Tuesday, January 25, 2011

01.25.11 update

Ugh. I have been knocked flat by a flu for nearly a week now. I don't think I've been this sick since I was a kid. Part of it is exhaustion, part of it is the nasty bug that everybody around me seems to have had caught already this winter.

In between naps and feeling woozy, about all I've been able to manage is to watch Chinese soaps and knit. It's a strangely blissful combination. I've had the hankering to dive back into some old favorite series' for a couple months now ... working in Chinatown does that to me. It makes me nostalgic for the time in my life when I was super, super into Chinese music, Chinese movies, Chinese TV, Chinese language, Chinese dance, you name it, I was there.

This is such a quality series. I have always loved the cinematic excesses that come along with martial arts films: the flashing swords! the flying! the mythologies about 'qi' or energy and how you can shoot beams of energy to heal or harm each other (or yourself), walk on water, or battle entirely in the mind. But I also love this series for its own sake, the way it simultaneously perfectly embodies the martial arts genre of Chinese movies/TV, but also perfectly takes the genre to such extremes that it's downright funny. Both dramatic and melodramatic, both heartwrenching and sappy, both serious and comical. At the climax of a 5-minute scene where a mother, about to be banished forever, speaks movingly to her daughter about how her love for her daughter exceeds all else known on this planet, my dad interrupts her monologue with a theatrical whisper, "Chinese PROPAGANDA!"

We are all cynics in this household.

Besides the reasons mentioned above, I suspect that another reason I love Chinese martial arts movies so much is that I understand the genre well enough to parse the sincere from the over-the-top. It's what makes parodies so much fun, right? You know the original reference and can see where the train has gone off the tracks. Yet it's still fun for me because I am not inundated by this all the time, like I am with American films. Because I've seen so many chick flicks or superhero movies or teen dramas or thrillers, I can predict pretty easily: oh, we're :45 minutes into Spiderman? Our hero's probably already gone through the self-doubt and attempt to renounce being a superhero, and is just about ready to have somebody close to him die which means he'll have to cut off ties with everybody he cares about in order to "protect" them and set up a me-vs.-the-world scenario, and because he won't tell anybody he cares about why he's doing this, he will also be forced to watch his girl take up with his enemy, thereby creating a showdown where she watches the two of them battle it out and she understands that the superhero truly loves her after all.

Maybe if I saw a couple of those each year, I wouldn't mind, just like I overlook the inconsistencies and weaknesses of the martial arts genre. Its strange how intimacy works that way - sometimes, by drawing closer to a subject, your like and dislike both intensity. You tire of it even as you can better appreciate the nuances and subtleties.

I've been thinking about the generation of sewists before me ... the ones who grew up with sewing as a necessity and not a luxury. That is a level of intimacy with sewing that I do not yet know, as I have not elected for an entirely me-sewn wardrobe. Not just wardrobe, but household goods, bedsheets, curtains, you name it, they sewed it. It was a matter of economic necessity and not of choice. I could see where shopping for clothing, or no longer having to sew up the damn slip covers for the couch, was such a luxury. What a welcome relief! Is it only because I view sewing at a comfortable distance, akin to my beloved Chinese soaps, that I am so fond of it? What happens when we take what was formerly a hobby and turn it into a necessity, as is the case for those who opt for an entirely handmade wardrobe? Hobby - often finding pleasure in the process. Necessity - driven by necessity in the outcome. I know it's possible to balance both, but I'm less sure how to get there.


poet said...

Ow, I hope you feel better! I don't have much experience with Chinese movies, or with knitting while watching movies at all... I'm curious, do you have a reason to choose to say "sewist"? It seems a new-ish term, I haven't heard it often and I can only speculate. (I say "seamstress" and "seamster" ;)


Sølvi said...

Great post! I hope you feel better. It´s such an interesting point you make, the distinction between a hobby and a necessity.

For me, it´s all about changing the way I live my life. Sewing my own clothes is a small protest against the "system" that wants me to wear whatever everybody else is wearing and think what everybody else is thinking, and not think of the consequences of our over-consumption of "stuff".

But at the same time, I know that we are just a fortunate few in this world who can make such individualistic choices. For most people, necessity always comes first, and that´s why I, for one, is utterly grateful that I am able to live my life the way I do.

Minnado said...

Hi Jessica,
I hope you are feeling better. I agree with what Solvi says and she puts it so much more eloquently than I can!

Zonnah said...

Feel better soon, being sick is the worst!

Amy said...

Man, that was one super coherent post for a woman with the flu. I can't even knit when I'm sick, let alone write. Chinese soaps--now that I could probably handle. ;-) (Your dad's little stage whisper in there made me laugh!)

You know, I wonder if it's even possible for most of us to achieve that place of pure necessity anymore--after all, even *opting* for an entirely handmade wardrobe is still about having a choice. Of course that's still something more than a hobby. (And frankly, as one who occasionally can't even take pleasure in her own hobbies, I'm not sure I'm fully qualified to be dipping into this discussion...)

Anyhoo--hope you feel much, much better very soon.