Monday, March 30, 2015

Radio Silence

This is the first post in over two months and marks the conclusion of the site's longest period of radio silence. Though the writings produced here are of no real consequence to the internet, the world, or to my own career, the burden of lost posts has gnawed at me in this break.  I've had a hard time not doing this, and that's a truth I didn't quite expect.

The initial goal of Love & Squalor was to chronicle and concretize my own critical opinions on theatrical releases in the hope, largely, of falling into a type of writing habit.  It has remained an outlet and a control: if I go to see a movie, I have to write about it.  If I have to write about it, I create a reason to produce a certain type of writing and hone a particular voice.  It's a practice I find quite productive, and I've stuck with it even when I find that I have almost nothing to contribute to the public conversation.  Writing here is a means to an invisible, vaguely obsessive compulsive end.  There is no money in it, there are no tangible benefits, and I've failed outright in contributing to or linking myself up with an online community.  But I'm not stopping.

In the hours/days/weeks to come I will begin the process of accounting for lost time. Not because I have to, but also, yes, because I have to.  As this process unfolds, my hope is to begin to rebuild this site and rethink what it is I want to do with it.  The questions are the same ones we all have: what is this thing that I've made? What can I do with it? Where does it need to go? Who am I when I write here?

That last question is perhaps the biggest one and the thing that could forever block anything produced here from having any traction.  It's a question of persona and brand identity, a question of public and private, and a question of what this is if the human being backing this up is nothing but a (near) randomly produced pseudonym (that, frankly, I don't particularly like).

The thing is, though, that I have a problem with the internet.

Hold on, let me restate that: I have an endless list of problems with the internet.

The biggest one is I've grown uncomfortable with the amount of personal information people are willing to share, as I suspect many reading this have.  There's something eerie about the graveyard of images and thoughts we're leaving behind; all our past selves hanging in the ether, haunting us and waiting to be resurrected again and again. A major part of me does not want to be found.  The problem with this is that for the sake of my career I also need to be found.  I need to be my own brand, I need to have work that's accessible to potential employers, publics, and readers at large.  I don't like this. I resist this. I will not accept friend requests from people I have not met in real life. I would much rather, for example, stick with excising my opinions and thoughts on other people's art while calling myself Wilde.Dash.

Sigh. So it is. Of course, though, the obvious truth is that that is not my name, that it is not even close to any part of my name.  It reveals nothing of what I do or who I am or speak to any trace of credibility I might have.  It is meaningless, and yet it is a type of armor.  It doesn't protect me, it just keeps the worlds separate.  Wilde.Dash is like the Hannah Montana to my Miley, maybe.  Or not. I've kept her around because right now it doesn't really make career-sense to be traceable to this material. It's not a matter of pride or shame or the invincibility of anonymity so much as it's flat out this: if you looked me up and found this, it might confuse things.

This is a very strange limbo to be in, and one I've been trying to work out. I don't quite know how to build this site and this persona while also building "my own."  I don't know what I want to say or how to really participate in the community while existing, essentially, as a cipher (though I also grew a bit sour about certain community dynamics, which perhaps I'll post about at a later date).  It's weird that this site remains a secret to a great many people who know me, and it's weird that I don't jump at the chance to invite my own friends to be a built in audience.

I write all this in an attempt to explain what I expect may be a slow-going sea change here to any who might be paying attention.  This is some of what I've thought about in my absence, and some of what I'll be taking into consideration in my return.

A note on that: since the new year, I have been slogging through the incredible anxiety of the preliminary examination process (sometimes they call them comprehensives).  I'm in my third year of a PhD program, a point where my own coursework has ended and the curious torture of self-sufficient production and study has taken over.  I teach multiple courses every semester, have to read things I don't particularly want to constantly, and have been caught up in the writing of a gargantuan paper wholly unrelated to my dissertation.  All of this has been a privilege and a nightmare, a process that my colleagues and I have determined is impossible to understand/empathize with from outside of the situation.  There were times when I did not sleep for days.  There were times when I caught myself sitting on the couch staring in the same way Jack Torrance does out the Overlook's window.  There seems to be a type of PTSD or postpartum that comes with this process, and though the papers have been turned in, the test has been taken, and all that's left is the oral examination, I've shuddered at the thought of sitting down for too long in front of my laptop lately.  Since I'm supposed to be a writer, since I'm supposed to be producing, since most of my post-exam to-do list involves design projects and stories and essays, this is a problem.

