Inarritu/ Smith

A few weeks ago I watched Amores Perros, a film directed by Alejandro Inarritu. His works put me in the mind of Zadie Smith, the little I have read of her work. Their stuff has the flavour of shimmering tightly-woven tapestries, with each vignette that makes up their stories part of a grander puzzle that one has to step way back to fully experience, not that seeing, feeling even, each bit cut is any less satisfying or completing.

Still, each fraction of the whole can stand on its own, nuanced, complex and visceral. The Revenant, which was not his own writing, seems like one large blanket that covers your mind and your heart but has the same searing quality as his other art, which are is more like a quilt than one large piece of fabric. All in all, beautiful intricacy is the overriding theme.

I almost wish his movies were books first, written with the same painstaking attention to detail. I would love to read them! If his visual descriptions are anything to go by, I cannot fathom how wonderful the mental imagery one might conjure up could be. But, one could argue that all this is true of all great artists, writers, directors, painters, sculptors, architects, programmers.

Their work is not merely work or theirs. It, the work, thrusts you into a vortex of emotion, awe, ideas, dreams and other soul and brain landscapes. Beautiful pieces unravel slices of our individual and collective universes, almost like stripping a rainbow into its thousands of unique yet not quite so special colours.

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Letting Go (or Trying to Quit and Failing)

How I long for a medium grand enough to do justice to my inner torment. – Jane Lane, Daria

There is a solidness that has crept up on me. It is a luminous realization of my abilities, or rather, how far I am willing to explore them. It is letting go of long-held beliefs about myself, a long-coming acceptance of what my evolution. Call it coming into your own, being comfortable in your skin. I feel that I have arrived here and with it there is tiredness that I no longer wish to bring attention to myself.

I have done the two years I had promised myself while figuring out what exactly it is I wanted to achieve. It is not that I do not find it rewarding or that I have written writing out of myself. I just feel that I no longer want to explain myself. I am all right with being misunderstood, with not being understood, with not “being gotten.” Who said I had to? Who told me I have the right for other people to see things from your point of view?

I am doing a re-calibration of my rewards, and this is no longer one of the things that bring me fulfilment. It has been self-indulgent, and I do not think it has done much to anyone outside myself. And what is the point of doing something only for yourself? I still enjoy writing and getting lost in words and leaving my footprints on blank pages as I traverse my minds and my hearts and the ghostly (and ghastly) paths of other writers. I do not feel like I have anything left to say.

I have exhausted my need for spewing words. I will not entirely stop, no one ever stops. I will just not be doing it with as much frequency. They, the ubiquitous they, often say, that writing is the work of tortured souls. No longer am I tortured. For the first time in a long time, I am happy. I no longer need the catharsis, the opening of whatever rotting wound was ailing me. Now I can write just to write.

There are many things to read, and while I figure out whether I want to come back into the light, I will drown myself in the words of others, into the different forms of prose that somehow bring one closer to oneself while also pushing you further away from what you think you should be. And maybe this is all it is – letting go of the ideas that I am supposed to be one thing, there is a distinct set-in-stone way I should be.

I am fluid and in the flow, I have streamed away and out of some personal concepts. I do not have to be a writer. I do not have to be a skirt-chaser. I do not have to agree with reading recommendations. I do not have to be anything. I am free. I found my medium and it is nothingness. It is the ability not to be and for that to be enough. The dragon lays still, the demons exorcised. I am free, released into the ether, unchained from myself yet bound tighter to everything around me and everything within myself.

I may return to the public, or what public is for an unknown like me (making noises on and offline) when I feel that I can write at that level, you know that level? The one where I will no longer need to layer myself in irony, sarcasm, existential exhaustion, self-deprecation? That one, that special place where pain and practised bourgeois hip fatigue will not be the sources of my stories, when I can tell better stories, mine, and others, even the others that I conjure up in my mind (this is called fiction).

Or, who knows, I may end up like Papa: done with writing and trying to prove anything, content with a beer and an easy book and with just being himself. Or like Mum, reading a newspaper for a whole afternoon, sleeping with her glasses on and having four o’clock tea and endlessly complaining about her students. Whatever my equivalent of lackadaisical or kvetching will be, this was fun.

