Monday, August 03, 2009

Diary: Monday 27 July - Monday 3 August

Monday 27 July
Saw Guest of Cindy Sherman at MIFF. It's a documentary about the New York art scene from the perspective of Paul H-O, who in the 1990s hosted the public access TV show GalleryBeat. The film traces how he then became the boyfriend of photographer Cindy Sherman, and his growing (somewhat churlish but not mean-spirited) discomfort at being a nobody attached to a huge art star. I felt a little uncomfortable at finding myself implicated, through watching it, in the furthering of a kind of opportunistic self-aggrandisement based on reflected glory. But it's kinda interesting, too.

Tuesday 28 July
Stayed at 3CR all day after the Breakfast Show to help out on reception/scrounge around for content for the Stick Together show. Then went to see Outrage and The Girlfriend Experience at MIFF.

Outrage is a documentary about closeted gay Republican politicians (who the film outs) and the damage they do to gay citizens because their closetedness and fear of discovery within a political party/base that clearly despises their true selves causes them to legislate in very anti-gay ways. You just feel bad all over. Anyway, on the upside, Washington DC is hella gay. On the downside, why are so many Republicans? The Girlfriend Experience is Steven Soderbergh's global financial crisis film, in which the brunt of the crash is borne by New York escort Chelsea in that she has to listen to all the rich guys freak out and whine.

After the film, went back to 3CR overnight to edit/produce that week's Stick Together, which I made using other people's interviews and a very elastic interpretation of the show's 'workplace and social justice issues' brief. I mean, the people in it have jobs...
Media from the Margins. We take a look at what media skills training can mean for prisoners in Britain, and the situation for women working as journalists in Iran, with Phil Maguire from the UK Prison Radio Association and Kathleen Currie from the International Women's Media Foundation.
The podcast sounds like this.

Wednesday 29 July
Saw Fish Tank at MIFF. I wanted to see it after reading about it earlier this year in this Observer article by Jason Solomons. And having seen it, I can't really add more to what Jason Solomons said, except that I agree. So, thanks for pointing me in its direction, sir.

Thursday 30 July
Saw United Red Army at MIFF. It began at 11am, and it still wasn't over by the time I had to leave at 2pm, as I had somewhere to be by 2.30pm. In short, it was THE WORST FILM EVER. It was even worse than that description can possibly convey. DEAR GOD. Avoid.

Raced to 3CR so that I would not be late to meet with Bea Viegas, who plays Juliana in the Balibo film, for our interview.

Friday 31 July
Worked at CASA House, then went to see The Exploding Girl at MIFF. It's about gentle people who dress well and spend their uni break at home in Brooklyn just, you know, hanging out. What's not to like?

Saturday 1 August
Saw A Lake at MIFF. My brother was with me and asked me beforehand what it was about. I recalled a vague sense that there would be snow, a young man, and like, atmosphere. A few minutes into the film I had to lean over to him to say, "Oh yeah, and he's painfully in love with his sister." A lot of people walked out of this film, and I really don't understand why. I liked all the blurriness and tension. I spent the film repeating "Be cool, Alexi" over and over, and held myself tensed because the woodchopping sounded so violent and I didn't want any axes to connect with people. I experienced a powerful sense of release when my fears of violence came to nothing.

Sunday 2 August
Started reading Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. It is a book of many treats, vocabulary-wise, but also, for instance, this explanation of Garuda social organisation:
The point is that you are an individual inasmuch as you exist in a social matrix of others who respect your individuality and your right to make choices. That's concrete individuality: an individuality that recognises that it owes its existence to a kind of communal respect on the part of all the other individualities, and that it had better therefore respect them similarly.
My favourite treat so far, though, has been this:
'...and then there were two,' sang Derkhan, a snatch of a children's counting song about a basket of kittens that died, one by one, grotesquely.
Oooh, I LIKE.

Monday 3 August
Saw Katalin Varga at MIFF. It was, I dunno, fine I guess. Except for that whole 'in summary, ladies, the consequences of going on a rape vengeance quest are a) forgiving the perpetrator and b) being violently murdered' thing.

Then went to 3CR to edit the Bea Viegas interview for tomorrow's Breakfast Show. Then home.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A promise

I swear, I won't subject this blog to any more hysterical spasms brought on by reading the Twilight books. At least, not after this.

See, I finished the last book this afternoon, and I just wanted to give my final word about the experience. It took a week to read all four, and I have to say, it has been the most good-humoured week I can remember. More than good-humoured, really. Kinda joyous. But in a controlled way. The books didn't consume me. They made me happy and wrapped up in them when I was reading them, and then when I had to set them down to participate in my life, the happiness would colour the rest of my time, too. So I went to work, I made a few radio shows and did some interviews in preparation for a few more, I saw films at MIFF, I slept well and woke early. I functioned better than usual. And all the while, I was quietly ecstatic. It was a good feeling, you know, all that wandering around smiling inwardly and radiating contentment.