So, I'm dipping my toes back in.  I'm writing this. I'm trying to decide how I want to analyze the films I'm going to write about, if I want to remain more critical fan than theorist or if I want to start actually breaking them apart to examine the pieces.  I think that this might ruin things, might destroy the part of me that loves cinema for its magic. We will see, I suppose.  In the meantime, well, now I've left the breadcrumbs of something like insight...


Monday, January 19, 2015

Inherent Vice

Let me tell you what the weirdest thing about Inherent Vice is.  Because, no, it's not the relative plotlessness, the character names, the bizarre situations, the hapless protagonist, the neo-noir dialogue, or the wealth of hazy non-sequitors. Those may count as idiosyncrasies, but they're not oddities. At least, not if you put the whole thing in context.  That's because the weirdest damn thing about Inherent Vice is that everyone seems to want to discuss it as a Paul Thomas Anderson movie and next to no one is consciously appraising it in its most dominant context: it's a goddamn Thomas Pynchon adaptation. Through and through, head to toe, moment to moment: Pynchon. All the time.  There's an argument to be made that figures the adapted script as Inherent Vice's true triumph, as Anderson has made quick work of the near-impossible. He has diluted the famously convoluted slipstream of Pynchon down to his clearest scenes without losing the off-kilter humor, the sharp (odd) dialogue, and postmodern genre-fuckery that makes his novels tick.

Big Eyes

Tim Burton has needed to break away from himself for some time now - or so many a think piece or whining fan would have you believe.  The director has long been an easy example of a certain type of auteurism:  his films are recognizably his even when they're adapted from someone else's work.  Burton has a trademark look, a trademark sound, a recycling troupe of actors, and repeatedly embraced themes.  Though his work has long inspired a type of cult fandom, it seems that lately we may have become exhausted by the kooky mayhem he brings to the screen.  The last decade or so has found Burton suffering from a type of Hot Topic overexposure; his films have become, too-often, studio projects with over-inflated budgets and automatic t-shirt tie-ins.  Along with that, many would tell you, they seem to have become even more about artifice, and you shouldn't have to look very far to find a one-time Burton fan quietly complaining about the director's descent into self-parody.

After this super-saturation, then, we've been in need of a palate cleanser  - and Burton has been too.  Big Eyes feels like the director slamming down hard on the reset button, if nothing else.  It's his attempt at a relatively straightforward biopic.  All the makeup, expressionist mise en scene, and surrealism has been scrubbed away in favor of period costuming, straightforward lighting, and sincere performances.  The Burtonesque can be found in only two places in Big Eyes: its loving approach to kitsch and Christoph Waltz's over-the-top mugging as the dumbly villainous Walter Keane.  Maybe this is the way things need to be.  Maybe this is the break that proves he can do something else.  Maybe whatever comes next will allow us to appreciate the Burtonesque again.  We can hope for all of these things, because at the end of the day there's one only one major complaint to be made against Big Eyes: it's flat. It's too typical. It plays out like every other biopic you've ever seen.  And as such?  It just doesn't feel like a product of its director.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

PCA Playlist: POPcapsule 2014

Those familiar with my year-end music listing process know that alongside the big list of goodies I typically throw down a list of pure pop.  Typically, I do this in the spirit of confessing and excising what many might refer to as "guilty pleasures."  To be fair, though, I don't really believe in guilty pleasures and there are far too many songs I couldn't quite justify upvoting to the main list, but which certainly have their poppy, earwormy merits.  So, consider this the brightly colored bonus content.  This is the dance party annex.

For your judgmental, head-shaking, eye-rolling listening pleasure, I present you with these oh-too-sweet tracks (collected in one easily consumable YouTube playlist).  I don't care you think I shouldn't like them, part of me definitely does...

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