Rahil Patel

| (• ◡•)|/ \(❍ᴥ❍ʋ).

A Foreigner Crashes at the Legislative Yuan’s Slumber Party

02 April 2014 by Rahil

Precursor:
I, the writer, am a foreigner, and I naively write this article from the perspective of one, with a focus on observation and empiricism as opposed to research.

Summary:
Sleeping at the Legislative Yuan (立法院) for two nights one can come to understand that Taiwan’s autonomous and selfless culture would lead to an entirely technocratic society, if only it weren’t strangled by the fear of China.

Current Status:
Taiwanese students (and politically unaffiliated academia and NGOs) continue to protest from within the Legislative Yuan and its perimeter, boycotting the expedited review process of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA). The uprising is natural and timely, in March, the time of election and past protests. For the past few years Taiwan’s government has been snowballing down leading to an increased connectivity with China, a decrease in President Ma’s (馬英九) rating, and increased anxiety of the uncertainty of the future of Taiwan.

Protest Experience:
Before I jump into my experience, I think it’s important to note that the current protest isn’t a completely new phenomenon. From the Wild Lilly movement, to the Wild Strawberry movement, to 2010 under the table deals with China to the forming of the Black Island Youth Alliance, school associations from top universities have teamed with human rights NGOs to mediate the law. They are the seeds of technocracy. Now trained for non-violent protests, they await any wrongful move by the government to pounce on.

The Autonomy of Taiwan:
One can only understand this by being born in another country and traveling to Taiwan or sleeping at the Legislative Yuan (LY). I arrived on March 30, after the President’s Office rally.

Already, in a matter of days the LY’s main podium has now come to include: An information department capable of handling anything including the coordination of student unions inside, outside, and around Taiwan; A goods department which includes 8 tents that provide food, water, raincoats, blankets, other supplies, outside, and one department inside, located near the back door where on the other side a tent resides, all of which are itemized and operated without money; A translation department where news is reported via social media and replied as requested by foreign reporters; A recycling center; A medical department which includes modern medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and a person at the main hall’s door who checks temperature by pointing a gun at your forehead, rewarding you with hand sanitizer, set near the front door in case people need to be taken in or out.

Built like a well-planned fort, more convenient than a Taiwanese 7-11, the students have created self-sustainable town equipped with its own service sector inside the the heart of government, a mirror of it’s economy, now 73% service-oriented, and its past form of government: martial law.

Such autonomy begs two questions. Does Taiwan need more help? No. They’ve fared extremely well with their current relations and export / import rates. Of course, more entrepreneurship opportunities would be nice. Does Taiwan want more help? Only if they can retain their status quo.

A Microcosm of Taiwan’s Society:
Riot police restrict certain areas. The police wait at the parliament’s entrances. A line of ten Taiwanese TV and radio companies waiting for the next speech by student leaders, 70% of which may be considered pro-KMT. Despite the seriousness of it all, the culture of Taiwan, the “strawberry generation”, causes me, a foreigner, to view it a very unusual and seemingly unserious ordeal that highlights the characteristics of Taiwan’s society: polite, passive, uncompetitive, competent, social, open, and caring.

Outside, students sleep on aluminum blankets, cardboard boxes, and connectable styrofoam puzzle pieces. They eat baozi (包子) and biandang (便當), read books, follow social media, as if it were a college courtyard. Cute handicrafts, sunflowers, and cardboard signs pervade the public walls. Films are played on projectors. Music performances are staged. A 7-11 on the block remains open and crowded. A line of riot police face a line of sunflower-holding students. Government buildings have been cutely reupholstered. Inside the artfully-draped LY their culture concentrates.

The entrance guarded by police without weapons; The only difference between a policeman and a security guard is their uniform. One’s ability to enter relies entirely on perceived disposition of the current guard, foreigner or not, an expression of indisrimination. The front door to the hall is blocked by a Katamari Damacy ball of lay-z-boys and other excess furniture. An extra line of security guards sit and play popular smartphone games — Candy Crush and Clash of Titans — during the day and nap in the same seat during the night.

The main lobby and courtyard are usually empty, holding an occasional interview.

On the first floor there’s a break room with movie theater style seating and a tiny TV playing the news. People discuss democracy and relax, probably similar to the legislatures that normally lounge there.

Upstairs, climbing a ladder over a barricade, the second floor contains: bathrooms with shower supplies, more conference rooms, which is where the most important people meet and make decisions, and entrances to the balcony of the main hall.

The main hall, split into a few sections: the podium full of aforementioned departments, the floor where students and professors sit in circles and discuss sociology and politics, a row of new reporter cameras, and the tables and empty space behind where students live, is a dream.

