This is the end
...the end of laughter and soft lies...
"Remember how this feels," I screamed at myself aloud, barreling as much as my Honda Fit could up the driveway and through the gravel, tears escaping through my anger. I don't remember which time that was. I just wanted, desperately, to stop. Sometimes, to stop and turn around, and say what needed to be said. But mostly, I wanted to stop doing what I'd been doing. The whole shebang.
In the end, I was empty. I gave it everything I had. I was not the overflowing Ace of Cups dealt to me in my youth. I was just alone, broken and struggling to find a balm to heal deeply entrenched wounds.
The feeling, the hoping, the wanting, the loving, and in the absence of love, the keeping it all inside. The pain, the anger, the depression, the truth. But I couldn't stop, or wouldn't.
I'd seen a light.
A path, a person, a power. It was indubitably novel, while familiar at the same time. An apotheosis of all fears, dreams, desires, and their juncture. Through the fucking jungle of conflict.
Straight to Kurtz.
Mistah Kurtz - he dead.
A penny for the Old Guy
Before I dig in to the Apocalypse I’d like to express deep gratitude for the hardworking local film programmers who bring independent film exhibition - repertory and contemporary - to our Triangle.
Thanks to Jim Carl, Programming Manager of The Carolina Theatre of Durham, my spiritual moviehouse homebase. His efforts with the Retro Film Series, boodles of festivals with an endless stream of excellent current and retro content, (truly impossible to keep up with), providing a home for other challenging local film programmers, are truly humbling. His kindness toward my contribution to this community kept it going many times over.
To Skip Elsheimer, the genius behind the Triangle Retro-Revival Screenings Facebook Group, from which so many Facebook Events are imported into the Art | House Calendar. Most especially his work with A/V Geeks, 16mm educational and industrial films screened all over the triangle for your pleasure, are some of my absolute favorite screenings to attend. I hope to soon get my hands dirty keeping the archives alive. Look for A/V Geeks at Ponysaurus (Durham), Kings (Raleigh), and Alamo Drafthouse Raleigh.
To Laura Boyes for the truly unique MovieDiva film series, featured both at The Carolina Theatre of Durham as well as the North Carolina Museum of Art, where she presides over film programming as the Film Curator for NCMA. Laura’s screenings gave me something to strive for. Her introductions are well-researched, accessible, entertaining and informative. Her film selections bring to light the long history of feminine strength and prowess in and out of Hollywood, on- and off-camera, and have comforted me in times of doubt.
And to Tom Whiteside, operator of the Analog Museum right here in Durham, NC, keeping the history of film-based film production and motion picture images (and some of my favorite smells) alive, and for the atmosphere of his unique screenings at the Durham Cinematheque.
To the generosity of Alex Manness, Jim Haverkamp, and Stephen Conrad at the helm of Shadowbox Studio’s MovieLoft screenings. A home for hot dogs, weird movies, sweet tunes spun and played live. For hosting screenings by the Smyth Brothers (Single Frame), acclaimed film and video artists, and MFA students from Duke’s Art of the Moving Image department. I am so grateful for what my eyes have seen and ears have heard. I look forward to collaborating with them in the future to bring Good grief the forbidden garden to a theater near you.
Thanks to the Screen/Society at Duke for ensuring that the vast sums of private Duke monies go toward featuring beautiful films and filmmakers, current and classic, exhibiting for free to the community at the Rubenstein Center in Durham. To Alamo Drafthouse Raleigh for all the great flicks and for Alamo Raleigh Film Club, and the Rialto, Chelsea, and Silverspot Cinemas for featuring independent programming.
And finally, to Cinema Overdrive’s Adam Hulin. Thanks for help moving back home to North Carolina from New Orleans; for Overdrive - an unrelenting source of aesthetically challenging content, which gave me plenty to write about for the duration of Light Artists Are the Least Light-Hearted. It owes its humble beginnings and ends in large part to you.
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In Light Artists are the Least Light-Hearted, using powers of observation, candor, shamelessness, and reckless abandon, I accounted for an experience.
It was meant to be a touchstone, a multidimensional approach to understanding movies as art, the significance of that process, a collation of many years of work distilled into a single space - through the lens of an unhealthy relationship.
Somewhere in the process I’d ditched my self-respect for the sake of... self-preservation?
I’d like to believe it was all for love.
