Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dirty Pictures II.*

Fact One: The tiny town of Gruyeres, Switzerland is where the cheese comes from. It is picturesque, idyllic, and a family destination. 

Fact Two: Gruyeres is also where the H. R. Giger, the artist made famous for his sticky, anthropocreepy art in Aliens, lived in a castle for 15-ish years. That castle is now the Giger Museum.

The two data points did not compute. At all. Until they did.

Gruyeres is centered around a castle—specifically the Gruyere castle (not where Giger lived), the way most medieval villages were—or still are, depending on your lens. “Grue” comes from the French for “crane” and is prominent in the crest, traditional art, etc...

Upon being pushed to visit the castle (let’s face it, I’m not into historical sites. I get antsy. And climbing big hills makes me sleepy.), I quickly got it.

Giger’s art, I posit, is continuing a long tradition of creepy Swiss art.

Consider the following. This is a huge seal (now) decorating the outside of the Gruyeres Castle. Notice the demon's head in the center. Notice the interplay between the bodies that rope and wrap around each other. Notice how the longer you look, the more you want to call your mother and tell her you love her:

Now look at this:

The first is medieval, the second is Giger’s.  When extended by a modern hand creatures like these strange bodies make sense:

I'm being reductive in comparing a tactic of war as a historical precedent for the aesthetic of Giger, with his use of fragmentation and overly augmented bodies/not bodies. 

Now, interior spaces are another thing. Castle vs. the Giger cafĂ©. 

 I won't try and stretch a comparison here. But if I did....

 In fulfilling a lifelong dream of visiting a town made of cheese and eating all of it (more or less), and seeing Giger’s amazingly animalistic/erotic/violent/lustmordey art, I had no idea I would see that the two have the same roots. Creepy, erupt out of your stomach, gooey roots. 

So let me pose this challenge. If you like Giger, google around "medieval Swiss art" for a while. There are dots that connect in ways that change his art for me from just 80's powerhouse sci-fi, to something that's a part of a much larger artistic ecosphere. 

*  Dirty Pictures I. is coming, but this followed the latest Eurocentric posts better.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dirty Laundry I.


I feel like I’ve told this story a lot lately, and I need to make one solid version of it, lest false memories implant and grow like so many weeds.*   

In June of 2012 I embarked on a month-long, bad, mostly-camping trip, with a lover I had been seeing for exactly 134 days. That is not a lot of days. And it was not a fairy tale trip.

People that blog about their love lives annoy me. I have refused second dates with people after reading their blogs, and encountering posts about love-gone-south. (See how clever I am? How I engaged in self-deprecation in order to justify this narrative?)

We began in Germany, and stayed with a former colleague. Saw an amazing world cup loss at a Bier Garten (and some deer). Next, we drove on to Prague. The first night camping in Prague, the wind shredded our tent. And it rained. The car was dry. But it wasn't a new tent. Or a hotel. 

The next day I had a bad cough and a fever. A stranger grabbed my butt. My ex-lover wasn’t walking near me through the square. I felt alone. I found a garbage can that spoke to my writing process at the time.**

From there we went through Interlaken (the itinerary meanders in my memory). Saw Mount Blanc, which we would eventually go up. I would have a panic attack at the top, and my ex-lover would deposit me with strangers to go take scenic pictures.Also, the car was broken into while we camped at the base of this mountain. 

We made it to Venice. This is a picture of me on a Gondola. The man manning the boat asked us to kiss for the camera. Lover declined, said it wasn’t important. The next day I read Calvino’s Invisible Cities *in* Venice. Who cares about kissing when you have that book, I guess. 

Up to Northern Italy, Bra, the home of the Slow Food Movement, and my dream job at the university there. Went through Dijon, where there is a huge “Darcy” garden, and lots of “Darcy” streets. My lover found that to be a banal coincidence. I wanted to go to the garden. Lover said there was no time.

We finished in Paris. Walking by the Seine, I asked him to kiss me. “Kiss me, we’re in Paris!” were my exact words. “Nah, not right now, I want to wait until it’s more romantic.”***

I had stopped taking pictures in Italy. Therefore, here is a picture from Switzerland that summed up my mood in France. It is how you say, “le resting bitch face”?

Would I do it again, with that Lover? Yes. Deciding to leave a lover while in Paris was the first, and only time, I had a gut instinct. I have a hard time “listening to my gut,” I was happy to know that it works and what it sounds like. My gut instinct sounds like my stomach growling for kisses.

There was nothing romantic in the water that had spilled into our tent, in the canals of Venice, in the Seine, in the lakes we camped by, or in the underground falls in Switzerland (see the picture below that does No justice to the falls in the caves). There was nothing romantic in the soil we slept on, or in the different lands that held so many possibilities. In other words, just pica without the craving.

*Places and dates are authentic; my ex-lover’s name has been withheld as to not be tacky.  I use the word “lover” because it grosses me out, and “partner” would connote a sense of connection that we didn’t share. Moreover, I've cut him out of all the pictures for aesthetic reasons.

**At the time I was practicing “OPAD Writing,” which stood for “one page a day.” If I could have brought that can home... if only! Now I use the pomodoro method!

***Ex-Lover, if you are reading this (unlikely): feel free for a rebuttal. Rebuttals from other ex-lovers will be considered, but not given priority.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dirt and Sky


     “Show me the way home, honey”

I saw Top Gun recently, in “drive in” form at an airport. It was technically “sit in form, “ (only no one was protesting the pejorative representation of minorities).  I hadn’t seen the film in years. As a grown woman, it told a very different talespin.

The thing that remains unrealistic for me in this story is simple. I’ve had a lot of great things happen to me in airports. I’ve had equally pleasant experiences with pilots. But the exploitation of your students for research purposes is never ok. 

An intelligent, beautiful woman (with a supremely bad ass car) finds herself a bit bored after nearing  the apex of her career. After earning the phd, she’s been considering taking a job in Washington, but isn’t sure if she should “Lean In,” or not. 

A substantial portion of the introduction to the film is devoted to making it be know that The Taxpayer is a very real entity that should not be forgotten about, under any circumstance.  (note: the tax payer is mentioned more times than there are female or POC characters. Just saying.)

The taxpayer would go on to fund her climb to success. She seems conflicted not by this as much as what happens with the teacher/student dynamic. 

While teaching, she gets distracted by her students. Mostly because they are all very sweaty, and sometimes show up at her house asking to shower. As a teacher myself, I would probably call the cops, but this was a different time? Maybe?

But there is one student that sends her head into the clouds. With his statistical impossibilities, and his Schrödinger-like teeth (one is in the middle of his face, yet not in the middle of his face) he ruffles her lovin’ feelings.  Maverick.

His skills are adequate, bordering on mediocre. He makes made decisions based on pathos. But that’s what makes his math work. He has these classified (aka legendary and formidable) encounters with Russians. But to speak of these renegade skills outside of the classroom would be a threat to national security.

They bed each other. Shortly after, a fellow student, Goose, dies. Goose dies because of engine failure that Maverick couldn’t have predicted—a tribunal clears him of this. But as the expert she backs down and pretty much says, “shit happens scientifically, sometimes.”  

It’s a cautionary tale. First, don’t be a shitty teacher. Do not tell your unstable students where you live. Secondly, Lean In to your career, on the ground, without your head in the clouds, or someone will die. 

As I think about my own career path I come to the conclusion that it is very difficult to give redemptive feminist readings to movies like “Top Gun.”  And in the words of Michael Scott, I’m going to stick with non-government research. Because I feel the need. The need for tweed.