Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Push by Sapphire

This book absolutely blew my mind. As soon as it started I had to reread the line about having her father's child a couple of times just to make sure I understood it correctly. Needless to say, the book got more intense from there.
The thing I thought was interesting was how Clarice seemed to be able to take control of parts of her life even though she was so hopelessly out of control when the story started. It seemed like her way of dealing with people was almost identical to the way her mom would treat people that she didn't like (for example Clarice), with either threats of violence, acting out and not putting up with anything from any other people, or demeaning people in her head where they can't hear her. I feel like talking to herself is probably one of the first ways she learned how to defend herself from the ritualistic savagery she was dealing with at home.
The way the book is written, oddly enough, is one of the reasons why I feel like I can truly connect with Clarice. Although the things that have happened to her and her general way of life are so completely the opposite of my own, the characterization of her through the writing style allow me to really put a more humanized outlook on what I read. I get the idea that this is someone to whom life has been nothing but abusive, but at the same time she really doesn't understand it because it is all that she knows.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pain and Music

I feel like the relationship between music and expressing pain is a tough one to boil down. Going by what I get from pop culture nowadays, a lot of the modern artists I feel exploit the idea of "the suffering artist" in order to amass a larger fan base and sell more albums. In some ways, one might say, you have to respect that as well. The artists that do this to make a buck are enough in tune with the pain and suffering some people can go through in order to write a song that everyone can feel related to, so that has to count for something, right?
Not so much, in my personal opinion. Nowadays, in our culture, I would argue that more people know of various types of physical and emotional pain rather than actually feel that way, thanks to various pop culture movements and the art of making cookie cutter movies. In my opinion, it is this knowledge, followed by the "fear of pain" that causes us to relate to the first embodiment of that pain we actually see, and it is that knowledge of how we are supposed to react to pain (thanks to songs, movies, etc) that then dictates how we actually react. Which then, in turn, leads us to buy more albums from that one artist that just totally gets it. This self perpetuating cycle is seemingly endless, and kind of depressing if it is true. But while I am cynical, I also can think of it from the other point of view.
On the flipside, there is no denying that there are artists that use music as a mode of self expression. Hell, they ALL might even do that, but I don't entirely buy that there are no artists out there faking pain to make a buck. Back to the point, though; some people, like Kurt Cobain from Nirvana, were generally messed up. Music then most likely became a way of letting those few people put their experiences and feelings into words; in a way, like the transition from the Chaos Narrative to the Quest Narrative. These songs are essentially the artist's journey through a painful experience, and when they are all put together they seem to provide a self-medicated storyline that almost anyone can listen and connect to.
Clearly the situation changes with the artist, song, and topic, but I feel in general that it is one way or the other.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Nic Sheff's Tweak is a book that is difficult to read. Not because the wording is particularly hard to understand, or because he says things I find it hard to relate to; on the contrary, it is disturbingly easy to follow where he is at in this book and recognize how he got there. It is a fantastic book, and it makes me want to read the one written by his father so I can get a perspective on his story from the man Nic has the utmost respect for.
It is not too difficult to connect with Nic in this story - I haven't gotten to the point he is at and I don't have any issues with addiction, but I see the reasoning behind what started him on that path and I can connect with it. The feelings he had and his life around him resonates a lot with the way I felt growing up and the lives of some of my friends, and it is not difficult to see myself or others in a completely different place and state of mind if we had reacted in the same ways he had.
Nic seems to be a man that is just trying to run from life, and from the normalcy he saw himself heading towards. He talked about wanting to excel at almost anything, and that his desire for attaining perfection drove him to start doing the things he did. It is interesting, because you hear about the stories of addicts a lot nowadays thanks to half the shows on TV and most celebrities being very open with the things they do - a lot of these people seem to do it more because it was convenient, or because they had a really crappy home life and didn't know how to handle it; most of Nic's life growing up, aside from dealing with a strenuous relationship between his birth parents, was spent doing fairly well for himself. Great at school, surrounded by friends and family but still feeling like an outsider, eventually he needed an escape from the life he had built up around himself and it led to to his addiction. This story is, without a doubt, easy to read - this combined with how simple it is to connect to on many levels made it difficult to put the book down.

Saw V

Saw V, the newest movie in the cash-magnet franchise, is not exactly a big deviation from the concepts set forth by its predecessors. While the movie's twists and turns are definitely out there, and in some cases might even be getting a tiny bit redundant, the real draw power of these movies comes from the mind twisting torture scenes and the idea that people could be put through these demented sort of games in order to be taught a lesson.
It is a kind of guilty pleasure for both myself and people I know to go to the movies and see a man being cut into multiple pieces in a sort-of "Pit and the Pendulum" style moment. Granted I wouldn't do this to anybody else, and you can be sure I don't want a draft going through my midsection, but there is without a doubt a sort of perverse fascination with scenes of typical people doing these types of things to each other. I think that the reason people can't get enough of things like this comes from the fact that we really can't see ourselves or other people doing these sorts of things, so when the images are put forward in front of our eyes we are forced to associate with these acts in ways we never really wanted to - essentially it allows us to live vicariously through the movies and characters portrayed on the big screen.