Born to be awful

It’s a nice creature, if you’re able to overcome your ancestral fear and prejudice when you look at it. It comes occasionally at dusk to feed on the fruits of one of the trees at the backyard in the house by the sea. It can well well spend an hour there if left undisturbed, going easily and silently from branch to branch, leaning back on its hind legs to raise its slender body up to reach for those little, no doubt delicious little fruits. Should it have a fluffy tail instead of a shorn, long, cartilaginous one, it’d be a squirrel, and I’d be inviting my friends over just for us to enjoy the show.

It’s not squirrel, of course, though. As you’ll surely have figured it out by now, it’s a rat. The least thing I’d do is to tell any of my friends, or they’d start making excuses not to come at all for supper. I’ve already cut off the branches I suspect it used to take advantage of to make its way to the tree. J. loudly and vehemently scared it off the other day, and we’ve seen no sign of it again since yet.

You can’t.

‘Til the madness around is gone

I’ve declared a moratorium on current Hollywood films and on TV series from Netflix et al. Don’t get me wrong: I actually love being educated on pluralism, lgtbism, feminism, intersectionalism; I enjoy being shown how bad, aggressive, sexually predators white men are; I love watching male buttocks and what not, and wouldn’t dare want to see a bit of female flesh with filthy, lusty eyes; I can’t but applauding when the Asian character, the lesbians lovers, the African-American gay couple, the husband humbly backing up and sacrificing all to his empowered and outwardly Ennui woman’s career, show up. They invariable do, as of course they should.

But I…, I know I shouldn’t but… —I get bored. I’m ashamed of myself and I’m sorry and I say so. It’s a bit like the Catholic mass of my youth —necessary, rightly compulsory, predictable, and reassuring —but what a bore! I apologize and promise to reform and like the shows and internalize the truth and re-socialize myself in the right way. In the meantime, though,

Episode 6 of season 1 of Upstairs, Downstairs, A Cry for Help, stands out in the series. Written by Julian Bond, the lines spoken to Lord Bellamy by his solicitor showing him how he would serve himself and his family better by way of retracting his rape accusations against a fellow nobleman and by dropping the defense of his pregnant young maid are devastatingly brilliant. And directed by Derek Bennett, what could have been another common story to cater to the audience turns into a bitter yet way more satisfying one, in which upstairs is beaten, both in knowledge of the ways the world goes round and in generosity and goodwill, by downstairs.

Likewise, episode 15 of season 1 of M*A*S*H, Tuttle, is a joy to watch. Also masterfully written and directed, you could say it’s a novel take in the classic, for a reason, The Emperor’s New Clothes‘ tale. Hawkeye and Trapper make up an entirely fictitious Captain Tuttle, who nonetheless ends up being buried with honors, with the whole platoon claiming his friendship or acquaintance.

What is like to be depressed

I reaped a bitter harvest from my own refusal to take lithium on a consistent basis. A floridly psychotic mania was followed, inevitably, by a long and lacerating, black, suicidal depression; it lasted more than a year and a half. From the time I woke up in the morning until the time I went to bed at night, I was unbearably miserable and seemingly incapable of any kind of joy or enthusiasm. Everything—every thought, word, movement—was an effort. Everything that once was sparkling now was flat. I seemed to myself to be dull, boring, inadequate, thick brained, unlit, unresponsive, chill skinned, bloodless, and sparrow drab. I doubted, completely, my ability to do anything well. It seemed as though my mind had slowed down and burned out to the point of being virtually useless. The wretched, convoluted, and pathetically confused mass of gray worked only well enough to torment me with a dreary litany of my inadequacies and shortcomings in character, and to taunt me with the total, the desperate, hopelessness of it all. What is the point in going on like this? I would ask myself. Others would say to me, “It is only temporary, it will pass, you will get over it,” but of course they had no idea how I felt, although they were certain that they did. Over and over and over I would say to myself, If I can’t feel, if I can’t move, if I can’t think, and I can’t care, then what conceivable point is there in living?

The morbidity of my mind was astonishing: Death and its kin were constant companions. I saw Death everywhere, and I saw winding sheets and toe tags and body bags in my mind’s eye. Everything was a reminder that everything ended at the charnel house. My memory always took the black line of the mind’s underground system; thoughts would go from one tormented moment of my past to the next. Each stop along the way was worse than the preceding one. And, always, everything was an effort. Washing my hair took hours to do, and it drained me for hours afterward; filling the ice-cube tray was beyond my capacity, and I occasionally slept in the same clothes I had worn during the day because I was too exhausted to undress.

