Archive for August, 2010

Nolan Makes Us Think Again

Just got back from seeing Inception finally. The premise that ideas are powerful and contagious was intriguing, as were the layers of dreams within dreams. It reminded me a little of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Of course, in that film, the general concept was to pinpoint the emotional beginnings of a memory to wipe it out. In Inception, the premise is to plant an idea, not wipe it out.

The movie is heavy on the tension and requires you to pay attention if you want to know the level of the subconscious on which the action is taking place. Ariadne (Ellen Page), though not the protagonist, is a powerful foil for the audience to learn more about how the world of idea extraction/inception works. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) invites her to join his team of rebels on a dangerous mission to help disassemble a corporate leader’s entire legacy. It’s the only way Cobb can earn his freedom to return to the USA and be with his son and daughter.

Ariadne learns how to manipulate other people’s subconscious to form worlds so vivid that they don’t suspect that their minds have been infiltrated. She creates worlds of maze-like complexity which are then populated by the subject’s subconscious projections. Cobb, the protagonist, infiltrates these faux-real worlds to steal or plant ideas as necessary. Unfortunately for him, his wife’s recent death has unsettled his own mind enough that projections of her and their children spill over into the subconscious landscapes of the people he has been hired to infiltrate – with potentially disastrous results.

The film explores the fine line between what we know is real and what we perceive as real. And in a closing scene, the film asks whether reality is worth clinging to. Why not embrace the imaginary, if it’s better than the real world? Ultimately, the characters choose reality over fiction — although the ending is ambiguous. We never really know if the final scene of the movie is reality or not. It’s left to the audience to decide for themselves how they think it should end.

Another important through-line is one of guilt and redemption. Cobb clings to the memory of his wife because he can’t forgive himself for having lost her. Her image recurs as he travels into other people’s subconscious, calling out at him like a Siren singing. One might ask why Cobb doesn’t just stay with her in a fantasy world? Why return to the real world, littered with pain and loss? But he knows that he has a responsibility to the children she left behind. He must make his way back to them if he is to ever achieve redemption.

Director Christopher Nolan’s unapologetic belief in the power of ideas to shape people’s destiny is both inspiring and slightly troubling. I say troubling because ultimately the young CEO (Cillian Murphy) who stands to inherit his father’s Energy business, is manipulated to believe his father loved him even though reality seems to suggest otherwise. It raises an important question: can we change our own destinies by reformulating the way we look at the past? Maybe the past isn’t just a dead piece of text, fixed once it has been written. Maybe it is as living as the present and, when it’s re-imagined, maybe it can shape the very way we look at ourselves and our future. But only if we believe our re-imaginings of the past to actually be real.

I admire Nolan’s ambitious refusal to resort to the simplistic story-lines Hollywood so regularly churns out. Like its predecessor The Dark Night, Inception demands of its audience to think deeply even as they are entertained. And I was entertained.


August 28, 2010 at 6:55 am Leave a comment

The Visitor

Sometimes I can’t contain it.
It burns under my skin, crawls
up my veins and clots in my heart.
It pumps me up and puts me down,
drags me through minefield-memories.
It doesn’t like to see itself reflected
in the faces that populate my dreams.

Sometimes I wonder what it would feel like
to cut it out of me, but
I’m too attached to the skin and bones,
the physical entity that makes up me;
how could I plunge that blade in-between
ribs, twist it like licorice, red
pouring out of me.

Sometimes I close my eyes and listen
to the drip,
like rain against a tin roof.

I don’t like to look at it
I don’t like to breathe it,
swallow it,
shit it out.

It’s an unearthly disease,
rotten with remembering.
It doesn’t know how to forget.

August 27, 2010 at 12:26 am Leave a comment


A poster in the window of a passing mobile home reads Wanted: Meaningful Overnight Relationship. I wrote this poem in response.

meaningful overnight relationship
Seems to imply, doesn’t it,
that others are out there seeking
unmeaningful ones.
And what would that look like
if you were a kid with a carton
full of crayons and a blank page

meaningful overnight relationship
involving sex or soft kisses
on the insides of my thighs, maybe.
Reminds me of that VW ad
the one that says
Drivers Wanted, but
neglects to mention the money
that’s wanted too;
is there always something hidden
does there have to be?

And what happens when it’s morning
does the meaningful relationship end?
Or is that when the unmeaningful part begins.
And just to clarify:
Unmeaningful isn’t the same as meaningless
in case you thought
my English sucks (which it might or might not).
Unmeaningful implies there once was meaning
then it died.
Meaninglessness, on the other hand,
is more like a corpse that never lived.
A stillborn babe.
A broken memory.

August 20, 2010 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment


He was firm
but gentle
a proud embarrassment
he did not live long
nor did he live happily
though he tried
oh, how he tried!

August 17, 2010 at 7:30 pm Leave a comment

life lessons

Nobody tells you, when you’re swimming for dear life, that life isn’t dear, it’s hard, like a rock and a hard-on all at once and by the time you figure it out you’re in the middle of it and you wonder how you got here and you wonder where you’re going and you have no idea how you learned to swim but you keep on going because you don’t know what’ll happen if you slow down or stop. But sooner or later you stop. And you have to learn how to move again. And nobody tells you when you’re starting out how hard it is to control your limbs, how hard it is to push push push when you have no weight, and only slowly you start figuring out that pushing creates weight, makes you solid, makes you real, so the others can see you, so that you can see yourself, it’s like giving birth to yourself – fuckit – it IS giving birth to yourself. And it’s amazing but nobody tells you anything because they’re too busy trying to figure it out for themselves. Some of them do, some of them don’t, and you have to push to find out if you’re one of them.

August 10, 2010 at 6:53 am Leave a comment

death wish

I am an it
a piece of shit
I fart and stink
like rotting feet
like pus oozing from
the open cuts
I inflict on myself

I am an it
a piece of shit
not fit to fertilize the soil
you tread on
I belch and whine
like a chainsaw spurting
my guts on a wall
tacking a price onto it
and calling it art

I am an it
a piece of shit
tired of calling myself that
tired of the constant, chronic
ache, and the blood splattering
into the wall I hit
and I wonder why
I don’t take that shotgun and blow
my mind away

August 7, 2010 at 6:43 am Leave a comment

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