Back to Rome

I am generally wary of drugs. I don’t drink (much), don’t smoke weed, don’t even use over-the-counter stuff like aspirin (fortunately, I almost never get headaches)…you get the idea. The best way to explain this would probably be to say that I need to be able to function on my own terms before I go adding drugs to the mix. For obvious reasons, I’ve been drinking a bit more coffee these days, but a small cup of coffee shouldn’t give you more than a little jolt, right? If you have a small mocha at 6 pm and are still wide awake at 3 in the morning, there must be more going on than a low tolerance for caffeine. (Before someone asks, that actually did happen once. I don’t remember exactly when I had the mocha, but it wasn’t very late and I’m not even sure if I drank the whole thing. And I had work that morning. Fun.) My problem, it seems, is that I have so little experience with coffee that even after the physical effects have worn off, my mind is still sorting itself out.

A person should not be able to focus on more than one thing at once. I like to do one thing at a time and one thing only. I’m not a fan of multitasking. The night I had the mocha, I went home, watched a movie, and somehow thought about something else without taking my attention off the movie. How is that even possible? I have a lot to work on these days. It will be much easier to get it all done once I’m able to start with what’s most important. As always, the big question is, “What do you really need?” Once you answer that, you can move on to other things.

2013 is drawing to a close, so I feel that I should talk for a second about one of my favorite topics: movies. I saw a fair amount of films in theaters this year. Not all of them were masterpieces; some were fun (Thor), others interesting, but flawed (Ender’s Game), and a few were truly excellent (The World’s End). Of the films I’ve seen this year, my two favorites were Upstream Color and At Berkeley. The latter is a four-hour documentary about the administrative politics and academic culture of the titular institute of higher learning. I had to go way out of my way to see it, but believe me, it’s fantastic. (PBS is set to air it in chunks starting January 13, I believe. Keep your eyes peeled.) At Berkeley has no narration, interviews, or even subtitles to identify the people in the movie. As a California resident and an alumnus of one of the UCs, I identified strongly with the plight of students who are finding it harder and harder to pay for their education, what with the constant fee hikes and all. (Seriously, imagine that you’re paying $800 in rent. Then one day, your landlord knocks on your door and tells you that next month, it’ll be $1100. Then a few months later, he jacks it up to $1500. If that’s not illegal, it should be.)

What I’m really trying to get at here is that at a certain point, it’s impossible to separate who we are from the media we consume. I’m not sure how many others would list either of those movies on their best-of lists, but I don’t think that my love for them is purely a result of my own subjective biases. I’ve sung the praises of Upstream Color on this blog before, but to recap: It’s a mind-bending, ultra low-budget science fiction/romance about a parasitic organism that causes its victims to form a weird telepathic bond with each other. There’s way more to it than that, but if anyone remembers 2004’s cult hit Primer, you should know that this is by the same filmmaker, Shane Carruth. Someone should give him a million dollars. The way that man works, he could make ten movies for that. And judging by his only two features so far (nine years apart, because that’s how long it took him to put the second one together), they’d be good.

I had to go out of my way to see Upstream Color as well. There was only one theater in all of Manhattan showing it, and I had to clear space from my schedule because that week was a little busy for me. Who else gets so excited for low-budget science fiction and marathon-length documentaries about higher learning? But I find that as I get older, my tastes get more particular. There’s a lot out there that doesn’t interest me, but I feel that says as much about our culture as it does about me. We need blockbusters, but we also need documentaries. More people will seek out the former than the latter, but it doesn’t have to be that way. At Berkeley probably sounds like a chore to sit through, but it really isn’t. You just have to be open to new experiences, that’s all. I just wish there were someone out there who wanted to join me for this stuff. One of my acting teachers told me once that I gave performances that were strong, but self-contained, as if I didn’t want to let the other actors affect my performance. I can’t live my life that way. A friend asked me if I wanted to audition for a play she was directing not too long ago. The last play I did, I did largely because several people all but begged me to.

I wish like hell I had someone working that hard to get a date with me.

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