Real and pretend ghosts

Totally.
Totally.

Last night, in the last three minutes of an episode of “Caprica,” where Dad is trying to get robot Zoe to shoot the dog in order to prove she’s not Zoe, Dave shut it off. “I’m done,” he said. He stood up. Then he sat down and set the Roku controller on the coffee table. Then he stood up again.

I stared at the suddenly-black screen. A second ago I’d been watching a border collie cocking his head, all confused, looking from the robot to Dad. Clearly he knew Zoe was inside the robot. He really wanted her to throw the ball so he could fetch it, but instead Dad had given the robot a gun and made her aim it at the border collie.

“I can’t do this,” he said. “I know it’s not real and all that, but it’s just.”

“Of course,” I said, “It’s no big deal.” And we spent the rest of evening reading or talking or something.

I still want to see the last three minutes. I bet the robot misses. If the robot doesn’t miss, I too am done with the show. Why am I done? I don’t know. Because the fake killing of a dog doesn’t seem fair. Why doesn’t it seem fair? Human characters have been killed right and left – the two Tauron guards, everyone on the commuter train. But when you bring a cute, wriggling border collie onto the set and ask us to pretend for him that he is the dog in the story, it’s different than when you bring humans on to the set and they pretend they are Tauron guards or commuters on a train, and all we have to do is decide whether they pretend well enough.

But a border collie is unsurpassed in being a border collie. When it delivers a red ball to the feet of a hunk of metal, I have to do the translation. And when Dad then forces robot Zoe to shoot the dog instead of throwing the ball, and I have to then untranslate that in my head to make it okay, because of course no one’s actually getting shot, I feel foolish. I feel like they misused my good will, my willingness to pretend. I feel silly.

The vibe last night was that we wouldn’t be watching “Caprica” ever again. It’s too bad, because despite lukewarm reviews from “Battlestar” friends I’d been loving the ways it explored how the Cylons came into being and why they were so gosh-darned upset at humans. In fact, this morning, when Dave was downstairs, I opened Netflix on my phone to secretly watch the last three minutes. I figured, if the robot missed, I could subtly work in an argument to keep the show in the queue.

The episode was still in the Continue Watching row, with three minutes left. I hit Play and kept my finger over the Pause icon, in case I heard Dave coming up. I turned the volume way down.

The little circle spun, the screen looked ready to display, but it stayed black. It was like there was a ghost in the machine, keeping me away. I hit Play a few more times, like that would help. I waited, looking from the door to the screen and back again. Dave stayed downstairs. The circle kept spinning and the screen stayed black.

Eventually I gave up and got on with my day.

The password is Perspective

skyline through a window

The benefit was grand. I heard there were celebrities there but I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t say for sure. Also, when your TV source is Netflix on Demand your celeb meter is skewed. I’m pretty sure no one from Battlestar or Slings & Arrows passed by.

More importantly, my dress was fab and I met someone who got me thinking about having a good death. About how the desire to die well, whatever that means to you, recasts every moment of your life starting now. And yes, I know I’ve heard that before, but like a MacDonalds ad, you have to see it at least three times before you robot in and buy your whatever-it-is-in-a-cup.

Talking with this new and interesting person made me realize that I’ve always assumed the appropriate pre-death mindset will kick in as my body nears the gate (assuming I receive advance notice). But this person told stories of people going kicking and screaming. Not good deaths. As far as we know. When my mom neared death, she spent weeks talking about how she wished she had the faith she’d always acted like she had in church. She was afraid, and she asked everyone from the priest to the neighbors how to get real faith. But in the day or two before she went, something changed. She grew ready. Her fear seemed to diminish as she looked closer into death.

A bunch of the speeches last night were about artistic community and how it’s all about the love. Then afterward, there were off-the-record stories of snippy comments and hurt feelings. All the same cast of characters. I think everyone was telling the truth as they saw it at that moment.

The benefit was held in an industrial-chic spot with an industrial-chic view of the skyline. Or you could consider it a depressing view. Or you could figure it was an irrelevant view, compared with the absolute, surely absolute, perfection of my dress.

They’re Everywhere

20110512-105902.jpg
My brain on new music.

There are a lot of nerds out there. Tech nerds and sports nerds and art nerds. Improv nerds. Horse nerds. Last night Dave and I went to a concert at Mayne Stage, where we were surrounded by new music nerds. I was, as usual, dumbfounded by the seeming formlessness of the phrasing, that suddenly hits you with an exclamation point when you least expect it. It makes me realize how easy it is to spot periods in most music. You know when the end of the line is coming a mile away, which leaves you free to interpret everything before it. Like the cylons understanding love only once they understand death.

Or at least, I thought it was formless, until the first piece ended and Dave said, “Difficult piece, but at least it was in 4/4.” At intermission I heard someone say, “I think I’m writing really accessible music, but that’s just how I feel,” and then a bit later, “The problem with the alumni…” I missed the rest because Dave introduced me to someone who told me a funny story about some concert Dave did in college. Something about Dvorak that I didn’t understand but laughed at anyway.

