Rahil Patel

Category Archives for: Film Reviews

Into the Wild

04 November 2015 by Rahil

[todo: just copied from from text file. I copied quotes from the book because I wasn’t using my e-reader application to read it. The notes from the book are also in reverse order, newest on top. Also need to go over thoughts during viewing of film.]

I’ve written quite a bit recently about searching for an the ideal nomadic lifestyle, using the lives of successful like-minded people. This book and film, though both lacking intellectual rigor to understand the protagonist’s thoughts, have an ideal nomad as the subject, making it frighteningly good material for self-reflection.

thoughts [from the next day on a bus to Taipei]
book [over two days]

Into the Wild [film] (second viewing in lifetime):
Why Alaska? Maybe he just happened to be there after a long trip, constantly escaping society.

Perhaps the bus was his death. The lure of a shelter, a home, to organize things and life in, as opposed to the constant decision-making the road offers. Perhaps he would have kept going, in and out of society. But the shelter kept him in place. Perhaps. Well, maybe not. He probably would have continued if he were in good health. Just a matter of lack of nearby health facility.

“The climactic battle of killing the false being within”
– what’s the false being here, the culture of society.

He doesn’t want “things”.

“Chris measured himself and others around him with a fiercely moral code”.

“He risked what could have been a relentlessly lonely path, but found company in the characters of the books he loved…Tolstoy, London, Thoreau…He could summon their words to suit any occasion”

“It was inevitable that Chris would break away, and when he would do it, he would do it with characteristic immoderation”

Immediately after college, he leaves the ?…

Uses car as transport and shelter. Somehow missed flash flood warning. It happens, can’t plan everything.

A documentary proved that in his bag upon death he still had all of his IDs and $300 cash, so he didn’t cut and burn them. It makes no sense to. Have to watch out for fiction.

He leaves his car, just keep moving forward. No point of using time to salvage. Keep creating. Less things.

His tent, still too close to society, as vacationers watersurf nearby. Have to move further, at least away from tourism.

He cleans himself in an outdoor bathroom.

He had good grades in serious subjects, contemporary politics in Africa, Apartheid, food crisis in Africa, etc.

“…Spent four years fulfilling the absurd and tedious duty of graduating college…emancipated from false sense of security, parents, and material excess, things that cut Chris off from the truth of his existance”

Pacific Crest Trail

Bought books on edible plants. Now that’s hardcore.

“Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, give me truth.” Paraphrase of Thoreau against the lovely hippie mother who asks to love his parents.

He stays up focused, reading.

Meaningless battles at home, between parents, and some between children and parent.

He moves quick and enthusiastic, like a monkey. :)

Afraid of water.

Reads in solitude, no love, ascetic, but loves humans.

Camps in a hill, not too far from a hitchhikeable road.

Lol, shaving in large farm sprinklers. Yessss.

Doesn’t gamble. Enjoys company, though with a barrier, not giving into culture completely.

Plays music whilst everyone else gets drunk and talks.

Listens to many stories, but doesn’t talk back much, except for his dislike of society.

Vince Vaughn rightly says to go South, and only Alaska during Spring.
– Why north? Because that’s where no one has travelled before? There are many unexplored areas in America, especially in cold mountains. No need to go to Alaska to get away.

Vince getting arrested is the causation of continuing to travel.

After high school he drove cross country in a used Datson.

Lol at permit to paddle on river. Reminds me of when I wanted to dive (with a group) on the east coast of Taiwan, and snorkel some part of Okinawa.

Water is indeed frightening.

Ah shit, didn’t take helmet. So focused on moving forward, sometimes take more risky paths. It’s inevitable. I’ve made some rash decisions too, like taking buses at night, or not wearing a helmet while biking.

Mmm, at age 4 at 3am wondered 6 blocks for some candy. Oh the sweet adventure.

Freedom and simple beauty.

36 days in a cave. Crossed border without care.
– Mmmm, 36 days. The time goes by in a cut of a film, but that’s 36 days of exploring nearby and thinking. The bus only lasted 100 days, so it’s not much different, yet it’s disproportionately cut off like much of the film.

Fit with exercise and shadowboxing.

The city is indeed haunting. Reminds me of my time in New York. I had a lot of rapid thoughts. The problem with film is one doesn’t know what the person is thinking. There could be a lot of complex thoughts going on at any moment in McCandless’s head, but no way to communicate it, not even in writing. What he thinks here is forgotton.

Eat and sleeps at homeless shelter. Quite a different experience than nature. This is indeed what one must resort to in the city.

He’s ashamed to ask for a bed at a homeless shelter.

The dark and trashy inner city. Why would anyone choose not to be a part of culture and live in the city, as opposed to not be a part of culture and live in nature? It’s the society vs not theme. Trying to be a part of society but consistently failing to be, leading to ascetism. Perhaps my ideals where too far from society, that when I tried to implement it in Taipei, I failed, instead, appeared homeless. I tried to be a part of society on my ideal terms, but it doesn’t work, and so I had to get out.

McCandless looks at a mid to upper class restaurant similar to the way I did in New York and Taipei. I didn’t want any part of these places.

But unlike me, he leaves the same night. I camped a few nights by the river. Then had a friend house me for a week. Then a cheap hostel. But I was running out of options, money, and the city wasn’t offering me any outs, as much as I tried, communicated.

The city scenes are at night, nature scenes in day, which corresponds to the times people are active in each area.

The culture is so restricting that he probably didn’t find anyone nice, human in the city. Later, he gets kicked off a railroad for freeloading, as if he made a difference. The strictness of civilization, must have made him want to retreat further from it. At many times I feel society is so beauracratic, so stupid, that I also get away from it.

Lol, works at fast food restaurant for money to get to Alaska. I need to do this right now! Fuck being trapped at this hostel. I can work temporarily and move on.

Thoughts the day after viewing (11/2):
I felt I should go immediately. I can work a temporary job for a little cash. Then if I want, I can go back to Taipei and continue my plan. It’s okay to not begin my plan immediately. It’s great enough that I still desire to do so. It’s better than being at the wrong institution, country, or social group. At least I can still think about it. It’s my grand Alaskan plan.

I can re-learn to eat oatmeal and exercise. I can work and read books. But perhaps I’ve already spent enough time doing these things and desire to be in the direction of my plan, with people. It’s okay. Saving money is a necessary part of it. Or, taking a loan. Whichever. But a loan is cheating. Without the loan I am more free, likely to take on whatever paid gig. The loan requires a plan.

From a bus, I can see the mountains and the towns next to them. Do I want to be there farming? As long as I meet some nice people to talk to.

Or should I go back to my creative self, putting material and idea together for civics or education? That’s where all my active thoughts go toward. Farming will just create slave mentality, no inspiration, like a suburban house.

Maybe it’s the active survival that will wake me up, or at least keep me awake. And that will cause me to act, instinctively to survive. Similarly, isn’t it instinct to protect others, people? That’s worth being active for too. Civics.

Nature provokes thought, for survival. Cities provoke thought, for the betterment of society. Nature teaches one to be self-reliant. Cities allow one to maximize their potential. Nature is indeed backwards.

Use nature as a means for taking a break, not an end. The end is the city. One must alternate between both. Or, keep drifting between small towns and organizations.

notes for Into The Wild book:
“The repugnance to animal food is not the effect of experience, but is an instinct. It appeared more beautiful to live low and fare hard in many respects; and though I never did so, I went far enough to please my imagination. I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, and from much food of any kind….
It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet as will not offend the imagination; but this, I think, is to be fed when we feed the body; they should both sit down at the same table. Yet perhaps this may be done. The fruits eaten temperately need not make us ashamed of our appetites, nor interrupt the worthiest pursuits. But put an extra condiment into your dish, and it will poison you.
“YES,” wrote McCandless and, two pages later, “Consciousness of food. Eat and cook with concentration…. Holy Food.” On the back pages of the book that served as his journal, he declared:
I am reborn. This is my dawn. Real life has just begun[…]”
– here, McCandless finally becomes conscious of everyday life-sustaining activities, of food, work, task, reading. His awareness changed toward his actions. He became aware of more. He created a philosophical base.

“I was under way, propelled by an imperative that was beyond my ability to control or comprehend.”
– monomania is a good word for this too. I surely suffered from this too, with San Francisco, New York, and later travels, but that’s how travel works, you choose a single destination, and go.

“he Devils Thumb demarcates the Alaska-British-Columbia border east of Petersburg, a fishing village accessible only by boat or plane. There was regular jet service to Petersburg, but the sum of my liquid assets amounted to a 1960 Pontiac Star Chief and two hundred dollars in cash, not even enough for one-way airfare. So I drove as far as Gig Harbor, Washington, abandoned the car, and inveigled a ride on a northbound salmon seiner.”
– wow, with very very little money, and enough sense to hitch a salmon boat

“I was working then as an itinerant carpenter, framing condominiums in Boulder for $3.50 an hour. One afternoon, after nine hours of humping two-by-tens and driving sixteen-penny nails, I told my boss I was quitting: “No, not in a couple of weeks, Steve; right now was more like what I had in mind.” It took me a few hours to clear my tools and other belongings out of the crummy job-site trailer where I’d been squatting. And then I climbed into my car and departed for Alaska. I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”
– also has no problems leaving society, not worrying about it

“I was twenty-three, a year younger than Chris McCandless when he walked into the Alaska bush. My reasoning, if one can call it that, was inflamed by the scattershot passions of youth and a literary diet overly rich in the works of Nietzsche, Kerouac, and John Menlove Edwards,”
– Jon Krakauer read Kerouac

“In July 1992, two years after Chris left Atlanta, Billie was asleep in Chesapeake Beach when she sat bolt upright in the middle of the night, waking Walt. “I was sure I’d heard Chris calling me,” she insists, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I don’t know how I’ll ever get over it. I wasn’t dreaming. I didn’t imagine it. I heard his voice! He was begging, ‘Mom! Help me!’ But I couldn’t help him because I didn’t know where he was. And that was all he said: ‘Mom! Help me!’”
– this makes me worry very much about Mom

“As months passed without any word of Chris—and then years—the anguish mounted. Billie never left the house without leaving a note for Chris posted on the door. “Whenever we were out driving and saw a hitchhiker,” she says, “if he looked anything like Chris, we’d turn around and circle back. It was a terrible time. Night was the worst, especially when it was cold and stormy. You’d wonder, ‘Where is he? Is he warm? Is he hurt? Is he lonely? Is he OK?’”
– mmm, Mom probably thinks in a similar way. Wow, years pass? Impossible, he’s only gone of two years. I’ve done a month though.

“In the spring of 1990, when Walt, Billie, and Carine attended Chris’s graduation ceremony, they thought he seemed happy. As they watched him stride across the stage and take his diploma, he was grinning from ear to ear. He indicated that he was planning another extended trip but implied that he’d visit his family in Annandale before hitting the road. Shortly thereafter, he donated the balance of his bank account to OXFAM, loaded up his car, and vanished from their lives. From then on he scrupulously avoided contacting either his parents or Carine, the sister for whom he purportedly cared immensely.
“We were all worried when we didn’t hear from him,” says Carine, “and I think my parents’ worry was mixed with hurt and anger. But I didn’t really feel hurt by his failure to write. I knew he was happy and doing what he wanted to do; I understood that it was important for him to see how independent he could be. And he knew that if he’d written or called me, Mom and Dad would find out where he was, fly out there, and try to bring him home.”
– similar, but for me, there’s no chance that my parents would come and pick me up. I have no reason not to call. It’s just a feeling of being detached from society at the moment.

“What does she mean ‘whoever I’m with?” Chris railed at his sister. “She must be rucking nuts. You know what I bet? I bet they think I’m a homosexual. How did they ever get that idea? What a bunch of imbeciles.”
– mmm, appears homo, but isn’t.

