A Song Of Ice and Fire and Television

Never underestimate the power of television: It’s amazing to see the sales and popularity of the A Song Of Ice and Fire books shoot up to the stratosphere following the HBO excellent adaptation of Game Of Thrones, the first book in the series, leaving all long-time fans in a “told you so!” mode. I wonder if the new readers are genre fans or just book fans. It seems to me ASOIAF has broken through the genre stereotype and has become so mainstream it’s a little annoying. It causes my geeky snobbishness to emerge (“Oh, NOW you like fantasy!).

But it’s just me being snarky. I’m hardly a long-time fan myself. I only started reading the series a few years ago following constant recommendations. Just to put things is perspective, Game Of Thrones was published waaay back in 1996. But once I started, I never looked back. These books are immensely compelling, and hard-core fantasy elements like spells and magical creatures – the elements that make the genre seem silly in the eyes of most readers (and often justifiably so) – are very minor and subtle here. They seem to be a a part of the ancient history of the world rather than its present, which actually make them even more awesome and “magical”.

I remember going through the same process with Watchmen, the groundbreaking Graphic novel by Alan Moore. I read it years ago, and was well-aware of its high-status in the world of comic book fandom. But only when the movie came out a couple of years ago did you start seeing people reading Watchmen on the subway in such quantities you’d think you’re in Tokyo and not in Toronto.

I cannot say I’m not happy to see other people getting exposed to the books I love, people who would probably never have read them otherwise. I see old women reading Game Of Thrones, for crying out loud. Usually you would see them holding a Daniel Steele book or somethin’. But no, they read Game Of Thrones, with all the sex and brutal violence. I would be honest, I’d say it makes you feel a little less special about yourself, but also a little less geeky. Now, says the Ego, you have to go and find other obscure book to love and cherish to help you feel special! until, that is, they make a movie or a TV show out of it too. The supremacy feelings that make your inner geek all warm and fuzzy inside were apparent as book readers watched in cruel joy as watchers of the TV series, new to the world of ASOIAF, were shocked again and again by the twists in the plot.

But enough with all the labels (although it’s fun. If we lived in a world where everybody likes everything else that everybody likes, how boring would that be?)

So A Song of Ice and Fire went mainstream. It was considered a high point in the genre for years, but if you didn’t read SF and/or Fantasy, you probably weren’t aware of that. To be honest, it makes sense ASOIAF has been “liberated” by TV. The books may not be great literature (how many books are?), but they’re certainly great entertainment. Martin is an accomplished screenwriter as well, and his chapters in ASOIAF read like TV episodes. Short and sweet, full of twists and turns, and usually ending with a cliffhangers. The very definition of a page-turner which usually applies to thrillers and not 1000 pages long fantasy novels… It’s a very easy read on the one hand, but also very demanding – trying to keep up with all the names of people and places, but it’s well worth it.

Book 5 is out today after a looong wait. Welcome to Westeros, everybody.

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Applause

One of the greatest lovemaking acts in the world is between an artist and his audience.

Therefore, the greatest place for an artist to be is on a stage. To stand in front of the people who love his work, his talent, his gift. To stand in front of them and share it with them. It must be the best high in the world. Musicians and other performance artists experience it in the most direct way. Music shows have people clapping and shouting and cheering with enthusiasm after each song, and during. Magicians, jugglers, acrobats, and other performers of the circus also experience the appreciation of the audience in the most immediate way, although there’s a difference between a performer who is a part of a show and a musician who people come especially to see. I think as far as audience feedback goes, nothing beats being a musician/singer on stage. Yes, it’s hard, doing shows one after the other. It demands energy and stamina. But there’s a reason why music legends such as Madonna and The Rolling Stones still perform while most of the people their age are rotting away in places with names such as “Green Fountains”. You see, it’s the love of the audience. It’s intoxicating. Is it an ego-trip? Partly, for sure. But as long you keep your ego in check, as long as it’s not too inflated, as long as you can enjoy the adoration and not get too caught up in it, it’s just an awesome feeling. For musicians, going on tour is the best thing there is. It is nothing like recording in the studio. It is connecting with the people who buy and enjoy and love their music. It’s seeing them, hearing them, feeling them.