What I heard most of the night were random notes that made sense only if I imagined them as the score to a film noir scene. Or rare moments when the sheer virtuosity transported me to awe. Mostly I thought if I knew where that phrase was going I’d know how to interpret the piece.

But I guess that’s the point. A friend who doesn’t speak to me anymore once said that he liked new music because it was the only thing that made him feel like someone had taken the top of his head off. I’m not sure what he liked about feeling like someone had taken the top of his head off. Too bad I can’t ask him now. Well, I could ask him. It would be like my own little new music composition. His silent response would perhaps be the perfect ending.

Whilst the Royal Wedding Unfolded

Trina, Wendy and I are headed to Trina’s mom’s for the weekend. Trina calls her and she gives the answers they rehearsed.

Trina: “Oh man, I can’t believe finals.”

Trina’s mom: “Hera sees all.”

Trina: “Yeah, and I have to store my stuff ’til Fall.”

Trina’s mom: “Wisdom of Zeus, blind love will fall.”

Trina: “Okay, see you soon.”

We set out, three of us, each in relationships with people not there. We are walking along the lake to Lake Forest. It’s a foot path where Lake Shore Drive should be, and it’s rubberized. It feels so good under our feet that we begin to jog. It’s slightly downhill at this point, which is lovely. We run faster and faster, then Trina sees the alligator. “Shh!” she says, and “Slowly!”

But Wendy is too far ahead. She’s passed it. Trina calls, “You’ve got to get back up here. You’ve got to get around it and get back here.”

Wendy feels paralyzed. “Is it bad?”

“It’s the biggest one I’ve seen,” answers Trina. “It’s not the little ones people keep in their purse. It has no sense of humor.”

The gator snaps its jaws. I realize it could live anywhere, could follow us all the way up that rising road, but it’s not as likely past a certain point. God, I’m tired. We were having such a good time, talking about our relationships, and this happens. I can see the gator’s face under the rocks.

Wendy inches her way back. She skirts the edge of the road, where she could easily fall into the lake, but anything to stay away from this humorless alligator. She is terrified, but Trina pulls her back with sheer lung power, coaching her though every step, telling her to step quietly, move quickly, not look down. I can’t believe gators live here all the time and people still walk this road.

Trina is going to have her mom come pick us up. Trembling, Wendy makes it into our arms. We hug briefly, and with shaking knees walk back toward the school. The gator does not follow.

Jane and Jane

Jane Eyre movie poster
Not. Well, sort of.

My friends K—and A— went to see Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Jane Eyre. I really wanted to go, but had my Battlestar Gallactica duties to attend to. However, it reminded me of my first-ever book review. Written in my diary when I was 11. Transcribed here, verbatim:

April 20, 1974. Oh gosh I read a great book. My first (I think, I’m not sure) novel. It’s “Jane Eyre.” By Charlotte Bronte. It was about this girl who lived with her late uncle’s wife. Her uncle when he was on his deathbed made her aunt promise to look after Jane even though the aunt hated her. When he died she sent her off to a school. After six years Jane was a governess for Mr. Rochester, a wealthy, middle aged, single man. He fell in love but on their wedding day she finds out he’s married to a maniac who is locked in a room in the mansion. Jane leaves (though she doesn’t want to), starves (she had no money), and in the end goes back to her lover only to find that he is stone blind. The house is burned down (that’s how he gets blind) and the maniac is killed in it. They marry and (after some time) he is able to see pretty good though he can’t read or nothing. It’s really great!

K— said that although Rochester was probably too handsome, she greatly enjoyed the film. But I don’t know if any movie can offer anything that beats the experience of reading a novel for the first time. Getting through every chapter to the end, and then having the whole story, the whole world, in your head, printed symbols into full-blown memories.

But of course, you can only have that experience once. And you can experience a new Jane Eyre about once every five years. And the way they handle those six years at Lowell means a lot to how I feel about the adaptation. So I guess I do need to see this film. In 42 more episodes.

 

Some alternate realities aren’t alternate

Netflix instant viewing screen of Battlestar Gallactica
There are many copies.

I didn’t go to the Palm Sunday service at the big south side church. Instead, I stayed home and evaluated a bunch of mostly awful films for a festival. Some were really good, yours was brilliant, but most I just stared at. Angry that they were taking up my time. Waiting for the end.

Then I realized that someone, somewhere is probably evaluating my film, feeling the same dull rage. They can’t believe someone thought this was a good idea. They can’t believe how long it is. Will it never end? They can’t believe the sound quality. They can’t believe there are 12 more videos in the box. They’d much rather be watching Battlestar Galactica. They watched four episodes last night and it wasn’t enough. They want more. They want to watch all 72 episodes back to back. Their husband says they need to scale back, that it’s just a TV show, that it’s not good for them. But what does he know? He was at church all day.