Several science fiction creators commented on the film. Author William Gibson, a key figure in cyberpunk fiction, called the film “an innocent delight I hadn’t felt in a long time,” and stated, “Neo is my favourite-ever science fiction hero, absolutely.” Joss Whedon called the film “my number one” and praised its storytelling, structure and depth, concluding, “It works on whatever level you want to bring to it.” Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky commented, “I walked out of The Matrix … and I was thinking, ‘What kind of science fiction movie can people make now?’ The Wachowski Brothers basically took all the great sci-fi ideas of the 20th century and rolled them into a delicious pop culture sandwich that everyone on the planet devoured.” Director M. Night Shyamalan expressed admiration for the Wachowski Brothers, stating, “Whatever you think of The Matrix, every shot is there because of the passion they have! You can see they argued it out!”. Actor and screenwriter Simon Pegg said that The Matrix provided “the excitement and satisfaction that The Phantom Menace failed to inspire. The Matrix seemed fresh and cool and visually breathtaking; making wonderful, intelligent use of CGI to augment the on-screen action, striking a perfect balance of the real and the hyperreal. It was possibly the coolest film I had ever seen.” Director Quentin Tarantino counted The Matrix as one of his twenty favourite movies from 1992 to 2009.
Categories for Books, films and TV
One of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, Allerleirauh. In Dutch the title of this story is Bontepels, in English All-Kinds-of-Fur, sometimes translated as Thousandfurs. The three dresses in this story had stuck with me.
… three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars; besides this, I wish for a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur and hair joined together …
I did search for a moon dress this Monday morning. I came across an Alexander McQueen dress. Beautiful. I also found a lovely golden dress and one which to me resembles a star in a way, both from McQueen as well. The mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur i didn’t find. But another fur mantle did pop up which looks lovely.
In another post i will dive deeper into McQueen’s work.
You may read the fairy tale Allerleirauh here, and listen to me reading this aloud. Enjoy!
There was once on a time a King who had a wife with golden hair, and she was so beautiful that her equal was not to be found on earth. It came to pass that she lay ill, and as she felt that she must soon die, she called the King and said, “If thou wishest to marry again after my death, take no one who is not quite as beautiful as I am, and who has not just such golden hair as I have: this thou must promise me.” And after the King had promised her this she closed her eyes and died.
For a long time the King could not be comforted, and had no thought of taking another wife. At length his councillors said, “There is no help for it, the King must marry again, that we may have a Queen.” And now messengers were sent about far and wide, to seek a bride who equalled the late Queen in beauty. In the whole world, however, none was to be found, and even if one had been found, still there would have been no one who had such golden hair. So the messengers came home as they went.
Now the King had a daughter, who was just as beautiful as her dead mother, and had the same golden hair. When she was grown up the King looked at her one day, and saw that in every respect she was like his late wife, and suddenly felt a violent love for her. Then he spake to his councillors, “I will marry my daughter, for she is the counterpart of my late wife, otherwise I can find no bride who resembles her.” When the councillors heard that, they were shocked, and said, “God has forbidden a father to marry his daughter, no good can come from such a crime, and the kingdom will be involved in the ruin.” The daughter was still more shocked when she became aware of her father’s resolution, but hoped to turn him from his design. Then she said to him, “Before I fulfil your wish, I must have three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars; besides this, I wish for a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur and hair joined together, and one of every kind of animal in your kingdom must give a piece of his skin for it.” But she thought, “To get that will be quite impossible, and thus I shall divert my father from his wicked intentions.” The King, however, did not give it up, and the cleverest maidens in his kingdom had to weave the three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars, and his huntsmen had to catch one of every kind of animal in the whole of his kingdom, and take from it a piece of its skin, and out of these was made a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur. At length, when all was ready, the King caused the mantle to be brought, spread it out before her, and said, “The wedding shall be to-morrow.” .
When, therefore, the King’s daughter saw that there was no longer any hope of turning her father’s heart, she resolved to run away from him. In the night whilst every one was asleep, she got up, and took three different things from her treasures, a golden ring, a golden spinning-wheel, and a golden reel. The three dresses of the sun, moon, and stars she put into a nutshell, put on her mantle of all kinds of fur, and blackened her face and hands with soot. Then she commended herself to God, and went away, and walked the whole night until she reached a great forest. And as she was tired, she got into a hollow tree, and fell asleep.
