January 24, 2004

Scrabble Brand Sentence Cube Game

Recently I played a game called "Scrabble Brand Sentence Cube Game," a Scrabble (r) spin-off provided by Selchow and Righter in the early sententies.

The game consists of 21 dice on the faces of which are printed short common words, such as "man," "leg," "walk," "kiss." The object of the game is to make sentences, which may be interlocking, within a given period of time (approximately 3 minutes) as timed by an egg timer.

Mis-reading the rules, and failing to note the bonus of 50 per sentences longer than 7 words, I presumed that the longer the sentence the merrier. And I did find it quite merry. Here are some of the sentences that I came up with:

"Baby saw how they live off a young beast and it is too bad his old lady did kiss, bare" (using 20 of the 21 dice)

"How bare a heart may he let love, my boy ran on up her new live work, not any cold felt" (using all 21 of the dice)

My, who is Japanese, wife managed
"They who time his old foot smell, laugh and ran out with a big part which felt new." (Using 18 of the dice)

Now, the thing is that while as a game, the "Scrabble Sentence Cube Game"
is not one I would recommend, I found making the largely non-sensical sentences to be particularly amusing - I laughed heartily - and even cathartic.

Now there is a certain sexual element to the above sentences that might, in a particularly inhibited mind, give rise to laughter. But it seemed to me that it was merely the ability to place words in grammatically correct but largely non-sensical order that caused my merriment.

Drawing on Freud's view of cause of laugher as the controlled return of the repressed, what repressed libinal drive might account for laughter at the ability to create nonsense?

From a Lacanain point of view, perhaps nonsense (the shaggy dog story?
the absurd?) may present the ultimate in comedy since it threatens what he calls the prohibition of the father. According the Lacan, the father prohbits not only that we give up our desire to be (re) united with our mother, but also that we confine ourselves, or even create ourselves, within the bounds, or topos, of language. After that moment that the father banishes us to the world of language, I am as I think myself, in language.

In this light, perhaps, the "Scrabble Sentence Cube Game" plays out the boundaries of the signified, and allows the return of something primally repressed: that we are, in , bounded by language and continually hopping from one signifier to another.

Or perhaps, simply, I simply have a purile sense of humour? There must be others like me. I recommend the Scrabble Sentence Cube Game to all those that are feeling a bit uptight and generally repressed.

Posted by timtak at 11:21 PM | Comments (2)

Solaris Spoiler

First of all I must say that I don't think that Solaris was a very good film, as a film. It was neither sufficiently entertaining, emotionally absorbing, or beautiful for me to recommended it to others.

However for someone that is interested in Dream Films (films/movies that portray life as a dream), Solaris was not only a must, it was also perhaps a first, in Hollywood at least (Solaris is remake of renowned Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's novel). I will explain why at the end of this review.

The plot of the film was not all that difficult. A psychologist, played by George Clooney, is sent to find out why the crew of a space station, orbiting the planet Solaris, refuse to return to earth. He arrives to find only two remaining crew members, a man (Snow) and a woman (Gordon), played by actors that were very good at what they do. Finding it impossible on the first day, to get any information from the two crew members (and an infant that it is inexplicably aboard the ship) the psychologist goes to sleep and dreams of his wife, who we learn is dead.

When the psychologist awakes, he finds that a replica of his dead wife, as she was when she was alive, is in bed with him. This replica wife is precise and complete in almost every way; she is all that he knew of his wife. She does not have any memories that he did not have of her. She is the replica of his memory or dream of his wife. At the same time she behaves, feels, and believes herself, at first at least, to be an autonimous human being.

It transpires that this is the reason why the crew of the space station have refused to return to earth. They have all dreamt into existance the person that they most wanted to meet, who arrive as a "visitor" at the bedside of the waking crew member.

The psychologist packs the first replica wife into an escape capsule and sends her into outer space to die. But when the second replica-dead-wife arrives (with no memory of the first) the psychologist falls in love with her.

This is not enough however to prevent the replica-wife from attempting, and finally suceeding in committing suicide. Realising that she is not a complete person, having only the memories and tendencies that her husband has of her (one of these a suicidal tendency, since the psychologist's wife did in fact commit suicide), she drinks liquid oxygen. But due to the power of the planet (? more of an outer space Gaia) her wounds heal and she is brought back to life.

There follows a period of dilemma. The female crew member, Gordon, insists that the psychologist allow his replica wife to die, using a super death ray that they manage to invent. She argues that replica (in Japan they say "dutch) wifey is not real and potentially dangerous. The psychologist argues that it does not matter, and that if Solaris meant harm then it clearly has the power to achieve that aim in a more effective manner.

The psychologist tries in vain to stay awake in order to prevent his replica wife from obliterating herself but fails. She zaps herself into oblivion.

