Wednesday, 28 January 2009

"Did you know him?"

Nobody really knows exactly how old Will Donovan was when he died.
Well, no one really knows exactly if he died at all.
Some say he was 20 years of age, others say he was around 35, some even go as far as to say he was actually very old, but had that disease where you aged very very slowly.

All that is known for sure is one day he was there, and the other he wasn't.

Tales are spun in the dinky bar in Beirut that Donovan used to spend a lot of his time in, about what could have happened to him. Many say he just packed his bags and left without saying a word to anyone. Some say he went to explore the shadier parts of Beirut and never returned. Some say that he was a CIA agent that had a change of heart after falling in love with Beirut, and was "liquidated" in the name of American national security. Some say he decided to walk into the Mediterranean Sea, but ended up walking on water, and never stopped.

Those who knew him best said nothing at all. They just whispered his name under their breath at every sip of their drink that they took, slipping into mundane conversation and feigning normality, but always with a far look in their eyes.
Maybe in hopes that he'll hear them and come back.

Many facts surrounding Will Donovan's appearance are blurry. Some say he was blond with wide shoulders and a baby face. Some say he was darker haired, lanky, with a beard and stern eyes. Some say he wore suits with torn converses, while others say he wore tshirts with boots. But the two things that were always mentioned no matter who was describing him, were his tattered fedora hat (where it came from is a whole other story, whether he found it on the Lebanese shore or was given to him by Tom Waits himself, we'll never know) and his differently sized pupils. One of his pupils seemed to be dilated as though it was in the dark, while the other was sharper, tighter, and more focused, as a pupil would be in the light.

Perhaps this was no coincidence. It would be no surprise to anyone if Donovan was able to see into the dark and the light of everyone and every situation, taking in all he could, only to focus it all and go forward with it. A balance of sorts, a gift.

Stories of his nights at the bar range from him sitting there quietly, as if not wanting to be noticed, (gazing every once in a while at the TV trying to guess the movie that is playing), to heated debates about politics and life and philosophy. Sometimes, it was said, if he had had enough drinks, he did a little dance that he called the "old man dance". The bar's patrons still manage to dance that dance every once in a while, before stopping to remember who coined it, and how he was not there to join them.

One thing is for certain, he left something of himself with everyone he met, and those who were awake enough to see it were all the better for it. And those who saw and were able, gave him of them selves, because it was no coincidence that their paths crossed, and to some, it was a blessing.

I've heard that years after the disappearance of Will Donovan, a prayer was passed on from those who were close to him, those who loved and cared for him, to their children, and then to their children's children.

"Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
And a Will Donovan, in my dreams to meet"

Ever so often his name is mentioned in a bar in Beirut, and the question always comes up among strangers...

"Did you know him?"

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The untimely death of Tilou Pouline

They say she jumped.
But I knew she was pushed.

The splash was heard for miles, and people on the opposite end of the city saw its spray rise into the night sky sparkling in the light of the full moon before dissipating into the nothingness of the moment.
It was not her weight that caused such a splash. No. For Tilou Pouline was a small framed frail lass, with bones brittle as sticks and enough meat on them to barely feed a cat.
It was her heart that was heavy.

They say she jumped.
But I knew she was pushed.

She was pushed by someone who knew her well. It was not vindictive, or malicious. It was a push that was meant to take her over the edge, and alas; it did.
She plummeted to her death onto rocks that tried hard to sharpen their edges to save her the pain of lying there bleeding slowly, broken and alone.
They say the stars shone brighter to keep her company, the moon blinked, and that the waves that usually crashed against those very rocks caressed her softly as she drifted, claiming her tears and wetting her lips as she cracked one last smile.

They say she jumped.
But I knew she was pushed.

Dogs far and wide howled the very moment her heart stopped, their owners frantically attempting to calm them down to no avail. Their howls swirled in the evening breeze, collecting and flowing up towards the heavens, pushing the light rain clouds around till thunder boomed and lightening struck and rain poured. Those that were Street Dogs ran in packs along the pavements, all against traffic, jumping onto hoods of oncoming cars and any other obstacle till they formed a wave of their own, a wave of fur and teeth and howls. To this day those who witnessed this phenomenon shudder at the memory of the relentless onslaught of beasts that struck fear and awe and bewilderment into their hearts.

They say she jumped.
But I knew she was pushed.

She was pushed as an act of mercy. As she sat there on the rails of the bridge moments before her fall, she took a drag of her lucky stike cigarette and saw the city lights burn into the skyline. She heard the music from far off cars, catching songs at random; Ada, Karma Police, The Jeep Song, Born, Iris. Words from each hitting a chord in her heart, strumming her ribs, plucking at her lungs.

