notes january 01 – 05

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Woke up New Years Day in a panic about my indecision regarding motherhood, which in turn spiraled into a crisis about my life up to this point (and the ramifications for the rest of my life). How brutal it is that life is so long, that our lives can be over but we still have to be alive for 50 more years. I’d decided a few days before that my first film for 2018 would be Wanda, the first film being a kind of omen for the rest of the year. So of course I transition from my crisis to a film about a woman who abandons her children, or rather, abandons the only path she’d been given, and floats along others, each offering as little as the first. You see her husband before you realize who he is, but he’s burdened with so many children, spilling out of the car, being ushered in and out of the courtroom. These children can’t be contained, but have to be taken care of. And then Wanda walks in, alone, her children barely noticing she’s there. I imagine a different movie (most movies) where they hold on to her, pleading. But their indifference is mutual, like the baby when we’re first introduced to Wanda — both parties would rather the other be elsewhere.

I picked up Mrs Caliban as a Christmas gift for myself while shopping. I haven’t read it since undergrad, and when The Shape of Water played during TIFF I would describe it as “very similar plot, but she fucks the monster” until someone told that they do, in fact, fuck in the movie. I’m not sure why either are so revolutionary, there’s always something between the monster and its prisoner,  somewhere in that chasm between sexual tension and sexual threat. I’m not a big rereader, not because of some principle, more along the lines of too many new things to read, but this might be a good year to revisit my favourites, and see if they should still hold that title. So far up: Ice, Malina, Cassandra, Bear.

Part of the motivation for these notes is that I’m approaching a year without a tumblr. I do miss it, I don’t get the visual stimulation (and discovery) I need elsewhere, but I spent so much time getting annoyed when on it I needed a break, which ended up being a sever . However, when the end of the year came I realized I hadn’t been able to keep track of things, and that tumblr had been that function for me. Books and films are easy, a notebook and a website for both, but articles, videos, songs, etc… Couldn’t keep them together. So that’s what this is for, keeping on top of things. This week I want to remember Andrea Long Chu’s On Liking Women.

The other motivation is Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, which ended up being the book I brought with me from 2017 to 2018. The initial plan for the end of 2017 involved 44 hours in a car for a round trip from Toronto to Daytona Beach. I got 14 hours done on the way there, but we ended up finding cheap flights back, so I got the physical book out from the library (Juliet Stevenson’s voice still with me as I read the rest). I finished it with the help of a 90 minute transit ride to my grandmother’s, and then her dozing for the day. It was a book I’d been meaning to read for years, but it’s length deterred me (length always deters me), and 44 hours in a car seemed like the perfect time to conquer the beast. I was surprised at how funny it was, but the kind of funny that comes from watching people all the time. A kind of wry cruelty. At the same time, as someone who has multiple notebooks for different purposes (and this project is just another one, really) it felt like a book I should have read long ago, and a comfort too. Maybe all this nonsense is work, but not in the way I think it is.

“Then I remembered that when I read my notebooks I didn’t recognize myself. Something strange happens when one writes about oneself. That is, one’s self direct, not one’s self projected. The result is cold, pitiless, judging. Or if not judging, then there’s no life in it – yes, that’s it, it’s lifeless.” — Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook.

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Films Seen in 2016

Favourites (in no particular order):

The Blue Bird (Maurice Tourneur, 1918)
Eyes of Fire (Avery Crounse, 1983)
Women of Ryazan (Olga Preobrazhenskaya & Ivan Pravov, 1927)
Trance (Teresa Villaverde, 2006)
Crush (Alison Maclean, 1992)
The Travellers (Bahram Beizai, 1991)
Pomegranate and Cane (Saeed Ebrahimifar, 1988)
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
The Fury (Brian DePalma, 1978)
Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (Alanis Obomsawin, 1993)
Eyes of Laura Mars (Irvin Kershner, 1978)
The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996)
Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (Les Blank, 1980)
Secret Beyond the Door (Fritz Lang, 1947)
Phantom Lady (Robert Siodmak, 1944)
A Brighter Summer’s Day (Edward Yang, 1991)
Los Olvidados (Luis Bunuel, 1950)
Venus Delta (Antoinette Zwirchmayr, 2016)
Creek (Ana Mendieta, 1974)
Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016)
Little Women (Gillian Armstrong, 1994)
The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016)
Lemonade (Beyonce Knowles Carter, 2016)

& the rest

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Books Read in 2016

Favourites (in no particular order):

Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution by Rebecca Comay
Counternarratives by John Keene
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Streetwalking on a Ruined Map: Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elvira Notari by Giuliana Bruno
The Great Camouflage: Writings of Dissent (1941-1945) by Suzanne Cesaire
An Autobiography by Angela Y. Davis
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich
An Anthology by Simone Weil
Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession in the Middle Ages by Nancy Mandeville Caciola
Down Below by Leonora Carrington
Laid Waste by Julia Gfrörer
An Orderly Man by Dirk Bogarde
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
The Night Battles: Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries by Carlo Ginzburg
Flesh Cinema: The Corporeal Turn in American Avant-Garde Film by Ara Osterweil
Selected Poems by Marina Tsvetaeva
La Femme de Gilles by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

