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Switching Sides

I once told someone that watching Control Room made me ashamed to be American. Looks like starring in the film had that effect on someone as well:

Josh Rushing, who was stationed in Doha at the United States central command media office and later gained an international profile in the documentary Control Room, will be based in Washington DC in an unspecified role for the English language version of the Arab satellite news channel, which starts broadcasting early next year.

Rushing left the US Marine Corps after 14 years disillusioned over its media management and became an independent commentator.

“In a time when American media has become so nationalised, I’m excited about joining an organisation that truly wants to be a source of global information,” Rushing said.

from the Guardian, via chuck

The Lonely Americans

Tonight I watched The Lost Boys of Sudan and it’s a film that won’t leave my thoughts. The film is much more about America than about these Sudanese refugees, and what it reveals about the American experience, through the fresh eyes of immigrants, is quite unsettling. Very subtly the film shows the way success in America requires isolation from community and support–the only person who is successful is Peter, who succeeds by suddenly leaving behind his friends in Houston and moving to Kansas on his own, living with a white host family in the suburbs, and getting an education. Meanwhile the friends he leaves behind, all living together in Houston, remain in low-paying menial jobs barely able to make rent. One has “success” but is lonely and isolated, the others have no outward “success” but have the love and emotional support of community. Acting out of self-interest rather than group interest is what it takes to succeed. Peter even stops sending money to his sister in Africa, and calls her less and less frequently, and defends his right to self-improvement when she calls to criticize him. The friends Peter left behind were hurt and angry at his abrupt departure, but he doggedly pursued his plan of self-improvement and he “made it”–a perfect image of “the American Dream.” Though I detect a subtle question mark at the film’s final frame–a shot of Peter in his cap and gown on graduation day–a question mark regarding the definition of “success.”

The immigrants all discuss how difficult it is for them to make friends, that Americans are not receptive, that everyone is “always busy, busy,” and they learn quickly that in America two men cannot walk in public holding hands, as they did regularly in Africa … sign after sign of the lack of community here, the isolated and isolating nature of success-driven American life. Here you are “on your own,” they learn quickly.

All of this reveals pretty standard American individualist dogma, one might say. But watching this film I felt that Americans must be the loneliest people in the world. By design. (Though all my readings about Japanese culture tell me that the Japanese might be the only population lonelier than we.)

Film Director to Save the World

I just signed up for a meditation class and shortly thereafter, separately, I got an email announcing David Lynch was coming to town on a tour of the country to talk to students about putting Transcendental Meditation into their lives, to reduce stress and bring about world peace. He’s also starting a foundation–David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace–that will train professional peacemakers. Go David!

For those who may be interested in his appearance, here are the details:

Cutler Majestic Theater, Emerson College
Saturday, October 1, 7:30 PM
talk on “Consciousness, Creativity, and the Brain”

The award-winning filmmaker of such classics as Elephant Man, Blue Velvet,
Twin Peaks, and Mulholland Drive is coming to the Majestic Theater at
Emerson College on Saturday, October 1st at 7:30 PM to talk to the students
of Boston.  Lynch is on a national tour of college campuses to announce the
founding of the David Lynch Foundation and a multi-million dollar research
program aimed at reducing stress and improving academic performance.

Lynch will be joined at the talk by quantum physicist Dr. John Hagelin, who
was featured in the hit documentary “What the Bleep Do We Know?” and
neuroscientist Dr. Fred Travis, director of the Center for Brain,
Consciousness and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management.

Lynch recently launched the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based
Education and World Peace-a national nonprofit organization dedicated to
bringing the benefits of stress-reducing meditation to students and the
learning environment (

As one of the most creative, independent and successful movie makers in
Hollywood, Lynch will discuss what has allowed him to make uncompromising
films in an industry based on compromise. He feels much of his success is
based not only on his directorial skills but techniques he uses to increase
creativity and avoid stress.

Lynch, who is in the midst of directing his new film, the Inland Empire,
will speak to Boston area students on “Consciousness, Creativity and the

And here is an exchange I like from an interview with Lynch. The interview is actually about his meditation:

I read that you once ate daily at Bob’s Big Boy in L.A. for eight years. Are you still dining there?
I went there at 2:30 every day for a chocolate shake. I purposefully went at 2:30 because lunch had stopped long enough so the machines that made the shakes could get cold again, and I’d try to get a perfect shake. I still go to Bob’s once in a while, and I really like their food, and they’re a very nice place to go, nice people.

Quote of the Day

“Just because it’s cruel doesn’t mean it’s true.”
–anonymous friend o’mine

More Me And You

A quote I like about Me And You And Everyone We Know, ripped from the review:

Me And You

I’ve been seeing some movies lately. I got into a friendship-testing argument with a good friend over one of them, that should tell you it’s worth seeing. It’s Miranda July’s Me And You And Everyone We Know. I loved it, my companion hated it, and was actually angry with me for liking it at all, much less loving it so completely. We argued and eventually I said “Why are you angry?” That punctured the conversation and we then decided to talk about something else. I never did get a reason for why it caused anger, but I think it was personal. And this is a film that will certainly provoke a very personal response in anyone who sees it. I like everything that Cinetrix has to say about it, especially the film’s gentleness. It’s a film that flirts with some very disturbing themes, but dances so lightly that it never crosses the  line. It is a low-fi work of art, a finely crafted one at that, a “House of Mirrors” or “Hall of Echoes” as my former Professor Carney would say. It is adorably creative, original, clever, inventive.

I most liked the film’s layering of the child-like and adult, of the purity of love with the raunch of sex, which is the film’s overarching structure. The film lays the two side by side, but never really blends them, over and over again–from the frightening yet touching and funny online chat relationship between a six-year-old boy and a 40-year-old woman, to the discomforting-yet-not-quite-dangerous flirtation between two teenage girls and a 30-ish man, to the childlike and playful nature displayed in the adult characters of Christine and Richard. And it is of course all summed up perfectly in the film’s infamous slogan, “Back and forth forever.” Loneliness, love, and the desire to connect is universal and age-blind, the film seems to say. That seems too simple, though, and I need to think more on this. All of these age-inappropriate relationships are doomed, they reveal the desire to connect without allowing it to ever actually happen. We as viewers don’t want, nor does the film want, for a 6-year-old boy to start a real-life love relationship with a 40-year-old woman. But their ability to connect in some ethereal way reveals that much of the time we really are just big kids walking around in adult bodies. Or, perhaps, that we should be. Child-like, but not childish. It is the openness and curiousness and creativity of a child that this film celebrates, and tries to protect, even in the bodies of lonely adults. Therefore it is the two characters who retain their child-like nature who do manage to connect, appropriately, while the others in aborted age-inappropriate relationships seem to have at least been awakened to that part of themselves they have left behind. And it is implied they are changed by it, and will move on in their lives now carrying it with them rather than letting it sleep.

I tend to dislike films that position two people as absolute soulmates destined for each other, which this film does–I like a little more reality in my fairy tales. I believe there are a few dozen people out there that we each are compatible with and it is our own readiness (or not-readiness) that determines whether someone is right for us. But in this film for some reason I didn’t find it grating. Perhaps it’s because at one point the male love interest actually takes Miranda to task for her silly Amelie-like behavior, injecting some reality into the fairy tale. (And also providing material for another terrific line that reveals the child-adult theme: “He turned out to be a child-killer,” she says to a friend, after he “killed” her child-like attempts to connect with him.)

I also discovered that Miranda July has a blog. I like her.