Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Category: Week 5 Journal (Page 2 of 4)

Week 5 Journal Macsen Baumann

In the summer of 2014 I travelled to Léon, Spain with a group of fellow UW students to participate in a four-week experimental learning program. During our time there, we stayed in the dormitories of the local college, sharing the facility with a few other students from around Europe. Because of our schedules, we rarely saw these dorm-mates, though every once in a while they would join us for a meal or two. Midway through my time there, Robin Williams died suddenly and to our surprise. Without exception, all of us American students we distraught, reacting far more intensely than seemed necessary. Regardless of personal connections to Williams, each of my peers committed to a mood of general mourning and melancholy for the rest of the day, and when it came time for dinner, the Americans could easily be told from the Europeans merely by facial expression. Personally, I had grown up with Williams’ movies (most notably the critically-acclaimed Flubber) and so in a way my sadness could be explained by my nostalgic connection to him, but I felt remorse far beyond that, coming from a place that was not inside of myself but distinctly other.

Journal Entry – Week Five

The latest writing exercise in class consisted of students picking the author or filmmaker from one of the many novels and movies that we had worked with throughout the first half of the quarter and writing about how and why they were that student’s biggest influence of the quarter so far. For my entry I ended up choosing to write about Jean-Luc Godard and how his film Masculin Feminin resonated with me as well as how I felt that our styles were similar but what plagued me throughout this entry was that I was completely torn between writing about Godard and writing about W.G. Sebald and The Rings of Saturn. My thoughts on this struggle between these two magnificent artists follow as such:

I’m really not sure if I can pick between Godard and Sebald as to my most influential or similar (to my own work) artist of the quarter thus far. I love how Sebald writes and, in many ways, I feel that he writes how I do or at least how I would like to. On the other hand, Godard shows the audience his work in the way that I would like to show the audience mine. If I were writing a novel, Sebald would most definitely be my most influential artist so far but if I was writing a script and creating a film, which is exactly what I am doing, I believe that I would have to give the ultimate title to Godard.
What Inspires me about Godard’s work in Masculin Feminin is the way in which I feel he obscures reality, or at least the notion of normality. For example, Paul witnesses the death of three people during the course of the fifteen-act narrative (one at the café after meeting his false-love, Madeline, one on the subway, and one at the arcade after Madeline and Elizabeth leave Paul at some sort of diner or bar because of his poor attitude). Why does Paul witness these horrors and are they even real? And if they are they are most certainly not to be considered commonplace within the confines of the film. To meet it seems that the deaths that Paul encounters act as a sort of warning, from his own mind, about his deteriorating mental state and, if that is not to be the case, then it is to say something about the hidden lower classes or hidden tensions of French citizens at the time in which the film was produced.
In the film that I have written for class, Life After Defo, the main focus of the narrative is that of the crumbling mental states of the protagonists’ two close friends, Ari and Lennox, who appear to be at odds with each other and to an increasingly dangerous extent as the film moves on. Things begin to get even more complicated in the narrative when the protagonist herself, Cole, begins to seem, but only to the audience, as the one who may be mentally unhinged instead of the other two participants of the isolated journey that they partake on in the beginning of the film.
I feel as though Godard’s focus on blurred reality and obscured normality is the thing that speaks to me the most out of what we have discovered in the class as well as his focus on gender stereotypes and bias but I also feel the Sebald has influence almost as equally in his intentionally vagueness and intricate detail taken to confuse the reader of the time, place and truth of his narrative. This two artists and the works of theirs that we have experienced in the class seem to be the amalgamation that brought on the creation of my film for the class, quite the fitting combination I hope.

Project Excerpt

INT. WOOLF HOUSEHOLD – BACK PATIO – CONTINUOUS

The two step out onto the back porch, a damp, crowded area that overlooks a patch of mud. Taylor rests her coffee mug on the rail, stares out at the tree line.

Jack, tense, pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket. Offers one to Taylor.

TAYLOR

I’ve given up.

JACK

Thought I had, too. Picked this up on my way over.

TAYLOR

Yeah, I figured.

(beat)

Tell me about your case.

JACK

That obvious, huh?

TAYLOR

It’s been over a year. No calls. No e-mails. Not even a Christmas card. Yet here you are.

Jack lights his cigarette. Takes a drag, begins to pace.

JACK

Dean O’Hara was murdered last night.

TAYLOR

I can’t say I’m too surprised. The guy was an asshole.

