Saturday, January 18, 2014

Misery Porn

Juliette Bonoche in Blue

I watched the film Trois Colours: Bleu countless times when I was in depression.  Trois Couleurs: Bleu, a European film, is about a woman, played Juliette Binoche, who, after losing her family in an accident, attempts to "liberate" herself from life only to be haunted by memories from the life she had before the accident.   

In Jan Wong's book, Out of the Blue: A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness, Wong asks, "can a darkened environment soothe a depressed person...?"  It's an intriguing question I never considered before.  I would have to say yes, a darkened environment can soothe a depressed person.  Trois Colours: Bleu, for instance, is a dark film (film is a form of environment) and I found it soothing, when I was in depression, which, I guess accounts for why I watched it so often.  It's also a damn good film.

Taking pleasure in Misery Porn is normal for the depressed person and I tend to gravitate toward Misery Porn while in depression:  the story about the woman, for instance, who survives the holocaust, only to discover years later that the man who tortured and raped her in the camps and consequently fathered her two children is also the son she gave up when she got pregnant as a tween; at the end, after years of therapy with a crack pot psychologist, she gets Dementia and Alzheimer's and dies on the streets, lost, freezing to death in an isolated northern Manitoba community, where nobody cares because she's Aboriginal is decent Misery Porn.

Some of the best Misery Porn I would recommend is (in no particular order):

A Streetcar Names Desire (the play)
Sophie's Choice (the film)
The Bluest Eyes
Star Wars Episode 1, 2 & 3
Young Adult Vampire Fiction

I finished reading Wong's Out of the Blue on July 31, 2013 and like Wong's previous book, Beijing Confidential, I loved it.  Prior to purchasing the book, I e-mailed Jan Wong, telling her I really enjoyed reading Beijing Confidential and that I look forward to reading Out of the Blue.  Wong actually responded to me, noting that there is a scene in Out of the Blue that is an extension of the plot from Beijing Confidential.  I felt honoured  that Wong took the time to respond to me.

The following things, from Out of the Blue, caught my attention:

  • Depressed people are hypersensitive. 
  • Caring about someone doesn’t mean talking, talking, talking.  Being there is enough.
  • Read Jung Chang’s Wild Swans.  It’s about the Cultural Revolution and I only understand the  Revolution through film, like the Red Violin, which is a poor (but not useless) substitute for a first hand account of a significant historical event.
  • When I am stressed, food is my therapy and this is normal.
  • Chinese aphorism: Kill the chicken to scare the monkeys.  Sadly, I forget what it means and in what context it was used, but I liked it (and remembered it) nonetheless.
  • The Vortex Effect:  Joan Didion’s theory that things, events, streets, etc can trigger a depression.   In 2003, Didion lost her husband and wrote about it in The Year of Magical Thinking.  In 2005, Didion's adopted daughter died.  Blue Nights is that story.  I have the book and will read it shortly.
  • There is research to suggest that going through depression is good for you.

Both Wong and I recovered from depression and, I think, any person who has encountered depression would appreciate reading Out of the Blue.  I would also recommend that HR Professionals read the book.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Shame and Innocence

On August 1st, 2013 I attended the 100 Masters exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Galley. The following pieces caught my attention.

In no particular order:

(by Walter Gramatte)

The piece is haunting, almost demonic. I don't trust the woman standing up. Confession could almost replace the movie cover for The Conjuring and it, the movie, would still make sense with the Confession cover.

View of Dresden
(by Ernest Ludwig Kirchner)
I don't know why, but I like this piece because of Desden's history and the pink, blue and green scheme work oddly well.

Dresden after the bombing raid
The Modest Model
(by Paul Peel)
This is my favourite piece from the 100 Masters exhibit. The painting suggests both shame and innocence.  And, I know there's nothing pornographic about The Modest Model, BUT......there is a hint of something un-innocent occurring.  I don't know what it is, but my internal voice says, 'perverted old man.'   And, what's in the bottle by the old man's foot?

