No, I am not a health nut
2008-09-05 21:57:53 ET

Date: yesterday

"We believe we can change things according to our wishes because that's the only happy solution we can see. We don't think of what usually happens..."
- Marcel Proust

"All my life my heart has sought a thing I cannot name."
- Andre Breton

So I've kind of been trying to eat more healthily, and less. I guess I pay more attention to that now, though I despise people doing so and consider it one of those contemporary trends, like environmentalism, for good or bad, and am more aware of how gross some foods really are. Not that I didn't before, but I see it more now, and how I don't really want them. Like, I think it's weird that they have only popcorn, candy, and stuff like that at movie theaters, though I don't know what else they'd serve. Odd thoughts like that occur to me. Everything seems so heavy and clumsy (just think of the design of a burger, if that helps), and I just want something different, more subtle, if that makes sense. I've always loved and eaten so much junk food (that doesn't necessarily mean stuff like greasy pizza). But then I had a great metabolism and nothing I ate seemed to matter whatsoever, really. And I'm not really a glutton. I don't really need things. I always saw the grossness of things. I've lost a few pounds over the summer (I was around 100 in college). That might seem ridiculous to you, but it's all relative, and especially considering I was so absolutely skinny when I was younger, I don't want any excess fat if I don't have to have it. And Nick accuses me of an obsession with skinniness now, stereotypical of our time - the "media," all that. But in a way it's just a matter of aesthetic ideals, which everyone has, not really shallowness. I think people have the idea sometimes that aesthetics is just about "looking good" or something, but aesthetics is about the perception of everything - something looking evil, frightening, beautiful, the "healthfulness" of a body part, and finally a mental kind of aesthetics, of "beauty" - why you think a moment is "beautiful" and how it's connected to imagery and our concepts of it. I feel so uninteresting sometimes. I don't know how to get out of the habit of being me and talking about the things I talk about. But it was always true that I was morbidly obsessed with, highly conscious of, my appearance, details of it. I have a morbid fear of all those things to do with the body. I'm just waiting for the day when I'm older and go crazy and am in a dark room all the time with a head like a black hole, an Expressionistic, nightmarish blurry figure. And in a way I was always kind of oddly detached from my body, because my life was so mental, I guess, and I fulfilled not any of my ideals or mental images, so that I couldn't even conceive of myself visually. I just feel like doing a little what I can now.

In other "news," I really need to learn to be succinct.

I think I'm going to make a PostSecret postcard!

"One should never completely relax unless one wants to feel the poetry of slowly dying."
2008-09-05 21:56:50 ET

August 31, 2008

"Aside from Fanny Brice, 'the rest of my attention was concentrated on the famous Follies girls. I was not impressed. Only Anastasia Reilly...showed personality, that faithfulness to nature which I sought, and still seek, in all human beings.'"
- Louise Brooks

I've found out that Pepto-Bismol can sometimes makes your tongue black as a side effect.

I really want to go to Japan for some reason. I want to be permanently on vacation. Just always relaxing/having excitement and never returning to my serious life, to having to think about what to do with it.

Saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The funny thing is that I'm like both Vicky and Cristina. I'm not really like Vicky in how she wants a practical life, and loves the idea of commitment and wants to marry a man because he's "decent and successful." And Cristina seems more easygoing than me, kind of pleasant and easily pleased. But I think I sound like Vicky, how she's kind of skeptical and not instantly charmed by Juan Antonio, kind of sarcastic and challenging (I could already hear my biting, sardonic response to him), reasoning things out well, but she's sensitive, too, loves beauty, and keeps things hidden. And I'm like Cristina, who has a romantic spirit (she likes the idea of these things) and loves artistry and creativity and on some level spontaneity and wants to live this kind of life of art and creativity, who appreciates art but doesn't think she's talented in anything, disdains the American way, rejecting conventionalism and "cliches," all that's mainstream, maybe for the sake of contradiction, believes that pain is inevitable and part of love but has some ideal of love, always searching for something, searching for some impossible relationship, never knowing what she wants but only knowing definitely what she doesn't want, never satisfied with anything. "You will never find that life for which you are looking..." Why does that Epic of Gilgamesh line seem to apply to everything, sum it all up?

Also saw Repulsion, a 1960s Roman Polanski film, psychological suspense, I guess. It's about a young woman who's repulsed by physicality and sexuality, who gradually goes insane while her sister is away on vacation and she's living by herself, imagining cracks appearing in the walls, things she's fixated on, at night a man raping her in her bed. I'm not sure why, but the skinned-rabbit-on-a-platter thing seems like a recurring thing in film/art, or more probably, that other things are based on it.

