Open Diary
Claudio Pinhanez 

 

Why do I always have this awful need to make other people see things
as I do? It's childish, why could they? What it amounts to is that I'm
scared of being alone in what I feel.

by Claudio Pinhanez

Ireland and its people, its stones and green valleys, guiness and old castles. I traveled 4 days, driving through its narrow roads, sheep eating grass for the eternity. Two images are engraved, the library of the Trinity College (Dublin) and the fortresses in Aran Islands. After going to the (old) library of Trinity College where the Book of Keels is kept, I start to understand Jorge L. Borges' and Humberto Eco's mythical fascination with books and libraries. Now I know what they are talking about. I walked up the stairs and entered through the middle of the cathedral-like library, all the feelings and lives behind those old books were going through my spine. Books were angels, and we were worshiping the writer and the anonymous copiers. Later on, all those disturbing images from the Aran Islands, where the world ends in 200-foot high cliffs all around the islands. A fortress is built as a semi-circle, nobody can climb the cliffs and attack from behind. I feel like children needing to be tied to long ropes, the parents scared all their lives that any play can end up in tragedy. Disturbing, hearty, and sincere, Ireland.
(Mar. 10th 1996)

The Children's Hour, William Wyler's version of Lillian Hellman's play, really caught my attention last week. A blend of good acting -- especially Shirley MacLaine, even James Garner has many good moments -- and vibrant, powerful direction. The last segment is a master-piece, from the moment Audrey Hepburn goes out, just before her friend hangs herself, to the walk after the burial. Movie story-telling, and realistic acting at its best. Hepburn's display of relief, just before the end, is just perfect, the exact amount of intensity, a bit more would be melodrama. But why we can find this movie just in the gay and lesbian sections of video-stores?
(Dec. 27th 1995)

Unspoken thoughts, that's what writing this open diary has been about. About feelings, ideas, sensual thoughts which I couldn't find a friendly ear to give to. I deceive myself that voicing those ideas here lead them to be listened, to touch someone diaphanously hidden in the cyberspace. Like a wolf howling in the darkness. With all the loneliness of the desert. No one speaks back.
(Sep. 20th 1995)

Theater in movies, I've just realized how much I appreciate movies which borrow from the theatrical experience and knowledge. I'm not talking about filmed theater, but about films which employ the "suspension of disbelief" present in theater. Some examples, from a collection of personal favorites, are , "Mishima", "The One From the Heart", "Council of Love", "Carnaval" (a Spanish movie), a Jos Stelling's movie about a madhouse (I can't remember the name, now), "Caravaggio", "Vania on 42nd Street", Peter Greenaway's movies like "Drowning by Numbers", Prospero's Books, and "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover", "Raising Arizona", "Jesus of Montreal", and others. What they have in common is a denial of realism as a form of expression, without necessarily having a plot occurring in a fantastic realm. It's not Garcia Marques' fantastic realism, it's just non-realistic scenario and acting. Like it is always needed in theater.
(Aug. 16th 1995)

I've just realized I've been maintaining some fan-club relationships, the kind of friendship where all the attention and care has basically one direction. It's so easy to get along with someone and start being stupid, diminishing yourself, caring about someone's else feelings and desires without counterpart. Like when you spent hours buying a birthday present for a friend, and he/she simply forgets, or worse, ignores, your birthday. Or writing e-mails which are never answered, or replied with telegram-like-long comments. But, at the same time, I feel always ready to be friendly to those friends, to listen to their problems. Completely awkward, and inherently human. Fan-clubs. It seems similar to the relation I'm having with the WWW readers through this page, like putting my feelings on air without having answers. Kind of intentional desire or pleasure to be ignored on purpose.
(Aug. 8th 1995)