During this time I was seeing my psychiatrist two or three times a week and, finally, again taking lithium on a regular basis. His notes, in addition to keeping track of the medications I was taking—I had briefly taken antidepressants, for example, but they had only made me more dangerously agitated—also recorded the unrelenting, day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, despair, hopelessness, and shame that the depression was causing: “Patient intermittently suicidal. Wishes to jump from the top of hospital stairwell”; “Patient continues to be a significant suicide risk. Hospitalization is totally unacceptable to her and in my view she cannot be held under LPS [the California commitment law]”; “Despairs for the future; fears recurrence and fears having to deal with the fact that she has felt what she has felt”; “Patient feels very embarrassed about feelings she has and takes attitude that regardless of the course of her depression she ‘won’t put up with it’ ”; “Patient reluctant to be with people when depressed because she feels her depression is such an intolerable burden on others”; “Afraid to leave my office. Hasn’t slept in days. Desperate.” At this point there was a brief lull in my depression, only to be followed by its seemingly inevitable, dreadful return: “Patient feels as if she has cracked. Hopeless that depressed feelings have returned.”

At the time, nothing seemed to be working, despite excellent medical care, and I simply wanted to die and be done with it. I resolved to kill myself. I was cold-bloodedly determined not to give any indication of my plans or the state of my mind; I was successful. The only note made by my psychiatrist on the day before I attempted suicide was: “Severely depressed. Very quiet”.

An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison.

What I’ve been watching

J’accuse (2019), by Roman Polanski. Polanski takes the focus away from Dreyfus and puts the light on the army officer who started to unravel the plot; it’s a dull officer conducting a dull investigation presented in a dull way, but I think the director does this on purpose, as a way to highlight, against this background of dullness, the core of the matter —the evil of injustice and the importance of honor. Score: 7.

Inside Man (2006), by Spike Lee. Nothing of value here —a pastiche not very competently made. It’s the kind of film I dislike to see —not too bad to drop but not good enough to watch, so you end up wasting your time. Available on Amazon Prime Video. Score: 5.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939), by Howard Hawks. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you know I like films who depict masculinity well, virtues and vices of it all along —and this film does exactly so, in section coping with grief. Plus: a good story perfectly told and played. Plus: Rita Hayworth, of course. Plus: a final sequence that surprises you and give full meaning to the film. Score: 9.

Fitzcarraldo (1982), by Werner Herzog. Sorry guys at the IMDB who so highly regard this film —I couldn’t finish it. Score: 4. Available on Amazon Prime Video.

Walk the Line (2005), by James Mangold. Life-story of Johnny Cash as told by himself in his book Man in Black. Kudos to Joaquim Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon for his great singing of all the songs in the film (and their acting, too). The problem with this film is —Cash, as depicted here, is neither an interesting character or a likeable one; furthermore, his character isn’t well constructed —it’s somewhat incoherent. Slight spoiler next: stop here —I liked the scene when he at last kills his father, in the Freudian way of course. Watch on Prime Video. Score: 7.

An Honest Liar (2014), by Tyler Measom & Justin Weinstein. Watch on Plex for free. Documentary about the life of James ‘The Amazing’ Randi, made possible thanks to a Kickstarter funding. Randi was a believer in truth, and those are precious; he was a giant in courage, intelligence and defiance. Don’t miss the part when Randi’s magicians fool once and again the scientists who are testing them. Score: 8.

Nelyubov (Loveless, 2017), by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Very interesting film, very well made, slow-paced but never boring. It has one of the most shocking, powerful scenes I’ve ever seen, out of the blue. Beautiful cinematography, too. A terrible story, more terrible because so ordinary. Score: 9.0

Can you write more beautifully than this?

SONATINA

La princesa está triste… ¿qué tendrá la princesa?
Los suspiros se escapan de su boca de fresa,
que ha perdido la risa, que ha perdido el color.
La princesa está pálida en su silla de oro,
está mudo el teclado de su clave sonoro
y en un vaso, olvidada, se desmaya una flor.