I feel sometimes that the only thing I've got going for me is that I'm young. And now I'm kind of wistful over, or at least more aware of, all the things I didn't do, and that I can never do, some things I was precluded to because of the only thing I see standing between me and happiness, my personality. If I were able to take a drill to my head, it would probably make me content, which, after all, may only be complete tolerance. If I'm not happy, it's just because I cannot be completely tolerant of everything.

A really good movie is A Tale of Two Sisters (lame translated title, I know), a South Korean horror/psychological horror movie that's just well-done, really interesting and nuanced, moving, with some really creepy, extremely tense moments, not to mention just visually beautiful. Wow, I sound like a review.

What I've been reading... I'm reading a biography of Louise Brooks (the one by Barry Paris), and The Life of Pi, which everyone thought was great a few years back. I'm liking it, but the last thing I read to amaze me is still Mrs. Dalloway. What I like about it is that he has a lot of respect for animals, a way of making them very interesting and/or human. And same with me, I guess. I love all animals (especially cats). Well, maybe not "love" all of them. I don't like spiders and things. But I think I still give them more respect or something than a lot of people; I try not to kill them, understanding the irrationality of killing them because they happen to be living in "your home," which, being on the earth, is perfectly the same their territory, too, and are repulsive to you, none of which they can help, all of which is silly to end their life for. What right have you? And I anthropomorphize them in charming, whimsical ways, which, perhaps, is not really respecting them... But I can't help seeing goodness in that, taking them out of their nature, being kinder to their nature and attributing human qualities to them because we are human and can do that. Just as we shouldn't just stand by and watch an animal devouring another one alive, just because it's "natural" and we have nothing to do with it, because we are human and it is horrifying to us. I guess I believe in a human dignity that stands as objectivity.

Why is it that whenever I start writing a journal entry, I always start rambling?

Lulu of the Silver Screen
2008-09-05 21:56:00 ET

EDIT: This entry is actually from August 26. I have since read a good biography of Louise Brooks (the 1989 one by Barry Paris), and I now know that she was a remarkable person, and I know I like her. I am sure of her amazing individuality.

"I must confess to a lifelong curse: My own failure as a social creature.

And I do not excuse myself with the usual escape of 'not trying.' I tried with all my heart."
- Louise Brooks

This is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, actresses. She was a silent-era actress, an iconic screen persona, naturalistic, especially in comparison with the exaggerated, expressionistic style of a lot of silent film actors (which style I like, too), oddly contemporary. Though she was only in cinema for about a decade, her legacy is considerable, and I think she is the most important "flapper"-actress. You certainly recognize her hairstyle, if nothing else of her. I don't know if I like her as a person (some things strike me as kind of sour, smacking of non-greatness), but I do love to see her acting, always. She was truly original.

A short biography, which I basically based on and took/culled from Wikipedia and this article in a newspaper:

"I have failed in everything - spelling, arithmetic, riding...dancing, singing, acting; wife, mistress, whore, friend."

Louise Brooks, sometimes called "Brooksie," was born in Cherryvale, Kansas in 1906 and grew up in various cities in Kansas, until the age of 15. Her father, Leonard Porter Brooks, was a lawyer who didn’t have much time for his children, and her mother, Myra Rude Brooks, was an artistic person, a talented pianist, who told her husband that "he was her escape to freedom and the arts, and that any squalling brats she produced could take care of themselves." She always had a cold, distant, strained relationship with her mother. Mrs. Brooks, however, instilled in her children a love of art, literature and music. At the age of nine, Louise was molested by a middle-aged man named, interestingly/amusingly enough, Mr. Flowers, having followed the lure of the candy he would leave on his doorstep every day and come inside his house, which the other children weren’t bold enough to do (has that ever happened in reality?!). Louise later said that the experience had a great influence on her sexual attitudes: "For me, nice, soft, easy men were never enough – there had to be an element of domination," and blamed her psychological damage on it. She said, "I was loused up by my Lolita experience."

