Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Suspension of Disbelief

There's a lovely little art house cinema in Sydney harbour. It has a beautifully tiled foyer with a circular staircase that leads to a bar or a restaurant above. It plays the sort of movies I like. The snack counter has beer and combo number 2 is popcorn with a glass of house red. I can't imagine wanting to drink alcohol before watching a movie you wanted to pay attention to but that's the sort of vibe here. The screens aren't huge either. And there's a girl who works in the box office, who I haven't actually met but who I'm told is an art college student, who spends her days there chopping up movie posters to make collages of each film. It's a nice touch. My last trip there was Saturday and there was a bride standing on the circular black and white marble floor with her wedding gown spread out having her picture taken from above. I'm sure it was a nice photo. Anyway I saw a film that I'd just decided to watch without any preconception based on a poster I found somehow intriuging. The premise of the film is interesting enough to warrant going when you really think about it, which is hard in these days of internet news. It's hard to consider anything truly amazing when every second email you get shows you something new and amazing, something that without the web you'd never have seen. And to some extent I think that's deadened our sense of wonder. It's blunted mine anyway.

So here it is, 'Man on Wire' is a documentary about a man called Phillipe Petit. In 1974 he travelled to New York and in a brilliant piece of guerilla DIY rigged a steel cable between the north and south towers of the world trade centre and walked across it 8 times. That's it. Wow, I can hear you say. And when you really put yourself there and imagine what it must have been like to see, what it must have been like to do, when you really put yourself there and try to imagine how the wind would howl 450 metres up, how your body would rock with fear then maybe you can bring youself to want to know more. Well that's where I was on Saturday, trying not to let this age of constantly eroding boundaries of amazement kill my jaw-drop reflex as I entered the theatre.

And wow. Really Wow. Whenever I hear people tell me a film brought them to tears I struggle to find the value in that. More often than not I don't want to be upset by a piece of entertainment. Great if a film can affect you in that way but how willing are you to have that happen, to surrender to that manipulation however much it may be worthwhile?

How about this? When was the last time a film brought you to tears of joy? Told you about something which seems merely amazing and showed you in simple convincing terms why it's actually truly beautiful? When was the last time that a quirky, animated, playful, inspiring, talented, driven individual was sketched out for you in ways that make you wish you had a tenth of his passion? In ways that will make you look, at least, if not find, something like that passion for yourself? I can't do this movie justice here but I can try to spread the feeling of real excitement that my sister and I left the cinema with, the feeling that you'd just been let in on a new perspective that makes the light of the world a tiny bit brighter:

Go watch Man on Wire. Today.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

So what have we learned?

Why do people travel? Scratch that, why am I traveling? Frankly I don't have much of a satisfactory answer.

I've always felt like I should resist automatic impulses. Whether it's a reactionary, self flagellating mechanism that developed out of some binary logic taught to me as a child that things that come easy aren't worth having / doing or just an idea that if something is easy and anyone can do it then it's uniqueness is diluted somehow, cheapened by popularity, I can't say but I suppose because I knew that because it would be in some way difficult it would thus be worthwhile and possibly character building to circumnavigate the globe. Besides it's not exactly kosher to be as opinionated as I am about so many things, places and people without finding them, seeing them, meeting them.

But that doesn't do me well enough. I read once in an alternative version of the ten commandments a rule which I felt I should always try to keep: "Thou shalt not stop liking a band just because they become popular." And so just wanting to do something different isn't enough justification for me being here doing what I'm doing. (Not that it's particularly novel these days when almost everyone within five years of my age goes on a trip like this.)

So what's left? I suppose when I can see something coming, unless it's something I really want, I work to stop it happening. I could see the blocks arrange themselves in the distance once, a few years ago, and they formed a fairly pleasant seeming life, but I knocked them over, and would do it again. And why did I do that? Because there's nothing worse than knowing what's around the corner. Give me a surprising future any day above a prescribed safety. And I know it's an ancient eastern curse: May you live in interesting times. Maybe some people can just see further along at what's coming. Maybe some people don't even look, but I've never been one of them. In fact I spend more time staring at the ever approaching horizon than I do almost anything else.