As an artist, some fans will leave you, especially if you’ve been in some sort of creative decline, or “sold out” in their opinion. It’s hard, keeping the love of the audience. It’s hard to win it and it’s even harder to keep it. But, you will always have your core of fans, your little family, who travels along with you, metaphorically and literally, over the years. And even if you don’t have a fan base yet, even if it’s your first performance ever, even if it’s in a school talent show instead of in a stadium, you can still connect with an audience like no artist can. And it’s still magic.

Actors in the theater have it a little different. It really depends on the kind of show you’re making. If you’re making a comedy, you’ll be able to enjoy the crowd’s response during your performance, just like a rocker on stage (depending if it’s funny, of course). If it’s a drama, you’ll have to wait until the end to get your applause. That part, where the actors return to stage and take their bow, is the most magical part in theater, it’s the moment where the performer goes in front of his audience and says “there you go, I did my part, now it’s your turn”. It’s awesome being an actor in the theater if only for that moment, if only for that feeling, doing the same play each and every night, and when it’s over, feeling the love rising out of the seats in a roar of applause, and like a wave, washing over you, affirming your talent, your gift, telling you that you have found what you were brought to this Earth to do. Those applause, this love, they are the stamp of approval on the talent sheet you received from god.

A writer, on the other hand, cannot experience this immediacy, this connection with an audience. A writer performs his act on the page, adding words to words, creating a story or a poem. The closest a writer can get to feeling like a rock star is if he reads his work on stage. And that’s really more of a performance, only of the literary kind. The writer needs to be proficient with it, or he risks boring his audience to tears, just like a musician. But a writer cannot see or feel first hand how his work affects people. He cannot be in your living room with you while you read his book. He cannot hear you gasp, laugh, cry. Writing is the most intimate of artistic endeavors. The connection between the author and his reader is always done through the mind. Yes, a writer can receive letters from readers telling him how his work affected them, but it is certainly not as direct as hearing your crowd cheer and applaud your live performance as a fire-eater or as a Blues artist.

A playwright can hear his words spoken on stage and can take joy in the love of the audience. He is not necessarily on stage bowing, or even present at the theater every night, but he can experience it behind the scenes. Better than nothing, right?

And what about the screenwriter?

Screenwriting, that weird amalgamation of the playwright and the novelist. A script, unlike a novel or a play, is not an independent piece (barring some exceptions…). It is the blueprint for a motion picture. A screenwriter cannot experience a direct link with his audience unless he sits in a theater showing the film he wrote. And even then, it is anonymous. It is like the playwright behind the stage.

A writer is not a performer. Writers are usually shy and prefer it this way. But there’s something to be said about getting your applause. For me, showing my short film in the theater was a high point, and the closest I got to being a rock star. Of course, I cherished it with complete anonymity, and I was somewhat tense since when you’re making a comedy you always worry the audience won’t laugh. But when they do, and in the right spots, and when they gasp in the right spots, you can imagine yourself on the stage, a guitar in your hand, shredding it, or maybe sitting at a piano, hammering those tunes, your fingers dancing on the keyboard like drunk ballerinas.

And when it ends, you stand up, and take a bow, and thank them.

And then you are one with your audience.

And you love them for it.

Snack-o-rama

I knew it was just a matter of time until I work for The Man, but here it is: Me and some friends made a “Doritos commercial” for the Doritos Viralocity contest. It started out as three separate videos but then was combined to create one epic story about a man tormented by his dreams (okay, it’s not as dramatic as it sounds).
Anyway, the trick in the contest is to share your video as much as possible, that is why I am using my blog, who usually concerns itself with topics as Why Are We Here and What Is The Meaning Of It All as a shameless plug-in to promote our little snack-o-rama (TM) masterpiece, which was, obviously, shot in snack-o-rama.

Enjoy!

Dream Journal: Temple Of Bright Wings

I’m on another planet.

I don’t know how I know this. I just do. This dream must be inspired somehow by Avatar and its own influences. I’m in a tent with a young girl, maybe 16 or 17, so shades of Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas are in there too. The Western motif appears again. She is my guide to this new and strange culture. She talks, but I cannot remember what she said.