My love of loves in this world,
the motion picture art form.
Whether digital or analog, documentary or narrative, feature or short, studio or independent, I fully invested in my relationship with the movies and made an earnest effort to see as much as I could in theaters. To learn something new, feel something true, or because there was nothing better to do. I made the same discovery time after time. Wherever you go, there you are.
Nerves that fire together, wire together.
Meaning was framed. The bigger the screen got, the more the black around the frame grew larger, looming, an abyss. An inverse pupil. Wretched, amateur mistakes. Love, perverted, became...
Was that it?
The movies might have contained meaning, but fuck if I could.
Besides working actively with a therapist to process my pains I need some freedom for change.
There's another story form I have to explore. Less self-destruction, more creation. I'll still be writing about my adventures at the movies - but in a different format. I'll still be updating Art | House for local screenings, which is what you ought to want anyhow.
The secret inside of LAALLH is that my tail is showing. I talk of darkness without speaking its name.
The looming shadow can't help but be cast by the bright of light.
If you are not lighthearted, then dark is your heart, and there is darkness there that breaches the unspeakable.
Light, Artists, and the heart that dwells, dark and light, was my primary motivation for the time.
This is the end.
Briggs' persona embodies that devil-may-care attitude with a heart of gold, scrappy intellect defying the anti-intellectual bent of the redneck. But he went to Vanderbilt, so there's that to consider. While the poor redneck is the imagined apotheosis of the country's ills, it is the aristocratic class believing in its own highness that held slaves and perpetuates itself in current forms of oligarchies. It's antithetical to the redneck, who bows to none but God. And God loves rednecks, for the same reasons that Jesus asked us to embrace compassion (integration of differently-abled folks within communities) and blessed the meek (poverty keeps you from thinking you're so much better than other people).
Briggs laid out a kind of redneck philosophy as told through the movies. Briggs brought up the origins of rednecks and the Quaker role in shepherding them into this country via deeply held beliefs in religious freedom. I learned that Cumberland Presbyterians (the seedlings of all rednecks) also used the language of a "meeting house" rather than refer to their buildings for worship as churches. There are few that seem to maintain this convention today.
On my mother's side, Granny always said we were Scotch-Irish (aka redneck) (aka descended from poor sharecroppers). As both of my parents hail from the perfect Southern mistake that is Mississippi, I enjoyed Briggs' redemption of what positive values I hold as a result of this upbringing, especially a strong penchant for personal freedom. Briggs advanced the argument that, rather than leaning left or right, rednecks could be understood simply as a class of people who didn't give a fuck what you thought of them and wanted to be left alone.
I've never considered myself to be a redneck. My Dad's side introduced the Creole/Catholic/olive toned skin that kept me from burning so in the sun. But I have always been an outsider, an Other, enigmatic for my inability to be easily classified by sight or sound of my voice. I've always been proud of my fair-to-middlin' perspectives that planted me between left and right, high and low, educated and uneducated, ugly and beautiful, but more than anything aspiring to freedom and living life on my own terms.
So when critics like Roger Ebert point the finger at this or that I remember that even such giants have their blind spots, like his commentary on STIGMATA where he dismisses the validity of The Gospel of Thomas out-of-hand.
I escaped from the dark, gritty, gothic South, the shadow cast by the light, and found myself back here in Mayberry, hoping for a home for my spirit to reside, and for my soul to be at peace in the company of authenticity and mutual respect.
But there's a difficulty here that some redneck-ness in my soul has to speak to before I make my exit from this narrative.
I did always like to ride as a passenger in a fast car.
The redneck is now associated with an elevation of masculinism as the ultimate value. I reject masculinism on the same basis as I reject feminism. Leaning too hard on either extreme is a limitation of the dynamics between these two forces present in every person. So when Briggs brings up things like North Carolina politicians and trans bathroom policies needing the voice of the wise Southern feminine to counter the Barney Fife impulse, I'm intrigued. Impressed.
Hypersexuality of the feminine redneck then feeds into this "Once they turn 12, they're legal" observation made by Briggs. It might have been my hypersexuality that led me to seek out the attention of men in positions of authority early on. I reckon it has caused me some grief. Just because I thought I could handle it doesn't mean I don't have some deep scars to show for my efforts to be seen as grown. Just because I was raised to be hospitable and care for my loved ones doesn't mean it was always the best idea to let folks in.
