Less Sleaze – Week 5

Saturday 29 August 2009

After last week’s threat for drastic measures I did bugger all. Walked home four times from work (was a bit too tipsy on Friday night). Also this week had my last yoga classes for the month, I’ll need to re-enrol if I want to keep going (presently I’m sitting on about a 60/40 swing towards the affirmative compared to leaving it for a month).

Friday’s class was pretty hard – I don’t know if it was the early morning starts had finally got to me or all the walking but I had no centre of balance with my widdle wegs wobbling and wavering away. It’s never a good sign when you spend the entire class watching the clock – “15 minutes to go, 13 minutes to go, 10 minutes to go…”. At the very end when we are supposed to be relaxing (or “focussing on our awareness within” – gees yoga instructors come up with some rubbish expressions), with our legs up the wall with two bolsters under our backs, my leg muscles kept pulsating in complaint. I tell ya – at one point I just thought “Right, I’m not going to work today, I’m just in too much pain!” Of course, by the time I was back home, everything was all right but my legs didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day.

Did make a very nice beetroot soup which turns out to be a far better cold soup than hot one. Hot it lost all its texture and became overwhelmed by the sour cream and embellishments; cold the flavour came intense and the weight of the soup coated your mouth. Delicious!

–+–

Beetroot Soup with Creme Fraiche and Chives

From Delicious Magazine, April 2008

Serves 4-6

  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 desiree potato, peeled, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 litre chicken or veg stock
  • 450g can baby beetroot, drained and roughly chopped
  • creme fraiche (or sour cream), croutons and finely snipped chives, to serve
  • extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle.

Heat butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook stirring for 3min for until slightly softened. Add the potato and cook, stirring for a further 5min. Add bay leaf, stock and 1 cup water. Increase the heat to medium high, bring to boil, then cook for a further 5min or until the veg are very tender. Add the beetroot and simmer for about 3min.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then discard the bay leaf. Using a stick blender, blend soup until smooth. Season soup to taste, and warm through over low heat if necessary.

To serve, divide soup among bowls, and top each with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream. Scatter with croutons and chives, then drizzle with oil.

Personally, I reckon chill the soup and skip all that decorative crap and let the texture of the soup speak for itself. Be a great summer meal.

–+–

Suppose I better go climb on those scales, hey? 85.0

Week
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Sleaze
87.3 86.3 85.2 85.8 86.0 85.0
-1.0 -1.1 +0.6 +0.2 -1.0
-1.0 -2.1 -1.5 -1.3 -2.3

Well, that’s good news, isn’t it? The lowest ever, can’t be upset by that.

Still, though, to inspect the teeth, at this rate I’m probably not going to get to under 80 by Sleaze, which is a disappointment. I suppose it’s all got to do with my commitment.

No, No! I’m committed to the cause. Positive thoughts – I can do it I can do it I can do it. I will cut back on the amber and vino, up the vegies and put on those gym shoes and get out in the sun.

Might just have a nap first, and something to eat. I think there’s some bacon in the fridge…

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“The Metamorphosis”: An Analysis (or) Kafka and the Science Fiction / Horror Film Genre (or) How you too can become a Mad Scientist using ordinary household objects and a barrel of toxic waste.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

This was one of my university pieces for the year. I got an HD.

In the 1968 film “The Producers” Zero Mostel’s character Max Bialystock is searching for the worst play. From one he reads the opening line: “Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to discover that he had been transformed into a giant cockroach.” He thinks for a moment, then says: “Nah, it’s too good.”

But he was wrong: it wasn’t a giant cockroach. The German word that Kafka uses in his short story “The Metamorphosis” was “ungeziefer”, but this doesn’t translate well into English, meaning “an unclean animal not suited for sacrifice.” Colloquially “ungeziefer” translates to mean “bug”, but this doesn’t have the full effect of disgust that Kafka envisioned. Most Enlgish translations have settled on the word “vermin”, such as Stanley Corngold’s, which is the translation this essay will refer to. (Please note that page numbers for “Metamorphosis” as are it appears in The Norton Critical Edition.)

So what is Gregor?