Le Concert
(by Pierre-Aguste Renoir)


In reality, these women were thin I'm told, but Renior painted them larger because, if I recall correctly, he liked plump women.


(by Lawren Harris)
These icebergs, very crystal-like, look like they've been sculpted.  The black water gives this picture an ominous feeling.

This is a mystery:
My handwritten notes say, "Kent - Gof7 - Frozen H20 Fall" and I can't find the image online.   This image is therefore lost to me.

Steamer at the Old Wharf, Nanaimo  
(by Edward John Hughs)

The red dock railing is the picture, for me.


(by Jack Chambes)

Simple. Elegant.
It reminds me of my cousin Michelle's home in Riverheights.

Island in the Ice
(by Tom Forrestall)
Lonely.  Cold.  Franklin's lost expedition; this is their lost home.  Or, this is the place you find before freezing to death if you're lost, wondering the arctic, looking for home (like the sailors from the Franklin expedition did for, reportedly, over two years).

Last Stand
(by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun)
Alien--the blue guy looks like an alien.  I would call this painting a post-modern Salvador Dali/Norval Morrisseau fusion.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Tudor Court Novels

I don’t know when it started – I can say this though, it started long before the sexually explicit Showcase series The Tudors, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers – but I have this fascination with the history of the Tudors, especially Mary Tudor (aka, Bloody Mary).


My interested with the Tudors may have actually germinated in late 1980s or early 1990s with the publication of Margaret George’s The Autobiography of Henry VIII with Notes by His Fool, Will Sommers:  A Novel, which I bought around the time of publication, but I haven’t read it yet.  It’s on my books-to-read-before-I-die list.

Philippa Gregory
I think my interest in the Tudors climaxed, so-to-speak, in 2009, when I started reading Philippa Gregory’s The Tudor Court Novels.  It all started with The Other Boleyn Girl, which I couldn’t put down, once I started reading it.  This is odd because there was a time when I thought Philippa Gregory was "popular trash," the sort of fiction that one finds in Walmart bargain bins.  I actually remember seeing a Philippa Gregory novel in my cousin’s car, years ago, and all I thought, rather snobbishly, when I saw the book in the back seat, was, 'I thought she [my cousin] was smarter than that.'


There are six books in the Tudor Court Novels:

The Constant Princess
Copyright:  2005
Read:  September 2009 

The Constant Princess is the third book I read and the fourth published, but in historical chronology, it’s the first book in the series, if that makes any sense.  This is the story of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first and most loyal wife.  Her life is one of constantly waiting.  On a scale of 1 through 10, this book is Phillippa Gregory's 5.

The Other Boleyn Girl 
Copyright:  2001
Read:  May 2009

This is the book that started it all, literally.  This book made Philappa Gregory a literary superstar.  It’s the story of Anne Boleyn as seen through the eyes of her sister, Mary.  On scale of 1 through 10, this book is Philappa Gregory’s 10.  This is the book by which all other Philippa Gregory books will judged against.  I'm no historian but I would wager that this book resurrected Mary, the other Boleyn girl, to history.

The Boleyn Inheritance
Copyright:  2006
Read:  July 2009

On the 1 through 10 scale, this book is Philappa Gregory’s 1 or 0.75.  Like the sexually explicit Showcase series The Tudors, this book is soft-core porn.  It concerns three women: Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's third wife and lived, Katherine Howard, the fourth wife and was hung, and Jane Rochford, the wife of George Boleyn, brother to Anne Boleyn--both whom are dead.   Henry VIII dies in this book--the pig bastard.

The Queen's Fool 
Copyright:  2003
Read:  July 2013

On the 1 through 10 scale, this book is Philappa Gregory’s 8.  This is the story of Mary Tudor, the first queen of England.  Mary's story, like her mother's story, Catherine of Aragon, is tragic, even pathetic.  This book also contains some extrasensory perception events, but it's done tastefully, I think.  Will Sommers, as noted above, appears in this book. I would love to see this book made into a BBC television miniseries.

