I'm back in DC. Lugged my overweight (by two pounds! but that made it 52 pounds) suitcase through the metro system, including a mistaken early exit at the Archives station - always forget there's a station between L'Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place. This is how my roommates greeted me:
- Jordan: hug.
- Aaron: hiding in my room and jumping out when I walked in, causing me to scream uncontrollably.
- Byron: nod.
That pretty much sums up my roommates, right there.
My efforts to take a class at Georgetown to avoid taking a class with an unmentionably bad professor at my own university may have been foiled by an over-anxious Georgetown professor who wants to make sure his students (alas!) don't get shut out of their own school's class. As I try to reconcile myself to taking the class at my home university, I get an email from Lincoln warning me, in all-caps, not to take unmentionably bad professor. And then I think to myself, wow, this matters so little
in the long run, so very very
little. Yet I spend an hour - after watching an episode of Real World: St. Thomas
("Wow, it's amazing how everyone paired up this season," I said, looking at Jordan, "it's so unusual." And the result of everyone pairing up, incidentally? Self-harm, alcoholism, and homophobia.) and an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
("The Gang Gets A New Member," a guy who ends up being too awesome and self-confident for them, essentially, and gets kicked back out) - trying to find a new class, somewhere, anywhere, that has something to do with Asia.
When I went back to my room Idris left me a message on facebook: Dear Nadia, please pick up your phone. Love, Idris.
So I called him back. Halfway through our conversation, he says, "You sound absolutely nuts right now."
"Oh yeah? Yeah, I've been sounding nuts for the past four months. At least this time I'm not nuts in a bad way, you know, I'm not crying!"
It's dim in my room. I need to get another lamp.
I've been all about the doomed marriage/suburban collapse stories lately. I don't really have an explanation other than some sad attempt at self-education. I read Revolutionary Road this summer, and just finished Run, River by Joan Didion - and need more like them. The titles do not have to start with Rs. An older-set, psychedelic variant that has stayed with me: The Sheltering Sky. I also read The Slap this summer, which is a little different compared to the first two, and in a way the most depressing because the characters were drawn much less sympathetically with the least self-awareness (or so it seemed to me) compared to the first two. But seriously, I am not one to care about sympathetic characters.
Also, Run, River is so good! I almost gave up on it while reading the first part but once the story goes back into the past it improves by leaps and bounds. I think it's really about women operating in society than doomed relationships, although there's plenty of those - Lily is the inept, broken one, whereas Martha is the emotional, normal one. I think some of the most interesting segments take place when Everett, the repressed and order-obsessed man (Lily's husband/Martha's brother), is out ignoring problems at home and Lily and Martha, who start off disliking each other, are flailing at each other. At one point Martha tells a guy she meets at a wedding that he is disgusting and she is just as bad as Lily for sleeping with him, and when he asks who Lily is, she replies that Lily is her sister and he isn't fit to say her name. Lily marries Everett basically because he is the first to ask and she thinks it's what she's supposed to do, and so ends up with a guy she can't actually "talk out loud" to; Martha falls so recklessly in love with Ryder Channing that she's essentially crippled from being able to accomplish anything else. Then I guess there's Francie. Francie gets druuuunk.
Here is a thing that needs to stop:
- Girl violates some group norm (usually liking/going after/not repudiating a guy who is "off limits," but this varies).
- Group organizes revenge/punitive attack on girl that almost always involves rape.
- Girl commits suicide for multiple reasons (shame, hurt, desire for revenge).
- Girl becomes horrible, terrifying, evil ghost that picks off group members one by one.*
For one, it perpetuates and universalizes a single narrative/understanding of rape and its consequences - namely, that it is the most horrible thing that can ever be done to a woman, so much so that it actually drives her to kill herself and become a vengeful spirit in order to kill everyone involved in wronging her, like a Lifetime movie on paranormal crack basically - and for two, it is really lazy writing. I immediately lose interest in any new plot that involves this storyline, although I do retain a reluctant soft spot for Shutter
, probably just because it was the first I saw of this type.
I understand that most Asian horror stories make revenge the driving force, and I understand that most Asian horror stories involve female evil spirits, and that this leads, "obviously," to rape-and-revenge. It's not unlike the recurring theme in American gaming/comics/fantasy/sci-fi where the strong action heroine has only become strong because she was once raped. But really: if you must have revenge, and you must have a female evil spirit, there are other paths to take. Look at the entire Whispering Corridors
series, which at least has girls committing suicide and becoming wraiths for other reasons, because of different wrongs. I would say don't look at all the performance-oriented movies where the big wrong is "you scarred my face!" or "you took my spot as the lead in our girl band!" but at this point, I would rather sit through that
kind of a movie than another rape-and-revenge.
