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Guest Contributor #8: Jason Simpson

journalist, writer, musician and long-time friend Jason Simpson contributes to the newsletter with his answers to 4 questions

1. What is a movie that you think people should know about that speaks to you?

This is quite the understatement, but this is an incredibly strange time to be alive. We take so much of the technology that surrounds us for granted, as it's the only world we've ever known. It's easy to forget that we are, metaphorically speaking, surrounded by ghosts every second of our lives. Before roughly 150 years ago, no living human could've known the mannerisms, the tics and quirks and figures of speech of distant generations and far-off people. We live our lives surrounded by phantoms.
I'll illustrate with a brief, personal example. I was probably in my mid-20s, living back at home with my Mom for a moment in Northwest Indiana. We both had a free afternoon and were lazing around, killing time. My Mom suggested we put on the VHS my cousin Greg had made for us, compiled from footage from the '80s from his shoulder-mounted camcorder.
My dad passed away when I was fairly young. I remember one of the first realizations that upset me so much after his passing was that I started to forget what his voice sounded like far too quickly. I wouldn't hear it again for roughly another 17 years. I had resigned myself to never hearing it again.
Yet, there on that overcast random Tuesday with zero warning, there he was, in an approximation of the living flesh. I had been looking elsewhere, thinking of something else. I heard that voice, that laugh, and my blood turned to ice. I felt like crying. I felt like I'd been shot. Words are a pale imitation of the sheer animal bewilderment of that electromagnetic miracle.
Goodbye, Dragon Inn is a Chinese movie for 2003, directed by Tsai Ming-liang, that deals with the spectral nature of cinema. It tells the story of the last night of a grand old movie palace in Shanghai, where aging film stars gather in the shadows to watch their younger selves one final time while winos and street dwellers lurk in eerie derelict hallways.
Goodbye, Dragon Inn works for me as it operates on numerous levels without ever coming right out and stating its main themes. The celluloid ghosts alone would be enough to earn it a place in my Top 10, but the forensic chill of the early '00s film quality, paired with one of the all-time great neon color coding, seals the deal, making it my go-to "About Me" movie in the last few years.

2. What is a favorite song that made you excited to explore a band / artist's career further? What is it about that song that resonates so strongly?

"Only Shallow" by My Bloody Valentine. It's almost embarrassing to admit, but I got into MBV at the end of the '90s, when publications started running their inevitable "Best of the Decade" lists. Incredibly, both Trey Anastasio, the guitar player from Phish, and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails picked a My Bloody Valentine album. I want to say Trent chose Isn't Anything and Trey talked about Loveless, instigating a fascination that has only grown stronger over the last 20 years.
I chose "Only Shallow" as, for starters, it's a strong contender for the greatest album opener of all time. Colm O'Coisig's opening tommy gun snare still thrills me, even though I've heard it 10,000 times. It's also an excellent microcosm of MBV's musical universe. It's got Kevin Shield's riotous siren-like glide guitar as well as the Cocteau Twin-like glossolalia of Blinda Butch buried deep in the mix, like a fragment of a dream you clutch at like cobwebs upon waking.
Both times I've seen My Bloody Valentine live they've opened with "Only Shallow." It's difficult to put into words the sheer adrenaline of hearing those 4 drum hits followed by the disorienting wall of guitars. It's equal parts battle cry, seduction, and altered state.

3. What does your perfect comfort meal consist of?

It might be cheating, but I'd have to say the Indian buffet. Chicken tikka masala (or "the orange one" as I tend to think of it) is probably my favorite food, so I take the opportunity to eat as much of that as possible. Plus, I'm far too skinny and don't eat enough, so the limitlessness of the buffet makes my heart sing, filling me with a deep sense of contentment and gratitude.
Plus, I'm no nutritionist so I'm totally guessing, but there's something in Indian food my body must really need. I don't know what it is, I've puzzled over it for years. Maybe it's the cinnamon? Cumin and turmeric, perhaps? Whatever it is, there's some spice I get when drinking chai and eating tikka masala and paneer that just makes me feel instantly cheerful, mellow, and relaxed.

4. What is something that moves you to tears (film, song, book, anything)?

Too many things. After my Dad died when I was little, as I was talking about above, my heart froze up. I got the lovely "boys don't cry/you need to be strong for your mom and sister/you're the man of the house now" talk from my Auntie, despite the fact that I was 9, which I sadly took to heart. It's one of the main reasons music, movie, and books mean so much, as they let me flank the Marginot Line of my conscious thoughts so I can experience my emotions directly.

There are many that I could choose from, but I'm going with "Walking Far From Home" by Iron & Wine. The whole thing is poetry, but the line "I saw kindness and an angel/Crying, 'Take me back home, take me back home'" is what gets the waterworks flowing. I don't particularly feel connected to my flesh, for one thing. For another, I've never felt particularly at home in this world. Sometimes I struggle wanting to be here at all. It's taken a long time to stop feeling so precious, to stop trying to disassociate from the dirt and sweat and mess of being alive, of being Human. I feel half beast, half Angel.

I struggle daily with the dissonance of feeling disconnected and ill-at-ease with humanity and society paired with an absolutely endless, insatiable hunger to experience as much of creation as I can. Despite my melancholy and occasional misanthropy, I dearly love life and always have. I even adore humanity most of the time, I'm just saddened and disappointed when I think of the beauty and genius we're capable of. How could it be otherwise when you make or love Art?

'J. Simpson is a journalist, critic, academic writer, and independent researcher specializing in "dark," experimental, and avant-garde art. You can find him on Instagram or Twitter at @for3stpunk or subscribe to his newsletter Hauntology Now! He also makes music and DJs as Dessicant."


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