The cleaning maid who visits Gregor refers to him as a dung beetle (33), but that’s probably a pet name. Kafka would refer to Gregor as an insect, but insisted it wasn’t a cockroach (Binder, 173). Nabokov went further, providing drawings of what design of beetle Gregor becomes, but did finalise his argument simply: “He is merely a big beetle.” (Nabokov, 260)

So what is Gregor?

Following Kafka’s descriptive clues he’s a strange conglomerate. Gregor has a flexible neck, able to move his head quite freely (6), unlike common beetles. He also has, at the beginning of the story anyway, working vocal chords (5), but these disappear in time – afterwards he can only hiss (36). While he has a hard armour plated back (3), his father is still able to lodge an apple into his back’s soft skin (29). His strong mandibles are delicate enough to be able to turn a key in its lock (11). He has antennae (16), and sticky pads on his feet that he uses to climb the walls (23), yet he so large he has immense trouble squeezing through a single open door (15) and his weight requires “two strong persons” (7). He has flanks (15), more a beast-like possession, and nostrils (39) and bulging eyes (18). So while Gregor maintains many beetle-like traits, he is more likely a grotesque mix of insect and human.

So what is Gregor?

Jungian basic principles argue that everything is made up of opposites and that the psyche (the human mind) is motivated by the need to reconcile these opposites, thereby reaching a higher state of consciousness (Lucanio, 15). Jung called this process Individuation. A major aspect of this process is the emergence and recognition of definitive archetypal images. These include: The Shadow (the inferior side of man); The Persona (the outward social façade that is publicly displayed); and the Self (the god-like image that represents individuation) (ibid, 83). Jung said that “The Individuation process brings up the true personality of a person, it makes him an Individual. Individuation generally has a profound healing effect on the person.” (ibid, 14) Has Gregor Samsa reached Individuation?

Gregor has worked as a travelling salesman for the last five years (3), paying off his father’s debt after his business went bust, and gambles that he will need to work another 5 years before the debt is fully paid (4). He has arranged the rental of the Samsa’s apartment (42). He supports the whole family who seem to do nothing but sit at home; at least none of them work. He is the slave to his employer to the extent that the manager of the firm comes to collect him when he is only 15 minutes late (9). Gregor, when he first metamorphoses, frets constantly not about his newfound bug condition but about loosing his job (4). Gregor, the Gregor who exists before the book begins, is Jung’s Shadow – an inferior, riddled with fantasy (sending his sister to college for instance (20)) and resentment to his work colleagues (4). Gregor is, in all sense, treated like a vermin and, as such, metamorphosis into his public Persona – a monstrous vermin. And here, after waking one morning from unsettling dreams, Kafka begins the story.

Gregor is part of an ancient line of storytelling – the shape shifter – the battle between good and evil, or Jungian’s opposites. Consider Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde: a mad scientist releasing his beast. Or Dorian Gray: who keeps his true self locked away in an attic. It’s an inward Victor Frankenstein: creating the monster within. Frankenstein, another mad scientist (there are a lot of mad scientists in the shape shifter genre) was playing God, renewing life to dead flesh. (In the 1931 James Whale film, there is a line blanked out by the sound effect of thunder: “Now I know what it feels like to be God!” The line was considered blasphemous, but you can still watch his lips move.)

But the Frankenstein and Jekyl are not alone, especially not in the world of cinema. Metamorphosed giant bugs are everywhere. In Roger Corman’s “The Wasp Woman” (1960) the founder of a large cosmetics company, in an attempt to dispel the aging process, starts injecting herself with an extract developed by a crazed scientist, derived from the royal jelly of the queen wasp. It works, shedding twenty years in a single weekend, but in the process turns her into a giant wasp-headed monster with a taste for blood

“Invasion of the Bee Girls” (1973) was a sexual romp with a small town’s female population being turned into hives of bees by a female mad scientist. The outer world only realises what’s going on when the menfolk start dieing from sexual exhaustion. (Leonard Maltin rates it 3 out of 4 stars. (Maltin, 680))

1997’s “Mimic” has a scientist (here an entomologist) creating a genetically modified cockroach in an attempt to wipe out another breed of cockroach which carries a child-killing disease. The modified ‘roach breeds and breeds, each cycle growing larger and developing a more human appearance, until it starts feeding on subway passengers of Manhatten.

