Lingering: A Ghost Story. (Non-review movie review!)

A Ghost Story isn’t a horror film, but it’s haunting nonetheless. It’s haunted my thoughts since we first saw it last week.

 

 

Why do some spirits choose an afterlife of haunting?

A Ghost Story  raises a multitude of questions. I might as well start with that one.

As far as haunted house movies go, I’ve never been compelled to consider the fate of the ghost, or how lonely it must be for a ghost tethered to his place of haunting. But then, I’d never seen a haunted house movie from the perspective of the ghost.

It’s a despondent ghost who’s unable to leave his place until he gets his answer, or achieves his goal, whatever that may be. Time glides endlessly and the ghost goes along with it. It’s the only dimension he can traverse.

Watching this movie was a profound cinematic experience.

We begin with a married couple, but we never learn their names. I suppose this is because the humans in their physical bodies are more or less props, there to set in motion a possibly infinite journey. In the middle of the film, another nameless person passes through to hold forth at a social gathering. The scene ends and we never see him again, but we’re left thinking.

We fall deeper into introspection. What does it mean to be alive, to exist? What does it mean to be not-alive?

We witness the pain of grieving, but we feel the ghost’s pain more than the pain of the one still living. It’s the bereft ghost whose story we follow.

A Ghost Story is a ghost’s story, yet the ghost is not the protagonist. If the film has a protagonist, it’s the place to which the ghost is fixed. Or it’s the universe. Or it’s time.

If the ghost has a voice, it’s the sheet he wears, its movement, folds, and appearance; even the shape of its eye-holes as they seem to alter with his emotion. That’s the thing about this ghost: he’s emotional, even to the point of throwing the occasional tantrum. The ghost’s sheet is his voice, and Daniel Hart’s exquisite musical score – the most sorrowful voice in the film – makes it devastating.

Thus, the driving forces of A Ghost Story are inhuman. And yet, in this inhumanity, we perceive the timeless plight of humanity. This is brilliant writing. It’s poetry.

In my humble opinion, writer and director David Lowery succeeded with his experiment in mixing mediums to tell his story. Film as poem, or poem as film? When a work of art is effectively both, it doesn’t matter how you assign its primary medium.

Speaking of mediums, I’ll touch again on the expressiveness of the ghost’s sheet, because its authority is so striking in its simplicity. I was fascinated by the way the ghost stands or sits still and turns only his head to look to the side or back, so the folds of his sheet twist with the turn. The effect is dramatic, and that is the point. Facing forward, but looking elsewhere, the ghost’s sheet conveys that he inhabits temporal realms in a transcendence of future and past. We can perceive the enormity of this by merely looking at the drape of a sheet.

A Ghost Story is a highly visual film. It’s maybe 80% silent movie, if not more so. As the ghost lingers, there’s lingering in the silence; we linger on what there is to see. There’s lingering in the sustained notes of the musical score.

There’s more I could say about the significance of music in this film, on how it helps to speak for the ghost, and why, but I’ll hold back. In this aspect, though, A Ghost Story calls to mind The Piano. In The Piano, the instrument serves as voice for Ada, who can’t speak. Also silent, Ada expresses herself through her music.

Watching A Ghost Story, tears collected in my throat early on, and they stayed there until the end, the aforementioned musical score by Daniel Hart partially responsible, I’m sure.

Callaghan was mesmerized, too. When A Ghost Story was over, we looked at each other at the same time that we both said, “I want to see it again.” And we did see it again. I would see it yet again.

A Ghost Story is a beautiful film, a story to ponder and discuss. It’s an elegant study in the philosophical discipline of metaphysics, and it’s a poem. Maybe more than a moving picture, it’s a moving poem with pictures.

 

On remembrance: atomic bombings and 1,000 paper cranes. (+ Atomic Blonde.)

I know that this title seems all over the place. It’s just that today is August 8, 2017.