A Little on Photography

Like anyone with a sense of colour and vision, I enjoy great photography. It takes something much more than a camera and ability to point and push a button to take a moving and poignant photograph. That is why I shy away from taking pictures.

I feel that there is something lost in attempting to trap an object or a person within a medium more durable than memory. I find tasting with your eyes and turning over the flavours in your mind, and your heart can be enough, made sweeter by the fickleness of memory and the grasping at the memories.

I think the best photographers, are those who can articulate what we see with our eyes, and since what we see we also feel, can also define our emotions, with their cameras and translate this experience into a print or a digital format.

They are the ones who take the stable world we live in and hold it permanently, and when we look at their work, are reminded of what the objects are. These immortalizations of the real objects move us.

A great photograph conveys information about its subject. It is not just its subject. You are transported to the world of the particular topic when you look at it. It is almost like you are breathing the air there. You see and experience what that slice of light and colour and paper represent.

Two More

Two more kisses for her and for him.
Two more minutes spent to make a smile.
Two more times we forgive.
Two more steps, two more stairs.
Two more servings of veggies.
Two more biscuits, slices of pizza.
Two more shillings, two more saved.
Two more heartbreaks,
Two more cracks for the light to shine through.
Two more loves, two more friends.
Two more hates, too much hate.
Two more hellos, two doors open.
Two more leaps, a little too much faith.
Two more times we try, just two more.
Two more times we fail, too many times.
Two more years to become who you are.


 

coolnotcool

You don’t have to make something that people call art. Living is an artistic activity, there is an art to getting through the day. – Viggo Mortensen

Being cool isn’t cool enough, not anymore, at least. I was listening to a short audio clip fo Zadie Smith (her again!) and she said that young writers are full of aphorisms, tidbits of wisdom. She mentioned that the older she gets, the less she knows, and her work reflected this.

I agree with her. The more I seem to know, the less I seem to know. The less I appear to know, the more I question my reasons for doing the things I consider important.

A while back I was really into programming, Python and a bit of HTML and JavaScript. I wanted to segue into other languages, so I tried Go. When I started at my current place, my interest in Ruby and Rails was piqued. I still think it would be nice to understand the code that has gone into our cloud since it is a Rails app. It is sheer poetry, magical. You would have to experience it to know what I am mean.

See my choice of word – “nice.” Not “important” or “beneficial” but “nice”. It is a most loaded adjective – nondescript yet saccharine, vague and empty while also appearing to be profound. We understand what it describes, a feeling, yet we cannot wholly or even eloquently articulate it or the feeling it captures.

Back to the story, I had abandoned those endeavours until now. I want to set up a Jekyll website on my computer for my writing and to play around with how it looks until I am ready to deploy it to a server for access from the internet.

I thought I would try something new. I may have to use WordPress for a while longer. When I am prepared to make noise again, I hope my writing will have significantly improved, to a point one of my best friend’s can read it comfortably as an editor.

I cannot do any of this yet, setting up Jekyll or attempting Rails, because my computer is old and there are some dependencies it cannot install. The writing I am still trying. Tempting as it may be to walk away, there is a niggling notion that my words might have an impact.

What does all this have to do with coolness? Everything. My motivations for programming were to look cool, to impress. Coolness is not a good enough reason to hit the keys. I am holding off on coding until I get a new fast, powerful and light laptop. By that time, I will have figured out a proper reason to get back to programming.

What about my motivations for writing? I have yet to figure this out. For now, I will let myself be carried by the motion, by my fingers and my pens. I will enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts. And why did I mention Zadie at the beginning? Well, didn’t you see the wisdom there?

“Why do I have to be anything?”

Before long, the only voice you recognize, the only life you can emphathize with, is your own. – Zadie Smith, Speaking in Tongues

About a month ago I accompanied one of my cousins to visit his girlfriend’s home. It is the first visit in what will in the next few months be the beginning of a marriage. One of his close friends was riding in his car with me in the backseat, curled in on myself and peeking in and out at my Kindle. Already four sheets to the wind, my cousin’s friend turned in his seat and asked me why I was so quiet. I told him I am usually quiet. I still get amused and puzzled by people who are uncomfortable around introverts.

