Friday, October 15, 2010

Logged in and logged out

Connection to everyone
is connection to no one;
The measure of loneliness
is that you're laughing alone.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Proverbs 19:4 says ...

Wealth brings many new friends, but the poor man's poverty loses his last friend

This is the blog post where paraphrasing varient readings of a biblical proverb is all I feel any need to say.

Monday, October 11, 2010

one year anniversary of unemployment happened last week

Last week, on Monday actually, I hit the one year anniversary of having no job. It was not the most exciting anniversary as anniversaries go. I went to the local Worksource office at the nearby community college and spent a few hours there hunting for different people to talk to and departments to discuss things with. I still have more to do there. This week I figure I might as well find out about eligibility for funding for continuing education or worker retraining programs. I also need to look at radically revising how I tackle resumes and see if I can add some tools to the utility belt (it's not that big, I would say, and needs a few more batarangs or bat-shark-repellent).

I have gone this whole last year without the benefit of being eligible for unemployment benefits and was not even on food stamps for the majority of that time. Family has assured me this should have been different but seeing as the money has been spent, well, that's that. Seeing as I ended up paying the highest ratio of the rent despite having no income over the last year, too, that is not something that I can undo now even though I thought about proposing to the housemates that I pay the lowest amount since I'm not the one who uses the most space in the house but I was too timid about this. Fortunately the roommates eventually pieced together the logistical problems of my paying more than anyone else for what amounts to not that much space.

I am not a very assertive guy in a lot of things. I can be very assertive when discussing or debating theology or biblical literature but I'm not really a go-getter about most things in life. I am overly timid and piecing together the implications this has in job hunting has given me a lot to think about. Being halfway between having a disability and having normal eyesight has not made this easier. I have the unpleasant double-whammy of seeing far too poorly to ever be able to drive but not seeing nearly poorly enough to claim any of the disability advantages that people have suggested I take advantage of. I also, frankly, don't like taking advantage of things like that about my background just to get jobs. Friends and family have urged me to reconsider this.

Well, that's all I feel like writing in this particular entry.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mad Max and the tragic character arc of the avenging hero

A friend of mine showed me Mad Max recently and I have been thinking about how the story is essentially a tragic character arc. The whole gist of the film is laid out in a conversation between Max and his chief. Max explains that he wants to quit because he realizes that more and more the only difference between him and the thugs he brings in is ONLY that he happens to have a badge which makes it okay for him to use force when it is considered necessary. Of course by the end of the film wrath and grief become his motives to cross the line and become one of the people he used to bring in.

Now the film is called Mad Max and he is the protagonist and we are, at many levels, expected to root for him, but part of the durability of the film, as I saw it last night, lays in how the skeletal plot leaves a tiny bit of room for the tragic insight that in reacting to the things we hate about a society, the very worst things about that society, we can paradoxically become those things. There may be something to be said about how Mel Gibson's actual life may illustrate this point but I leave that to people who actually have it out for Mel Gibson. I see him as a genre actor who has carved out an exceptionally lucrative and at times artistically compelling niche for himself. He may be crazy but he really IS great at what he does whether you go in for that thing or not. Sometimes I do and Mad Max is a compelling early performance.

As a Batman fan I can say that Gibson's most memorable performances fit with the impression I have had of Harvey Dent in his descent to the identity of Two-Face. Mad Max gives us a character trajectory like that of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight only in the form of a sympathetic tragic portrayal rather than the more distant and less sympathetic observation in the Batman film. We're not supposed to approve of what Harvey Dent does by the end of The Dark Knight the way we approve of Max's systematic murder of the gang that killed his wife and child.

Yet if Max weren't so aware of how close he already is to becoming the kinds of people he takes in under arrest the story wouldn't be compelling. If Max had no doubts about his virtue the story would not have taken hold in popular culture or established Gibson as a great genre actor. Even the most righteous indignation in memorable stories has to have some room for the recognition in the self of moral ambiguity, the possibility of a fall. For me this explains why Gibson's most compelling performances are as characters aware of this risk and why his least compelling performances have been as characters who have the most assurance and the least doubt about the justification for their violent solutions.

The capacity for self-doubt in the most assured action is what allows the action hero to not inevitably become the villain. This is why I think John Woo's The Killer holds up, because an exponent of the action genre was able to deconstruct our hopes and expectations for the action genre by showing how a man who lives by the sword eventually dies by the sword. It stands out as a great subversion of our expectation that the killer will redeem himself by not forsaking the path of violence altogether but merely ensuring that he only kills the people who deserve to be killed. Woo's Jeff is convinced of the rightness of his cause but tragically does not realize that not laying aside his methods is the thing that will destroy him. This robs him of even his ability beyond his own death to give his eyes to Jenny and has the corrupting effect of inspiring the sympathetic cop to commit murder and compromise his entire career.

This is why, not coincidentally, I think one of the more compelling aspects of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight is exploring how even Bruce Wayne's best efforts to stop evil lead him to compromise his own ideals in the pursuit of pragmatic ends. Some might see this as overbearing and damaging to a caped hero film but I think Nolan was more effective in simultaneously paying hommage to and deconstructing aspects of the character than Bryan Singer's attempt to show us a physically invulnerable Superman who was somehow, he told us, able to be emotionally vulnerable. Justice League Unlimited did a better job doing that in their Cadmus arc but I had best stop here before I get too absurdly nerdy about superheroes and cartoons and genre film, as if I hadn't gotten there from my opening paragraph. I think we can be happy that Gibson's formative performance contributed to this genre of the avenging hero narrative. It still stands as one of his most compelling and memorable performances even three decades later.

mulling over some new blogging ideas

There's still that series on Hell I haven't finished. Obviously I have tabled that for the time being. I hit the one-year anniversary of being unemployed this week and I trust you understand that for obvious reasons blogging is less critical than the job search.

I have a new idea for a possible series of blog posts about gender and social function I'm thinking about. I have been particularly reflecting on what appears to be a set of crises in this current job market and culture for unmarried guys in their 30s. Roy Baumeister's discussion of how societies make use of men and women is pertinent to that. That will take some time because I'll want to review some evolutionary psychological stuff to consider what I'm finding to be a curious overlap between EP and complementarianism.

I actually finished the sonata form for my G minor string quartet in the last month or so. Years and years have work have, I hope, finally paid off. I also had a project arranging a bunch of music for oboe, cello, and guitar that I took on in the last few months that has come to a close. And I have had a few social events like family birthdays come up. I still in principle want to blog but in practice life is what it is.