Archive for the ‘ Discourse Parlor ’ Category

The Sum It Up Parlor on the Narrative Otherways


When I wrote this weblog from mid-2010 through 2012 it was my first expressive foray into the cyber sphere. It was written as my main contribution while being a Board member of Women In Film Seattle. I owe a debt to that group of women. Their willingness to give the weblog a home within the organization legitimized it, gave me a reason to go public in my explorations as a writer. A gift.

A parting thought.  Perhaps it’s obvious to you from a quick glance at these screenpages but unless you’ve a want to settle in and slow down, which I myself struggle to do when engaged with this rapidly mutating digital medium, you may think twice, or less, about entering here.  The filmstories taken under wing in these writings are, to my mind, engaged in a practice of evolving meaning.  Such evolution is mostly glacial, having an effect as drops of water into a sea on the amorphous “OverNarrative” that is continually beating the drums all around us and through which we try to define ourselves and derive our reason for being.


In which I explain what I mean by this term the “narrative otherways.

In truth what follows here in our final Parlor belongs at the beginning.  It takes a bit of getting used to, the directional momentum of this weblog form that forces what is written first to the end of a potentially endless “page” and out of sight.  In the oldworld of print (my youth) what I write now would have been first to be read, before all the rest.

Sidse Babett Knudsen & Mads Mikkelsen in After The WeddingThis is a long way around saying the first pieces I wrote for this Salon&Parlor, the underpinnings of the theory constructed here, have long since drifted to the bottom.  This is because the original and still primary reason for our digital push is technological innovation.  The highest value yet being placed on the very latest, the most new and shiny surface.  So when it comes to writing, that practice which predates the digital, the once dependable linear development of a body of thought is tossed and turned.

I in no way feel this as all loss.  The writing here reflects my learning the curve of the digital steep.  It has allowed me to build my thinking through time, piece by piece with all the side bars and discussions and suggestions of filmstories in between so that the ideas here have been field tested in a sort of practice as you preach method.  Instead of that once familiar steady progression of thought page after page the act of writing this weblog became to my mind, especially in the public, egalitarian crowd nature of it, more spherical, akin to those animated models of viruses – the ones with the prongs all round like deep water mines.

Oh dear.  Now I’ve fallen quite off the spine.  So to get back on track we will begin…er…end…er…begin the ending!

It must be said that I, a mere pamphleteer, an eager humanist, write with nothing to lose.  I am by choice a provincial – ever attentive to the deep of the cultural stream – but a provincial nonetheless.  A woman at late middle age, I realize now that as a writer I have sought neglect.  However that may influence my perspective, I first want to directly address:

What the word “narrative” means to me.  Continue reading

Discourse Parlor: The spiritual questing of Corinne- the dangerous thinking daughter of Higher Ground

Annie note:  I apologize to anyone who may have noticed for the amount of time it has taken to post this Discourse Parlor on faith.  Too many days have passed since my promise of it in the last Salon. This is unacceptable, even from the most permissive, indulgent perspective.  You can be sure that the angry taskmaster inside my own head has been merciless!

 All I can offer in defense is that I was sidetracked by another bit of writing.  I’ve been trying to flesh out this idea of an emergent Narrative Otherways.  It’s a mystery why that bit pushed itself to the front of the writing queue except that it began to feel necessary to be understood, as much as possible, on a concept that’s been so central to this Salon&Parlor project.  And, I suppose, because narrative is entangled with faith in my conception of things.  The upside of this cart before the horse process is that next Parlor, intended to be the last and final post from these parts, should be coming your way in a much more timely fashion.

And now to the topic at hand –

Corinne, the dangerous thinking daughter of Higher Ground.

At the end of her movie Corinne Walker exits her church, never to return.  She is casting herself out.  For those who remain sitting in the pews, Corinne is making a choice of the street, the wilderness realm of dogs, over safety and righteousness.  Literally, from the way of perceiving constructed inside that church, Corinne is turning her back on an afterlife of heaven for the eternal burn of hell.  But we know, from watching her story of questing for answers to the why of her being, Corinne is choosing to live in this life, in the here and now.

On the surface Higher Ground is a fable-like tale of down to earth people with everyday concerns.  It would seem very ordinary if Jesus and Satan didn’t keep popping into every conversation.  But deities of all sorts are active participants in Corinne’s community of believers.  At the drop of a hat a bible’s thrown open, sending conversational language into the stilted text of millennium old desert tales of good and evil: angry fathers sacrifice their sons; a woman picks fruit from a tree (of knowledge) casting mankind out of paradise.  How hard this contemporary community works to synthesize such a stretch.  It’s a testament to the adaptable human psyche, acting out our desire to convince ourselves things happen for a reason and all powered by our need to make order from the chaos.