As we neared our destination, he turned around again and asked what tribe I am, am I Gikuyu? I looked up and narrowed my eyes (and possibly sneered) and asked him, “Why do I have to be anything?” I could see the cogs in his head come to a stall, like a needle stuck in the groove of an LP, playing the same clip of a song over and over, relentlessly and nonsensically, yet unable to play anything else.

After a beat, I said yes, I am regarded as a Gikuyu having been born to such parents and in such a family. My initial response was arrogant and maybe even offensive. He was probably just trying to be friendly. I recently read an article in The Guardian written by Taiye Selassie on African writing and African writers and I could not help but draw a thread, however tenuous, between what she talked about and what happened that sunny Saturday those weeks ago.

Her piece was about writing. What does “African writing” mean and why are the works of writers from Africa considered somewhat anthropological works and not taken on their own merits, judged as the work of their Western peers is, for being “great writing”?

My thoughts are on what it means “to be a Gikuyu” and why one has to be identified not by their own merits but by their tribe. I don’t think about my tribe much. I grew up in an urban area, went to school with pretty much everyone, different races, religions, and classes, and even when I was in university in the tribally-hot area of Eldoret, the question of the tribe I come from never came up, not openly or in any way prejudiced anyway, and therefore was never a strong part of my consciousness.

I am only reminded of it when I am with my family and even then it is not so pronounced. My cousin’s friend made me uncomfortable. It is common for visits to the girl’s home, to be charged, often with the fierce, almost self-immolating idea that one’s family and, by extension tribe, is better than ‘the other’.

Despite my outwardly calm response to his question, my reaction and refusal to pinned down to that one aspect of myself were so visceral and violent it scared me. I hate being labeled. Labels are limiting. However, this is, as one of my friends loves to quip, a most cis-normative thing to say, since by virtue of my heterosexual and male privilege I have never had my identity questioned. I have never had to openly identify myself as something and therefore fight to be and for that something. This is a discussion for another time.

Tribe should not only be the people who choose you, but also the people you choose. By this definition, my tribe comprises my friends and my workmates. My friends, the ones I selected and was selected by over the course of time, have come in interesting flavours, from fiery atheists to phlegmatic drawers, to programmer-playboys, to engineer-entrepreneurs and to warm wonky brilliant feminists. It is a veritable human rainbow. I imagine it is quite the same way for them, the way we all paint psychedelic each other’s hearts.

I forget which someone it was who said that you do not find the right people for a job. They find you. I found my current workplace by finding my CEO and I was happily taken in. My colleagues are a hard working, hard playing and luminous bunch. I enjoy what I do and am grateful that I get to do it with them. I often mention it to anyone who cares to listen how I still feel like I am dreaming, almost one year into this gig, and how I would hate to wake up.

Friendship and work cover a large swathe of our identities in complex nuanced and ultimately more beautiful ways than would be by any one thing. To be pinned down to a single aspect of your identity would be a diminishment, for yourself and for everyone. We are many things at many times.

A Bit on Kendrick Lamar and “Untitling”

A brand new excuse ain’t nothing to me. See I made my moves, with shackled feet.

I [may] understand why Kendrick Lamar did an album without naming any songs. He started where he was by speaking his mind and his heart at that given time. What he had to say could not be named, could not be captured by a succinct statement and was left with namelessness as its name.

His music covers a lot: despair, pride, racism, sex and sexuality, money and power. It seems to capture life itself, in its shades of beauty and shame. To have named the songs would have been to insult their integrity, like calling a diamond a shiny stone.

I do not quite get his message, coasting on the beats and the lyricism, I forget that his music is conscious and full of social commentary. I love how he does not care what people think of him.

He goes at it and his audience finds him. He is acerbic and witty, irreverent and angry, and from that organized chaos, there wafts a sense of hope and renewal. That is my feeling when I listen to Kendrick Lamar.

Due to laziness, I have left many of my pieces untitled. It is bad form. I am not a Grammy Award-winning musician so I may not get away with this. My works may be diamonds, but I still have to cut and etch markers to identify them.

How would one go about finding a story they liked if it is unnamed? If my own edginess is anything to go by, I doubt anyone would be patient enough to scroll and read until they find what they are looking for.