Two days ago, it was the 72nd anniversary of the United States’ atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Tomorrow will be the 72nd anniversary of our atomic bombing of Nagasaki. These, as we know, were the first and last nuclear attacks in wartime history.

We’re familiar with the official justification for the attacks: Japan had to be stopped before more lives were lost, American, Japanese, and otherwise. The bombs were dropped, Japan surrendered, and WWII ended.

While debate continues as to the ethics of the atomic bombings, there’s another, less-familiar controversy regarding a possible “hidden agenda” behind the decision to launch the nuclear attacks on Japan. Some historians believe that the bombs were actually dropped in order to intimidate the Soviet Union (thus beginning the Cold War), and that Japan didn’t surrender because of the bombs, themselves; rather, they surrendered because of the post-August 6 Soviet invasion.

This theory has always fascinated me. (War fascinates me, in general, but that’s a topic for another day, perhaps.)

Reflecting on atomic bombs and the Soviets and the Cold War, then, I found it funny that the espionage action film Atomic Blonde, whose plot centers on Soviets and the Cold War (the film’s title quite possibly a nod to the atomic bomb “hidden agenda” theory), dropped in U.S. theaters the weekend before the atomic bomb anniversary weekend.

Even more interesting to me, personally, Atomic Blonde’s release date landed pretty much on the anniversary of the Atomic Bomb memorial service I’d attended at my hometown Buddhist temple 20 years ago. The film’s release date was July 28, 2017, and the memorial service date was July 27, 1997.

Yet another happenstance: I went to see Atomic Blonde the weekend following its release weekend. By sheer coincidence, I saw Atomic Blonde on Sunday, August 6… the 72nd anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack.

Then there’s the fact that nuclear weapons dominate our global concerns these days. We’re looking at atomic bomb anniversaries, atomic bombs in the news, and Atomic Blonde in the theaters.

All of this has had me thinking of Sadako Sasaki and her 1,000 paper cranes.

Sadako was two years old when the first atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, where she lived. 10 years later, she developed leukemia as a result of radiation from the bomb. She started folding paper cranes with an aim to create 1,000 of them, wishing for recovery and for peace in the world. In Japan, it’s said that folding 1,000 paper cranes can make your wish come true.

Sadako remained in the hospital for 14 months, then passed away at the age of 12. One account of her story says that she surpassed her goal of folding 1,000 paper cranes. Another account says that she did not, but her friends and family completed the project for her. Regardless, no superstition was going to undo the devastation of the atomic bomb. Since Sadako’s death, the paper crane has become a universal symbol of world peace as well as a symbol of good luck and longevity.

As explained on the origami resource center’s page,

Sadako’s friends and classmates raised money to build a memorial in honor of Sadako and other atomic bomb victims. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial was completed in 1958 and has a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane. At the base is a plaque that says:

          This is our cry.
         This is our prayer.
         Peace in the world.

 

****

About six months ago, I found my Atomic Bomb memorial service program as I went through some old papers. I’d forgotten that I kept it. I took this pic to share it with you (sizing it large enough to be readable when clicked):

 

Atomic bomb memorial service program, pic taken on Sunday, August 6, 2017 – the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan

 

After I found the program, I put it in this old frame. It sits near my butsudan, where I can see it every day as a reminder and a visual point of meditation on peace in the world.

By the way – to end this on a lighter note – I really enjoyed Atomic Blonde.

Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell. (And Gen-X. And okayness.)

Man, I’m in a dark and strange mood this morning. I shouldn’t be. It’s gorgeous out there.

I live in Arizona and it’s May 19 and we’ve been sleeping with the windows open. It’s been like this for almost two weeks. The bedroom air is slightly chilly in the morning, so I reach for a light robe. This bizarre behavior can only mean one thing: we’re entering a new Ice Age.

It’s not just at night, either. After I get up, I go around the house and open one or two other windows and the front door, and leave them open for a good half-day, if not longer. I open them again in the evenings. This, my friends in other places, is paradise. We desert-dwellers love the desert, but we also love an unseasonably cool breeze through our security screen doors.