Next scene is in what seems like a ruined temple, although for some reason it is referred to as a “church” in the dream. It then gets very cinematic, as a “crane shot” rising above the temple reveals it has no ceiling, and I see there is a large courtyard .

Inside, a splendid sight reveals itself. I see men, and only men, wearing colorful wings. Wings in red and green, mostly. And the wings are large, wide, sprawling, like those of a hawk. But I am told, or simply knows, that the wings are not part of their body, but were simply attached to their backs by some method. Nevertheless, they seem to have no problem flying – well, not exactly flying, they mostly hover above the ground for a couple of seconds, fly a few meters, and then land back down again.
The court is full of people. It seems to be some kind of a festival. or a celebration.

And then, like in the end of Raiders Of The Lost Arc, the sense of wonder turns horror. I notice old men stand at the outskirts of the yard with their mouths wide open, like the clowns in an amusement park booth where you need to shoot water into their mouth to blow up balloons. Here, archers try to aim their arrows right into the old men mouths. I watch how one of them succeeds, and the old man, his throat pierced, falls back into the bushes. I notice that those same men, with their mouths open, are not tied or shackled in any kind of way, but stand there willingly, their mouths open and ready….

There are other horrendous things going on, but I mostly just hear about them, and don’t see them, and I will spare the reader of the details. Suffice it to say the place is a place of sacrifice and ritual, as if I’ve stumbled onto a Mayan pyramid. There is certainly something in this scene that reminds one of certain Native-American cultures. It’s beautiful and brutal and the same time, and it seems that the people of the this tribe are perfectly fine with it, and they’ve been fine with it for hundreds of years.

I am much more of an observer in this dream. I’m not taking part in anything that’s going on. I am the visitor, the stranger, the explorer.

But I know I’m on another planet. I can just feel it. Does it make any sense? Does it?

The wings. They were so beautiful, those wings,

I wake up.

Rehearsal

Your touch was a soft breeze
And the sea and the waves were a chorus of cheers
While we danced in the moonlight, giddy and slight
In a whirlwind of soulful lust and delight
And a thousand sunsets came and went
Making me feel like a tortured saint
And holding your hands and kissing your brow
I remembered how it was so long ago
That we danced in the moonlight, the sweetest moonlight
And our shadows were merging, forming a stain
And a tree up above was calling our name
In a cold night on a quiet road in an undiscovered land
Just the soft touch of a welting rose and the smell of its shame
‘Cause you know that it’s never enough
To say what we feel or do what we like
And you see right through me and I through you
No matter what comes and no matter who’s who
Just tell me this one thing and I’ll be on my way
Why did you forget about me at the end of a day?
Why did we rehearse for so long, dancing around each other,
If the music never started playing and it was all a clutter?
On the side of a road
Where owls call in vain
I cleaned up my glasses and sat in the rain

YouTubbing: My favorite online videos of the 21st century

At first , I wanted to post a list of my favorite films of the decade (just for the record, this is the best movie of the decade as far as I’m concerned), but there are so many lists already out there, and there are so many movies to sift through in nine years (and to think of it, 2010 is part of this decade too, so the real bookkeeping should take place next year), that I decided to focus on something a little different and much more manageable:

Online video.

Okay, so you can’t really call it “best online videos of the decade” since there wasn’t any online video before this decade, but the online-video world have been growing exponentially, both technically and creatively. Sure, 80 percent of it is crap – glorified home movies, or simply imitations of better videos, but the remaining 20 percent has given us some really entertaining stuff, right there on our computer screens (and later on our smartphones and other portable gadgets), with almost no mediators – straight from the guy at home to you, the viewer. And let me tell you, there are some seriously creative folks out there who can write, edit and perform – people we might have never had the pleasure of sampling their talent if not for the internet and especially YouTube – the Hall Of Fame for online video, at least until the next “It” video site comes along.