The Virgin's Lover
Copyright:  2004
Not Read
As I just finished reading The Queen's Fool, I'm going to hold off for a while before I read another Philippa Gregory novel.  I don't want to get bored of her.  This book, by the way, is about Elizabeth. 

The Other Queen
Copyright:  2008
Not Read

And this book is about Mary, Queen of the Scots.  After The Autobiography of Henry VIII with Notes by His Fool, Will Sommers:  A Novel, the next Margaret George novel released was Mary Queen of Scotland and Isles.   It was published in 1992.  Mary Queen of Scotland and Isles, like The Other Queen, is in my library and, I should note, on my books-to-read-before-I-die list.


Mary Tudor:  The First Queen
by: Dr. Linda Porter
Copyright:  2007
Read:  December 2009

This book is "academic" and is concerned with the life of Mary Tudor.  The author, an historian, provides a sympathetic understanding of "Bloody Mary" and her reign.  Oddly, I read this book a lot quicker than I read the Philippa Gregory novels and on the Philippa Gregory scale (as noted above), I would give this book a 10.  Personally, I have this connection to people with tragic lives, like Nixon for instance, which may account for why Mary Tudor fascinates me.
Princess Mary by Master John

Generally speaking, I’m impressed with Philippa Gregory’s books.  Her novels are fun to read and despite having a Ph.D in 18th Century Literature, one should read Philippa Gregory the way one watches Hollywood movies that claim to be a true stories: you aren’t watching (or reading) a documentary.

NOTE:  The White Princess, which is part Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War Series has been made into a television miniseries.  I look forward to watching it.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Rape of Christ

Imagine a film by a top "auteur" director so controversial that even today, with our "evolved" sensibilities, Warner Brothers can't release it in its uncut entirety.

The film, made in 1971, is Ken Russell's The Devils and Richard Crouse, film critic, has written about it in:

I haven't finished the book yet - I'm about half way through - but I am enjoying Raising Hell so much that I have to write about it.

I've become obsessed with the film and the story of 1634 Loudun, France, where a group of nuns, allegedly possessed by the Devil, along with the inquisition, conspired(?) to get Urbain Grandier (played by Oliver Reed in the film) tortured and burned at the stake.  Aldous Huxley wrote about this history in the non-fiction book:


The Devils, the film, is full of notable scenes like this ONE, where Sister Jeanne (played by Vanessa Redgrave) imagines she's being ravished, maybe even raped, by Christ just off the cross, but the one scene that is maybe too provocative for our "evolved" sensibilities is called the Rape of Christ.

In short and to the point, the Rape of Christ scene is basically an orgy scene - orgy is such a 1970s word - involving nuns that has been described by an eye witness in the 1634 book: The History of The Devils of Loudun: The Alleged Possession of the Ursuline Nuns, and the Trial and Execution of Urban Grandier as follows:
           [The nuns] struck their chests and backs with their heads, as if they had their necks broken, and with inconceivable rapidity; they twisted their arms at the joints of the shoulder, the elbow or wrist, two or three times around.... their eyes remained open without blinking....  Their tongues issued suddenly from their mouths, horribly swollen, black, hard and covered with pimples....  They uttered cries so horrible and so loud that nothing like it was ever heard before.  They made use of expressions so indecent as to shame the most debauched of men, while their acts, both in exposing themselves and inviting lewd behavior from those present, would have astonished the inmates of the lowest brothels in the country.
(Quoted from Richard Crouse's Raising Hell)

The description above is worthy of William Peter Blatty.

Crouse does a excellent job explaining how the Rape of Christ scene went down. 

Coincidentally, I recently asked myself, whatever happened to Derek Jarman, the director of Edward II--a significant film for me.  The answer, oddly enough, came in Raising Hell.

Ken Russell, it should be noted, also directed Altered States, Gothic, The Lair of the White Worm and some other films which can be described as soft core porn.

Prediction: Warner Brothers will release The Devils, in its uncut entirety, within five years.