For posterity, here’s me this morning:

 

May 19, 2017 – in a light sweatshirt. In Arizona.

 

At the same time, awful things have been happening in the world, including the recent and tragic departure of Chris Cornell, whose widespread fame was launched with his Seattle grunge band Soundgarden. His death was not only shocking and sad, but also somewhat alarming for we “lost ones” of Generation X.

When you spend your childhood in the 70’s, your teens in the 80’s, and your twenties in the 90’s –and when the 90’s was your favorite decade, and Ten is one of your all-time favorite albums – the untimely deaths of icons like Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell are sobering. It makes you want to watch Singles (older Gen-Xers), Reality Bites (younger Gen-Xers), and Office Space all day, kicked back on the couch eating chips and not looking for a job, all of us stereotypical, slovenly losers and slackers of Generation X.

Should I complete my own stereotype as a Gen-X writer and install a coffee pot on my desk?

Should I stare off into space and then write a letter? (“Dear Eddie Vedder: please don’t.”)

But I’m lucky. My depression is under control. I’m okay. We’re okay. Everything is okay. Everything is fine, despite global shenanigans at the highest levels of power, shenanigans of which there’s no need to speak. It’s like that one meme… that one where the dog is sitting in a house that’s burning down around him, and then he perks up and says, “This is fine.”

That’s a sign of our times, though, isn’t it? “Okay” and “fine” have long since been code for “things aren’t exactly hunky-dory.”  

“How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“JUST okay?”

Commence questioning all of your life choices as you’re prompted to consider why you said just “okay.” You can’t be okay if you say you’re okay, because okay isn’t good enough. To tell the well-meaning inquirer that you’re okay is to send yourself an invitation to spill all of your not-okayness right there in the office hallway on your way to the water cooler.

Is this the product of a society defined by extremes? If we’re not flying high on the vaporous joy of life at all times, then something is wrong?

I’ll take “okay.”

Maybe this entire post was a sort of tangent. Maybe I just wanted to say, Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell.

 

 

Everyone Needs Water. (A tale.)

[Author’s Note: (Or should I call this “Author’s Fail”!) … Thank you to those who read this blog post earlier. If you thought that the event in this story actually happened to me, I sincerely apologize for the lack of clarity at the outset. The story is an analogy (‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ vs. All Lives Matter). I should have made this clear at the outset. Thank you again for reading.]

Remember how I mentioned in my last post that I like to give water to the homeless? We’ve always got a few of those small, store-brand bottles of cold water on hand when we leave the house, just in case we see someone in need.

We keep bottles of water for ourselves at home, too. We have several five-gallon bottles we refill weekly. It’s hot, and we drink a lot of water. Can’t imagine life without access to all the water we want. We’re so lucky that we don’t even have to try to imagine it.

 

16.9 fl oz of water in the small bottle. 5 gallons of water in the large bottle.

16.9 fl oz of water in the small bottle. 5 gallons of water in the large bottle.

 

[ETA: The following tale is analogous to the #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter controversy]

I made a quick stop at a Circle K (convenience store) the other day when I was out running errands.

There was a homeless guy sitting on the curb outside the store. He wasn’t holding a water bottle or a drink cup, and there was nothing of the kind around him, so I took a bottle of cold water from my insulated grocery bag before I got out of the car. On my way into the store, I handed him the bottle of water.

At that moment, another guy exited the store and pressed a button on his key fob to unlock his vehicle. As his headlights flashed with the unlocking, he saw me giving the homeless guy the bottle of water. He stopped and said, “Hey. I need a bottle of water, too.”

This threw me off a bit.

The guy clearly wasn’t homeless. He was groomed and attired in clean clothing, and he was about to take off in the vehicle that got him there.

He was carrying a small plastic bag containing his purchases, indicating that he’d made a retail transaction.

What the heck? I wondered.

He answered as if he heard my question.