* Similar, but distinct: the group kills the girl during or in the immediate aftermath of the attack (c.f. The Maid
). Similar because rape-and-revenge is still an overtone, but distinct because she doesn't actually get any chance to respond to the rape particularly, and she doesn't commit suicide.
Yes, it's two horror movie reviews! Not very extensive ones, I'm afraid, but still!
Don't you just hate those movies where dumb Americans go off to some far-off foreign locale and end up getting sacrificed by some deceitful Paganistic locals to some dark and primitive nether-god? So do I! And so does The Shrine. I thought The Shrine was going to be one of those movies until about the 2/3 point, and I kept watching anyway because the acting is decent for a shallow little horror movie and I was curious, despite my distaste for the set-up, about the eventual reveal. But surprise! Things are not what you would expect them to be.
Now none of this is going to change your life. It's not Candyman or Japanese or anything. It would be a great entry in the After Dark Horror Fest or a great episode of Masters of Horror or Fear Itself, if those shows were still alive. A neat little short story. A worthy contribution to horror as fun schlock.
Absentia is a strange beast, completely lacking in horror movie context and almost directionless. The characters and setting are great, and refreshing for horror - two young adult sisters (one a former drug addict and one pregnant) just muddling through life in working class California. Nothing glamorous. The pregnant one has a husband who's been missing for seven years, and is declaring him dead in absentia. She's also having horrible "lucid dreams" about him. The former drug addict has now found Jesus. You think it's setting up to be a demonic possession type thing. It's not. Really, really not.
This one feels much less put together than The Shrine. It is flawed. And considering what it turns out to be about - the tone is bizarre, subdued and unsettling and sad, something more befitting a ghost story perhaps. But I feel like Absentia is both going for and accomplishes more, emotionally/intellectually, than The Shrine. Probably because I am a sucker for horror movies that try to be artsy and sensitive. But there really is something here, particularly about the rationalizations we tell ourselves about people that go missing.
Both on Netflix Watch Instantly.
... and still living like a 4 dollar vic.
It's been a day of near-misses, travel-wise (almost missed my train back from Bandung to Jakarta, because I left my phone at my "Tante Marjie"'s house... then, thought that I was leaving Jakarta for Bangkok/L.A. Tuesday afternoon, when really I am leaving tomorrow afternoon). Natnari "Whan" Sihawong is officially my patron saint of travel, for forcing me to realize the correct date. Also, I can now pack a suitcase at record speed.
But: I have come to realize, just in time, that things could be a lot worse, in all aspects of my life. So, that's a pretty good thing to realize for one's birthday, right? And I declare that this coming year of my life will be tahun vivere pericoloso. The year of living dangerously, as Sukarno says. ~Ambiguities Galore~ And in the meantime...
So, The Dark Knight Rises - the last Nolan Batman movie (God willing). I really liked Batman Begins
, which I think I saw in theaters with Christina when neither of us knew what we were expecting - and we were both like, "I think I really kind of LIKED IT" - and have a special relationship with The Dark Knight
, which I saw on my own in a shopping mall/movie theater in Surabaya after I bought a canvas bag that said "Life. Industry. Work. Strength." I saw The Dark Knight Rises
last weekend in another shopping mall/movie theater in Jakarta with mixed company, and I felt frustrated and disappointed with it.
Many people have talked about the questionable politics of The Dark Knight Rises
- I particularly like Abigail Nussbaum's review
(but when is that ever not true?). Others have pointed out that these weird fascistic/Randian trends have been in Nolan's Batman movies the entire time, although I must confess I didn't really see them. To me Batman Begins
wasn't very controversial politically, and The Dark Knight
was about the classic dilemmas facing public servants trying to do the right thing (I think the most interesting character in it is Dent's) as well as the personal mental collapse that takes place when you decide you can't take trying anymore (see for instance "that's it, I'm moving to Canada" on a much more mundane level, or "fuck iiiiiit" in meme terms). In the Order vs. Chaos argument, I think a pretty compelling point was made for Chaos, even if officially Order won out. The Dark Knight Rises
, on the other hand, was really playing up the 1% vs. 99% thing, and the 99% pretty much turn out to be duped by an evil that has no motivation other than to be evil. It actually kind of reminded me of Michael Crichton's "environmentalists are actually engineering global warming to scare us all into going with the Kyoto Protocol!" as well as of that terrible book by Glenn Beck. The 1% don't even really commit any sins except their parties are boring. And then there they are, being thrown out on the streets and executed by exile onto a sea of thin ice! Even Catwoman, the "Robin Hood" character, is all "Batman, you don't owe these plebes anything, they stole all your money." So yeah, all that: kind of sucky.
