Archive for July, 2012

On Chris Marker

Chris Marker made films that felt like dreams and reveries. He was French, and his work was probing, politically engaged, generous in spirit and often poetic.

Most know of him tangentially: his short film “La Jetee,” a post-apocalyptic fever dream of a time travel film, was the springboard from which Terry Gilliam wrought 12 Monkeys. I first saw “La Jetee” in my Intro to Film class, and I will never forget the memory of its haunting, tortured black-and-white images: a disquieting procession of stills, sound and one exquisite moment of moving image that unfurled in the dark and invited you into its mysteries. I left class that day inspired: a film could be anything I wanted it to be — it could bend time and space and sound and image beyond the typical rules. As long as you had something to say, a story to tell, a strong point of view: anything was possible. He was a punk in the most elegant sense.

As seminal as “La Jetee” is, my favorite work by Marker is Sans Soleil. Both intimate and enigmatic, it is often described as a documentary or a travelogue, but it is really a river of footage and sounds that makes intimate the relationship between globalization and its impact on memory and personal history. Images from all corners of the globe sweep over you — Japan, Iceland, Paris, san Francisco: the way it is edited together, complete with a beautiful score and layers of sound, is a remarkable exploration of how time and place pass through us, sievelike, and sometimes sediments of location and history remain behind, echoing again and again no matter where we go.

Chris Marker reportedly passed away yesterday, apparently on his birthday. For a filmmaker who explored the strange elasticities of time and memory, this seems fitting and slightly ironic. Through his films I felt an affinity to a questing, mysterious, discerning creative spirit and philosopher, someone who mapped how politics and society impacted the terrain of subjective experience, someone who kept working well into his 80s. He inspired me, and he will be missed.

Currently: Moving, and Late Summer Malaise

Listening: Lots of Clash and the Replacements.

Watching: So, I saw The Dark Knight Rises like a bunch of other people in the country. Though I enjoyed it as a big popcorn entertainment, I had all kinds of feelings about it, most of them mixed. Also rewatched a ton of “Game of Thrones” episodes. Oh, why do I have to wait so long for the next season?!!! I also have Young Adult waiting for me.

Oh, and the OLYMPICS.

Reading: Just magazines lately, and the Anne Rice werewolf novel. It’s okay. I have a hard time concentrating on anything when I’m in the middle of home upheaval. I’m a Cancer, okay? It’s kind of a big deal!


Eating: Salads with tomatoes from the garden and loads of avocado.

Wanting: To be done with moving.

Needing: To be done with moving.

Thinking: I’m consumed with the logistics of moving. Did I mention how much I hate moving?

Dreaming: How my apartment will look when I’m done with it.

Feeling: Tired. Still recovering from a Saturday afternoon trip to IKEA, whew.

Anticipating: Being done with moving. Also, I’m doing Susannah Conway’s August Break this year, so look out on the blog for that! A picture every day!

Loving: Fall clothes trickling into stores; on the lookout for new Wellies for fall; contemplating my yearly boot purchase.

Writing: I can’t really focus on anything in the middle of a move

Sparks: Stuff to Read About Writing, Books, Skateboarding and Bruce Springsteen

As usual, my bi-weekly mix of what I’ve been reading on politics, society, music, books and craft! What things have been inspiring you lately? I’d love to hear: share it below!

+ Is An Inner Argument Holding Back Your Productivity? – Anything that Tara Sophia Mohr writes is like a clarity bomb of beauty and kindness. Here, she tackles on playing different roles in our lives can get in the way of making great stuff, and how to untangle that mess in a measured, gentle way.

+ 10 of the Greatest YA Series of All Time – WEETZIE BAT! THE GOLDEN COMPASS! So many of my favorite books are on here! I would also have to say Anne of Green Gables, as well.

+ Greg Ousley Is Sorry for Killing His Parents. Is That Enough? – I read this story was found myself very moved in a weird way. Is it possible to feel remorse for such a thing? And what is punishment and incarceration for? This story raises wonderful questions, though the comments depresses the bejesus out of me.

+ THIRTY YEARS OF SKATING – Thanks to the lovely Serena for sending this my way. My favorite will always be Christian Hosoi, because his skating was so graceful, but I’m down with the Gonz, for sure.

+ Insatiable longing – Reviews of two recent books about overconsumption and how it is derailing our economic system at a macro leve. After reading so much about personal finance this year, I really want to read more about it at a larger, structural level and understand where it all fits in.