The sun rose, and she slept on, and she was still sleeping when it was full day. Then it so happened that the King to whom this forest belonged, was hunting in it. When his dogs came to the tree, they sniffed, and ran barking round about it. The King said to the huntsmen, “Just see what kind of wild beast has hidden itself in there.” The huntsmen obeyed his order, and when they came back they said, “A wondrous beast is lying in the hollow tree; we have never before seen one like it. Its skin is fur of a thousand different kinds, but it is lying asleep.” Said the King, “See if you can catch it alive, and then fasten it to the carriage, and we will take it with us.” When the huntsmen laid hold of the maiden, she awoke full of terror, and cried to them, “I am a poor child, deserted by father and mother; have pity on me, and take me with you.” Then said they, “Allerleirauh, thou wilt be useful in the kitchen, come with us, and thou canst sweep up the ashes.” So they put her in the carriage, and took her home to the royal palace. There they pointed out to her a closet under the stairs, where no daylight entered, and said, “Hairy animal, there canst thou live and sleep.” Then she was sent into the kitchen, and there she carried wood and water, swept the hearth, plucked the fowls, picked the vegetables, raked the ashes, and did all the dirty work.
Allerleirauh lived there for a long time in great wretchedness. Alas, fair princess, what is to become of thee now! It happened, however, that one day a feast was held in the palace, and she said to the cook, “May I go up-stairs for a while, and look on? I will place myself outside the door.” The cook answered, “Yes, go, but you must be back here in half-an-hour to sweep the hearth.” Then she took her oil-lamp, went into her den, put off her fur-dress, and washed the soot off her face and hands, so that her full beauty once more came to light. And she opened the nut, and took out her dress which shone like the sun, and when she had done that she went up to the festival, and every one made way for her, for no one knew her, and thought no otherwise than that she was a king’s daughter. The King came to meet her, gave his hand to her, and danced with her, and thought in his heart, “My eyes have never yet seen any one so beautiful!” When the dance was over she curtsied, and when the King looked round again she had vanished, and none knew whither. The guards who stood outside the palace were called and questioned, but no one had seen her.
She had, however, run into her little den, had quickly taken off her dress, made her face and hands black again, put on the fur-mantle, and again was Allerleirauh. And now when she went into the kitchen, and was about to get to her work and sweep up the ashes, the cook said, “Leave that alone till morning, and make me the soup for the King; I, too, will go upstairs awhile, and take a look; but let no hairs fall in, or in future thou shalt have nothing to eat.” So the cook went away, and Allerleirauh made the soup for the king, and made bread soup and the best she could, and when it was ready she fetched her golden ring from her little den, and put it in the bowl in which the soup was served. When the dancing was over, the King had his soup brought and ate it, and he liked it so much that it seemed to him he had never tasted better. But when he came to the bottom of the bowl, he saw a golden ring lying, and could not conceive how it could have got there. Then he ordered the cook to appear before him.
The cook was terrified when he heard the order, and said to Allerleirauh, “Thou hast certainly let a hair fall into the soup, and if thou hast, thou shalt be beaten for it.” When he came before the King the latter asked who had made the soup? The cook replied, “I made it.” But the King said, “That is not true, for it was much better than usual, and cooked differently.” He answered, “I must acknowledge that I did not make it, it was made by the rough animal.” The King said, “Go and bid it come up here.” When Allerleirauh came, the King said, “Who art thou?” “I am a poor girl who no longer has any father or mother.” He asked further, “Of what use art thou in my palace?” She answered, “I am good for nothing but to have boots thrown at my head.” He continued, “Where didst thou get the ring which was in the soup?” She answered, “I know nothing about the ring.” So the King could learn nothing, and had to send her away again.
After a while, there was another festival, and then, as before, Allerleirauh begged the cook for leave to go and look on. He answered, “Yes, but come back again in half-an-hour, and make the King the bread soup which he so much likes.” Then she ran into her den, washed herself quickly, and took out of the nut the dress which was as silvery as the moon, and put it on. Then she went up and was like a princess, and the King stepped forward to meet her, and rejoiced to see her once more, and as the dance was just beginning they danced it together. But when it was ended, she again disappeared so quickly that the King could not observe where she went. She, however, sprang into her den, and once more made herself a hairy animal, and went into the kitchen to prepare the bread soup. When the cook had gone up-stairs, she fetched the little golden spinning-wheel, and put it in the bowl so that the soup covered it.
