Thursday, August 26, 2010

三度の食事 - Three meals


Preparing three meals every day takes surprisingly a lot of time, but making something delicious and eating it is a great pleasure. I am not always successful but when everything comes out well it is a triumph.

Unhappiness - 不幸感

Unhappiness is your own making. I heard in passing a snatch of a radio interview with a psychotherapist (Gary Greenberg, I think the name was). I happen to believe it myself no less than that happiness is your own making. I experienced recently that failing to fall asleep easily made me think about the difficulty of falling asleep as I tried to fall asleep and the thinking made it still harder to fall asleep. Misery in life exists, whatever the condition of one’s life; and so long as it exists it is hard not to think about it. But the feeling of misery can be controlled. Focusing on it makes one feel more miserable; and refocusing one’s attention to better things in life lessens it considerably. Feeling depressed deepens one’s depression, and thinking about one’s feeling depressed deepens it further. I also learned from a Harvard study that those of us aging, if we reminisce and live over our earlier happy days we remain happy and live longer healthier and happier.

不幸は自分で作るものと, ある精神療法の専門家の会話をちょっとラヂオで耳にしましたけど、私は、幸も不幸も自分で作るものともともと信じていました。最近の事ですけど、夜なかなか寝付かれなくて、寝付かれないと、その事が頭にこびりついて、そう考えるにつけ、ますます頭が冴えて更に寝付かれなくなり、苦労しました。人生には、上下を問わず、苦労困窮はつきもので、頭から取り除く事は出来ませんけど, 惨めな気持ちは適当に管理する事は出来るものです。惨めな事に集中すればますます惨めになり、人生の明るい面に注意を向ければそれだけ惨めさをある程度減少させられるでしょう。憂鬱だと沈み込めばより憂鬱になり、その事を考える続ければなお一層憂鬱になりますね。最近の、ハーヴァードの研究によると、我々老人は、昔の楽しかった日々を思い出し、再度経験できると、深い幸福感が得られ、先長く健康で、幸福に満ちた余生を送る事が出来るそうです。

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kindness - 親切

Kindness well-intentioned, when obtrusive, becomes intrusive.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Doing it

Most people do it, and those who do it would rather do it, I’m sure, than watch it being done, and those who don’t but want to do it are presumably more likely put off watching others do it; and those who haven’t done it but are curious about doing it can always find others doing it on internet. I’m talking about copulating scenes on the screen, less politely called fucking, which filmmakers these days seem to like to show liberally, on the dubious rationale that doing it is a part of everyday life, and show it even gratuitously at every chance they can, as though they get more satisfaction showing their characters doing it than doing it themselves. There were days when a man and a woman couldn’t lie down on the same bed. The Hays Code, until 1968, censored a scene as suggestive if a woman sat on the bed in her bedroom in which a man was present, and banned the word pregnant uttered by anyone. Thank goodness we are more liberal today and I applaud us for that. Still, the abundance of gratuitous copulations on the screen has become rather excessive. They began to appear even on the stage of late -- simulated, to be sure. Eroticism is by and large more effective suggested than shown. But who knows. I may be out of sync with the changing times. The majority of film viewers today may rather watch the fictional characters do it than doing it themselves in the privacy of their home, a motel room, a parked car, or a park bench in the dark.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Les herbes folles (2009)

Alain Renais completed his latest film, Les herbes folles (Wild Grass), in his 87th year, and it is, in my opinion, his best. The narrative event (based on L’incident by Christian Gailly) is simple; a woman, Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azéma), loses her purse to a purse snatcher, and George Palet (André Dussolier), a married man in his 50s, finds her billfold in a garage, attempts to return it, becomes obsessed with its owner, and pursues her, while she, who spurns him first, becomes obsessed with him and starts to pursue him.

The narrative is fluid in its continuity but disjunctive in its logic. Ultimately, we are not sure what incident in the story actually happened (if any) and if her obsession is also a fictive concoction in his obsessed mind. Like certain events from our childhood, which we seem to remember as something we actually did but may be in large part what we were told we did by parents and siblings and has become entangled in our memory. Fiction and reality do get confused if we lose our mind but, even when we are sane and sober, if we let our mind wander and float away on its own. This happens when we awaken suddenly from a drowsy stupor or when we daydream without constraint. Obsessions in these conditions grow adventitious and rampant. George goes to a police station to return the billfold; the scene is a bit absurd and not quite believable. Marguerite’s car tires were slashed; we don’t see the slashing but we see her believing that he did it. Yet it could well be that he imagined that she thought he did it. We are never sure. His fantasy spreads all over the place, like rhizomes -- like crabgrass that creeps and spreads -- as we see in an early shots of a paved walk. The English title Wild Grass is quite inadequate; the French fou/fol/folle means wild, foolish, and crazy all at the same time: rampant and adventitious.

We have seen films in which imagined events presented themselves obtrusively as reality in the works of Fellini, Buñuel, and Resnais himself. But whereas L’année derniére à Marienbad moves ethereally in poetic stream-of-onsciousness, Les herbes is more solidly anchored in seeming actuality. It is more resilient -- an ebullient joyride all the way on his flight of imagination.