“I need a bottle of water, too,” he repeated. “He’s not the only one here who gets thirsty. I’m thirsty right now. If he gets a bottle of water, then so should I.”

I looked at him for a few seconds, because now I was even more confused.

“Can’t you go back into the store and buy water?” I finally thought to say.

“Yeah, but that’s not the point.”

“Then what’s the point?” I asked. I don’t like to challenge strangers on the street, but I had to know.

“The point is,” he said, obviously annoyed at having to explain it to me, “that to be fair, whatever he gets, I should get.”

He’s comparing himself to a homeless guy. Bizarre, I thought. But I said, “I gave him water because he didn’t have any, and he can’t go in to buy any because he doesn’t have the means.”

“Not having the means doesn’t justify him getting a special bottle of water just for him,” said the guy with the key fob that unlocked his car.

“You make it sound like I’m discriminating against you by giving him a bottle of water.”

“You ARE discriminating against me by not giving me a bottle of water!”

“I’m giving him something he needs that you already have.”

“I don’t have a bottle of water.”

“Something he needs to survive.”

The conversation was getting surreal.

“This is wrong,” he said. “We ALL need to survive.”

“But you’re not the one wondering where your next bottle of water is going to come from! You can get your own water here or at home or wherever.”

“You don’t get it,” he replied. “What’s so hard to understand about EVERYONE needing water, not just homeless people?”

I gathered myself.

“I’m not giving him water like it’s an all-expenses-paid cruise to the Bahamas,” I said. “I’m giving him water because it’s his basic human right to have water. He needs water in order to survive. He has a right to survival.” 

Then it occurred to me that he might be thinking it’s the guy’s own fault that he’s homeless, so I added: “And it doesn’t matter what he did in the past, whether he’s been in jail or has a drug or alcohol problem or anything like that. ALSO…. ” I was on a roll. “It doesn’t matter if he was trying to buy water and got belligerent with the store clerk for some reason. It doesn’t matter. Whatever he’s done in the past is irrelevant. He’s a human being, a person, like you. He needs water. To survive.” Now I was repeating myself.

“I need water in order to survive, too. I also have a right to survive.” And now he was repeating himself. The conversation had gone from bizarre to surreal to ridiculous.

“But you can get your own water!”

“Who died and made you the queen of who gets free water handed to them and who doesn’t?”

“The only one here who might die is this guy who doesn’t have water and can’t get any water himself! This is Arizona. We’re in the desert. We’re in a harsh environment. His life is at stake out here with no water.”

“My life is at stake too!”

I could see that this was going nowhere, so I left.

The End.

#BlackLivesMatter

P.S. Here’s a pic of me drinking water before class at the gym last night, just demonstrating how I’m drinking water without thinking about it:

 

The civilian water canteen comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors. This one's my favorite... but the water inside is precious.

The civilian water canteen comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors. This one’s my favorite… but the water inside is precious.

 

(Now it’s really the end.)

Powers that be (Haiku 7: Power)

Questions I asked myself all week: Does power always, in every circumstance, corrupt? Is power breakable? What would it take to break chains of power, and would it take a super hero or a super villain to break them?

In these new haiku, I explore the correlation between power and corruption.

 

Haiku 7: Power

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Grand tribulation:

oak doors hewn by elected

justice. Reckoning.

 

Power of position

Power of position

 

2.

Preternatural –

czars savoring backfire,

litanies of blood.

 

Power of risk

Power of risk

 

3.

Gold, palladium…

lustrous, incorruptible,

soft nobility.

 

Power of heritage

Power of heritage

 

4.

Ravishing spittoon:

molten glass posterity.

Inheritable.

 

Power of fortune

Power of fortune

 

In a lighter vein, the week wound back down to normalcy after the in-laws departed. It was a good visit. We took them to typical Arizona places (i.e. Tombstone, Sedona), and they ventured down into the Grand Canyon. They saw a fraction of what Arizona has to offer… one really needs more than a week to take in all of its splendors. Our guests enjoyed what little they experienced.