“Chris seldom contacted his parents that year, and because he had no phone, they couldn’t easily contact him. Walt and Billie grew increasingly worried about their son’s emotional distance. In a letter to Chris, Billie implored, “You have completely dropped away from all who love and care about you. Whatever it is—whoever you’re with—do you think this is right?” Chris saw this as meddling and referred to the letter as “stupid” when he talked to Carine.”
– mmm, pressure from mother. Quite important though. I also didn’t have a phone, or, I chose not to use it. I still don’t.

“During his senior year at Emory, Chris lived off campus in his bare, spartan room furnished with milk crates and a mattress on the floor. Few of his friends ever saw him outside of classes. A professor gave him a key for after-hours access to the library, where he spent much of his free time.”
– lol, spartan is a good word. Milk crates are quite functional, moveable pieces of furniture. Ah, escape to library and media. Hmm. Sounds like my escape to films for a real education.

“he grinding, dusty haul up the Alaska Highway was Chris’s first visit to the Far North. It was an abbreviated trip—he spent a short time around Fairbanks, then hurried south to get back to Atlanta in time for the start of fall classes—but he had been smitten by the vastness of the land, by the ghostly hue of the glaciers, by the pellucid subarctic sky. There was never any question that he would return.”
– deadline of going back to school

“To his dwindling number of confreres, McCandless appeared to grow more intense with each passing month. As soon as classes ended in the spring of 1989, Chris took his Datsun on another prolonged, extemporaneous road trip. “We only got two cards from him the whole summer,” says Walt. “The first one said, ‘Headed for Guatemala.’ When I read that I thought, ‘Oh, my God, he’s going down there to fight for the insurrectionists. They’re going to line him up in front of a wall and shoot him.’ Then toward the end of the summer, the second card arrived, and all it said was ‘Leaving Fairbanks tomorrow, see you in a couple of weeks.’ It turned out he’d changed his mind and instead of heading south had driven to Alaska.”
– lol. No phones at that time? Could have used a payphone. But indeed, less and less contact.

“As assistant editorial page editor of The Emory Wheel, he authored scores of commentaries. In reading them half a decade later, one is reminded how young McCandless was, and how passionate. The opinions he expressed in print, argued with idiosyncratic logic, were all over the map. He lampooned Jimmy Carter and Joe Biden, called for the resignation of Attorney General Edwin Meese, lambasted Bible-thumpers of the Christian right, urged vigilance against the Soviet threat, castigated the Japanese for hunting whales, and defended Jesse Jackson as a viable presidential candidate. In a typically immoderate declaration the lead sentence of McCandless’s editorial of March 1, 1988, reads, “We have now begun the third month of the year 1988, and already it is shaping up to be one of the most politically corrupt and scandalous years in modern history….” Chris Morris, the editor of the paper, remembers McCandless as “intense.”
– one should be immoderate. Chris was right again.

“Chris’s seemingly anomalous political positions were perhaps best summed up by Thoreau’s declaration in “Civil Disobedience”: “I heartily accept the motto—‘That government is best which governs least.’” Beyond that his views were not easily characterized.”
– a very general view, but fits my autonomism ideals

“That summer, Billie remembers, “Chris started complaining about all the rich kids at Emory.” More and more of the classes he took addressed such pressing social issues as racism and world hunger and inequities in the distribution of wealth.”
– mmm, also did this earlier than me. Again, because I didn’t live in a city, or alone, away from my parent’s home bubble.

“Chris was the sort of person who brooded about things,” Carine observes. “If something bothered him, he wouldn’t come right out and say it. He’d keep it to himself, harboring his resentment, letting the bad feelings build and build.” That seems to be what happened following the discoveries he made in El Segundo.”
– mm, I do this too, and I still think it’s right not to bother unless it makes a behavioral change to a large amount of people. One person’s problems can easily be ignored.

“Like many people, Chris apparently judged artists and close friends by their work, not their life, yet he was temperamentally incapable of extending such lenity to his father.”
– I sure did judge artists by their work instead of their life, but coming from a large suburban house, that’s what probably normally happens, one has to consume media for an education

“Children can be harsh judges when it comes to their parents, disinclined to grant clemency, and this was especially true in Chris’s case. More even than most teens, he tended to see things in black and white. He measured himself and those around him by an impossibly rigorous moral code.”
– mmm, Rorschach / Kantian moral code

“he summer between his sophomore and junior years Chris again returned to Annandale and took a job delivering pizzas for Domino’s. “He didn’t care that it wasn’t a cool thing to do,” says Carine. “He made a pile of money. I remember he’d come home every night and do his accounting at the kitchen table. It didn’t matter how tired he was; he’d figure out how many miles he drove, how much Domino’s paid him for gas, how much gas actually cost, his net profits for the evening, how it compared to the same evening the week before. He kept track of everything and showed me how to do it, how to make a business work. He didn’t seem interested in the money so much as the fact that he was good at making it. It was like a game, and the money was a way of keeping score.”
– interesting to not care about the work and just get the money, as opposed to caring for all actions, including that which makes money
– lol at the game analogy

“I saw Chris at a party after his sophomore year at Emory,” remembers Eric Hathaway, “and it was obvious he had changed. He seemed very introverted, almost cold. When I said ‘Hey, good to see you, Chris,’ his reply was cynical: ‘Yeah, sure, that’s what everybody says.’ It was hard to get him to open up. His studies were the only thing he was interested in talking about.”
– focused on work, impact, not the bullshit American society, especially college society

“The summer after his freshman year of college, Chris returned to Annandale and worked for his parents’ company, developing computer software. “The program he wrote for us that summer was flawless,” says Walt. “We still use it today and have sold copies of the program to many clients. But when I asked Chris to show me how he wrote it, to explain why it worked the way it did, he refused. ‘All you need to know is that it works,’ he said. ‘You don’t need to know how or why.’ Chris was just being Chris, but it infuriated me. He would have made a great CIA agent—I’m serious; I know guys who work for the CIA. He told us what he thought we needed to know and nothing more. He was that way about everything.”
– crazy, also developed computer software. Well maybe not, it’s work local to his parent’s house: DC.
– also, Chris didn’t want to say more because it isn’t required to understand more. That would be a waste of time, of his, and, perhaps, of his father. Maybe. Perhaps just not interested in teaching, and prefers autodidact.

“To his parents’ pleasant surprise, as the school year stretched on, Chris seemed thrilled to be at Emory. He shaved, trimmed his hair, and readopted the clean-cut look he’d had in high school. His grades were nearly perfect. He started writing for the school newspaper. He even talked enthusiastically about going on to get a law degree when he graduated. “Hey,” Chris boasted to Walt at one point, “I think my grades will be good enough to get into Harvard Law School.”
– crazy how school can swerve one toward a systematic direction

“During the course of his travels, Chris had acquired a machete and a .30-06 rifle, and when Walt and Billie drove him down to Atlanta to enroll in college, he insisted on taking the big knife and the gun with him. “When we went with Chris up to his dorm room,” Walt laughs, “I thought his roommate’s parents were going to have a stroke on the spot. The roommate was a preppy kid from Connecticut, dressed like Joe College, and Chris walks in with a scraggly beard and worn-out clothes, looking like Jeremiah Johnson, packing a machete and a deer-hunting rifle. But you know what? Within ninety days the preppy roommate had dropped out, while Chris had made the dean’s list.”
– functional belongings are difficult to depart with
– indeed, he’s serious about school

“So at first I didn’t say anything about the safety aspect. I played tennis with Chris, talked about other things, then eventually sat down with him to discuss the risks he’d taken. I’d learned by then that a direct approach—‘By God, you better not try a stunt like that again!’—didn’t work with Chris. Instead, I tried to explain that we didn’t object to his travels; we just wanted him to be a little more careful and to keep us better informed of his whereabouts.”
To Walt’s dismay Chris bristled at this small dollop of fatherly advice. The only effect it seemed to have was to make him even less inclined to share his plans.
“Chris,” says Billie, “thought we were idiots for worrying about him.”
– mmm

“Near the end of his trip, it turned out, Chris had gotten lost in the Mojave Desert and had nearly succumbed to dehydration. His parents were extremely alarmed when they heard about this brush with disaster but were unsure how to persuade Chris to exercise more caution in the future. “Chris was good at almost everything he ever tried,” Walt reflects, “which made him supremely overconfident. If you attempted to talk him out of something, he wouldn’t argue. He’d just nod politely and then do exactly what he wanted.”
– ah wow. I also had a few dangers: the ATV incident, and I still have to learn to swim.

“After leaving Virginia, Chris drove south and then west across the flat Texas plains, through the heat of New Mexico and Arizona, and arrived at the Pacific coast. Initially, he honored the agreement to phone regularly, but as the summer wore on, the calls became less and less frequent. He didn’t appear back home until two days before the fall term was to start at Emory. When he walked into the Annandale house, he had a scruffy beard, his hair was long and tangled, and he’d shed thirty pounds from his already lean frame.”
– sounds like me after any trip, lol. The calling part is a problem too, but less so when I’m in a city.

“In 1986, on the sultry spring weekend that Chris graduated from Woodson High School, Walt and Billie threw a party for him. Walt’s birthday was June 10, just a few days away, and at the party Chris gave his father a present: a very expensive Questar telescope.
“I remember sitting there when he gave Dad the telescope,” says Carine. “Chris had tossed back a few drinks that night and was pretty blitzed. He got real emotional. He was almost crying, fighting back the tears, telling Dad that even though they’d had their differences over the years, he was grateful for all the things Dad had done for him. Chris said how much he respected Dad for starting from nothing, working his way through college, busting his ass to support eight kids. It was a moving speech. Everybody there was all choked up. And then he left on his trip.”
– sounds like how I feel, but, I never said it directly to him.

“For children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”
– Chesterton

“When I mentioned the offer to Chris,” says Walt, “he wouldn’t even consider it. He told his boss that he had other plans.” As soon as high school was over, Chris declared, he was going to get behind the wheel of his new car and spend the summer driving across the country.”
– sounds like my confidence after my first job

“In a matter of a few months, half a dozen other students were working under him, and he’d put seven thousand dollars into his bank account. He used part of the money to buy the yellow Datsun, the secondhand B210.”
– my Mazda 3 was far more expensive purchase, but similar in that it was a compact, desired hatchback, and okay fuel efficiency

“Her son, the teenage Tolstoyan, believed that wealth was shameful, corrupting, inherently evil—which is ironic because Chris was a natural-born capitalist with an uncanny knack for making a buck. “Chris was always an entrepreneur,” Billie says with a laugh. “Always.”
– mmm, capitalism as outlet and motivation for creativity as a kid. Sold vegetables and printer copies

“hey didn’t flaunt their modest wealth, but they bought nice clothes, some jewelry for Billie, a Cadillac. Eventually, they purchased the townhouse on the bay and the sailboat. They took the kids to Europe, skiing in Breckenridge, on a Caribbean cruise. And Chris, Billie acknowledges, “was embarrassed by all that.”
– mmmm, I really shouldn’t have gone on that Caribbean trip. I was really old at that time. Very embarrassing for myself at that time, not so much for my family. That’s okay, I understood that they’re human.

“McCandless’s personality was puzzling in its complexity. He was intensely private but could be convivial and gregarious in the extreme. And despite his overdeveloped social conscience, he was no tight-lipped, perpetually grim do-gooder who frowned on fun. To the contrary, he enjoyed tipping a glass now and then and was an incorrigible ham.”
– yeah, I enjoyed social life, but didn’t enjoy the norms of consumption of commodity, wasting wealth for fun. Nature is better.

“Chris brought home good grades,” says Hathaway. “He didn’t get into trouble, he was a high achiever, he did what he was supposed to. His parents didn’t really have grounds to complain. But they got on his case about going to college; and whatever they said to him, it must have worked. Because he ended up going to Emory, even though he thought it was pointless, a waste of time and money.”
– mmm, a bit ahead of me here too. He actually thought of not going to college, whereas I didn’t think much of college but attended anyway. Though I care for social problems, I didn’t have the independence to learn how much a waste of money college is, also a waste of time.