I chose to share with you five of the best videos I have watched these past few years. I only chose from videos who were made by “regular” people specifically for the internet. So I didn’t take into account any movie trailers, scenes and clips from movies or TV shows, or official music videos. Only user generated material. The criteria for me was simple: How re-watchable is the video? How original it is? Have i watched it more than once? more than 50 times? Is it still entertaining even by the 50th time? Two of these five videos were included just because they always make me laugh, no matter how many times I watch them. The other three are pure brilliance as far as I’m concerned.

It warms my heart to see people like me and you put time and effort, usually with no financial gain whatsoever, just to share it with other people. They did it just because they wanted too, just because it was fun.
Above all else, this decade brought the internet to almost every household and person in the world. A technological invention that has become such an essential part in our lives that we can hardly remember how it was before. And as far as creativity goes, the internet has freed us all.

So, in descending order, five of the greatest online videos:

5. Dramatic Cat

I really tried not to include any cat videos. We’re all sick of cat videos. But the hell with it, this short clip is hilarious, and there’s no ignoring the fact that cats have overrun YouTube. And why not? They’re certainly the most mischievous, mysterious, cute and amazing household pet in the world. So as an honorary representative of all 1,344,988 cat videos on the internet, I present to you my favorite one.

4. Marvel Vs. DC: The Dark Knight

There are many fanboy parodies on the net. Everything from Star Wars to Star Trek to Comics to anything in between. Some of these parodies I adore, but I didn’t include them because they seemed too particular, meaning, they might not make sense to the general public, or to put in a more direct way: I’m not everyone will get the joke.
But this video is much more accessible. Everybody knows Batman and everybody knows The Dark Knight. It’s a great satire of the phenomenon that the second Chris Nolan Batman film, a smashing artistic and financial success. It’s very well written and performed, and I laugh every time. Like the cat video, this is here also as the honorary representative of all the fan-made parodies out there, and it’s certainly one of the best.

3. Hey clip

I might seem less than objective here, since the performers are from my own country, but with 28 million views and countless tributes, including one by a Mr. Kevin Smith(!), I guess I’m not the only one. It’s a simple clip, but extraordinary at the same time, and a perfect proof of home-grown talent just finding its own audience in its own natural way.
Two teenage girls from a small town in Israel decided to shoot a clip in the bedroom of one of them for the Pixies’ song Hey, just on a lark. The result was a huge hit on YouTube. It’s Francis Ford Coppola’s vision materializing in front of our eyes: The girl with the cheap video camera is creating something that is on par or even better than many official music videos out there. Fantastic editing and shot selection, and the girls have perfect timing and chemistry together, and they have so much fun, and it shows, and it’s catching, and it’s real , and it just puts a smile on your face. It’s a winner.

2. Shining trailer

The first (if I’m not mistaken) and still the best of all the mock trailers that swept through YouTube in recent years. Notice that it’s not The Shining, but Shining. A grim horror film has been turned into a heartwarming family drama with the aid of music, voice-over, and again, brilliant editing. If I was an editing teacher that’s the first thing I would show my students. But it’s not just a great parody and a great example of the power and magic of editing, it’s also a damn good trailer in its own right. I mean, I wanna see this film! The part where Peter Gabriel’s chorus for Solsbury Hill comes in still sends giddy shivers down my spine. If the guy that made this isn’t cutting trailers in Hollywood right now, or even better, cutting movies, then something is seriously wrong.

1. Where the hell is Matt?

A 32 year-old American Video Game developer got fed up with it all and felt like he was missing out on life. He had money, so he began traveling.

One more thing you should know about him is that he had this sort of funny, bad dance move he used to do.

Okay, back to the trip: A friend filmed Matt doing his dance in Hanoi. Like many internet videos, it became viral and got the attention of a chewing-gum company that offered to sponsor Matt and send him around the world to do his little dance in different places. And that’s what he did.

Up to now it sounds pretty silly, I admit.

But then, in 2008, he was back on the road again.

And this time, he didn’t dance alone.

The result is one of the most uplifting, exhilarating, and heart-warming little montages I have ever seen. It does nothing short of giving me a since of renewed faith in mankind as a species. It’s stunning and beautiful in more ways than I can describe. I love it.

So here’s to music and joy and silly dancing and especially love, because that is the most powerful message of this video.

Oh, and what a gorgeous world we have.