Handicraft art decorates the walls: handwritten letters and signs. More Katamari Damacy balls of excess things. Cardboard signs were created for each department. More junk is used to make a dinosaur overnight. White tape outlines on the floor depicting places where students sat. A ventilation duct hangs from the second floor window like a giant playground slide.

Taiwanese people are masters of DIY culture. Give them reason and they will competently accomplish any given task, monetarily efficient and with cultural flair.

Tables are littered with packaged food and drinks on the tables, magically cleaned every day just as night markets are. The floor filled with students sleeping at any moment of time, playing smartphone games, using social media to talk to friends, taking occasional selfies. Students sit where legislatures normally do. The most formally dressed person I spotted: a female reporter wearing a suit with a mini skirt and converse sneakers.

People hang out, socialize, sleep, shower, eat, study, and work. The LY is now a workplace and a home. The LY is now the smallest town in Taiwan.

Two Nights at the Legislative Yuan:
Night 1, March 30:
During the Presidential Office rally on March 30, 500,000+ people marched the 10-lane Ketagalan Boulevard with such pleasant conduct that lanes has separate uses: for sitting, walking forward, walking backward, and emergency vehicles. The flow of the march was so smooth that it took a mere fifteen minutes to walk from the President’s office to the Legislative Yuan. The atmosphere akin to a rather corporate music festival, as expected with such a large crowd. As one arrives to the original protest site, energy increases while still retaining harmony, with art, posters, tents, speakerphones, discussions, music, and film.

It’s amazing to see such a diverse crowd, people from all parts of society, act in unison. In comparison, at Occupy Wall St., one can expect schizophrenic beggars dishing out non-sense alongside debt-filled students having heated discussions with big businessmen. It’s clear if something wrong happens, the public will react with great solidarity.

Night 2, March 31:
Bai Lang (白狼) said in a press conference that he and 2000 of his men would come to the Legislative Yuan at 3AM. At 3AM, the students remain unchanged, half asleep. When I asked a NTU student why [students are not stressed], he said, many don’t know, and the others think it’s highly unlikely that anything awful would happen.

I saw fear in the faces of students, not of Bai Lang, but of the government, but they continued with uncertainty with the prevalent reply of, “I don’t know what to do”. An example: my friend, a half-mainlander, encountered a college student who was furious at his existence, but the most she could do was make a half-angry face for a few seconds with an urge to tell other people. Several people I’ve talked to over my past few months in Taiwan also exhibit this helpless attitude, not just for politics, but of anything. Further reinforcement that Taiwanese people are non-violent and selfless, or, in the way my friend puts it, “lacking testosterone”.

Now and Later:
The movement has been, for the most part, and comparatively to other concurrent uprisings, peaceful, perhaps even seen as “weak”, and possibly therefore overshadowed globally by other news. Yet, it’s clear that under Ma’s presidency, China has been slowly ingesting Taiwan, a country with the 19th largest economy, equal to Australia, and double that of Hong Kong.

The students still only ask for one thing, a review of the bill. That’s powerful, as many other protests take on broader ideologies and become criticized because its lack of precise objectives (Occupy Wall St.).

As of now, it’s a passive stalemate.

If Ma gives the bill a rightful review, would everything resume as normal? Or at this point, does Ma even matter? Can Taiwan’s inherently non-violent passive society take further action and further pressure the KMT?

Or will the fear from past government actions (White Terror, Executive Yuan incident) and China in general (1600 missiles aimed at Taiwan) prevent the students from taking further action?

The moment is pivotal.

With an autonomous society lacking political testosterone, one would hope Taiwan will continue in a technocratic way without political affiliations, in the hands of its newly founded elite: the students (academia), begin another Taiwan Miracle, and become a country founded on intelligence, a seemingly perfect government. Unfortunately, a relationship with China continually flaws it.

As for me, a foreigner, there seems to be only two things to do: inform foreign media, and criticize or dominate the core decision-making group to incite action, with very very poor spoken Chinese skill.

references:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower_Movement

http://thenewinquiry.com/features/sunday-reading-54/

http://savageminds.org/2014/03/22/sunflower-student-movement/

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Travel

Sleeping Problems

23 March 2014 by Rahil

This post is part of a self-assessment II

During my first job, I self-diagnosed myself to have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. The wikipedia article described several problems of my life during school. In retrospect, I now know this is only one comorbidity of a larger problem.

There is a clear division of the times I wake up: delayed, inconsistent, and on time.

Delayed:
This occurs when I am intrinsically motivated, without external factors affecting me, or during which I have no reactions to external stimuli.

It seems if I have a normal social life or daily schedule — a job, personal work, school, I can stick to it, somewhat. I just happen to wake up a little later, perhaps 10:30AM. I’d sleep well, wake up spontaneously, feeling refreshed. I adapted my life to fit my body’s schedule, resulting in a less social, yet extremely physiologically healthy life. It probably netted in more films then real social activities.