Beyond that, I didn't find the movie as much "fun" as I did its predecessors. I had heard a lot about the explosion in the football stadium scene beforehand but it did not pack the emotional punch that it truly should have, given me and my inclinations. I actually felt most emotional in the opening scene, during the nuclear physicist's surprise kidnapping. I don't really know why - maybe the claustrophobia and imminent death involved for such a small pack of people? But the police being stuck in the tunnels, then surprise!liberated and being gunned down like Theoden's Riders in The Return of the King
- meh. The random schoolbus of orphaned boys - meh. The pit? I did feel a twinge when Bruce Wayne makes it out at last, but it was for the cheering prisoners still in the pit, not Bruce Wayne. This one just didn't click with me. It felt cold and distant and unwilling to really give of itself.
On the other hand: Alfred the loyal-unto-death butler and Gordon the beleaguered police commissioner were great. I think those two and Blake (the scrappy new cop) were really the actual soul of the movie, as far as it had a soul at all - the most human characters, at any rate. Batman/Bruce Wayne was just kind of annoying/useless (ironically), Catwoman was like What Happens When Men Write Women #5a, or so, and Miranda Tate would have potentially been a competent character if not for the barren face heel turn. Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow was also fun.
If anything I sort of wished Batman was erased from this movie, and that it was just the tale of the horribly dysfunctional city that had to fend for itself - that there truly was no ubermensch to save it. Because I'm fond of Gotham - have been since the beginning - and I was always fiercely of the belief that the League of Shadows was wrong, and Gotham should not be sacrificed as hopelessly corrupt. Maybe that's because I come from a city that really reminds me of Gotham, sometimes ("criminals in this town used to believe in things - honor, respect!"), and Gotham being assailed by Chaos was like the Jemaah Islamiyah era here, when hotels were being blown up; and the Gotham being assailed by Quasi-Revolution is like what's happening now, with people burning suspected thieves in the street. And let me tell you: we have no ubermensch. What we might have, if we're lucky, is a Gordon, a couple Blakes. We certainly have plenty of Alfreds.
ANYWAY. Something else I realized while watching The Dark Knight Rises
: I think I may be finally shifting my gaze from older men (father substitutes, all) to men my age (the "damaged" ones, but oh well). I was way, way more attracted to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this movie than Bruce Wayne (that scene where he's running to the hospital with the rifle! Rarr!), and that is new. I was talking about this with my mother, and concluded that regardless of who I actually date, my ideal type seems to be this older, married, brooding political scientist type that is clearly
a doppelganger for my father. And it's also! A completely safe, riskless outlet for whatever feelings I might develop, because I know in my hardest of hearts that nothing real can actually happen there. There was no possibility of anything developing. I couldn't really
get involved. I wasn't going to get heartbroken. Plus it let me deal with my Daddy Issues. Sort of, anyway. I mean, the walls I put up -- both because my father died and everything normal and happy was shattered, and probably just because of me, because I was born nuts -- were miles high.
But I think that's starting to change, and that's a good thing.
It's hard to explain how much Facebook has changed social interaction - I think particularly for my generation, the generation that Facebook was originally meant for. Other people seem to use it as just another social media site where you can post witty things, call attention to news, have lengthy (!) discussions about serious (!) issues with friends and strangers.
It's not that we don't use it for that, but for us - going to college in the mid-2000s - Facebook was more about the number of friends you had, how frequently anyone posted on your wall, your relationship status, whether or not you were allowed to "friend" someone you had spoken to once in class, etc. The competition over one's number of friends has virtually vanished, and I know many popular people who rarely get wall posts for whatever reason - what I've noticed is that compulsive, insane wall-posting seems to be especially strong within the Asian immigrant student community, or within particular girl cliques during particular times (there are times when Lauren will post on my wall several times a week, and then for months she might not post anything there at all).
