Wednesday, June 23, 2004

A Tale of Thai Films

I saw the film Audition recently. A visual terror that Takashi Miike is famous for. I highly recommend this strange, violent, Lynch-like shocker. I also saw Blissfully Yours, a Thai film directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (he of the recent surprise “hit” at Cannes, the “surreal jungle allegory” Tropical Malady—the first Thai film to be honored with an Official Selection at Cannes). Plenty of jungle sex, plenty of quasi-hallucinatory summer’s day images. The story of three self-obsessed people having a pit stop along the path of life. It can be rather tedious to watch at times. It’s perplexing—how can one enjoy a film that is, on the surface, so mundane? In a way it’s the perfect representation of Thai life, where the “background” is pushed to the fore. No one steps onto center stage and people rarely ever expect there to be more to life other than the basics. Eating, sex, sensuality, caring, heartbreak, uncertainty. Check out the Kick the Machine website. I think it's absolutely fantastic that these types of films are being made in Thailand. Considering that most Thai movie fare centers on ghosts, transvestities, and soap opera histrionics, it's refreshing to see the risks are being taken and that these risks are being recognized world-wide. Of course the majority of Thai moviegoers do not want to see "art films"--but then again, none have ever been made here in the past so how could people learn to abandon the ridiculousness of The Matrix for the beauty of a Pen-Ek Ratanaruang film like Last Life in the Universe or the fabulous technicolor Western that is Tears of the Black Tiger?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Tuesday Evening and...

Conveyed Sonics

The papers were signed with the smoke from a burnt-out moon

Water’s percussive state endures the limbs of a viol’s attempt to contain it

Embers dot the forest horizon, a symptom of electric solos around fire

Shades in a tale reminiscent of ones told outside time

Wild man in the mirror, molding into the world

“He had returned from Cloudland, and had at once installed himself again
in a castle in the air”

Hemmed in by a web, the fly changes its perspective

Freedoms have been allocated one at a time…

A grove where birds sit, weary from their heights of surrender

The map flung across the room and the shelter for itinerant stars

Sky ahead: must be our destination


He told me that the need to communicate gradually disappears over time; words lose their allure and their possibilities seem to carry with them a double-edged sword: one either succeeds or stupefies while attempting to get an idea across to the listener.

Silence begins to seep in, he continued, and there isn’t anything more to say. It no longer matters.




He was lost inside it. The hole, the movement from out of and then into. Was it red or green, sinister or airy? Were there signposts and the evidence of other travelers (plastic combs, a lone shoe sole, crumpled tissue) on the same route as he? He thought, or rather considered, the events that led to his walking down this particular trail. This was the same trail that split the two countries. It, the sky, opened and began to rain. His map was becoming more and more damp and then wet, and finally it disintegrated. Or did he only imagine this?
There’s a certain amount of control a traveler must relinquish in order to arrive at his destination. Or was it nowhere? Patagonia, northern China, northeast Thailand, the void of an Indian throng, blindness.

The sunlight was too bright. There were no signs that anyone had been there before him, or did he not notice the billboards, the “no vacancy” signs, the staring eyes of what few people were out in this scorching afternoon. These weren’t signs to him; they were aberrations. Aberrations of nature, cancerous growths on the surface of the earth, piles of dust and soot. These reminders kept him going. He knew they were there—he did have to occasionally stop to eat and the places he chose reflected the meager savings he carried with him. He drank and ate in silence. Once he put a coin in the jukebox to play “Start Me Up” while the other customers looked stupidly at him. They didn’t get the joke.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Come here, enigma

Yesterday I left the house and made a beeline for H Gallery. The new exhibition by Maymay Jumsai was up and I wanted to check it out. She is not only my favorite Thai artist, but one of my favorite artists regardless of nationality. Her show last year at Gallery 55, entitled “Come Here,” featured work that was done using a magnet to manipulate iron filings on the canvas. Once a shape was formed varnish would be applied to preserve the image. Simply stunning—some of them resembled the surface of skin, others the birth of small universes. Her new series is called “Enigmatic” and it certainly is. Again she experiments with her materials—black and white paint on canvas. First applying white, then black paint she folds the un-stretched canvas in half to create a variety of Rorschach-like forms when unfolded. Some resemble fluttering wing, others wind-swept plains, or waves. All of them suggest undulations, movement. From the gallery’s literature: “(…) the expression of these labor intensive and unorthodox paintings is left open to the viewer—for some an expression of Buddhist doctrine, for others a post-apocalyptic landscape, and for others they may imply a search for reconciliation of opposing forces, unification with the world and the achievement of transcendence.” Rather lofty, but true.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A Reflection

