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General

TIFF Day 6

Film Recommendation / GWH (1997) x HH (2015)

‘Good Will Hunting,’ and ‘Hardcore Henry.’ Giving you both barrels here. One barrel is filled with a precocious writing team, the other with extreme violence as framing device.

‘Good Will Hunting.’ There’s so much packed into this film, it’s hard to focus on only one aspect. I’ll say only this: experiencing this film as a middle-aged man I recognize the talent on display in the writing of the script. It’s hard to believe two twenty-somethings produced such a well balanced, emotionally informed work.

‘Hardcore Henry,’ is an exceptional work of action cinema. It spends the first few scenes fighting its way past your preconceptions. The first-person camera work looks like a gimmick at first. The explosions, the guns, the sci-fi elements all work in collaboration to tell a story we need to hear.

Perspective is the touchstone here. Layering in the element of time, we have the opportunity to ask some important questions. If you’re not able to come up with any of these yourself, I have no idea what you’re doing here.

(If you’ve not yet seen ‘Hardcore Henry,’ I recommend not viewing the trailer and just watching it cold.)

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General

TIFF Day 5

Film Recommendation / The Vanishing Lady (1950) – Escape

This is another departure from film as a medium. You’ll forgive me. Storytelling elements, even when flawed, have a lot in common across mediums. Media? Mediums? Medium? Whatever.

‘The Vanishing Lady.’ has something of a pedigree. Originating as an urban legend dating from the 1880’s, it has been catalyst for a number of performances, novels and movies.

The story is told in flashback. Events are fairly straightforward. Tension within the story is conjured artfully. The effects and performers are evocative. Its plot, however, is flawed. Maybe I’ve got that wrong… Plot? Story? Which is which? Anyway.

Plot Hole is the touchstone for this example. The entire plot is constructed around a single decision. The drama, though, is rooted in a set of hard-to-believe choices not conforming to logic beyond driving that drama.

On the up-side, the episode does have a happy ending; in some versions of the tale it’s pretty damned grim.

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General

TIFF Day 4

Film Recommendation / Lions for Lambs (2007)

‘Lions For Lambs,’ is a film which only really comes into its own when viewed according to a process. Up front it’s fairly simple. It’s when we grab hold of the film’s story as an object, as a whole, that we see its complexity. Held in the palm, considered, turned and assessed, turned again, ‘Lions for Lambs,’ doesn’t reveal itself, unfold, or present a universal truth. Instead, we find common planes, angles and lines. By some standards (and in spite of the figurative grabbing-hold I just described), we can think of it as holographic — a structure made of light presenting a layered, three dimensional image. In a clever bit of synchronicity, the term holographic also has a meaning related to creation, to writing.

The film’s title is a reference to a quote by German Artillery officer, Max von Gallwitz. After the Battle of the Somme, commenting on the quality of the enemy he wrote, “Never have I seen such brave lions being led by such lambs.” It’s a deep, enduring criticism of torpid, entitled leadership and its use of power.

Mise-en-scène is the touchstone here. I’m stretching it beyond the most conventional use of the term, to be sure, but it works. Typically, mise-en-scène is a quality of presentation, an aesthetic unity of elements, visuals and sound. Here, ‘Lions for Lambs,’ does well in it’s traditional expression of the element, and then goes farther. It so cleanly interlinks conceptual qualities, layering them into our experience of the narrative that we begin to feel a little cramped, trapped, perhaps spurred to action. That’s remarkable given the form and pacing of the film.

Given the power and the opportunity to do anything, why do this?

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General

TIFF Day 3

Film Recommendation / YOU – Season One (2018)

If you haven’t seen this series, you are doing yourself a disservice. It’s funny, and dark, and moving. It’s well written, and well made. Despite being a signal flare, a warning of the general threat posed by social media, ‘You,’ is deeply compelling. It’s a story, in some ways, about unpleasant surprises.

‘You,’ plays on some big ideas. It takes an approach both micro and macro. It explores identity, agency, personal history, culture, dark undercurrents, and place in the world. It’s about boundaries — those we hold, those we transgress, and those we discover. As the series progresses, we are prompted to recognize the difference between the roles we are assigned and the identity we choose. Tough questions to grapple with.

Character is the touchstone here. A character can be a an archetype, caricature, or a comforting lie. Character may exist as environment, as cipher, as memory. Often, a story’s character will function as a prism through which we can view some part of our own identity, drawing us closer to the perspective a writer is sharing. We’ve all asked ourselves, ‘Who am I in this story?’