JACK

You two used to work together.

There’s weight to that statement.

TAYLOR

We worked the same beat for a while. He liked to leave copies of the Bible on my desk. Sent a few letters to my house explaining the “benefits” of conversion therapy. Got transferred after the situation with Emily.

JACK

I forgot about that.

Jack stops pacing, looks at Emily in the window.

JACK (CONT’D)

You ever meet O’Hara’s wife?

An agitated Taylor turns to face Jack.

TAYLOR

What do you think?

JACK

Sorry, had to ask.

TAYLOR

Am I a suspect, Jack?

JACK

No, no. Nothing like that. Just wanted to pick your brain. I only met Nadine this morning, myself. She’s the one who called it in. Woke up covered in his blood. Someone came in and slit his throat and she claims to have slept right through it. Can you imagine?

Taylor takes a moment to process that.

TAYLOR

If you’re telling me this because you think I’ll be moved by a sudden sympathy for that piece of shit, you’re wrong.

JACK

I don’t need your sympathy. I need your interest.

TAYLOR

Well I’m not interested.

JACK

What about Pete Oscar? He catch your interest?

CUT TO:

A shot of Pete Oscar, a fat balding man from the Internet. He’s sitting on a couch and half his head is gone. He’s got his shriveled dick in one hand and the television remote in the other. On the television, THE HOME SHOPPING NETWORK plays.

The sudden shift in conversation catches Taylor off guard.

TAYLOR

Why are you really here?

JACK

Truth is, I’m not so sure myself. Seen a recent spike in homicides lately. At first glance they look like open and shut cases but something feels off. As of yet there’s no official connection but —

Taylor cuts him off.

TAYLOR

Don’t. Don’t fucking say it. Don’t rope me into this. You’ve got one of your *feelings* again? Take it to Esposito. I’m done, okay? I’m done.

Jack stops pacing. Finally looks Taylor face on.

JACK

I brought the case files with me. If you could just take a look…

He cuts himself off this time. Shakes his head. Taylor sighs, takes a moment, then…

TAYLOR

I’m not a cop anymore, Jack.

JACK

Yeah, I know.

Jack flicks his cigarette butt into a rain filled Folgers bucket. Immediately puts another into his mouth. Taylor walks past him.

TAYLOR

I’ve got to get ready for work. Nice seeing ya.

Thursday Yoga Revelations – Marriage/Love, the Heart and Writing

My feedback was to take it further sometimes, so I shall try.

Today I realized that I am nervous when I approach a girl because in my mind I have the expectation of her being the one. I intellectually knew this was stupid already. But it was profound because I realized it on the level of the heart and the stomach. My penis already knew. Funny how that works. 

I had internalized this cultural expectation without being conscious of it. But still in my mind I assume I’ll do what my parents did, get married, take out at thirty year mortgage and live in mutual contempt of each other. Or [I’ll forge my own path] and get divorced and share custody of a child.

Realizing the burden of monogamy has already made my stomach and heart feel lighter. But I can’t help but wonder. How many other things I have internalized?

As a culture we place a great emphasis on the brain and intellectual understanding. But very little on other forms of understanding.

As a writer this concerns me. I don’t want to live exclusively in the realm of ideas, I want my work to embody more tactile and less tangible modes of understanding. Like the way Joan Didion praised Doris Lessing for being unconcerned with the conventions of language. But also critiqued [her] for being more ideas than art.

This is the dream of making movies for me. Through the combination of sound, light and the raw emotions of the actors . One has the potential to create a painting that presents something incalculable but irreconcilable.

[Name Omitted]’s feedback is basically useless to me for this reason. They are pitching ideas of characters struggling over political ideologies but as far as I can tell that’s not what motivates people.

My former Acting teacher Michael once eloquently said, “There’s two main motivations as an actor, you’re either trying to fuck each other or kill each other.” All things considered I’ll take the fucking.