Before deciding to return to earth however, they find that the male crew member, a spaced out nerdy type, with an articulation problem, is not the original crew member but rather a replica of that crew member's twin brother. The replica claims that as soon as he came into being his "brother" attempted to kill him. So he killed his dream creator in self defense. He argues, rather effectively, that it was not his fault. He says something like "There I was, just come into being, and I am confronted with this guy that wants to kill me (shouting "you replica, you fake," one might presume). So in the resulting struggle I ended up killing him."

Perhaps the two humans, the psychologists and the female crew member, might have attempted to zap this replica but realising that the zap beam has reduced the power of the space station such that it is being sucked into Solaris - which is glowing brightly now - the female crew member and the psychologist go to leave.

At the last moment, however, the psychologist baulks. It would seem that he stayed inside the doomed space station with the two remaining "vistors," the infant and the twin kiling replica.

The psychologist awakes to find himself back on earth feeling pretty lifeless and wondering what has happened. All seems pretty normal however until he cuts himself while chopping veg. The wound in his hand heals before his eyes. It is then that we realise that he has not returned to earth, but rather is in a Solarian dream world. He is himself now a replica. His wife arrives and tells him that they have been forgiven, they embrace, very much in love. End of film.

Despite being directed by the talented Steven Soderberg (Traffic is a film I admire), being produced by the great James Cameron, and having such excellent material, this was a rather disappointing film. While the supporting actors were excellent, the choice of George Clooney for the main part was for me a mistake. A fatal mistake in a film about doubts about the nature of reality, it seemed as if George never really seemed to believe in his part. The set was realistically made but perhaps unecessarily disconnected and claustrophobic. The whole movie was rather dimly lit.

More importantly however, the film did not spend enough time on its own creative orginality. The important differences between Solaris and the 1972 Soviet original, are also those passages that I felt deserved more attention: the final part back on dream-earth, and the character and dilemma of the male crew member, Snow.

If life is a dream of sorts, as Buddhism and Lacan would have us believe, then it is clear that we are not aware of this fact. As I type here at my keyboard, watching meaning appear at the cursor, I am not aware that I am caught in its throws. While I am able to read Lacanian and Buddhist machinations on the topic, and understand, at an intellectual level, what they have to say, I am certainly not wise to the fact that I am a marrionette made of various parts of speech.

So while it was very daring and commendable that Solaris to give give the game away, in respect of the visitors, and still manage to inject some emotion into the dilemma of rejecting a dream, it was a shame that it failed to have more of a punchy twist. The dream world sequence at the end was all too short and the ending (for me) predictable. We had seen after all the space station, with the psychologist on it, fall apart in cosmic smoke. I like my "DreamLife BuddhaMovies" to draw the viewer in and trick us into believing that what we are seeing is real.

The first part of the film, before arrival at the space station, showed the day to day life of the psychologist treating patients, one of whom claimed that they did not feel that life was real. Perhaps it would have been more effective if the space station part of the film was a flashback and that the beginning of the film be set also in the dream-world? I would have liked to believe in the dream world a little more and to have been shocked by its eventuall rejection, as I was shocked for instance by the revelation of "Angel Heart."

Additionally, again from a Freudo-Lacanian, or Buddhist perspecitve, the character of the male crew member Snow deserved more time. If life is a dream, and we are characters in that dream, then we have in a sense killed, or repressed, the dreamer (the Buddha or Id?) that created us. We live as the characters we have dreamt up, and we have forgotten, lost or abandoned the person that did (and is doing) the dreaming.

Again, in the vain hope that this film be remade again or that there is a directors cut (are you listening, Steven Soderberg? James Cameron!) it might be nice if the dilemma of the man wishing the ressurection of his wife be reduced to a subplot and the "psychologist" and twin-killing-Snow, be one and the same.

And creator on a dying space station.

This reminds me of a comic by Yoshiharu Tsugi, the Kafka of Japanese manga. In one of his shorts he created a story of a dective that eventually tracks down a criminal, who he comes to admire along the way, and handcuffs him inside a cave on a mountain. After much trial and tribulation the dective returns to the society, but not in time to get back to save the criminal who has by this time died in that cave. Or again, the wonderful theme of "The English Patient", where a man leaves his (rather maternal) girlfriend in a cave and cannot return in time to save her. If it is the case that the human condition is one in which we fabulate ourselves into this existance, then we have all left someone, the most important person, the dreamer, the lover, the person we seek, trapped somewhere until death.

Returning to Solaris however, the most exciting part about the film was that it came out in favour of the dream. In most films of this genre we are brought back to reality. Solaris ends in the dream and represents that dream as being the place in which we are happiest. In that sense Solaris attempted to be a a very positive film giving a postive spin to the lie which is our truth.

Posted by timtak at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)