old and new

found these fantastic pix of my grandparents (maternal) holding me in Racine WI in 1972. 41 yrs ago



Spent a couple days at Sitka Center, at Cascade Head, near Otis so M could teach a class on memoir and personal narrative. We've been there before, but under different circumstances.  (She was there was in Dec 2010 for a month-long residency. I went out to visit her at the very start for a duration of 18 hours or so. She called me a couple days after I returned home to tell me she was pregnant, a revelation that wreaked havoc on her ability to finish the work she hoped to finish at the residency.)

We arrived on a Tuesday. We stayed in the same cabin she had been in before. It was my job to watch N while she was teaching. Though at the mercy of his interior clock, he and I managed to leave the cabin several times, to walk and explore. The trees were alive and magnificent, humming with a low steady pulse, all patience and grace. Mist and rock. 

Felt things shift inside me, in the way that only certain spaces can unlock. I find myself here again, I thought.  Fear of X holding me in tinny constraints. Seething at Y for crimes they're not aware they commit. Resorting to Z to blunt entry points. Lather, rinse, repeat. How have these patterns not been ground to nothing by time? By directing a feature? By being a parent? How am I the exact same person as at age 4? How have all these insights not taken hold since the last time they revealed themselves to me? And on and on and once more into the breach. (note: I won't get into the particulars of these items since they are meaningless to anyone but me, but I will offer that one of them involves the insidious pavlovian iphone/fb/instagram loop that I lose daily rivers of time to.)

Mostly on these walks N would say "hold you" (which means "hold me") and so I would carry him on my chest, his weight spread un-uniformly across my chest and back. On Thursday, as we returned from Knight Park (a spot that my father and I had been too years prior on a kayaking expedition), heading up the rain-spattered Cascade Head trail as it runs along Savage Road, I was able to set N down for awhile. He walked a few steps and then became entranced by something a few feet off the path. "What's that?" he said and walked toward it. I grabbed him, my child, and directed him forward. "No I said. You're already on the path. This is the way we go home".

*all pix by bp*


holy motors

saw this last week and have been haunted by it every day since. don't want to parse it too much but suffice to say: an amazing study of movies, art and the basic simian need for narrative. and myth. and mythic narrative. You get the idea. One of the few movies I've seen and felt a compulsion afterward to purchase, to own.


tigers above, tigers below

from p.25 The Wisdom of No EscapePema Chödrön

Shane Carruth interview

I am an enormous fan of Shane Carruth's Primer and now cannot wait to see Upstream Color. in a world flooded with extended improv bits shot on HD and called film, he stands nearly alone, both in approach and voice. (note: not that there's anything wrong w/ HD! merely expressing my aversion for what passes for cinema these days)

watch this trailer
and now please kindly read this 2 part interview wherein he outlines parts of the process in arriving at/making this film as well as graciously and eloquently debunking the common insistence to decode every bit of a narrative, something I kind of pre-emptively am preparing to defend the black sea against as I am certain there are things that people won't 'get'. we'll see when we get there though.

an excerpt:

Speaking of getting the film "in one viewing" is that what you envisaged, or did you design it with an eye to repeat viewings?
My hope is that there will be by the end of one viewing a real emotional experience that's not un-understandable or obtuse: we know what we just experienced in terms of the emotional arc of the film. I think plot-wise, my feeling is that most of it's coming across [first time]. The thing is the storytelling is very dense and the way it's explored is lyrical, and that will tend to be not so on the nose.

part 1 is here

part 2 is here

edited to add:

discovered this Primer review from Reverse Shot today, which is very worth the read. These sentences say it all: Years and multiple viewings later, the movie seems an inexhaustible resource—and, watched again today, even more miraculous than I remembered. It stands alone, an alien monolith in the landscape, unmoored to a cinematic school or movement, oblivious to fashion or trend. 


more placeholders

still watching The Story of Film. so good. here are more clips/films etc posted really for me to check out in future days


return to boston

"...no matter where we are we're always touching by underground wires..."
The Past is a Grotesque AnimalOf Montreal

last time I was in Boston was Nov 2005, in a van driving alongside the Charles, heading out of town after many weeks living in the Kendall Sq Residence Inn, homebase for me and M and Maxwell (RIP xo) while I received 25 rounds of proton beam radiation and 10 rounds of photon radiation one stop up the T red line at MGH. That period exists in our minds in the present tense, somehow part of and divorced from our reality, a lumbering, cumbersome phantom limb. It wasn't until this visit, in 2013, for M to attend AWP, with me safely tucked away from the fear and black of 2005 that I was able to see in clear relief how the darkness suffused the landscape then, how my eyes saw everything through the gauzy haze of possibly being dead soon. 

A couple weeks before the trip I got in touch with Dr. L, who managed my protons, to let him know we'd be in town and could we come by and say hello. He was amenable, telling us to meet him at the Proton Center and so on a snowy 3/5 we took the T green line from the Prudential Center, transferred at Park to the red line and on to MGH. In 2005 the station was undergoing retrofitting and/or redesign and my memory of it is caution tape, orange cones, signage warning of peril and danger. Today it is shiny steel and glass, almost obscuring prior transitional phase by merely existing. 

Walking into the Yawkey Center I felt strange waves of sadness and gratitude, inextricably linked, neither possible without the other. We paused for a moment so M could eat her lunch before heading to the proton center. I looked around at faces of patients and caregivers, the shimmer of uncertainty in some eyes was a familiar bell tolling inside me, near and far all at once. 

