You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2008.

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Happy New Years to all, whether you’re burying an old year or ringing in the new, whether with nostalgia, angst, or optimism… Auld lang syne!

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buddha
As previously promised, the second edition of my short series on thinkers who understood inner travel has now been published over at Brave New Traveler. Predictably, it’s titled, “Five Eastern Thinkers Who Understood Inner Travel.”

Although as a fair warning, I’m quite discouraged by how it has been edited. My piece was the first article edited by their new editor, and the changes that were made by the editor were unnecessary, and they make the piece more simplistic and bland than it was originally written. Furthermore, there are a couple of grammatical typos which were actually edited in— not my doing (I wrote with a complaint and the errors still haven’t been corrected). So I apologize if it seems like the wit is ill-timed, or the paragraph transitions are awkward. Maybe you won’t notice because you didn’t see the original, but I wasn’t happy with it.

Nonetheless, you can check it out now and tell me what you think of the list. Who would you have listed? Oh, and I’m regretful to report, for those that took notice before, that it was more difficult to include female thinkers on an Eastern list than it was with the Western one, but I did look for them– I promise!

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Continuing my escapades into travel writing, I’ve got a couple of articles posted over at the Australia Travel Guide at WhyGo.com.

Both of the articles are up there as features right now. One is titled “Hiking Uluru, and Why You Probably Shouldn’t“, and the other is titled Australia’s Rainforests: Daintree National Park“.

The idea behind WhyGo.com is to offer guides that go beyond just the How to‘s of travel; but to answer the Why‘s too, to inspire travel. That makes writing for them particularly enjoyable. I get to write passionately about the places and the adventures I’ve lived and loved.

For those that don’t know, I studied abroad and lived in Australia for a time, and I’ll be continuing duties at the site as a regular writer and guide for Australian travel. I’ve had an itch to get back to Oz since the day I left, but writing these articles is making it downright irresistible. Unfortunately a ticket to Sydney is just not practical right now, but at least the writing offers some consolation to my needy imagination.

Check out the articles, there will be more on the way. And wander the site for some inspiration on wherever you want to go next.

Over at pixcetera, there’s a wonderful collage of photos featuring various monkeys of the world. This got me all nostalgic about my passion for primatology.

Not too long ago, before deciding to go to graduate school for philosophy, I was actually intending to pursue my second major professionally instead– bioanthropology. I was going to become a primatologist and evolutionary scientist. As the story goes, philosophy won me over. But my passions in zoology and bioanthropology have never waned, and of course major tracks of my travels have been themed by my love of nature.

Most recently, I spent a little over a week in the Peruvian Amazon last spring– the highlight of my entire South American trip. After three and a half days on a rusty riverboat transporting goods and people down the Rio Ucayali (to where it converges with the Amazon!) from Pucallpa to Iquitos, I spent several days in Iquitos which included a day at an animal orphanage in nearby Padre Cocha.

While there, I had a handful of primate encounters. Literally– a handful. Pixcetera’s collage inspired me to post some photos of my own primate encounters below.

The rare Uacaryi Monkey - A Thrill for me!

The rare Uacaryi Monkey - A Thrill for me!

A Saki Monkey

A Saki Monkey

Capuchin Monkey - Swinging his way to mischief!

Capuchin Monkey - Swinging his way to mischief!

Howler Monkey - Sleeping soundly!

Howler Monkey - Sleeping soundly... for now

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There’s no secret about my love for Charlie Kaufman movies, so needless to say I’ve been waiting for this one all year long. Usually reserved to screenwriting duties, Kaufman went a step further with Synecdoche, New York, and made his directorial debut. Perhaps for this reason, this film peers even deeper into the absurdities and recursions of Kaufman’s mind than we’ve seen in the past. The film also features what may be the perfect marriage to Kaufman’s characters, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing the lead.

If Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tiptoed the surrealistic line, Synecdoche, New York tumbles right over the edge. Unlike his previous films, Synecdoche also largely abandons a cohesive narrative flow. Although we do grow older with the character, each snippet of the character’s life is so stock full of recursion and self-reference that aging does little to offer narrative structure to the viewer.

“Synecdoche” is a literary term which refers to a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part. And likewise, the film as a whole can potentially be either praised or criticized scene for scene. It has moments of sheer brilliance, perhaps most notably during a funeral scene where a priest gives a breathtaking speech, which might just be Kaufman’s “Hamlet moment”. Unfortunately, the film has many scenes and symbols which are also extremely frustrating, definitely a reminder that every great writer still needs an editor.

Overall, this is a film that needs to be seen multiple times– really, it should be viewed multiple times. To be praised for its ambition and profundity, I find it difficult to ultimately fault Kaufman for slipping up on occasion within a film that’s trying to say everything.

The only real question left is: Where does Kaufman go from here? Can he return to writing more accessible films, or will Kaufman go completely David Lynch and get even more recursive? Kaufman has left his career in a precarious place: Does he continue to recycle the same grand ambition? After making a film which attempts to say it all, perhaps the most mysterious thing about Synecdoche, New York is wondering about what its intellectual sequel could possibly be.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 4 years to find out.