“On one occasion Chris picked up a homeless man from the streets of D.C., brought him home to leafy, affluent Annandale, and secretly set the guy up in the Airstream trailer his parents parked beside the garage”

“On another occasion Chris drove over to Hathaway’s house and announced they were going downtown. “Cool!” Hathaway remembers thinking. “It was a Friday night, and I assumed we were headed to Georgetown to party. Instead, Chris parked down on Fourteenth Street, which at the time was a real bad part of town. Then he said, ‘You know, Eric, you can read about this stuff, but you can’t understand it until you live it. Tonight that’s what we’re going to do.’ We spent the next few hours hanging out in creepy places, talking with pimps and hookers and lowlife. I was, like, scared.
“Toward the end of the evening, Chris asked me how much money I had. I said five dollars. He had ten. ‘OK, you buy the gas,’ he told me; ‘I’m going to get some food.’ So he spent the ten bucks on a big bag of hamburgers, and we drove around handing them out to smelly guys sleeping on grates. It was the weirdest Friday night of my life. But Chris did that kind of thing a lot.”
– mirrors my interest in homeless people, but in a rather different way. While I was into documenting them, or interviewing them, he was actually already taking actions, and he was a few years younger than me at that time. I only did that once I went to San Francisco. Though, the encounter with homeless people only occurred because I moved to a city, where I interact with them.
– more direct actions

“On weekends, when his high school pals were attending “keggers” and trying to sneak into Georgetown bars, McCandless would wander the seedier quarters of Washington, chatting with prostitutes and homeless people, buying them meals, earnestly suggesting ways they might improve their lives.
“Chris didn’t understand how people could possibly be allowed to go hungry, especially in this country,” says Billie. “He would rave about that kind of thing for hours.”
– not afraid of the inner city, and doesn’t understand human psyche, but trying to help. Also, living in America still doesn’t make sense how bad inequality is, or how people still do not have homes or food or how prostitution exists.

“McCandless took life’s inequities to heart. During his senior year at Woodson, he became obsessed with racial oppression in South Africa. He spoke seriously to his friends about smuggling weapons into that country and joining the struggle to end apartheid. “We’d get into arguments about it once in a while,” recalls Hathaway. “Chris didn’t like going through channels, working within the system, waiting his turn. He’d say, ‘Come on, Eric, we can raise enough money to go to South Africa on our own, right now. It’s just a matter of deciding to do it.’ I’d counter by saying we were only a couple of kids, that we couldn’t possibly make a difference. But you couldn’t argue with him. He’d come back with something like ‘Oh, so I guess you just don’t care about right and wrong.’”
– mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, maybe the most affecting part for me. Wants to make a sociocultural difference, but not through a system. Direct intervention. It’s as simple as that: “It’s just a matter of deciding to do it”.

“He internalized the disappointment. He’d go off alone somewhere and beat himself up.
“It wasn’t just running Chris took so seriously,” Gillmer adds. “He was like that about everything. You aren’t supposed to think about heavy-duty stuff in high school. But I did, and he did, too, which is why we hit it off. We’d hang out during snack break at his locker and talk about life, the state of the world, serious things. I’m black, and I could never figure out why everyone made such a big deal about race. Chris would talk to me about that kind of thing. He understood. He was always questioning stuff in the same way. I liked him a lot. He was a really good guy.”
– good diverse upbringing in suburban America

“He was really into pushing himself,” explains Gordy Cucullu, a younger member of the team. “Chris invented this workout he called Road Warriors: He would lead us on long, killer runs through places like farmers’ fields and construction sites, places we weren’t supposed to be, and intentionally try to get us lost. We’d run as far and as fast as we could, down strange roads, through the woods, whatever. The whole idea was to lose our bearings, to push ourselves into unknown territory. Then we’d run at a slightly slower pace until we found a road we recognized and race home again at full speed. In a certain sense that’s how Chris lived his entire life.”
– hahaha this is amazing, reminds me of my biking explorations with friends on my street. It’s also creative and rewarding. Creative in constantly learning to find the quickest route possible, like parkour, and rewarding because one actually physically explores new areas, learning more of reality. It’s empirical, and fun.

“He tried his hand at many sports but had little patience for learning the finer points of any of them.”

“Chris had so much natural talent,” Walt continues, “but if you tried to coach him, to polish his skill, to bring out that final ten percent, a wall went up. He resisted instruction of any kind.”
– no patience, or, does not care for mastering things. Not necessary. Understands it, then moves on. No need to waste time on the last 10%.

“A gifted French-horn player, as a teen he was a member of the American University Symphony but quit, according to Walt, after objecting to rules imposed by a high school band leader.”
– always leaves because rules waste time.

“Their musical rivalry seems not to have damaged the relationship between Chris and Carine, however. They’d been best friends from an early age, spending hours together building forts out of cushions and blankets in their Annandale living room. “He was always really nice to me,” Carine says, “and extremely protective. He’d hold my hand when we walked down the street. When he was in junior high and I was still in grade school, he got out earlier than me, but he’d hang out at his friend Brian Paskowitz’s house so we could walk home together.”
– :). Maybe I wouldn’t be a bad older brother?

“Walt grows quiet, staring absently into the distance. “Chris was fearless even when he was little,” he says after a long pause. “He didn’t think the odds applied to him. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge.”
– edge of society.

“Much of the food he put on the table came from hunting—despite the fact that he was uncomfortable killing animals. “My dad cried every time he shot a deer,” Billie says, “but we had to eat, so he did it.”
– mmm, good argument for vegetarian

“But there were good times, too. On weekends and when school was out, the family took to the road: They drove to Virginia Beach and the Carolina shore, to Colorado to visit Walt’s kids from his first marriage, to the Great Lakes, to the Blue Ridge Mountains. “We camped out of the back of the truck, the Chevy Suburban,” Walt explains. “Later we bought an Airstream trailer and traveled with that. Chris loved those trips, the longer the better. There was always a little wanderlust in the family, and it was clear early on that Chris had inherited it.”
In the course of their travels, the family visited Iron Mountain, Michigan, a small mining town in the forests of the Upper Peninsula that was Billie’s childhood home…”
– family trips, yay

“At the age of two, he got up in the middle of the night, found his way outside without waking his parents, and entered a house down the street to plunder a neighbor’s candy drawer.”
– age 2 or 4?

“Walt bought Billie a Gianini guitar, on which she strummed lullabies to soothe the fussy newborn. Twenty-two years later, rangers from the National Park Service would find that same guitar on the backseat of a yellow Datsun abandoned near the shore of Lake Mead.”
– important belonging to go back for

– thoughts while reading book, grabbing knowledge, or organizing a book’s ideas which relate to my current thoughts / life

“Westerberg pawed through the files at the grain elevator until he found two W-4 forms McCandless had filled out. Across the top of the first one, dating from McCandless’s initial visit to Carthage, in 1990, he had scrawled “EXEMPT EXEMPT EXEMPT EXEMPT” and given his name as Iris Fucyu. Address: “None of your damn business.” Social Security number: “I forget.”
But on the second form, dated March 30, 1992, two weeks before he left for Alaska, he’d signed his given name: “Chris J. McCandless.” And in the blank for Social Security number he’d put down, “228-31-6704.” Westerberg phoned Alaska again. This time the troopers took him seriously.”
– hahahaha, I do this at times too. Silly bureaucracy.

“The papar risked their lives—and lost them in untold droves—not in the pursuit of wealth or personal glory or to claim new lands in the name of any despot. As the great arctic explorer and Nobel laureate Fridtjof Nansen points out, “these remarkable voyages were … undertaken chiefly from the wish to find lonely places, where these anchorites might dwell in peace, undisturbed by the turmoil and temptations of the world.” When the first handful of Norwegians showed up on the shores of Iceland in the ninth century, the papar decided the country had become too crowded—even though it was still all but uninhabited. The monks’ response was to climb into their curraghs and row off toward Greenland. They were drawn across the storm-racked ocean, drawn west past the edge of the known world, by nothing more than a hunger of the spirit, a yearning of such queer intensity that it beggars the modern imagination.”
– hmm, from Ireland to Iceland to a little island nearby, they physically kept escaping society

“Sleight believes that if Ruess had made it across the river alive and reached the reservation, it would have been impossible for him to conceal his presence “even if he was still playing his Nemo game. Everett was a loner, but he liked people too damn much to stay down there and live in secret the rest of his life. A lot of us are like that—I’m like that, Ed Abbey was like that, and it sounds like this McCandless kid was like that: We like companionship, see, but we can’t stand to be around people for very long. So we go get ourselves lost, come back for a while, then get the hell out again. And that’s what Everett was doing.”
– yep, love people and talking, but need time away from society

“Half of the ten sunniest places on record are in the American southwest states of Arizona, Nevada and Texas.”
– http://www.currentresults.com/Weather-Extremes/sunniest-places-countries-world.php
– Travelers, especially campers, are attracted to the sun, just as I am in Asia. It’s no wonder they end up in the sunniest of places. I think McCandless made the mistake of going to a cold place.

“For two days I couldn’t tell whether I was dead or alive. I writhed and twisted in the heat, with swarms of ants and flies crawling over me, while the poison oozed and crusted on my face and arms and back. I ate nothing—there was nothing to do but suffer philosophically….
I get it every time, but I refuse to be driven out of the woods.”
– hah, it reminds me of my sicknesses during travel. Mostly stomach viruses.
– this is a quite silly decision, to not get poison ivy medicine, especially since it’s semi-annual.

“Ruess was just as romantic as McCandless, if not more so, and equally heedless of personal safety. Clayborn Lockett, an archaeologist who briefly employed Ruess as a cook while excavating an Anasazi cliff dwelling in 1934, told Rusho that “he was appalled by the seemingly reckless manner in which Everett moved around dangerous cliffs.”

“Indeed, Ruess himself boasts in one of his letters, “Hundreds of times I have trusted my life to crumbling sandstone and nearly vertical edges in the search for water or cliff dwellings. Twice I was nearly gored to death by a wild bull. But always, so far, I’ve escaped unscathed and gone forth to other adventures.” And in his final letter Ruess nonchalantly confesses to his brother:”
– safety depends on the mind and body, not by policy. Here, I believe, Ruess was right. One cannot comprehend the infinite decisions that go on while climbing a mountain, it is dexterity, and only the adventurer understands their body enough to make those decisions.

“and hundreds of houses of the cliff dwellers, abandoned a thousand years ago.”
– living in abandoned abodes! very good idea.

“I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly.”
– mmm, intensely and richly.

“The beauty of this country is becoming part of me. I feel more detached from life and somehow gentler….”
– I’ve felt this with Taiwan, but I didn’t feel detached from life until I became stuck inside a closed space. I’ve always felt close with the people of Taiwan, not just the country. The city and small towns, not pure nature. I’ve only felt detached when away from people: scooter trips and time not spent with friends or in public areas such as markets.

“…I have some good friends here, but no one who really understands why I am here or what I do. I don’t know of anyone, though, who would have more than a partial understanding; I have gone too far alone.”
– his mind and interests are too far from society. Happens to me with philosophical thoughts, but now I’ve got e-books which help, some. I don’t have to be alone. I can talk to people using cellular data, real people or a medium of information.

“I have been thinking more and more that I shall always be a lone wanderer of the wilderness. God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. After all the lone trail is the best…. I’ll never stop wandering.”
– feels that he will never fit society, and simultaneously never stop wondering.

“At eighteen, in a dream, he saw himself plodding through jungles, chinning up the ledges of cliffs, wandering through the romantic waste places of the world. No man with any of the juices of boyhood in him has forgotten those dreams. The peculiar thing about Everett Ruess was that he went out and did the things he dreamed about, not simply for a two-weeks’ vacation in the civilized and trimmed wonderlands, but for months and years in the very midst of wonder….”
– mmm, dreamed and did. Easy to get out of society.

