Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wobbly times number 175

Only Lovers Left Alive

In "Only Lovers Left Alive" Jarmusch puts John Hurt in the role of Christopher Marlowe, nowadays a reclusive writer living in Tangier. Seems Chris was the real writer of HAMLET and other works attributed to William Shakespeare. The script goes differently, according to Jarmusch in his latest flick. Jim is both the script writer and director. As we learn in "Only Lovers Left Alive", Marlowe faked his reported early bar room fight to the death to conceal his real being as vampire and, the literary genius feeding Shakespeare his plays. This is an old theory (not the vampire part) surrounding the true authorship of the great Shake's plays and poems. To be sure, there are other theories in with regard to the authorship of RICHARD III along with the others; but this is Jim playing with that notion.

According to Jim Jarmusch, it is now 450 or so years on and Marlowe is still alive in Tangier. He is still writing, still in a kind of self-imposed exile, much like Paul Bowles was in the Tangier of his time. And like Bowles, Marlowe the vamp has mentored a local Moroccan writer trying to make his way up into the world of recognised writers.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."

[MovieMaker Magazine #53 - Winter, January 22, 2004 ]”
― Jim Jarmusch

And then we have the two main protagonists: the lovers left alive after centuries have rolled by.  And, spending their time amongst the most imaginative, creative minds of whatever era they happened to have lived through.  Of course, their names are Adam (played by Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton).  

Oh yes, Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden due to their tasting of God's forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.  

No, not quite that pair, but what a pair! These two have been married since the mid 19th century. They are vampires and both know Marlowe.  Eve lives in Tangier and regularly commiserates with Marlowe. Adam's digs are in Detroit. He lives the lone life of the brooding artist. When Adam gets suicidal enough to purchase a special hard wooden bullet he can shoot into his heart, Eve, who does not know about his bullet purchase, senses it after a video phone call.  Eve is not only sensuous, she's a master sensor when it comes to almost anything, including inanimate objects.  Just a touch of say a violin will bring out its history. After a super sonic re-reading of her personal library,she gathers enough books to fit into her two suitcases and takes the first night flight (mai oui) out of Tangier to Paris and from there by red-eye to Detroit. 

The film is sprinkled with wise asides and humour; but at the centre of all the dialogue is the notion that something is awry on the planet. What's rotten in Denmark and across the globe is, to our dear vampires eyes, the utter lack of appreciation amongst the 'zombies' for their own creative geniuses in the arts and sciences.  But this is an old problem, Eve observes as she tries to quiet the suicidal impulses of Adam.  It's just that Adam sees and attempts to demonstrate to Eve, through the empty architecture of Detroit, a metaphor for where the human race is taking the planet now that it has industrialised nature.  In a way, Adam senses the commodification, the cheapening of all that surrounds him as humankind takes itself down the road to environmental collapse.  But Eve won't have it.  She sees the decay, but points to nature's irrepressible life force.  Detroit will come back, she says.  It has water and where there's water life will reappear.  

Adam and Eve are intellectuals.  They observe and create as their very good friends amongst the human community have done: Newton, Galileo, Shelley, Wollstonescraft, Schubert, Byron (although he was a pompous ass, according to Adam).  Their portraits adorn Adam's wall.  According to Adam, imagination is dying in the modern age and he and Eve and one assumes Marlowe are surrounded by 'zombies', meaning most of humanity.  But, in case you thought all vampires are creative, sensitive geniuses, Jarmusch throws in a visit by Eve's little sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), a vamp from LA--zombie central, according to Adam.  

Ava may be hundreds of years old; but she acts very much like a spoiled, contemporary teen consumer.  As soon as she arrives in Detroit, she begins appropriating everything which she takes a fancy to: Adam's precious music collection; his stash of disease free O negative blood and even his supplier friend Ian (Anton Yelchin), the one who gets him musical instruments and as mentioned, his customised wooden bullet.   

It might be worth having a toke before seeing "Only Lovers Left Alive". The music in this movie is fantastic and what the heck, Adam, Eve, Ava and Christopher are all indulging in O negative. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wobbly times number 174


Nakedness is good, but as we get older, we appreciate more clothing.... for ourselves anyway.

Disturbing the constant noise of industry via overflying jets. Our electric lives will be much quieter, not to mention cleaner.  Just think of the air you’re breathing.  When will this environmentally benign future become the norm?

