "toning" is bunk.
Toning means different things to different people, but my first encounter with the concept was in high school gym class, where it was opposed to "bulking up." If you did few repetitions of lifting heavy weights, you would get huge, strong muscles. If you did many repetitions of light weights, you...wouldn't. So back in those days, nobody tried to hide the gender theory, so the message was explicit: bulking was for boys, and toning was for girls. Toning was too tedious and required too much scheduling for my poor brain, so I basically decided that fitness wasn't for me.
Since getting I to derby, though, I've been giving myself a crash-course in all those fitness topics I'd so fastidiously ignored for so long. And after twenty-five years, I'm finally asking, what istoning good for? And the answer I've come to (tentatively) is "not much."
Toning doesn't really build strength. Nobody thinks that doing forty reps of twenty-pound weights will ever allow you to do even one rep of seventy. It's designed to prevent muscle growth. So what, then? On the extreme edges, it seems that it builds endurance. (Always a good trait for a lady, I suppose.) That's it. It's basically glorified cardio. If you have zero strength and size, it will give you some minimal amount, but unless you're already super skinny, no one will notice. It's better than no exercise, but if you're looking to change your body, look elsewhere. And it's also a huge waste of time.
But that's not the depressing part. In reading up on all this, I found an article explaining the benefits of real strength training for women. It basically said the above, and added that while you will gain definition, you probably won't get big, and also if you're looking to lose fat, increase muscle mass changes you metabolism in your favor. (This last bit I'm skeptical of, but whatever.)
And in the comments came replies from women—women who were already on board with this idea and were doing their own strength-training workouts—expressing the serious difficulties they were having with persevering in this approach. Basically, the difficulties took three forms. 1) "Seeing the number on the scale go up freaks me out, even when I'm losing inches and gaining muscle." 2) "Seeing my pants size go up freaks me out, even though I'm totally ripped." 3) "Eating enough to build muscle feels wrong, wrong, wrong." And these were women who weren't afraid of being fit and strong, who wanted to be athletes, not supermodels.
It really brought home to me in a new way how our conventional wisdom and folklore about food and fitness have little to do with women's health. The scale, the pants size, your height—like any number, they don't tell you very much except how deviant you are.
It is scary. I decided to go the strength-training route, and while I've found great satisfaction in doubling the weight I use for certain exercises in about six or eight weeks, I can't say I'm not afraid when I see a discernible biceps muscle. My impossible skinniness was always the one thing I thought I had going for me, but I'll probably soon go up a pants size (and also a bra size; how weird is that?). What's scary is not knowing how it will all turn out, when appearance has always been this hugely important thing you've felt you've had so little control over.
And you've tried not to give a shit about appearance, or maybe to learn to appreciate "unconventional beauty." But can there be adequate compensation for ugliness? Can being ugly not matter? I never thought so before, not deep down, but now I wonder if maybe, yes. Power, strength, confidence, respect can be worth the trade, and most of all, belonging.
I know all you LJ/DW die-hards are dying for something to read, and now that I've figured out how to post via email to DW and thence to LJ, I may just be able to oblige.
Facebook is sheer tedium. Twitter makes me feel bad. There is only the blog.
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