Disruptive Juxtaposition

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Saturday, March 5th, 2005

Was epicly lazy today. 2 1/4 episodes of L&O: SVU. Highlight was taking a walk around the neighborhood with a book, Bugs Bunnyishly reading from a book as I went (not A Tree Grows in Brooklyn but American Noise). "What I miss most about the city are the angels / and the bars of Manhattan..." and "Whatever compelled us / to suspend the body of our dreams from poetry's slender reed?" That's a good question. I suspect it concerns reflective surfaces, ship's ledgers, and things that through their familiarity lose some meaning and require more / new meaning (photos of grandparents, the word "Cheerios").

If you happened to take the GRE Saturday, remember that you did better than you think you did.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Is right now a good time for a drink?

If you don't know me very well, the answer is goodness yes.

Speaking of drinks, check out this fellow's insights on the relation of wine quality to the bottle dimple. He assumes, as noted elsewhere, that price equals quality, and that might not be true always. I've had some stellar bottles of four-buck Chardonnay. Then again how developed is my palette, you ask? That is a fair question. Average at best, I'll admit. But still, look at the graph. Graphs don't lie.

I wrote a poem, actually, come to think of it, about 1) a wine & liquor only, semi-formal cocktail party held last winter; 2) Western New York revivals circa 1880; 3) the Jesus Freak outside the student union who, to the complete indifference of maybe a hundred sunning students, holds forth on the supremacy of the King James Bible over the other "cursed" versions. Already on looking this list over I can see my guiding question / concern taking shape; already it's clear that this poem need not necessarily have much important to say about anything. The fact that the poem was only let's say 33% good by the time I put my pen down (thanks again Randy et al at Studio One) only exacerbates my concern, namely, that this time I pour into poems feels wasted. Sometimes, of course. Is there any poetry quotation as mouthed as Auden's on its' making nothing happen? I tire of that quote, even as I agree with it. But it's so often mis- or under-represented w/r/t its implications. Politically, socioeconomically, global thermonuclearly, that quote is spot on. But when it holds true with the adverbs emotionally, intellectually, and other such adverbs, I lose heart. What's it all about, Mom & Dad?... that's how I sometimes feel.

Like I said, a drink. Don't worry, just one. Just two. Two.

Monday, February 28, 2005

1/4 Geek

I am 26% Geek.
Geek? Yes, but at least I got social skills.
You probably work in computers, or a history deptartment at a college. You never really fit in with the "normal" crowd. But you have friends, and this is a good thing.

1/4 and one percent, actually (26%). The fact that I couldn't quickly figure a good fraction for 26%, I think, helps prove my mainly-un-geekiness. Besides, I'm more of a loner, Dottie. If not a rebel.

Space and time

Saw Friday Night Lights over the weekend. Not my typical fare, but there were several redeeming aspects. One, the team the film follows does not win the state championship. Which would not have been believable anyway, given the fact that we the audience were apparently supposed to take as given that the team, with all its bad luck and foibles, were just naturally contenders for the title. The film concentrated so fully on the bad luck, to the exclusion some might say of any implication of true skill / ability, that when the Panthers do win, it seems a contrivance of the filmmakers. But still. There was a decent soundtrack, true to the late Eighties what with the Public Enemy cuts, but also there was another band called Explosion From the Sky, which band offers up some Yo La Tengo-ish, Sigur Ros-like electronic-filigreed dirges that work & work well. Unfortunately, the film makes only amateurish use of these cuts, the filmmakers apparently preferring to rest on their haunches by resorting to quick montages of game footage - throw, completion / incompletion, a yelling Billy Bob - to the accompaniment of say like the Stooges or Jimmy Smith. Which artistes are fine by me. But c'mon, enough with the amped-up game footage.