The only problem I've had is not being able to adequately explain to anyone why I've been so taken with these books. For instance, yesterday, I stayed at my desk at CASA House after hours to read a bit more while I waited for it to be time for my 7pm MIFF screening of The Exploding Girl. And as my boss was leaving she wondered why I was staying back, and I explained that I had some time to kill and would just read a bit of my book. And she looked at it with recognition before I could cover it. "I know, I know," I said, "I'm not supposed to be reading this. Teenagers are losing their minds over it. The thing is, I'M LOSING MY MIND OVER IT, TOO." And she said, "Teenagers, hmm, I know forty-year-olds who are obsessed." And she wondered why that was - she hadn't read the books and the reactions she'd seen bemused her. And I couldn't really explain mine, and then she talked about how she worried that it might be a cultural echo of some tendency to be thrilled by dangerous bad boys. And I found myself saying, "But, Edward isn't bad!" And she just looked at me. "Don't you think that's what all women in abusive relationships tell themselves?" Oh no! "But," I protested, "he feels such crushing guilt at even the thought of hurting her!" Again, she looked at me. "Elanor, you know that men commonly have that guilt when they hurt their partners. Sometimes, their apologetic despair is part of the problem. It makes women stay when they should leave." And I actually found myself saying, "But... but it's not like that." I knew how feeble that sounded. But I actually believe it. It's not like that. I mean, I don't want Edward Cullen to be my vampire boyfriend (I'm embarrassed to say that this lack of interest in him romantically stems from the powerful way your mind rejects any scenario that would separate him and Bella - they belong together, you guys). And I guess thrilling to a romantic fantasy from the sidelines, desperately hoping it all works out, does bond you in some way to that fantasy as a relationship model. I mean, you want all the characters you care about to get what they want - and in the Twilight books especially because they want what they want so much. And isn't it always like this? You don't want Mr Darcy for yourself, you want Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy to be together, and you definitely want the way Elinor Dashwood suffers without Edward Ferrars to end, etc etc etc. As a reader, you just like to be there to see it. The Twilight books repay you by very effectively communicating how intensely happy this makes the characters - and the countervailing AGONY. It's like mainlining feelings. And I guess it's a fair question to ask - whether the pleasure afforded by this intensity obscures one's (my) perspective on the health of the relationship being modeled. But I really think Edward and Bella provide a good model - hear me out! - and do so especially in the context of intimate partner violence. I found it very difficult to make this point at the end of a long day at a sexual assault service, because I am, at heart, barracking for a romantic fantasy in which the boy is constantly fighting the powerful urge to kill his girlfriend but-love-makes-this-okay. Yes. This is - bluntly - the case I'm making. But here's the 'good relationship model' part that's not captured in that bluntness: 1) the books frame violence against Bella as the most abhorrent possibility ever to be entertained by anyone - and 'violence is abhorrent' is a good message, no?; and 2) there are no excuses for it. Even the super-special-one-of-a-kind-thirst for your girlfriend's blood doesn't grant you any leeway whatsoever re violence against her. To act violently/lose control/any of that shit - these are just not options that the book allows conceptually, or the Edward character allows behaviourally. For me, that underlines a strong message that perpetrators of violence make choices - to harm, to decide the parameters within which they justify their actions to themselves so that 'I would never hurt her' doesn't actually mean 'never', etc etc. So yes, I like Bella and Edward's relationship for a variety of punishingly lame reasons. But I think the least lame reason is that it's a relationship in which, ahem, 'Love means the restriction on intimate partner violence is absolute'. Seriously, you guys.

Anyway, I wasn't really thinking about these things yesterday while I was reading the final book - alone, at work, after hours. I was too engrossed. I do remember feeling glad that no other staff were around when I got to the end of the section being told from Jacob's perspective, so that nobody was there to witness me rock back in my seat gasping with shock/joy. And then I remember walking to Greater Union enveloped in an emotional high, trying to keep myself in check until I got into the darkness of the cinema so that I could grin ecstatically without freaking people out.

After the film I made my way home, still in full contemplation of how well the book was working out. I assumed this wouldn't be noticeable to anyone else - that my face didn't betray the gleeful responsiveness of my mind. But as I walked in the back door and set my bag down on the kitchen table, turning things over dreamily in my head, I came to understand that maybe my face doesn't lack expression in the way I think it does. My brother looked over at me. "Whoah," he said, "come back down to earth."