My glasses are showing spots.  Must clean them.  That’s one thing I have power to accomplish. Yeah sure, we recycle the tissue used in the ‘yellow bin’.  We also flush the toilet.  Well, some of the tissue gets recycled.  What happens to the sewage?  Make it into drinking water?

Meanwhile, the jet fuel trails spread tiny, tiny droplets on the lawns and roofs of ‘our’ part of town. Gravitation’s like that.  

I sit on the back veranda.The voices from over the taller-than-I-am fence are mostly not in English. The family next door has young children.  The tone is gentle from ‘over there’, except that day when I heard the monologue of a phone call.  The man was expressing his anger at being called something he didn't like and being threatened.  He was irate.  But that whole conversation only lasted a couple of minutes. Other than that, the family sounds from next door are quite happy, especially issuing out of their child and her friends.

The autumn breeze blows from the south.  Temperatures are again warm, not scorching.  It’s March 20th, the equinox as I write this paragraph. The sound of a stick being used to hit a rock comes from over the fence separating me from my neighbour. The tiny lizards are no longer present in number. The sandgroper has stopped ‘singing’ in that darkly insistent cicada way. Our backyard sandgroper sang every hot summer evening ‘round 7:30 and he didn't charge a cent; just sang away into the night blackened sky, undercover of the vegetation.

Maybe, it's better to be undercover for awhile, especially when you're attracting attention. Then again, maybe being undercover is part of the reason why there are so very few sandgropers, at least around where I live. A lot of fossil fuel being burnt in these parts and that means 'modern man' worming his way into ever greater expanses, filling up terra nullus with the stench of private property without constructing the necessary infrastructure to promote sustainability.  

I'm told capitalist women amount to a handful of that class and there are certainly very few landlords amongst them. Negative gearing gives them hope though. Of course, this situation will have to be remedied. Glass ceilings will need smashing! Then, after a period of time, the equality under the law, which we all (NB: privilege i.e. men) seek, shall be theirs as well. Bourgeois democracy will be in full bloom.

And now, on to more important things like whether you've been able to shit today or how clean the clothes look, blowing around on the line in the Sun. But, you're dominated. You know that when most of your time awake is devoted to serving someone else's needs, that's servitude. Of course, you do this within monogamous family couplings when you care for children. All fine and dandy, although I think there are better ways to organise the caring act of child rearing so that less time would be needed to be taken out of the parents lives. None of that will happen until we gain control of what we produce. All of which brings us back to the question of time domination and how that is related to freedom.

So, off we go, like knights errant, into the world to set things right. Our nobility shines so brightly that we don't need armour. Is the old "Onward Christian Soldiers" hymn roiling around our my mind?


Not me. I'm a realist so, I don't do anything other than to think about doing things. The thought of attending some mass event of the masses in some ways makes me feel tired. Tired of the endless complaining about the lack of left-liberal heft in the government programs due, of course, to a perceived lack of morality amongst some policy makers. Ditto, foreign policy. Tired of holding those damn signs while singing 'follow the leader' chants: "They say cut back/We say fight back!" or another of my really old favourites, "Prisons are concentration camps for the poor!"...with emphasis on the 'fight' in the first chant and pretty much the word 'prisons' shouted most loudly in the second.  

But, at the end of the day what happens? Bed and another day of normality, however normality is constituted for you at this moment in the historical continuum. One has paid for one's sins--fifty amp fuses have been blown. Forgiveness is forthcoming. Time to blow some gauge. Onward to the next demonstration and, the one after that, while in between going to work, playing cog in the soft machine. 

Well, you have to "play your role" now, don't you. No question. Otherwise, you're liable to fall off the rails and we wouldn't want that to happen now, would we?

Where are we going on these rails? It might be a good idea to ask that question every once in a while, as that journey eats up so much of our time. What is the 'good life' other than time well spent?  

"Trained free!" to the tune of "Born Free" bounces 'round my mind.

And so it goes. Another day and night of cookie cutter-like sameness. Our choices have been made in advance by people we don't know, who are basically only in it for the money and the political power over us which goes with it. They now only need advertising time from us in one way shape or form--pour those ads into our eyes and ears, direct connections to the mind. Yes, market share, that's what IT'S all about.

