25 January, 2016


presented by

Mystic Metals Body Jewelry


There is a very short list of films that can really get into my empty skull and rattle around like a lone marble in a coffee can. They bother me for days, making me look at the world differently, and most disturbingly, make me feel. Art should make one think. That's what it is designed to do. Create ideas and perceptions previously vacant. The films that make me feel are the ones that, for the next three days, I will be introspective and introvertedly disturbed. And they don't have to be horror films. Actually, the majority of the films on my short list are science fiction. One is Ex Machina, and I recently discovered after downloading the score (I payed for it, don't turn me in to the big, bad government) that the music is likely the chief player in my upset. It's beautiful and upsetting. The kind of upsetting that makes me avoid looking into mirrors or opening my eyes in a dark room. It's outstanding. If you haven't experienced it, do. The remainder of that list, for those who are curious, is A Scanner Darkly, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Donnie Darko, Oldboy, Funny Games, May, Her, Vanilla Sky, and 9.

Why does any of this matter. They're just films. Writing now, listening to the beautiful score of Ex Machina, I think about the masterpiece and why it bothered me, and I can see the tethers that attach my sense of upset to the themes and visuals of the film. Humanity, sense of self awareness, sense of value and purpose. Sense of perfection. Acknowledgement of God as man or otherwise. By the way, The Passion of the Christ should be on that list too. I'll go add that in draft two. Draft two; that's hilarious. Anyway, for those who haven't seen Ex Machina, an eccentric and misanthropic billionaire genius search engine owner, Nathan, creates a robot named Ava and brings one of his employees, Caleb, to his estate to determine if the robot AI has consciousness. It's nominated for some Oscars, including best original screenplay of which it is sure to be robbed by something inferior, I have no doubt.

So where are the aforementioned tethers. It snowed this weekend. A lot. In a very brief amount of time. The owner of the house I live in was out of town. It was just me, the cat, an old pizza, some cigarettes, and Fallout 4 for a couple of days. I learned how to use her Keurig machine, though. That was an accomplishment. During the snowing, I gathered my pants, a lighter, a shovel, some pride, and the new SLAYER record (SLAYER should always be spelled in all caps), and I went outside to shovel the driveway. You all know that I'm disabled with spina bifida, so I oughtn't have to get into the particulars. If you didn't know, then you must not read my blog. And if you don't read my blog, you'll never see this. Or this. But the task wasn't that the snow needed to be cleared from the driveway. Not entirely. The task was a reassessment of my humanity as a corporal thing governed by a mind.

Woah there, Daniel Dennett; slow down. It's just snow. It is. You're correct, naysayer saying nay to my ideas. But there are other layers. In Ex Machina, there is a perception of potential stifled by confinement. (I'm trying gingerly to not spoil the film.) The actual confinement of a thing can be metaphorically applied to a sense of the self confinement of the mind's body prison. The mind is limitless. It can conjure anything, and it is the only lens through which we perceive our reality and the possible realities that are otherwise imperceptible. It is a magnificent thing that will never be understood because in order to understand it, we must use it to do the understanding. It is a constant defining of a word while using the word in the definition, which can never conjure objectivity. After all, it is the only thing that has ever named itself. My mind is an infinite and invincible beast piloting a vehicle that is neither.

The goal of the snow shoveling was multifaceted. My beautiful friend who owns the house I live in would be arriving home after the storm, and I wanted her to have a place to park. It's her house, after all. It's the least I could do for her generosity. But selfishly, the core reason was that I wanted to be able to say that I did something physical with my broken and useless body. I'm thirty-five years old and save the spina bifida, excessive smoking, absurd caffeine addiction, and a biblical sized file at my therapist's office, I'm in pretty good health. (Dilutions are fun sometimes.) I shoveled for about twenty minutes, rested for about ninety, and shoveled for another thirty. I failed. Triumphantly. Triumphant is a word not nearly triumphant enough to describe my failure. The portion of driveway I managed to clear was covered quickly by the persistent snow, making it appear as if I never shoveled at all. I returned to my room, ate the old pizza, leveled my Fallout character to twenty-one, and cried over my gross disappointment.

I woke the next day, knowing the snow was persistent overnight, to scorching spine pain. I looked through the window near my bed after opening the curtains by request of the cat's metronome like tapping on the window with his claw. He enjoys the morning view through the window. If only I had drummers who could play in that meticulous timing. My truck had been dug out, and the plowed embankment defending the apron of the driveway had been excavated. I sprung from my bed as portrayed by that delightful Christmas poem, and then realized that springing for a cripple involves a slow and arduous bending accompanied by sounds only heard in a public bathroom as a stranger in a stall is working really, really hard. I gathered myself, went outside for a cigarette, and saw my elderly neighbor working on his own driveway. I walked over to speak with him. He had dug out my car, and cleared the sidewalk. I thanked him. He's a nice old man. I returned to the world of Fallout's post apocalyptic Boston, paused the game, and cried. I ought to be helping him, and this snowy realization was a blizzard wind to my ego telling me there are things I cannot do; and as much as I convince others, strangers mostly, that I am contented with my limitations, I learned in a soft standing chime melody that I am very much not.

I very rarely accept my humanity. Humanity is an inherent flaw of being human. And I dislike it. But the unavoidable realization of it, much like Caleb and Ava's discovery of what is actual and what is theoretical, is often tragic. It is a helplessness and an examination of value. Yes, I have value. However, every two years when the Four Horsemen of the Snowpocalypse come, my ability to craft a brilliant and moving sonnet has no value at all when what is required is shoveling. It is difficult to ignore when the seventy-five year old man next door is saving your crippled ass, carefree and happily.

There is no resolution here. Just a moment to vent some frustration without the inevitable feedback from my able friends whose intentions are beautiful and caring, but experience ignorant. I have learned through all of my failed relationships that there is a time to offer feedback and advice, and a time to nod and agree unconditionally. Sadly, I've also realized that I am solidified in my perception of myself and my disability, and I don't like it. There is a cheerleading of disables that we are not so much disabled but differently abled, and I reject that wholly. I understand it from ables, and sometimes appreciate it as an example of an attempted understanding. And that has value. But I am not contented with my disability, nor will I attempt to be so long as I cannot shovel a driveway. Daily affirmations of what is, regardless of what my mind perceives. I suppose that reads like a midlife crisis. Aren't I a little young for that? I suppose that means I'll live until seventy. I'll take that. Seventy is enough. Shit, fifty-eight is enough, I think.

This rant took a bleak turn, and I ought to apologize for that. I won't, but I ought to. The moral of the story is that science fiction movies are awesome, and you should watch Ex Machina and tell me what you think. It should have been nominated for Best Picture. But that's Hollywood, I guess. Hating on robots again and again. #OscarsSoHuman Stay beautiful, kids.

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