Thursday, January 8, 2015

Re: Cloud Atlas -- and an excerpt from my novel Jaws of the Vortex [12 / 9 / 12].

One more comment on Cloud Alas before I forget !

Saw it in article "Worst Film of 2012" somewhere.  I think that's cruel.

But, so: I didn't like their version of English language-we-could-be-speaking-in-the-future.

It's an interesting experiment, to conjecture something like that.  Guesswork: some corruption, abbreviation, new words, whatever.  (You'd need a linguist.)

But I thought it sounded dumb.  (Interesting to try, would have to--sound dumb--of necessity, I think.)  Especially, kept saying "the true true" or "true truth."  Bleh.

p.s. I haven't read the book, so I should have.  (Someone buy it for me for Christmas.)

Maybe also b/c I don't like Tom Hanks that much.  I don't know why, but can't take him seriously, as a serious actor. 

So, my overall thoughts on that movie, in general: I liked it !  B/c it is pretty big and epic, daring.  (And that's the same reason people not like it.  So big and epic, might fall on face a little.)

And could add slightly, to be topical.... Maybe that is what I'm going for a little, with my book, The Jaws of the Vortex -- being really big and epic.  Creating some new world(s) a little (like they always say with Potter).

And I've heard people make fun of Cloud Atlas b/c it tries to be really deep / philosophical -- but as deep as it gets, only "We're all connected."  (I think a reviewer, Huffington Post.)

On one hand, I think " is hard to be deep and philosophical.  Only so many combinations of words and thoughts we can make, in any given direction."

And again: I do try in my book to be a little philosophical.  One of my favorite parts, in the Underworld.  The guide Whitlock trying to explain how he doesn't even believe in an Afterlife, even though he's there and dead.

Thinks it's like "the Dreams of the Dead."  More like Plato's Cave.  A shadow of a puppet.  I could include an excerpt below !  "One of the great metaphors: sailing on a river of the Underworld.

And it's fun b/c I'm having him say that--gets a tiny bit deep...but he also could be wrong.  Ryan, the main character / narrator gets some second opinion later, and has his own thoughts.  But he's just a teenager.

Anyhow, fun (& challenging) for me to write -- b/c some days I could go either way.  Of course, want to / need to believe in an afterlife -- why not? -- but who knows exactly, until it's too late.  But, then, strange to think underground -- like a dinosaur in that movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

Anyhow... Here's an excerpt -- see what I mean, if you want one.  (I really was just going to write about Cloud Atlas, but then...couldn't resist.  And if supposed to be my blog: okay.)