During scheduled work — school and my first two jobs, I’d choose to come in at 10:30AM to 11:00AM, which is about when my brain wakes up. I’d start out well, but as my motivation waned I came in later. Perhaps I became less excited about life outside of work — exploring the city, social connections. Or, more likely, my jobs were repetitive, and I failed to find ways to continue being creative in such limits. Eight hours without creativity should make anyone somewhat intelligent mental.

In SF the second time and NY, when I was working on my own things, or things of mutual motivation, I woke up on a delayed schedule. During the summer, I’d often wake up at 10:30AM, but come winter time It would be a lot more inconsistent.

Inconsistent:
This occurs during winter depressions, or as previously mentioned, when motivation in work — school and work — dwindles.

During winter depression, and even worse, the combination of winter and school or work, the schedule is severely impaired, resulting in Non-24-hour sleep–wake disorder. I’d wake up anywhere between 10:30AM to 4PM, sleeping at inconsistent times, unable to wake up at desired times, advancing my sleeping schedule forward, until I have to reset it.

On time (business hours):
Being on time requires my goals to be attached to some external factor.

During the summers of my childhood, I wake up early because I’d want to go out, to enjoy the sun, to have more time to play with my friends, to have more time to explore with my bike. Also during family trips, I’d wake up alongside my family.

During most of my travel in Asia, I woke up on time. Perhaps this is because most people slept or went home when the sun went down. Or, because I was consistently motivated. Travel is special time where intrinsic motivation is affected by external stimuli.

In an extreme case, in Laos, where there was no light or electricity available, I woke up at 5am. Was it because there was no light, I had nothing to do (no computer, no one to talk to, no light to write), or I wanted to wake up with people the next day? Probably a combination of the three.

In another case, I’d wake early if my current goal or objective involved the interaction of other people whom have normal circadian rhythms:

In hostels, I’d often sleep with others, and, I’d wake up at the same time as they did. The action of people getting up in my room served as a time device. It was quite motivating (Social Loafing?), and socially healthy. I loved talking to others while getting ready. Similarly, many families in India live in a single room, waking up together at 5AM. Another reason maybe because I am schizoid and normally don’t have anyone to talk to in the morning.

During Humans of Taipei, my main goal was to talk to people, so I’d wake up early to maximize work time. At that point, I was so focused on other people I felt there was no reason to be awake at night as there was nothing for me to do that would advance me toward my goal. I’d sleep happily with the sounds of neighbors and people on the streets from a nearby open window.


Being schizoid, it’s possible for me to live without any external factors, leading to a misaligned sleep schedule. Intrinsic motivation and a delayed sleep schedule has had the most prolonged routine sleep schedules. The times I was on time were all very temporary. Being inconsistent usually means I was depressed.

Leave a comment | Categories: Life, Personal, Psychology

The Effects of Weather

23 March 2014 by Rahil

This post is part of a self-assessment II

A surprisingly great factor in my life.

I theorize there’s an association to weather and dopamine. I feel sunlight and heat release more dopamine, exaggerating the input of external stimuli. Without sunlight and heat, external stimuli is blunted.

TODO: Seasonal Affective Disorder, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bipolar_disorder

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, one of the probable answers by scientists for why people in Papua New Guinea did not have “cargo” (technology) is “the inhibitory effects of tropical climate (heat and humidity), and on human creativity and energy.” I was unable to Google much about this, but looking at the locations of Global cities, it’s possible.

I will divide my experience according to temperature and amount of sunlight: “summer” (high heat, high amount of sunlight), “winter” (low heat, low amount of heat), and “normal” (temperate heat and sunlight). Quotes are used because the season doesn’t matter, the actual temperature and sunlight do. In addition, I’ve moved several times in my life into different climates.

Summer:
I am more inclined to go outside, stay in the sun, socialize, and am generally happier.

I want to stay out, on the streets, consuming more information externally by traveling — learning languages, thinking about others lives, anthropology, developing a care for those that struggle (like Tsai-Ming Liang films), seeing the world from the streets, wondering what people do indoors and why anyone would spend time inside. I am actively thinking at all times. Thinking about what to do at every moment, talking to myself (possibly in another language!). In extreme cases, I don’t want to spend any time indoors or alone. I become completely extroverted.

I feel more creative. I spend more time thinking about people. I want everything I do to involve a social aspect: art, school, work, and recreation. I wouldn’t mind taking a job as long as I am outside and social: a postman, a waiter at an outdoor cafe. My art gravitates toward ones that involve my interaction with other people: Humans of New York and Vincent Moon are of inspiration, as it involves with me simultaneously living and producing.