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General

TIFF Day 2

Film Recommendation / You’re Next (2011)

Horror is a genre I’ve never found to be worth much time. Standards are consistently low, narratives badly constructed, and stories lazily told. ‘You’re Next’ is different.

Well-paced and solidly built, ‘You’re Next,’ is an independent genre film outstanding in its terse simplicity. The film delivers a story anchored in a set of awkward emotional family dynamics before launching into motion, showering the movie’s subtext with blood.

It’s only briefly touched upon, but the patriarch is a retired executive for a defense contractor. His family is victim of a brutal home invasion. That facet is elevated, in its brevity, to a kind of poetry.

Structure is the touchstone here. ‘You’re Next’ is conventional in its rhythms while consistently managing to keep ahead of the viewer. (Also, I’m a sucker for a badass female protagonist.)

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General

Practical Efforts

How You Can Help

Throughout my homelessness, practical help has been surprisingly hard to come by. What does that mean? It means well-intentioned people often don’t know quite how to make a positive difference for a homeless person.

There are some very simple ways you can help. Here’s a list. It’s by no means comprehensive. Below I’ll add a little detail and context.

Practical ways to help the homeless:

  • Cash, of course. (In fact, any time you give anything to a homeless person, also give cash if possible. It makes an enormous difference.)
  • Donate used tech, such as an iPhone or laptop. Access to the internet is important, even for the homeless.
  • Purchase phone time. Why not pay the next 6 months of a persons phone for them? For most, that amounts to less than $100. You can do this safely and securely.
  • Gift Cards. Clothing, grocery, liquor store, cinema, etc. Many essential items can be difficult to attain on the budget a homeless person is working with.
  • Lottery tickets. Why not buy a duplicate lotto ticket and give it to a homeless person? Imagine that win!
  • Speaking for myself, I don’t want a bottle of water from you. Water is free. Who’re you kidding?

It’s important to keep a few things in mind if you’re going to approach a homeless person.

  • Being present is not the same as being available. Be sure to respect our time.
  • Take a minute to get to know the person you’re talking to, without pity, condescension, or judgement.
  • Reach out to your network of real-life contacts and find out if anyone has an opportunity a homeless person can make use of. Trust is an important part of human relationships.
  • No photos. Seriously. We’re not animals in a zoo.

There are many small ways you can help the homeless. These are simply the easiest, most obvious examples.

Now, some context.

Many things might have happened these past 15 years, things that could have resulted in my becoming housed, returning to life. Without housing, building a life is not possible.

Looking to the past for might-have-beens is not much use. I do, though, cast my mind back over the way my requests for help were received, handled, and rejected. This is especially true of my immediate family.

Remember, the life you live is made up of many small certainties. They’re a kind of insurance, really. Your certainties provide security. Security offers hope and faith. Hope and faith are the framework from which anyone sets goals for themselves. Without faith that you have control in your life there can be no hope your goals will amount to anything.

Early on, we homeless are robbed of the power to set meaningful goals. Speaking for myself, it is a mammoth task fighting that hopelessness. I don’t often succeed.

Make the time to adopt and enact the efforts I’ve listed. People like me need your help. Homelessness really is a state of permanent deprivation — unless you decide to help.

— Chris

chris@homelessunlimited.com

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General

TIFF Day 1

Film Recommendation / The Day Shall Come (2019)

While I am not attending TIFF, I do like good movies.

Anna Kendrick. Black comedy. Chris Morris’ sensibility. ‘The Day Shall Come,’ is my recommendation for day one of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

Narrative is the word I’m using as touchstone here. Also, ‘Mangoes.’

(I was going to include the trailer link but it gives away so many hilarious moments I decided not to.)

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Video

SQ|1

Squares Part One

Trigger Warning: Images of actual violence and death are included in this video.

(You can download the video rather than streaming it.)

This video took a lot of effort to complete. The primary themes are on perspective and its origins, influence, struggle, and dimensionality.

My intent in layering images one over the other against a background featuring its own layers was to highlight the ways our perceived reality is shaped over time by nuance and factors we quickly grow accustomed to. A lot is happening throughout this piece, and by changing what elements they focus on, the viewer can shift their understanding of what the imagery means.

One thing I would change about this video, if I could, would be to increase the prominence and frequency of imagery around the parasitic wasp sequences as metaphor for intrusive alien ideation.

The modern world demands a high level of vigilance from anyone hoping to track or trace the source of their beliefs and ideas; a parasitic wasp functions much like actors in the information ecosystem we all live amidst, quietly dominating an entity for its own ends.

I may write more about this at a later date, or I might not. Hope you like it.