Then it was taken to the King, who ate it, and liked it as much as before, and had the cook brought, who this time likewise was forced to confess that Allerleirauh had prepared the soup. Allerleirauh again came before the King, but she answered that she was good for nothing else but to have boots thrown at her head, and that she knew nothing at all about the little golden spinning-wheel.
When, for the third time, the King held a festival, all happened just as it had done before. The cook said, “Faith rough-skin, thou art a witch, and always puttest something in the soup which makes it so good that the King likes it better than that which I cook,” but as she begged so hard, he let her go up at the appointed time. And now she put on the dress which shone like the stars, and thus entered the hall. Again the King danced with the beautiful maiden, and thought that she never yet had been so beautiful. And whilst she was dancing, he contrived, without her noticing it, to slip a golden ring on her finger, and he had given orders that the dance should last a very long time. When it was ended, he wanted to hold her fast by her hands, but she tore herself loose, and sprang away so quickly through the crowd that she vanished from his sight.
She ran as fast as she could into her den beneath the stairs, but as she had been too long, and had stayed more than half-an-hour she could not take off her pretty dress, but only threw over it her fur-mantle, and in her haste she did not make herself quite black, but one finger remained white. Then Allerleirauh ran into the kitchen, and cooked the bread soup for the King, and as the cook was away, put her golden reel into it. When the King found the reel at the bottom of it, he caused Allerleirauh to be summoned, and then he espied the white finger, and saw the ring which he had put on it during the dance. Then he grasped her by the hand, and held her fast, and when she wanted to release herself and run away, her mantle of fur opened a little, and the star-dress shone forth. The King clutched the mantle and tore it off. Then her golden hair shone forth, and she stood there in full splendour, and could no longer hide herself. And when she had washed the soot and ashes from her face, she was more beautiful than anyone who had ever been seen on earth. But the King said, “Thou art my dear bride, and we will never more part from each other.”
Thereupon the marriage was solemnized, and they lived happily until their death.
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A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, or simply anti-utopia) is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is translated as “not-good place”, an antonym of utopia.
Images of a dystopian future are custom in futuristic scifi blockbusters like The Hunger Games, Blade Runner, the Terminator series, RoboCop, The Matrix, The Island, WALL-E, Snowpiercer, Divergent and The Maze Runner. And so many many more.
The one book on my reading list, Infinite Jest, is a dystopian novel. Dystopian books are a big theme within young adult fiction.
I have grown up with dystopian stories. Science fiction, as a genre focused on a future in whatever shape, has many dystopian stories. The main story of our present earth right now in 2017 evolves around climate change, war, globalization and post-capitalism. There are many forces going against each other. One time one party seems to be gaining ground, the next time another party wins a fight.
Looking at our planet as it is right now, it is hard to see what path we will take. Nature, the woods, the rain forest, the mammals, fishes, insects, birds: they are taking a beating. But they still survive. And life on this planet is on a ever changing path as it is. For millions of years.
It is impossible to predict the future.
Dystopian stories are our dreams of a possible future.
Dystopian fictions invariably reflect the concerns and fears of its contemporaneous culture. We can fight. Fight the armies of the rich and powerful. As we do in the stories. We can dream. Dream our live away from our present world. Dream our wishes away in a thought out world in which we are able to stand up. As one amongst many. To get back to living our ordinary lives in our ordinary world the next ordinary moment. It is like we go on a holiday for a couple of weeks to a sunny bright beachy hotel right next to the sea. To get back home and start working again. The ordinary life.
Dystopian stories are a relief from our ordinary lives, a relief from our ordinary work. A way out of our world, dreary as it seems. Dystopian stories are related to our world. It does reflect concerns and fears of our world, as it is today. Yes. A scary story with a true hero fighting for a good cause against the evil enemy.
The increasing interpenetration of government, university, and private firms has led everyone to adopt the language, sensibilities, and organizational forms that originated in the corporate world. Although this might have helped in creating marketable products, since that is what corporate bureaucracies are designed to do, in terms of fostering original research, the results have been catastrophic.