So that’s it. Here’s hoping for more oodles of grassroots creativity on the World Wide Web as it enters its second decade and expands and grows to make us all one nation under the stars. It’s been a hell of a ride.

Film Report #2

Movies watched recently:

All The Real Girls (USA 2003)

There’s a scene about half-way through All The Real Girls which is so brutal in its naked honesty it transcends acting and the definition of character. You feel like you’re watching real people in a real situation.
This is just a culmination of the naturalistic, realistic vibe that runs through David Gordon Green’s small but impressive relationship drama. Shot in a measured, composed style, it hardly has a plot, only situations which revolve around a young couple in a small town in North Carolina and their friends and family. The movie eschews almost all kinds of sentimentality and cinematic traditions of portraying lovers, which creates a viewing experience that requires some patience and acceptance from the side of the viewer – we’ve been conditioned to see love portrayed in certain ways in movies – but if you go along for the ride you find a rich character study peppered with beautiful cinematography. Nature is a big part of the story: The behavior of nature and animals vs. the behavior of man. The movie seems to live and breathe between the dialogue, between the words, in looks and feelings and small gestures. It’s not the most flamboyant or flashy movie in the world, but as a story which depicts love and heartbreak it feels extremely real and genuine.

Ghost Town (USA 2008)

David Keopp is one of the most high-profile screenwriters in Hollywood. Among others, he wrote the scripts for Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds, and the last Indiana Jones adventure. He’s also a director in his own right, and as a filmmaker usually creates thrillers such as Stir Of Echoes and Secret Window, which is a pretty neat adaptation of Stephen King’s scary novella. In Ghost Town he goes back to dealing with the ghostly world, which he first tackled in Stir Of Echoes (which I didn’t see), but this time, it appears, on a much lighter note. The movie is billed as a comedy, but it plays more like a drama. Much more Ghost than All of Me. Ricky Gervais plays a misanthropic dentist who, following a botched anesthesia, dies for seven minutes and subsequently gains the ability to see dead people, and that includes Greg Kinnear’s ghost who wants Gervais to prevent his widow from marrying a stuck-up lawyer. The first 30 minutes or so are pretty amusing, but once the romantic plot kicks in it all becomes a little too familiar, and the third act makes it very hard to keep the suspension-of-disbelief going, ending on a too-familiar note. The subject matter was handled much better (and with no ghosts) in the brilliant As Good As It Gets (also with Kinnear). Still, the performances are good (Kristen Wiig almost steals the show as a hilarious surgeon), the tone is whimsical at times, New York in Autumn looks great, and the film is an enjoyable, but ultimately slight, fantasy.
One thing: I wonder why dentists are always such SOB’s in movies (and on TV, like Dr. Whatley on Seinfeld). Anyway, from what I’ve seen of Keopp directorial work, I would say he’s much better in thrillers than in this kind of fluff.

The Big Lebowski (USA 1998)

Trying to describe The Big Lebowski‘s plot line (if you can call it that) is a meaningless gesture, and also a headache inducing one. This movie, one of the Coen Brothers’ most beloved, lives and breathes in its characters and dialogue, which comes to life through some fantastic performances, especially from Jeff Bridges who plays the ultimate slacker, The Dude, and John Goodman, who is his friend, a traumatized Vietnam War vet who insists on keeping the shabbos and have no control whatsoever on his impulses or mouth. All these characters inhabit a hyper-realistic world which is classic Coen brothers territory. The movie is peppered with some imaginative and fun dream/hallucination sequences, but  the entire film, with its weird kidnapping tale and bizarre characters, looks and feels like one big dream sequence. The story is scattershot and unfocused, but the dialogue is very funny for the most part and the characters are memorable. I don’t think it’s the Coen’s best work by far, but it’s certainly one of their most quotable and giddily insane. Also, the amount of profanity is so staggering it’s almost like poetry.

The Symphony of Being

First, please watch this:

Probably the most age old question of all is: What is the meaning of life?

