Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Tree of Life

In keeping with the film, a collection of loosely connected thoughts follows.

[I don't think The Tree of Life has anything that could be called a spoiler, really, but if you want to go into the movie blind, don't read on.]

Forget about narrative storytelling. Or story, maybe.

There's a broad sense of the story of life, the universe, and everything, but in Jack's life the chronology is torn and fragmented. You could repair some of it, but that isn't the point.

A collection of scenes? Vignettes? Moving pictures? I think Terrence Malick's trying for a different art form, and he really is pushing in some new, weird directions. Perhaps they'll be watching it in a hundred years.

No Transformers previews here (PTL, right?). One trailer featured Beach House. Another Frightened Rabbit. Still another Radiohead. "ARTSY FILM TO FOLLOW," in other words. But I will probably see that George Clooney angsty-dad film.

Quietest movie theater I've been in. When I scratched my head, it sounded like I was raking gravel.

The characters barely have names. Jack. Mother. Father. Brother.

Gut-wrenching grief that quickly is hard to process, since I'm still thinking about the drive over and whether my cell phone is in fact off and whether this seat is comfortable and I hope I don't have to go the bathroom cuz I had some coffee and water on the way over and this thing's gonna be long.

That shot, fairly early on, where the upside down camera filmed the shadows of the children playing right side up.
The sunflowers very near the beginning, and very near the end.
And now I keep looking around trying to, you know, see things differently.

I thought the swimming-out-of-one's-submerged-childhood-room = birth thing was... what? Too much? Also not taken in by the Beach Afterlife. I do admire Malick's effort to give a clean finish, but it seemed to try to give resolve and finality to a film that wouldn't resolve.

Father's line about subjectivity–about perspective–seems to me central to this puzzle, as does Jack's demand of God, "I want to see what you see." I can't begin to puzzle through grace and nature right now.

Sometimes it's hard to tell if Jack is talking to one of his parents, his brother, or God. Does he know?

There's a line from the trailer where Father says, "Someday we'll fall down and weep, and we'll understand it all. All things." I was waiting for that line, but I don't remember hearing it.

I found almost every childhood snapshot utterly convincing.

Powerful Job homily.

Parenthood. Scary stuff. Godspeed, my parenting and about-to-parent friends.

PS: Just spent twenty minutes or so talking through a ton of the scenes and shots and pictures of this film with Chase, and I'm getting even more enthusiastic.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I initially posted a quote by Okkervil River's Will Sheff here, then decided the folks over at Friendly Dumping might be interested in it. Anyway, what I ended up posting there seemed more compelling than what I'd written here. So go read it over at Friendly Dumping.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I watered the garden under the stars last night.

The water begrudgingly plods out until my thumb spreads it into a shimmering fan. During the day I must wait a bit until the scorching water gives way to cooler streams drawn up from the ground. Last night the water was immediately cold. A half-dozen or so seconds passed, and then the temperature jumped considerably.

How odd, this heat trapped below my feet. I thought that if I lay a few feet beneath the earth I would have an intolerably warm--and here the word "coffin" arose in my mind. Nothing was further from my thinking than my own mortality when I started that thought. The image of sleeping underground evoked death of its own accord, and I hold neither my conscious mind nor any subconscious rivers swimming below the surface responsible. I put such thoughts to rest.

I do not do a lot of stargazing. I recall watching a momentous meteor shower from a field 9,000-feet high in the Colorado Rockies a few autumns ago, but I do not make a habit of looking to the stars. Dreams of space hold out no hope for we creatures of the earth. Even so the stars were astonishing, sparkling almost too much, so that I thought of poor Truman's artificial sky. I am grateful on a number of levels for Tucson's light pollution laws.

After I had soaked the garden I stayed outside a few minutes, gazing upwards and listening to Elvis Perkins and Kid Cudi. Yes, headphones plugged my ears as my thumb plugged the hose. I realize this may destroy the serene agrarian beauty of the moment in your minds. In theory it does so for me too. Alas, I am a glutton, and I enjoyed it all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I intended to read a few pages of Gilead to calm my soul after a remarkably unpleasant close. Instead I finished that wonderful book.


"...there is an absolute disjunction between our Father's love and our deserving. Still, when I see this same disjunction between human parents and children, it always irritates me a little. (I know you will be and I hope you are an excellent man, and I will love you absolutely if you are not.)"

"These people who can see right through you never quite do you justice, because they never give you credit for the effort you're making to be better than you actually are, which is difficult and well meant and deserving of some little notice."

"It is one of the best traits of good people that they love where they pity. And this is truer of women than of men. So they get themselves into situations that are harmful to them. I have seen this happen many, many times. I have always had trouble finding a way to caution against it. Since it is, in a word, Christlike."

"In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence. Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable--which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same customs, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us."


Yet I am not calmed.

That isn't quite true. I feel peace, but my mind is unprepared for sleep. Which is a problem, as I work again in less than six hours.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer Mix 2011

Please download it here. I don't have too much to say about this mix. It didn't end up quite as carefree as I intended, but it's not melancholy.

I'm not sure if I'd have made it without Sean's call for summer mixes. But I do love making them. This is my fifth summer mix in five years.

A few details:

-Just about all of my mixes have ended on a slow/somber/reflective note. I made sure to break that cycle this time around.
-I consider track two the Harold Camping Memorial Song, thanks to the opening few lines of the second track.
-I love the interplay between tracks 10 and 11--both sound-wise and the, I assume deliberate, echo of the lyrics (or reverse echo, I should say, given that that latter song came first).

Make sure your playlist is ordered correctly:
1. "Chinatown" by Wild Nothing
2. "Sour Milk / Sour Water" by Port O'Brien
3. "The Very Modern Dance" by Destroyer
4. "Rush Apart" by the Rural Alberta Advantage
5. "Northern Lights" by Bowerbirds
6. "Trees Are a Swayin'" by say hi
7. "O You with Your Skirt" by Royal City
8. "Country Caravan" by Blitzen Trapper
9. "Waltz #2 (XO)" by Elliott Smith
10. "Canada" by Themselves & WHY?
11. "You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son" by Wolf Parade
12. "Reckoner" by Radiohead
13. "Hat and Rabbit" by Page France
14. "I Can't Explain" by the Who
15. "Busted" by the Black Keys
16. "Nothing Ever Happened" by Deerhunter
17. "Woof Woof" by Dan Deacon