One part of the film got me thinking about this article by Bernard & Carter about "sequential art" i.e. comics, and their ability to break into and exist in the 4th dimension, which definition of theirs is not perfect; the article's of use mainly when it distinguishes comics' ability to splice narrative moments together. These two fellows do a pretty wise job of detailing how comics do this: because each panel exists on the same page, and because one of the dominant M.O.s of comics is to overlay narration over image which may or may not relate to that concurrent narration, comics can allow the weaving-together of narrative threads in a truly simultaneous way. See especially their discussion of The Watchmen, esp. that page where the investigators are poking around the crime scene from which the Comedian was, or maybe more accurately is even now as one reads the page, pushed out of the window to his death.

This gets me thinking about other media and whether or not they have this ability as well - i.e. to fuse past and present together in a narrative "now", or perhaps more expansively to fuse disparate narrative threads together. I thought at first that, yes, comics alone have this ability going for them (you've really got to see that link; check out Section 13 if you want to get right to the matter). But strangely enough it was Friday Night Lights that reminded me that this technique has been attempted, successfully, here and there, in film and fiction and poetry; there's a scene wherein Billingsley, the abused half-back, drives home along a thatchy highway after a loss, his drunk father berating him from the backseat, and then spliced in are scenes of Coach Gains driving with his quarterback to a road stop for a season-deciding coin toss (luckily the details are not important). So Gains waxes philosophical behind the wheel of his car as they two drive, and meanwhile we are given to understand that Billingsley & dad drive home simultaneously, perhaps even on the same highway, either just ahead or just behind, it doesn't matter so much; what Gains has to say about winning, losing, etc., casts the Billingsley narrative moment into another light; the one scene informs thematically the other. This technique is different than flashback, or maybe it's more accurate to say that the technique of flashback has here, and probably elsewhere although I'm not a student of film history, evolved into a sort of flash-flashback, or flash-jump (distinct, naturally, from a jump-cut), which in aggregate allows narrative to proceed not akin to a thread but rather a sort of braid. Described visually, the former would be this

------------------- >>

with the dashes representing narrative flow (and maybe a dash equals a scene, say); the latter variety though would look like

==x==x==x==x= >>

with each horizontal line being a narrative thread and each X being an exchange between them, a weave, the points at which one informs the other.

I still suspect that although these tries for a narrative now, or confluence of narrative past & present, alternatively, exist in fiction and elsewhere - look no further than Joyce to satisfy your Modernist jones, and your Postmodern jones with some Pynchon circa 1973's GR - comics still win the Golden Goose w/r/t establishing a narrative moment of true space-time, primarily due to its nature of simultaneous panels per page. Its world does not advance without the involvement of the reader, or put more artfully, its world does not advance without the reader, period. Films flicker on. Books that pull off this technique also of course depend on the feathery caress of the reader's eye. The reader must move her eye from word to word and only in so doing can she move, if the novel is indeed trying to so move her, from word to word, world to world. But check it: "It could be argued that a novel could achieve similar results [as sequential art] (after all, all the words on a page are observable all at the same time), and by this same token, one could claim this same feat could be performed in film through the usage of split-screen. What gives comics advantage over these other mediums, however, is that while literature and film must use obtrusive techniques (ruptures in the text, split screen) to create a tangible fourth dimension, this manipulation of the space-time continuum is so much part and parcel with the very nature of sequential art that this bridging of space and time is virtually seamless" (Bernard & Carter, Section 17). The comics page in other words is absorbable all at once & of a piece; the confluence of the narratives is bam, there, on the page, with no real "jumps" needed. It establishes an instantaneous sameness between narrative times by virtue of its moves on the same page, I think is the point to mull.

Is this something for poets to ape? Would I bring it up if I didn't think so? There's a way I think to scrub down the seams Bernard and Carter note in other mediums' attempts to establish a narrative now - the jump cut, the rambling stream-of-consciousness-style or pomo textual palimpsests (see sections of House of Leaves by M.Z. Danielewski) - such that the reader's has simultaneous access to this, that, and the other thing as comics occasion and that prose and film try but by virtue of their in-time-ness can't quite realize to the same extent.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Architects: Accidents

In the spatter of set mortar glass shards,
Constellations! The dodecahedron
Structure cemented in atomic & larger blocks.