When she was 15 (in 1922), she left Kansas to move to New York City, where she pursued her dancing career and joined the artsy Denishawn Dance Company, run by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. However, she left two years later, when St. Denis told her in front of everyone, "I am dismissing you because you want life handed to you on a silver salver." (These words made a great impression on her and she later titled the last chapter of an autobiography "The Silver Salver.") She caught the attention of Florenz Ziegfeld while on stage and then joined the famous Ziegfeld Follies. Charlie Chaplin, who saw her performing, was attracted to her and they spent the summer of 1925 going around together in a notorious affair. Louise already had a reputation of being a "tramp."

Having been noticed by a producer for her performance on the Follies, she signed a five-year contract with Paramount Pictures in 1925. She debuted on the screen in The Street of Forgotten Men (1925) in an uncredited role. Soon after that, she was starring in light comedies and flapper films, including a "vamp" role in A Girl in Every Port (1928). "Women all over America copied her hairdo, and for two years in Hollywood every little breeze whispered Louise. But they could never copy her caprice."

In 1926 she married Eddie Sutherland, one of her directors, but she soon fell in love with George Preston Marshall, owner of a laundry chain and future owner of the Washington Redskins football team, and divorced Sutherland in 1928. Hating the Hollywood scene, she quit Paramount and went to Europe with Marshall, who wanted her company on a cruise. She is known for her disdain for the industry and her independence from it. "And then in a kind of afterthought of unemployment, she accepted an offer to make a film in Berlin for a director she'd never heard of. She was no great authority on American directors, let alone German expression-realists." She made the film, Pandora's Box, her best, with director G. W. Pabst. Pandora's Box is critically acclaimed and often considered one of the greatest silent films, and is (in my opinion) definitely her best, her greatest role. She then starred in another film directed by Pabst, Diary of a Lost Girl (which I also really like). After that, she starred in Prix de Beaute, a French film. "By 1930, after just three European films, Louise Brooks was the rage of Berlin and Paris. And then she fled from the scene of her triumph – which was typical of her. Time and again, Louise Brooks snatched obscurity from the jaws of fame." (She had a way of what we see as sabotaging her life, when for her she was probably just living out her life or following her heart or doing what she wanted or mistakenly chose.)

"When Brooks returned to Hollywood, she didn't find it waiting with open arms. Her often indifferent attitude to filmmaking led to fewer and fewer roles, eventually forcing her into bankruptcy, a return to dancing, a few bit parts in bad movies..." "It was not until 30 years later that this rebellious move (quitting Paramount and going to Europe) came to be seen as arguably the most savvy of her career, securing her immortality as a silent film legend and independent spirit." When Louise refused to come back to Paramount for sound retakes of The Canary Murder Case, she was placed on an unofficial blacklist. When William Wellman, her director for Beggars of Life (1928), offered her a starring role in The Public Enemy, she turned it down to visit Marshall in New York City. "She just wasn't interested....She was more interested in Marshall." (The part went instead to Jean Harlow.) She had a continuous, on-off, relationship with Marshall throughout the 1920s and '30s, which she described as "abusive."

In 1933 she married millionaire Deering Davis, but left him only five months later (they officially divorced in 1938). As her opportunities diminished and she failed to seize them, her acting career was waning and coming to a close. Her last film was the 1939 John Wayne Western Overland Stage Raiders, in which she played the romantic female lead, with a long hairstyle, so drastically different from her earlier days. After a failed attempt at operating a dance studio, she finally left Hollywood. "Retiring" from the screen at the age of 33, she sank into obscurity, misery, and hardship. "Enough was enough. Disgusted, depressed and pretty near destitute, it was time to say farewell to Hollywood once and for all. It was time to give up. On July 30, 1940, she took the train home to Kansas." "But that turned out to be another kind of hell," Louise said of her return to Wichita. "The citizens of Wichita either resented me having been a success or despised me for having been a failure." Her relationship with her mother grew worse, and Louise came to hate her. She was constantly involved in scandals, "always written up in the paper," where it would be a "story about a wife coming home and finding her husband 'being taught a ballroom dance horizontally in bed.'"

She went back to Manhattan in 1942, having been wired the money for a train ticket by a rich New York investment banker who wanted her company. Things didn't get any better for Louise. She worked briefly as a radio actor and gossip columnist, and for a few years as a salesgirl in a Saks Fifth Avenue store. She had lifelong problems with alcohol and alcoholism, which she battled to begin writing about film later. "During this period she began her first major writing project, an autobiographical novel... After working on the novel for a number of years, she destroyed the manuscript by throwing it into an incinerator." She had been an extravagant spender her whole life, "but was kind and generous to her friends, almost to a fault." "Between 1948 and 1953, I suppose you would call me a kept woman," she said of that time. "Three decent rich men looked after me."