“I had some terrific experiences in the wilderness since I wrote you last—overpowering, overwhelming,” he gushed to his friend Cornel Tengel. “But then I am always being overwhelmed. I require it to sustain life.”
– sounds like me or Peter Pan at times

“At the end of the summer, Everett returned home only long enough to earn a high school diploma, which he received in January 1931. Less than a month later he was on the road again, tramping alone through the canyon lands of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, then a region nearly as sparsely populated and wrapped in mystique as Alaska is today. Except for a short, unhappy stint at UCLA (he dropped out after a single semester, to his father’s lasting dismay), two extended visits with his parents, and a winter in San Francisco (where he insinuated himself into the company of Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and the painter Maynard Dixon), Ruess would spend the remainder of his meteoric life on the move, living out of a backpack on very little money, sleeping in the dirt, cheerfully going hungry for days at a time.”
– similar to my short period at Parson’s, and love for city artists

“In Los Angeles, Everett attended the Otis Art School and Hollywood High. As a sixteen-year-old he embarked on his first long solo trip, spending the summer of 1930 hitchhiking and trekking through Yosemite and Big Sur, ultimately winding up in Carmel. Two days after arriving in the latter community, he brazenly knocked on the door of Edward Weston, who was sufficiently charmed by the overwrought young man to humor him. Over the next two months the eminent photographer encouraged the boy’s uneven but promising efforts at painting and block printing, and permitted Ruess to hang around his studio with his own sons, Neil and Cole.”
– just do shit!

“the Ruesses were also a nomadic family, moving from Oakland to Fresno to Los Angeles to Boston to Brooklyn to New Jersey to Indiana before finally settling in southern California when Everett was fourteen.”

“It is true that I miss intelligent companionship, but there are so few with whom I can share the things that mean so much to me that I have learned to contain myself.”
– mmm, not worth the cost of being a part of society

… as to when I revisit civilization, it will not be soon. I have not tired of the wilderness… It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty… This had been a full, rich year. I have left no strange or delightful thing undone I wanted to do.
– a full year of experience! Amazing.

Everett wrote no books during his life, but was a lifelong diarist and sent home hundreds of letters.[16] His journals, art, and poetry were later published in two books
– lifelong diarist. Keep on living, let someone organize the shit you think for you.

Starting in 1931, Ruess traveled by horse and burro through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, the high desert Colorado Plateau. He rode broncos, branded calves, and investigated cliff dwellings, trading his prints and watercolors to pay his way. He explored Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks and the High Sierra in the summers of 1930 and 1933. In 1934, he worked with University of California archaeologists near Kayenta, took part in a Hopi religious ceremony, and learned to speak Navajo.
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everett_Ruess

“He was an extremely intense young man and possessed a streak of stubborn idealism that did not mesh readily with modern existence. ”

“Alex’s backpack looked as though it weighed only twenty-five or thirty pounds”

“Still, Gallien was concerned. Alex admitted that the only food in his pack was a ten-pound bag of rice. His gear seemed exceedingly minimal for the harsh conditions of the interior, which in April still lay buried under the winter snowpack. Alex’s cheap leather hiking boots were neither waterproof nor well insulated. His rifle was only .22 caliber, a bore too small to rely on if he expected to kill large animals like moose and caribou, which he would have to eat if he hoped to remain very long in the country. He had no ax, no bug dope, no snowshoes, no compass. The only navigational aid in his possession was a tattered state road map he’d scrounged at a gas station.”

expensive backpack

“a diary—written across the last two pages of a field guide to edible plants—that recorded the young man’s final weeks in 113 terse, enigmatic entries.”

“and asked Alex how long it’d been since he ate. Alex allowed how it’d been a couple of days. Said he’d kind of run out of money.” Overhearing this, the friend’s wife insisted on cooking Alex a big dinner, which he wolfed down, and then he fell asleep at the table.”

“. If he started a job, he’d finish it. It was almost like a moral thing for him. He was what you’d call extremely ethical. He set pretty high standards for himself.”

“You could tell right away that Alex was intelligent,” Westerberg reflects, draining his third drink. “He read a lot. Used a lot of big words. I think maybe part of what got him into trouble was that he did too much thinking. Sometimes he tried too hard to make sense of the world, to figure out why people were bad to each other so often. A couple of times I tried to tell him it was a mistake to get too deep into that kind of stuff, but Alex got stuck on things. He always had to know the absolute right answer before he could go on to the next thing.”

“That fall he developed a lasting bond with both the town and Wayne Westerberg.”

“The attachment McCandless felt for Carthage remained powerful, however. Before departing, he gave Westerberg a treasured 1942 edition of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.”

“And McCandless stayed in touch with Westerberg as he roamed the West, calling or writing Carthage every month or two. He had all his mail forwarded to Westerberg’s address and told almost everyone he met thereafter that South Dakota was his home.”
– semi-anonymous dwelling with capital production. Ace.

“history and anthropology major”

“He was offered membership in Phi Beta Kappa but declined, insisting that titles and honors are irrelevant.”
– :)

“She was surprised and extremely touched: It was the first present she had received from her son in more than two years, since he had announced to his parents that, on principle, he would no longer give or accept gifts.”

“Chris had purchased the secondhand yellow Datsun when he was a senior in high school. In the years since, he’d been in the habit of taking it on extended solo road trips when classes weren’t in session, and during that graduation weekend he casually mentioned to his parents that he intended to spend the upcoming summer on the road as well. His exact words were “I think I’m going to disappear for a while.”

“Here is a copy of my final transcript. Gradewise things went pretty well and I ended up with a high cumulative average.
Thankyou for the pictures, the shaving gear, and the postcard from Paris. It seems that you really enjoyed your trip there. It must have been a lot of fun.
I gave Lloyd [Chris’s closest friend at Emory] his picture, and he was very grateful; he did not have a shot of his diploma getting handed to him.
Not much else happening, but it’s starting to get real hot and humid down here. Say Hi to everyone for me.”
– very functional letters, and “not much going on here” type of lack of talk, as opposed to talks of travels to strangers

“During that final year in Atlanta, Chris had lived off campus in a monkish room furnished with little more than a thin mattress on the floor, milk crates, and a table. He kept it as orderly and spotless as a military barracks. And he didn’t have a phone, so Walt and Billie had no way of calling him.”
– mininmalism

“By then Chris was long gone. Five weeks earlier he’d loaded all his belongings into his little car and headed west without an itinerary.”
– no itinerary

“Alex finds Mexicans to be warm, friendly people. Much more hospitable than Americans….”
– :)

“Having reached his destination, McCandless slowed his pace, and his mood became more contemplative. He took photographs of a tarantula, plaintive sunsets, windswept dunes, the long curve of empty coastline. The journal entries become short and perfunctory. He wrote fewer than a hundred words over the month that followed.”

“On January 16, McCandless left the stubby metal boat on a hummock of dune grass southeast of El Golfo de Santa Clara and started walking north up the deserted beach. He had not seen or talked to another soul in thirty-six days. For that entire period he subsisted on nothing but five pounds of rice and what marine life he could pull from the sea, an experience that would later convince him he could survive on similarly meager rations in the Alaska bush.”
– wow, just rice?

“To avoid being rolled by the unsavory characters who rule the streets and freeway overpasses where he slept, he learned to bury what money he had before entering a city, then recover it on the way out of town.”
– hmm

“On February 3, according to his journal, McCandless went to Los Angeles “to get a ID and a job but feels extremely uncomfortable in society now and must return to road immediately.”
– yes

“On February 24, seven and a half months after he abandoned the Datsun, McCandless returned to Detrital Wash. The Park Service had long since impounded the vehicle, but he unearthed his old Virginia plates, SJF-421, and a few belongings he’d buried there.”
– material belongings still important? Or to avoid identity?

“Then he hitched into Las Vegas and found a job at an Italian restaurant. “Alexander buried his backpack in the desert on 2/27 and entered Las Vegas with no money and no ID,” the journal tells us.”
– hmm, to avoid losing anything?

“He lived on the streets with bums, tramps, and winos for several weeks. Vegas would not be the end of the story, however. On May 10, itchy feet returned and Alex left his job in Vegas, retrieved his backpack, and hit the road again, though he found that if you are stupid enough to bury a camera underground you won’t be taking many pictures with it afterwards. Thus the story has no picture book for the period May 10, 1991-January 7, 1992. But this is not important. It is the experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found. God it’s great to be alive! Thank you. Thank you.”
– :)

“When his camera was ruined and McCandless stopped taking photographs, he also stopped keeping a journal, a practice he didn’t resume until he went to Alaska the next year. Not a great deal is known, therefore, about where he traveled after departing Las Vegas in May 1991.”
– stopped because he was experiencing life! Fuck writing.

“the fog and rain was often intolerable.”
– :)

“ In September he hitched down U.S. Highway 101 into California, then headed east into the desert again. And by early October he had landed in Bullhead City, Arizona.”
– toward the heat again and again, so why north?

“On the face of it, Bullhead City doesn’t seem like the kind of place that would appeal to an adherent of Thoreau and Tolstoy, an ideologue who expressed nothing but contempt for the bourgeois trappings of mainstream America. McCandless, nevertheless, took a strong liking to Bullhead. Maybe it was his affinity for the lumpen, who were well represented in the community’s trailer parks and campgrounds and laundromats; perhaps he simply fell in love with the stark desert landscape that encircles the town.
In any case, when he arrived in Bullhead City, McCandless stopped moving for more than two months—probably the longest he stayed in one place from the time he left Atlanta until he went to Alaska and moved into the abandoned bus on the Stampede Trail. In a card he mailed to Westerberg in October, he says of Bullhead, “It’s a good place to spend the winter and I might finally settle down and abandon my tramping life, for good. I’ll see what happens when spring comes around, because that’s when I tend to get really itchy feet.”
– yes, winter hibernation and summer itchy feet

“At the time he wrote these words, he was holding down a full-time job, flipping Quarter Pounders at a McDonald’s on the main drag, commuting to work on a bicycle. Outwardly, he was living a surprisingly conventional existence, even going so far as to open a savings account at a local bank.”
– things get conventional in the winter

“McCandless had tried to disguise the fact that he was a drifter living out of a backpack: He told his fellow employees that he lived across the river in Laughlin.”
– shame? Well, what can one say to normative culture people that don’t understand nomadism?

“In fact, during his first several weeks in Bullhead, McCandless camped out in the desert at the edge of town; then he started squatting in a vacant mobile home. The latter arrangement, he explained in a letter to Jan Burres, “came about this way:”
– hah, my current thought / move. Camp and make some money!

“Thanks so much for the Christmas card. It’s nice to be thought of this time of year…. I’m so excited to hear that you will be coming to see me, you’re welcome any time. It’s really great to think that after almost a year and a half we shall be meeting again.”
– meeting people after a year and a half

“Sometimes I think it was like he was storing up company for the times when he knew nobody would be around.”

“McCandless was especially attentive to Burres, flirting and clowning with her at every opportunity. “He liked to tease me and torment me,” she recalls. “I’d go out back to hang clothes on the line behind the trailer, and he’d attach clothespins all over me. He was playful, like a little kid. I had puppies, and he was always putting them under laundry baskets to watch them bounce around and yelp. He’d do it till I’d get mad and have to yell at him to stop. But in truth he was real good with the dogs. They’d follow him around, cry after him, want to sleep with him. Alex just had a way with animals.”
– good females

“It is true that many creative people fail to make mature personal relationships, and some are extremely isolated. It is also true that, in some instances, trauma, in the shape of early separation or bereavement, has steered the potentially creative person toward developing aspects of his personality which can find fulfillment in comparative isolation. But this does not mean that solitary, creative pursuits are themselves pathological….
[A]voidance behavior is a response designed to protect the infant from behavioural disorganization. If we transfer this concept to adult life, we can see that an avoidant infant might very well develop into a person whose principal need was to find some kind of meaning and order in life which was not entirely, or even chiefly, dependent upon interpersonal relationships.”
– solitude: return to the self

“I don’t recollect Alex ever talking about any girlfriends,” says Westerberg. “Although a couple of times he mentioned wanting to get married and have a family some day. You could tell he didn’t take relationships lightly. He wasn’t the kind of guy who would go out and pick up girls just to get laid.”
– serious

“In high school McCandless had enjoyed a close rapport with two or three members of the opposite sex, and Carine recalls one instance when he got drunk and tried to bring a girl up to his bedroom in the middle of the night (they made so much noise stumbling up the stairs that Billie was awakened and sent the girl home). But there is little evidence that he was sexually active as a teenager and even less to suggest that he slept with any woman after graduating from high school. (Nor, for that matter, is there any evidence that he was ever sexually intimate with a man.) It seems that McCandless was drawn to women but remained largely or entirely celibate, as chaste as a monk.”
– mmm

“When McCandless hugged Borah good-bye, she says, “I noticed he was crying. That frightened me. He wasn’t planning on being gone all that long; I figured he wouldn’t have been crying unless he intended to take some big risks and knew he might not be coming back. That’s when I started having a bad feeling that we wouldn’t never see Alex again.”
– crying because he left another society, a good one

“Hey Guys!
This is the last communication you shall receive from me. I now walk out to live amongst the wild. Take care, it was great knowing you.
– hmm, determined to live self-reliantly

“It may, after all, be the bad habit of creative talents to invest themselves in pathological extremes that yield remarkable insights but no durable way of life for those who cannot translate their psychic wounds into significant art or thought.”
– very good quote by Jon Krakaeur to choose

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Only Yesterday

10 October 2015 by Rahil

[todo: review thoughts]

Thoughts from Only Yesterday (おもひでぽろぽろ, Omohide Poro Poro, literally: memories come tumbling down)





































– 可是,有費,需要很多工作,industrial revolution and time not mentioned.