1600+ years ago a contingency within the cradle of civilization revisited Genesis to articulate an alternate relational model. In The Apocryphon of John, prior to the creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden, God has problems of his own. Namely, that he's been brought into existence with a single mom (Sophia) whom he is unable to recognize or appreciate. He's kind of half-formed and very defensive about it. In defiance of all else, he claims his existence as the one and only, and goes on creating other half-formed crap from his limited faculties.
So when I returned to the darkness to pick up where we left off, to watch Deliverance, and you paused after the film and asked me what I thought the film was about, “masculinity” came easily to my lips. But of course, you had only used it against me in passive ways up to that point. I accepted your external loyalties to my own detriment and your own shortcomings to the same end. How does a man demonstrate his essence in the world? By being the strong but short-sighted and ultimately broken Alpha male? By being the passive and pleasing Beta who gets himself fucked in the ass by lesser men? Or by precariously balancing between them, a wide-eyed and observant Everyman, refusing the extremes but suffering them both, somehow?
― Anne Lamott
I was driving to the mountains with my dad, and put The Doors on Spotify shuffle for the 4am departure from Durham. Jim Morrison belted out a sermon. I remember being glad those earbuds were entertaining my conservative, catholic, father.
“YOU CANNOT. PETITION. THE LORD. WITH PRAYER.”
I never bothered praying to God about men.
The relations of men to women were established at the outset of the Good Book. My family, whether they meant to or not, instilled in me a deep core belief in my own inferiority on the basis of sex via Genesis.
This argument was unreasonable and unsupported by empirical info. I grew up with a very loving, supportive father, a perfect model for the best that masculine authority could offer. I also had an older and younger brother, both of whom drew out the absurdities of masculine authority and wisdom and called this philosophy deeply into question. Additionally, my grandfather - my mother's father - had abandoned his family while my mom was a child, leaving her and her three brothers for 5 or 6 other, greener pastures.
This theology was intimated to me because they believed sincerely in the rightness of patriarchy. Both my father's Catholic family and my mother's Protestant family had their impact on my belittled soul and beleaguered spirit long before all this, in the darkness, ready to play its games with my head, my heart.
The responsibility for the Fall of Mankind fell squarely on Eve's lesser shoulders, inviting our collective downfall from her (immediately prior, innocent) desire. Adam couldn't handle the knowledge he'd tasted from Eve's generous fruits. She had led us to our fate, intuitively, the inevitable act leading us closer to God. Had we first eaten from the Tree of Life, we may have obtained immortality, but not without being able to recognize or reject the evil we might bring along with us to that end. In this way, Evil would have existed prior to Eve's being aware of it; would be a part of God itself. Maybe that's what Adam was so afraid of.
Somewhere inside. I tried to rephrase, a different angle perhaps, a way to understand the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life within the story as it was given me, and with interesting appendices.
In the Gnostic mythos, I found a way out.
And that is what I intend to do, here, with my own Apocalypse.
In which the documentaries Hearts of Darkness and Milius shed some light. Theatrical, Redux, and Final Cut are compared and contrasted. Leonard Shlain's Sex, Time, and Power is used to unpack Apocalypse Now with personal asides
PART III (fragments)
“I can’t do this anymore without feeling divided inside.”
The feeling, the hoping, the wanting, the loving, and in the absence of love, the keeping it all inside. The pain, the anger, the depression, the truth. But I couldn't stop, or wouldn't, because I'd seen a light. It was the light I looked for in Meeting. From pupils to pupil, some unspeakable truth, some recognition of one human being of another in all complexity - and the pains neither one of us had the freedom to express. The ability to see things clearly, to know someone truly. A path that led me to my own darkness, and indubitably, into his.
“What, bent out of shape because the man you want is unavailable?”
It might have hurt less in the end if he’d just beat the shit out of me. Instead, as a result of the openness I’d maintained, I felt entire neural networks crystallize like carbon branches and in the cold combust into dust in my frontal cortex. I’d been lying to myself very effectively. Immense, immeasurable pain set in. I couldn’t be who I thought I was anymore. She wasn’t hard enough to withstand this degradation. I’ll never forget this feeling, even if I can heal from the pain. How could I believe the brutality I knew to exist wouldn’t find its way to me?
I chose that path, accepted that mission, ferried down that river through the jungle straight to Kurtz.
