yourself, not the world."
Who Am I?
I am an agnostic existentialist who embraces the Brights and The Sierra Club. I believe it is a waste of time to argue for or against a grandfatherly God, a Central Scrutinizer or whether Jesus preached the epistles to the Mayans. Earth is all we've got and all we're ever going to have. So...I believe that if one lives in moderation and good faith, an earth-centric moral life follows. Existence before essence. Even if, as Stephen Pinker suggests, that we are hardwired a particular way, we have free will to work with and against those forces to live free, to love and to tread lightly on the planet.
Los Charolastras (Astral Cowboys)
Los charolastras, los protagonistas,
tienen un manifiesto de 10 puntos.... que son mandamientos:
The truth is cool but unabtainable. Really? Sometimes you know in an instant that you've been waiting for something and finally the damn thing has arrived. "Y Tu Mama Tambien" is it for me! I can't believe I lived to see not only "Sexy Beast" but then another film that is a self-contained masterpiece of sun, sex and sadness. The two guys in "Y", Julio and Tenoch, are everything a teenager should be - mouthy, randy and hungry for decadence of any kind. The great thing about them is that they have a lot of style, particularly when they get into their hilarious vulgar chit-chat, including a groovy existential manifesto loaded with macho bravado. At a bullshit bourgeois wedding, they run into Luisa, the wife of Tenoch's bullshit bourgeois cousin. She has their number right away but plays it real coy. Then she learns that her crap husband is running around and she decides to honor the kids' offer to show her a beautiful fictional beach called Heaven's Mouth (an apt way of describing the major feature of Maribel Verdu's visage). And away they go through the Mexican countryside towards the beach that ultimately proves to exist (perhaps through sheer force of will and energy)?! There's no point in revealing any more of the plot except to say that the ending is just the sort of bummer the film needs for gravitas. You see the guys one year on, knowing that the good times are well and truly over for all concerned. Adulthood beckons with its traps and compromises at the ready. Will they stay true to their original project (even if they broke some the commandments of the manifesto!) or will the spirit of youth fade out into the black hole of bourgeois bullshit? Not promising. The soundtrack is a masterpiece, including a Brian Eno cut that melds hypnotically with the dreamy tropical images of the Oaxacan countryside streaming past the window. Read a more in-depth essay on this film in SolPix.
Jean Michel Jarre
Jarre is a genius...sometimes. I
don't like everything that he has done, especially the soundtracks for
his egomaniacal spectaculars of the '80s. But his two Oxygenes,
recorded twenty years apart, are still the apogee of techno as a musical
form. I keep both in my car for late night cruising on the highways
of Detroit. And both albums tellingly finish with a rhumba, a soft sexy
ride into oblivion. Immediately after the second Oxygene (1997), Jarre
went off in a provocative direction, Metamorphoses (2000), a
work that furthers his "original project" without betraying it. He is
an artist who is never satisfied with his work and that dissatisfaction
keeps him working. I invite you to read an essay I've written about
Jarre, techno and existerntialism, presented
at the 2001 IASPM Conference in Finland. Other
favorite electronic musicians include: Mike
Vadney, DJ Shah,
and Klaus Schulze.
As cliche as he has become, through no fault of his own, I still love the cine-essays of Chris Marker. They are existential masterpieces and thus, pleasures on many levels. Academics and film buffs focus primarily on two films - La Jetee and Sans Soleil - the last in particular for its prescient take on the gap between the hyper-developed and under-developed parts of the world before the fall of the Wall. You can draw a straight line from this film to the ensuing glut of McWorld vs. Jihad handwringing on paper and in the streets. IMHO, the great project of documentary, post September 11, post ENRON is to update and elaborate on Sans Soleil. Post-structuralists can sink their teeth into Marker's obsession with time, time travel and memory. La Jetee and Sans Soleil both include references to the famous tree trunk scene in Vertigo. Search out his other work dating back to the early 60's. You won't be disappointed.
Go to any bona fide Japanese restaurant on a weekday night. Every gent of a certain age that you see sipping a brew and pooching a Marlboro on his bottom lip wishes he were the late great Yujiro, father of the Sun Tribe (Those who know Dugdale now know why he wears Hawaiian shirts!) and movie star extra-ordinaire. His brother, the esteemed novelist Shintaro Ishihara, is currently governor of Tokyo. Together, the Ishihara brother made a number of blockbuster films that captured perfectly the discontent of Japanese youth after WWII. Read Season of Violence, written in 1954 in just three days by Shintaro. It's a masterpiece of a novella, touchstone for later Japanese artists such as Beat Takashi (Sonatine, Fireworks) and Ryu Murakami (Almost Transcendent Blue, Toyko Decadence). For anyone who thinks that existentialists are just grim-faced beatniks brooding in coffeehouses, I suggest you tune into the Ishihara brothers. They've walked the talk long and stylish.
Every good existentialist enjoys a crisp white towel. It makes a lovely cold compress after a full night of festivities and a comforting sweat mop during tennis matches. I used to loathe Agassi and all his showbiz nonsense. A hairdo and a forehand, as Ivan Lendl liked to say in that churlish way of his. Then the bottom fell out of Agassi's game both on and off the court, the early successes faded away and he was forced to decide between a lard-assed obscurity and a total, absolute committment to his "original project". He chose the latter and in the second of half of his career, he was a force of nature - a man of action, sure of himself, his game, his life. Conquering the absurd means taking the ball early.
One of the most memorable times of my youth was living in Brazil. Often when the city become too much and I needed to commune with the sun and the sea, I would take an overnight bus from Belo Horizone, Minas Gerais to Porto Seguro, Bahia. Town after dusty town would stream by the window. And I would imagine myself Lorde Cigano, the hippie swindler mastermind of a circus troupe trawling the backlands of the sertao in the film Bye Bye Brazil. Jose Wilker, famed Brazilian telenovela actor, brought this incomparable rogue to life in a dazzling alchemy of gestures, feints, verbal jujitsu and charisma. Part showman, part libertine, Lorde Cigano lived in the moment in louche good cheer. Far better to keeping rolling, living by your own rules than succumb to the madness of television. At long last, when Lorde Cigano realizes that he will never find his perfect audience, uninfected by TV, he sells out in a big way. Yet he keeps rolling. And in movement he maintains his freedom.
Copyright © 2008, Timothy Dugdale/Atomic Quill Media. All rights reserved.