More recently the 2005 film “Mansquito” has another scientist, by trying to stop a mosquito-carried virus, treat some of the mosquitos with radiation to then have them released into the environment to kill off the rest of the brood. In the process the scientist and a convicted murderer get zapped and transform into, you guessed it, giant blood sucking mosquitos.

All these examples feature evil monsters, but the granddaddy metamorphosis film of all “The Fly” (1958), based on a short story by George Langelaan, portrays the creature as the victim. Here a scientist, during a teleportation experiment, morphs himself with a fly creating a human with a fly’s head and claw (instead of a hand), and a fly with a man’s head. Here the “monster”, while grotesque in form, is shown as maintaining his mind, his psyche (to refer back to Jung) remaining human, yet aware that the fly’s influence is slowly taking over. Langelaan’s story was later refilmed by David Cronenberg in 1986 (Cronenberg talks of reading Kafka regularly in interviews (Rodley, 16; Grant, 12)). Cronenberg’s version plays stronger with this notion of the human remaining. Late in the film Jeff Goldblum’s character Seth Brundle says to Geena Davis:

Seth (Goldblum): You have to leave now, and never come back here. Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I. Insects… don’t have politics. They’re very… brutal. No compassion, no compromise. We can’t trust the insect. I’d like to become the first… insect politician. Y’see, I’d like to, but… I’m afraid, uh…

Ronnie (Davis): I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

Seth: I’m saying… I’m saying I – I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over… and the insect is awake.

Ronnie: No. no, Seth…

Seth: I’m saying… I’ll hurt you if you stay.

Gregor Samsa was also an insect that dreamt he was a man, but again, after unsettling dreams, the insect awoke.

So what is Gregor?

What’s interesting about Gregor is that, really, as a person, he is nothing. He’s not a scientist like Brundle or Jeckyl, but a boring travelling salesman – a figure of ridicule. A slave to his employer, he is also a slave to his family. Gregor is the one who is made to work while his father, still fit for duty, lazes at home. Kafka emphasises this captured state when he notes Gregor’s father has even declined to pay off the debt faster – he has money stored away (20) – so in the process keeping his son contracted and allowing the family to feed further off Gregor. As such Gregor, bound by duty and with no strength of mind, becomes the one thing he is treated as – vermin – yet while in this state continues to feel sorry for himself. He begins to resent his sister’s attempts to assist him (25). He turns on his only “friend” the cleaning lady (33), he respects his father for keeping money from him (20), he weeps for his family now that they are resolved to work (29). Finally, full of self-pity (his last breath is taken “without his consent” (39)), he dies. Gregor’s Jungian opposites have met to find they are the same: his Shadow, Persona and Self are the one – a monstrous vermin. Jung’s Individuation’s “profound healing effect” is for Gregor to understand his worthlessness.

But Kafka’s metaphor that “people are vermin” stretches further. His own family suckle on him like fleas on a mangy dog. The manager pompously threatens him with neglect of his duty to the firm (9). His room is treated like a storage closet by both the family and the cleaning maid, ever more crowded, ever more filled with dust (33). The three serious gentlemen, indulge in the Samsa’s hospitality, manipulating Mr Samsa’s weak nature to demand their way (34). In “Metamorphosis” each character feeds off the next, with Kafka continuing this notion to the final paragraph. While enjoying their first day in the sun, the parents become aware of Grete’s blossoming maturity and silently comment it will be soon time to find her a husband (42). Is this merely pride in their daughter’s development? No! It’s an opportunity to sponge off their as yet undiscovered son-in-law and to return back to the indulgent life that Gregor had once provided!

So what is Gregor?

