Beach trip

We, three cousins, running down the sandy dunes on a sunny evening. The coast line runs down to two rocky edges while beyond us the sea sparkles. While the sun sets in an orange tinge we are awash in the warm smelly breeze and a coating of dried sweat seems to break as we run back to the waves.

My grandfather would drive me there too, when it was just the two of us. We’d reach really early, or maybe it used to be a place where no one else went. I don’t remember much beyond a mossy, filthy lake we passed on the way. We’d fly kites, make drinks and leave only when the afternoon got vengeful. I destroyed sandcastles in fury, because I could never make them good enough.

My grandfather was always far away and I never looked back to see what he did. It was only us on the beach and I never cared how empty the beach was. I would not have liked it if it was any less empty, that’s just where I was at the time. The sea was so blue as it gently washed away the mess. So blue it hurt to look at it. It was telling me not to leave while the tide drew it away.

I imagine us now, with mustaches, on the same day. Tiny crabs running from our giant steps; it’s really absurd.The seashells are still on the coast breaking under my feet. I see the garbage, carrion and crowds scattered along old memories. It was always the same but we didn’t notice it all. I can’t tell where the sea or sky end, between generations of waves there a little blemishes- boats floating in an orange tinge.

A dragonfly in my kitchen

A dragonfly lost his bearings in my kitchen today, he was there for brunch, he was here for dinner and I wonder if misdirection can keep him till breakfast.

Dinner was accompanied by a persistent but unaccountable smell of uncooked cookies. I looked far and near but found nothing but the fact that it grew ever more overpowering so I sat down to embrace the pleasant evening. Remarkably it was an evening, full and leisurely, not merely an amorphous breath hurrying to night and sleepiness. After a full weekend the pleasant aftermath of relaxation seemed to seep deep into my bones.

This essay’s title strikes me as one that demands more exoneration. Yet my dragonfly rests gently on the kitchen essentials and feels no need to stir. Monday’s don’t often herald such fine hours, do they? Inescapably, anxiety seems to have itself the modern condition; so isn’t it worth noticing the adequate and meaningful nothings that make their way home?

Empty shelf etiquette

In the razor thin moments of eye contact and courtesy around supermarkets, there seems to be a new etiquette that’s arrived this season.

The lines are long are but the stores are empty. The listless souls garding the doors hold their weapons with slacked hands, the temperature checkers appropriately shaped like guns. There’s a terrible boredom that hangs over them or maybe it’s more obvious than usual for some indiscernible reason.

There used to be some effort at distancing but no one cares now, the blocked off street near the store are passé. You shuffle slightly adjacent, while politely not reaching across to grab what you’re looking at. There’s an air of informality with shorts and smaller T-Shirts abound. All of them wearing their masks below the nose or suffering foggy glasses.

Ask while guesturing to an empty shelf and of course it isn’t there. It’s still necessary to ask, just as necessary as it is for the people who work there to shrug. Certainty fitting that a world rebuilt around plastic consumerism has left us empty shelves and gestures.

It remains better than the indignity of having some billion dollar delivery service insist that the livelihoods of their workers and some disaster funds depends on your generosity, so these little bits of theater are a welcome refuge. All the vulgarities of consumerism are reassuringly locked away in four walls no matter how often you must visit.

Some thoughts

Je ne sais pas où je suis mais… Je suis dans la rue. Ce n’est pas sympa. Je veux quelque chois, mais je ne connais pas

Il n’y a pas de cadeaux d’anniversaire, je n’en veux pas. Mes amis sont loin, et qui peut célébrer ces mauvais jours?

J’espère que cette année, laisse-le tranquille.

White noise and the night

I have habit of keeping the fan on when I sleep. Or maybe I should say I need the fan on while I try to sleep. The white noise is like a conditioned staple, as important and thoughtless as closing my eyes.

It’s also necessary to keep pesky mosquitoes away, power-cuts mean I awake to incessant drones of driving bombing blood suckers. I did notice that there weren’t so many of them this season and decided to try seeing if I could manage without the noise.

All too soon my ears drifted, suddenly attuned to all the noise of the neighborhood. The dim scenery began to sound out the faceless void around my house. The muffled murmurings on peoples T.V’s was, unfortunately, more clear than any gossip. The clanking, clattering and dings of vessels was surprising. It seems like my neighbors like to cook all the way to midnight.

There was a general pattern to it all, one voice would go out from one house and then another. The simple body of the night was marked with many faces before they fell into groups. It was tempting to believe it was some disjointed rehearsal, the chorus heralding the silence in my room being assembled into a living thing. When a bike zipped past, the curtain fell, the void magically deformed with applause.

I put the fan back on, because I wasn’t going to get any sleep with all that noise.

4:05 am

I feel my eyes limbering, hesitant flourishes under my eyelids. There’s an unfortunate thought. I won’t be falling asleep anytime soon.