Having now lived in this country for over three years I’m still beguiled at times by the contradictions that coexist here without ever causing the slightest amount of consternation in the native inhabitants (most likely because their civilization has been in motion for over 1,000 years). For example, the combination of Brahmanism, Buddhism, and animism is accepted by all without question, yet in my mind they are somewhat opposed in their basic principles and should be seen as exclusive of the other. I can recall when my own principles were rattled when I first arrived here. The basis for our ideals, principles, ethics, etc are “site specific.” What occurs when one finds themselves in an environment that no longer supports ideas or beliefs that have inhabited us for our entire lives? We become ruins in a sense—and within that is the promise of either further disintegration, or the possibility of using this new knowledge to adapt oneself. We can also retreat into a private world that attempts to mimic our home countries, never fully coming to terms with our locale. Even when we embrace this new reality we may find ourselves occasionally shocked at the difference, especially when one finds work, an apartment, friends. Each of these present a unique experience in themselves that is fraught with frustration, joy, well-being, and…yes, consternation. Surfaces, essences, depth, appearances…illusion…all take on new meanings.



Where bread, not stones, makes the mountains
the way they are

Where bread, not stones, is the laughter heard
in the walls

Where bread, not stones, is favored by doves
and a grammarian of sound


“I’m a reasonable man.” An oxymoron.


Something dark, despondent, disenfranchised…yet danceable.


Everything forgotten, except for the details.


Saturday, June 12, 2004

The paper is smooth with the promise of lightning.


A series of memories held together by a ligament of…


Slow days the light spares nothing, only appears to recede. A “white-white root”—reflections, recitations. The sound of music’s demise. The book held upside-down or up to a mirror the sun cancels.


He returned with photographs of the source: it was the pulsing of night in mid-air.


The Apothecary of Elephantine
The Barrister of Dimwit
The Courtesan of Shank
The Dullard of the Brickworks
The Epileptic of Glassglow
The Friar of Mars
The Greenhorn of Tulare
The Hell-raiser of Cyprus
The Innards of May
The Joker of Jasmine Corners
The Kulmination of Misspillings
The Latinist of Hamburg
The Man of Mandalay
The Nurse of My Dreams
The Operator of Buenos Aries
The Plumber of Philosophy
The Quipper of Dunedin
The Ranger of Raw Reason
The Slav of Blue Vases
The Tutor of Wrong Angles
The Untitled of Slates
The Very Best of Nod
The Wag of Jagger
The X-orcist of Constantinople
The Yes Man of Zurich
The Zookeeper of the Oblivious

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

To reject the reality of form is to fall victim to its illusory nature;
To uphold belief in the void implies denial of its void-ness.

The more one talks and the more one thinks,
The further one strays from the natural response of the mind .

Stop talking and stop thinking,
And there is no place that cannot be passed through.

By returning to the source meaning is found;
In the pursuit of appearances understanding is lost.

In one moment of true introspection,
One transcends both appearance and emptiness.

Previous (concepts of) emptiness give way (to truth),
All having been mistaken views.


All things exist together as one.
Dualities arise only through inference.
Phantasms and flowers in the air;
How tiring it is to grasp at them!

Gain and loss, right and wrong:
Do away with such notions once and for always.

If the eye never sleeps,
All dreams will cease of themselves.

If the mind makes no distinctions,
All things (are understood to be) of one nature.

This one nature is an enigma.
In stillness one finds release from entanglements.


From “On Trust in the Heart” (Hsin Hsin Ming) by Seng-t’san, the Third Patriarch of China. Translated by Russell Imbach.

Monday, June 07, 2004

It was the type of painting that seemed to invite its viewer to walk into it as though it had an actual depth. The whole painting didn’t possess this quality, only a small seemingly insignificant part did. It certainly was a most unusual portal the crease in the empresses’ white lace stockings promised on that sultry day.

Spent all day rewriting passages from various books the way I wanted them to be.

There are wonderful people in the world, and then there are those that should not have been born. I fall (literally) into a third category: those who were born but aren’t here.

The selection of “which way to turn” has been made. The way to turn is inside-out, inside or out, and in any kind of weather, preferably next to an attractive body of water, a somewhere that was well thought out during those white nights in the tropics, inside a rapidly forming drop of moisture.