Packing: Poetry Rediscovered

Packing presents an opportunity to clean out stuff. While cleaning out stuff, one often rediscovers hidden treasures — like a certain note book of mine.

I now present a small selection of the oddness I wrote there, probably around 2001/2002

Blue Overall:

Blue overall
That’s what I have
It’s got slime and dust and crap
On it
But
At least I know it’s mine

Water Cooler

It glooged. Then it glooged again. It was the way of the water cooler.

Whenever someone took water from it, it would gurgle an gloog in n enthusiastic and cheerful manner

One might say that

The Fan

The extraction fan hummed
But ‘hummed’ isn’t quite right
‘Hummed’ is cheerful, happy
Carefree bliss

The fan wasn’t happy
The fan wasn’t carefree
There was no cheer nor bliss
But still, the fan hummed

There are some weird sketches too. I may scan them and present them for your viewing enjoyment.

Film Review: Revolutionary Road — the most depressing film ever made

(credit: Malkolm Bust it Away Photography)

Watching Revolutionary Road has, arguably, changed my life.

I didn’t attempt suicide, but it is the kind of film that makes one think that perhaps suicide isn’t such a dubious option after all.

Frank Wheeler (Leonard di Caprio) and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) decide their suburban American-Dream lifestyle is actually more like an American-Nightmare. The kind of nightmare where, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get from where you are to where you want to be. It’s like wading through molasses.

April is an actress, but the small town, amateur acting circuit doesn’t do her justice. Her acting career is over.

Everyday, Frank competes in the rat race to the top of the corporate ladder, but he doesn’t look like he has much prospect of winning. His father worked for the same company and didn’t make much of an impression either. He finds his job unbearably dull, and foresees that his fate will mirror that of Dad’s.

They have two children, and people with children need to behave responsibly and provide economically for their off-springs’ well-being.

Frank and April argue a lot and are completely miserable a lot. Their relationship is clearly going to hell, because they both hate their lives (although not necessarily each other).

The quiet desperation of their lives (quiet, even taking the shouting-matches into account) leads them to make a revolutionary decision. Let’s move to Paris, France! The art scene there is much more developed, April can take up acting again and support Frank and the children. Frank can spend the time to figure out what he really wants to do with his life, and then he can do it. This movie is set in the 50’s, so that really is some crazy revolutionary idea right there.

SPOILER ALERT

Outstanding! At this point I began to think that perhaps this movie was going to brighten up a bit. It’s Hollywood, right? It’s Leo and Kate, from Titanic. There might still be a sad ending, but at least if they go to Paris the whole movie won’t carry this burden of crushing-defeat the whole way through.

Everyone else in this 50’s setting is bemused by the Wheelers. Leaving the USA? Going to France? The woman is going to be the bread-winner? Okaaaaaay. In fact the only character, other than the Wheeler’s, who thinks extracting oneself from one’s middle-class prison is an excellent idea is a guy from a psychiatric facility (brilliantly played my Michael Shannon. The film is worth seeing just for the scenes he is in. I even recommend skipping the rest of the film in order to avoid wanting to kill yourself at the end). At one point, Michael Shannon’s character tells the couple, “Hopeless emptiness. Now you’ve said it. Plenty of people are onto the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness.”

So, the crazy guy cheers them on and commends them on their brave decision. This just sets the viewer up to take a huge emotional dive into the depths of depression, mortification, and total numbing impotence.

From this point onward, shit happens. Things do not get better. Hollywood does not play its usual tricks.

April falls pregnant. Frank, because he no longer cares about his job, manages to get offered a promotion (à la Office Space, but depressing instead of hilarious). The Wheeler’s dream (or perhaps just April’s dream) of a European life spirals away and dissipates into nothing. Nothing will change. Frank will continue in the rat race that can never be won. April will continue in her suburban prison, overseen by her juvenile wardens. Even the psychiatric-ward guy lambastes them on during his final visit, and despite his enraged screaming during that scene, he seems like the most sane character in the film.

With her escape route to Paris blocked, desperation strikes April again and she carries out a home abortion. Then she bleeds to death.

The end.

Highly Abridged Review

A really excellent film, but not enjoyable. Too disheartening to be enjoyable.

To get enjoyment out of it, only watch the scenes starring Michael Shannon.

I mentioned something about this film changing my life. I think the life changes I’ve implemented deserve a post of their own, uncoloured by this black and foreboding tale.

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Photoshoot: Final Product

Quite a while ago I posted a story about a photoshoot I did for a friend’s fashion-school project. I mentioned that “Grant will be performing mysterious and arcane photoshop machinations to the photos.” It was not a lie.

I finally got hold of those bits that went into his fashion magazine, and have his permission to present them here.

Unlike the usual Creative Commons License covering stuff on this blog, the above gallery copyright rests with Grant  Davison. All rights reserved. Etc etc.

If you want to use the stuff for something, let me know and I’ll ask him. We can probably make a plan.

Ebooks and Project Gutenberg

ebook readerJohannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, which is generally considered a Good Thing—unless you are one of those heathens who proudly proclaim that, “I never even read my Matric set work!” followed by a sort of guttural grunting sound.

Another Good Thing is the public domain. People who know me know that I’m not even slightly impressed with this Intellectual Imaginery Property concept. One cannot own ideas. One cannot steal ideas. If concepts were not allowed to flow freely from one individual to another, we’d still be living in caves and still not too sure about how to cook food, let alone hunt it or cultivate it. Corporate copyright and patent jackasses—get over yourselves! The media wants to be free,  ideas want to free, and you guys have got a little tube of silicon gel trying to plug a massive crack in the wall of the world’s largest dam. Good luck with that.