I love several dystopian stories. A few weeks ago i posted about The Handmaid’s Tale, a television series i really like and admire. In the scifi books i have there are many dystopian elements. It is a good area for people who think and dream about our current society to tell a meaningful story. To make up a new world, to set out its details and idiosyncracies and interconnectedness.
But right now, i am more interested in our present world. In what constitutes power. Where are the details here, in this world we live in.
It is so easy to look away. It is so easy to hide within your own cocoon of work and friends and facebook and home. It is so easy to not think about this world where we are right now and which way we are headed.
Our world, this planet we live on, is a wonderful, glorious, beautiful place. We are messing up things, yes. But it still is beautiful.
We should do our most urgent best to make it better again. And many people are doing exactly that. Working in other countries to save chimps or ants or dolphins or whales or the rain forest or the Antarctica or poor hungry people or whatever needs saving.
I’m not believing in all the dystopian stories there are about. No. But i do believe there is something really wrong in our current world. I can not point it out directly. I am thinking of the rich people. Thinking of the powerful people. Thinking of the people telling us what to think, what to feel. But i don’t know for sure.
I’m thinking of the news this evening telling us the economy is doing well this year. Showing images of people walking in shopping streets and spending money. It will rise with 2,4%. Yay!
Which is ridiculous. Stupid. What are people buying? What are they spending their money on?
My mind is not clear about these things. But i am thinking. And talking with friends. And moving my life away from the way of life we are told we should live.
A new story. Not dystopian. Not utopian. Not a dream world, but a world we work hard in. A world in which we are going to miss many of the things making our lives look pleasurable. That is the way i think we should move in.
I should talk about this with other people. Of course. Talk, fight, argue. Make myself clear. Listen to what other people have to say. There are so many things i don’t know anything about.
Because this is an enormous fight. No mistake. Huge!
- The cyberpunk dystopia we were warned about is already here
- Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit
- Project Hieroglyph: Fighting society’s dystopian future
- Death of a Dystopian
- Why Do We Like Dystopian Novels?
- The Rising Popularity of Dystopian Literature
- Forget the ‘Hunger Games’: Dystopia Is Alive and Well in America
- From utopia to dystopia: technology, society and what we can do about it
There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
If you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explaining what water is, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude – but the fact is that, in the day-to-day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have life-or-death importance. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. So let’s get concrete …
A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. Here’s one example of the utter wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real – you get the idea. But please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to preach to you about compassion or other-directedness or the so-called “virtues”. This is not a matter of virtue – it’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centred, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.
By way of example, let’s say it’s an average day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging job, and you work hard for nine or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired, and you’re stressed out, and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for a couple of hours and then hit the rack early because you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home – you haven’t had time to shop this week, because of your challenging job – and so now, after work, you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the workday, and the traffic’s very bad, so getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping, and the store’s hideously, fluorescently lit, and infused with soul-killing Muzak or corporate pop, and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be, but you can’t just get in and quickly out: you have to wander all over the huge, overlit store’s crowded aisles to find the stuff you want, and you have to manoeuvre your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts, and of course there are also the glacially slow old people and the spacey people and the kids who all block the aisle and you have to grit your teeth and try to be polite as you ask them to let you by, and eventually, finally, you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough checkout lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush, so the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating, but you can’t take your fury out on the frantic lady working the register.
Anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and pay for your food, and wait to get your cheque or card authenticated by a machine, and then get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death, and then you have to take your creepy flimsy plastic bags of groceries in your cart through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and try to load the bags in your car in such a way that everything doesn’t fall out of the bags and roll around in the trunk on the way home, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive rush-hour traffic, etc, etc.
The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem here in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line, and look at how deeply unfair this is: I’ve worked really hard all day and I’m starved and tired and I can’t even get home to eat and unwind because of all these stupid goddamn people.
Or if I’m in a more socially conscious form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic jam being angry and disgusted at all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUVs and Hummers and V12 pickup trucks burning their wasteful, selfish, 40-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers, who are usually talking on cell phones as they cut people off in order to get just 20 stupid feet ahead in a traffic jam, and I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and disgusting we all are, and how it all just sucks …
If I choose to think this way, fine, lots of us do – except that thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic it doesn’t have to be a choice. Thinking this way is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic, unconscious way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the centre of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities. The thing is that there are obviously different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stuck and idling in my way: it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUVs have been in horrible car accidents in the past and now find driving so traumatic that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive; or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to rush to the hospital, and he’s in a much bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am – it is actually I who am in his way.
Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you’re “supposed to” think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it, because it’s hard, it takes will and mental effort, and if you’re like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat-out won’t want to. But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her little child in the checkout line – maybe she’s not usually like this; maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of her husband who’s dying of bone cancer, or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the Motor Vehicles Dept who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a nightmarish red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible – it just depends on what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important – if you want to operate on your default setting – then you, like me, will not consider possibilities that aren’t pointless and annoying. But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars – compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff’s necessarily true: the only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.
Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship – be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles – is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already – it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. Worship power – you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart – you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.
The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the “rat race” – the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational. What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away. Obviously, you can think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr Laura sermon. None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness – awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”
Source: The Guardian – David Foster Wallace ‘Plain old untrendy troubles and emotions’
I still have Infinite Jest lying in my bookcase, for the most part unread. I made posts about the book here, on this blog. But it is hard. For me right now. I want some lighter reading.
But i will read it, someday!
This commencement speech is very well thought out. It is almost hurtful to hear the audience laughing at certain passages. Maybe because they recognize something? Something they do experience in their own life?
I don’t know.
I only know myself. The past two and a half years i’ve been working hard on myself. The work is never done. There are failings – times i don’t want to bother – times i’m occupied with myself. Any excuse. Really. But yes, working hard. Smiling at people i walk by on the street. Helping people as much as possible.
Helping a lady at the check-out counter in the supermarket, to get her groceries on the band. And when she is finished helping her to get her stuff in her rollator.
Helping a woman to get a parcel in her bag. I saw her standing at the side of the pavement struggling with it. I simply asked her. Do you need any help?
Talking to a man shouting in the city center, about how people hate him. Walking up to him and telling him: I don’t hate you. What you say doesn’t count for me.
Simple things. Not things i am proud of. Because i see so many more things. So many more people asking for help, and not getting anything.
This world is cruel.
I still need to learn so many things.
This is water.
This is water.
The name Margaret Atwood i am familiar with. I’m pretty sure i read some of her books in the 80s. Borrowing them from the library. I don’t think i have read The Handmaid’s Tale though. I am reading it right now. It is written in a clean language. Not many adjectives. Words describing the world, the people, their acts. A dystopian novel, about a future land called Gilead. Not smashed to pieces, not dirty. Clean, bright. The biggest problem? Babies. Getting them. It is difficult.
So a new world. A strict world. A delineated world. All people are put in a specific cast and are dressed the same. The handmaids wear red dresses. The wives wear blue dresses. Handmaids are raped once a month in their fertile moment by their owner in the company of his barren wife, grabbing their hands while the owner thrusts his cock inside the maid.
We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone. A balcony ran around the room, for the spectators, and I thought I could smell, faintly like an afterimage, the pungent scent of sweat, shot through with the sweet taint of chewing gum and perfume from the watching girls, felt-skirted as I knew from pictures, later in mini-skirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green-streaked hair. Dances would have been held there; the music lingered, a palimpsest of unheard sound, style upon style, an undercurrent of drums, a forlorn wail, garlands made of tissue-paper flowers, cardboard devils, a revolving ball of mirrors, powdering the dancers with a snow of light.
There was old sex in the room and loneliness, and expectation, of something without a shape or name. I remember that yearning, for something that was always about to happen and was never the same as the hands that were on us there and then, in the small of the back, or out back, in the parking lot, or in the television room with the sound turned down and only the pictures flickering over lifting flesh.
The television series The Handmaid’s Tale started showing 26 April 2017. Three episodes were released the first day. Yesterday, Wednesday, was the fifth episode. It is absolutely exquisite. Scary. Horrific. Familiar. Strange.
Elisabeth Moss plays the main character of Offred/June. You hear her voice, her thoughts spoken out through all the scenes. Alexis Bledel plays another handmaid. Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski play the Commander and his Wife, the owners of Offred.
The five episodes i have seen so far are highly recommended. Reading the reviews is a favorite pasttime. I mostly go to the A.V. Club and check their Handsmaid’s Tale page.
Hulu, The Handmaid’s Tale, Wednesday stream
This series is renewed for a second season in 2018.