The German title for Kafka’s story is “Die Verwandlung”. The word is closer in meaning to “The Transformation” than “Metamorphosis” – it also refers to the changing of scenes in a play – though, as Corngold suggests the title “Metamorphosis” is slightly more elevated in tone (2). Gregor Samsa has been the constant victim of translation; Cynthia Ozick, refers to it “the impossibility of translating Kafka.” She says that there is “always for Kafka, behind [the overt] meaning” another meaning that can never be translated (Ozick, 81). Victoria Poulakis in her online essay on Kafka translations, compares four versions of the opening sentence alone: unsettling dreams / uneasy dreams / troubled dreams / agitated dreams; and gigantic insect / giant bug / enormous bug / monstrous vermin. Minor changes, but elsewhere Kafka’s meaning can be altered. Does Grete demand that “He’s got to go” or “It has to go” when referring to her brother? It is interesting that Kafka edited Grete’s earlier comment “We must get rid of him” to “We must get rid of it” helping to emotionally distance the character Grete from the creature Gregor (Corngold, 55) (This “distancing” can be considered an example of Grete’s metamorphosis considering she was at first willingly tended to his feeding (18)). Likewise, some translations emphasise the budding sexuality of the developing Grete. While Corngold describes her as a “good-looking shapely girl”, Donna Freed has her now a “pretty and voluptuous young woman”. As such, different interpretation can be attributed to the Grete’s metamorphism, with Freed’s translation emphasising Grete’s increased sexual appeal to potential husbands. This interpretation also gives weight to the argument of her parent’s plans to live off the wealth of the future marriage – a more attractive woman will more likely fetch a more affluent catch – and all the better for them (just like vermin) to feed from. The cycle, at least for the Samsa parents, continues.

Zero Mostel (from “The Producers”) later stared in another metamorphosis film “Rhinceros” (1974) based on Ionesco’s absurdist play, where everyone, in an act of conformity, turn into rhinoceroses. While “The Producers” won the Oscar for best screenplay and cemented the film careers of Mostel, Gene Wilder, and Mel Brooks, “Rhinoceros”, also starring Wilder, didn’t do as well. Maltin rates it: BOMB (Maltin, 1145). Perhaps not all metamorphosises metamorphose equally?

Readings:

Cartmell, D et al (ed). Alien Identities: Exploring Difference in Film and Fiction. Pluto Press, 1999.

Creed, B. The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychonanlysis. Routledge, 1993.

Grant, M (ed). The Modern Fantastic – The Films of David Cronenberg. Praeger, 2000.

Kafka, F; trans Corngold, S. The Metamorphosis. Norton Critical Edition, 1996.

Lucanio, P. Them or Us: Archetypal Interpretations of Fifties Alien Invasion Films. Indiana University Press, 1987.

Maltin, L. Leonard Maltin’s 2008 Movie Guide. Plume, 2007

Nabokov, V. Lecture on “Metamorphosis”. Weblink last viewed April 2009: http://victorian.fortunecity.com/vermeer/287/nabokov_s_metamorphosis.htm

Nabokov V. Lectures on Literature. Harvest, 1980.

Ozick, Cynthia. The Impossibility of Being Kafka. The New Yorker, 11 Jan 1999

Poulakis, V. Translation: What Difference Does It Make? Northern Virginia Community College, 2001. Weblink last viewed April 2009: http://www.nvcc.edu/home/vpoulakis/Translation/home.htm

Rodley, C (ed). Cronenberg on Cronenberg. Faber and Faber, 1997.

Films:

The Fly (1958). 20th Century Fox. dir K Neumann; wri G Langelaan (story), J Clavell (screen)

The Fly (1986). Brooksfilms. dir D Cronenberg; wri G Langelaan (story), C Edward Pogue & D Cronenberg (screen)

Frankenstein (1931). Universal Pictures. dir J Whale; wri M Shelley (novel), P Webling (play), J L Balderston (adapt), F Edward Faragoh & G Fort (screen)

Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973). Sequoia Pictures. dir D Sanders; wri N Meyer

Mansquito (2005). Sci Fi Pictures. dir T Takács; wri K Badish, R Cannella, B Davidson, M Hurst

Mimic (1997) Dimension Films. dir G del Toro; D A Wollheim (story), M Robbins & G del Toro (screen)

The Producers (1968). Embassy Pictures. wri & dir M Brooks

Rhinceros (1974), American Film Theatre. dir T O’Horgan; wri E Ionesco (play), J Barry (screen)

The Wasp Woman (1960). Film Group Inc. dir R Corman; wri K Zertuche (story), L Gordon (screen)


Less Sleaze – Week 6

Saturday 22 August 2009

Well.