El jardín puebla el triunfo de los pavos reales.
Parlanchina, la dueña, dice cosas banales,
y vestido de rojo, piruetea el bufón.
La princesa no ríe, la princesa no siente;
la princesa persigue por el ciclo de Oriente
la libélula vaga de una vaga ilusión.

¿Piensa acaso en el príncipe de Golconda o de China,
o en el que ha detenido su carroza argentina
para ver de sus ojos la dulzura de luz,
o en el rey de las islas de las rosas fragantes,
o en el que es soberano de los claros diamantes,
o en el dueño orgulloso de las perlas de Ormuz?

¡Ay!, la pobre princesa de la boca de rosa
quiere ser golondrina, quiere ser mariposa,
tener alas ligeras, bajo el cielo volar;
ir al sol por la escala luminosa de un rayo,
saludar a los lirios con los versos de mayo,
o perderse en el viento sobre el trueno del mar.

Ya no quiere el palacio, ni la rueca de plata,
ni el halcón encantado, ni el bufón escarlata,
ni los cisnes unánimes en el lago de azur.
Y están tristes las flores por la flor de la corte;
los jazmines de Oriente, los nelumbos del Norte,
de Occidente las dalias y las rosas del Sur.

¡Pobrecita princesa de los ojos azules!
¡Está presa en sus oros, está presa en sus tules,
en la jaula de mármol del palacio real;
el palacio soberbio que vigilan los guardas,
que custodian cien negros con sus cien alabardas,
un lebrel que no duerme y un dragón colosal!

¡Oh, quién fuera hipsipila que dejó la crisálida!
(La princesa está triste, la princesa está pálida.)
¡Oh visión adorada de oro, rosa y marfil!
¡Quién volara a la tierra donde un príncipe existe
(la princesa está pálida, la princesa está triste)
más brillante que el alba, más hermoso que Abril!

—¡Calla, calla, princesa —dice el hada madrina—,
en caballo con alas hacia acá se encamina,
en el cinto la espada y en la mano el azor,
el feliz caballero que te adora sin verte,
y que llega de lejos, vencedor de la Muerte,
a encenderte los labios con su beso de amor!

Rubén Darío (1867-1916)

Dear Hillary,

I’ve happened to see two films in a row starring, and being about, those deplorables of yours.

The first one you can see it on Amazon Prime Video, name’s Mud (2012). It’s, in the director’s own words, as if Sam Peckinpah had directed a short story by Mark Twain.

[Twain, of course, is not read in American classrooms anymore. Right so.]

The other one is Marty (1955).

Main character in Mud is the son of a white trash man who reminds me of Loquillo when he sings that of

No vine aquí para hacer amigos
pero sabes que siempre puedes contar conmigo.
Dicen de mí que soy un tanto animal,
pero en el fondo soy un sentimental.
Mi familia no son gente normal;
de otra época y corte moral,
que resuelven sus problemas de forma natural
—¿para qué discutir si puedes pelear?

[Y vive Dios, que escrito está: si te doy mi palabra, no se romperá]

Marty, on the other hand, is not only a butcher but a Catholic, who has nothing better to do on his weekends than search for a woman to marry to. He even tries to force a kiss on her. And he shows no sign of any intersectional conscience altogether.

And is not silly Marty a lot like Horace, as they sing in the song?

MONDAY
Late again today,
he’d be in trouble;
though he’d say he was sorry,
he’d have to hurry out to the bus
.

TUESDAY
Horace was so sad,
he’d never had a girl
that he could care for;
and if he was late once more,
he’d be out.

Chorus:

Don’t be afraid,
just knock on the door.
Well he just stood there mumblin’ and fumblin’,
then a voice from above said:

Horace Wimp, this is your life,
go out and find yourself a wife.
Make a stand and be a man,
and you will have a great life plan
.

WEDNESDAY
Horace met a girl, she was small
and she was veeeery pretty,
he thought he was in love;
he was afraid, oh oh
.

THURSDAY
Asks her for a date,
the café down the street tomorrow evening.
His head was reeling when she said:
Yes, OK
.

FRIDAY
Horace, this is it.
He asks the girl if maybe they could marry.
When she says:
Gladly,
Horace cries
.

SATURDAY
Everybody’s at the church,
when Horace rushes in and says:
Now here comes my wife,
for the rest of my life.
And she did
.

Now go and cancel that.