- Slate: The Handmaid’s Tale
- Review: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Creates a Chilling Man’s World
- ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ review: Elisabeth Moss captivates in dystopian nightmare
- The dark future of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ feels terrifyingly real
- Review ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is told anew on Hulu and it feels disquietingly contemporary
- Metacritic review page
- Elisabeth Moss on The Handmaid’s Tale and what happens when sex becomes a radical political act
- The Handmaid’s Tale’s first 3 episodes are brilliant, terrifying television
- Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is an extraordinary adaptation of an enduring classic
Saturday mornings are special. The first part of the weekend, nothing urgent that needs doing – most of the time anyway. I usually sleep in a little longer, boil or bake an egg. And watch television. Some repeats, and, at eleven (here in the Netherlands – one hour later than in the UK) Saturday Kitchen Live!
The main presenter, for ten years, was James Martin. In February 2016 Martin announced he would leave the show a couple of months later. Since he left several chefs have presented the show. I enjoy Angela Hartnett the most.
The show follows a specific formula. Two chefs cook one of their dishes. A celebrity chef is a special guest. The presenter cooks a dish for him/her while (s)he talks with hime/her. In between the dishes several older items are shown. The kitchen is cleaned up in the meantime. The Omelette Challenge is a race between the two chefs. Who will cook the fastest omelette. The record holder is Theo Randall, with a time of 14.76 seconds, set on 2 May 2015.
The special guest has an food heaven dish and a food hell dish. People calling in with a question and the two chefs can pick either. The show ends with one of the dishes being cooked by the presenter and the two chefs and eaten by the guest.
First Ever Omelette Challenge – Saturday Kitchen (BBC – 24 Jun 2006)
I am not watching this show each week anymore. But a few years ago i did. And these days when i do watch it, i do enjoy it. So this is for an old favorite.
GENNARO CONTALDO AND PAUL RANKIN Omelette Challenge SATURDAY KITCHEN LIVE
THE OMELETTE CHALLENGE Alain Roux NATHAN OUTLAW Marcus Wareing SATURDAY KITCHEN
Thomas Keller Omelette Challenge on BBC Saturday Kitchen
ANTONIO BANDERAS LAUGHING AMUSED AT OMELETTE CHALLENGE Saturday Kitchen Live JAMES MARTIN
Ruthie Henshall Saturday Kitchen food heaven or food hell
Alfie Boe’s Food Heaven and Food Hell
400th FOOD HEAVEN OR FOOD HELL AT SATURDAY KITCHEN LIVE WITH JAMES MARTIN 2015
Samantha Janus Food Hell Part 1 – Saturday Kitchen – BBC
Samantha Janus Food Hell Part 2 – Saturday Kitchen – BBC
Saturday Kitchen – Part 7 (18.09.10)
PS. This post came about because of the food heaven and food hell choice. I like the option in the show, yes. But the words used, heaven and hell, are lessened in their meaning in this use. They are simple advertisement talk. I do feel uncertain about this. My mind is getting a bit sharper, and i do find myself listening with a clearer ear. The proper meaning of these words heaven and hell has got nothing to do with food. But i do think this needs its own post, or rather series of posts. And this is not the single use of a word out of its proper meaning. Hell no, advertisement is completely full of this. So i leave this comment as a postscript. To be getting back to later.
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
A poem written by Maya Angelou
This to me is a rare time. It feels like the, i know the Dutch version of this, de schellen vielen me van de ogen. Literally this means scales fall from the eyes, but i’m not sure this is commonly used in English. This saying is originally used in the bible, Acts 9:18:
Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he could see again. Hmm, i guess i was wrong about the English translation.
But i digress. I do feel an opening in myself and a rush of thoughts coming through, looking at myself, experiencing what happens and thinking about it. Trying to find a place outside myself to deal with everything that happens.
I’m not saying this book will mean the same thing to you. I do think each and everyone of us has its own path to follow. But to me right now this book is here just at the right time. I even tried to meditate at the end of today. Not terribly successful, but i do feel i should do this more often.
Now i do know i’m not peacefully quiet right now. No, i feel myself thinking and getting to conclusions which were out of reach for me only a short time ago. I also know i should calm down. Really.
So i did throw my coins just yet. And yes, of course, it is a completely different sign. 36. Ming I / Darkening of the light.
Ellen, calm down. Please.