The problem with narratives is that they show life, instead of showing a method to improve society. Narratives will only deeply affect those who have experienced similar times as the characters have, which is often limited to the society the characters live in.

For example, here, I am reminded of farmers in Taiwan, Taiwan’s rural areas such as Yilan county which I am currently residing in and the east coast, which I have travelled recently.

Other than that, nothing to the film applies to my life, and is therefore impractical to me.

General themes exist. The special ones here are the fakeness of short-term tourism, the difficulty of socialization, and a female’s perspective in contemporary society.

But as usual, narratives are just consumables, not reality, nothing to react to. Quite different from a practical handbook, a workshop, or a social experience.

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Winter’s Bone

04 October 2015 by Rahil

[todo: need to review thoughts]

Thoughts during a viewing of Winter’s Bone:

Their school is not much different from my own: army training classes (ROTC, whatever that acronym was for), teaching young female students how to carry a child, general guidance in life. I didn’t touch any of that.

The mother has to take care of kids, a dog, and a horse. She must wash clothes, cut wood, comb her mother’s hair (optional). This is life without technology. Not enough free time or simultaneous time to consume media.

Law as major problem. How can the law allow the father to put the house on bail. Does the police not care for people?

~”Never ask to what ought to be offered.” This is a moral the mother teaches to her son, even in the face of hunger. I don’t believe it. Technology should be shared, along with food and housing.
Temporarily gave horse to neighbor for care because low on money. Neighbor offers to take care and allows to use technology to chop wood more efficiently. Food is low too. Difficult to survive.
Must teach kids how to survive. This community is barely surviving, in the most developed nation. These kinds of places actually exist in Suffolk, Virginia.

Asks to come in to friend’s house.

Actually, that was normal in College Park too. Though, on film, it seems so unnatural, unsocial.

Even the mother must ask her husband to use “his” truck, to help her friend by giving a ride. Hmm, maybe she asks to come in because the father owns the house. Well, the father’s parents gave it to them. So much property non-sharing already.

It really is the survival of the fittest, as opposed to communism.
Mmm indeed gender difference in marriage.

Uncle has a gun. Went to army? Treats humans like animals without feelings.

Can’t escape to city? This community is barely surviving. No media about cities? Or any better place for living?

Men settle “business” while women stay at home. Feels like such an ancient society, like that Kurosawa film Dodeskaden, yet it exists.

Blood. The big man.

Skinning and gutting a squirrel is indeed weird to a new person, unnatural.

Gossip as belief of who has power? Or gossip as fear from law?

I stopped writing perhaps before buildup of climax. Not so much because it was somewhat socially realistic and thrilling, but because it contained many elements of a thriller narrative and tropes, such as a good uncle that acts bad uncle (think Professor Snape), a badass gang with a gang leader, and so on. Yet it somehow mixed in quite an unfamiliar setting in the Ozarks of the U.S, making it feel quite real. I guess I’m not ready for narratives, and rather stick to film essays.

A quick Google search brings a Facebook post of an Ozark resident listing many differences from reality. In neorealism, is it more important to depict reality or use a film formula to ensure smooth viewing?

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Laputa: Castle in the Sky

28 September 2015 by Rahil

[todo: review thoughts]

Thoughts during a viewing of Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ, Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta):

Beautiful intro production. Feels like Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks. Perhaps Takahata helped here.

Physical work, in tune with reality, the material world.

Few materials are needed.

Wake up when the sun comes up.


Childhood ambitions.

Always interested in flying. Even the stone allows one to float.
Far less realistic and cartoon like than The Wind Rises and Kaguya.
The characters eat egg, will that disappear as civilization progesses?

Created new species of cows.

Always grows up in nature.

In the cave they drink from the river and cook their own meal.
The exploration of the underground is equivalent to the exploration of space.

The rocks underground in harmony with the sky.

A nice old rugged single traveler.

Characters in Miyazaki’s films are never afraid to meet strangers, shows many forms of humanity

Sublime clouds.

A castle in the sea is of the army. It includes a prison.
Organization of humans to explore Laputa, sounds like the space program.

The army, pirates, and government in search of treasure, alike.
Like Kaguya, the princess suddenly came into the world, from another, but grew up on Earth.

Can one go back into habit of life and forget the past?

Pirates, guerrilla warfare.

The boy’s pets are birds. Care shown through caring of pets, as the characters don’t have younger siblings.

Destructive science, useless war machines.

Lol, material jobs given to kids, indeed such a pain. Though, a bit generalizing of women’s work, quite in contrast with the grandma pirate.

Like JRPGs, Miyazaki’s a one’s are a good way to explore the world, it’s nature, people, places.

The pirate engineer looks like Wiley from Megaman.

Pirates motivated by capital, capitalism?

The Pirates are a cute family.

Doing work and contributing to a community with whatever skills you have.

The father pirate is good with systems, mechanical, chess, and social.

Waking up from bed to another’s voice.

“Airships are improving, someone will find it.”

Robots are strange, but peaceful, like a good human society, with their own language.

“You can climb trees can’t you?”

Army “no better than thieves”.

Same family, nurtured by different habitats, nature and city.

Laputa died because it couldn’t survive without the earth.

Perhaps the most theme-rich of Miyazaki’s films.

Some humans strive for organization, some strive to live peacefully with disorganization. The choice depends on the nurture of people. People must be nurtured with nature for a good future.

Hmm, stunning throughout. A perfect film.

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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

22 September 2015 by Rahil

Thoughts written while watching The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (かぐや姫の物語, Kaguya-hime no Monogatari). More thoughts written underneath each thought on 10/3:

Nature, the love of it, the love of child caring, the love of eating fresh fruit, the adventure of hunting, the amazement of craft.
– I agree with Studio Ghibli in the decision of creating main characters whom are raised closed to nature and grow up with good values, which are never lost.

Gold as currency. Work for capital, work becomes habitualized, work uses a great portion of life. Material and production easily shown in rural area.
– Education of material before going to the city, where material is focused upon less, even forgotten, because of daily habit of living in an artificial area.

Leaving nature for the city at adolescence.
– Good coming-of-age film.

Similarities to Lion King, my first favorite film.
– Indeed, the thieves in the rural area are like Timon and Pumba.

The palace is nothing like nature, an isolation chamber for forced learning, socialization.

Playfulness and games during learning, serious when needed.
– I was a little giddy when this was clearly added, as Kaguya learns whatever the teacher of manners says, but playfully, and only serious when needed.

Didnt Takahata play the piano? Maybe a little of his childhood is infused in here.

Studies because she wants to, or out of habit?

Culture as a joke, though it exists.

Out of education of culture, can’t escape society? Can’t be a thief, a beast? Impossible to go back to rural life? Habits too strong? Unwilling to rehabitualize rural life?
– Showing that Kaguya became socialized to the city’s society to the point of being unable to go back and join past rural society was a good decision too. I don’t think this conflict occurred in The Lion King.
– Furthermore, it seemed the thief was viewed as, using Aristotle’s term, a beast, a person who lives outside of society. The thief is only a beast to the city’s society, as he has his own society.

Three years pass by quietly, in habit, doing nothing? Recreating home in the form of a garden? Art as recreation of home. Art as imitation of nature.
– Habit will indeed make time pass by without much thinking.
– Kaguya and her mother recreates home with a garden, but is eventually unsatisfied with the imitation. A sense of belonging. Forced migration? Along with the consistent theme of being raised in nature in Studio Ghibli films, this theme of belonging to nature follows logically, and is equally necessary. It’s especially relatable during times of mass urbanization, though, people have always been migrating. Maybe it’s natural?*

Mmm boring in the middle, especially with forcing 5 princes, but good near the end.

It’s interesting that the moment the Majesty grasps her, her duty comes to mind, signifying a strong feeling of refusal, and resulting in a flash of a vision.
– It takes a strong action to evoke an equally strong emotional response for the character to be reminded of direction and take action in response. It breaks her out of her habitual life.

The kids and dogs sing their song of beasts and bugs in a different way, mentioning the temporal part of life, “grow and die”.
– In accordance to the recurring theme a natural life, dying is treated as normal, just as any other animal dies, humans die. In this case, Kaguya goes to the Moon, in other words, Kaguya leaves earth, or, she dies, at least for that society. This also may be a helpful way of cooping with death: the acceptance of it.

The Princess actually goes to the Moon. The limit of time shows. Parents cry. She didn’t want to go, but she must. The need of being part of society theme from earlier duplicates to another, third society. Born in a farm, raised in the capital, destined to return to the moon. The memory of each society experienced does not leave, and desire, nostalgia exist when living in a new one. Life pushes you in different locations, societies, experience over time, memories are created. Is it fair to those that live in the society, that have done so much to keep it up? Is it normal for people to travel and live in different societies? Is a home necessary? Where is Kaguya’s home?
– This theme of living in different societies, adapting, nostalgia for home, is normal in Ghibli films, but I don’t remember socialization being focused as much as it was in this film; One character is a teacher of manners of being a princess, bourgeois culture and habits. This film’s themes are indeed align with the Disney golden age classic fairy tales such as Snow White and The Lion King, and it sometimes feels a successor of those films more so than a Studio Ghibli film, which is okay, since Disney stopped making those sort of things.

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Examined Life

19 January 2015 by Rahil

[todo: lots of old ideas came up here, that may be worth creating a post for, or maybe not, because they are old]

Notes taken during viewing and my current thoughts while going over them:

“The examined life is not worth living.”

great intro

Cornell West:
beam toward death

philosophy is critical of these things:
domination in institution
democracy is elites that are accountable for most people
of powers, which are not accountable to people
– ?, notes are quite unreadable

Current thoughts:
I like the guy because he speaks a common language and lives in New York, but everything he said was obvious.

Well, one interesting thing is “domination in the institution”. I don’t remember what he said, but the idea that all institutions are coercive, having a force. Chomsky and Assange say this too. Veblen finds the point where in the process of the development of society where force is first displayed: when the men of the amiable societies begin to war. That single force effects all of society. Forever! Well, until society learns to become amiable again. Naturally toward post-politics. Or some large-scale disaster.

But that’s hard when the rich are accustomed to be comfortably rich. And that the world has already been materially stratified, with slums to skyscrapers.

Maybe the problem is comfort. Travelers travel the world as if it were the apocalypse. The world is equally comfortable. The comfortably rich need to be shaken. If Katrina hit mid-town and Silicon Valley, maybe people would have woke up.

Avital Ronell:
This lady read way too much philosophy.

“the other” – can never understand others, so should not violate with my sense of understanding, let it live.
should always feel ethically, one does not do enough, never content

current thoughts:
The two points again is a kind of post-politics, autonomous society, where everyone is respected and appreciated.

