Monday, May 31, 2010

Half-Life (*one of the best films I've ever seen)

Hi everybody,

Have any of you heard of Half-Life, directed by Jennifer Phang? I plucked it off the shelf at Video-rama this weekend, popped it in the DVD player, and couldn't tear my eyes away. This film is for those who love their Donnie Darko, American Beauty, Lawn Dogs, The Fall, Paperhouse, and Where the Wild Things Are mixed together with 100% originality and vision by director Phang. I've long been obsessed with stories -- books, movies, visual art -- that capture that magical place between reality and fantasy. Growing up, I was a nerdy bookworm who -- to deal with my parents' divorce, kids bullying me at school, my emerging sense of being gay -- lost himself in realms of the supernatural. At my own making. I think. What's so beautiful about this film is not only the stunning cinematography and editing, the tightly written and profoundly sad story, nor the naturally gifted cast whom work perfectly together as an ensemble, but this sense that sometimes we really don't know where reality ends and fantasy begins. We make up stories to capture meaning, to imbue everyday circumstances with mystery and a connect-the-dots way of thinking. But what if -- mixed somewhere in with all this -- is true magic? Whole other parallel universes and ideas that tie in with ours, that are maybe even drawn to our own realities because of the way we personally see the world?

Half-Life -- a deeply spiritual film -- asks these kinds of questions. Tim, our young protagonist, seeks to understand why his father left and why his mother, Saura, has gotten involved with the handsome yet manipulative Wendell. Tim and his teenage sister, Pamela, struggle with loneliness, friendships, sexuality, trust, and the meaning of family as they fall more and more into the tangled web of Wendell's desire to control theirs. At once haunting, melancholy, hopeful, whimsical, bleak, fresh, and daring, Half-Life is the kind of film that not only tells an amazing story but captures that story through a revitalized and unique vision by its director. This movie is personal. It takes chances. It dares to let you inside Jennifer Phang's mind -- and even more importantly, her heart.

Here's a link to the film:

You should watch this. Now.

The Thunder Rock

Sometimes magic sweeps us up in its grip, catching us unawares but keeping things delicate and safe. Saturday was pure magic for me -- every song I listened to, every alley I took in NE Portland during my walk, every chance encounter with a stranger. I just kept riding this wave of pixie dust and faith and laughter. Thank you, Universe, for offering up an exquisite day-long moment on the unofficial first day of summer.

I woke up earlier than usual -- about 6:30 a.m. -- and felt ready to take on the day. After whipping up some eggs and toast, feeding Ollie and Luna (my adorable pups), and downing a few cups of yummy coffee, I headed over to the Convention Center to watch part of the International Gay Men's Volleyball tournament. I mean, A) it's in Portland, B) it's free admission, and C) all the volleyball players are GAY. Gay men. Gay hot men. How could I not go? So, admittedly, I was a total happy camper there in the bleachers, watching the team "Beaches" play some other team. (I decided to have a "crush" on Beaches Player No. 1, so I don't even remember what the other team was called....) There was something freeing, relaxing, and totally goofy about being at a sports tournament at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday and enjoying myself. I looked around at all the folks soaking in competition, community, cutie-pies.

After a couple hours -- and when the sun started to peek out, giving Portland a breather from all this rain -- I took a drive out to the Rhododendron Gardens in SE. Julie, thanks so much for mentioning these gardens to me! Of course I got lost at first (is anyone worse with directions than me?), but once I found the gardens I was in a little slice of heaven. I wove up and down the paths, took breaks on the benches to soak in all the flowers -- some still clinging to trees, many petals fallen down into soft and colorful beds on the gravel -- and even stopped in a horde (yes, horde) of ducks who showed absolutely no fear. Some parents and their children were feeding the ducks, and there were also geese, and the sound of quacking and flapping wings filled the air with a kind of poetry.