Which is why Corinne’s eyes-wide-open questing around in this mundane wanting to be extraordinary world is the perfect foil for the explorations of a spirited woman caught in a rigid, top down system of who’s-allowed-to-speak. Women’s place is fixed in this ordering (surprise surprise) in the mute, lower regions.  And the whole towering structure is sustained by a flock refusing to apply empirical knowledge to their constructed perception of the world.  To question equals danger to these systems of belief.  To think is to threaten.

The closing of Corinne’s story with her walk out opens the question –  if this woman can no longer believe what is practiced as faith inside that church, then what else might faith be?  Corinne, in her refusal to accept voiceless-ness represents those of us out here, we thinking daughters who have chosen the street, with the dogs; we who are unable to submit to the roles assigned us; we who dare to mull reasons for being based on our experience of this life in the here and now. Continue reading

Paternity Parlor part two – Fathers and Sons and Violence.

How a man refuses violence to protect his son in Susanne Bier’s In a Better World

How does a father raise a son to grow within our tangled conception of manhood?  What part of  how to be a man has altogether to do with violence?  The use of it.  Being familiar with its force and workings?  Linknote

The story of Anton, the father in Susanne Bier’s In a Better World, begins in Africa; a land where acts of homicide and mutilation by rogue bullymen are given reason by our insatiable desire for the raw materials and sparkling stones still to be found there.  Everyone’s culpable in this endless play of centrifugal nihilism. Beast us.  Mostly I let myself tune out those stories because, well, I must keep my hope.

But Bier does not tune out.  Nor does she leave us to wallow but riffs off the bold outline of an African manifestation tracing the bully pattern from its stark exposition there to dig at its more disguised and familiar roots in the resource consuming landscape of Denmark.  Here, with two fathers who must engage with an evil that threatens to incarnate in their own young sons, Bier goes at the heart of troubling questions about our bully selves: how to exhume and release the ancient hold of violence on us?  How to counter the monster bullies that are groomed and given life by violence without giving birth to that malignancy in ourselves?  More fundamentally, if our emotional mechanisms default to the use of force, especially when we are wounded, in doubt or under stress, could these be reframed as only one of many innate propensities in us to be given encouragement, or not, by our structures, familial and institutional?  Continue reading

Parlor Discourse on Retooling fatherhood. Or how to crawl out of that sink hole.

Paternity Parlor part one.  The Lovely Bones.

Let’s narrow down Dean’s question from our last Parlor, “What is it to be a man?” and just take a look at dad.  Since back before we daughters can remember a father’s role has revolved in great part round being the one who protects those too young, too weak to protect themselves, and most ferociously, his blood.

Yes, evil’s out there, and in here, in all its spectacular and mundane forms.  A darkness that destroys, ever shapeshifting and clever.  A darkness much entangled with our will to life, evolving right along side everything else, feeding off the energy of love like sugar while the revenge response, always to do with violence, spreads evil’s infection in a sort of contact contagion, working more to cauterize life’s flow than protect it.

Both The Lovely Bones and In a Better World are tales of darkness and its violence – one of a daughter lost to it, one of a son in danger of being lost.  Both have in them fathers struggling to forge narrow passage away from their paternal role as the omnipotent protector and when failing (as inevitably all fathers do, if only with their own deaths) both resist the default pull of paternal revenge and retribution, that old eye for an eye which isn’t, being in fact an escalation.

Instead, the fathers in these stories open their wounded hearts to become seekers of a re-balance, however transitory, however built on that rushing air carried atop rivers, in the hope of allowing for their families’ re-emergent, tentative lean toward life.  Tricky, this.  This re-positioning of fathers to face forward somehow, to find with their surviving loved ones a way not retribution, not “closure” either, rather an away from the ravages of the protector’s revenge, that scorched earth where nothing grows, that infectious, viral realm of Monsters, those beings of violence given over to the spreading darkness. Continue reading

Our Promise Parlor part two: Blue Valentine

This is the second of two Discourses from our Salon: The Fight for Women’s Promise.

 The Movie Salon The Fight for Women’s Promise posted first and set out our issues. 
The first Discourse on Revolutionary Road posted earlier. 

And now for some thinking on Blue Valentine.  

In the middle of her fight to keep her Paris promise to herself, April of Revolutionary Road listens to that crazy guy soothsay, “I know one thing.  I know I’m glad I’m not that child!” as he points at April’s womb.