Last weekend I went to Provincetown, MA., a charming city which attracts lots of homosexuals (both men and women). It's fascinating that you can see homosexual couples all around, holding hands, giving tender kisses, smiling in restaurants, etc. Shouldn't be anything so special, but it is because they seem to be extremely happy that they can act out their love and their feelings. Unlike most of cities, neighborhoods, and workplaces, nobody is caring about homosexuality, and the acting out produces a happiness which permeates the town. The pleasure of walking hugging someone you care and you are cared by. A honey-moon feeling in the air, of love, tenderness, sex, and affection finally being acted out.
(Aug. 1st 1995)

If cyberspace is the next frontier , the important question to be asked is "Who are going to play the Indians?". Forgetting Hollywood, the conquer of the West was a bloody slaughtering of the native people of the prairies. I have a feeling that the closest people to be considered "native" of cyberspace are the Interneters. We can then continue our analogy further: like Native Americans, native Interneters believe in communal spirit, in self-organization, and in meritocracy; they love to chat around (cyber-) fires; and they don't have (economic) guns.
(Apr. 19th 1995)

Merce Cunningnhan's Breakers is an interesting example of how human gestures compose a very particular language. It is completely "concrete dance", in the same way we have concrete painting or music: every movement of the dancers is pure form, without any "figurativistic" meaning associated with it. You can't recognize fear, love, or a couple dancing: it is just movement, carefully choreographed such as to completely avoid meaningful references. It is not easy to watch, and after the thirty minutes you have the awkward feeling that a story was not told. But the message is clear, traditional dance (and gestures) cover only a small subset of the human body movements. There is meaning associated to only part of our body can do, an important lesson to everyone in the business of understanding human gestures.
(Mar. 13th. 1995)

Marty died last week. And my most vivid impression, the moment when I was definitely conquered by him, it happened during last year's Media Lab Christmas Party. He appeared dressed as Santa Clauss, giving stickers and candies. A big smile, and lots of surprised smiles in response. Giving, that's the word to describe him, which I learned during that special night.
There should be a law against dying young.
(Feb. 10th. 1995)

Movies are talking, at least American movies. It is great to watch movies with great dialogues, with short, deep, astonishing sentences which define/break/illuminate characters. Yesterday I saw "Trust", by Hal Hartley, which is fantastic in its simplicity, in the way words are said in front of antiseptic backgrounds. Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" is another good example of strong dialogues. I also include two movies made from plays, Fred Schepisi's "Six Degrees of Separation" and Louis Malle's "Vanya on 42nd Street". Perhaps this is just some of my bias for theater, I really enjoy good acting and strong dialogues.
(Feb. 1st. 1995)

Generation X, or my generation. The "X" is not because it is not clear what this generation is going to be. The "X" is due to our fear of trying, of experimenting. "X", here, stands for a variable that we do not dare to bound. We're grown up watching many of the great experiments of the century failuring: free love, radical politics, extreme feminism, drugs, communism. And we got scared of trying, we know how and why things do not work. As individuals, we have fear of loving, of giving yourselves: we'd rather being stuck in a relationship, washing dishes behind an apron, than going for a chance of discovery, of meeting another -- lonely -- soul. We always think about the next day, during the night before. As for intellectuals, the result is stagnation, mediocrity, great ideas buried in shy assertions. Well, I am not sure about the great ideas, we are afraid even to think big. Not mentioning to act.
(Jan. 26th. 1995)

A soundtrack to "Godel, Escher, Bach", that's a good definition of Glen Gould's "The Idea of North". I listened a part of it in the movie "32 Short Films About Glen Gould", and I became fascinated by the way he turns a collection of voices into a fugue. Describing it: many different dialogues and monologues from people living in the north of Canada, mixed together in such a way that sometimes you basically hear of the dialogues and the others fuse in the background, exactly like voices in a fugue. I don't believe this is the immediate impression if you listen to "The Idea of North" on radio, without having the visual clues that the movie provided. But a moment of extreme brightness, a glimpse of the man who thought in terms of fugues.
(Jan. 26th. 1995)