Later in the day, two more beautiful things happened: I was in my mom's backyard, having just mown the lawn (I loved the feel of the freshly mown grass against my fingertips as I loaded it into the yard debris bin), and I heard this chirping (baby birds, I knew right away) and I looked up at the cowboy boot-turned-birdhouse in the dogwood tree. A mom or dad finch (?) was peeking its head out the hole, and I heard all the chicks inside, eating and frolicking, and all of a sudden I just started laughing with pure joy and light. Something felt so close to me, a heavy presence of Goodness. Then I decided to walk up to Alberta Street to grab a couple slices of pizza and to rent movies. On my way home, balancing my pizza box, sauce, and newspapers, I was distracted from the music in my headphones by two sisters sitting on their porch step. I stopped and looked over, pulling my headphones down and shutting off my disc-man. The sisters were maybe 3 and 4, and sitting there in cute dresses like they were ready to go to church or their grandmother's house, and there was a picnic basket between them. I couldn't see what was inside, but I did notice there was a white-and-red checkered cloth covering the inside. The little sister -- with her bangs and wide eyes -- remained quiet the whole time. Her older sis did all the talking. "We're selling rocks," she said. "Would you like to buy one?" "Why are you selling rocks?" I asked from my place on the sidewalk; I didn't want to scare them and move in too close. She shrugged. "We just want to sell them," she said. "They're from the zoo. We're selling them for three." "Three or free?" I asked, amused. "Free. We're selling them for free. Would you like one?" I replied right away, "Of course I would!" and I moved in closer as she started rummaging around in the picnic basket. The girls' father came to the screen door, understandably; he stood on the other side of it, and we exchanged greetings. The older sister pulled a jagged, white-gray rock from the basket. "This is the biggest one," she said. "It's from a Thunder Rock. The Thunder Rock hit the ground and broke into a bunch of pieces." She reached out and I took the rock, thanking her. "It's real," she added. I said, "I'll make sure I put it on my writing desk next to other real things." Then we said our goodbyes, and I headed home, the pizza goodies in one hand while I gripped my new Thunder Rock in the other.

So here I sit, on Memorial Day, writing this passage, thankful for Saturday and its bookends, Friday and Sunday. I've been noticing that I'm smiling at weird times, and starting to feel lighter and lighter. Something beautiful is unraveling inside me, letting go.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I've got a chip on my shoulder.

quote of the day

"It used to be that when I saw people on TV discussing how they found inner peace, I would get annoyed. Perhaps I was jealous, I don't know. But I always felt that whatever they were saying should be kept private. Now I'm just like them. Not that I go around lecturing and preaching. I remember Sati's advice about becoming a martyr. But when I'm at the store getting groceries, and the clerk asks me how I'm doing, I smile and say 'Great.' I know I used to do that, but at least now I mean it.

“I want to be serious, but it’s hard. I’m like the little kid who plays outside all day and has all the fun in the world, but only because he knows his mother is at home waiting for him. That’s what it’s like to be still inside. Mother is at home. Everything will eventually work out. Everything is inevitable. She is always at home. My thoughts do not support my inner silence; it is just there. It doesn’t even go away when I sleep. I doubt it will when I die.

“By no means does this mean I have arrived at the state that Sati described as enlightenment. As before, I have my ups and downs. But I would also have to say that more and more I find myself watching my sorrows. They are there, they are real; they just don’t affect me as they did before. Now, the average person might call this the growth of apathy, or worse, schizophrenia. All I can say is that I have never felt more sensitive or sane. My friends have noticed the same thing in their own lives. Even Fred.

“Sati’s prediction has come true – I no longer dwell on Linda. I contemplate my blue-eyed friend instead. She made me happy when she was here. She makes me happy now. I miss her, true, but I also feel she is not far away.

“Occasionally I run into someone who attended her meetings. A few ask what became of her. Most appear content to remember her in the company of someone else who had met her. The word is spreading around town, on the wind perhaps, about who was here. I wouldn’t be surprised if years from now her name is known in every corner of the globe.

“Was Sati God? When she was here, that question was important to me. I still don’t know the answer to it. And now, I don’t care to know.

“She was wonderful. She had grace and beauty, love and power. Nothing could hurt her or drag her down. The insults thrown at her from strangers, the doubts dumped on her from friends – they flowed off her like water poured over the back of a swan. Her compassion for those who suffered was outweighed only by her complete unattachment to them. Some might say she was indifferent. I know now her ocean of joy was simply too vast to be disturbed by any wave. Even her own death made her laugh.

“Mother Sati.

“If she wasn’t God, she was everything God should be.”

--Sati, Christopher Pike

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Can't Wait for June 22nd

Friday, May 14, 2010

Life Is Good.


Over the past month or so -- thanks to Lisa, my new roommie and friend -- I've become obsessed with the musical artist Ladyhawke. She's a New Zealand artist with Asperger's syndrome who (yep) named "herself"/her band after the amazing '80s flick starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Rutger Hauer, and Matthew Broderick. It's hard to describe her style of music -- I'd say she's the beautifully weird love child of Eurythmics and Bat for Lashes?

Check out these two videos. (*note her ode to early MTV!*)


My Delirium:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Who's Geeking Out? Me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

TT Photos

You want 'em? You got 'em! Here are some photos, courtesy of both Karla and myself, from our trip to Trinidad & Tobago.