September 2010 Archives

La mort de ma mère, film & la prima cosa bella

My mother passed away last September. She had been combatting the big C for five years. My mum was a fighter. For most of her struggle I was sure she was going to make it. So did she. In her last year though, she became increasingly ill. Her lust for life was lost to pain, to her inability to eat with enjoyment, to her becoming house bound. The entropy of energy, sapped by surgery and treatment. Toxic waves that kept washing away her strength to survive.

Nothing is ever simple or unidirectional though. While her body was being eroded, her soul started to soar. A peaceful severity informed the revisitation of her earthly journey. The last time I saw her in the comfort of her own home, she was a zen master in the making. She was lumimous with love. I sat on her bed, ate a takeaway tray of sushi and drank a bottle of beer. We spoke and then we slept, cuddled like when I was a child. My mother so present in the moment.

Shortly after, a hospital check-up led to more surgery. As she was being taken up to the operating theatre, I noticed the small rose she had tattooed on her shoulder had lost all its colour. But her glamour remained intact. My mother, together with my father (who, alas, had succumbed to same disease a few years earlier), had taught me through example that style is a quality that can be cultivated but never bought.

She took a simple pleasure in the fact that her doctor had the same name as a model/singer turned first lady of France. I spoke to the doctor the day before leaving for India, in a waiting room that looked out across the rooftops of Southend on Sea - the town where my mum had arrived by boat from New Zealand as a young girl and to which she had recently returned to be close to my sister. The view was uncaring as she told me there was no reprieve. It was a matter of weeks, or months.

I spent an acutely beautiful afternoon with her, sitting by the bleakness of her hospital bed. We spoke of many things. When the nutritionist came round, she asked if it was alright to eat a plate of pasta. With fresh basil.

Three days later, during a meeting on ichat in the hotel room of a corporate chain in New Delhi I got a call from my sister. Between sobs she asked me to hurry back. Mum had taken a turn for the worse.

It is strange how distant, passing places can become so intensely part of our personal history. Earlier that summer, an evening spent walking down a Singapore street with a heavy heart in the tropical heat, of meandering through a local supermarket while speaking to my mother on my mobile, is marked in my memory with more clarity than a streetview on Google maps.

I could not get a direct flight to London. I had to go via Mumbay. Didn't really matter. I had four hours between flights. But the flight out of Delhi was late, then it sat on the runway for ages. Monsoon rains had closed the Mumbay airport. Finally it took off, only to circle over Mumbay for nearly an hour. Time was ticking. It always does.

It was way past one in the morning. I had less than an hour. The domestic and international terminals are like miles apart. I grabbed an ambassador cab, haggling surreally over the price. Bhangra music blaring from the radio. The driver had a dirty rag tied round his face. As he drove he kept punching himself on the head. He kept asking me if I was African, I think. The pungent smell of the silent streets. He could have been heading into the dark heart of humanity. I felt like I was in an early film of Gabriele Salvatores, till I made it into the BA lounge and collapsed into a gin & tonic.

Back in London my SIM card died. I crossed the city in telephonic silence and followed the river east to the estuary. It was morning time.

My mother was no longer conscious. And waiting is so weird. Miracles can happen. This is a fact, however statistically tenuous it may be. Life is miraculous after all. And waiting is so brutal.

Day became night, and the world a fold-up bed broken by the pain of too many people. Night became day.

Family came from close by and from as far away as California. By late evening, my sister and my mother's husband - who had been there for more than 72 hours - headed back home for a quick shower and a change of clothes.

I sat alone holding her hand. My mother kept breathing unevenly. Then, all of a sudden, a rough watery sound came from deep inside her, from the most ancient and ancestral ocean. A death rattle it is called, but it was so livid with life. And then she was gone. Elsewhere.

Sometime after, cocooned in a business-class pod, I watched "The time traveller's wife" and there's this scene where the main protagonist travels back to a time when his mother is still alive and he sits in front of her as an adult and a stranger and speaks a few words to her, and the frames transcended the small screen and swelled up in my eyes to morph into tears that ran like a silent film across the cinema of my cheeks as the airplane flew high above Afghanistan chasing the night.

Loss. Longing. Loving. Living.

Fast forward to last month. Marianna, myself and the girls are at our home in Italy. It is dark outside, and the sound of crickets coming through the open window, together with the summer heat, make it natural to laze around together on the sofa eating crepes with nutella and mascarpone. The pleasures of being alive.

We put a DVD on. It is Paolo Virzi's latest film La prima cosa bella (the first beautiful thing). It turns out the be the story of a stoner teacher (played by a great Valerio Mastrandrea) who returns to his home city to be with his dying mother (played by a wonderful Stefania Sandrelli). It is a beautiful film, full of life and laughter that help make sense of the pain and tears.

