Kommen die Tornados zu uns?

Jared wrote to me in the comments:

“I’ll respond in kind about THE HEXX, but what does “a total revision of the world so that it may more accurately reflect the contents of the world” mean? I’ve been sleeping on it, and it’s giving me bedhead.”

I’ve been mulling over what this ‘revision of the world’ meant to me, to try to answer. Here are some thoughts, wafted along with a “Dear Jared, Dear Trish Spotts.”

When I read about this revision of the world on Anne Boyer’s blog, it felt like a striking reminder of the occulted obvious I was trying to write about earlier.  Revision: to re-see what’s there, but is made to seem not there.  What is seen of the world is inflected by ideology.  Is not the contents of the world.

One of the things of this blog, over and over:  trying to teach myself how to see women. Because my mind has already accepted a skewed balance.  That was one thing the VIDA statistics made me think about.

How many New Yorker tables-of-contents have I have glanced over on the elliptical machine.  Too many.   Never noticing, entirely, how skewed the bylines were.  Or seeing 25% women and my mind making it 50% women, because 25% becomes 50% compared to zero.  The assumption – and feeling it in my own mind – that zero is deserved.  Be grateful for more than that.  Fairness itself would be too much, unfair, unnatural.

So right now I am working on seeing women.  Seems sad to relate the seeing of anything to the New Yorker TOC.  But I repeat, occulted obvious.  There not there.

And, trying to see women as a start.  For the someday I dream of:  re-seeing everything. Which is what I find particularly powerful about Anne Boyer’s blog, that it feels like re-seeing everything.

(I would like to insert unwritten blog post about prophecy here.)

Just read about how strawberries are grown in fields covered with plastic, then injected with methyl bromide, which kills all the life in the soil.  The plastic keeps any new life from getting in, creating “sterile, laboratory growing conditions.”  Catherine Theis always comments approvingly when strawberries smell like strawberries.  Because usually they are made out of plastic!  The world not the world.

This article too.  “The women gathered more data – crawling on the floor with tape measures.”  Revision with tape measure, to prove that yes one group of people does have more space for their labs.  A university person in the article saying something like, “I thought the disparity was going to be about perception and reality, but it was about reality and reality.”

With this problem of seeing and re-seeing on my mind, thought about it at the New Front Row reading this past Sunday night.

Lindsey Boldt read some of her La Bamba work – a constellation of the characters, Ritchie, Bob, Donna, and Lindsey.    The first time I heard Lindsey read, I asked her if she had particularly clear memories of her childhood.  Her work accesses something – a kind of early thinking or learning – that feels familiar and powerful, but that I can’t reach from my own life.  I thought of that knowledge while hearing this work.

As I remember, there were compare-and-contrast operations on the various La Bamba figures, from the point of view of child-Lindsey learning about race, class, and gender.

I remember the discussion of Donna being a girl, therefore worse than Ritchie.  And whether Lindsey could become the second-best, Bob, or would turn out only ever to have been Donna, all along.

Different types of learning came in.  What’s taught by representation in the movie.  What’s taught by adults.  What’s learned or theorized, by comparison of self to siblings.  There were moments in the writing, too, where four-year-old Lindsey’s language burst into the piece, as strings of pre-linguistic sound.

If I remember right, as the piece went on, these sound strings were gradually joined and replaced by movie dialogue and song lyrics.  “Come on, come on little darling.”

Those moments were amazing to hear, as embodiments of  the moment of learning, where something is displaced.  How getting hold of a symbol system, the means to represent an experience, also displaces the experience, and ideologically codes the person learning.

Suddenly you are representing yourself through the blunt instruments of Donna, Bob, and Ritchie.  And Donna, Bob, and Ritchie only mean when they are compared to each other – which one is half of the other, which better, which worse, which perfect, which leaky.

Also the moment I’m thematizing, of the lyrics that gradually enter into the child language, feels like a first moment of song and music.  I’ve sung “Oh Donna” to myself about 40,000 times since the reading.

The way I’m discussing Lindsey’s piece probably makes it sound much more schematic than it was.  There was a driving sense of desire behind the operations.  Including an incredible riff on the sexual styles of each main character and readings of each of those styles in terms of perfection, loss, presence and absence.  There was the humor that gives her work such power, along with its uncanny presence.

Yeah, it was great.

A couple things more.  I want to write about all 3 incredible readings (Lindsey Boldt, Divya Victor, Julian Brolaski) from Sunday.  But this has gotten so long that I’ll have to write a sequel post.  I want to write about Erin Morrill’s Condensery reading, too, for sequel sequel post.

Also, I want to bring up a movies-and-ideology moment, from, uh, earlier in this post. When I googled ‘strawberries and plastic sheeting’ I found the tornado-in-strawberry-field video posted above.  It was on Boing Boing with caption “{This video} reminded me of the transcendental plastic bag scene in American Beauty“.

American Beauty, the Black Swan of its day!  Maybe someday I will write my magnum opus about the damage that plastic bag scene has done.  Plus the damage the script of American Beauty (especially the parts spoken by Annette Bening) did to my psyche.

I wanted to write about that partly because the snarkiness I performed in my mind (to defend myself against American Beauty while reading the sentence about American Beauty on Boing Boing) made me admire Lindsey Boldt’s performance even more.

I admire her openness to re-living the early La Bamba experience.  Engaging rather than distancing.  Or engaging and distancing at the same time, because of course there’s distance, in the writing about it, representing it.  And the interweaving of represented child and represented adult and writer and language and music – a narrative that doesn’t flag the separations between these – is part of the interest.

But Lindsey’s ability to render the experience of learning La Bamba does seem important to me.  It’s that embodiment that made her performance both a powerful critique of ideology & education, and an exciting re-reading of a beloved text.  The re-seeing, the writing making the movie permeable.  Making the world permeable to things that are in the world.

As I write this, thinking that I should watch my ur-movie, Splash. Daryl Hannah, Tom Hanks, John Candy.  Learning.  Unlearning. Gender.  “A fantastic tale about a fantastic tail.” And, and, I am singing “Wooly Bully” to myself right now.

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2 Responses to Kommen die Tornados zu uns?

  1. Trish Spotts says:

    I read once that the filmmaker shot the footage of the plastic bag years before & used it as the impetus for the whole movie. is this true? Just found out about Snopes.

    Hadn’t thought about Splash in eons until I saw Kanye’s Runaway video/movie. Woman becomes more desirable when she isn’t really a woman? But she’s not even a cool animal like a vulture or a shark, she’s a delicate bird or a mermaid…and I’m pretty sure a mermaids have a similar constitution to that of a flounder. Let’s watch Splash! Let’s watch horrible movies from the 80s! I want to see Married to the Mob!

  2. Alli says:

    When I was a wee one, my parents owned Splash on VHS. I watched it pretty much once a month for a good number of years. I fell equally in love with Daryl Hannah & Tom Hanks. It was a kind of sexual schooling. I suddenly remember this.

    See also Madonna’s Cherish video.

    That is all.

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