& the rest Continue reading

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Books read in 2015

Favourites

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life by James Daschuk
The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin
State of Grace by Joy Williams
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
In the Pines by Alice Notley
The Other Side: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson
With My Dog Eyes by Hilda Hilst
The Sad Passions by Veronica Gonzalez Peña
The Mineral Palace by Heidi Julavits
Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip
Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa by Antjie Krog
Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin
Love Hotel by Jane Unrue
Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky by David Connerley Nahm
The Place of Scraps by Jordan Abel
The Sacred Night by Tahar Ben Jelloun
For Anatole’s Tomb by Stéphane Mallarmé
The Incorruptible Flesh: Bodily Mutation and Mortification in Religion and Folklore by Piero Camporesi
But Some Of Us Are Brave: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men: Black Women’s Studies by Akasha Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, Barbara Smith (Editors)
Jane: A Murder by Maggie Nelson
Corregidora by Gayl Jones
Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 by Ida B Wells

& the rest

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Films Seen in 2015

I’ve been a terrible blogger, so here’s a list.

Favourites:

Marquis de Sade’s The Propensities of Vice (Akio Jissoji, 1988)
The Terrorizers (Edward Yang, 1986)
The Butter Lamp (Hu Wei and Julien Féret, 2014)
Starry Eyes (Dennis Widmyer & Kevin Kolsch, 2014)
Duelle (Jacques Rivette, 1976)
Invocations (Amy Halpern, 1982)
By The Law (Lev Kuleshov, 1926)
Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945)
Oramunde (Emlen Etting, 1933)
Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy (Tracey Moffatt, 1990)
Diary of a Lost Girl (G.W. Pabst, 1929)
Leila (Dariush Mehrjui, 1997)
Surname Viet Given Name Nam (Trinh T. Minh-ha, 1989)
Engram of Returning (Daïchi Saïto, 2015)
Sector IX B (Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, 2015)
No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015)
Evolution (Lucile Hadžihalilovic, 2015)
Thresholds (Marie Louise Alemann, 1980)
Mutiny (Abigail Child, 1982)
Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1946)
Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014)
Lake Mungo (Joel Anderson, 2008)

& the rest

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2015: Missing Texts

“The German Censors —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— idiots —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——”

— Heinrich Heine, Ideen: Das Buch Le Grand.

Missing Footage from The White Review.

“We haven’t seen the 20th century’s most important films: German films of the extermination camps (even if their shooting was officially forbidden); Soviet films of the gulag (Solzhenitsyn thought they were never made); Chinese films about the camps, which Wang Bing is finally beginning to shoot; scientific films about the splitting of the atom; films about those workers who, at the very end of the 19th century, never left the factory but were instead chopped up inside Chicago’s abattoirs. – Nicole Brenez

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I’ve been thinking a lot about plastic surgery. Not for myself, well, not actively for myself, but the idea that at one point in your life you can change your appearance so much that you can permanently look like another person. This is probably a hangover from my adolescent love of Seconds, The Face of Another and thinking about Julavits’ The Vanishers. All involve plastic surgery as a means of creating a new life for oneself.

I came across some photos of Kim Novac on tumblr, and remembered all the criticism about her face. She’s had a lot of surgery, and now no longer looks “like her.” The idea of looking “like you” is already a fallacy. We change so much throughout our lives, who we end up looking like is arbitrary. Why is a certain quote more “you” than anything else? How it going under a knife any different than the many ways we change and sculpt our appearance through other means?

The people who are against plastic surgery because it isn’t “real” or “natural” generally have no idea how ideology, or the world works. How we end up looking as we age is mostly about how much we conform to certain norms. I remove hair from my body, I use certain products to maintain a kind of skin and hair, I eat a certain amount and a certain kind of food in order to maintain a certain body shape. This is what you do when you’re part of the world, and I see no difference in it than I do with someone radically changing their appearance.  And who am I to judge what others do to their own bodies. We’re all conforming, until we’re not.

The Face of Another has one of my favourite lines, which I think fits in here. The protagonist, who through an accident has had his face destroyed, creates a mask so perfect that he can, and does, become another person. The book is a series of diary entries, or maybe letters? I don’t have it on hand, to his wife, who he abandons and seduces with his alternating faces. He writes, in parentheses, “(Under any circumstances, I simply did not want to lose you. To lose you would be symbolic of losing the world.)”

How much is our appearance our world? How the world treats us hinges on our appearance, and by changing our appearance, we can change our world. But change comes with loss, and to change oneself you risk losing your world. The above mentioned texts all warn against attempting this. All the characters lose, and suffer, for their world is gone. But rather than use our old face to look backwards, we have the possibility of using our new face to look forwards, and create new worlds around us. I am my body, and my body is my world. Why not use our bodies to change our world? Why not decide at a certain point to be done with what you’ve had, and create something new? We have a strange sacredness around our bodies, but maybe we should work towards losing that all together.

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