Inspired by Carl Sagan’s words in this video, I will venture to say that maybe, just maybe, the Meaning is in the asking of this question. To ask this question is to express our ability to ponder, to investigate, and to appreciate and experience the world as well as the universe. To ask the questions, but not necessarily find the answers. Pondering those questions, in some form or another, instead of living constantly in our heads and minds and confined little worlds, worlds that are more often than not consumed by materialism: Money, possessions, status.

We should be more aware of the Big Picture. I mean, won’t all the little wars in the Middle East seem rather foolish if a giant asteroid was hurdling our way? They won’t seem important anymore, because they’re not. They’re based on unimportant things. They are based on the “little world”. Oh, it all seems very important to the collective egos of the warring parties. But all the wars and conflicts in the world are a result of the same narrow, petty, problem-creating, frightened and fragile human ego. Same goes for conflicts between individual people. Conflict between nations is just the same thing only on a larger scale. How much misery and suffering, when all that needs to be done is to realize what a miracle it is that we are on this Earth to begin with, as intelligent, sentient beings, and that we are able to write about it and talk about it and think about us being here and what it all means.
We are not something that is separate from the universe. We are the universe. Our bodies are made of stardust, materials from constellations long gone which still live on through us. In our bodies we carry not only the biological imprint of all humanity before us, but also of the space around us, the galaxies, the suns, moons and comets. They live inside us and every one of us is a piece of the whole. We are all indeed connected.
Like Sagan says, the fact that we have been provided with the ability to muse on that on so many different levels is the way of the universe to ponder its own nature and existence, a way for the universe to look at itself. Because how will the universe be able to contemplate itself if not through sentient beings, not only here on Earth, but on countless other planets and in countless other galaxies? How can the universe experience itself if not through us?

And yet, we seem to have lost that connection with the bigger picture and somehow got lost inside our heads. Millions of humans around the world are busy settling scores, making judgments, proving they’re right and the other side is wrong, playing mind-games, poisoning the collective psyche, poisoning relationships, and eventually poisoning the very planet we live on as a physical manifestation of that. What is the corporate culture if not one huge ego streak? What is war and violence if not the human ego getting out of hand?

For eons, Man has felt alone. Religion, in its purest form, stems from the human need to curb this loneliness, to provide some kind of an answer, to make us feel we’re not alone, to let us know there is someone out there looking out for us.
I don’t know if there is or isn’t, but call it what you will: Spaciousness, Consciousness, Awareness, or the most common name but also the most loaded one, God – since we are the universe, this is not something which is external to us. Ultimately, the creator and creations of the universe are one and the same. It’s almost as if we created ourselves. Not in a conventional, physical term, naturally, but to use a yummy metaphor, it’s like there’s a cake being baked in the oven, but the cake is made of the same material as the oven.

We are our own children and our own parents (time as we know it is a concept created by the human mind), because at the core we are all one and the same, and we all take part in this Symphony of Being, whether we’re aware of it or not, whether we accept it or not. Our senses give us a picture of the world, but it is a limited one, because there are many other layers that we cannot perceive. So maybe the real answer to the meaning of life cannot be known or perceived, it can only be felt.

On the other hand, here’s another musing on the Meaning of it all:

The Bag Collector

There’s probably no better time than when I’m looking to move from my apartment to bring up a rather peculiar aspect of my life, and that aspect is that I collect bags.
When I say that I collect bags I don’t really mean that I collect them. I don’t go to antique bag stores in dingy alleys on a search for rare, old bags in mint condition. When I say I collect bags I mean that I find it hard to throw bags after I use them.
If you will open the cupboards under my sink or look above the desk in my workplace you will come upon hordes (okay, not hordes, but too many) bags in different shapes, sizes and texture. Stacked or meshed together in a dizzying display of colors and logos. In many of them you may find old receipts, which hearken back to the day the bags were originally used. Canada, where I reside, environmentally-conscious as it is, has recently implemented a five-cent price tag on carry bags. You bought something? You want a bag? Pay up. This can be annoying because sometimes you’re just walking down the street from somewhere to somewhere and want to buy something and you don’t carry a bag, because when you left the house/office/Turkish bath you didn’t know you were gonna buy that something and you find your self having to pay–

But I digress. The bottom line is that it is a good thing. No, not for the environment, for me! Yes, finally I have use for all the bags I’ve been saving! It even makes the bag-collecting more special, because each bag that is stacked in my house has been bought and paid for. It is a product, exactly like the things it’s carrying. So now I may have fewer bags, but the value of the “collection” is much higher. Of course, once in a while a bag is thrown, especially if it serves as a garbage bag. So yes, I don’t necessarily horde them, I use them when I can.
Because you see, that’s the whole point. My mother is a bag collector, and for some reason I followed her footsteps with the same twisted psychology which lies behind this bag-collecting perversion, and here it is:

You never know when you’re gonna need a bag.