The second point is nice to hear, and confirm, as I am never content, and try to never compromise. Is contentment synonymous to comfortable? Interestingly, she appeared quite content in her walk around the park.

Peter Singer:
developed city
– ethical issue of just living there. People should see moral problems.
– money, consumption, saving poverty (with money)
– “obligation to help people in starvation”
– can’t justify eating meat
– think of what to choose from another’s position
– neglecting not using money

current thoughts:
More obvious ideas.

I absolutely agree with the ethical issue of just living in a developed country. It’s probably why I watched so many foreign films when I was younger. Constant reminder is needed to keep life in check.

His resolution is naiive and possibly detrimental.

To think from another’s position, people have to live in a less developed society. After a certain time, people won’t choose to. Then they have to be forced to.

Kwame Appiwe:
think between evolve to globalization
– we are good at face-to-face stuff, family, few people, can we figure out how to be responsible to everyone?
– problem of globalizing cultures
– recognizing other’s moral values is having a moral nature
– not just responsible for zoo people (don’t quite remember what “zoo people” is)
– cosmopolitanism – can’t retreat to a few people and base moral on them, but also can’t abandon them, either learn to do both (or not?)

current thoughts:
Again, the question of politics vs post-politics, but phrased interestingly. [todo: think more]

The third point just boils down to appreciation, no forcing one’s values to another. This runs into the second point, that when the world globalizes, cultures face each other, and this is where complex interactions occur. Like when a person in a bamboo hut is introduced to modern technology, and media. Things in New York seem fine though. People sort themselves out with ethnic enclaves, or mold in hipper areas.

Cosmopolitanism is probably what every second generation child goes through with their parents, a la the film Tokyo Story, or just what every artist goes through when they move to a city. It fits my ethic of leaving traditional societies alone. But when the society to be left alone is wasteful, this poses another problem.

Martha Nussbam
foundation in Aristotle’s theory of justice
– job of good political arrangement
– to provide each person with what they need to become capable to live a flourishing human life; Supporting human capability.

social contract
– think about people with disabilities
– people get together out of love to create the world as good as it can be.

current thoughts:
Again, utopian post-politics. It’s a nice reoccurring confirmation. I really disliked this lady. Stereotype professor, no novel ideas at all. Her basic ideas are found in the most ancient of books. Not based on experience at all.

I agree, everyone should be provided the tools to do the best they are capable of. Someone said, perhaps Singer, that instead of thinking it as another person dying, think of it as lost talent, innovation.

The helping disabilities bit fits well with the first point: to make all people as capable as possible.

The third point is social construction based on utopia, which I agree with.

Cornell West pt. II:
Hah, I think I just like him because he’s conversational.

lover of wisdom
not school
to philosophize is to die
truth as way of life

listen to artists too
– aesthetic pleasure
*socially isolated yet more alive than the people on the streets

current thoughts:
I’m guessing the interviewer asked what a philosopher is.

“to philosophize is to die” is a phrase that comes to my mind too. It’s a social death. “socially isolated yet more alive than the people on the streets” was nice to hear while being filmed on the streets.

‘Listening to artists’ is something I didn’t realize ’til quite late in life. Probably because I didn’t socially die ’til a late time in life. I was the artist. I kept an eye on the forms and aesthetic of others, but didn’t see it as a way of something that people create as an action in life during a certain point in time and place.

Michael Hardt:
Democracy is rule of all by all
– age 20s in the 1980’s went to Latin America to see revolutions, politics, all he felt he could do was observe*
– better to revolt in the U.S.
– would U.S. lose or gain?
– Go to ??? and start an armed cell. Practically did not know how. Guns, etc.? Don’t know how to conduct a revolution.

current thoughts:
More post-politics.

The first point sounds like me in Taiwan.

The second point is really good. It’s better to revolt in the U.S. because it affects the rest of the world so much. [todo: lose or gain?]

After coming back from travel to the U.S., I had to make sense of the world. The idea of having such a guerilla-style revolution doesn’t seem right in a developed country because it contradicts it so much. Whereas if one were closer to nature, on a farm, it feels more possible. It’s a problem of adaptation. It’s like creating a very weird art that no one understands. The problem isn’t the idea, it’s that it deviates so far from current societal norms, and that makes it more difficult to make reality of.

My favorite. He’s also quite popular, not complex, but at least his ideas are based on cognitive biases (“wired to act”, which leads to poor decision-making, especially in developed societies. It also feels that he’s got some experience traveling. Thus far, it seems all of the others are Americans that haven’t been outside of it. Zizek has the philosopher-traveler feel. A bearded friend on an old couch constantly disgusted at the world, and directly interacts with the world. Perhaps the least academic found in this film.

Problem with world. We don’t see everything, i.e. trash, (or people dying).

temptation for meaning
– natural to interpret to make something simple; but really it just happens

the existing world is the best possible world

against science?

alienated from natural environment

Know, but not act upon it. Should visit sites of catastrophe.* It’s unimaginable we are not wired to act on it. Should learn to love the artificial, love trash, oil, animals, etc.

current thought:
The first thought is the core of all social problems. Related to the distance between humans, it is a basic cognitive bias. Humans will take bad actions, even if they have the knowledge of it [todo: link zizek review, known knowns etc.]. [todo: requires a lot more thought]

Finally a little cognitive science. Indeed the brain tries to abstract detail into digestible ideas. [todo: think more]

This is the first time I’ve heard the third idea. This is very interesting to think about at any point of time, in history, present, and future. That humans overall try to create the best societies and altogether, the best world, and this is what has come so far. [todo: think more]

He’s against science? Did Zizek fail to notice the history of science (and technology) and how it affects the world? Or does he blame the hierarchy required to upkeep it?

I agree with being alienated from the natural environment. The suburbs is the opposite of nature, and this idea is the only reason I can think of people are able to live between house, office, and Walmart.

I agree with the catastrophe bit. People need to directly experience things to orient their mind correctly.

People should love trash, oil, animals, and the natural resources which are naturally dirty. Perhaps it is the adaptation of comfort when people being to fear “getting dirty”

Judith Butler:
Don’t think about ???
– SF is accessible, public transportation, curve cuts, buildings -> social acceptability*
– social repression of people: aversion to others, limited housing, carer(?), socially isolated*
– did not feel she could get coffee
– help is something we all need, though we look down upon it*
– what can a body do?
– where is the backlog(?) of human?
– human as site of interdependency
– want to organize the world based on all those things

current thoughts:
I really like that they are walking and rolling (I’m scientific) around San Francisco. Always good to think about urban planning for all people. This lead to my own ideas of how the material world can socially isolate or bring people together.

Far better than whoever that last lady was. Social repression is a huge problem often neglected. Not in the simple feminism, black people stuff, but the more seemingly slighter forms of neglect: being averse to others. To think that all of the blind and deaf people are in deaf and blind schools and probably rarely go far from it because they are socially isolated. I wish they pervaded society. San Francisco probably is the place where I encountered the largest range of people: several forms of disabilities, disabled veterans, bums in the tenderloin, along with the hippies, yuppies, and in-betweens. It’s indeed quite a refreshing place to be. New York can sometimes be ruthless in comparison.

“help is something we all need, though we look down upon it”. This is so true, and a core characteristic of community.

Lastly, again, confirming the social construction based on one’s utopia.

Cornell West pt. III:
Hi again! :)

– is harmony possible? Beethoven learned to look at darkness and still have it.
– Blues starts with not caring for harmony, ride on dissonance.
– Time is lost on romanticism, keep fairing(?), play, the experience, never reach meaning, die without meaning

current thoughts:
Philosophers’ aesthetic taste is as old as they are. None of them have seemed to experience modern forms of art.

I like the third idea. To just keep playing, progressively learning, in constant search for meaning, dying without ever finding it. This constant love for wisdom but inability to be content.

I think the film did well in it taking place in developed societies, to show the contrast of the philosopher’s ideal society and the world they live in.

I think all of the philosophers fail in bringing any complex (in art, science, or logic) or novel ideas up, including solutions, which is also where the film excels — I wish 10 minutes were give to every smart person so that one could easily gauge other’s creativity.

The film also works because all of their ideas point toward the same similar idea: post-politics (autonomy, etc.). The problem is that not a single one gave a solution. They didn’t say, displace the entire middle class of developed societies, trade office employees with people from developing countries, remove superfluous jobs in developed countries, assassinate business magnates and distribute the wealth, stop buying products, sit on the streets, disrupt society. And that’s probably what differentiates academic philosophers and artists or revolutionaries. They don’t even say, innovate, use science and technology to consume less and spread more knowledge. None used any kind of empirical science to deduce their ideas, though, I guess that’s what continental philosophy is. Philosophy is a temporary phase. They’ve all spent too much time in philosophy world. They’re out of touch. They don’t see the empirical data. Only Zizek seems to have empirically gathered enough data in his mind to create ideologies of human nature. Perhaps pop academic philosophers have a place, like Jon Stewart has his, but it shouldn’t be honored. Academic philosophers are oxymorons. They say that the ideal is a community, but they aren’t a part of it. They are neither scientists nor artists. These people are unimportant. Likable, but unimportant, in that, they have nothing novel to say, and more importantly, do.

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賈樟柯’s (Jia Zhangke) Trilogy

21 December 2014 by Rahil

I recently watched Jia Zhangke’s trilogy on and off over the past few days. This includes 小武 (Pickpocketer), 站台 (Platform), and 任逍遙 (Unknown Pleasures). I couldn’t stop myself.

I don’t know of many films that explore the transformation from traditional to modernity as these do. As a person who’s travelled to a few places where modernity shows it’s face in products, notably, northern Laos, I felt thankful for them helping me make sense of it.

I didn’t watch the films continuously. I’d watch half, stop, watch another half of anther film another day. It’s all a mix in my mind.

I currently am at an all-time low, so my philosophical inquiry is equally so.

Table of contents:
小武 (Pickpocketer)
站台 (Platform)
任逍遙 (Unknown Pleasures)

小武 (Xiao Wu)

As I said, I’ve been brain dead lately. Watching what other people do, how their minds work, is infinitely interesting.

At the initial bus stop scene I already feel I’m taken to another world. A world during my travels, away from the sedentary life of a knowledge society influenced by written and video-related media.

The bus reminds me of India, Laos, and Nepal. A little dirty, poor, and the people inside aren’t so intelligent.

At this point I already felt the film was amazing. Perhaps it’s because there are so few narrative films that take place in this setting. I was also quite glad to see a film to make sense of undeveloped societies, such as those I saw in Laos.

The people stare. It’s true. It’s quite uncomfortable in reality, but it’s quite normal. It’s similar to the way I may stare at films.

Smart people don’t know what to do in this kind of society. There’s no science, art, or technology. No hope. They either must create their own organization (grassroots) or leave.

Again, rituals such as marriages make people do irrational things.

It really felt like a rural, undeveloped society, similar to those farms I’ve seen in India. It’s so rare to see a film take place in such a place, and furthermore, have characters that are from that place. Perhaps it’s because it’s difficult to have those people to act, or, it’s difficult to have actors act such parts.

The main character really doesn’t know what to do. He has free time, but just has no direction, motivation, creativity.

He doesn’t have a teacher. He also doesn’t know how to talk to girls. Too smart to communicate to normal people? He has no life, but do others?

The protagonist must be the director’s image. Also, the town must be where the director grew up.

Praising the marriage of a rich person is really strange. Loyalty for a rich businessman? Why?

I watched the second half at another time and I didn’t write much. It was late, and I just soaked it all in.


Again, when less intelligent people stare at you, it can be quite frightening. In the last scene, shame is added. It’s a strange phenomenon. If one acts in a way different from what a society expects, people are bewildered by the action. Save, perhaps, in cities, where people have gotten used to differences, and generally don’t have time or care to stare.

站台 (Platform)

The protagonist is definitely the director.

When the director was young, he watched films. It inspired him, gave him knowledge.