Relationship status is still pretty big, but with caveats. My friend just got married - I know because she changed her relationship status. I was invited to the wedding but couldn't go, and had forgotten when that was actually happening (maybe couldn't believe it was actually happening), and then suddenly, bang, Sasha is married. On the other hand, the facebook etiquette elitists have basically determined that relationship status is only worth mentioning if it's "engaged" or "married." "In a relationship," or God forbid, "It's complicated," is for high-schoolers and the kind of people you see in this hilarious post
I still have Friending issues, though I have pretty much lost any self-consciousness over that. We don't call it "friend" now anyway. It's "add." And that means this is not a friendship you're cementing - you're literally acknowledging that you have met this person, even once, even at that party of the mutual friend of yours who you're no longer speaking to. You're just saying, "yes, we have encountered each other. I will add you to my catalog of people." I personally have rules about this sort of "Facebook friend" - do not comment on their status updates, don't even like their status updates (unless it's a completely depersonalized political meme). You message them if you need them for something, email-style. I will literally only "like" something if that person is someone I know and consider an actual real-life friend. Not everyone follows these rules, which is probably for the best. Sometimes people I haven't spoken to in years will like a random status update I post, and it's never a bad thing. Just jarring. But they are using Facebook differently than I do.
For me, Facebook is how I talk to people back in DC (whether they're actually in DC or elsewhere). It's a great stress release, talking idly with people, because Facebook is actually a stress-monster. Lucia deleted and un-deleted her FB account for years before finally deleting it for good. It was no good for her; she would spend hours looking at pictures of random girls from high school or work, feeling bad about herself, analyzing every woman who posted on her boyfriend's wall or was tagged in a photo with him. When we were roommates in college she had the most violent Facebook fights with him - "he changed his status to single!" "he deleted me!" "he wrote on her wall!" - it was exhausting. A week later they'd be back to using each other's photos as their profile pictures, so when I talked to her it felt like I was talking to him, this psychotic alpha-male who I always hated and who was always making my roommate cry (they are no longer together).
I think it's the stress derived from seeing everyone's social interactions with everyone, in public and readily available. If you're in a group of friends - i.e., the ideal situation for Facebook usage - this is fine, unless you are really insecure about your friendship. Everyone likes everyone's statuses, everyone likes everyone's photos, you all make similar snarky comments and like them each in turn. It's no big deal, and it makes you feel part of a "social network," that is true. I recently added Lauren's best friend to my list of Facebook friends, even though I have never met her. I made a comment about how I need to meet her based on apparent similar interests - and I can imagine that Lauren went straight to her and said, "friend Nadia, now". 24 hours later, we were friends, liking each other's status updates. I guess when we do meet in August we won't be strangers? (But of course we will). You do feel like you're with them, and that is quite nice.
It's when romantic relationships enter the picture that everything gets fucked to high hell. Because then you do care extra much, and if a romantic interest goes off the grid it's like where are they?!
whereas if a good friend goes off the grid it's like eh, I guess s/he's on a bender.
And when they talk to "romantic rivals," when they see them, it's all right there. And you only wonder what's happening behind the wall of private messages. On the one hand, I guess all this publicity is good, because it means we're all freely interacting with each other as people - I mean, why not
like an ex's photo? This should not be a problem, among rational human beings - but we were built petty and irrational and possessive ---I learn to let go of the illusion that we can possess
--- and it does end up mattering. It shouldn't. My friend-group almost excommunicated someone because he was being overly aggressive with his "likes" - and that is idiotic, plain and simple. Who cares if he likes everything? Because it isn't macho to like everything? Because macho men only like three status updates a year
. Macho men don't respond to wall posts, except from their mothers. They're above that. They've got something (someone) better to do. Macho men certainly do not sit there and like every status update, every photo, every comment, that they happen across. And when we think like this, I hate us, and people like us.
And I hate Facebook, too. Yes, it's convenient, especially for getting back in touch with people you used to know when you land in their cities and have no one else to see. But it is petty, petty, petty (small) as hell. And can I use it to be honest, to post the videos I want to - like "Live With Me"
? No. You have to be composed on Facebook, and if you can't be composed, then for God's sake delete your friends, delete the one who matters most. Facebook is your public life masquerading as your private one. And you do long for the old days, sometimes, when it was just one-to-one emails, when there was no wider world for your relationship to live in, and when you get no response, you tell them, boldly, "someday you will regret not replying."