I try to bat it away, but it follows me. My eyes are unanchored now and I know I’ll never be back to sleep. I turn off the fan. Sometimes I think the white noise stops you from dreaming. There are crows, also too early.

There’s an Azaan ringing out, also too early. Or have I simply lost the time? I look around and the skin above my ears tingles for that familiar feel of glasses hung over them.

Why a prayer so early? I look out and it’s dark but only slightly, a thin shade over the morning. There’s nothing but crows here and empty ears to go with my insomnia.

At what age did you become yourself?

It’s not an easy question to answer. I mean even beyond the stereotypical adolescent angst I think there comes a certain point once you’ve molded a personal history that you start chronicling in the way you see yourself.

Of course as an obsessive Freudian I can’t help but insist that your long lost days of innocence count a great deal towards your mental landscape. Yet, fixations aside, there’s certainly a point that arrives later on where you start to think you’ve become an individual, no longer grasping at the coattails of once intimidating heroes. They could be teachers, domineering friends or parents if you’re the type.

Eventually, or hopefully, people come to adopt an internal monologue that after steering widely to escape childhood inadequacies, or happiness for that matter, becomes that notion of self. A self portrait that you try to add on onto and where you conveniently paint over the missteps.

Of course one risks asking questions that you can never really answer but I can’t help but feel, that this birth of image also kicks off that slow end of all the time you had. Don’t you feel it too? You were once a child and the days stretched into grand tales and unbearable agonies that last a lifetime. Then one day you’ve looked back and see an alarming number of years seem to have been slipped into your life while you where busy.

There’s no one to blame, maybe the secret is to never stop growing but I feel that running away from an inevitable fate that always looms over you. Besides what can you learn if you’re running away?

That aside, I feel like I found a voice I liked somewhere in my second year of College. The phantoms of the past were sufficiently soothed by whatever revelations and greatly exaggerated self discoveries I insisted were enough. Though there were still cringe inducing missteps I feel like there’s a consistent personality that’s weathered any challenges to my idea of who I am.

I don’t think it’ll come crashing down anytime soon. I don’t even known if that adult transfiguration ever happens to any but the most exceptional of cases. I look forward to hearing other answers to the same question, do share.

Becoming a Wuxia enthusiast

This post is to earmark a budding fascination with Chinese directors and movies. Maybe Wuxia isn’t the right term but I like it. I’ve caught Hong Kong Classics like Fallen Angels (1995) and Chungking express (1994) but I’ve decided to start taking a look at works from the mainland.

I remember watching Hero (2002) a few years back but only recently thought of the agonizing details and composition the was working in the background. The trait that’s even more evident in his must watch classic Raise the Red lantern (1992) where nearly every frame has perfectly composed symmetry and you go the entire movie never seeing the antagonists face.

If I’m ever lucky enough to get a copy of Red Sorghum (1987) or Ju Duo (1990) I’ll try seeing if I make something of his transition from underground film maker to mainstream blockbuster man.

Though my favorite discovery has been Jia Zhangke who’s excellent Ash is the Purest White (2018) inspired me to work backwards into his filmography. It’s amazing how his stories are about a changing country as much as it is about his characters. His Mountains May Depart (2015) kept me up an entire night even though it’s third act was considerably weaker since he presumably can’t direct as well in English. Though the final punch with the dance to Go West was truly amazing.

I guess I’ll have to watch more and see whats come of this. Hopefully I’ll get some good material for upcoming posts.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

I came across the “Gretel and Hansel” (2020) movie the other day and melted. There was something unbearably engrossing in that spin on the old fairy tale that had become a coming of age story for Gretel.

The movie flirts with a magical, frighting Jungian version of femininity but unfortunately doesn’t commit to it’s strongest feature choosing instead to get lost in the woods. I don’t know if it was studio interference but some unnecessary voice overs bury a possibly sinister, lovely ending. The film has all the making of a cult classic, but wouldn’t go beyond that.

You can easily make the case it’s a bad movie despite the wonderful symmetrical shots, blurred edges, neon colour palettes and synth-y music. But something about the peasant Gothic setting and the visuals that seem to be channeling both the Vvitch and Midsommer create some impressive looking magic that I can’t stop thinking about. The witches house is all red & yellow lighting, making it seem hellish. Sometimes the visuals mix 1450 & 1970.

Though the modern sounding dialogue can get grating there’s a real thrill in seeing a cannibal witch’s magic seem seductive, subversive. The subtext is what you should look at instead of the plot. Though it does have an amazing, hidden twist if you look closely enough. I’ll write it below but don’t read it if you haven’t watched it.

Spoiler: The beautiful child is none other than Gretel herself. The witch/ mother tells her to stop pretending and even states she is Gretel’s mother; she ask how Gretel would know the tale if she was not somehow a part of it. In fact Gretel has managed to draw Hansel and his mother to her much like the witch draws children to herself. Gretel is the character who put everything in motion.

