Justice that is primarily distributive rather than unitive essentially becomes simply the regulator of conflict.
First, understand the methods of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States of America.” Most history books tell us the stories of political transformations, and their subsequent effects on society; they are often the stories of kings, battles, and institutions. Zinn’s approach is to look at the personal stories of those people who worked toward social transformations, placing the political changes as wholly relevant, yet sort of in the background. And, this technique is the approach that guides the individual threads of “Cloud Atlas.” Now, this is not easy. Part of the reason that history books tell us about the political changes is that those stories are far more interesting than the stories of lay people. But, the stories we watch in this film are not only compelling and exciting, but stylistically very different from each other.
Second, understand the techniques of a sextet. Above, I mentioned that we should look at each of the six threads as narrators of our story. It might be easier to understand this point by imagining the film as a concert performed by six separate musical instruments. More than that, consider an orchestral work composed of six interwoven movements. We are familiar with that urban legend dictating that Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” synchronizes well with “The Wizard of Oz.” I expect, either as reality or as urban legend, that “Cloud Atlas” synchronizes - scene by scene - with some three-hour piece of classical music.
Third, “Run Lola Run.” While this film is very much a Wachowski film - so much so that thread 2144 seemed like a prequel to the Matrix saga - Tom Tykwer’s 1998 film also seems present at some level. There is the overall question in the film of destiny: are we able to choose our actions, and if so, what effects do they have on the rest of the world? According to the film, the greatest choice is the choice to be the person you are. This film adds a series of censors compelling our characters into some sort of social conformity. Almost all of these censors are played by Hugo Weaving. At times, he is a greedy opportunist with giant sideburns. At times, he is a corporate hitman in a trenchcoat. At times, he is the Devil in a top hat. At times, he is a ruthless warden in the body of a frowning nurse.
Fourth, continuing this point, the plot(s) would be far more coherent if the same (mostly big name) actors and actresses (primarily Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Keith David, and Weaving) were not re-used for almost every thread. For much of the film, this makes for a very distracting process. Initially, the most confusing is Tom Hanks. I realized watching this movie that Tom Hanks is our generation’s Jimmy Stewart. When he appears on the screen, we expect him to be a very sympathetic protagonist. And, Hitchcock - succeeding Frank Capra as one of the great sources of the Jimmy Stewart good-guy mythology - turns that on its head in “Vertigo.” I hope you understand my suggestion.
But, there is a method here in having the same actors and actresses play multiple characters. Fifth: liberation is a liberation from all boundaries. With the students I am training in Islam, one of the first texts we frequently study is a short, deceptively simple tenth century book called the “Creed of Imam al-Tahawi.” And, one of the first lessons I teach from that book is that God is not bound by anything, and is not bound by being not bound by anything. In “Cloud Atlas,” however, the point is that true humanity is not bound by anything, that your true self is locked in a series of cages. The first cage is your gender. The second cage is your set of personal demons. The third cage is the warden (that might be disguised as a beloved). The fourth cage is society, with its institutionalized restrictions (often on appropriate and forbidden relationships). The fifth cage is time, whether we speak of the pervasive presence of each soul through the six centuries, or our need to watch this story in chronological order. And, the sixth cage of life is life itself; characters free themselves from the constraints of life in each of the ways you would imagine.
All of our central characters seek complete liberation from all constraints. But, the true liberation is to be able to live that life that they cannot, not live. The true life is the life composed of choices that they cannot, not make. Thus, the same actors and actresses reappear because they are, essentially unbound by the constraints of gender, self, institutions, society, time, and life. The characters, when they discover truth, recalling the light outside of Plato’s Cave, they are transformed, and unable to return to their former selves. In watching this film, I felt that if the Wachowski’s remade “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003), they would not cast Mary Alice as the new “shell” of the Oracle, but would instead cast a man. More deeply, in watching this giant epic, I felt that I was watching a very touching, intimate story of Lana Wachowski, seeking to be the person that she could not, not be, seeking to release herself from the cages of the above constraints. As someone who has lived a life in almost every form of exile, I found myself sympathizing with her, far more than I expected.
Sixth, and this point might be the most unsatisfying for some critical viewers: we have an innate need to bind and connect. Each viewer experiences this in consciously, but especially unconsciously trying to derive connection between juxtaposed scenes or frames in any film, but especially this film. But, consider how deep this tendency is. Anytime we find two consecutive items, we unconsciously create a link between them. When you sit in your car in front of a stop light, the light switches from red to green. These are two completely different processes. The red light shuts off, and the green light activates. But, in our mind, we understand the change as a shift from red to green. This sense of shift is even more apparent in the reverse, when the light “shifts” from green, to yellow, to red. Another similar illusion is the cutaneous rabbit illusion. Here, if someone taps a finger along the length of your arm, you will feel as though movement is taking place, almost as though something is hoping on your arm. This tendency to create these links is innate in our neurology.
Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
CLT never faileth: but whether there be speculations, they shall fail; whether there be talking heads, they shall cease; whether there be punditry, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we expound in part. But when the election actually happens, then that which is observed in sample shall generalize to the population. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish ideas that polls were deliberately biased. For now we see as through a homophilous social network; but then directly observe the population: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as my secret ballot remains unknown. And now abideth parameter, error, CLT, these three; but the greatest of these is CLT.
It is said that every people has the Government it deserves. It is more to the point that every Government has the electorate it deserves; for the orators of the front bench can edify or debauch an ignorant electorate at will. Thus our democracy moves in a vicious circle of reciprocal worthiness and unworthiness.
Literary Birthday - 13 November
Happy Birthday, Robert Louis Stevenson, born 13 November 1850, died 3 December 1894
Five Robert Louis Stevenson Quotes
- Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.
- The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.
- All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.
- It is not likely that posterity will fall in love with us, but not impossible that it may respect or sympathize; so a man would rather leave behind him the portrait of his spirit than a portrait of his face.
- I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.
Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
By Amanda Patterson
From Writers Write
It’s important to understand that already today the “college experience” is experienced by only a minority of students. Say “college student” and the image may be of a young person just out of high school living in a dorm pursuing a four year degree with few financial constraints. The reality is that more than a third of college students are over the age of 25, nearly half are enrolled part-time, and most are working. About one quarter of college students have children of their own! The traditional college experience does not meet the needs of most of today’s students.
I teach you the superman. Man is something to be surpassed.
Smart companies have shown Americans how greener choices can actually save them money in one fell swoop. And the people have spoken: If they can go green and save green, they will. In a recent survey my company Sunrun issued to better understand our customers’ motivations, 9 out of 10 Americans of both voting persuasions said they had made what can be considered ‘green’ changes to their lifestyles over the last five years. Their primary motivator? “Saving money.” The new status symbol isn’t what you own—it’s what you’re smart enough not to own. January 06, 2013 at 02:16PMThe new status symbol isn’t what you own—it’s what you’re smart enough not to own.
Xavier Niel, the French technology entrepreneur, has made a career of disrupting the status quo.
Now, he has dared to take on Google and other online advertisers in a battle that puts the Web companies under pressure to use the wealth generated by the ads to help pay for the network pipelines that deliver the content.
Mr. Niel’s telecommunications company, Free, which has an estimated 5.2 million Internet-access users in France, began last week to enable its customers to block Web advertising. The company is updating users’ software with an ad-blocking feature as the default setting.
That move has raised alarm among companies that, like Google, have based their entire business models on providing free content to consumers by festooning Web pages with paid advertisements. Although Google so far has kept largely silent about Free’s challenge, the reaction from the small Web operators who live and die by online ads has been vociferous.
» via The New York Times (Subscription may be required for some content)