Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Trees Matter

reading again on Ron's the post on trees, the jacaranda poem of Mrs. Armentrout


its a nice poem, yeah the trees make a difference in the creative culture too. I'm not sure how much - I wouldn't say the ideal San Diego person is 'beautiful, but not serious' isn't that more of the ideal L.A. person? Yep. But in L.A. there are palms everywhere. In L.A. then people are more thorny and individualistic..? well hm. Trees make a difference in how people think of their environment.

If you were a tree, what tree would you be?

I don't know, but once in a while I imagine living in a place where there are a lot of trees, and canopy overhead, walking underneath it. In the city where I grew up, one day I came back to see that all the eucalyptus had been cut down. I guess they endanger native animals or something, but they were always used for windbreakers back in the old days, to prevent erosion on large stretches of property before it could be developed. And they were awesome to look at, 50 or so feet tall - lined up together in a row. Much better to look at then some ghastly mini-mall- the Sandwich Hut! (hooray..)

For me, trade is ok, but I never liked property development. Because they cut down whatever trees are there and put in these little halfling birch or something. Which is kind of a nice tree once it grows up, but you need about twenty years to wait for it.

Also in the town where I grew up they used to have walnut orchards. You would dig down just a few inches and find shells everywhere. There are still orange and lemon orchards - in neat rows of course, but you have to drive out into the country. At one time almost all of San Fernando Valley - that was our neighbor valley, was orange orchards, and to get to L.A. you had to take a pass through the mountains because there was no freeway yet. That was before my time.

In the mountains of the north county there are pine, and the pine has its own unique beauty, but you can't grow anything around them because they make the ground too acidic. Ponderosa - that is quite the tree.

In L.A. too, more toward the north side they had avocado orchards, but when the developers came in they didn't always take the tree out, so sometimes in some places in older L.A., Pasadena or whatnot, when you go in the backyard there is a big avocado tree there - and the avocados are entirely good to go. Those trees make a terrific canopy - always 10 degrees cooler underneath, plenty of shade, and the dirt that is produced underneath the leaves that bunch up in piles and have to be raked has a musty odor.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Omnitopia & Borges

from a reader email

thank you!

(thinks to my-self: wondering how omnitopia can be thought of as narrative or non-narrative - the aleph as a "happening" or maybe more of a cosmological constant, or as just a shorthand for understanding a phenomenon, like the Nietzschean "abyss")


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Donnie Darko

This film was recommended to me by a relative, and I can after viewing it see why it has a cult following. It's a teen movie, but it's smart enough for adults; it's a paranormal science fiction piece, kind of a souped-up Twilight Zone. Jake Gyllenhaal performs the role of Donnie with considerable skill, there are also highly enjoyable performances from Drew Barrymore as an earnest English teacher and Patrick Swayze as a two-faced self-help guru. Spoilers follow.

It's the story however that is the most compelling. Is Donnie crazy, or has he just somehow accessed a parallel dimension? At first we're not sure. He has medication to take for emotional problems, he sees a menacing 6ft tall rabbit named Frank who tells him, among other things, that the world will end in 28 days. The falling of a dangerous object from the sky provokes him into exploring the feasibility of time travel, and there is also a charming romance interwoven with the rest of the plot.

Much like the director of Ghost, (another film starring Patrick Swayze - why is Patrick Swayze always getting involved in films with emotional intensity bordering on the manipulative?) the director of this film seeks to manipulate your emotions throughout the story, in order to build sympathy for certain characters, only to reveal an eschatological gotcha! at the end. I don't mind it though because the messages are so sweet and indulgent in that let's-relive-our-high-school-drama kind of way. Ah if only for a time machine, ha ha.

I didn't have much difficulty grasping the scientific theory presented as an explanation for all the strange events -it seems plausible that the universe could have evolutionary forks that collapse upon themselves in the same way that the biosphere does. The questions would be then - how do they happen? How often? And at what speed? Speed is something often useful to keep in mind when viewing or reading science fiction of any kind. But those are good questions for the intellectually curious.

Its hard to shake the image of the rabbit in this movie as no less than demonic, since there is another film that came out about the same time in which the rabbit is a devilish figure. But does the rabbit save Donnie or want to kill him? The interplay that Donnie has with this shadowy spirit guide is less easy to explain, even when the science appears at the end of the film to sort of "explain it." (they made me do it - carved in front of the atrocious school mascot by Donnie-as-prankster: well, who? There's just one rabbit - we know he doesn't mean "they" in that persecuted-loner kind of way)

At first it appears that the story means to send a message about drug use in America - it all takes place in 1988, and there is the debate televised between Dukakis and Bush 41 in which they mention radically different approaches to drug policy and Latin America. Donnie himself seems at least mildly damaged by his own medication. Does the writer mean to suggest that the "end of the world"that Frank the Rabbit describes is the perfect rapture of the police state brought on by the imminent succession of HW Bush to the presidency, and the Left's resulting capitulation - better expressed in my opinion by the Batman films - or is this just another one of these high school "fantasies" that is expressed scientifically at the end of the film as a mere "tangent universe" along with other such fantasies that step into that universe during the film - such as an English teacher who really gets you, pranksters flooding the school until it closes, and making love to the prettiest girl in the class on Halloween night?

In other words the director means to ask us which universe is the tangent and which one is normal/better? Where is a position of manipulation, and what is just a prank? There is enough comedy in the film too so one can laugh while thinking about these things.