hibiscustea: (sour/sweet)

Recently, I had a conversation with some people about Wes Anderson films. They maintained that his best work was his most recent film, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). I disagreed, though I could understand their point; The Grand Budapest Hotel performs some unique narrative flips, and is certainly one of his most visually pleasing films to date. In a similar conversation with a separate friend, Moonrise Kingdom (2012) was suggested as his best work. Again, I can completely understand why—Moonrise Kingdom was lovely and definitely the most mature film in his oeuvre, but as it was a joint production between him and Roman Coppola, I would say that while it has a lot of Andersonian visual and narrative flourishes, the emotional core of the film is much more derived from Coppola’s vision than Anderson’s. I argued, and will continue to argue, that The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)--despite its flaws--is Anderson’s best work.

Thematically, I’ve always found Anderson’s work to be pretty transparent: he is interested in masculinity, what delineates it, what derails it, and what demands it makes on both people in general and men in particular. I don’t generally gravitate towards men-centric work. Anderson’s is one of the few that do draw me in, and part of that is his treatment of his female characters. His women characters are almost always cyphers, but cyphers with interiority that exists beyond the context of the scene. So, even if they don’t drive the narrative, there is a recognition that these characters drive their own narratives, and we simply don’t have access to them (Ethaline’s life as an archeologist, Margot’s libertine adventures, Eleanor’s own oceanographic research and her privileged life, Jane’s career at the paper and her decision to be a single parent, Mrs Fox’s painting and so on, with varying levels of success). We catch glimpses of it, but rarely indulge in the details of it—unlike his men, who are seemingly all surface. Anderson’s films rife with men: loud men, quiet men, silly men, manipulative men, angry men, loyal men and gentle-men. But this is the trick of Anderson’s men; they seemingly have no inside, but that is because the inside is everywhere. Like the ocean, which serves a larger metaphor in The Life Aquatic, what you see on the skin of the waves is merely a reaction to things happening below the surface.

While the gender politics of Anderson’s films are endlessly fascinating to me, that’s not actually what I wanted to talk about, nor what I think makes The Life Aquatic the best of his work. Rather, I would argue that what makes the film the strongest out of his current body of work is the question at the emotional core of the film which is, do you choose to blow up your shark or not? Let me back up.

The Life Aquatic is, on the surface, a story about a Jacques-Yves Cousteau homage/parody, the eponymous Steve Zissou, who is a pompous braggart with entitlement issues, flagging self-esteem, and crashing into late middle age extremely ungracefully. All of this is compounded by both Steve’s dwindling relevance and popularity, and the death of his best friend and father-figure, Esteban du Plantier. The film opens to one of Steve’s own films—his latest and most widely panned—which chronicles Esteban’s death at the teeth of the previously undiscovered Jaguar shark, and Steve’s own plans to get revenge by blowing it up, setting up both the reflexive narrative frame of the story and it’s driving action.

A symbolic reading of this framework is pretty transparent: the shark is loss and their search is how one deals with grief, Esteban’s death is the passing Zissou’s era, Ned is his potential redemption in a new role (fatherhood). The film is absolutely about masculine anxiety over how an individual is supposed to operate in a world where his relevance is increasingly diminished. His fans are abandoning him. His critics dismiss him. His best friend and most stalwart defender is dead. His wife’s role is an open secret, the “brains behind team Zissou” as well as the money. His ocean is seemingly turning against him. His crew, though loyal, are confused and frustrated by his increasingly erratic behavior. He’s faced with a previously-unknown adult child. His ship is falling apart. Put simply, Steve is a patriarchal figure outmoded and outclassed at every turn, and as a patriarchal figure has no tools with which to express these anxieties. While other modes of manhood are represented within the world of the film, they are inaccessible to him in some form or manner. Further, I would argue that these modes are never shown as a way ‘out’ of the maze of masculinity. Klaus is shown as being in a sort of arrested development, nursing childish jealousy at Ned’s interloping; Alistair shown as successful in his professional life, but still just as trapped by it as Steve is his, just in a different, literal way; the bond company stooge Bill is shown as being mousy and continually acted upon.