The effects of modernity and consumerism are apparent here: people study art, watch films, buy new fashionable clothing, smoke (well, people did that anyway out of addiction). There’s also the one-child policy. All of this is introduced to a rather undeveloped society. It’s a step toward modernity from the last film, in which these influences did not exist, or, at least, it was not a focus of the film.

With modernity comes aesthetic; The desire for aesthetic leads to consumerism? — fashion, films, smoking. Knowledge and hedonism seem associated.

It is so rare to have a film that explores the first effects of modernity. With modernity comes knowledge and consumerism. It’s quite difficult to separate them.

If something exists, of course people will want it. The existence of new objects gives knowledge of their existence, and with knowledge of it, people will desire. If in the Western world, or somewhere in the world, fashionable people, smart people, people with technology exist, and one learns that those things they exist, it seems natural to desire those things.

Without the knowledge of them, one lives unknowingly. Avoiding them is asceticism.

The boom-box really interests the protagonist. He’s never experienced it before. It’s portable; It plays music; It’s an amazing invention. Shortly after, a dance party becomes possible because of it’s existence.

Watching the protagonist act within a society of which he is much smarter is really interesting. He only reacts to new things, consuming them quickly. He does the least amount of work to survive. In one scene, he casually grabs hold of a truck for free transportation. He’s in control of everything.

Only new things, knowledge is his interest. Otherwise, a simple life is enough. There isn’t much consumerism in him. Just a pair of bellbottoms, and perhaps in the next film, eating at a restaurant, of which it is his mother’s first time.

It’s just amazing to see a film taking place in the lowest class of society. For me, there is quite a large difference between blue collar workers in America and those people in northern Laos. The people in Laos just have a lot less things. Their house would maybe have a less than 50 items in total. There’s far less stuff, and in my mind, it makes a large difference in society, no matter the social class.

The only options in the people’s minds are going to school or going to the coal mine. Nothing else to life. No other way to learn. No other way to live. Society has narrowed life down to two choices.

In the first film, society urged the protagonist toward business. In the third film, the mother urged a character to join the army; That character felt he had no other choice, and just felt hopeless after he found out he was unable to join.

It really reminds me of Laos. I guess I haven’t seen a film with this kind of society after going to Laos. It’s all I could really compare it to.

At least people without money (at such a low level of society) value school over the coal mine. It’s always astonishing people know dangerous coal mines exist, yet are unable to do much about it, except, make art about it. How can people continue living in wealth without at least giving coal miners helmets?

The father doesn’t know where his daughter is. An effect of modernity? Kids go about doing what they want, a generation different, unable to understand, manage, or stop them. The next generation is smarter. What can they do? The whole Tokyo Story conundrum again.

Artists discover themselves. It’s quite beautiful to see this in such a rural society. That even artists exist there. Their aesthetics are ancient as the the media that reached them, yet they are the most intelligent people in their society. It gives some direction. It leads to traveling to consume more art. In turn it leads to more performances, incorporating the things they learned.

Haha, there’s a scene where the artists go to a shady place to experience art. It reminds me of shady art venues in American cities. It’s more lovely here because of the contrasting setting. The artists depicted in this film feel no different than the most creative artists in Brooklyn. It’s quite unbelievable to see it.

The modern dances must look strange to the audience. Showing any kind of art to the general public must be similar to showing fine art to the general public of America: people don’t understand nor know how to react.

This dance reminds of quite a few times during my travels when I didn’t quite understand art in less developed societies. In Penang, Malaysia, I went to a restaurant, and there was a performance of a transsexual singing old pop songs. In Baroda, India, there’s a school that runs old plays. All over Taiwan, there are plays, Chinese classical music, and even puppeteering, The aesthetics are ancient, non-progressive. Art departments still teach them. It was always quite an oddity to me, as a person who lived in New York and experienced current art. It’s understandable for old societies, but for any society that has an internet connection, it’s very a very strange experience.

His father works opened a business on the highway. He feels like an intermediary step of modernity between the protagonist and the mother. The father doesn’t come home often, a characteristic of modernity. Three generations in one family.

任逍遙 (Unknown Pleasures)
Hah, something looks really gaudy. That’s the word that comes to mind when seeing modernism in less developed societies. Especially seen in Modernist architecture — those tacky large museums with no actual inside of them. Those large housing projects with no humanity. Those performances done without knowing why, just mimicking another society and failing to do so. It’s a really odd sight.

I’m still just amazed at how well the director portrays the influences of modernity.


There was an opera singer singing Western songs. Perhaps the existing aesthetic of Chinese opera helped understand Eastern opera.

One of the characters mother tells him to join the army. For money or for “honor”?

One of the characters live in a housing project, or it seems.

There’s a room where couples watch television. It’s quite strange, but perhaps an early form of karaoke. I guess television is the new media of the time, more easily accessible than books, and therefore able to convey ideas to less capable people better, especially apparent in conveying aesthetics.

I think I recall in one the films, perhaps the first, that the smart character read some Marx. So, books do exist. Even in this film, the smart character asks his friend for some high-art films, finding none he wanted, but still buying one.

More influences of modernity: the smarter characters just watch more traditional people live and work, no interest in joining their traditions. This occurs in several scenes. The main character mostly just rides his motorcycle watching the world go on.

The less intelligent people react so strangely, yet accurately from my experience: slowly. Though in the film it’s quite strange to see actions be repeated five or more times. This occurs when hitting the main character in the club, pushing the girl down when she found out, the girl biking in circles, and some more times of which I don’t quite remember. It’s like watching a rat being conditioned. If one is accustomed to people in a city, these people may even seem inhuman, lacking life.

In Laos, I experienced the slowest people I’ve ever encountered. Everything runs on their own peaceful time. I quite enjoyed it, but there was definitely a lack of reaction whenever one desired something. It seems desire can be associated to intelligence.

It seems rational, smarter people, can only live in such a traditional society for a short period of time. They find that they can’t really engage in society, so they leave, to join other more intelligent people, and do whatever they do.

I don’t know what scene provoked this thought, but in one of the scenes from Platform, there was a guy who left the troupe to go home, but came back because there was nothing to do at home, alone.

Though, I think an intelligent person can do a lot, just in a more political way. The characters from Platform were artists, so it’s quite difficult to share ideas when there is a gap in the knowledge of aesthetics.

All of the modern-affected characters can do is look at traditional society.

Modern people are valued. The girl is valued because she acts modern — she dresses with modern clothing, she sings and dances modern songs. Somehow, traditional society values that, without really understanding it. Why is modernity valued? Because it is simply different from traditional society?

After working for twenty years the mother decides to use some of the money to renovate the house. That’s what a good mother in a traditional society does with money. All there is left to do is make a better house. Her notion of work is simply something that makes money, or ‘honor’ in the case of telling her son to go to the army. It doesn’t seem to go much further than that.

Many Indians have this idea in their minds. They survive, make money, but after everything, there is little charity, or putting money back into the world, instead, they just build a large house, of which no one benefits from, not even its inhabitants.

A highway opens. In another part of the film Beijing wins the Olympic bid. More hints of modernity. Highways, at the time, were the only link to more information.

Looking at synopsis on Wikipedia, it becomes much easier to see actions. Here were some observations, and pieces copied from it:

Aimless people, because there is no hope in the society. No empowerment, art, or science.

One event sets the characters into action: the explosion of a textile mill.

Gift-giving is the largest use of money, even going into debt and taking a loan for. After buying a gift, the character has to sell DVDs for a few yuan each to make that money back.

Zhangzhi philosophized that we should do what feels good. Again, hedonism and materialism are associated with modernity.

Feeling of no future after getting denied by army. Joining the army was the only action to make his mother happy, and therefore him.

Learned to rob a bank from American films? Too much Quentin Tarrentino? Sadly, could have ended in death penalty.

“At first it was the bleak and lonely buildings that attracted me. When I saw the streets filled with lonely, directionless people, I became interested in them.” When I travel, I normally pass by such places, uninterested. There are many failed cities the world, especially in India and China, where modernity shows its ugly side. It really does feel as if there is no hope, just people mimicking others. No creativity, poor urban planning. Cities with the value of survival when cities are supposed to represent self-expression.

‘Unknown Pleasures was filmed using digital video in only nineteen days, as a result of time and budgetary constraints.’…’Jia was able to begin shooting a mere three weeks after developing the idea for the film.’

‘This generation is often detached from reality, filtering their experiences through the internet, television, and other media.’ It is quite an alienating experience when one grows up with media as a source of knowledge, but it’s up to the person to be able to turn ideas from media into conversational language. Though, when people only have television, no people or books to talk with, these people are left detached.

“the attitudes of these kids are almost completely derived by the electronic mass media that they consume and that consumes them.”

‘In Unknown Pleasures, young people lack discipline. They don’t have any goals for the future. They refuse all constraints. They run their own lives and act independently. But their spirit is not as free.’

For Jia, the story of the Monkey King “reflects the fatalism of [Unknown Pleasures]” in that unlike the Monkey King, these characters “struggle desperately. They pull themselves out of difficult situations, but they always fall back into new problems because no one can escape the rules of the game. True freedom doesn’t exist in this world.”

‘That year, reality was more theatrical than anything we could see at the movies. It even leaned toward surrealism. The entire population got worked up. This strange excitement gave me a worrisome feeling. The anger of society’s inner layers was beginning to come out and show itself.’

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15 December 2014 by Rahil

The film was great, but the winter blues got me down, so my brain isn’t firing nearly as much.


This country is near the top of my list to go to because it retains such a strong street culture, and therefore high happiness index.


Agricultural society?

Innaritu understands multiple cultures and lifestyles, the similarities and differences in ethics. He probably traveled much in his life.

Why not celebrate together? A problem with houses.

Never-mind, the maid actually took the kids to Mexico. Nice!

Kid’s don’t learn from television.

Tourist shot. It’s plausible. More likely to get in a car crash though, but that wouldn’t have blown up in American media.


Japanese deaf volleyball player.

So much to be learned from deaf people.

This film is fucking amazing because of the constant switching between societies.

Hah, chicken leg broken.

Reminds me of the time I created the belief that one must be able to kill what they eat.

They had fun catching chickens though.

There’s a nice sensual pleasure in Mexico, one they were probably deprived of.

Oof, such ethical conundrum. The older female indegenous-appearing person stopped pressuring the wound.

Or maybe it was done?

The deaf is shunned from society. Yet wants to be a part of it; Societal norms disregards them.

It’s so rare that I encounter deaf people. Perhaps they are less willing to come out to the public, and stick to institutions and home.

Societies are too distant to face emotions for(?), only real experience can give to feelings.

Perhaps this thought came when a television showing media appeared. Media just can’t compare to reality in inciting action.

An aside: The director travelled at ages 17 and 19 via a cargo ship to work across Europe and Asia.

Only because an American died such value is given.

They even sent a helicopter!

All to go for a marriage.

Traditional values make people do crazy things. Even now, I have a cousin who’s wedding is in India. The cost is at least the cost of displacing 20+ Indian-Americans via a round-trip flight across the world.

Hah, the marriage in Mexico reminds of those in Southeast Asia and India.

They just seem odd.

The scenes of the Mexican marriage and park in Japan are beautiful.

Cops shoot without care for the villagers.

I didn’t quite understand why the cops were so angry. Do they care for Americans that much? Weren’t they Moroccan?

The edge of civilization is near, especially as the world becomes more connected with transportation. The effects of societies clashing is inevitable.

It’s surprising how close (in proximity) these events are. The Mexican border is perhaps 12 hours away by car, or an hour flight. One could experience a completely different society in a matter of hours. As budget airlines increase, people do. The effects of this, I am unsure.

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艾未未:道歉你妹 (Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry)

28 November 2014 by Rahil

This is a review of my thoughts during the viewing of the film.

Living on the edge of society to create art. People who are closer to or are idealists must live on the edge of society for their mind to be able to maintain such ideas. Living inside of a city doesn’t allow the space to think such a way. There are so many ideas in cities that are different than one’s utopia that one must step back, or in this case, out.

I think this point was pivotal for him. He came out of college in New York with design and art on his mind. He participates in a grand project. But aware of the consequences, he became more political after this point.