    “So…You still awake?” Whitlock asked me.
    “Yes,” I said.  I wanted to say “No thanks to you.”  (That he told me I couldn’t really sleep, or that he’d filled my head with so many thoughts—or scared me, with Justin.) 
    But, then, I’m the one who started up conversation again.  “This is pretty weird,” I said—like I was trying to philosophize my way through everything.  “One day, going along like a regular kid.  Then, all of a sudden, I’m down here and…I know you said maybe curable—and still have some color left.  But…I feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.  For all intensive purposes.”
     “Intents and purposes,” Whitlock corrected me.
“Yeah.  But pretty random.”
    He turned on me, at this.  “No,” he said.  “Do not say that.”—like he was afraid, superstitious against it.  “I do not believe there are no coincidences, period.  In life, perhaps, some—but fewer down here.  I do believe in Fate now, if nothing else.  Some instrument—or attraction…some call ‘The Powers.’ Not for my own self.  I think it is easier to see in others’ lives.  But…from my supporting role, I know something is going on.  I told you I auditioned a few people for the role you and Aquila are playing...”
    (It was funny he used those words—as if, like the performers in the rooms.  But I knew they weren’t performers.)  I remember the Swamp King—the last time I saw him—said something, like he only needed to kill one of us.  I told Whitlock that.
    “She does have exceptional abilities,” said Whitlock.  “There is something about her…I could tell you: I have heard rumors—there is some race against time…Some mumbo-jumbo I don’t believe in—but to conscript mortals for…something.  Some ritual.”  (This was the first I’d heard of that, and it sounded important, but Whitlock didn’t provide much detail—because he didn’t care.) 
    “Wait.  Is that one reason my Dad—” I said.
    “No.  They’re looking for females, actually,” he said.  “As if a virgin sacrifice.  It’s not that, but…just to say: not a coincidence—but a cross-purpose.  The lot fell to me…to rise up to the surface for air, and meet your acquaintance.  So here we are.”
    “Okay,” I said…And there was so much to think about.  But the next thing I fastened on was the phrase “The Powers.”  Or Fate.  “Hey, Whitlock…” I said.  “Is there such a thing as a god then?  I mean…of the Underworld—but a regular one, too?”  (I know he’d mentioned the Six Kings already.)
    Whitlock shrugged a little—some gesture.  “This might be one of those times, that ‘If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.’”  That took me a second.  “It’s an understandable question,” he continued, “—worth asking once.  I no longer consider it an important question.  I’ve never seen such a figure.  If one exists, and ever did make some appearances…he’s lying pretty low.  You would think we’d be closer to the source—the horse’s mouth.  Now that we’re on the other side, so to speak.  But it’s still up in the air.  People believing either way.  There are rumors of…some activity—actionable intelligence.  Angel sightings…but you can’t believe everything you hear.”
    “Okay,” I said.
    “When I said The Powers, I meant…not a physical—anthropomorphic—manifestation, but more a force like gravity.  Or: certain outcomes are inevitable.  But…you know…” he continued.  “Whatever you wanna think about that is directly correlated to what you think about this place in general.” 
    I thought we’d gone over that already.  “How do you mean?” I said.
    “And not to burst your bubble, either, but…speaking of gods…Personally, I think there’s less than meets the eye—to this place.
    “What do you mean?” I said.
    “I don’t think this is really the Afterlife.”
    “But…I thought you said…What else would it be?  I mean…how can we be dead—and be talking, here—and not believe in an Afterlife?”
    “I admit: this would be the hardest thing to understand.  I know—to all practical appearances—it looks like your stereotypical Hades or Sheol…”
    “But not the white tunnel,” I interrupted.  I’d been meaning to bring that up eventually.  (In the beginning, I wondered if this was where bad people go—but realized it’d be an insult.)  “And…am I supposed to feel enlightened?”
    “Right,” he said.  “Better luck next time.  So, we can see the glass ceiling…The real world through it.  But are we really underground?  If and when you get back up there, find a believer and ask them: Where is Heaven and/or Hell?  There’s no good answer.  It is interesting, that we still labor under the default, antiquated notion—tradition—of Heaven in the clouds…Another planet would make more sense, with the aid of worm-holes.  And the other place underfoot—just because we bury in the ground.  But it’s geographically impossible.  Both…are equally preposterous.”
    “Yeah,” I said.  “I never saw the movie, but the trailer for Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
    “Exactly,” he said.  “It’s rock.”                       
    “You’re not going to find any dinosaurs,” I said.
    “So where are we?” he said.  “What is this?  I think these are the Dreams of the Dead.”
    “You think this is a dream?” I said.  “It feels pretty real to me.”
    “As an illustration,” he said.  “I don’t suppose you’ve ever seen someone die by the guillotine.”
    “No,” I said.
    “The French chopping block.  I saw it once…down here, but I imagine it’s the same principle.  The same effect, and imagery.  Do you know: the disembodied head can still speak for up to five minutes?  So...”
    I saw where he was going with that.  “We’ve been here longer than five minutes,” I said.