However, there is a different reading that can be pulled from the film, if one just reframes what the shark is meant to be read as. I suggest we read the shark as representative of not simply loss but rather the past, a richer metaphoric framework comes into focus.

The Jaguar shark, at the start of the film, is doubted to really exist. If it does exist, Steve is asked, wouldn’t blowing it up be a crime? Steve doesn’t care, because the shark harmed him, almost irreparably so, and he wishes to harm it in return. The push of the plot is getting to the shark, and it is the destructive drive to return to the moment of Esteban’s death via the body of the shark that causes all the conflict in the film. The shark is an impossible figure; it exists, but at the start of the film Steve is very clear that he’s not entirely sure he knows what it looks like or even where it is. Once they reach the area where the shark might be, locating requires another sacrifice to hammer home the futile nature of Steve’s quest, just as futile as the arm he throws across Ned’s chest before the moment of impact. It is only after this that we get to see the shark, and then only for a moment.

The moment where we get to see the shark is the emotional culmination of the film. It is a smart choice on Anderson’s part. Another director might have place all the emphasis on Ned’s death, or the funeral shortly after it. Instead, all of the catharsis is funneled into the moment Steve and his people sit at the bottom of the ocean and look out the windows of his submarine as this giant shark passes over them. It’s here that it becomes clear; the past is truly another country, and we cannot revisit it unaltered. When asked by Klaus—and I think that choice is important, because Klaus is a literal man-child, and meant as both a contrast to the more mature Ned and a foil for Steve—if he still wants to blow it up, Steve replies, “No. We’re out of dynamite, anyway.” This is the moment where we are faced with the realization that though the past can hurt us (“Are we safe in here?” “I doubt it.”), overwhelm us (“It is beautiful Steve.”) and continually moves away from us (“I wonder if it remembers me?”), we must face it.

The ocean in The Life Aquatic is quite literally life itself. It seems really clichéd to point it out so explicitly, but Anderson does like his clichés (and, more to the point, I think he works with it in a very interesting way). It provides our earliest visuals of Steve and his life, his crew and what he cares about. But moreover, it’s a strange, often absurd place, populated by colourful alien sea life that arrest the both the characters and the viewers in small moments of wonder. Even the terrifying aspects of it, like the Jaguar shark, are beautiful in retrospect. And it makes us answer the question: how do we deal with our past, and all the loss and grief and mistakes that it can entail? And this to me is why The Life Aquatic is the strongest film in Anderson's oeuvre, and why I will defend it to the death.

Do you choose to kill your shark?

hibiscustea: (sour/sweet)
I was going to write something meaningful about my life and ambitions, about fear of mediocrity and attempting to work around the impulses of my lizard brain, about trying to really blog this time, but I have to say this before anything else: God, what happened to the LJ interface? where did the spellcheck go? why is everything so ... ugly? Ugh. Maybe I should look into a blogging client.

hibiscustea: (Default)
So, I am going to do you all a favor and let you in on a secret recipe of mine that's basically impossible to muck up. It's a cake recipe for those with little time, money or space. Perhaps most appealingly (to me at least), all the ingredients can be listed out in tablespoons. It's simple and yet quite impressive. It's also tasty as hell. And this is where I got it from. For those of you who wish not to follow said link, I present to you the Torta di Limone cake (with additional notes by moi)!

Isn't it pretty?

Torta di Limone (or, the Tablespoon Cake) )
hibiscustea: (Default)
Concerning the recent LJ update regarding inactive/deleted accounts; though I haven't posted in a while, I do actually still use this journal and it does function as an archive for fic. So. I guess I'll be a little more active.
hibiscustea: (sour/sweet)

I have never been good with change, particularly any sort of large-scale change. It paralyzes me, pins me with indecision and traps me between possibilities. It terrifies me, steals breath from by chest with a soft flutter of feathers in my throat; my breath, and my voice. I become mute, unable to articulate what I want, or don't want, or haven't even considered yet.

