Wednesday, July 25, 2012

oh you pretty failure

Good morning, everybody.

This post is related to this entry in my dream journal.

I have a feeling that a lot of my dream imagery comes from having watched the films Village of the Damned and Children of the Damned over the past couple of nights. This would, I think, especially have influenced the imagery of the second dream.

The main image influenced by the films would be the image of the woman crashing and flying off of her bike. In the dream, I assumed the woman has died, even though it's not totally certain that the woman has died. In fact, the woman even says, through the "narration" she's constantly giving me in the dream, that she didn't even get hurt that much. But she doesn't get up.

Village of the Damned is, of course, a classic science fiction movie. It was made in 1960, and is based on John Wyndham's novel The Midwich Cuckoos. The basic idea of the movie is that a town in England, Midwich, is hit with some kind of cosmic beam. The cosmic beam impregnates every woman in the town capable (by 1960 standards) of having a child.

The children who are born as a result of this impregnation are possibly not human, or are possibly super-human. The children are super-intelligent and can use telepathy to force people to do things. But the children are void of emotion, and they seem to have only a primitive concept of humanity and justice. As a result, they seem to be selfish and ruthless. If they are hurt, they generally retaliate by making the person who'd hurt them, even if they'd hurt them unintentionally, in a similar way.

So in Village of the Damned a person driving a car down the road almost hits one of the children who, in a moment of carelessness, rushed into the street from a blind corner. The man stops in time only to bump up against the child and give her a good scare. But all the children retaliate against the man by forcing him to get into his car and drive into a brick wall.

Actually, in another scene, right at the beginning of the film, a police officer who is riding his bicycle into Midwich is stunned by the same cosmic ray that has put everybody in the town to sleep. The police officer faints and falls off his bike. So... that's a pretty dead giveaway to the image in my dream.

Children of the Damned is the 1963 follow-up to the Village of the Damned. In this semi-sequel, individual children in different places throughout the world have been conceived by means, possibly, of a cosmic ray -- or simply by means of an extremely improbable (so the geneticist of the film says) evolutionary sport. The children are all discovered by a UN-funded IQ test.

The children are all brought to London, where the heads of the countries the children live in decide that the children will either be used as top-secret weapon makers for their own individual countries, or else that the children will be destroyed as dangers to humanity.

But the children, learning of these plans, get together and hide in an abandoned church. They defend themselves against the adults who try to use them for destructive purposes. But, in defending themselves, they often have to kill the adults. One of the few adults who actually cares about the children pleads with the children to stop killing.

The children apparently have an uncanny ability to regenerate themselves. So they make it appear that they have reflected upon the man's plea. They put themselves at the mercy of the UN, assuming that the UN will destroy them in some way. I assume the children feel that if they can be "killed," be assumed dead, then come back to life, and go into hiding, that nobody will bother them.

The military powers have worked themselves into such a frenzy over the perceived threat of the children, that they have set up a tremendous destructive force against the children. But when the children surrender, the UN leaders sympathize with the children. Even the military powers decide to put their force in abeyance. But an accident causes the military to attack anyway. The UN leaders and the children are all killed.

In one scene of the movie, the child from England is being escorted to a place where he will be held until the military can figure out what to do with him. To escape, the child creates a distraction by having one of his escorts drive his car into the back of another car. While all the adults are distracted, the child runs away.

So I think both of those car crash scenes influence the scene in the dream where the woman crashed her bicycle off the road.

The modular house comes, I believe, from both of the films as well. In Village of the Damned, the children are all made to live together in the schoolhouse, where an eminent doctor has taken on the responsibility of teaching the children. Of course -- what I love is that he only teaches the children stuff like nuclear physics, and he only asks them questions like whether they think they come from another planet, or how psychic they are. He doesn't try to improve their moral sensibility at all!

In Children of the Damned, the children all escape of their own accord into the abandoned church. Like the children in Village, the children in Children sleep on makeshift beds and basically fend for themselves. And, in both movies, the children's final dwelling place is blown up. The movies both end, however, with a sense that the children's lives aren't finished. In Village, the final view is of the eyes floating out of the flaming wreckage of the building. And in Children, there is an implication that the children may die, but that they will regenerate themselves.

I think that the motif of the destruction of the final dwelling place as, perhaps, a metaphor for the destruction of the body, combined with a sense of the indestructibility of the soul, combined to make the image in my mind of a modular house, a house that could be picked up or dropped off any time. People live wherever, go wherever. People are permanent. But the housing is transient -- transient but stable.