This coincides my love for games, which is also socially interactive. The problem comes when the game is digital, in which the implementation, programming, is not interactive. At most, one can be in a social place (the common room of a hostel, a public park, a social cafe, at a friend’s house, a studio) and do the work alongside others, with little interaction. It is a continuation of striving to find ways to live and work simultaneously.

The con of summer time is that I do less work, or don’t want to do any work at all. Or, perhaps, I do not do work that is not social — programming.

Physically, I drink more water, exercise less, do not suffer from carb-insulin problems, and may happily take a nap after some intense heat.

[link to time in Taipei the second time, travel in Asia]

Winter:
I ignore the world. Traveling and socializing becomes less rewarding. I’d rather stay indoors, only talking to people for a specific purpose. I’m more likely to consume media — films substitute observation, games substitute interaction). I’m more passive. I can do lonely tasks for a long period of time — programming, writing, etc. I don’t require social feedback. I become introverted.

In San Francisco, the second time, I was able to spend 80% of my time alone in UCSF library, in my room, or in cafes, programming. In New York, I was able to spend 80% of my time in Pratt Institute’s library, programming. During both times, the weather was mild to cold.

Physically, I suffer from the winter blues

Normal

Leave a comment | Categories: Life, Personal, Psychology, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Travel

A Self-assessment II

22 March 2014 by Rahil

The extended winter weather in Taipei has caused my mind to become hallow. No feeling for travel or people, or to be social. Now is a good time to self-assess.

Last time I assessed myself, it was objective, written to be displayed to the public alongside my portfolio. It hides subjectivity and psychology, which I now want to explore.

To explore this, I must recall the feelings I had during each point in time of my history, observe it, rationalize it.

Contents:
A History
A Psychological Self-assessment

A History

Virginia:
School and media.

During summer breaks in school, I didn’t have work, so I’d spend a lot of time biking, exploring nearby neighborhoods.

During the fall and especially winter, I’d barely be able to wake up, sleeping through the first one or two classes. I’d stay up playing video games late night in my Dad’s office.

In college, I’d continue sleeping in. I spent a lot of time watching great films and playing Super Smash Bros. with my friends.

San Francisco:
A new city. A drastic increase in interaction with the public on a daily basis. A life alone. So much time, despite the long working hours and commute. A great leap forward compared to the last 21 years of life.

Yet it was a rat race. I worked for 8-10 hours and commuted for 4 hours. I was self-motivated by external factors: travel and survival. I took the job because I wanted to live in the city. Explore.

I spent the weekends traveling at full-speed. Going to new neighborhoods, eating at Yelp-rated restaurants, attending art events, all scheduled ahead of time to maximize experience. It was superficial.

It was fine for the moment, but I don’t think I could do it again. It lasted less than 5 months.

New York:
Perhaps the rat race conditioned me to have a work-heavy (work-life balance) life in New York. I spent 80% of the time working on my own games in Pratt Institute’s library. Working on something for 10+ hours a day, because I was self-motivated to do so. I thought, as long as I worked as hard as I did at a 9-5 toward work with a much higher standard than any job would I could get would allot; The time would be much more valuable, and therefore, in case I did need money, I would still be able to get a job — a better one. It was my own work. My own ideas. Why not work hard at it?

Turns out it was a failure because I failed to balance work-life. The designs were mediocre. Productive, somewhat innovative, poor execution. I failed to get verification for my work. I should have invested more time in social life.

After the initial exploration day, I explored very little, interacted very little with people. I only attended game events and comedy nights (my friend and roommate was a comedian), especially those related to Babycastles. I volunteered at Babycastles and interned for Zack Lieberman. Otherwise, it mostly involved work and exercise (running outside at night). It was a very narrow lifestyle.

Travel in Asia:
An escape from the rat race, yet I was still racing.

Taiwan:
I travelled Taipei for nine days struggling to make a decision for work: teach, volunteer, what am I doing? I thought traveling was a waste of time, unproductive.

I quickly found and volunteered at a school in Taiwan for two months. I assisted in teaching kids English by creating activities for younger students and having conversation with elder students. I also did general work: house chores, cooking, and babysitting. In retrospect, I feel a lot of it was still traveling: eating, learning Chinese, and fighting mosquitos.

I then spent two weeks traveling around Taiwan, using CouchSurfing twice. It mostly involved talking to hostel workers, CouchSurfing hosts, traveling, and eating lots of Taiwanese food. I feel that the expiration of my visa kept me going. I flew to Singapore.

Singapore:
Left the terrible city immediately for Malaysia.

Malaysia:
I went to Kuala Lumpur and struggled. It’s possible the heat drove me crazy. The goal was to make a film, but most of the time I wandered, ate, and failed to make film. I had footage of the worship of the three cultures of Malaysia: South India’s Hinduism, Islam, and Chinese Bhuddism. There was a lot of time wasted looking for better hostels.