In the 1950s, "French film historians rediscovered her films...proclaiming her as an actress who surpassed even Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo as a film icon...much to her amusement." She was living as a recluse in New York City at this time. She became a writer and critic of the silent era, reflecting on her career and life as a butterfly. "How I have existed fills me with horror. For I have failed in everything..." Her writings were published and well-received, impressing readers. "She was profiled by the film writer Kenneth Tynan in his essay, 'The Girl with the Black Helmet,'" and "had special relationships with [a couple of] film historians, and they were able to capture on paper some of her amazing personality." She was also interviewed in the '70s for documentaries, Memories of Berlin: The Twilight of Weimar Culture, and the Hollywood series. Louise Brooks died in 1985, at the age of 78, of a heart attack.

Her beauty is always remarked. At first, I wasn't sure if I thought she was exactly beautiful, her particular look, but I guess I do now, and I love incredibly how she looks, and her amazing persona, her seeming brilliance as her character. Someone once described her effect in less-than-great movies as that of a "lighthouse," shining through, the only bright spot in the midst of mediocrity. I don't think most photos do her justice; you just have to see her "in real life" - i.e., on the screen.

There were two truly good movies she was in, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, one being on a lower level of artistic merit than the other. But I do always love Louise Brooks. She always shines. She has a very distinctive look, style, and persona. And I'd like to believe she's like her characters, it's even kind of hard to separate them, though I don't know if I'd like her as a person. It's interesting how she was never really quite a success. I think that it's easy, when looking back at the lives of celebrities or whatever, to see their life as a kind of inevitable fate, like a line you are just tracing. But with Louise, you can kind of see her actually living out her life, being able to make choices, to not be completely interested in acting, to turn down opportunities, being interested in other things, when she could have been a star. And it's weird, her character is always the same and seems to exist outside the reality of the movie in a way. She can bring her character to any movie, she's been in bad movies, too, but it's always refreshing to see her. She's just herself, though I have no idea who she was outside her role. And I once read about Pandora's Box that she stands for "innocence, impulse, and freedom." That's what her character represents, then. She is the quintessential flapper. She's this bright, charming, vibrant woman who has a lot of integrity and not really anything manipulative about her; she's just playful and loves freedom and attention; what causes her downfall is that people around her aren't as good as she is. And I imagine her dancing and smiling and shining vivaciously in this eternal 1920s world. Beautiful and damned, and somehow limp and full of sorrow. "Lulu forever."

Oh, Louise. If ever I loved an actor (and I'm not one to "love" actors), it was this one.

2008-09-05 21:52:08 ET

August 23, 2008

"...that truly is my pet amusement in the sadder moments of life."
- Ivan Fyodorovich

I think I've come to realize more and more how much I really hate my job at the lab. There's nothing that bad about it, only...there is. And sometimes I'm absolutely disgusted by it. Here's something I wrote while I was there: "My boss is always making speeches to everybody, he's talking right now to this kid I never liked from my high school and his dad, and why does everyone seem more important than me?; and no one really interacts with me, it's like I'm a ghost that just refills the pipet-tip cabinet; and I hardly ever do anything; and why do I feel like I'm always kneeling down putting things away or wiping the floor or something while people above me are talking about Science?"

By the way, I struck up a conversation with that same guy, the dad, who "works" here, being lively, expansive, in a way that I rarely do. Because I could. And I wished he would have asked me what I thought of his son, so I could say, "To be honest, I never really liked your son. I don't know why. It's nothing personal. He just always struck me as a kind of frivolous person. But it's not really an insult. I think people are rarely like their parents."

See, what I feel about myself, and have always felt, is that I could have been sociable, charming to everyone, a real Libra, bright and witty and expressive, except that it just never happened that way. I just totally went the other way. And no one erases themselves. And no one's so sensitive to and tormented by everything as I am. Everyone has the ability to hurt me, even with slight things, to make me feel so meek, despite my pride. I live constantly in shame that I did something wrong. And why should it be that way? I sure as hell don't know. I only know that a mixture of genes and personality traits and experiences combines in some dirty and miraculous pool to propagate a never-ending circle that eats it own tail. What? I don't know.

There's just one moment in my life that keeps replaying with so much, bottomless, unable to be exhausted or fade, disgust, shame, pain, and hatred. Why, oh, why did it happen? My parents have never stood up for me once in my whole life. I wonder if it is ethical, on your parent's deathbed, if he or she asks you to answer honestly, "Have I been a good parent to you?", to say, "No," even if it's true. I don't think so. In any case, I am too meek to say anything of the sort.