Yes, the wall assembled stout in this way
& able to withstand both gale and time
& volley of twelve twirling bullets.

I won't say this pattern (feel how Braille
-like it is?) predicts a thing, although
The building is a sundial, its hands colossal,

But without infrared you can read
Previous trajectories in the divots
Blank old men rub smooth the chips to.

The Rescue Artist

There's a truly befuddling amount of stuff on my mind today - in the best way possible, thankfully, which is to say non-stressful ruminations. In reverse chronological order then:

The Rescue Artist. The Times Magazine has a profile of Everything Is Illuminated and soon Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close author Jonathan Safran Foer by Deborah Solomon, which starts off as a typical NYT Mag portrait piece (distinct from what elsewhere, done slightly differently, would be a "puff piece") and changes, I think even to Solomon's surprise, via Foer's own earnest concern with what it means to be human & humane etc. today, into an acute vignette of human foible, eccentricity, and yearning for communion. That's a lot of poofy portent there, in my last sentence; the piece in the Times is far more measured and accomplished, I'll cop to that fact right away. But still the whole piece & subsequent consideration on my noon jog got me thinking about Foer in particular and his generation of artists more generally as harbingers of the new, or rather a new, way of making felt art from tragedy via history, reflection, wit... I need to follow up on several things I just said, now don't I. Well I'd loosely group the McSweeneyists in with Foer, which group includes Amy Fusselman (The Pharmacist's Mate) and Dave Eggers natch - these are the first standard-bearers of the cabal out there hiply jotting down observations & witticisms to the end of emotionally-realized story (italics needed) as distinct from say your Easton Ellises and Foster Wallaces, which latter author's first book The Broom of the System I am now enjoying, but not quite feeling. Foer's EII, I felt. Eggers's AHWOSG I felt. Fusselman's TPM (looks like "The Phantom Menace"), ditto. Probably I'm reading some goodly deal into these texts as being more "felt" because of their connection to "reality" - each one's author has confessed each text comes with substantive grounding in reality, departures from that reality being OK and within the realm of poetic / authorial license; still, these texts feel distinct to me from the aforementioned Postmodern poster children with their icy smirks, shell games, and jazz hands. And plus, with all of that, there's the emerging realization in the NYT Mag piece, which Solomon captures just wonderfully, that Foer's worry to her, the reporter, that maybe he hasn't despite all efforts to shown her the true, most human essence of himself. Deborah Solomon:

"His letters, much like his fiction, are conceived ''as an end to loneliness,'' as he once put it in an e-mail message. And while most of the letters in the world -- at least the good ones -- are similarly written to allay our loneliness, Foer seems haunted by an aching awareness of the probability of defeat. What, in the end, can we really know of one another?

''I think it would be nice to meet again,'' he wrote one day. ''It will give me a chance to give you a fuller picture -- even if the fuller picture is not a better picture. . . . It pains me to think that I have not yet given you enough about me, as a person. Two meetings. What if, by chance -- by mood, by weather, by biochemistry -- I grossly misrepresented myself?'' "

Lots of idealism in there - that there is a self, for one, and somewhere a Derridean Deconstructionist is uncapping her Cross pen with a flourish - and also lots of melancholic Aw-shucksery, but you know, I wonder if these aren't the qualities we need in our writing and our lives. And the impulse to end loneliness is one with which I identify. It's one thing for me to espouse the value of these new forms of communication and the cultural aesthetics they may enable. It's another to realize that value myself, by actually communicating with you all out there, my phantom Disruptive Juxtaposition visitors. Jeremy Gregersen suggested the kernel of Post-post lay in the Internet; where TV, choice appliance of the Postmodern Generation, spat clevernesses at its captive hipsters and demanded nothing save ever more attention, our choice appliance, the computer / 'Net / blogosphere, gives us the chance to talk back. And to listen. In terms slightly more sonar than Internet: to ping and be pinged off of. To detect and be detected. Ping. Ping.