I then went to Penang. I was fascinated by the traditional craftsmen there. I just love people who physically make things themselves as a living, and a traveller can physically see them all by walking along the streets. I began interviewing them, asking them questions. Then the film went on to cover the current gentrification of Penang and how the craftsmen would disappear. Then, while filming the craftsmen, I chose a delivery man, as the film would be more dynamic, and made a short film of just this single subject. I never bothered to complete the initial film. I also spent a week or so sick with gastroenteritis. The believe heat drove me nuts here too, driving me to see the craftsmen, old buildings, and try new foods.

Thailand:
In Bangkok I struggled again, as I did in Kuala Lumpur. Spending more time than I should have. I didn’t even wander as much. I’d was trying to figure out my next direction. A gritty film about prostitution? Isn’t that overly-exposed already? The heat drove me nuts yet again, leaving me in indecision. I finally decided to keep moving, north.

I spent one day in Chiang Mai, and felt it was completely touristy. I decided to take trip through northwest Thailand via motorcycle. It was an odd experience. I mostly stuck to myself as I did in San Francisco the second time. I’d spend a few hours driving my motorcycle during the day, find a place to sleep, write some game ideas, and do some programming. There was an odd assortment of fascinating places: a town full of Yunnanese people who were part of the KMT and fled, mountain towns, dull transport towns, all full of kind and happy people. It was quick, one town per day, but it felt great. Motorcycle is the definitive way to travel, to consume the most, yet be an individual and make one’s owns observations. There was little to no social interaction as I can’t speak Thai.

Laos:
After I made the motorcycle loop, I still had two weeks to do something before I go to India. I decided to go to Laos. It was my “Into the Wild”. I took a 48+ hour bus ride to the mountainous Phitsanoluk. I saw a market where tribal peoples from nearby villages barter wild game. I rented a second hand Chinese motorcycle and found mounds of trash. An odd mix of tribal peoples, recent goods lent from China (motorcycles, farm machinery, cell phones, TVs, power lines, packaged foods), and the beginning of giving technology to an undeveloped country. It contained lowest amount of intelligence I’ve encountered. The boat rides down river held the tone of Apocalypse Now, with tribal kids running around naked, parents picking up packages of cigarettes.

India:
I failed.

I had planned to make games, but I just couldn’t spend the time to do it. The warm weather drove me to go outside. Explore. I’d wander through nearby slums, hang out with my Uncle, experience the hugely contrasting social classes of India. The strict schedule of my relatives restricted my exploration. When they left, I began buying vegetables from the local market and cooking myself.

A friend came with the intention to make a game using India as an inspiration. We ended up doing a game development workshop instead. It’s more social.

I finally decided to go through East Asia to empirically decide which city is best to live in.

East Asia:
[link East Asia?]

Taipei:
When I was in Taipei for three months to study Mandarin, I experienced the Apex of my Schizoid Personality Disorder.

Was it self-estrangement? Self-estrangement can be defined as “the psychological state of denying one’s own interests – of seeking out extrinsically satisfying, rather than intrinsically satisfying, activities…”.[32] It could be characterized as a feeling of having become a stranger to oneself, or to some parts of oneself, or alternatively as a problem of self-knowledge, or authenticity.

A Psychological Self-assessment
There are psychological problems in my life. Of them are Being a Loner (SPD, SZD), The Effects of Weather (Bipolar), Sleeping Problems (SAD)…[more?]

http://creativesomething.net/post/54997033332/why-youre-more-creative-at-night-and-how-to-reproduce

Schizoid Personality Disorder:
Not having a normal social life, which also affects schedule.
[think about, create article? see nomadic article]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizoaffective_disorder

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypomania

The brain includes several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior.

Abnormally high dopaminergic transmission has been linked to psychosis and schizophrenia.

Studies with sensory deprivation have shown that the brain is dependent on signals from the outer world to function properly. If the spontaneous activity in the brain is not counterbalanced with information from the senses, loss from reality and psychosis may occur after some hours. A similar phenomenon is paranoia in the elderly, when poor eyesight, hearing and memory make the person abnormally suspicious of the environment.
On the other hand, loss from reality may also occur if the spontaneous cortical activity is increased so that it is no longer counterbalanced with information from the senses. The 5-HT2A receptor seems to be important for this, since psychedelic drugs that activate them produce hallucinations.

the acute effects of dopamine stimulants include euphoria, alertness and over-confidence

the main feature of psychosis is not hallucinations, but the inability to distinguish between internal and external stimuli.