I’ve been walking home from work. It takes me, to do the 6 kilometres, 55 minutes, getting home just before 6pm. If I catch the train I get home around the 5.37pm mark so it’s only taking an extra 15 to 20 minutes to hike the distance. It’s not a bad thing.

Been enjoying my food and turps just a little too much this week, which I reckon will be my downfall. Last night Ashley and I met up after work and… umm… I think it was somewhere around the 11 o’clock mark when we headed homeward. He tells me he got home at 11.30 so I’m guessing that I made the opposite distance to my abode around the same time. I do know, however, that my monthly Subway subscription had arrived in the mail as the remnants of a foot-long Pizza Sub wrapper lurk just under the garbage bin lid.

(Note to self: Must cancel that subscription.)

First things first: a poo, a shower and a pot of coffee.

OK. I’ve crapped, cleansed and caffeinated; here we go: 86.0

Week
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Sleaze
87.3 86.3 85.2 85.8 86.0
-1.0 -1.1 +0.6 +0.2
-1.0 -2.1 -1.5 -1.3

Fuck. Fuck! Fuckity fuck fuck fuckity fuck! FUCK!

Sorry…

Damn. Damn! Damity damn damn damnity damn! DAMN!

Well, drastic times call for drastic measures…


If you want gold, you have to pay for gold

Wednesday 19 August 2009

A man walks into a doctor’s studio. “Doctor, doctor,” the man says, “I can’t work out if I’m a singlet or a T-shirt.”

“Aah, don’t worry about it mate,” says the doctor, “you’re just too tops!”

(Thank you! Thank you!)


Less Sleaze – Week 7

Saturday 15 August 2009

A slothful week, the last one. Ate way too much greasy food. Besides yoga and the stairs at work no additional exercise… well, I did walk home twice from the pub.

Ah yes, the pub. How many drinks last night? I don’t remember. I think there was also a kebab on the way home; I’ve only the remnants of the wrapper and some shredded cheese as evidence. At least I didn’t go iTunes shopping again…

Not expecting good results. I won’t be surprised if I’ve gone the other way. So, a bowl of cereal, a banana, and a shower later, I step on the scales: 85.8.

Week
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Sleaze
87.3 86.3 85.2 85.8
-1.0 -1.1 +0.6
-1.0 -2.1 -1.5

Ah. Well, no surprise really. Better luck next week, hey?


Happy First Birthday to Clyde!

Wednesday 12 August 2009

We live in exiting times – Clyde has turned one! Yay Clyde!

birthday

Who would have thunk it, hey? Admittedly, Clyde’s birthday was last Wednesday but I was too engrossed in tales of farting grandmothers to remember.

On Tuesday 5 August 2008 I sat down my trusty laptop Rose and clacked out my first entry. Over the next 12 months I wrote a further 83 entries at an average of one post every 4.35 days. Considering my original goal was one every five days that are impressive numbers.

Over this time I’ve talked about things I’ve done and thoughts I’ve had, stupid stuff and serious stuff. I used this blog as diary, sounding board and confessional. I’ve tried different ways and styles of writing, and considering this blog was always supposed to be an experiment and an exercise in the art of writing I think I’ve done a pretty good job.

And it seems that, in the Blogoshere, me lasting a whole year is an impressive feat. One site I found (dated September 2008) stated that several studies indicate that most blogs are abandoned soon after creation, with somewhere between 60% to 80% abandoned within one month, and that few are regularly updated. In 2003, the New York Times wrote that one study found that 66% of the 4.12 million blogs created on eight leading blog-hosting services have been “abandoned” – that is, not updated for at least two months – and 1.09 million of those only ever posted one entry.