April, already ready twice a 1950’s mother, knows he speaks the truth.  She knows what’s up.  That she doesn’t have enough emotional resource left to keep her promise of a creative life and to birth another child, too.  She just can’t do it all.  Another pregnancy signals the end of it.  And so, once her husband Frank destroys the dream of Paris, April just lets her promise go by letting go her life, making her exit right out of the male narrative just as much as Thelma and Louise did going off that cliff.

Sitting in the empty dark after witnessing this tale of April’s extinguishment and our loss of what more she might have become, I ask myself – what kind of, for lack of a better word, weltanschauung would rather lay to waste its lifeforce than let woman out from under its service to explore what her promise might be?

In Blue Valentine, Cindy’s promise of a healed life is manifested in her dream of becoming a doctor.  But in the all-too-real world, with her meager resources compounded by a family legacy of futility and rage, Cindy traverses not a path of healing but the American underclass of tired retro hip, drinking, and dead end jobs.  Remnant disappointment lingers everywhere.  All slightly, what is it?  Sticky. This frazzled edge of loss is no one’s dream life.  And in this story of Cindy’s love with Dean the seeds of that love’s end are sown in the beginning. We are spared the dreary middle.  Continue reading

Our Promise Parlor part one: Revolutionary Road

There are two parts to our Discourse this time round. 

Below’s the first centered on the film Revolutionary Road.
The second with Blue Valentine at its center will post in the near. 
What is it to abandon the promise one’s made to oneself?


Deep in the code of our inherited male narrative, woman as the portal for life, the mother, is idolized into deepfreeze or reframed as burden; either way a method for crippling and containing.  This tends to turn women’s great gift for birthing life into nightmare by way of elaborate, mostly repressed mechanisms that block and bind us, setting our biology in opposition to any discovery of what womanhood might be, might be becoming once separated from reproduction.  Which is underway.  There is no turning back.  This is an untenable equation no matter how much is sacrificed, by both men and women, trying to prove this ancient, no longer relevant foundation to be solid and true.  As a consequence the emotional evolution of us all is crippled and contained because our continuing, essential emergence can not find birth without both women and men as fearlessly as possible encouraging growth in one another.

The stories in these two films, Revolutionary Road and Blue Valentine, approach the untangling of this mess.

 “Having babies is a blessing, not a duty.” 

Our once First Lady Mrs. Betty Ford.   May she rest in peace.


But first, a meanwhile…

A woman rises from the seats of the cavernous Egyptian Theater during the question answer session after the showing of The Whistleblower, a Women In Film Seattle sponsored film at SIFF – a story about a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia who uncovers a sex trafficking ring.  The woman stands to question the film’s director, Larysa Kondracki about forcing the audience to watch a brutal torture scene of a young woman by her captors.  Very upsetting. 

Ms. Kondracki responds by acknowledging the woman’s emotional shock and states that it was very difficult, too, for everyone involved in the filming.  And in the edit again, she had to carefully weigh how much was enough.  Then she explains that as a storyteller she absolutely needed the scene in order to show that this “breaking” (a term of the darkworld depicted) of the young woman was a tactical decision on the part of the sex traffickers.  She had shown too much, well, will to live by trying to escape.  Ms. Kondracki felt her story had to show the violence it takes to enforce what is, from the trafficker’s point of view, a practical matter.  An independent minded woman is expensive, you see; a young woman’s human will is a detriment to profit in this economic system that demands the female body be put under the absolute control of the males who trade in them.  Money’s more easily made from a broken girl.  Less fuss.  And besides, broken’s much more marketable to other men. 

It’s an accepted principle of predatory economics to “contain” the cost of labor, right?  That’s the game, no matter what the damage.  Because it keeps in place the underpinning rationale, a presumption, that it’s the given order of human interaction to take the life force, the raw resource of the energy of lower others, by violent means if necessary, for the benefit, the enrichment of one’s own.  The rights of the privileged.  Top of the heap.

What has all this to do with the film Revolutionary Road?

Continue reading

Parlor Discourse on Womanhood’s Escape from the Reproductive Model

By way of reminder.

We are turning to the films, I Am Love, Leaving, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, as our compass for a trend, a raising of voices lately heard to mull a certain shift in what we collectively understand as the role of women.  And to run our fingers along an anxiety detected in the general cacophony, repressed or not so much, over that shift.

These films tell of three perfect/imperfect women and their somewhat messy bolt for new life.  We center on these tales not so much as fine specimens of cinema, although there’s much art here, but because these storytellers are not just reacting, are not just paddling around in the remnant narrative space left to women.  No.  They and their fine actresses are tearing open, spilling out into the newly forming ground of transformational womanhood underway at the very core of our being.  Here and right now. Continue reading