Reddit user Phantom- Hacker in the horror subreddit elaborates and says “In truth Gretel is in denial about who she really is, with it possibly occurring ever since she imparted her darkness onto her mother. Gretel wants the freedom to chose her own path and who she really wants to be. However in reality it was her own actions which set in stone the future of who she would become, hence the irony of her being the girl who could once see into the future, and would even take that future from others before finally taking it from herself as once she finally chooses to act saying she’ll pursue a path in the light only for her hands to return back to the darkness constrained with her original self”

In another post he explains “The way I see it the villain won. As a child Gretel is kicked out for being too dangerous, she then forcefully gifts the darkness to her mother who then goes on a killing spree, killing her other children and any that she can get. Doing exact what Gretel herself imagined the pink hooded girl aka her younger self to be doing. Meanwhile in the time passing Gretel takes over the mind of Hansel and HIS Mother bringing them misfortune for years to come, likely killing the father as well. 

Pretending to be an innocent little girl as she lives a life of tainted righteousness and continues to care for her younger brother. Then she goes back to the witch, her original mother only to enact a subconscious plan to steal powers back which comes to a clashing game of ethics as said witch attempts to take away the very brother Gretel has sired to her whim. And doing what Gretel herself would have done had her darkness stayed with her. She defeats the Witch all whilst claiming to be on the light, making zero efforts to morally save the woman tainted with HER darkness in the first place.

Then going on claiming to set her broth free, as well as bring vengeance for the souls that would never have died without her actions in the first place. Then taking over the witches home, claiming she has control of herself as well as her destiny and that she use her powers for the light while subconsciously her darkness returns to her as planned as she continue to play the innocent victim and in the moral right despite being the one who brought curse into fruition in the first place. All while fully intending to do exactly as her mother did”

This is why Gretel’s hands turn black.

The same director made another movie, which seems to play to his strengths, once again about young women. There’s something to be said but this little genre of horror hovering around women but I can’t put my finger on it. Anyway this time in the Blackcoat’s Daughter (2020) we’re in the bleak but comforting prestigious, catholic, prep school. Winter is here and the sun is always waning, the windows and brick walls have been cleared but there’s something about the way the school lingers that envelops you. I can’t say much without revealing major plot points so go watch the movie first.

We begin with a dream sequence with a one of the movies main leads. Kat is shown how her parents died in a dream and this is the last time we see Kat with a neutral expression. For the rest of the movie she is desperate for any kind of human connection but all her attempts are rebuked.  Sad faced Kat slowly comes to embrace the demon inside her, in a turn that expands the usual embracing Satan trope. She is treated like noting more than an inconvenience and the perhaps familiar character pining for every little bit of attention and care is on a dark path.

What really makes the movie great is how the entire world around Kat, manages to treat her with the kind of callousness that makes her turn to the dark almost sympathetic. She is alone even before he parents die, her educators see her as an inconvenience. When she hears Rose lie about satanic worship in the basement, Kat goes ahead and tries it having been abandoned by the one person explicitly told to take care of her. That’s why she tells Rose “You had your chance”

Her loneliness makes her a prime target. Little by little she unravels and makes her offering. After that we shift into the different actress. Was this just to show a more aged Kat? Is it implying that she’s just a host going through the same process? It’s unclear. But if the new girl, Joan, is the vessel for Kat it makes the ending particularity strong. Rose’s father ends up being one of the few people who show Kat kindness, ironically because Kat kills his daughter and he can’t help but be kind to people who remind him of her. He sees a connection no matter how different they look. His speech about there being no coincidences is what convinces her that the demon that was exorcised from her (against her will) might be coming back .She never wanted it to leave her after all.

When she kill’s Rose’s parents she going back to what she knew, that her demon did not abandon her like the people in her life. But the demon never comes back and she realizes she’s been abandoned after she’s killed the only person who was ever kind to her.

Most horror ends up being disappointing after a great set up but this one really nails its ending.

Falling ants

The shadowy bark stands

Pure wonder

In its hollow

There are ants outside my house that you can only see at night. You’d never notice their orange bodies in daylight. When it’s dark you can see marching troops and lines but not on the street.

Right above the roads and the rats that scamper below, my balcony offers a view looking down onto the power lines. Otherwise innocuous, there seems to be a host of enterprising ants that have realized its potential as a kind of fortress. Between the shades of two trees and three houses these ants make their way across the power line highways.

In the dark, the crows are no longer around but perhaps the bits of food they’ve scavenged remains on the lines for the ants to collect. Or maybe there are greater concerns for the ants that I cannot see where the lines obscured are by leaves. This season there are even moths that circle the street light and float above the ants like guardians.

These red ants leisurely making their way across are not like the smaller black ones scampering around crumbs and corners around my crowded apartment. The ones outside are noticeable less Neurasthenic.

Wherever their nest is or whatever happens to the unfortunate souls that slip and fall, what must be unfathomable heights, down to the street is something we can only dream about. What would an ant from the tress and power lines make of the ground and how impossibly far above their usual routes are. Could ant see that far, and catch the moths in the light?