I want to write simple fiction. Nothing more nothing less.

poem

Was thinking a lot about “art” this week, specifically my place in it. As a prose writer, songwriter, performer, poet, whatever, the older I get and the more serious I take this art stuff the more I worry about my contributions, what they mean, if they’re worthwhile, and, more importantly, is the source of that art (memories, the past, shades of darker colors…) worth mining from? worth distilling? So, anyway, I wrote a prose poem/maybe song about such things:

If you listen close there are songs that come and go like whispers on the wind. They send and recede with the faintest melody to the wellspring. To our hearts. And though I’ve tried and try to fight they always break me apart. With letters strung together we sing what lives inside. The timbre of our voices rise and fall in time with the heart-chord-thrum of life, and death, and love. Now, imagine if you can a memory you have still as vivid as when you lived it. Hold it up. Let it all come back. Watch the light bend and refract. Now pretend you choose to give it up, and you may never get it back: would it hold it’s shape and integrity? Or would it stand as an empty poem for your punk rock band? With letters strung together we sing what lives inside. The timbre of our voices rise and fall in time with the heart-chord-thrum of life, and death, and love. And by we I mean me. I mean all of us with an ear to the sky. How else are we to make sense of this life we live if not with the melody whispering on the wind? I may move “to the rhythm,” but I’m craving harmony. I can feel a breeze but I don’t know what it means. For her, for us, for me. But oh the songs I’ll sing.

An aborted beginning. Tommy Chisholm. 2-7-15

Here is a sample of some story mapping I did recently. The majority of what this resulted in I’ve decided to scrap. I think it counts as one of those “writing outside of your story” exercises though. It helped me figure out where I was going and where I didn’t want to go. 

The questions I was trying to answer were inspired by Bill Ransom’s lecture to our class. I ultimately decided Bill’s advice was best suited for aspiring novelist, which I am (currently) not. 

 

 

What is the conflict of my story?

Growing up. The struggle exists in the mind of a young man who struggles with nostalgia. He aches for the past, despite the past being just as painful as the present. He remembers it in a rose tint. It’s what he knows, it already happened so there’s no mystery to what will come of it, only what could’ve been.

 

It also has to deal with the weird confrontations we have with our own consciousness. We suggested to ourselves, as if out of the blue, to commit suicide. We stand in front of a mirror, like a word being repeated over and over, being to lose all sense of who we are.

 

It’s also called The Rites of Longing, so I think it should be broken up into multiple segments, i.e. Rites. A scene about music making him cry ultimately dealing with his recollection of 9/11, a scene about suicide, maybe the music is a motif, a scene about the mirror.

 

What’s it about?

So he sets out to investigate why he is in the grip of nostalgia. If that is the case then there needs to be almost constant flashbacks from the present to the past. Nostalgic triggers are everywhere and the world he lives in isn’t the world he was born in. He just wants to go back, back to irresponsibility, innocence, naiveté. The story will blend past and present at the drop of a hat, in a dream like manner. It will be humorous yet deeply melancholic—because that is part of nostalgia, not knowing what your so pensively sad about.  

 

I think he’s trying to find meaning in the past, to figure out how to make the present meaningful.

 

How will the conflict play out?

He could go out trying to investigate why he’s so nostalgic, why Obstacle 1 makes him cry. Trying to figure out why there is so much emotion welled up with this song could open up the rabbit hole of where nostalgia comes from and what he’s most nostalgic for.

 

You never know if he’s laying in bed thinking or communicating with another person directly. It could all take place in memory.

But it needs to be known that the “I” isn’t myself, it is the protagonist in the first person.

 

Where is it heading?

Possibly from evening to morning.

 

What is the form of my piece?

Akin to Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being

 

The narrative will need to shift from first person to third. During the act of remembering it will be in first person, outside of that memory it will be in third, referring to the past self almost as someone else (your mirror self?)

 

It could be could to have aspects of magical realism, they could be incorporated into the memories. The way everything is blending, isn’t that already the magical realistic?

 

Where will it begin?

Ultimately he’s in bed trying to fall asleep. But will the story begin there, or will it begin at the wheel of his car?

rachel hatfield – Journal Week 5

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia (representing 50%-70% of all dementia cases) often first manifests as hippocampal disruption. The hippocampus, a limbic structure in the brain, is responsible for the formation of new memories as well as some spatial functions. The hippocampal decay in Alzheimer’s prevents the formation and recollection of short-term memories (interfering with autobiographical memory) and also leads to problems with coordination and navigation, though the hippocampus isn’t directly responsible for some types of memory. Implicit memory, like procedural memories and skillsets that are unconsciously recalled, does not appear to depend on the hippocampus, instead originating from other structures in the temporal lobe. The hippocampal damage doesn’t affect these memories, like how to hold a paintbrush or play the clarinet, and new skills can even be learned.