Later, after our visit w/ Dr. L and his apprentice was done, after their questions about my health, my life, my good fortune had been asked and answered, after we rode the elevator up from the treatment floor back to the Yawkey Center, after we'd ridden back on two different T lines and emerged in the Prudential Center about to part ways so M could attend a panel we realized we didn't have the baby bag (which for the uninitiated contains diapers, some toys, some utensils and other errata vital to the parent). We realized we must have left it at the cafe at MGH. M went to her panel and N and I got back on the T, going back the way we just came, snow flurries increasing, part of me certain the bag was gone forever and another part equally certain it would be sitting at the cafe, exactly where we left it, safe from harm but exposed and vulnerable, something vital we'd forgotten, misplaced in our daily hustle. 

N and I walked down from the T stop, across the street, into the snow. I was having deja vu, having walked into this building both 2 hours before and 8 years before. Moments later I sent M the following: 


waiting for something

photo by Matt Sipes

The other night I cooked dinner and then sat down a the table, waiting for M to come out of the bedroom a as she does each night after rocking our 18 month old son to sleep. This enterprise typically takes 30-60 minutes so I wasn't sure how much time I had before she'd arrive. I flipped through the day's NY Times but didn't have the stomach for sequestration or drones or Mali or any of the other ten thousand horrible things currently underway so I pushed the paper aside and reached for the tiny version of Letters to a Young Poet that happened to be sitting on the table. (note: why was it sitting there? I have no idea. It's M's). I absently began to read letter one and felt strange sensations ping-ponging through my body. The text was at once rote-familiar and a revelation. I'd read it a million times as a much younger person, the person at the start of everything, the person bundled with equal proportion of drive, ambition, arrogance. When you are this person - and you haven't yet lived - passages like:

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

are the sort of thing you cling to, the sort of thing you silently repeat as you take little baby steps forward, mistaking motion for progress. Ideals and integrity are very easy at the start of everything. The projection you have of yourself years hence is that of some mystical artist, healing and soothing world ills with electrified ART bolting from your fingertips. Now, here at age 40, having recently (finally) directed my first feature film and contending with the multi-pronged nature of contemplating what it means to have (finally) done it, and the dark post-partum-like depression that's hung over me like a black blanket since (finally) doing it, and the constant self-lacerating voice that urges me to qualify or put the word 'finally' parenthetically when I talk about having (finally) done it, the words in that first letter took on a different sort of register.

What I am saying is this: It took me a long long long time to get to this point and it doesn't look like the glossy image I'd projected years ago. It still looks and feels like me. Nothing transformative or artistic about it really. Same problems. Same bills. The only difference is that I did it. And that I did it for myself finally. Everyone comes bundled with their own snarl of issues that impede or blunt progress. Mine has been (or rather, one of mine has been) the constant desire for approval of others; needing permission to do what I want to do. Brutal. I can't say I  transcended it to my make my movie but I can say I made my movie in spite of it. And here is where I felt a tiny stab of recognition reading the following:

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself.

Yes. That reads one way when you're 20 years old, another way at 40. How I wish I'd have been able to take those words fully on 2 decades ago. I can't help but fantasize that if I'd truly been able to embody them that I've been closer to that mystical art lighting-bolt fingered thing but there again I'm mythologizing something that is perhaps harmful to mythologize. Let me repeat this sentiment though: it took me a long long time to get to this point. And now let me paraphrase Rilke: who gives a fuck who likes it or not.

In that way that happens when you tune to a new frequency, I've been finding these sentiments in other places suddenly, echoing back. This recommended article about Ang Lee and the duration between film school and his first feature; This interview with Cheryl Strayed in Creative Nonfiction wherein this is said:

STRAYED: My definition of success has been developed over many years full of both successes and failures. My trajectory has not been failure, failure, failure, then success. The successes have been there all along, and all along, there’s also been a steady stream of rejections and disappointments. I imagine this will always be the case. It’s the writer’s life. It’s true that Wild’s reception, in particular, has been rather breathtaking, but it hasn’t made me measure success differently. I keep faith with the work. Wild would be the book that it is regardless of how many people read it. I’m very sure about that. When I say, “Success is a pile of shit somebody stacked up real high,” I mean it’s folly to measure your success in money or fame. Success in the arts can be measured only by your ability to say yes to this question: “Did I do the work I needed to do, and did I do it like a motherfucker?”

I hope none of this sounds like whining.  I am exceedingly grateful to be here. Only remarking that like many things in life that are epic and transformative, the place I sit now feels quiet, pedestrian, and ordinary. Perhaps this comes from stripping off the shell of arrogance, ambition, drive - all these real-world markers of  seeking approval (for me anyway)  - and actually making the movie.


David Lynch on explication

David Lynch interviewed at BAFTA in 2007 can been seen here. while all 21 minutes are lovely for me the good stuff begins at 15:30 or so when he's asked for the millionth time to explain what exactly Mulholland Drive is about.

The film is the thing. You work so hard to get this thing built, all the elements to feel correct, this whole to feel correct in this beautiful language called cinema. And the second it’s finished people want you to change it back into words.


film bookmarks

been watching The Story of Film on netflix (fantastic!) and am posting these clips/films more than anything as bookmarks for myself to watch/visit/revisit in the coming weeks and months