The Ugly Little Table: A Neighborhood Imaginary Companion

The Ugly Little Table: A Neighborhood Imaginary Companion

The Ugly Little Table is an engaging short film that tells a bittersweet tale about the ordeals of a homely-looking little table. When the little table is seemingly mysteriously abandoned in front of a city apartment building, none of the neighbors passing by knows what to do. Initially, the little table is an unwelcome sight, and everyone tries to ignore it. They’re confused by it and resent its presence. But as time goes by, the neighbors start using the ugly little table in various ways, each becoming attached to it. Suddenly, one day the little table disappears, just like the fate of our childhood imaginary companions. At that point, the neighbors’ former attachments to the ugly little table are transformed into new-found affectionate attachments to each other.

The Ugly Little Table: A Neighborhood Imaginary Companion

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Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Over the years, Gus Van Sant has become one of the premiere modern-day story tellers about the burdens of social and emotional dysfunction, assembling for his films a parade of hustlers, junkies, psychopathic weather girls and troubled geniuses to wander and stumble across the stage as fascinating displays for his film’s audiences. I have always found it to be a curiosity that in his increasingly popular films seemingly about sex, sexuality and wishes for emotional attachment in the lives of those living on society’s outer fringes (for example, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and Milk), there is in fact a puzzling lack of real sexuality, sensuality or emotional intimacy between the main characters.

It appears that Van Sant presents his audiences with charades of sensuality and intimacy, directing his actors to perform as though they were emotionally engaged, when in fact they are not. Van Sant has adopted the very same vacant voyeuristic stance that was so characteristic for two of his main filmmaking heroes, William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol.

Gus Van Sant’s 1978 short-film adaptation of William Burrough’s essay/short story Do Easy (DE) provides a clear example of the projection of Van Sant’s own psychology spilling over into the area of relational impairment. Most short reviews of Van Sant’s adaptation, The Discipline of Do Easy, blithely describe the film as an offbeat “instructional” little film about living in the easiest, most relaxed way we can. Some even say that the short film is filled with great advice that’s very zen-like in nature. A quirky and fun film to watch.

But let’s have another take on what goes on in Do Easy. Van Sant’s advice centers upon themes of collecting, measuring, counting, cleaning, repetition and “magical” undoing. He describes Doing Easy as a WAY of doing, but the doing is in fact constantly being alert to things, a never-ending vigilant observance of potentially dangerous objects, even within the small world of one’s very own apartment. Doing Easy yields neither an easy nor relaxed life, but rather an obsessive-compulsive pathology, most clearly manifested in a socially deadly form of isolation of affect.

Thinking and observing are separated from and take the place of real emotional relationships with others. And that is what is so characteristic of his major films about society’s outsiders. In this particular short film, Doing Easy doesn’t lead one to a relaxed sense of attachment to or closeness with others, but rather in the end it provokes the fearful destruction of others.

Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

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Seductive Bare-Chested Masculine Confidence

Seductive Bare-Chested Masculine Confidence

Actually, now that I’ve had some more time to think about it from the perspective of a quick character study, while looking more closely at the very interesting photographs of this guy, perhaps I should have described him as “alluring,” rather than “seductive.” “Alluring” suggests, I think, a less cold-hearted stance toward/with others, while “seductive” implies intentionally hard-hearted and calculated schemes to take advantage of others. But the “bare-chested masculine confidence” is certainly a fitting description of the aura he projects.

This is a very handsome, muscular fellow, who most men and women would probably find to be quite attractive. The guy recently won a national title, Mr. America, Mr. American Glamour, Mr. Fascination, or some title like that. Well, at least I know for darn sure that I’m correct about the Mister part. In almost all of the photographs of him, this manly man looks you straight in the eye. In that sense he creates an impression of invitation, with an implication of closeness.

On the other hand, his gaze has a certain vacant quality, conveying a decidedly disinterested air. In other words, there exists a paradox of social attachment or closeness, accompanied by an opposite message of social distance. I’m wondering if this social ambivalence might be somewhat characteristic of people who are celebrities, as well as of people who want or are trying to be celebrities. Anyway, at the very least my comments here have attempted to establish an underlying point that there’s nothing improper about looking closely at men who are alluring and very attractive. Perhaps it’s more a matter of how you think about it.

The Alluring Guy with Bare-Chested Confidence

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Looking at You: And You the Same

On Attachment: Looking at You, Looking at Me, Looking at You

Looking at You: And You The Same

Feeling Connected

I’m looking at you
Looking at me
Looking at you
And you the same.

Disembedded, 2005


Looking at You, Looking at Me, Looking at You

Please Note: I have written a comment about this posting, and I hope very deeply that you might read it and, perhaps, respond. My very best wishes to you.
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