Project Gutenberg is yet another of those Good Things. That’s three now, and if you’ve been paying attention you might realise that I haven’t just been sprouting off random facts and opinions. I actually have a point.

Project Gutenberg ensures that books and other written works that have entered the public domain remain there, and are easily accessible. Getting a copy of some obscure, 100-year-old, out of print book was a challenge before Project Gutenberg. Now you just search and download the ebook, available in a bunch of formats, suitable for your PC, dedicated ebook reader, or cell phone. There are also audio versions of some books, if you’d prefer (but I haven’t checked any of those out).

So I’ve started reading books on my phone. There are a lot of public domain books out there, and I’ve got some catching up to do on the Classics. Never been that interested in them before, but now that I’ve managed to intertwine them into new technology, they seem suddenly fresh and inspiring to me.

I started with Flatland: a romance of many dimensions and War of the Worlds. I’ve also sought out ebooks that aren’t encumbered by that silly DRM nonsense, but aren’t necessarily free. Places to look for that sort of thing are Smashwords and Book View Cafe.

I admit I haven’t paid anyone for an ebook yet—but I probably will in the not too distant future. Even though I haven’t forked out any legal tender for ebooks, I felt bad about being a total freeloader on the system. Project Gutenberg is a project, right? I correctly guess that that meant one could volunteer to do something towards the project.

I’ve started proof-reading a couple of pages a day over at Project Gutenberg’s Distributed Proof-readers site. Essentially, I check scanned pages for Optical Character Recognition (OCR) errors, and make corrections to the text that the computer guessed the scanned pages contained. I like to think of it as noble work, but honestly it’s rather dull. Perhaps I should join a club?

Image credit: Edans “Sony eBook Reader – II”

Randburg Licensing Department

Queue SignRandburg licensing department has a flat-screen TV up on the wall now. It’s very pretty and shiny. It scrolls announcements from the municipality and the City of Johannesburg. They are lovely announcements. They are all in English.

Hopefully everyone can read English. It surprisingly ostracises the other 10 Official Languages that South Africa declared. Once would think a little isiZulu or seSotho would be thrown in here and there.

When the TV isn’t giving us public announcements, it shows us the tranquillity, peace of mind, and beautiful memories that using Pfizer Pharmaceuticals can bring us. “Ask your doctor or pharmacist!”

I’ll be sure to do just that.

As I watch now I discover an announcement that is actually useful to me. My time in this queue may not be entirely wasted because of this.

One can pay traffic fines via credit card now. It’s only 2009 – credit cards have been in use for as long as I can remember. The government used to use some idiotic argument about not wanting people to go into debt to pay fines, rates and taxes, but payment was still demanded. I wonder why the change of heart?

The queue is long, but so far I haven’t noticed anyone getting too disruptive over whatever interchanges take place between the clients and the clerks. We need more chairs, but then we’ll all just be playing musical chairs for longer. They don’t have a ticket number system, which would allow everyone to sit in one place and wait for their number to be called out. Oh no. That seems too well thought-out. Instead of buying a decent ticket system, and training people to use it, they got a flat-screen TV.

Now the TV tells me that Emperor’s Palace a wonderful place full of wonderful things. Opulence. I surely crave opulence and inviting women dressed in flowing red dresses with lips pouting, and cars to win! Perhaps with the advertising revenue they generate could be used to buy us some more chairs, and that ticket-queue system.

I look at the ceiling. The domed lights high up, meant to illuminate the counters, are all fused. The only one that works, flickers erratically. What would a government department be without a flickering light?

CCTV. They have those cameras too. Oh dear. At least the camera’s don’t swivel side to side, tracking my every key press on my mobile-phone (with full QWERTY keyboard — you don’t think I’d type this all out with predictive text, do you?). I hope I’m allowed to write about the department. I hope they won’t be sending the thought-police to question me in a few moments and take my mobile phone/writing pad device away. Now that would be something worth writing about! The irony.

I’ve been in the long, straight tail of the queue, but I’m reaching the bend where it curls and twists into the intestinal section of waiting. Rows of chairs curling back and forth in almost-but-not-quite parallel lines. Like a gradual bowel-movement we are pushed forward slowly, from one chair to the next, back and forth on that circuitous route, until we are expelled from the queue sphincter into the toilet of the licence renewal desk. There they wipe us off and flush us away — once we pay our dues of course.

The sphincter is a little confused, though. There are six outlets, and the beeping red LCD screen tells each faecal particle at the end of the queue where to go (in between brightly declaring “WELCOME TO RANDB” and showing us just how much time we’ve wasted in the queue). It’s confusing because there are two bowel-queues at work here, each with different final outcomes. The LCD blinky-beepy light serves both.

Is it OK to renew your single vehicle licence at the bulk trade plates and permits counter? Who can be certain? If you test the hypothesis and are proven wrong, will you have lost your place in the queue? Will you have already ended up in the toilet, and have you been flushed away? Or would you need to eat shit and get back in the queue from the beginning? Can you be pushed back into the sphincter temporarily until it is time to exit at the appropriate point. I’m not sure. So many confusing questions to resolve this complex scenario.

I’m certain to find out, but by then I’ll no longer be waiting and will no longer have time to write this account of my adventures. So alas, dear reader, you will never know what the outcome was.

But wait! Here’s one now, just ahead of me. Trapped in toilet limbo. Swirling around and around in the toilet bowl but not getting flushed away. A terrible fate indeed. I hope to escape it.

That was another live commentary, in a similar vein to the Hospital Observations bit in this one, as written on my cell phone to pass the time while waiting in a queue. Edited to fix up spelling and grammar, and to repair the flow of the text a little.

I’ve decided to name these things Prosetographs.

Original image credit: Derek Armshaw Licence: CC-NC-3.0