Hide and Pique

May 12th, 2009

Manny the boy slinked inside after a particularly rough day at school, checked the house twice to make sure his mother wasn’t yet home from work, then got to work himself. It had been nearly two weeks since he’d come to the realization, with crazy sweaty-palmed chiromantics, that the secret he’d kept closely guarded from the maid had somehow gotten misplaced. It was time he found it already. He slinked himself onto the sofa and asked of his brain – come on, tell me, what did you do with it – he would whinny while worrying that he’d never again find it. Why’d he hide it from the maid, anyhow? If it was only the mother he’d been hiding from, he could’ve just tucked it under his bed, in his top drawer, anywhere. But no, it had to be the maid, the maid who made a living off the dust of his secret space.

He went into the kitchen for a bag of chips. He didn’t like chips, but thought that maybe he’d hidden the secret in the bag. That’s one place the maid wouldn’t claw her way to, he thought to himself, and one of the few places he hadn’t yet checked. He ate all 9 servings recommended by the label on the back of the bag before admitting that the secret probably wasn’t there.

Just then, his mother walked through the back door, catching him with the empty chip bag: Manny (she wound up for a serious question, which he knew by the way she prefaced it with his own name), why are you gorging on an entire bag of chips just before dinnertime? Is this about your father? Do you think I ought to call that counselor? Manny (there it was again) are you okay?

It was too much for his salted palette to bear, much less his far from barren belly. If the maid found the secret before he did… the thought barely escaped as it seemed suddenly in a race with the chips who were changing direction in mid-stream. He excused himself and flew toward the bathroom. The thought won, incidentally; it did make it out before the chips, only by a thread.

As he lay praying with his head to tiled sky, he thought hard about the things he thought might lead him to the self-concealed non-disclosure. What was it that he so desired from that secret? Had he ever actually known the secret itself, or just known of its existence? Was he perhaps only unable to find it because the maid had gotten to it already? Would he ever know? He could hear his mother on the phone in the other room, to the counselor no doubt. The words “eating disorder” gave form and focus to his ears as he carried on his recall. School hadn’t been so bad, really; he was simply unable to focus, not knowing what he’d done with that secret. Had the maid acted strangely when he’d seen her last? Actually, he hadn’t seen her enough: maybe she always acted strangely when she was doing her job. He probably wouldn’t be able to go through someone else’s every thing without acting a little strangely.

His head tilted lazily to the side and he saw the bottle of shampoo, the hand lotion, the shaving foam. Immediately, he remembered. Ingenious; how could he have forgotten? The chips—they had had a purpose after all, nothing disorderly about it. He wouldn’t need to shave for at least another year, and the one time he used the foam, it was really more for the verisimilitude of smell. He hadn’t been able to smell it of course, but he was certain others could. Making sure the door was locked, he stood squaring off with the bottle taking preparatory deep breaths before the showdown. He won easily, grabbing the bottle before it grabbed him, and satisfying himself with an expectorantly audible Aha upon removing the cap and discovering the slip of paper tucked up inside it. He slowed down now, carefully with still-shaking hands withdrawing and unfolding that he had been so seeking, not without a sliver of incredulity at having forgotten for so long.

He unfolded it, noticing nothing on it, then it came to him: it had been a decoy. The secret was the deficiency of a secret. All he had hidden was nothing, and it had been nothing that had driven him mad.

Or had he written it in invisible ink? It was hard to say.

The Problem of Hemingway

December 4th, 2008

Frank O’Connor, in the Lonely Voice:

But the real trouble with Hemingway is that he so often has to depend upon his splendid technical equipment to cover up material that is trivial or sensational. For much of the time his stories illustrate a technique in search of a subject. In the general sense of the word Hemingway has no subject. Faulkner shows a passion for technical experiment not unlike Hemingway’s, and, like Hemingway’s picked up in Paris cafes over a copy of transition, but at once he tries to transplant it to Yoknapatawpha County. Sometimes, let us admit, it looks as inappropriate there as a Paris hat on one of the Snopes women, but at least, if we don’t like the hat we can get something out of the woman it disguises. Hemingway, on the other hand, is always a displaced person; he has no place to bring his treasures to.