That’s right. You never know! Why waste a good bag after a one-time use? Yes! I am the original environmentalist! I didn’t throw bags away before I used them at least a second time after the original usage. Now, I am sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t throw out bags after a one-time use, especially in this environmentally-conscious day and age, but still, I believe that I have taken the bag-collecting skills into a new height, because, well… you never know when you’ll need one!

I can say it without it sounding inappropriate so I’ll say it: there is something very Jewish in the not-throwing-stuff-away school of thought. Jews have been persecuted for many generations by many persecutors and always found it hard to stay in one place, so the order of the day was to move. Move. Move. And when you move, you need to pack, and when you pack, what do you need? You got it. Bags. Lots and lots of bags. So I’m pretty sure it is in our collective gene pool – to not throw packaging materials away. If I could save boxes without filling up my apartment and suffocating on carton fumes, I guess I would’ve collected boxes too, because, you know… you never know when you’ll need a box.

One of the greatest scenes in modern cinema is the scene from American Beauty – pretty much the thematic centerpiece of the film – where the bag dances in the wind, and it is indeed beautiful. One of the reasons it’s beautiful is because it is a bag being set free. It does not need to carry anything anymore. It does not need to obey the whims of man. It is a free spirit, doing as it pleases, jumps here, flies there, and dances.

If I had the guts to do it, if i could let go, I would’ve waited for a particularly windy day, and then take all my bags outside and set them free. I would watch them fly down or up the street, or get caught on a tree branch, or stick to a window like a squashed bug. I would let them all go, all the bags I’ve collected, and let them do as they will, or rather, let the wind do as it will with them.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s not really “green” to throw plastic bags all over the place, but it’s a metaphor, right? The metaphor.

Hmm… or is it?

Yeah, it’s a metaphor.

For now.

Dream Journal: Once Upon A Time In The West

I’m in a pub.

They’re putting white table cloths and candles on the tables and I ask this woman what’s going on and she says “They’re celebrating Hanuka”. “They” meaning the Jews. I remember pegging her as a racist.
I know I need to go out because I have the house all for myself. It’s a long weekend because of Rosh Hashana and everybody will be out. “Everybody” means my family.

Then I go outside. It’s night. I get lost. Can’t find the streetcar stop. Someone approaches with a pickup truck – I’m standing on this sandy pit and he drives backwards and doesn’t see me and almost runs me over.

I go down to the fork in the road and choose another street, there’s police or something like that blocking the street.
Coincidentally, this is the way to my work. Apparently in the dream I’m equating “going to work” with “going home”.

Somehow I find myself in the station but I don’t recognize it. It’s white and clean and I see stairs spiraling up. It’s more like a fire station then a subway station. On the stairs I find this pale green cloth, or piece of clothing. Can’t remember exactly. It’s wrapped up in a nylon bag, I think. I take it out of the wrap and wear it because I think I need to if I want to get on the train. Then I realize it doesn’t even fit me and I take it off. At that point this guy comes out of a room and offers me coffee – expensive kind of coffee, with foam and all that crap – in a small china cup, on a plate, like in a coffee shop. The room where he was in, there are other people there. Looks like the lunch room or something, or the kitchenette. I ask him where’s the train and he tells me.