+ Why is India so bad for women? – I read these kind of articles with kind of a ripped-up heart inside, because first of all, it’s easy to read this stuff and thank heavens such horrific stuff is happening “over there” when there are lots of problematic anti-feminist things happening in more developed countries — and it’s important to make those connections and see the fight for women’s rights as a continuum. But man, it is really not easy to read graphic accounts on how women are being treated and feel calm about it.

+ A Desert Beyond Fear – The good old New York Times has a terrific blog on anxiety, for those who are interested in the topic.

+ We Are Alive – This is a long, lengthy, fantastic piece on Bruce Springsteen from The New Yorker. I think it’s interesting to read this with a lens about his longevity as a songwriter and musician. And I loved the description of him working his ass onstage. Oh, and his workout regime.

+ Call of the Wild: Jack London’s Advice on Honing Your Creative Craft – I love to read about how writers practice their craft. I’m not a massive London fan, but I loved how focused he was.

+ How to Have a Career: Advice to Young WritersSarah Manguso is one of my favorite contemporary poets, and she gives some advice to writers here. It’s rendered in a direct, forthright voice that’s similar to her poems.

On Empty Apartments

Me in 2000, a set of provisional spaces


I saw a succession of spaces: renovated downtown loftlike apartments near the river, little cottages in old neighborhoods, tiny duplexes with large gardens, rambling anonymous apartment complexes with all amenities and utilities included in the rent.

I’d walk through each one, floating behind the landlord or the realtor like a vapor trail, weaving through the rooms as steps echoes in the empty space. With some of them, I could hear Led Zeppelin coming through the walls from neighbors, the smell of lemony-garlic pasta being prepared for supper across the hall, tiny holes in the walls where pictures must’ve hung. I asked myself the question: could I live here?

I had a list of requirements, of course: a certain amount of rent I could pay, a desire for a place of my own, not a studio, a decent kitchen so I could cook, Wi-Fi-capable. Everything else was a possibility, a probability to be weighed. But a home isn’t just a list of characteristics, in the same way that a lover is not just a list of traits you’d like someone to have. A home is a feeling; I was looking for the echo of that feeling — tucked away in a small room, wafting on a back porch, maybe lurking in the way the light showers through a skylight in the afternoon.


I have been without a home for a long time. I was basically what I call a slow-moving nomad, content to stay at a place here and there for a few months at a time, and then finding my way back to my home of origin in the interstitial interludes. Not homeless — I have shelter and have had the good fortune of equally nomadic friends who need homes and cats and plants tended to in their absence. I was content for so long to wander in my slow, peripatetic way, living out of a few suitcases.

And then my father got sick, and I came home in the fall. And then I stayed. And maybe it is getting older, or that wandering was more tiresome than I realized, but I realized there are pleasure to staying where you are. I realized a lot of things, as if a flock of meditations and thoughts finally caught up with me, settled in and worked their way though my system. It was almost as if I went into an existential deep sleep, the kind you get after jet lag, and your body is trying to align itself to a new time zone. I woke up and felt like a strangely new version of myself.

This new person needed time: time to realign the structures of my life, tidy up loose ends from the previous incarnations, try out a set of newly feathered wings, feel the contours of the earth with a new set of shoes. And when all this was done — and it takes long, longer than I’d thought — it was time to find this new person a home.


But what is home? where the heart is, where you hang your hat, near your loved ones, where you feel the most alive,w where you feel the most restless, a platform from which you leap from. It is a major root, a stake in the ground. For years New York seemed to be my home, and I thought that it would stay that way forever. But then I realized it was my new continent, my sea voyage, my Odysseus-like journey — a place to ramble and explore and upturn the soil.

In the end, it came down to the question of where I wanted to grow old. No one likes to think much about growing old, especially in the fullness of youth, but there comes a point when it’s not a complete blank or adject horror to contemplate the question, as large and inchaote as it is. When considering the endgame of it all, the answer was clear: trees, horses, the large embrace of family, the landscape of my childhood and my most unique imaginations. I suspect that near the end of my days, my primary affections will be to a plot of land, a home full of instruments and photos and suppers served around a large table in the candlelight.


In the end, it was warmth at first sight. I walked into the place, and while it wasn’t the fanciest of places, I could see where I would hang my Godard posters. I could see where I’d put a sofa. I liked the way the light streamed into the place in the morning, when I needed it most. My landlord had genuine friendliness in his voice; I liked hearing the small children next door play nearby. I got a hearthlike feeling from it, as modest as it is, and it was close to the things that mattered to me: roads that could take me either in the direction of the nearest metropolis, or deeper into the country where fields of horses gamboled at stables. I’m excited to move in and to finally call a place home.