I went down to the beach on Sunday afternoon, hoping to sit on the rocks and read some of that book "Fight Club". But when I got down there, I found that the place was teeming with people, just as if it were summer. So instead of reading, I took out the camera and started taking photos of everything. It was about five o'clock and the light was just perfect, with the sun low in the sky over the water. I took photos of the children playing on the sand and the couples sitting on the grass watching the sunset. Then I walked up the pier. The lower my camera battery got, the more spectacular the cloud-formations became.
Click to enlarge
I placed the camera on the edge of a wooden fence on the breakwater to take a self-timer picture of myself. But just then, a couple of people walked past and they were separated because one of them was wary about walking through my camera shot, and the other wasn't. So the one who didn't want to walk through the shot had to wait for a few seconds. I went forward a few steps, so that she could pass behind me. But she still didn't go, because she didn't want to clutter up the background of my shot. Maybe I should have said to her, "Go ahead. Keep walking. It doesn't matter if you're in the shot. It's art. There's no right and wrong, I'm just trying to capture a slice of reality." 'Cause by the time I'd said all that, the picture would have been taken and I would have a picture of me talking to someone, instead of me doing nothing. But the photos I took that day were not bad at all.
On Monday night I went out to the Astor cinema to see the film Naqoyqatsi. It's a very strange movie. At the beginning, there's this scene with an old building and we look through the broken windows. Then there's some stuff about soldiers on parade, people at the stock-market, pictures of politicians floating across the screen, three-dimensional dollar-signs spinning towards us, and then there was Elaine from Seinfeld. And before you know it, we're in a plane looking at crash test dummies. I couldn't understand it at all. You know, I suspect they stole some of these bits of film from other sources, like TV commercials, and glued them together to make a new film. But the music was new – it was classical. The music was nice. And in a way, this film was one long music-video – it had that style to it.
But there were a lot of things about this movie that irritated me. For one thing, why did they have to use that effect where they reverse the image, like this:
That looks really ugly, and they used it too often. Or sometimes the pictures looked like they'd been played around with in the Photoshop "curves" manipulator, like this:
Roll over it to see the original
It's almost as if the film-makers had just gotten their hands on that "After Effects" software and they were still learning to use it so they experimented with all the filters and effects just for fun. There were no plot-lines or characters, just a bunch of people and things that didn't seem to bear much relation to eachother. If there was a point to it all, it wasn't made very strongly. But there were a few bits I liked. I think my favourite part was where we saw this grid of computer icons animating and getting bigger and smaller, and there were children playing in the background. And then there was the bit where we saw the famous paintings morphing into eachother – that was interesting for a while. I can't even remember what was at the end, 'cause my mind was drifting and the credits were rolling before I knew it. The Astor cinema is one of those places where, if the audience likes the film a lot, they'll applaud at the end. But they didn't for this one. I suspect they were thinking, "It was kind of like that other film, but not nearly as good."
Click to enlarge
Tuesday night I finished my little painting on canvas. I smoothed out a few rough edges, then to make it complete I added a lowercase i with a circle around it, as I had planned from the beginning. It looks okay but it's not a great work of art. There's something incorrect about the first girl's face, but it's nothing obvious that I can fix. Anyway if anyone wants to buy this painting it's about fifty bucks – the measurements are ten by fourteen inches.
The other day, my friends and I were sitting about watching that TV show Big Brother, a reality show with people who live in a house together. Some people find it very entertaining. But as my friends watched it, they were suggesting ways it could be made better. One said, "They should add some animals. Maybe let one dog in every day, so at the end there would be eighty-nine dogs. And I'm talking really big dogs, like St Bernards."
Another said, "They should fill the whole house up with water and drown everyone. Maybe they could let the water in very slowly so that it takes the whole twelve weeks to fill up – that way the house-mates would die one by one."
"Wouldn't it be cool if one of the house-mates just disappeared one day, with no explanation? And then maybe he'd reappear a week later, with a scar across his head, and no memory of what happened?"
"This could be a really good show, if they'd take some of these ideas on board."
We continued to watch TV, and one of my friends said, "How about that Doctor Phil guy?" He was referring, of course, to that American chat show host Doctor Phil, who dispenses advice to people on his television show.
Another one said, "Dr Phil is stupid."
"David Letterman is so smart to be making fun of him like that."
"Doctor Phil is dangerous! He doesn't have any proper qualifications. Half the advice he gives to people is wrong, and people take him seriously."
Then, one of my friends put on a special kind of American accent. "You see, what you've got to understand," he said in his Doctor Phil impersonation, "Is that when you're in a relationship, you've got to talk to eachother –"
It was a very funny impersonation, and we all laughed.
Flash animation – roll your mouse over it to fool around with Dr. Phil's face.
Later we ate some food and watched The Simpsons on TV for an hour. That was funny too – it was repeats, but they were good ones and my friends laughed at the jokes. Television comedy always seems funnier when there's people in the room laughing at it. Mirth is contagious in that way. After that we played this video game called Smuggler's Run on the video game console. It's a game where you drive a car over a landscape, pretending to be a smuggler transporting illegal cargo. Unlike a regular car racing game, you don't have to stick to the road – you can drive over hills and into lakes, you can crash through fences and fall off cliffs, and your car is so tough, it hardly gets damaged at all. And then, you can run into people and animals and send them flying. They lie down for a while, twitching in pain, then they get up and keep walking as if nothing happened.