Well, that and family, of course. Caring is so often missing outside and all too often, inside the family. Well, caring deeply, let's say. Caring whether the relative lives or dies for example is sure sign of familial caring. The first rung, really. The top rung, of course, would be to live within a loving family, for caring is actually quite important in terms of well-being, not only of the individual; but the social i.e. between individuals, which create what I conceptualise as 'social relations'. The more caring spreads, the better, the healthier society will become. But not the false caring of buying stuff to satisfy our commercially induced wants.

Alas, in this day and age, the family structure itself is becoming problematic in terms of well being in general and particular. As more individuals have time to become aware of the dangers in terms of their future abilities to exercise freedom, the more wariness grows in terms of the monogamous family structure both before and after marriage. Thus, the marriages become more shallow, brittle and short. 

Still, the societal imperative remains : Meaning in life is defined as 'raising children well'. A good goal, to be sure; but one which is increasingly fraught with difficulties rooted in the very social psychological character structure we are told from the year of our birth to accept: The prime directive of that character structure is for the individual to lose sovereignty to the social relational power structure which exists between masters and servants. The French have this saying, "To understand all is to forgive all."

Ok. So, how does this come about? Well, our social relations, the way in which we interact with each other are profoundly determined by how much power each individual has. The question is: Where does this power emanate from?

In the beginning (currently being pegged at 195,000 years ago), whenever that was for the human race, we had a lot of sex.  It was a survival adaptation which we had used with great success.  It must be remembered that the human race/homo sapiens nearly became extinct more than once; the last time being from 70,000 years ago to about 18,000 years ago when the great ice age ended.  We didn't have to wait around for some annual hormonal signal which told us it was time to reproduce, as our animal kingdom cousins, the gorillas did.  No, sexually, we were closer to our other cousins, the bononbos. In the process, we'd gone beyond that fetter on reproduction.  We reproduced during the entire year in any month we lived as adults.  Saved us as a species. Nature was a dangerous place to live in during the palaeolithic age. And after all, self preservation is the main drive amongst living things, plants and animals alike.  Our near constant sexual desire combined with our superior ability to reason make us the dominant species on the planet today.  And yet, nowadays and really, since the advent of private property and class domination, we fight our sexuality everyday using our reason. Makes us a bit neurotic and may lead to stimulating more acute mental problems.  

You see, our reason is tied psychologically to what Freud called our superego. And our superego is formed by the mores within the cultures we are brought up in and those cultures are all dominated by the social relations of unequal power amongst individuals.  All power between individuals is political by definition. 

I currently speculate that the roots of the whole imbalance in political power between the genders are to be found in the revelations which would have become conscious amongst humans as they first engaged in animal husbandry, which I'm pretty sure occurred in time before the advent of agriculture circa 10,000 B.C.  My hypothesis is that for what seemed an  eternity to homo sapiens, it seemed that children, the lifeblood of the clan, came from women.  Men had no role in this miracle. Women gave birth. And they gave birth to children who resembled clan members. Our extended family's survival depended on women.  The mystery and power of women were worshipped.  

And then came the knowledge of how to domesticate some of the wild animals existing around us in nature. Granted, some spots on our planet didn't have animals which could be domesticated. The same went for agriculture e.g. wheat, rye and oats weren't to be found just anywhere on Earth. However, a very large part of our developing knowledge of animal husbandry would have involved KNOWING that without males, no females would give birth.  I think that knowledge would have been a real, shall we say, scientific revelation to men and women.  Traditional matriarchal religions, based on the notion that women were the saviours of the clan or tribe, would have begun a slow decay and eventual collapse in their importance to the human mind after the advent of our discovery that animal husbandry was a possible survival strategy beyond mere hunting and gathering. But, how would this knowledge develop in terms of social relations and how would that tendency be strengthened with the advent of the discovery of agriculture as another science of our survival?  

I think that the combined developing, scientific knowledge concerning sex/gender and reproduction played into the reorganisation of human society on the basis of property ownership. This really took hold after a long transition going from about 8,000 B.C. to 3,000 B.C. in the Middle East. Debt, caused by farming failures of one sort or another, led to domination of one person over another. The seeds of the social revolution from classless tribalism to class domination is firmly based on the appropriation of the product produced by through collective labour time of the producers be they the debt slaves of 3,000 B.C., the serfs of feudal times or contemporary wage-slaves.  Thus, the political State is born, the governing engine of class rule, the rule of the appropriators of the collective product of social labour time.  