Psychosis has been traditionally linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine. In particular, the dopamine hypothesis of psychosis has been influential and states that psychosis results from an overactivity of dopamine function in the brain, particularly in the mesolimbic pathway. The two major sources of evidence given to support this theory are that dopamine receptor D2 blocking drugs (i.e., antipsychotics) tend to reduce the intensity of psychotic symptoms, and that drugs that boost dopamine activity (such as amphetamines and cocaine) can trigger psychosis in some people (see amphetamine psychosis).[67] However, increasing evidence in recent times has pointed to a possible dysfunction of the excitory neurotransmitter glutamate, in particular, with the activity of the NMDA receptor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychosis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dopamine_hypothesis_of_psychosis

http://www.rahilpatel.com/blog/the-life-of-a-nomadic-schizoid

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dopamine

Leave a comment | Categories: Life, Personal, Psychology, Schizoid Personality Disorder

河流

06 February 2014 by Rahil

I watched 河流 (The River) in a still funky mood, unable to respond to external stimuli, isolated from the world.

The more films of Tsai Ming-Liang I watch, the more I feel similar to him. Or is it, because my current state of depression that I feel similar to the feelings his films express?

Like Tsai’s other films, it contains common themes: extreme isolation, water leaks, a slow, contemplative pace, and even similar characters. After watching a few of his films, one starts to believe that the main character is based on him, and perhaps the family is based off his own. Maybe his films are the extremes of his family.

When I started traveling, I had fascination with what people do, especially craftsmen that could be seen on the first level of buildings, or on streets of Asia. Similarly, I feel Tsai has this fascination as the processes of a chiropractor, acupuncture, prayers, and other traditional ceremonies are shown. He also has an eye for unseen places: a traditional bathhouse, a temple, old apartments, a river. Tsai sees the world as a traveler, a foreigner, and therefore it is interesting, because everything feels new. As Jenova Chen states in one of the three ways games could effect adults as they do children, the film “intellectually, whereby the work reveals a new perspective about the world that you have not seen before.”

A random note: Media is always shown on the side in his films. It seems he feels media is not real. It shouldn’t affect the lives of people so much.

Kang’s character is selfish, independent, yet needs help, nurture. When near his father he doesn’t feel hungry. He’s not experiencing life during these times. He needs be on his own.

The film is overwhelmingly bleak. Although there are very tension-ridden scenes, I didn’t feel as much drama here as his first two films because of the bleakness. Still there are very strong scenes.

After a male Oedipus Rex plot twist, there’s an image of his father, black and blue hues with a speck of white light in his eyes that haunts far after, which segues into the main character going into the light, unwittingly.

The strongest scene for me was the mother’s reaction after seeing her son in the hospital. She leans in an elevator, pressing the close button and random floors, unable to make her next move. Actually, the scene sums the film. All of the characters suffer like neck pain from extreme isolation, a lack of nurture, and love. Out of desperation, they look for nurture in wrong places, unable to move on, stuck, in an elevator.

Leave a comment | Categories: Film Reviews, Films

幫幫我愛神

01 February 2014 by Rahil

I coincidentally watched 幫幫我愛神 (Help me, Eros) directed by 李康生 (Lee Kang Sheng) and produced by long-time collaborator 蔡明亮 (Tsai Ming Liang) during a depression.

Similar to Tsai Ming Liang’s films, it’s minimalist, containing four characters, all of whom suffer from city isolation.

Compared to Tsai Ming Liang’s early films (Rebels of the Neon God and Vive L’Amour), Help me, Eros has more fantastic elements. It contains at least one dream, and the sex scene is quite dreamy too. The eccentric costumes of betel nut girls, the neon lights of the stand, the upscale apartments, all add to the fantastic atmosphere.

Yet, it is nearly all naturally shot in some random city in Taiwan. The blend of contemporary realism and fantasy forms a dark reality. The call center and stock market provide a good view of underrepresented occupations at the time. Betel nut beauties are real too [I live in Taiwan]. Technology is included, with the use of instant messaging, even more specifically a situation where the profile picture is used, and even the Asian-necessary selfie. Another great example of the blend: brand printed logos (think Gucci) are shot across the bodies of the characters during a threesome.

The isolation here is possibly even more extreme, perhaps at the sacrifice of realism, than Tsai’s early films. A tub full of eels, an ostrich omelette, fucking three girls simultaneously, marijuana plants, millions of dollars wasted, a carp being scraped alive, an ostrich fetus. Gluttony of extremely isolated people in Taiwan. Something that probably has never been shown before.

Yet, despite the extremes, the characters feel real. Betel nut beauties derived from a marketing campaign in a farming area in Taiwan. At one point the Betel nut girl goes back to farm, crying, missing a moment she had, only to come back and proceed to sell Betel nuts. The chubby character Cupcake is fat because her boyfriend is in the army, and later found dead by poison. The main character is a trope, but even I’ve experienced a few people like him in my life: rich and lonely.