This is a fun game. When I played it, I passed this milk-truck on the road, and I smashed into it sideways and pushed it into the lake, and my friends cheered. It's good to do that sort of thing in a video game, 'cause if you did it in real life, there would be terrible consequences. The friend who had done the Doctor Phil impersonation earlier, did it again. "You see, what you have to understand," he said, "Is that when you're a smuggler, you're above the law." And his voice was so funny, that my friend Cat cracked up laughing.
We played the video-game a bit more, and then one of my friends left and went home. Another friend went to bed. After that, the only people left in the living-room were Cat and I. She gave me some CDs and said, "I'm going to have a party soon, and invite all my friends. Will you come?"
I said, "Yes."
"Will you come early in the day, and help me set things up?"
Cat asked me, "Do you know Elvis Costello's music?"
I shook my head. Cat went over to the stereo and put on an Elvis Costello song, I think it was "Oliver's Army." Whenever Cat thinks of a piece of music that I might like, she makes me listen to it and sometimes I like it, sometimes not, but usually it takes me a while to make up my mind.
She asked, "Can you have some of the photos on your web-site printed, and give them to me? I'll pay."
I said, "Yes."
"I'd like you to take some photos of me, some time," she said, "But not yet."
"Do you think maybe people who read your web-site might think that I don't really exist? That I'm just a fictional character that you invented to make your journal more interesting? I mean, you have pictures of everything except me."
"I've often thought of that," I said, and I laughed at the idea. "But I'm sure they believe me. And it doesn't matter, if they don't."
"Well, maybe you can take a photo of a photo," she said, and showed me an old polaroid photograph of herself at a party, wearing a costume. "In this picture, I am dressed as Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks."
Cat – this is she – but her hair doesn't really
look like this 'cause she's wearing a blonde wig.
I'm not much of a conversationist, but Cat is, so we were able to talk there a while longer. She told me some of the stuff that had happened to her in the recent past, and I was on the edge of my seat. After she had finished telling it to me, I said, "It makes me feel fortunate, by comparison."
"Well Stephen," she answered, "The thing about that is, you make your own fortune."
Soon afterwards, it was time for me to go and I walked to the station. The weather was freezing cold outside. As I was walking down the street where Cat lives, I was shivering. It wasn't just the cold, I was shivering with happiness. It was a good thing that it was so dark, and that there was no one about, because I couldn't stop myself from smiling and opening my mouth.
I watched this documentary series about early humankind, it's called Walking With Cavemen and it just ended. I don't watch many documentaries. But this was one of the best I've seen. They had re-enactments of typical events that might have happened to typical ape/human creatures, and they have this guy who walks around in the prehistoric terrain, observing the creatures in a non-intervening way. The apes are just actors in costumes, and towards the end they're more human so they don't need costumes, just a bit of make-up. But they look extremely realistic, and you just know they're based on the latest scientific research about early humans, with the fossil-remains and all. The documentary tells us all about the evolutionary process over millions of years, and why it happened the way it did. Sometimes they use time-lapse photography to show us changing weather patterns that affected the way we evolved. It's incredible. And watching this makes you think, "We're not so different from apes, ourselves." Look at me, scratching under my arms.
I gave it a miss this week, because of Cat's dinner invitation.
There was once this band called Parlour. But I'm not going to talk about them, I'm going to talk about The White Stripes. You see, a few years back I went to a small gig by the band Parlour, whom I'd seen before and really liked, and the gig was really crowded because they were playing support for this band called The White Stripes. I'd never even heard of The White Stripes, but apparently they were an American duo who had a reputation for playing really cool and old-school rock-music. Anyway, I stayed around for about half of their set, and I decided they were no good so I left. But then, over the next few years, The White Stripes gained in popularity – I started hearing them on the radio, I saw them on the pop-music TV shows, and I could barely open the musical street-press without hearing about them. All the critics loved them. So I thought, "There must be more to this band than meets the eye." I still didn't really like them, but when I heard some of the songs on their most recent album, "Elephant", I realised they were kind of special and nice. So when I saw their album in the secondhand CD shop, I thought, what the hey, I'll buy it, and find out what all the fuss is about. So I took it home and played it, and it is very good. So that's the happy ending to this story.
Historical photo of the week:
(Last week I forgot about it, sorry)
Stephen Clark, fourteen years old
I've started a book called "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk. So far it's about this guy who goes to support groups under false pretences, and then he meets this other guy who likes to subvert the system and together they start a club where men go to punch eachother up. It's a well-written book which really makes you think about the deep questions in life, making you question certain values that are accepted by society. The story is peppered with meaningful catch-phrases like "May I never be complete", "This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time", "Someday you will die, and until you know that, you're useless." I doubt if there'll be any surprises plot-wise, 'cause, y'know.