My apologies for this hectic post.
I am not looking for some irrational mystical guidance. Instead, I am looking for a release from the prison of competing certainties, a way of letting loose the simmering doubts and confusions that accompany all thought, so that I can take advantage of their creative richness. In other words, I use the I Ching not as a certainty machine, but as an uncertainty machine. Dissolving false certainties, it integrates the fact of unknowing into the fabric of my thinking, opening me up to hitherto unimagined possibilities, scattering the monotony of my either-or dilemmas into a myriad of forking paths.
I’m not sure when i bought the I Ching. I do know i still lived at my parents’ home. So it was before the end of 1985. The memory is vague, i’m not sure at all about it, but it could be my sister had the book. And i was mystified by it. So yes, i got me a copy.
Writing in a diary was a big part of my life over the next years. And i usually threw coins to read a hexagram of the I Ching afterwards. I don’t think i had any specific question. It was more asking for a comment on what i felt, what i had written just before.
Some throws i do remember. The one after i had bought Songs To Remember, only a few days after i made the drawings i gave away last year. That one still stands out for me. Not that i understand it. No. But it felt, well, true. Real. Number 13 ䷌ Fellowship with Men with a changing line on number 5. Confucius said the following words, connected with this line:
Life leads the thoughtful man on a path of many windings.
Now the course is checked, now it runs straight again.
Here winged thoughts may pour freely forth in words,
There the heavy burden of knowledge must be shut away in silence.
But when two people are at one in the inmost hearts,
They shatter even the strength of iron or of bronze.
And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts,
Their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids.
Another sign which i felt was true to me, was number 56 The Wanderer ䷷. Even though in my life i have been in one place, i don’t feel truly at home. I have found a place where i can live quietly, by myself. But that is it. It still feels like a place of transition.
This week i did read the I Ching. I focused on the preface written by Prof. Dr. C.G. Jung, the second book The Material with background information about the hexagrams and the third book with the comments about the hexagrams. The images and concepts connected with the eight trigrams are all from the old world. Parts of the body, the family, animals and the world. The wind, the sun, the mountain, water, wood, thunder and lightning are part of this. In the I Ching wikipedia article it says:
In its current form the current compilation is dated to the early decades of the reign of King Xuan of Zhou, in the last quarter of the 9th century BC.
I do enjoy reading the book in hexagrams. Throwing the coins gives you one or two hexagrams to read and think about. Sometimes it gives you a lot of information, sometimes not. I’m pretty sure it depends on yourself how the message comes through. It has given me a growing knowledge of this old world.
Today i downloaded a book called The Philosophy of the I Ching written by Carol K. Anthony.
Fate, as an obstruction, is a door that can be unlocked, but only by the proper key – which is a correct attitude. Upon correcting our attitude we find that our situation improves; but if we then become careless and revert to the incorrect attitude, the door closes once more. Fate, as an obstruction, seems to match us move for move once we have come to this impasse; where we once seemed to be free to err, with no penalty attached, now we have to immediately pay for every mistake; it is as if we have our credit card taken away.
This does remind me of the past two years. I love working in the garden. But i did have some conflicts with other people working there. I remember feeling opposed, as i feel i’m such a nice and good person. This is not true. Of course it isn’t true. I have many sides specked with darkness. Selfishness, thinking of myself alone. It requires work to deal with these parts of myself.
I won’t be able to discuss the I Ching in its entirety in this post. Hell no. There are so many parts which i need to learn more about, and i’m not sure i will have the time to do so in my life. It is the outdoor or the indoor life once again. I don’t know what life will come my way. I don’t know if i have the courage to grab it once it passes by. If it passes by. I still have hope.
I did throw my coins today. With the general idea that writing this post would be an important issue.
above TUI THE JOYOUS, LAKE
below K’UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH
This hexagram is related in form and meaning to Pi, HOLDING TOGETHER (8). In the latter, water is over the earth; here a lake is over the earth. But since the lake is a place where water collects, the idea of gathering together is even more strongly expressed here than in the other hexagram. The same idea also arises from the fact that in the present case it is tow strong lines (the fourth and the fifth) that bring about the gather together, whereas in the former case one strong line (the fifth) stands in the midst of weak lines.
GATHERING TOGETHER. Success.
The king approaches his temple.
It furthers one to see the great man.
