Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Something Amis

Been snortin' cold water fish oil, and drinkin' whey protein powder. A slight variation on the Pat Travers regime.

And I also finished watching a five-hour movie. If watching socialist international terrorists chain smoke for five hours is your thing, then "Carlos" is a film for you.

I've also been assembling a rather ambitious reading (and rereading) list that should see me through to my sunset years.

A good chunk of the novels on that list include titles from the father and son tandem of Kingsley and Martin Amis.

Kingsley was a souse of legendary proportions, with much of that legend emanating from the man himself. And while the literary stock of the elder Amis appears to have risen over the last decade or so, Amis the Younger is no longer a fashionable read.

I came to both rather late in the game, but the sheer audacity and linguistic showmanship of the Younger's writing from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s rekindled my interest in modern fiction. To be fair, I haven't yet read any of his novels after that point. It would be hard, however, for the Younger to match his dazzling trinity of Money (1984), London Fields (1989), and The Information (1995). You could open up to any page in these novels and find yourself confronted by some of the most exhilarating prose you've ever encountered. His style is unique and unapologetic, yet rarely reads as pretension or goes over the top.

Normally I don't like to see novels adapted to cinema. The former is a literary experience, and the latter is primarily a visual experience. And the imagined visuals that are manufactured as one reads should not be supplanted by another medium. But once I learned that David Cronenberg was attached to the project, I figured if anyone could adapt an "unfilmable" book, it was him. He did it, or at least heroically failed in the attempt, with both Ballard's Crash and Burroughs' Naked Lunch. Sadly, the London Fields project fell through, but is now attached to the extremely capable Michael Winterbottom, who could well have been my second choice.

Father and Son share a number of remarkable narrative abilities, including an extraordinary talent for representing first or third person experiential perspectives on being drunk and the concomitant hangover. Kingsley renders this most memorably in Lucky Jim (1954), the academic satire to end all academic satires. But he does it even better in The Green Man (1969). While Martin nearly matches him in Money, a satire of early 1980s materialism adorned by an ingenious plot, never his strong point, and in London Fields, where much of the narrative unfolds in dive bars such as the "Black Cross" and the "Golgotha". Both of them, of course, had plenty of experience in the field.

"Addictions do come in handy sometimes: at least you have to get out of bed for them."
-John Self

Sometimes, all you wanna do is have your mind erased.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marking the Days

Its been an interesting seven days.

Still reeling from an apocalyptic revelation two months ago that removed the veil from behind which I interpreted the entirety of my life until that point, I now approach daily life as something to be savoured. I can revel in the mundane. Chill out with the quotidian.

Sometimes the hard sciences can tell us things that provide coherence and certainty. Or is medicine a hard science at all? Or just another soft human science, and all the richer for that? Part of an evidential paradigm that has never really ossified into the purities of the empirical sciences? And are not the empirical observations of science not interpreted and communicated as cultural artifacts? Whatever they are, they "work", and I owe my life to them.

But back to the last seven days.

Wednesday and Thursday were uneventful, run of the mill workdays. Except for Wednesday's fine Thai buffet at lunchtime with Bomber.

Friday night I noticed an improvement in my throwing mechanics while battling with Bomber. Darts, innit?

Then the Human Paradox and I drained a couple more pitchers and pondered how best to storm the cultural ramparts of the city. And why not the world?

Over the weekend I unspooled some interesting films. I was excited about "Enter the Void". Gaspar Noe may not churn out titles at the velocity of a Steven Soderbergh, but the other two feature lengths on his filmography certainly made a visceral impact on me, and its been a long time since 2002. His first film primarily in English, it had its moments with some memorable images, which sometimes is all I need. But I found myself lapsing out now and again against the endless onslaught of otherwise bravura imagery and symbolism. Its a film with a big idea, however awkwardly The Tibetan Book of the Dead is introduced. That being said, it needs to be seen to be believed, whatever that old chestnut really means.

I also checked out "A Prophet", a gritty film from a French director who rarely releases a dud. Probably could have used some further editing, but otherwise I enjoyed it. An anthropological look at tensions within the criminal underworlds of French, Arab and Corsican lowlifes as well as a glimpse into the survival modes of a French prison, it also features all the markings of an entertaining crime story.

On Monday morning I was confronted with an invitation to write a "Written Communication Proficiency Test" in order to advance in a job competition. Since I had already written this thing over four years ago, and would likely not better that result, I declined to replace it. Supplying the evidence of such an event, however, is probably more effort than rewriting the exam. But I'm not taking a big chunk out of a Saturday to take the same test over again, especially when I battered it into submission the first time.

Tuesday afternoon I had to hustle down to the General Hospital to get an MRI. I generally appreciate medical technicians and the work that they do, but sometimes they carry a shitload of attitude, especially those that see an MRI in the same light as winning a lottery. No, what it means is that its not just a broken toe. I'd gladly trade in all those MRI's for a scenario in which the Interruptnum, whose remnants are acquiring an unwelcome permanence, had never happened. All in all, however, I'd have to say that my pitched campaign to partly restore my mind and body is going well, if unevenly. The Interruptnum also yielded some unintended consequences of its own that are going to make the rest of my life a better prospect. Although perhaps I am destined to inherit the nefarious fog that has enveloped my father. Or greet the medulla blastoma yet again in some dark alleyway. All the more reason to make the most of the time and abilities that I still have.

Tuesday night I managed to have a listen to the new album from an Austin, Texas band that announce themselves as Explosions in the Sky. As usual, it will take some repeated listening to fully get around it, but I liked what I was hearing. As with any piece of art, or culture, to use a less disputed term, unless one is forced to work at the process of interpretation or understanding, then its probably ephemeral and not worth the time. I was listening to this band quite a lot just before the Interruptnum, and they had not released anything since then.

Today, I made my way down to get fingerprinted so that my application to a higher security status could proceed to the processing stage. Caught in the evidential paradigm again. When did the superstitious parlour games of palmistry and chiromancy become legitimate heuristics of identity? In all the complexity of the human body, is the mark of individuality really to be found on our fingertips? Are we really all unique snowflakes? Are the Sedin twins really two different people? Long before fingerprinting, Leibniz argued that we each possess a recognizable individuality, however imperceptible in its minutiae. Maybe I don't have a doppelganger out there, living a life I'm not. Who is "Winning", to borrow from the unhinged idiom of one Carlos Estevez.

Tonight? Maybe there's a good hockey game on TV. Or I can hang up a copy of my fingerprint file on the wall, right beside my MRI image.