The film plays fine throughout at a familiar pace. I didn’t have to take a break.

Still, for some reason, perhaps it was the fantastic elements, or the lack of dramatic elements, or even my own state of depression, the climax of the film didn’t have a profound effect on me as Tsai’s earlier films have. The characters are there, but I cared less for them. Perhaps it is because the characters are older, already transformed and fallen into their occupations. In Tsai’s earlier films, the characters are younger, the arcade street kid in Rebels… and a masturbating teen in Vive L’Amour are relatable. Help Me, Eros felt more like an observance of underserved people in extreme states. There is little transformation of the characters. Actually, now that I think about it, there is none. All of the positive actions failed; Nothing changes. All of the characters continue on their initial path, deceived by hope during loneliness.

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Proteus

21 January 2014 by Rahil

I decided to play a game, alone.

It has been a very long time. Steam informs me almost a year.

It’s weird to do something alone now.

I tried Costume Quest, and despite it having a funny little script, good humor, a Halloween theme, nostalgia of my upbringing in suburban America, and an all around great production, it’s still a genre game. Therefore it did not appeal to me. Furthermore it carries over the cons of JRPGs: chore quests like finding things, a JRPG battle system of which numbers do not matter and fighting requires no tactics or brainpower, ‘n some other junk. I stopped very early in.

Then I played Proteus. I walked from one side of the island to the other, at awe at the visual and audio, quickly concluding it was a simple audio-visual experience. It reminded me of a 3d version of Seasons [made during NY GGJ 2012]. Something fitting as an installation piece at a museum.

I nearly turned it off. I didn’t. Instead, I decided to circle the island, just to soak it in for a few more minutes.

That was a crucial decision point. The first 5 minutes of any media. And it was successful.

I played through the rest of the game. Exploring. Every sight picture worthy. Interacting with everything, wanting to hear what new sounds come, what new animation occurs. The little crabs and their tribal drum music, the bunny-like creatures, the amazing sounding owl, the elusive white bunny, dandelion seed heads floating about, stars, fireflies. And through all the seasons. A partly cloudy beautiful spring, an equally beautiful summer, looking into the sun causes vision to go white, autumn brings the leaves down and even more rain and clouds just below the mountain, and the climactic, dreamy winter. It was like traveling through a digital world, with all the interactions in tact. Traveling, while in reality it’s raining outside and I’m on my computer.

Perhaps it’s not much of a game, as there aren’t many rules. It takes a single element found in many great games, exploration, and singles it out, resulting in a minimalist experience. The slow-moving, cinematic, 3d exploration of Shadow of the Colossus or any Bethesda game. Then adding a little interaction. Perhaps it’s proof, proof that games can evoke feelings.

Nah, never mind that thought. There just isn’t enough game to prove that here. It’s an audio-visual experience with very little input. My proof of this statement via thought experiment: If I had watched the game instead of playing it, I think it would have offered the same experience.

Game or not, it’s a worthy experience, one I value more than most of the games available on Steam.

Something worth mentioning: Bad Trip by Alan Kwan has a similar exploratory feel with little interaction, with the addition of containing memories of its creator.

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Distance

17 January 2014 by Rahil

Prologue:
I didn’t know about the event it’s based on, just as I didn’t know about the event Nobody Knows was based on.

Body:
Distance by Hirokazu Koreeda is powerful because the psychology of the characters feel real, and it questions the differences between perpetrators and non-perpetrators.

The film starts with a sci-fi plot. A cult-titled group of people poisoned Tokyo waters, which kills and injures many. Gladly, it’s not a sci-fi flick either.

It quickly jumps to real characters shown in their natural settings, a glimpse of each character’s lives. Each character with a different personality and time in life.

They meet in pairs. Then, altogether, they embark their journey, and it feels like a travel film, one of a group of friends who haven’t met for quite some time. A hand-held camera follows the action, by car and by foot. As they meet each other, we (the audience) also meet them, understand them, and feel for them.

Once the car is gone, a sense of horror emerges. Gladly, it’s not a horror flick. Although, the rest of the film remains haunting.

After mourning the group’s car gets stolen and they meet with one of the remaining cult members and sleep at the cult’s hideout. It becomes night. The camera gives a beautiful dark hue. The character’s emotions are mirrored by their dark images, splotches of black across their face.

Flashbacks of their cult counterparts string more bits of story, before and after they joined the cult. Before, they are shown in a mystic atmosphere, appearing quite normal. After, quite crazy when in contact with normal society.

Flashback interviews of each relative at a previous time, probably real interviews of each actor as Koreeda conducted for After Life and previous documentary works, adds even more realism and character.

As with watching any of Koreeda’s films, one deeply contemplates. The film’s lack of action and consistent display of characters asks for contemplation. About the character’s lives (the family’s relatives), their cult siblings, and how the average person can be swayed into doing something wrong without feeling one is doing something wrong. The difference between good and bad is a state of psychology.