This brings success. Perseverance furthers.
To bring great offerings creates good fortune.
It furthers one to undertake something.
The gathering together of people in large communities is either a natural occurrence, as in the case of the family, or an artificial one, as in the case of the state. The family gathers about the father as its head. The perpetuation of
this gathering in groups is achieved through the sacrifice to the ancestors, at which the whole clan is gathered together. Through the collective piety of the living members of the family, the ancestors become so integrated in the spiritual life of the family that it cannot be dispersed or dissolved.
Where men are to be gathered together, religious forces are needed. But there must also be a human leader to serve as the center of the group. In order to be able to bring others together, this leader must first of all be collected within himself. Only collective moral force can unite the world. Such great times of unification will leave great achievements behind them. This is the significance of the great offerings that are made. In the secular sphere likewise there is no need of great deeds in the time of GATHERING TOGETHER.
Over the earth, the lake:
The image of GATHERING TOGETHER.
Thus the superior man renews his weapons
In order to meet the unforeseen.
If the water in the lake gathers until it rises above the earth, there is danger of a break-through. Precautions must be taken to prevent this. Similarly where men gather together in great numbers, strife is likely to arise; where possessions are collected, robbery is likely to occur. hus in the time of GATHERING TOGETHER we must arm promptly to ward off the unexpected. Human woes usually come as a result of unexpected events against which we are not forearmed. If we are prepared, they can be prevented.
Six at the top means:
Lamenting and sighing, floods of tears.
It may happen that an individual would like to ally himself with another, but his good intentions are misunderstood. Then he becomes sad and laments. But this is the right course. For it may cause the other person to come to his senses, so that the alliance that has been sought and so painfully missed is after all achieved.
above CH’IEN THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN
below K’UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH
This hexagram is the opposite of the preceding one. Heaven is above, drawing farther and farther away, while the earth below sinks farther into the depths. The creative powers are not in relation. It is a time of standstill and decline. This hexagram is linked with the seventh month (August-September), when the year has passed its zenith and autumnal decay is setting in.
STANDSTILL. Evil people do not further
The perseverance of the superior man.
The great departs; the small approaches.
Heaven and earth are out of communion and all things are benumbed. What is above has no relation to what is below, and on earth confusion and disorder prevail. The dark power is within, the light power is without. Weakness is within, harshness without. Within are the inferior, and without are the superior. The way of inferior people is in ascent; the way of superior people is one the decline. But the superior people do not allow themselves to be turned from their principles. If the possibility of exerting influence is closed to them, they nevertheless remain faithful to their principles and withdraw into seclusion.
Heaven and earth do not unite:
The image of STANDSTILL.
Thus the superior man falls back upon his inner worth
In order to escape the difficulties.
He does not permit himself to be honored with revenue.
When, owing to the influence of inferior men, mutual mistrust prevails in public life, fruitful activity is rendered impossible, because the fundaments are wrong. Therefore the superior man knows what he must do under such circumstances; he does not allow himself to be tempted by dazzling offers to take part in public activities. This would only expose him to danger, since he cannot assent to the meanness of the others. He therefore hides his worth and withdraws into seclusion.
I was first a bit caught off guard by the second sign, Standstill. In my understanding this sign is not a positive one; a time of standstill and decline. But, the final paragraph of The Philosophy of the I Ching says the following.
Our job is no less than to put the world in order. We can do this only by being responsive to the Divine Will. The ability of man to act as a conduit for the Divine Will makes him the third primal power, giving him a unique capacity and responsibility to “further.” As the top of Standstill (12) says, “left to itself,” everything changes toward “stagnation and disintegration. The time of disintegration… does not change back automatically to a condition of peace and prosperity; effort must be put forth to end it. This shows the creative attitude that man must take if the world is to be put in order.” This creative work falls to each person who sees that the job must be undertaken, and who cannot turn his back upon the task.
To me, this does say something about my current situation. For the past two and a half years i felt woken up, that sledgehammer feeling i talked about here at times. I have worked hard, these past two years. Actually, today, 9 February, the day i’m writing this post, it is exactly two years that this blog exists.
I have touched many areas. I have written about very personal things here. I have tried new things. And yes, i am surprised that not more people are coming here. I am. But, parts of me thought that living with this blog in the shade was giving me time to think my life through, to come to some sort of decision.
To say yes?