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Uncategorized

Looking for Work

I’m looking for work. If you know of anything, please contact me at: chris@homelessunlimited.com.

Recently, I’ve been able to keep most of my belongings in a locker, which makes everything much easier — mobility, appearance of normalcy, etc.

I’ve an almost 15 year gap in my resume (quick reminder, my 15 years homeless anniversary is coming up!), so I expect to be interviewing with people who are willing to offer a person a chance for success.

Any help, any suggestions are welcome!

Thanks!

Chris

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News Video

Text, Not Imagery

The following is the text supporting my video, ‘Para / Social.’ I’m inordinately proud of both the edit and the writing I’ve done in support of the piece. YouTube link: Para / Social

We are living through a long, accelerated process of change as we grapple with the technologies and systems we’ve created. Reality and the world as we experience it shapes our perception of what is possible while also defining what will follow us into the future. Para-social relationships are only one element, one point of impact on the landscape we move through in our lives.

The audio track from ‘Annihilation,’ is always present in this video. Even with the rise of ‘Just My Imagination,’ sending us into a reverie we share, briefly, an unsettling reality emerges. A perceived love relationship, presented as startling and beautiful, is revealed to be an illusion, a corrupt self-reflection. This is the nature of most para-social relationships. They exist in a parallel reality, with brief snaps, existing mainly as the creation of one another and independent of truth, depth, or any meaningful catalyst for growth.

The film ‘Annihilation,’ (and the reference to my earlier, ‘Origin Story,’) as referenced here stands in for the complex processes set in motion when all the rules change — in the world of science, in society, and in an individual’s life. In the film, an unknown organism arrives on the Earth, spreading and growing, interacting with the environment in ways that undermine the sense of order human civilization has developed to master the world. The organism — perhaps more accurately defined as a force — has no regard for the destruction it causes, appearing in some ways to behave as a child in a sandbox, exploring and building and wrecking as it chews through the world it has encountered. One character describes the affected zone, known as ‘The Shimmer,’ as refracting the material it encounters, functioning as a prism. Rapid mass networked communication has a similar effect on our psychology.

The dangers of contemporary communications and social media are difficult to fathom, and, I suspect, will prove to outweigh the benefits. Interrogating that area of thought we must look to the sources of power in human society and the ways they are consciously and unconsciously directed.

Cultural and social values forever drive societies forward in time, yet our world is being driven by increasingly anti-human values. The world is shiny and clean, or narrow and gritty, or maybe bubble gum scented — as long as it’s mediated, controlled, and providing whatever it is you think you need from it, it’s saleable. Personal relationships, especially those managed through the filter of modern technology, are not immune to commodification and a sort of transactional superficiality built on little moments of transmitted emotion.

The experience of finding someone bright, someone who stands out, and experiencing them reveal themselves, gradually, can be magical. That experience is not built only on their personality, their loves, their talents or interests. What’s magical is the interplay, the tension, the force and transformation of perception, thought and idea, as a shared reality. These are not what curation offers. These elements may germinate in a snapshot, but they die, untended, in the real world. Beyond that moment, when something conjured out of notes of light and shadow is revealed as gossamer, can define a universe of possibilities, narrowing to a singular outcome. For some, it’s the illusion itself they love. For others, it’s the drama, the angst of something forever just out of reach.

In the realm of para-social connection, it is commonplace to find a game of seduction drawn out, flattening the experience into a two-dimensional caricature of life. Here, momentary interruptions in the natural rhythm of arousal and response are filled with silence, or advice on how to better appeal to the vanity, the ego of the other. In a real-world setting, these are cues. In a mediated elicitation, they are something else. When the power dynamic is wrong, it becomes a strange kind of expectation of service. At best, from any perspective, a para-social-transactional relationship results not in connection, but in something more akin to mutual self-absorption.

In some para-social relationships a moment arrives, delicate and swollen with uncertain promise, when transformation is possible. It’s a beginning-again in a flawed and over-bright realm where nuance and shadow are more substantial and less easily marshaled. Failure is possible in ways not imaginable in a fantasy. Perhaps it is the danger of real consequences that make such a transition worth the attempt.


Part of the difficulty here communicating in brief is translating the language which I constructed this idea into language that is understandable to others. I make an effort to stick very much to my own vocabulary, but I cannot entirely abandon standard English if I expect to communicate the ideas which I spend time thinking on.
Sometimes I forget most people don’t have access to my frame of reference, my process, and my set of beliefs. Which, in some ways is an important part of what this video represents. Until you take a step in one direction or another and view its themes as something apart from what I have written about explicitly…