Anyway, maybe I should quit it, but at the same time I don't really want to.

I’m hungry as a mother. Yes, that’s right, a starving mother. Neematoads aren’t real?? But this is altogether shocking. I don’t like nematodes. Ohh, it’s so bright and lovely downstairs.

Pictures for Sad Children
2008-09-05 21:51:16 ET

August 21, 2008

"Her life was a slow realization that the world was not for her, and that for whatever reason, she would never be happy and honest at the same time."
- Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated

"My life is a slow adjustment to the inadequate ways of the world."
- me, everything is illuminated

Everyone should read this comic strip; I love it:

Here's a mock-philosophical thing I wrote some time ago:

Humanity is divinity.
Humanity is both an abstract concept or x-quotient quality and concrete, as expressed in:
I am a human.
I am human.
Humanity is the supernatural. All metaphysical, symbolic, generally mental constructs exist solely as the product of humanity, the only active creator. No meaning is external to or independent of the mind that has the capacity for meaning. Insofar as the perception or feeling of divinity exists, the divinity is in the human attribute, which perceives and creates. This is the quality of singularity. It is a self-creative divinity or sublimity that creates a concept of itself and all mental phenomena or images, and attributes or refers its sense of divinity to the world to which it gives meaning.

Religion is null, because it presupposes a divinity that is outside that which conceived of it, outside human creation, which is all we can know to exist. It propagates the admiration and rule of this false human-created divinity in a structured ideology and concrete practices. It is a fallacy of anthropocentric self-consciousness - self-conscious but not enough. Spirituality is the extending of a sense of divinity to all things or the external, nonhuman world, because of the human perceptive/creative tendency, or beyond observable human life. See Wordsworth.
"And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things."

Humanity is divinity, because there is no higher level that exists in the universe, no higher level that the human knows. Nothing immaterial or abstract exists beyond human knowledge. Everything metaphysical is in the human level.

It's not entirely serious, but still expresses my ideas. I hope my ideas are understandable from it, anyway, which I'm not very sure is so. It's kind of a parody/imitation of the style of philosophical writings.

Here's a God-story thing I wrote yesterday, which is more in the style of a myth or fable or something:

Creation was begun in the beginning. There existed of course something before him. In that way the universe even existed before him, but he certainly expanded and elaborated the universe, and was there before everything. A God created the universe. This God, who is unimaginable to us, however shared with his created humans the trait of loneliness, the closest resemblance to that property which was his alone. And thus Mother Catlin said, when asked what God could offer to people at the hour of their death, “To know that you are not alone.”* And so he created the human race, animals which were to develop into humans, foreseeing down the line of time to when I should be able to write this. And the humans were as a pet dog to his human master. He had the fundamental element of affection. Such was the nature of this great being, to impart his own nature to others. It can be said that this God was the first “social creature,” before there was any society. He was proud of, watched, and loved his humans. However, they did not interest him terribly. He loved them just as a human loves, cherishes, and adores his dog, all while knowing that he can never attain to that empathy and depth which he has. You may wonder, What in the universe can there be for the being who created the universe to contemplate or be interested in, except humans? The answer is: Everything. He did not greatly blame them for their faults, or feel much disappointment or anger or chagrin for them, for better than anyone, he knew how no one can transcend his nature. He did not have a fate or destiny, except that he saw the whole of existence, which is perhaps the same as having a destiny. These humans were animals with reasoning and feeling, who had and developed various conceptions of their God, all in the same vein, after their nature. They worshiped him, but he did not ever want a being to worship him. “The sadness of a God who would need people to pray to him.”~ He did not even understand prayer, except as an expression of a sincere wish for something or an entreaty, or of a supposed connection with him. They had but a vague awareness of him, as beyond seven veils, and it was not really knowing his existence, but only as they invented him.

*A rough quote from the 1987 movie Blind Chance. Similar things have probably been said a lot.
~From Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated

Just in case you didn't know, I'm an atheist. I absolutely do not believe in God or religion. Even the God I described is impossible to me. Because, if he were to exist, there would be no justice, no fairness, or reason, in the universe, which sounds kind of like an inverse Christian thought.

Only a little over a month of summer break left. Sigh. Sigh, because I want to go back. And sigh, because I don't want to go back to that.

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