(he then cites the influence of Joyce, Gert, and the German Expressionists, and the resultant reduction of character and plot to abstractions… specifically in the example of Hills Like White Elephants), continuing with:

I submit that there are drawbacks to this method. It is all too abstract. Nobody in Hemingway ever seems to have a job or a home unless the job or the home fits into the German scheme of capital letters…

Now I’m no stranger to stylistic excess or the joys of an overindulgence of technical chops, and displacement can work for some (c.f. Joyce, James), but O’Connor gets to the PROBLEM of Hemingway (more aptly than “for every pound of good writing he produced, he also churned out two pounds of utter shit”). But it’s disorienting, with abstractions of people displaced and wandering between leisure and restlessness, and as in Hills Like White Elephants, just waiting to be given something to do.

This is no Shepherd Fairey self-made spectacle, these Toynbee ideas. Whomever is (or was, or has been) responsible wasn’t trying to snag a review in graduate classes or be profiled as The New Enigma in glossy hipster magazines. The originator had a real message, real fears involving the Soviets, the Jews, the Mafioso, and the Media, and wanted us to know about it. He suffered the rare and beautiful and horrifying experience of total rapt possession, of belief in a cause and the willingness to disseminate it.

A persecution complexed paranoiac? Well, maybe. That’s probably not our place to say. But what is You Will Make and Glue Tiles if not a cri de coeur? And, of course, whose?

It’s all been covered: James Morasco died in 2003, which, some say, is when originals stopped appearing for a short while (copycats abound, or so it seems). Railroad Joe Julius Piroli, about whom not much is known

Meanwhile, I’m compelled to make and glue tiles myself, you know, because I must(!!)

The experts (and how glorious it is that it has its own EXPERTS) claim they know the answers, and they seem to have protected them under the buttoned lip of capitalism (watch the movie to have the answer revealed!). Which is, in a nice paradoxical way, the media controlling the message. Which seemed to have been one of the tiler’s fears.

The Question of Death Selection

November 23rd, 2008

We watched Frankenheimer’s Seconds, for the third time, and with this one the focus was stuck on Nora, and Nora’s job. Okay: She works for the Company so you know brings in a fine paycheck, and gets to live on the beach seducing reborns and attending pagan harvest orgies. Let’s invert that: she lives on the beach seducing reborns and attending pagan harvest orgies. And makes a mighty fine living doing so. The imdb’s keywords, always some sort of tasseographic good time, include faked death, female nudity, and plastic surgery, not a bad combination, and one which, together, yields only one other result. The other top keyword, though, was Snorricam, new to this dilettantish cinemaesthetic lexicon, but a quick consult of the Wiki cleared it all up. In fact, the concept wasn’t new around here, but internally defined as The cool camera-round-the-waist effect of Larenz Tate descending into a thugged-out club vertiginously while grooving to Sly Stone in Dead Presidents, admittedly probably the only lasting scene from that film, and now one, sadly, to be replaced with Scandinavian jargon.

It should be noted that New York, Drug Addiction, Drug Addict and Shotgun comprise the keywords for Dead Presidents, then, if that rings a bell. Which it won’t, because it describes about a million and ten drug-thug-and-heist movies. But the other top keyword, the one that makes it worth keywording: maggots. In fact, if you trust the IMDB, it’s the BEST maggot movie.

But back to Seconds, and back to Nora. Of course, there’s neither sign nor mention of a woman reborn, for obvious reasons (women weren’t the ones with money, they didn’t have unsettling soul-sapping careers or frigid, societally oppressed wives, and, okay, it may well have been just a tad more difficult to blackmail them into obeisance with video evidence of a drugged, staged sexual assault with a nubile little thing). And Mrs Hamilton during her visit with Wilson seemed, somehow, at peace. So, women are reborn when their husbands disappear, or, for those with a sex drive or just nice tits and a taste for the bacchanal, take jobs with the Company. It all works out just fine, really.

And Seconds isn’t a film about women, or a film about the lack of women. It’s a film about my dream job. And it would be perfect, if only it had anything to do with maggots.

Images snagged without any permission whatsoever from this guy and also this genius movieboy, both of whom have way smarter words than these about the whole thing.