They say she jumped.
But I knew she was pushed.

She was pushed by someone who gave her one last laugh, one last cry, and a pat on the back for a job done as well as possible. As the cherry of her cigarette kissed the edge of its filter, Tilou flicked it from between her index finger and her thumb into the ocean below, watching the glow get smaller and smaller and exinguish in the surface of the rippling waters. She held the rail she had wrapped her legs around on each side of her, looking into the sky, looking for an answer that could be no where but there. Some say they heard someone whisper "Geranimo!"
And then she fell...

They say she jumped.
But I knew she was pushed.

She was pushed by Tilou Pouline.
And no one can convince me otherwise.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Riding with apathy

"This is a beautiful country" She says.
"I love this city."

He looks at Her in his rear window mirror. "Yea. It is the best country of all," He agrees.
The traffic is horrendous. It would usually take Her 10 minutes to get where She was going. Roadworks are plaguing the streets.

"Elections are coming up. They need to act as if they're actually doing anything around here," She mutters, annoyed.

"In that case I wish we had elections every year!" The eyes in the mirror say.

"Everyone should cast a blank vote. Maybe if the whole country did it, it would shake them a bit. The message would get across," She says, staring out the window at stationary cars stuck in a traffic jam that breathes fumes of soot and fuel and carbon.

"What's the point? There's no point," He answers, " I don't intend on voting at all."

"Your voice should count for something" She adds, hearing the words become naive as they come out of her mouth, mingling with cigarette smoke, saving it slightly by adding "That's apathy. That's a very strong weapon to go against. Apathy is the biggest demon. You're giving up."

"Listen, its not a matter of giving up. We tried, it didn't work. That's it. You know, this woman who was running for a position ten years ago won by 45 votes. 45 votes! It's enough to have your family vote. No my dear, this country isn't going anywhere. It's not going to change," he replies, his eyes lost in a thought that no longer exists, an image of happiness that no longer applies.

"But you can't just give up..." She says, partly to herself as she looks at a nearby soldier fixing the strap of his rifle.

"Listen, I've been young, and now I'm older. You haven't been older yet. The things we've seen, the obstacles we've gone against. It's a lot. Sometimes you just see that things can't change so easily. Maybe in 200 years..."

His eyes lock onto her reflection, and He notices She is fighting disappointment. And is stubborn.

"I'll illustrate with an example," He says, clearing his throat. "Imagine you open a business. Lets say a Butcher's. You used to sleep 6 hours before you opened it. Now you sleep 4 because you wake up earlier or sleep later to work on it. You're putting effort into it, because you want it to work, and give you profit. Ok. You do this for a month, two months, three. Nothing. No change. Sooner or later, you take back those two hours of sleep, maybe even more. You realise there's no point in working so hard if nothing is going to come of it. You understand my point?"

"I don't agree" She says.

"You're young. I commend your patience and passion and determination. I am not telling you to let it go. But I'm telling you it won't result in anything."

"Well then I'll just keep trying. I'll get tired. We'll get tired. We'll rest, and then get up again. You can't tell me that there is no point. You can't tell me it'll be for nothing. That would end me." She says, feeling her face get warmer.

He falls silent. He seems a bit ashamed.
"Don't lose yourself kid." He mutters.

"I'll get off here please," She interjects, and as She closes the door, looks Him in the eyes, without the middleman mirror and says "I can see it's already too late for you. I'm sorry."

The exhaust pipe chokes on a few coughs of smoke, and She's left on the pavement, her lips pursed, hands in her coat pocket, head held high, staring as apathy takes over another wheel and drives off.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Here there be dragons...

After reading many status updates on facebook about last year graphic designers (some of them friends of mine) panicking about giving in their thesis, I decided to look back on mine. It had been two years since I'd read it, and it was weird reading that voice of me, writing academic essay voice. My thesis was about mythological creatures, composite ones in specific (made of parts of different creatures) and the idea of Collective Visual Imagination, a term I coined after reading Carl Jung's writings on the Collective Unconscious.
So after reading it, correcting a couple of typos (oops.) I thought I'd paste a couple of paragraphs from it... Maybe it'd interest some of you.

