the latest cohen brothers’ film, “no country for old men,” sets up the dramatic edifice of our country as CONDITION, the land as politik; the tension between environment and character, identifiable IN the land itself… yet without precedence over the man and his condition (which comes from the land and colors the land). the film leaves a standing stark image of ideals, evil and its opposition–which is not “good”–but survival, conditioned man, acting in WHATEVER manner necessary. the word ‘evil’ may be out of place here… yet the force of antagonism in this film, a character called ‘anton sugur’, pronounced “suh-grr” is utterly unpredictable in philosophy and bizzarrerie, he’s an archetype, a ghost, and a ferociously sober killer, who dupes his opposition, the law man played by tommy lee jones with zero effort, like a force of nature taking the roof off a house or filling a schoolhouse with water. the best line in the film to describe his philosophy (after he’s flipped a coin that the viewer can see is the hinge of an innocent man’s life, and this man chooses “correctly”), “DON’T put it in your pocket–” the gas station owner, simple, tied to this one postage stamp of earth begs whyfore… “because it will mix in with the other coins and you will lose track of it as just another coin… [long pause] … which it is.” there is pure consciousness here, zero conscience in its typical form, but unlimited unadulterated presence on the part of this force of death, this principle boiled down into the form of a man. the pivotal character in the film, a man you don’t really grow to ‘like’ but who creates the impetus for the rolling cause and effect waltz away from a lethal and horribly bunged drug deal, named Llewelyn Moss, exhibits no fear and walks boldly out of this tits-up embroilment with $2M and involves himself only because he brings water back to a man left alive, only because he cared to be curious. this simple move makes the film happen. and the whole plot unravels systematically out of a symbol presented at the very outset. Llewelyn is hunting for antelope in the desert with a 30-6 scoped rifle; it rests easily on his boot, he is breathing, hunting, being himself in the world, takes aim and hits but does not kill one of these beautiful animals. he curses, puts his boot back on and goes out in search of the wounded animal. out in the flat of the sagebrush he detects movement far off to his right and snaps binocs up to examine it: instead of the wounded antelope he sights a black pitbull limping away from him; the dog slows and looks back at the hunter expectantly, teasing in his dark way. and thus begins the dramatic motion: what you thought a priori was an innocent activity becomes a matter of dire importance as your life turns over the wheel in a small series of small changes.
i began writing this entry last night in the sushi bar after the performance and, having not eaten all day, got really into the experience and less into being that guy with the laptop on his table. so i ate all this wonderful sushi and then came home, read for an hour on the sheep skin and fell fast asleep. after all the flooding and soggy gardening (i awoke several nights ago at about three and found that all my recently planted magnolia trees had tilted completely over in the storm, so i geared up and went out there and did about two hours of midnight gardening, which was really impressive: listening to the wind blister through the streets, through the sheets of rain pounding the living smell out of my plants, your plants, our plants…) today is clear blue and beautiful: the trees are stretching and aching a little from that heavy blanket of storms that has recently shrouded the northwest. ALL TO SAY: now is the best time to describe last night.
i attempted to go see the whitebird performance, but ended up meandering instead into the portland center stage where the “do jump” troupe is performing for the holiday season (which includes Chaunakah, remember). I was really tired after a day of fierce concentration and as soon as I walked into the theater and heard the music of their accompaniment, a band called klesmerocity (or something like that: i can’t find their information on any of do jump’s website: www.dojump.org), which is totally brilliant whimsical stuff that accompanies the dance throughout… awake! once again, expecting something small and homey feeling, i was trumped with exquisite, strong world class quality movement that holds fast to the fabric of dreams. the troupe is very acrobatic (they describe themselves as “extremely physical theater”) and the premise of each set is totally imaginative.
totally exhausted, i think all the receptors were just sort of raw and this event transfixed me as though i’d fallen asleep, yet still knew i was awake: like asleep upon the ethereal reality of this physical wonder. one of the most impressive sets was in a long piece that incorporated some of the dramatic characters of the previous dance into this new set where a large six foot wide piece of fabric stretched across the back of the stage, about 28 inches off the ground and behind which was a platform such that the audience could only see the torso and up of the performers… it was choreographed such that one dancer played the torso and another the corresponding legs. it was a lyrical play (some bits of swan lake transitioning to more modern dissolution and confusion) in which dancers lost track of their own legs and began dancing on others, going in and out of frantic urgency and grace. though choreographed perfectly together the disjointed limbs of each dancer lent an eerie otherworldly feeling to the play. i kept thinking of studio art: movement, set design, costumes, the building skills involved in creating this amazing totally hand designed and built classic. i realized that it’s a decision about life: whether or not to make one’s life art. the main theme that permeated this spectacle of do jump is inquisitive, raw creativity–conjoined with the skill set to support it. that’s basically the same premise of any good studio… while that skill set varies. yet who doesn’t want these beautiful stuffed animals, the paintings adorning the set of this incredible acrobatic theater, the body of these dancers, and handmade beautiful clothes? the studio is the imagination; it is this life where we have ONE chance to make an impression on you, on ourselves. let’s gird our loins and go for it!
the phrase occurs several times throughout the day, the studio. someone asked me what i do and i tell him “studio work.” it’s an inviting term for me, by it i mean rigorous work, work done with one’s hands and thought, designed. i was in the studio all day drawing a set of plans for a fun home addition we’ll start in a month or so, really enjoying it, poring over these drawings. i stopped for a while and talked with ben (old shop partner) for a while about single and double vanishing points for an interior elevation of the cabinetry. i love that kind of raw learning. i deliver these drawings to the client and inquire of his day; he relates that he’s been making stuffed animals all day. my mind makes an immediate judgment, there’s an image of this creation in my head. he produces the fruits of his day, saying, “these ones are hot off the press.” i am immediately amazed: these creatures are nothing like the insta judgment i made… no, they’re incredible, surreal impeccably made stuffed animals, sort of like you might imagine coming from FAO Schwartz, but the one that S. Dali operates. i trade him part of the payment due for two of these lovely animals. one of them is kind of like a cute troll with crazy whitish pink hair and a large labia looking system on his belly with, yeah, another smaller version of herself in the oven. even though i said “her” there i feel that it is a boy, called “sandy with detachable baby.” they were on sale at ebay previous to my fortunate purchase.