Art therapies encourage dementia patients to remain cognitively active. Most patients are already familiar with handling art supplies or playing music or dancing, and class-like settings are low-pressure situations that stimulate learning and minimize frustration. Other brain functions are slower to degrade in Alzheimer’s, and these patients can strengthen their neuronal connections and even forge new ones by keeping their brains engaged as often as possible. But one of the most important aspects of Alzheimer’s care is psychosocial.

Alzheimer’s disease is incurable, and no pharmaceutical drug can really belay or halt the progression of the dementia. Therefore, heavy emphasis is often placed in symptom management and eventually complete caregiving, with many in long-term care facilities or nursing homes. Unfortunately, in many cases, strong sedatives and hypnotics are used to control the patient and lessen the caretaker’s burden, which can be detrimental because of myriad negative physical and emotional side effects. In I Remember Better When I Paint, a part-memoir, part-textbook about the incorporation and use of painting therapies in Alzheimer’s care, the editor Berna Huebner describes her mother’s decline from a self-sufficient painter to effectively an invalid, suffering from memory loss and agitation but also depression and listlessness in the nursing home she was moved to, feeling isolated and unstimulated. Huebner notes that these symptoms were alleviated dramatically after specific instances where her mother was allowed to paint in her room, or to teach other patients how to paint. This is firmly in line with the most important aspect of care for dementia patients, that of maintaining a high quality of life. Art therapies have been proven to help stimulate patients by introducing changes in their routine, allowing for physical exercise and movement (even just the act of lifting a brush and stroking paint onto a surface counts), socialization, and emotional release. The low pressure environment of an art therapy workshop discourages some of the frustration and agitation that can arise with other forms of cognitive or behavioral therapies, making it ideal for caretakers as well as for the patients themselves.

The aptly-named “memory care” program at the Brookdale Senior Living compound in Olympia offers art and music therapy sessions there to four times a week, depending; after each two-hour block of “Art with Linda!” or “Music with Bob!” there is a marked change in the residents who participate. I ask one of the nurses there if she sees positive effects she thinks could be contributed to the art therapies, and she answers that she does. “That’s why the afternoon socials and exercise classes are always after the art,” she says. “They seem so much happier and more engaged after those workshops. A lot of our friends here were great musicians or artists when they were younger.” Before the dementia. “We’ve been talking about adding more painting and music to the schedule if we can get our hands on more volunteers.”

It seems to really help with residents’ confidence, I offer.

She laughs and writes something on her clipboard. “Yeah, well, it would probably do all of us some good, then.”

 

On Deadlines, and Missing Them – Flora Tempel 2/7

I set myself deadlines, always.

I’ve missed nearly every single one of them for the past eight years.

And I have no memories of anything before then.

I’m working on a deadline now, and I still will be after I finish this, because there’s a whole line of them, and most of them are of the long-standing, “you missed it so long ago it’s just haunting you now” variety.

I meant to have most of this done yesterday. I watched a beautiful movie instead.

On the upside, I love that movie, and always find myself inspired by it.

On the downside, I still don’t want to do anything, feel more hopeless than ever, and the pressure is even higher.

#

I’m still working on a big chunk of writing for last quarter, and I’m praying (stupidly, to a god I don’t believe in) that no one’s really noticed. I know they have, I know they’re all politely ignoring me while I fall rapidly in their esteem, and I still don’t want to get it done. The problem with deadlines, see, is that they create all this pressure that makes it almost impossible to get anything done, and especially impossible to get anything done and feel good about it. I haven’t found a workaround to this conundrum yet, but I’m hoping to in the next hour, because I really need to get all this backed up stuff off my chest. I guess the best thing I can do is do the hardest thing first, so everything after that seems like an easy victory. On the other hand, I really need to apply for this job first because that’s really time sensitive. I’ll figure it out in fifteen minutes, after I move the laundry.

#

The upside of all of this is that I still feel like I’ll survive, no matter how many of my own deadlines I miss.

I guess it’s something about my personal history that I’ve given up on acting fatalistic.

Everything’s going to be okay, is the thing, as long as you try and you don’t get so down on yourself that life feels awful.

It takes a lot, actually, to completely fuck up on life.

At least, it takes a lot more than they made it sound like when you were seventeen.

Not being perfect, or meeting every goal, right now, isn’t going to kill you, or me, or your mother, as much as mine likes to make it sound like it would.

That’s a different story though.

This weekend I’m trying, I’m setting aside some time, and I don’t feel terrible. I feel like I can do it, at least good enough for right now.

That’s all that matters.

I’m not perfect, and it’s the whole point.

 

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