For the sake of confirming beliefs or dissident documentary? Looks like there’s a book that contains his blog from MIT Press now.

Seems common of any artist. One has to keep creating! But any other form of art is superior to writing. He did well in New York, meeting people, creating exhibitions. Perhaps it is best to be part of society.

Solidarity. Do something that is right and people will follow.

More solidarity. It’s interesting to try to find a point where political art divides into art and politics. Many artists act with great political knowledge.

Using the blog as a documentary tool. And later, Twitter, which enabled social gatherings.

The internet enables common people to change the opinion of people.

It’s interesting that people didn’t use the internet to simply gain knowledge, say reading Wikipedia, instead rely on artists to feed the information to them in a more amusing form. One could easily read the Wikipedia article of the earthquakes in a minute, but it took an hour-long documentary to shove the same information in the minds of people. Though, I’m one of those people. Is it the pathos? Is it because film as a medium offers more information (visual data)? The closer to real experience, the more powerful the reaction.

Art is modern language. This was quite profound to me. I struggled in the past having learned art in New York and then being unable to talk about art in other countries. I will talk more about this when he moves from New York to China.

At another point he upholds the common view art is communication. Artists communicate by creating art. It is just a form of communication, like written, verbal, and body languages.

Why does it take a modern artist to be listened to? So many say and write the same things a modern artist says, yet the modern artist gains the power and attention. From Tate to a person with several followers. Again, the artist’s form of communication is more powerful than data. The experience of reading 5000 people are dead in a paper is different from walking around 5000 dead bodies.

If art is a way more powerful way of communicating, then it may be true that an artist who constantly creates art is more influential than one who does not.

「你得表現批判。」* 看的好容易。
By simply documenting the simple, rational actions he took, he makes strong criticism of society.



He’s very ideal. I think one has to construct an utopia, then try to shape reality toward it. It’s a conscious effort among those with sufficient knowledge. But it seems that the creation of art is kind of unconscious.

In his reactions to police and reporters, he acts no different than as if it were a friend. He behaves as if he would in his own house, and expects others to do so too.

He even later says he’s an “eternal optimist”. He feels positive changes are possible and happening.

He just wants to teach people. The world is his students. In his documentaries people refer to him as 艾老師, Ai teacher. It’s a fundamental desire to want to teach people.

:). It seems New York served as a place of freedom for him.

It seems quite true in his life; After New York he has never acted anything close to a slave.

He even worked at Second Avenue Deli!. He must have spent quite a bit of time exploring those streets. Oh man, now I want to go back to a city!

Learning from contemporary history in a progressive manner.


如果沒有人做藝術,你得創造藝術的社會。 總是有藝術人。你得跟他們說話,較。
He struggled going back to China because there was no modern art, especially not near modern as New York. But artists exist everywhere. One just needs to create a community, and they will come. One needs to educate them, then continue talking about it.

Now that there’s internet, it would seem that this is a moot point, but it is not. In my experience, many countries still uphold very traditional arts, which is promulgated by universities, which itself is likely promulgated by government. Even now in Taiwan there are universities that hold traditional arts higher than contemporary. Though, that is not a criticism of Taiwan, as it has only recently been lifted from martial law.

Whereas Ai was able to create a community and continue creating the way he did in New York, I was unable to create a community of the art I enjoyed (games), and instead diverting my attention toward more universally appreciated modern arts (HONY). I did this because I couldn’t stop I had to keep taking action with the knowledge I had. I had to keep creating, and consuming, and the people around me must be able to understand it. Why spend the time to educate people people on modern art? I could have gone back to New York, or they could use the internet to see it. I didn’t understand why Asia’s aesthetics were so far behind the experimental communities of New York.

“Why spend the time to educate people people on modern art?” is a good question. Is knowledge of aesthetics necessary to create something new? No. I often feel that if one doesn’t know what modern art is, one is likely going to be even more creative. Though, from my experience, I don’t remember any time where I saw an amazing art by a person away from modern society. The concepts are ancient: writing, painting, crafting, plays. Though, traditional games are awesome.

「藝術是方法發展新的意見。 是藝術人的職責保護。」
“Art is a way of developing new ideas.” I think he meant, art is a way of expressing idea, as opposed to developing new aesthetics.

“It is up to artists to protect freedom of expression.” That makes sense. Artists need to express themselves, and if they encounter a situation where they can’t, they fight for it.

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I think of Dean Moriarty

14 November 2014 by Rahil

aka Dean Moriarty ethics
aka On The Road (film)

a thought from the next day:
I was thinking about the scene where Sal parts from Dean in New York, how their lives departed, one toward intellectual pleasures within society, the other, the same old kicks. Who’s life is better? Dean is more free, Sal is constricted to society. Dean struggles with money, Sal, maybe less so.

I didn’t mean to write a film review, I actually thought of Dean Moriarty.

Are his ethics wrong?

Dean is embodies hedonism, yet, he is the main subject of interest. He leads Sal and other artists on adventures. He is the reason the book exists. He may have contributed to the electric Kool-aid experiment too. He continually experiments. He’s constantly acting. Though his actions and the consequences of his actions are uneven, he learns more, and acts with that knowledge.

What’s great about Dean is that he never settles, never gets old. He continues to explore. His understanding of the world and people is immense.

I think Dean is able to bear fruit in experiments because his daily life involves the use of various skills and constant cognitive action. To take trains through America, work part-time jobs, understand modern aesthetics, understand current psyche, naturally leads to dissident thoughts, but it also leads to having great knowledge, and a great mind. A mind quite far from the society shaped by written language, yet living in the heart of society, New York. He is a genius inside the body of a working machine. Scientists should have been asking him for answers.

I think of Dean because I was very close to being or even was Dean.

What the difference between Dean and Christopher Doyle, Kevin Kelly, or any other hippie who’s partial to the sensual nature of street cultures? Chris picked up a camera and Kevin picked up a pen? Maybe Dean just needed an outlet for creativity, to be taught how to channel his energy. He even asked Sal how to write.

Dean isn’t bad. If Dean didn’t have kids or ditch friends, he’d be great.

There are many Deans that live in cities, usually aged less than 35. They’re not terrible people. For some people, a city is enough.

Thoughts during watching:
Perhaps can have the same experience as the book, in a much faster time.

It already has a better gestalts. Books are so dead. Even if this film is inferior to the book, it’s a faster way of gaining knowledge and experience.

Third in jail, third in a pool hall, third in a public library. Not a bad division of time. Think, play, and learn.

Mmm, same problem. One has to live to create. No one creates anything worthwhile while living in isolation, unless that person has experienced much. All that can be written is introspection.

The characters live so much life, yet, they create so little, because their art form is so far from experience. Unlike Banky, who can create new art, object or experience, they are limited to writing. How ancient.

Hmmm, picking cotton. Not much different from Woofing.

Mmmm, dean can’t stop living, even rather die than stop. “It’s good to have a family, isn’t it?”

Haha, no care for the law.

To life.

The dance is great, hah.

Dean gets angry whenever someone stops him.

Hah, Ed Duncal marries for gas money. Such simple causation.

Dean doesn’t know the concept of responsibility.

Hah, the daughter is so traditional.

Only Sal sees the positive influences of Dean?

Was benzadrine that popular?

Marylou wants something normal. Normal being house, work, family.

Hmm, this film is so old aesthetically. Can’t compare to Hanneke, Farhadi, or other contemporaries.

Hmm, Camille is the best actor. Similar to Melacholia.

Mexico City is indeed heaven.

And Dean ditches him.

Hah, Sal’s such a good boy.

Reading Cassady’s Wikipedia article:
This is far more informative and real than the film. The facts are so much easier to determine a person. Father was an alcoholic, was on the streets of skid row, improsoned many times, was intelligent and helped by an educator who may have had sex with him, had several sex partners, one gay, 4 kids by two girls.

His hedonistic ethics aren’t too bad. He inspired a book, was far more interesting than anyone else. The only lawless thing is having kids and not supporting them. Which he eventually did.

Hmmm, His wife divorced him to help him, but felt that was a mistake as the family was the last pillar of his self-esteem.

“Twenty years of fast living but there’s not much left”

Hmmm, regrets his wild life, yet, the people around him love him.

I googled up this analysis from gradesaver.
of the parting scene and end:
The close of the novel finds Sal beginning to settle down with a new love and a new life. Remi Boncoeur’s offer to take Sal out on the town in a Cadillac suggests the alternative of a respectable, conventional life. But as Dean shows up with no other intention but to see Sal, Sal wrestles with the feelings of being torn between the two worlds. In the end, Dean cannot enter the Cadillac to go to the opera, just as Sal can no longer follow Dean on the road. Sal has made his choice. As Sal and Dean recede out of one another’s vision, one might recall Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, the postmodern “angel of history” as described by Walter Benjamin. This figure has great resonance with Sal’s experience.

The novel ends with Sal contemplating the passage of time on a river in New Jersey. For Sal, no ultimate understanding of what “it” is has been accomplished. Sal finally understands that there is no such understanding except that of time moving by and people growing old and fading away. As for Dean, only his memory remains with Sal.

of Mexico City:
To Dean and Sal, Mexico seems to be the promised land that they were looking for on their many journeys. For Sal, Mexico represents the best way out of the conventional white American life. The beer and cigarettes are cheap, they can smoke huge amounts of dope, and they can visit whorehouses anytime they wish. All of this costs little money, and even more importantly, the police and the citizens of Mexico only watch, enthralled by the behavior, allowing it and encouraging it-perhaps because they are Americans. This culture has its own norms, and it is unclear why the travelers should be expected to worry about or even to know about conventional Mexican life.

[Mmm, Taipei also has cheap vices. My vices are just simple pleasures: cheap food, tea, housing, and access to city and nature. But aren’t those what everyone wants from a place they live in? The police in Taiwan also don’t care, for different reasons, and it does make one feel more free, to be able to sleep anywhere, without a worry for crime. But Taiwanese people also live the same way, they’ll sleep anywhere too, if they’re tired, or if it’s just too hot outside.]

Sal and Dean seem to have no knowledge of Mexican culture and instead see the land around them only in terms of their own situation. The people’s poverty, instead of a hardship, seems to be complete freedom. Just as with African American culture, Kerouac’s characters again invert the traditional understanding of the repression of racial marginalization and poverty, instead presenting the life of these Mexican people as being gloriously free from the pressures of work and money that are experienced in America. For them, the primitive nature of Mexico is its best feature. Unlike their American journeys, Sal and Dean see their trip to Mexico as a trip to the source of life. Mexican culture seems not to have been touched or corrupted by modernity. In Mexico, there is nothing to run from or to. It is only a culture to be embraced because it seems to stand outside of time and history.

[in Taiwan, it is also difficult to see the hardships, because people are so friendly. I still don’t think much of it is hardship, as everyone is educated and fed well, perhaps more so than America. Of course they work, many doing service work, and when I asked them solemnly of they are happy, they said yes. I completely agree with the last sentence. Taiwan and perhaps Mexico are closer to life, as are other happier, island nations. There is a real discontent from developed countries, especially in the middle class. To be near people who are happier is all one really wants, isn’t it?]

The culture that Dean, Sal, and Stan experience in the mountains of Mexico stands outside of anything they have ever seen. Realizing that the road they are on is itself a modern construction just ten years old, however, Dean begins to understand that even wilder forms of life live beyond the highway. Yet, because they are still white American men, they may not be able to leave the highway to discover the Mexican subcultures. There remains a divide between what they want to experience and what they are able to experience. Sal despairs in his realization of what the road might mean for such seemingly pure cultures. He thinks about the invention of the atomic bomb, a symbol for the great destruction that modernity has brought, and despairs that one day the roads and bridges of culture will be destroyed along with the possibility of a pure and free existence.

[Mmmm, adaptation is not so much a problem now. There are methods to learn a language easily. And culture too is not difficult to assimilate to.

Where modernity is going is indeed uncertain, especially when one compare happier cultures. People live longer, but do they still live happily?]

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