Usually, I try to ease myself into it gradually--I'm a cautious person by nature and I try to make sure I've thought of everything before making any sort of decision--but sometimes that simply isn't possible. The world moves too fast; I can't keep pace.

I thought I'd have more time.

I can finish my degree by taking five courses over the summer; of those five, only four are required. Three would be abbreviated three-week-long courses, and two would be two-month long. The four I need all run from May til July, which is why I need the fifth class. The fifth class would run from the start of July until August--and that would give me the three-consecutive months of school needed for loans. The alternative is, of course, to take three over the summer, and then three in the fall (why three when only one would be needed to complete my degree? Because three is the minimum required for student loans). I could be starting my Master's program as early as September. Either way, I will be finished by December, at the latest.

I am destabilized. It seems like no matter what choice I end up making, I must pick-apart the meager stitches I've already knit so as to reassemble these threads in a new city, a new school, and start again.

hibiscustea: (Default)
Okay, so, if you know me then you probably know that one of my favorite authors ever is Peter Watts, a Canadian science fiction author and biologist. He's rather brilliant, in fact.

Anyway, apparently, this past Tuesday as he was returning to Canada from a trip to the US (helping a friend move), he was detained by Michigan boarder guards. When he asked why they pulled him over, they pepper sprayed him. And punched him in the face. And, well, here's what he says on his blog:

Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

It gets better, or worse, depending on your outlook. He's now being charged with the assault of a US federal officer.

Please spread the word around!

Relevant Links:

- If you want to donate to his legal fees, here's a link to his PayPal account.
- National Post: Canadian sci-fi author beaten, imprisoned at US border crossing
- BoingBoing
hibiscustea: (Default)

The Muppets and a Bohemian Rhapsody

I swear to god: this is the last spam post. I will have more constructive things to say. Until then, Muppets.
hibiscustea: (Default)

Que Houxo paints in neon and blacklight

I can't believe that it's already November. Dear Lord. I have no idea where the time has gone, literally. I'm roughly three weeks away from having to hand in my projects, some of which I've made zero progress on. What. I mean. I don't even.

I gave a talk today. I think it went well; at least, it certainly went better than the talk I gave last week. No shaking or crying. Just talking too fast, and not concisely enough. I think it was okay though. I'm glad it's over. I'm glad I won't have to do it again. I know that time is the only thing that will make me a better public speaker, time and practice, but it still terrifies me even when I know (or think I know) what I'm talking about.

We are housing the Tiny Ginger Interloper again. He's going to be with us 'til Sunday(?) I think. I may post pictures.

hibiscustea: (concentration)
So, I've borrowed my Mum's copy of the first season of Mad Men, and holy hell, the soundtrack is deadly. Also, it is one of the prettiest piece of cinematographic work I've seen in a long time. Also also--the opening sequence is fantastic.

In other news, I got some sort of incourse scholarship for my summer classes.I still need to apply for scholarships/bursaries for the fall, this was a really pleasant surprise. So far, in terms of fall courses, I've signed up for four seminars (I know, I know, way too many seminars): Post-War Modern BC Architecture (with Dr. T; apparently we'll be wandering around the city every other Friday looking at buildings), The Domestic Interior of 1500-1750 in Renaissance Italy, Honours Seminar (required course), and Art and Revolution.

I think I need to drop one of the classes. I've heard from several people that four seminars is one too many. However, I really don't want to drop any of them. I guess I'll just wait out the first week and see which of the courses is the least interesting (or, alternatingly, the most work). Bah.