Media Laboratory. Studying between wonder and stress. Thinking in info-highway terms, and dealing with constant network shutdowns. Pretending to be an artist, but leaving in the world of hackers -- and surviving only if you are one of those. Big floating egos, and unexpected fantastic ideas buried in piles of hype. Living on the edge.
(Jan. 24th. 1995)

"The Golden Notebook", by Doris Lessing, from which I borrowed the citation in the head of this page, is great. I think I have never read before any author (male or female) with such a capacity to describe the female universe. Anna, the main character, appears as a complex myriad of thoughts, feelings, desires to be satisfied and hidden. I didn't like too much the division of the book in 4 notebooks, although I am not sure if they are essential to build the Anna's different dimensions. An extraordinary dive into women's view of man-woman relationships, especially from my biased male perspective.
(Jan. 18th. 1995)

Dear diary, I dreamed of you. I was talking to a millionaire in his swimming pool, and he was saying that it could be too dangerous to expose myself so much. I really have problems dealing with the fact that some comments here might offend people, and I hardly resist being very conservative while writing. Writing in English adds extra worries, I am still struggling with the language, and there is nothing like the feeling of comfort when using your native language, knowing the precise variation in meaning that an exchange of words produces. And, since till now nobody has commented about this diary, I still feel uneasy about the whole enterprise.
(Dec. 11th, 94)

IVE , as described in 1962: "I dreamed marvelously. I dreamed there was an enormous web of beautiful fabric stretched out. It was incredibly beautiful, covered all over with embroidered pictures. The pictures were illustrations of the myths of mankind but they were not just pictures, they were the myths themselves, so that the soft glittering web was alive. (...) In my dream I handled and felt this material and wept with joy.(..) [The material] began to grow: it spread out, lapped outwards like a soft glittering sea. (..) And now I was standing out in space somewhere, keeping my position in space with an occasional down-treading movement of my feet in the air. (...) Then I look and it is like a vision -- time has gone and the whole history of man, the long story of mankind, is present in what I see now, and it is like a great soaring hymn of joy and triumph in which pain is a small lively counterpoint." (from Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook", 1962.)
(Dec. 11th, 94)

We are rediscovering the pleasure of writing, as Richard Wurman pointed out during his conversation with Robert Greenberg, last Friday. Internet and e-mail are making a whole generation much more capable of written expression, although these effects are clearly circumscribed to a bunch of intellectuals (as ever) and computer hackers. We are basically back to the end of last century in England, where letter exchange was a common way to arrange meetings, social occasions, and marriages. This diary is part of the process, and I quite like writing on it, knowing that someone, somewhere, might find a hint of pleasure while reading it, and give me back an unknowledged smile. Why not?
(Dec. 11th, 94)

Ian Maitland's talk, yesterday at MERL, made me think about the differences between movies and computer-based interactive entertainment, whatever it might become. Right now, the only real examples of interactive entertainment are video-games, and they seem to break some of the rules of movies. "Street Fighter vs. Doom" is a good way to put one basic difference, or objective vs. subjective point of view. Right now, it seems that are space in video-games for both modes of interaction, while in movies, completely subjective cameras are normally uninteresting. In other words, a completely new language must be developed (using, of course, some knowledge from movie language). However, the language for interactive entertainment can only emerge together with new genres. There was not much need for keeping the screen direction before the westerns started to appear.
(Dec. 1st, 94)

"Vanya on 42nd street", the movie by Louis Malle, was a blast. Such a long time since I have watched a group of actors performing a text with so much intensity. Saw it on Sunday, but on Monday night I was still excited, and couldn't take it from my mind. Simple shots, no cutting, and great theater. Actors showing the best of the profession, an step beyond being naturalistic: as a great performance of an actor or actress is achieved when he/she is able to include non-natural reactions which tell you all the conflicts of the characters. Doing that while reciting the long lines of Chekov is extremely hard, but essential. Magic, pure magic.
(Nov. 30th, 94)

This page is, and will always be, under construction. Somewhat like life.

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