"Many of us today do not really know where they [mythological creatures] come from, do not know their purpose or if they have any, and yet we do know what they are, and how they look like, probably from our exposure to them in the contexts such as the ones I have mentioned. Personally, I have always been fascinated with creatures such as these since I can remember. I would hear about them in stories my mother would tell me, see pictures of them in books, see them in cartoons and movies, and I did not bother to question their existence; they stirred oceans in me, they rang true, and let me soar in my mind with wings made of imagination. But the older I got, the more I knew, and it was no longer a matter of whether they existed or not, but it was their aesthetic nature that appealed to me, and especially the creatures that were mixed, composite. How did they come to be, or who created them? How were so many stories written about them if they did not exist, and how could it be that there were many instances of striking resemblance of a specific creature between different cultures and mythologies?"
* * *
"Perhaps we are all like the doomed artist or creative, who is forever envisioning and imagining the perfect artwork, and never able to hit the nail on the head when executing it; that these magnificent creatures are embedded in our unconsciousness, dormant, awaiting to be portrayed and expressed, while we fumble and never get to describe and apply visually what we see in our heads. Perhaps we are endowed with the essence of a Collective Visual Imagination that unites us in our struggle for the ideal illustration of certain creatures, and yet in the process of application, we drift apart slightly due to factors of culture and context, making this world of creatures one that is destined to keep us gaping in awe and wonder. To quote the German director Werner Herzog, 'What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.'”
* * *
" The Collective Visual Imagination is a theory that leans on the geographical widespread of a particular creature that has physical similarities between the same creature of different localities. The reason for these findings is very unclear and so the theory alleges that the reason for these similarities is due to our already formed visualisation of it that is inevitably within us. I would have called it the Unconscious Visual Imagination, but I am wary of the fact that we can never actually ‘see’ or envision that which is unconscious, as I have come to understand from my readings by Jung. The result of the existence of these ‘moulds’ or templates in our minds drives us to manifest them, simply an attempt to solidify this otherwise conceptualised idea that wants to break free of us. And yet somehow we are incompetent in completely comprehending and controlling this hidden part of our imaginative mind.

An Analogy
An analogy that could clarify my explanation, is if you consider someone who is trying to express him or herself verbally, and is stuck on a word, he knows what it is, and yet is unable to convey what it is, and sometimes he or she end up spilling out words that are either close in pronunciation or meaning in attempts to bridge this gap. If I were to apply this to the Collective Visual Imagination, the word we are thinking of would be the actual representation of the creature, while the different words that we end up saying in attempt to get the right one are the different representations and portrayals of the creature. But it is important to keep in mind that the main difference between the analogy I am giving and the Collective Visual Imagination is that this search for the ‘model’ depiction of the creature is not something I consider to be conscious, we are not aware of its existence within us, or of the fact that we are expressing an urge to find the ‘one’, while when searching for the ‘word’, we know we have it in us somewhere, in the many folds of our brain, we are aware that to complete our message, this ‘word’ needs to be found. This is the relation I find between Jung’s concept of unconscious archetypes and my hypothesis. Also, although the idea of the ‘collective’ seems to steal away the possibility of diversity, it is in fact this feature that allows diversity in my view, since in our attempts of expression, we have harnessed diversity, allowing the many factors and influences of our existence to play a role in shaping images and forms."

If only you could see the tables and maps I filled up with research... 60 dragons, 22 mermaids, and 16 unicorns.. Anyway, there's obviously more to it than the excerpts I put, and it would make more sense once read from start to finish.. but its a 30 page paper! Wouldn't know what to do with it all.

And with that, I'll leave you with the last paragraph of my thesis as food for thought...

* * *
"I once read somewhere that when dealing with uncharted waters, cartographers in the days of yore would draw a dragon like creature on that particular area of the map, and jot down the words “Here there be Dragons”, referring to something that we are not sure of, somewhere dangerous, undiscovered, with undiscovered monsters and creatures lurking. Perhaps our minds can be compared to these old maps; and perhaps in the areas that we cannot reach, that we cannot understand, ‘there be dragons’."

Sunday, 11 January 2009

What Alice would say today

Friday, 9 January 2009

Things that shouldn't tell tales, but do

the glass of wine tells me of jesus' blood drank by cannibals to no avail.
the paper cranes on their shelf tell me of a girl lost in thought but found by paper trail.
the winged and horned equine silver saviour around my neck tells me of things that I wish, but can't be.
the eyes I see in the mirror tell me of things that could be but aren't.
the heart beating within me tells me of things that are but don't.
the silence of my voice tells me of things better left unsaid.
the hands on my watch tell me it's time to go to bed.
if only these thoughts and rabbits would get out of my head.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Yeah, it's a new year, but...

Here's wishing you a monster-free year, whatever kinds they may be...