In other news, my mother has bought a new (well, a new used) car, and I shall inherit the Mazda. It'll be nice to have a car again. My biggest concern with having a car, is the financial drain it will be on my bank account. I'll figure something out, I'm sure, but it is a concern.
hibiscustea: (chill)
So, for the past little while I've been having trouble with my computer. It will power-off at odd periods, and the screen will just die/fizz out at random. It's also been getting very, very hot to the touch; I think the overheating has something to do with the problems.

However, it has also been running so incredibly slowly for everything. I've done deep system sweeps almost weekly, and make sure to never run more than two (sometimes three) programs at once. I've also stripped the machine down to the basic functions, and even started using Google Chrome because FireFox (my browser of choice) was using 120 MB of memory while Chrome only uses 20. (The functionality of Chrome is insane--it runs so well, and, for the most part, is wonderfully stable. However, it is terribly unattractive. A shallow complaint, to be sure, but ...)

I just don't know. I don't have the money to replace the computer, at all. At the same time, I realize I may not be able to save it: it's an old computer, second hand when bought, and now at least five years old. It may actually have just run its lifespan. That makes me incredibly sad; I love my little blue laptop. It's the perfect size, and it does (or did, at this rate) everything I needed it to do, which wasn't terribly much in the first place.

I have no idea what I'm going to do. Nicholas is going to poke around in it and see if he can't fix it (or at the very least make it die more slowly). I have a feeling, though, that Yoshima (yes, I named my computer after a Flaming Lips album) won't last out the year. Possibly not even the first month of school.

The recording of the Compugeddon will continue as it happens.
hibiscustea: (refreshmint)

So, I drove Nicholas and two of the other band members up Island for their gig last night; they didn't start playing until 10:30, and the headliner (Wax Mannequin) wasn't going to actually go on until, oh lord, at least midnight or 1 AM. We didn't have a place to stay, so we were going to head back to Vic that night, and once we learned that--if we stayed for the whole gig--we wouldn't be out of there until at least 2 AM, we bailed. Everyone was tired, and the appeal of getting back into town by 3:30/4 AM was minimal. However, it was a good show, the little of it that I saw, and Nicholas' group sounded really good. It's just a pity we couldn't stay for the whole show.
hibiscustea: (concentration)
Real soldiers love their robot brethren

"One of the psychologically interesting things is that these systems aren't designed to promote intimacy, and yet we're seeing these bonds being built with them."

I have a bizarre fascination and attachment to anything to do with robots. I don't know what it is. I think it has something to do with the formation of consciousness and identity, and the potential for sentience. Or something. I haven't quite thought it out well enough, not yet anyway.

I read a book recently reading is AWESOME--I'd quite forgotten just how much I actually enjoy picking up a good book by Peter Watts called Blightsight, which is all about consciousness, sentience, and identity. Very little about robots. Which is probably good: sad robots make me cry. Anyway, it's an excellent book, I very highly recommend it. Very much a Hard SciFi book, so if that's not your cuppa tea then ... well ... I dunno.

In the Doom Film class today we watched Last Night (1998), the one by Don McKeller. It was quite powerful (well, then again, I think almost anything would seem moving after the pretty dreck of The Day After Tomorrow), and made me consider what I would do if I were told exactly when the world was going to end.

The short answer is, I don't know. The long answer is remarkably like the short. What would you do?
hibiscustea: (Default)

First, I am totally not trying to spam the flist. Really.

Okay, so, ganked from [livejournal.com profile] betonna: according to [livejournal.com profile] zia_narratora,
"The lab is currently for sale for $1.6 million dollars and the owners, Agfa (the film people) are threatening to raze the buildings in spite of the state acknowledging their importance as an historical landmark."
She's set up a Paypal account in order to gather donations for the Tesla Science Center, because they want to buy the land and convert it into a museum. To me this seems like a much better plan than razing the buildings to the ground, but maybe I'm just odd. Spread the word!
hibiscustea: (Default)
I took this quiz a while back--several-years-a-while-back. Then I was a Reserved Designer. Now, apparently, I'm a Considerate Experiencer. Well that was a bit of a change.


hibiscustea: (Default)

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