The smell of cloves is in the air.  Someone is smoking clove cigarettes over the fence. A woman's voice, probably speaking on the phone as I hear nobody else. English is not being spoken.  

Why do Australian sports' stars have to wear uniforms adorned with capitalist ads? American sports' stars are not forced into this ignominy.  Check it out.  It's 2014.  Who's ahead in the game?  Could it be that Australians are even more sold on commodification than Americans are?  No, I doubt it.  It's just that the emphases are different within each class dominated capitalist oriented culture.

Imagine a culture where the commodity was not king.  Even better, imagine how sports or any other endeavour could manifest itself without the buying and selling of commodities being associated with it, a culture built around the principle of social and individual need.  A culture where team players weren't traded like commodities in the marketplace; but were just attached to their teams through loyalty. 

Our first task as we imagine such a place would have to be to define our social needs.  What are they?  Well, we need food, shelter and well, why reinvent the wheel?  Let's just use Maslow's old hierarchy of needs.


Let's look at the basic needs at the bottom of Maslow's pyramid.  Breathing, for instance. How do we fulfil this social need?  Well, it would seem that we do so by providing air.  But, we don't provide air.  Air is a given of nature.  What we do to the air is another matter.  If we introduce toxic pollutants into the air, it becomes unbreathable. So, according to the principle of providing air as a social need (as opposed to commodifying it for sale in a society based on buying and selling), as a rule of thumb, we do not put toxic pollutants into our air. Right now, we can't decide to do this because we don't have control over the introduction of toxic pollutants into the air.  The State does; but the State is class ruled and the class which rules has a lot of toxic which we help produce in exchange for the wages we need to make a living. These commodities are sold and go into the air. And the commodities to be sold grow and 'growth is the ideology of the cancer cell' and capitalism and its apologists worship cancer. Thus, the Earth has cancer and that cancer is a system which must be uprooted.

However in a commodity free society, a society based on the principle of producing wealth merely for use and need, we democratically decide that we need to breath non-toxic air. After all, we are born with a drive to survive so it all fits.  Will we recognise that our survival depends on realising this in the practice of our daily life?

What about those commodities though?  Didn't they fulfil some human need?  Otherwise, how could they even be marketed?

Let's take coal, for instance.  Coal fulfils human needs by providing us with energy to heat our homes and power our electricity producing plants.  Of course, there are other needs it fills; but let's focus on those two.  

We can break them down into two questions: 1. Can we heat our homes without coal in some other manner i.e. do we need coal to produce what we need, energy? 2. Can we produce electricity without using coal?

The answer to both questions is obviously, yes.  But that yes must be filled in with content. And the content is found within the sorts of means of producing electricity and heat. What other means of producing electricity and heat do we have at our disposal, ones which do not put toxic substances into the air or indeed the environment as a whole?  

And so the public discussion begins, a discussion which can only have a limited effect in the society based on buying and selling commodities.  Why?  Because that society will become class dominated as it was beginning to be in 3,000 B.C. and is now, under the rule of Capital, and the interests of society as a whole will not be given as much political weight within the State as those of the people who own lion's share of the wealth being produced, some of which is tied up in the production and sale of coal.  

Let's say we decide democratically to produce our heat and energy using wind and solar power. Next, we have to determine whether we have the resources and know-how to carry out such a transformation. In the meantime, we'll have information about how much energy we can use over the transition and adjust our need accordingly. Next, we have to determine whether the negative effects of using wind and solar can be dealt with without harming our general needs.  

See. It's easy. So, why aren't we doing it?

Our immersion in social relations of power is the short answer: power which is mostly over us, gets into our minds and produces a sense of 'norm'. We adapt to our cultures and our cultures are all based on dominance and submission by us to our masters within the totality of societal dynamics. This totality is composed of the family, the workplace and the laws of the State. And so totality goes, until the system breaks down. In the final analysis, the reason why we're not changing the mode of production is bound up with the conservative impulse tied to survival summed up through shallow, commodified reason by that old aphorism: "If it's not broke, don't fix it."