Well it's certainly been different. For the most part anyway. Mind you I'd have to admit that the more things change the more they stay the same. I'm on the other side of the world right now. And it's late at night. I'm in a gaming internet cafe and the props required for this scene have fallen serendipitously onto the stage and lay now as they would, probably do, in fact, everywhere, anywhere else. There's the serious game player, whinnying like a donkey with grammatically mal formed insults and put downs ( the lions share of which denigrate himself in greater measure than his victim ), a girl whose wrists still bear the mark of travel -friendship bracelets from some pseudo utopia given in sincerity by an armchair Zionist who's memory were it not for the internet would have faded in the drink and drug tinged haze but which is flickering into focus in front of her right now as I type these words, courtesy of the misinformation super highway.

His dreadlocks were never grown with a skype headset in mind, but she doesn't notice the incongruity - she's happy that a living souvenir from a part of the world she may never have seen - if it weren't for her answering the same call of the road that I did - is continuing in some small way to edit her life.

I'm sitting here myself, wondering what this has done to me, what it's made of me that my separate pieces couldn't have been assembled into without this monumental journey. And I honestly don't know. I'm getting up in the morning (granted I still live in a hostel) to go write code for the day. Alright sydney harbour is a short walk away but functionally speaking what's different? Not much anymore. If I really open my eyes I can see it again. But when you're travelling you become like a reverse kitten. Your eyes are wide open in the beginning but the more time goes on they more they close. Soon it's like you're walking around not seeing anything, the way you do at home. The difference is, now I can turn it on when I want, I can look at this place through the lens of a foreigner and that's something I hope I can take home.

I may not always have been a finder but at least I'm out there seeking.

Note: I love the internet. It's my workplace and my playground but honestly on the road it's the closest thing I have to a home...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Return of the Mack

Hi. Sorry. I know. You didn't even know if I was still alive. I'm a selfish thoughtless bastard and I don't deserve you, but stay, wait a minute. I can explain. Just give me three minutes. Then leave forever if you want.

Where the hell were you?

I was busy, alright. I had to find a job and I couldn't do that without a working holiday visa. God if I could go back and just check the box on the web form that said 'Yes, I intend to work in australia' I wouldn't have been off the map for so long. I would probably have been proper set up by now. But it's not all bad. There are worse punishments for a lack of fore-sightedness than a holiday in New Zealand where you get to check out the city of Wellington and meet up with your sister for some museum perusing and theatre going. But that's no excuse for neglecting you, I know. The thing is when we got to Wellington we thought we might as well see what the work situation was like there. And so we did interviews. I made my mind up during a chat with Ann that I really didn't want to be in Wellington long term. So it was back to Sydney for me. And without Adam too. He had a follow up interview and I needed to be back to meet with people for a job that needed to be filled right away. So there I was, a week ago, in Sydney, alone knowing no one, staying in a hotel, wondering, as I often do, 'What the fuck?'

Well... then what?

It wasn't all bad, some friends were in Sydney, Derek and Saranne of further up the coast fame. So that was nice. And I did some interviews. Things didn't go so bad. And the weather in Wellington got to Adam so he came over not long after me. We stayed and are still staying in hostels and have to move a lot because we never know how long to stay for and are frantically trying to secure an apartment for ourselves. But I found a company that makes games out here, Flash games, facebook games, cool things. I spoke with them on the phone and interviewed a couple of hours later. We actually chatted about games during the interview and the vibe was great. Totally what I wanted to be honest.


They hired me.


Yeah, I started the next morning. It's cool, a lot of work and pretty challenging but great.

Well, ...congratulations I suppose.

Thanks. So ah, we cool again? I mean, it was hectic and all and I know I came back here without even any pictures but...

Oh forget about it, I'm just so glad you're back!

Great, I hate falling out. I promise I'll never leave for this long again. And I'll say more next time, I just wanted to make sure things were okay between us before I came charging back here like nothing happened.

You silly sausage.