    “The timing is relative,” he said, “or immaterial—although…there is a shelf life.  But the concept is the same.  Longer, perhaps, because the—combined—will-power is stronger.  Man wants to believe in an afterlife so badly, he wills one into existence.  We’ve all imagined up—generated together—an elaborate façade.  Then projected ourselves into it.  A product of superstition…and the collective unconscious Carl Jung spoke of.”
    “But…I don’t get it,” I said.  “Even if I’m dreaming, and you’re dreaming…we wouldn’t be in the same dream.”
    “I don’t know everything,” he said.  “Maybe we’re hooked up to a grid.  Like the ground is irradiated.  I mean, not with radium…but something—suffused with…Or we’re on the same frequency.  Maybe the soul does live on after death, but it’s trapped in the body, six feet under, for eternity.  But, then, the mind of the soul can dream this big collective dream, because the imagination is so powerful.  But not too bold—to dream one’s self alive again.  But what can be expected: from storybooks, cinema, and the bully pulpit.  I mentioned the uncanny resemblance to certain works of art—”
    “Unless…Dante had like a time machine,” I said.  “What you’re pretty crazy, too.  It seems like the simpler thing would be more correct,” I said.  (I’d heard something like that before.)
    “That’s Occam’s razor,” said Whitlock, “—approximately.  There is actually a man here named Occam.  We might run into him.  But why is it simpler?  Just because people believe it?—and you’re used to it.  Really, it’s a huge, elaborate construct.  I believe it is more like Plato’s Cave.  Are you familiar with that?”
    I shook my head.
    “Like we’re watching the shadows of a puppet show.  Not even the puppet show itself.  I do not expect you to understand this all at once.  And they are not my theories.  They were explained to me…But this place is not real, or the final resting place of the soul.  They’re not even souls—the figurines you see.  Just residue.  The desires left in the nervous system and endings.  The contact points between the soul and bones, cobbled together…”
    “What about what you said earlier—about lightning?” I said.
    “Oh, the Blixtfödd?” he said.  “They’re more deluded than most.  There is unanimous—vast—recognition—that not all who die come here.  Not the requisite number.  If there are seven billion alive...Remember: sometimes you can go miles without seeing anyone…Or: they don’t stay here forever.  The Residue has a shelf-life.”
    He sounded like he knew everything, but he vacillated somewhat.  “There is some supposition—some feel a draining away, or past us: the real movement of the real soul, elsewhere.  Most of this is unknowable.  But I have a real example.”
    (I don’t know what I was thinking—that I thought I could get any sleep.)
    “I knew a gentleman who died before his loved one.  He waited for her under the cemetery, Rose Hills.  He thought she would float down to him, follow the same route.  He waited years.  He went so far as to consult with different agents, provocateurs, to hasten her death.  Ensure she appeared where he was.  Even seeking favors from different kings—in exchange for services, information.  He was a bright man—only faltered, lost his head, out of emotion.”
    “Did she ever come?” I asked.
    “No.  Never.  So whether she was…immortalized, consigned elsewhere, or ceased to exist: that’s what I mean—my point.  It’s not so simple.  He had even fashioned a Siphon, wherewith he could see her at death’s door, or past it…but he never saw her again.  And because of his…restlessness, he’d gotten himself in trouble, made too many promises to too many people.  Like he’d sold his soul.”
    “Is there a market for that?” I asked.
    Later, I wondered why he didn’t just tell me the name—in case it was important later.  Or  Was he talking about himself?
    “Perhaps we shouldn’t dwell too long on this,” said Whitlock.  “It could drive you crazy.  I said in the beginning: not to get bogged down in metaphysics.”
    I wasn’t an automatic fan of Whitlock’s speech or his theories.  Made the whole thing—and life in general—seem kind of pointless.
     “But…if it’s true as you say,” I said—my last defense, “why should we care?—or try at all?  Why do you keep going?—doing what you’re doing.  If none of this matters…”
    That actually shut him up.  (And one thing: the question mark on his face—which I’d gotten used to and forgotten about—actually glowed a little, I couldn’t help noticing.)  Then, eventually, he said “Touché.  I am…at a loss, to explain my own actions, at times.  I could, but…”
    Maybe I let him off easy—but I had another question.  “And I thought you said I wasn’t Residue?  I have more than my soul.  And either way…You said I could still get back?  And what about my Dad?…You said he was spirited alive.”
    (Later, I also wondered: are those people in the Asylum ghosts?  How would that fit in, with “dreams of the dead”?  Just at the moment, I was thinking of myself.)
    So he said a few things: “All is perhaps not black and white.  It is possible my theories aren’t iron-clad, air-tight…”  (Maybe I’d broken down his confidence—or through his defenses.)  “In any case, I do believe you may return—if nothing else, then as a ghost.  Then you could fix things yourself.  Just have to find your body, wherever it is.  Maybe stuffed in a broom closet…”
    That was one of his lowest points.  The conversation was over.
    I think I tried to say something nice, and innocent, backtrack a little…Then, I went back to work—trying, pretending to sleep.  But our conversation probably took the whole night.  So it’s hard to tell if I got any shut-eye, where time went faster.  To simulate sleep.

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