Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Barbarians, Squids, and Bikes

I've passed a couple of strangely enriching days. This evening I finished Waiting for the Barbarians. It is Coetzee’s allegory of colonialism, a story of an Empire’s army awaiting the incoming barbarians; an army perhaps never coming. Its protagonist is a frontiering Magistrate, soon orthogonal to the interests of the Empire. Perhaps Coetzee’s best work, it is typically clinical and cold. It captures the essential brutality of the Empire in one sentence: “The jackal rips out the hare’s bowels, but the world rolls on.”

On Sunday, Sam and I watched The Squid and the Whale. The third in a promising line of films by Noah Bambauch, it is a dark and drawing account of a divorce of two middling writers and their children's struggles in the aftermath. It is The Royal Tenenbaums with no happy ending, no sense that arrogant and dirt cheap fathers can come round, and no appeal to genius as an explanation for bad behaviour. And aside from this, it’s wonderfully shot and as given to detail as Wes Anderson’s work (which is little surprise as Anderson was a producer of the film, and Bambauch was his partner on The Life Acquatic). I, of course, am late in seeing it, but if you’re as behind the times as me, please do take it as recommended.

Last evening, Sam and I pulled apart the bikes for some routine maintenance. It was gas tanks on the lawn, fairings and side panels off, down to the frame stuff. I shall not be the first to take motorcycle maintenance as a metaphor for life, but it is still cause for reflection. These machines are so human – they have symmetry and a modularity about them which is so like us. And underneath all the plastic they are just a few simple parts held together by a bucket of bolts. But it’ll carry you as far and as long as you want to go. The only limits are your ambitions, the elements, the occasional chance meeting with something much larger, and the way things occasionally break down without reason. With some recklessness and a good bit more thought you can go forever on these things, however simple they are underneath.


Phoff said...

Nice post, nice blog. Your roommate, in a rare moment of usefulness, pointed me in your direction.

I also recently watched The Squid and the Whale and I loved it. I was especially fond of the writing and Jeff Daniels' acting. The whole cast, actually, was quite good. Even Billy Baldwin, brother.

Funnily enough, I pulled out my old copy of Zen... on the weekend as my urge to by a bike has been reignited. Although I have yet to own one, the simplicity of those machines has always fascinated me.

Peter Loewen said...

Noel's usefulness knows no bounds.

I thought Billy Baldwin was brilliant, brother.

If you feel the urge to buy a bike you should follow it. There should never be any question of that.

Thanks for stopping by and come again.