It must have been hard for me to reconcile this in my mind, though. So I had to leave the woman along the side of the road, either dead or alive, I'm not sure. What's weird is that the woman either lives or doesn't live. But what remains permanent, in my dream, is the modular house. When the woman crashes off the side of the road, she stays there. The modular house, however, reappears at the top of the hill. And now, instead of hearing the woman, I hear the man, the husband, who may also be me myself, speaking. Strange.

I would say, however, that the idea of the modular house doesn't just come from Village of the Damned and Children of the Damned, but that it also comes from the Alvin Toffler book Future Shock, which I read a few weeks back and which seems to promote a vision of the future where objects will become more and more modular.

As I understand him, Toffler argues that buildings and homes will be modular. The world will trend away from "permanent" buildings and toward "modular" buildings. But the trend will also be toward an overall sustainability. Buildings and homes will be more modular, but by being more modular, they will be more flexible. This flexibility will be more sustainable, in the long run, than the environment of "permanent" buildings that just loom large and then rot away.

The one last point I'd like to bring up regarding Village of the Damned is something that I don't know anybody has spoken about before. But it seems pretty obvious to me that the title Village of the Damned, obviously a change from the title of the novel on which the movie was based, is a nod to the work of paranormal investigator Charles Fort's book Book of the Damned. The "Village of the Damned" would be, in a sense, the village in which take place phenomena that Charles Fort would call "damned," or not accepted by the canon of science.

In this sense, I think it's worth mentioning that the prototype of the children of Village of the Damned and Children of the Damned can be found, not in Charles Fort's Book of the Damned, but in his book Wild Talents. This book, like all of Fort's books, is well worth reading.

Of course, any literature or art that has as its subject super-gifted children always reminds me of the David Bowie song "Oh You Pretty Things."

The final thing I'd like to mention about this dream is the fact that Laurel Nakadate is in it. Nakadate is one of my favorite contemporary video artists. She has a great movie called The Wolf Knife, which I'd suggest you see if there's any chance that you can see it. But her whole body of work is really incredible. I had the opportunity, while I lived in New York, to see Nakadate on a couple of occasions. I liked her a lot. We're just about the same age -- she's a  bit over a year older than I. And she's really cool.

When I've had the opportunity to see artists, I've always tried to make a point of asking them questions. And my asking them questions is stored in my head as a kind of interaction with the artists. I don't necessarily interact with people at all, in general. So, as far as my life goes, these are pretty valid interactions.

Anyway, it seems like whenever I review my "interactions" with Nakadate, I'm always struck by how stupid I was around her. One instance was where I mistook certain sounds in her film The Wolf Knife for being one thing, when they obviously were something else -- I think even after Nakadate had expressly explained what those sounds were.

The other was where Nakadate asked the audience to ask her a question, but a question in only one word. Someone asked a one-word question that I can't even remember. But Nakadate didn't think it was a good enough question to end on. So Nakadate asked the audience for a question again. I couldn't think of a one-word question right then. And Nakadate said (to the audience, but I felt like it was to me directly), "Come on? Are you really going to let that question be the one? Are you really going to let that happen?"

Of course, I knew almost immediately afterward what my question would have been. I've known and, for some stupid reason, agonized over it ever since. "Clementine."

But for some reason my brain -- didn't freeze up -- it "fatted over." It just gelled and glopped. I didn't feel nervous or scared or shy when Nakadate demanded a one-word question. I just felt lazy and distracted and sullen. I can't even tell you why.

There's also a scene in the film The Wolf Knife where a girl is disappointed in an old man she likes because the man had decided to stop teaching and spend his days smoking pot. It seems like the girl doesn't mind whether the man is old or young, or attractive or unattractive. What really matters to her is whether the man has his life together, whether he can take care of himself -- and, maybe, her. But the man obviously can't, and this is a disappointment to the girl.

I think Nakadate is an occasional character in my dreams because she stands for somebody looking in on the disappointing aspects of myself, like the girl was disappointed with the man. Since I obviously personally made a fool of myself in front of Nakadate on a number of occasions (though one can obviously assume that I personally didn't even register in her perception one way or the other), it's an easy move for my mind to transition that girl's disappointment onto Nakadate.

The disappointment I feel in these situations is generally the disappointment I've spoken a lot about in other posts, so I won't speak too much about it here. It's basically the fact that, over the past year, I've managed to kick myself down the stairs professionally, again and again. Nobody has done it to me. I've done it to myself. I'm not sure what the hell the issue is. But I've done it. When I reflect on that, I often feel like that old man in The Wolf Knife, just kind of pathetic.