It should be noted that in June 2008 Technorati, a search engine for searching blogs, had charted 112.8 million blogs. Historically the Blogoshere has doubled every six and a half months with more than two blogs created each second of each day, and about 1.6 million postings per day which is about 18.6 posts per second. In comparison me attempting to keep it regular with one new post every five days is somewhat abysmal! (Incidentally, I’m not going to reference this bit as I’ve spliced it from a couple of sources and I’ve closed some of the pages and how I’m sure how up to date any of this is, but I think you can get the drift that there are a LOT of blogs out there. For more information on Technorati’s State of the Blogoshere click here.)

Anyway, before I spin off on some sort of electronic fact-finding mission, what I’m getting at is I’m pretty damn happy to still be going a year on. And I hope you are too.

I can’t really tell you how many people read Clyde. I used to have some sort of tracking thing which I’ve forgotten the name of; if I find it I’ll let you know. I do know, though, that I’ve been visited 1,632 times, and there have been 57 comments, so happy with the visited number but nuts to you re the comments. Come on you peoples – type something!

So, with all proceeds going to the Hill sisters, Happy Birthday to Clyde! I hope you’ll join me for Number Two… on second thoughts, that doesn’t sound as appetising as I would have hoped.

–+–

PS: Found it! I’ve got eight subscribers. Eight; is that all? I’ve been visited 1632 times and only eight people have bothered to subscribe – the shame! Well, to those wonderful eight people I say thank you, thank you, thank you. If I ever find out who any of you are I’m buying you a drink. To the rest of you, GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER! All you’ve got to do is click in the “Mailing List” box at the top of the right hand column and follow the link. Honestly, what’s the point of putting it there if you’re not going to click on it – sheesh!

(I’ve probably just gone and pissed you off now – sorry! Remember, there’s a drink in it for you.)

–+–

PPS: I’ve just worked out to find out who you wonderful eight people are: DRINKS ARE ON ME!


Less Sleaze – Week 8

Saturday 8 August 2009

Built up the incidental exercise this week. Did the stairs at work whenever I needed to get about, though I have yet to start taking the stairs the nine floors all the way up (When I have I usually need most of the afternoon to recover). I walked home three times – once from uni and twice from work. I also undertook my first two yoga classes.

Pity that it’s on so early in the morning; who knew that there were two 6.30s in the day! The good thing is the class is two minutes walk from my place so I really don’t have to get out of bed till ten minutes before. It’s true though, once you’re up and about it’s quite a nice time to be up and about. The sky is the deep luminous blue of a Papilio ulysses, and besides the drunk arguing with himself on the zebra crossing (right outside my building, thank you) the only people about are those with real jobs – garbos, plumbers, and the like.

In the class there is me, three post menopausal aged women, and a GenY who kept complaining that her feet where cold. Wednesday’s teacher was one of those ultra skinny creatures in black tights who did not as such talk but breathed her instructions. “Full inhalation, full exhalation,” she repeated constantly. Friday’s was taught by a chunkier woman who kept telling us off for not having our feet in the right position. Actually, she pushed us to hold the stretches longer so I preferred her class. Both of them, though, would get just a little too thrilled when you did something right. “Good, gooooooood!” they would squeal once you’d managed to tuck your sitting bone under, turn on your kneecaps, spread your toes, drop your shoulders, open up your front groin, and rotate your head to the sun. People get excited about some of the strangest things.

(Incidentally, I had a quick chat with a couple of the doctors and physiotherapists at work and they have all ensured me that there is no such thing as a sitting bone. They were also a little concerned with the idea of a front groin; I mean, is there any other type?)

Actually, I really enjoyed it and I think I was pretty good at it too. I’m not interested in all the spiritualism behind it, and the pictures of the old dudes bent over backwards with their heads up their backsides are a little unsettling, but I could feel the stretches were doing me good. Can’t say that I broke into a sweat or anything but a little limberness could never go astray.

Right, the scales. Let’s give them a go: 85.2.

Week
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Sleaze
87.3 86.3 85.2
-1.0 -1.1
-1.0 -2.1

That’s brilliant! Slow easy steps. With a bit more walking, being a bit easier with the beer, and keeping to a sensible diet I’ll definitely be in the 70s by Sleaze Ball.