The platform is outside, and it’s day time. It looks like it came out of a western. Bushes, and rocks and pebbles. I’m looking for a place to put my coffee cup (which I hardly touched) and eventually just puts it on a rock, but then I look to the side and see there’s a bunch of similar cups on the sandy ground not far from where I stand, so I go and put the plate with the cup on the ground next to the other cups.
At some point this petite Asian girl comes along. She hugs two ugly monstrous green lizards with her arms, and between her fingers she holds a wreathing, live cockroach (recurring symbol #1: Bugs). She proceeds to put the cockroach on the ground and then releases the lizards after it. She explains to us that she’s an artist who creates tattoos on the ground. When the green lizards kill the cockroach they use this greenish goo which they shoot from their mouths. The girl uses this goo to create her paintings. She turns over some rocks to show us other works she did in the area. You know how you usually find snakes and scorpions if you turn over a rock in a western? Well, here you find “earth tattoos”. The paintings themselves are imprinted on the bottom of the rock, and not on the ground, and interestingly enough, they’re not green but pretty colorful. That’s all I remember from them.
Then the girl collects her little monsters and the dead, squashed cockroach and walks away. I remember feeling disgusted.

Then I go back to the platform and wait for the train. I meet this kid, maybe 15 years old, and he says something about “filmmakers don’t have to wait for trains” or “don’t have to” something. I don’t remember exactly what. I tell him some filmmakers do. Oh, and he’s there with his mother.

Then the train arrives and we all get in. Of course, the inside of the train is quite different than a subway train. It’s wide, the seats are arranged in rows in the middle of the space, and there’s a screen on the wall facing the seats (recurring symbol #2: screens). The interior reminds me more of a ship then of a train. There’s other stuff going on in the train, some talk about something, with the kid and his mother, but I don’t remember what. There’s also something showing on the screen, I think, but I don’t remember what it was either. I do remember that at some point, either on the train or afterward, I’m meeting a couple of my friends, a husband and wife, and joins them in my hurry to get home, maybe they’ll show me the way, but we end up in the same pub where the dream began (now that I think of it, the pub also has this strong Western vibe to it. Wooden tables and chairs, and just the layout of a saloon).
They look very tired. I almost feel guilty for dragging them along.
Anyway, it’s night again, and the pub is pretty empty. We sit and talk, I don’t remember about what. But they keep telling me to lower my voice because I disturb this lonely, middle-aged (bald?) guy sitting next to us. So I try and lower my voice.
At some point I realize I finally went the wrong way again, so I tell them I have to go, and then I leave. Outside, There’s heavy rain. I open my black umbrella but it doesn’t help, the rain is so hard the umbrella is actually sagging in my hand, and the pole is leaning to one side and almost breaking.
So I go back inside.
I’m not sure what comes before or after here, but I find myself talking with the bald guy and apologizing if I disturbed him, he seems depressed and tells me about the incident where this Arab guy came to him earlier and threatened him with a knife. According to my response, I was supposed to have witnessed this incident, but if you read back, you’ll see I have no recollection of that in the dream sequence. I proceed to tell him that the guy was just showing off and that he had no real intention of hurting him.

Then I find that my friends have switched tables. In order to get to where they’re seating now I need to go through this attractive couple who are blocking the pass. I ask them politely to let me pass and they politely do. Then the guy stands up and mentions my shirt. Apparently, I’m wearing my Scarface shirt, or a version of it. He talks about the quote which is on the shirt. It’s a real quote from the movie: “Say hello to my little friend”. But it doesn’t appear on my real shirt. But on my dream shirt, apparently it is. I look down and see it written in small letters. I smile at the guy. He seems to be ecstatic by the shirt. His blond wife/girlfriend also smiles, I think.

I join my friends but then I notice someone coming in. It’s a girl. She’s very familiar to me but I can’t peg her down a 100 percent. She’s brunette, with short hair, and a beauty spot above her lip, like Madonna’s or Cindy Crawford’s. She’s looking around and then notices me and starts asking me something (I think she says she was late for something but I’m not sure). Suddenly she stops, as if she forgot the etiquette, and hugs me. I hug her back and plant a kiss on her cheek. She lets go of me and gets back to her business, which is asking her question, which for the life of me I can’t remember.

I also don’t think I had an answer for her.

I go back to my friends while the girl sits in another table, alone. My friends tell me something like “what are you doing sitting here with us, go talk with this girl.”

But I don’t think I’m going. I think the dream ended at this point, in the anti-climactic way in which dreams often do.