The film audience today assumes that a film narrates an event, fictitious or real, in a realistic way, as an event that had happened as it happens in reality. This assumption goes all the way back to the presumed realistic nature of photography, that a camera captures the real world honestly and accurately. This has long been proven false, except for the witness role of the camera; the camera was at the site and recorded what occurred in front of it. In film history, this realistic bias was reinforced by Italian neorealism and then the New Wave, that rejected the artificiality of Hollywood classics and insisted on film’s documentary capacity. The audience, expecting the film to tell a straight narrative, is therefore easily confused. Many were befuddled to judge by the overheard conversations: “Whatever happened, I’d like to know,” “I couldn’t make head or tail of it,” “I lost it after ten minutes.”

As the director himself said in an interview (TimeOut NY, 769): “I often mix up what I remember and what’ actually real.” Thank goodness for that; we do, too, and love it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Night owl's Narcolepsy

Trying to sleep more than six hours a night, I developed narcolepsy -- sleepy during the day and alert at night. In order to give myself 8 hours of sleep recommended for a healthy life, I started to sleep late in the morning because by habit it is impossible to get sleepy enough to go to bed before midnight (5 July, "Night owl sleeps"). Getting up late in the morning, like 9:00, kept me awake later and later at night into wee hours, like 4:00 and 4:30. So, I set the alarm at 7:00 and forced myself to get up early so that I would get sleepy earlier at night. Provisionally, I established the regimen of retiring at midnight and getting up at 8:00. But I was still tired and sleepy most of the day -- morning, afternoon, and evening. My circadian cycle was totally skewed, and I was suffering narcolepsy.

Then, even rising at 7:00, it became difficult to fall asleep easily at night. I would toss and turn and the sleeplessness got worse because I became conscious of the difficulty of falling asleep and the moment I find myself about to fall asleep I realize that I am about to fall asleep and then start thinking if I would successfully fall asleep, and instantly I am alert. I could count sheep but I could go to 500 and the mind gets clearer. I could get some sleeping pills; but I don’t like to resort to pills in general. I had a glass of wine one night before going to bed, and that worked. I had some beer another night somewhat earlier at night; I tried brandy, too. But nightcap is not good for my diabetes. Finally, I succeeded in maintaining wakefulness during the day and enjoy a good sleep at night -- for five days or so. Then, I reverted back to sleepy mornings and afternoons.

The 8-hour sleep apparently does not agree with me. If I go to bed at midnight and fall asleep immediately, I have to sleep until 8:00 in the morning. If I get up at 7:00 in the morning, I have to go to bed at 11:00 to make 8 hours. So, I decided my constitution is genetically made for 6 hours of sleep at night. The daily schedule of retiring at 1:00 a.m. and rising at 7:30 (for now) or perhaps 7:00 (eventually) seems a workable routine, and after three days I seem to have adjusted my circadian cycle and it looks like I am getting out of narcolepsy. My mind has always been clearest at around 2:00 a.m., however.

Ravishing Wagner

It occurred to me this morning that the two words, ravish and rape are cognates, both derived from the Latin rapere, to seize.

To rape is to seize by force and violate a woman; horrendous as it is, a woman raped, obviously from the male point of view, is ravished -- rapt, enraptured, even raptured, which means transported from earth to heaven, all derived from rapere. A similar dichotomy exists in capture and captivate.

This gave me an insight into Wagner’s operas. All my life, I hated Wagner. To avid Wagnerians such a statement is a sacrilege. I’ll be more reasonable and say that I have always held a strong resistance to Wagner. It is a matter of personal taste; but, on the other hand, it is a taste shared by my friends who think of the paradigm of the opera as Italian, where the beauty of the human voice is venerated for what it is by isolating the singing and framing it in the form of arias. For Wagner, on the other hand, the voice is only one of the symphonic instruments, submerged in the gushing torrent of sound.

I find Wagner self-indulgent to the extreme and his operas overwrought and unbearably domineering. I made efforts nonetheless and attended the Ring Cycle and most other works at the Met and elsewhere at least once, and I listen them on CD. As I write this, the radio is broadcasting Siegfried, a production of the LA Opera, the most overbearing of the four that make up the Ring, and listening to it symphonically without the burden of the dense mythology-invested theatricality, I am finding the music, woe to me, ravishing.

I had for some time, regarding Wagner’s opera, another notion -- that it is a kind of art that perhaps holds a special appeal to the masculine appetite for power in us, both women and men, but particularly the latter. His operatic creations are, above all, grander than grand -- grandiose; they require a colossal orchestra, superhuman voices, and long hours to perform. So, they exude an overpowering sense of power; if you are willing to submit yourself to them, they are empowering. Wagnerians find them awesome -- almost like a seismic catastrophe, a great conflagration, a volcanic eruption, a super-Godzilla -- and intoxicating; they delight in being transported into ecstasy, the state of being ravished.

Wagner means to ravish us. He takes hold of us and means to exercise a total control of us -- our intellect and our emotion. Every great work of art, to think of it, transports us to a higher level of consciousness. To those of us who resist Wagner, his force is coercive, perhaps dictatorial. He ravishes us whether we want to be ravished or not. The problem, I confess, is mine.