All the things I loved, and all the things I hated, and all the past and future collapsing the wave function into singularity, oneness in the intimacy I thought was there. Alone, with a stale smell of sex on the filthy unwashed sheets I died. Over, and over, and the whole history crystallized and replaced the feeling of closeness I’d sought and thought wasn’t illusory. And what brutality, the likes of which I hadn’t experienced so clearly since I was a child, stupid enough to believe that people won’t hurt you if you’re kind to them, if you try.
If you submit.
Exactly the opening any insecure bull would thrash around in long enough to spend himself and dispassionately expect you to accept as a gift.
"Many a woman has rued the day she met a particularly artful liar. Women needed to become expert at reading between the lines. If a woman garbled the transmission of an unworthy beau, and granted permission for his emission to swim northward in her, she opened herself to a raft of future problems that had no simple solutions." (Shlain, 203)
Despondent, I felt the acute desire to scrape out my insides and vomit all over the place. My misreading of care called my intelligence into question more than any grammatical quaff or accident could. I had sought this out. I had chosen this person.
“Upset because we didn’t go beddie-bye together?”
The final cut. I'd lost my producer that morning, and my neural integrity the night before. I needed the help. I needed too much. And on the anniversary of my mother's death I'd lost my bid for a grant to finish the documentary, something I'd spent $500 dollars on already in hopes of getting what I needed to complete it. Probably, I'll be able to use the audio.
All of it, hopeless. All of it, broken. And me, no innocence left, struggling to make sense of the biggest questions, made to feel small by this man so he didn't have to face his own weakness. The shame was immediate, intense, and sent me straight to a therapist, sure I'd come very close to a mental breakdown.
I'd lost friends, but more than anything, I mourned what comforts could be gleaned from having some goddamned integrity. I finally appreciated the lessons my family had tried so desperately to teach me from their limited, patriarchal point of view.
"Parents, older women, and her culture's conventions constantly remind her that if she fails to secure a future reliable source of resources the result will be catastrophic. And it doesn't matter how badly she herself wants to have sex---she must exercise restraint over her hormonal urges...her veto over sex is the primary source of her power and becomes the root of his anger." (Shlain, 347)
What a tremendous mystery, intimacy.
You might think you know it, think you've had it, think that your tenderness, your vulnerabilities exposed, have been received and shared with another.
Intimacy requires strength and trust. It requires strength to lay yourself bare with an Other. There is always the risk that, in so doing, you have given the Other the tools needed to wound you deeply. You must trust they won't.
It's no wonder why some people avoid it.
Things can get pretty ugly.
The world is a cruel place where kindness is interpreted as either weakness, or as a scheme to advance selfish ends. Anyone who falls for kindness is just naive. Anyone who doesn't take advantage given the opportunity is to be taken advantage of.
What's that? What qualities do pussies have? Being taken advantage of?
Depends on your perspective.
Passive, manipulative. Pussy. It never gives without the expectation of receiving more than is absolutely necessary in this quid-pro-quo.
A pussy might invitingly offer. But this offering is to be regarded with suspicion. Gifts, money, affection, there is no end to a pussy’s needy abyss. Pussies will absorb that which is given and keen for more. No end to the depths of needy, demanding pussy, which would rather present itself, awaiting, than assert its needs frankly like some kind of dick.
It's a lack of business sense, a lack of dominance, when you just casually accept a pussy. You set yourself up to get fucked, like pussies do. Better to just fill it up with the least effort required and be on one’s way.
The best is when you get the pussy right where you want it, and withhold. That’s real power.
And if you find yourself at the receiving end, seeing yourself as the pussy, just be a dick and fuck someone else.
God, damnit, there has to be a way out of the gutter.
The way to avoid evil in the act of creation is to do it with love.
Because A Course In Miracles taught me that love is the only gift that increases when it's given away, and that it's the only real thing, the connecting thread. So to do the right thing is to love.
Is that what happened?
This is the way the world ends
I always wanted to believe that, if there was any class of people that could embrace intimacy to both appreciate dicks and pussies and the whole spectrum of two shared human consciousnesses - regardless of genital apparatus, to find intimacy amidst the chaos - it would be artists.
This is the way the world ends
I admit, I have never before felt so much of what I believed to be true slip through my fingers, or been so full of doubt, in all my life.
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.