As the relatives sit in the living room or around a fire, and contemplate about their siblings, god, and life, one can imagine them as a cult. How are the different from their siblings? If they stay in that room for a long period of time, would they begin to develop certain values different from the norms of society? How do societies develop? If any group of people is stuck in a room, what are the chances of the outcome being wrong?

Instead of directly showing motives, who, what, or why something wrong happens, we take a moment to conjecture how something wrong forms, and in doing so, it provides a more truthful answer.

Epilogue:
It’s been 1 year and 3 months since I left the States. This film strikes the first moment I’ve spent hours afterwards in wonder.

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Vive L’Amour

12 January 2014 by Rahil

I watched Vive L’Amour (愛情萬歲; Live Love) at a coincidental time. Just a few weeks ago, I was extremely social. I had class, friends within the locality, always eating with people, not spending more than an hour without talking to someone. Now, I’m in a large house, staying up late to take on personal endeavors, with no social life. The sudden change in social life caused bed-ridden depression instantly, but I eventually adapted to live alone, again.

In Vive L’Amour, there are only three characters. Nothing else. We just watch them, without distractions — sound and dialog. It feels as if so much time is going by in their lives without doing anything. Sometimes I felt as if I’m not doing anything. Yet, it is enthralling to watch, think, and feel. Although, admittedly, I took breaks to handle the extremely slow pace, I never fast forwarded.

The setting is naturalistic. One character sells coffins, another illegally sells clothes, and the last is a real estate agent. The rest of the world feels bleak. The bland side of Taiwan: ugly condos and cars. It’s how I feel whenever I think about the Xinyi district in Taipei.

The actions characters take are novel [to me], adding to realism. bowling a watermelon, stealing keys to an apartment and then sleeping in it. Other scenes are relatable. The younger male character (acted by Lee Kang Sheng) takes actions not uncommon during puberty: masturbating and wearing girl’s clothes.

The dramatic tension caused by the characters being close, yet anonymous, is great to experience. The climax is unbreathably tense and thrilling. The final scene ends it well, with a long shot of an desolate park, then the female character quietly uncontrollably cries, finally physically displaying the real emotion beneath all of the characters: extreme loneliness.

I felt that Tsai Ming-Liang [the director] figured out what worked in Rebels of the Neon God, and stripped everything else, which wasn’t much, out. The audience now focuses only on the action, often of just one character. It’s rather surprising to think how great a minimal film can be, and how few resources is required to make one. It’s a success.

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Cidade dos Homens

11 January 2014 by Rahil

I found the film from a stand in India. I bought it for a few rupees, along with a bunch of old Indian music. The cheap paper cover indicated that it was the TV series, with an episode listing on the back. I continued watching, unsure of whether it was a TV series or film, learning the truth half way.

Watching Cidade dos Homens (City of Men), which is based off of the TV series, which itself is a spin-of of Cidade de Deus (City of God), which I really liked when I saw it in high school, felt like a prolonged TV episode, as many TV show turned films do.

Perhaps I’ve been really high on life and barely appreciating even high art because I was not engaged in the film at all. It has a gritty setting: gangs, guns, local people ‘n all, but the dramedy elements just consistently destroyed the realism. In one instance, One of the main characters has sex on duty, and it trades scenes with his friend also having sex, funky brazilian music plays, it segues on to the next scene; It felt like a sitcom. It’s light-hearted. Yet, people have guns, people die, and I can’t feel for them because these elements distract me from the events that occur.

I thought about something Tsai Ming-Liang said: Films are not real. People shouldn’t have to get so engaged with a film. It’s only a screen. It’s weird that people go festivals, then go into theater rooms, just to watch something on the screen.

In another thought, I felt that there was a truth in feeling of the film. People in Rio de Janerio do have guns, yet people have to live on, and joy is part of life. During my second time in India, I’d walk down the street, past slums, still thinking about people suffering, but a bit less than the first time, focusing on something insignificant, like purchasing a bottle of Thums Up (an Indian brand of cola). People adapt. It’s only crazy from a foreigner’s point of view.

I started fast forwarding half way through; I can’t withstand TV shows. I’d watch the first few second of a scene and understand the rest, and continue watching with this method. At some points I’d peer into the setting, the favelas, wishing I could walk the streets, talk to people, and really understand life there. I felt that there was so much film in the setting that could have been made with just a few of the people. Closer to the people. With less dialog, less narrative. Maybe I just want to physically be there and not watch a film.

The film ended rather quick at an hour and a half, as much of it was fast forwarded. Maybe I’ve become an asshole critic who is unable to enjoy action films. Still, it’s only an action film.

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