At on point, the mother goes missing from the hospice. Nobody knows where she has gone. The son goes looking and finds her in a cinema, where they sit watching the film together.

It brings back with the intensity of a flashback in a Tarantino movie all the films I saw with my mum. Discovering Steve Martin in All of Me. Taking delight in Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom.

I think of Woody Allen, in Hannah and her sisters, when after a failed suicide, he rediscovers the magic of life by wandering into a cinema and watching a Marx Brothers movie.

The making of memories. The power of laughter. The unstoppable need to tell stories.

The film ends. We step outside and big hug under a full white moon.

September 24, 2010 | 10:54 AM | Permalink
The art of {ths}

I blogged the gluebooks of {ths} years ago. Lots of new stuff since then. Love the style.

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September 22, 2010 | 06:44 PM | Permalink
Immigraniada & world citizenship

Great new track & video from Gogol Bordello, and bonus interview with Eugene Hütz - the lead singer - where he discusses world citizenship, a concept close to my heart and crucial to the health of the 21st Century:

"Worldwide citizenship.... It's a new idea for a lot of people, but for us it's an old idea. It's an antidote to the politics around the world that have dictated separation and division of communities. Immigration is a crucial part of this idea of world citizenship. In the past, immigration was mostly for economic reasons, or because of natural disaster or war. But now, more and more often it's an intellectual choice, and an important evolutionary process for the planet. More people are committed to being uniters of communities and cultures, to being people who transcend the understanding of different cultures, people who live by the idea that there is no identity but that of a human being."

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September 22, 2010 | 06:34 PM | Permalink
Inter // states

Inter // states is a stunning time lapse video of Tokyo by Samuel Cockedey.

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September 20, 2010 | 01:25 AM | Permalink
Everything is a remix pt. 1 (a history)

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(the video & the site - via)

September 20, 2010 | 12:51 AM | Permalink
Richard Prince as book collector

Richard Prince has a library. A two-storey brick building, built in 1820, in a small town in upstate New York houses his collection.

"He began collecting books in the 1980s and his rule of thumb is: 'Collect what you like and what no one else is collecting.' And although rarity is certainly desirable, the choice about inclusion in his collection seems to be primarily about which books have meaning for him. And not just books. Magazines, annotated proofs, even record album covers are part of the library, and the thread that connects them all is a sensibility. It's a collection of momentos from the culture, part of the general store of cultural artifacts that he draws from to inform his art, and it's no coincidence that almost every room contains examples of his art."

"If you said that he has elevated collecting to an art form, you would be accurate. You can see it in the galleries, in his plinths of stacked first editions arranged to create a certain esoteric resonance. If you know him you may have seen it in his extraordinary personal library, the building where much of his collection of books, manuscripts, art, and ephemera is housed."

"As said by the artist himself, the main themes of his collection are the 'sex, drugs, beat, hippie, punk - and just great literature'. The collection includes about three thousand books, most of which were issued in 1949-1984 years."

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September 19, 2010 | 08:11 PM | Permalink
Marc Jacobs Bang

Marc Jacobs is splayed across London on 6-sheets these days, for his new fragrance Bang, shot by Juergen Teller.

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September 18, 2010 | 07:56 PM | Permalink
Westwood's 100 days of active resistance

Building on her active resistance manifesto, Vivienne Westwood launches 100 days of active resistance.

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September 18, 2010 | 07:00 PM | Permalink
Burroughs on magic

A definition of magic from William Burroughs, unearthed in this article:

"Since the word “magic” tends to cause confused thinking, I would like to say exactly what I mean by “magic” and the magical interpretation of so-called reality. The underlying assumption of magic is the assertion of ‘will’ as the primary moving force in this universe–the deep conviction that nothing happens unless somebody or some being wills it to happen. To me this has always seemed self-evident. A chair does not move unless someone moves it. Neither does your physical body, which is composed of much the same materials, move unless you will it to move. Walking across the rooom is a magical operation. From the viewpoint of magic, no death, no illness, no misfortune, accident, war or riot is accidental. There are no accidents in the world of magic. And will is another word for animate energy."

(via)

September 16, 2010 | 11:47 PM | Permalink
The lowbrow tarot project

The lowbrow tarot project (more here) was curated by Aunia Kahn, who also gave her creative vision to the world below.

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September 13, 2010 | 06:34 PM | Permalink
The photography of Samuel Bradley

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September 10, 2010 | 01:12 PM | Permalink