LaBeouf Goes Live

Face pointed upward, strained this moment, serene the next, blinking heavily at his own image; Shia LaBeouf’s meditative commitment is impressive.  Now three days in he occasionally rests his head between his legs before returning his eyes to the silver screen.

#ALLMYMOVIES isn’t the first time that LaBeouf has committed to some lengthy act of organised self promotion – many of us caught bits of his one hour skippathon earlier this year (Meditation For Narcissists) – and now we are invited to look upon his features alone as he watches himself acting out past roles in a three day movie playlist of everything he has ever made. He laughs, he sleeps, eats pizza, drinks, yawns and strokes his beard for three days, 24 hours a day. Well over a hundred thousand of us watch transfixed, sporadically checking which movie he’s on now. We become very aware of his green coat and white hoodie, occasionally his hood up as he sleeps off parts of Transformers; who could blame him.

Screenshot 2015-11-12 18.50.04

I have heard people talking over the last few days about this stunt with equal measures of disdain and admiration, some naming LaBeouf pretentious, others can’t help but open up the live stream as soon as they are seated. This the same man that walked the red carpet during the premiere of Lars Von Tier’s Nymphomaniac at the Berlin Film Festival with a brown paper bag over his head scrawled with the words ‘I’m not famous anymore’, the man that once said his entire life is an art project, the same man that said that he was retiring from public life.

The guy to LaBeouf’s right too regularly leans into the frame, yawns left, rests his head onto his shoulder, he wants to be watched and for some reason this irritates me, this unknown attention seeking stranger offends the purpose of my viewing;  whatever that might be. A girl steps into his seat during one of the five minute breaks between features, she pulls a few serious faces – I imagine that she is feigning stroking her own nonexistent beard – before moving on. I find myself wanting him to return, to be back where he is supposed to be. Two men in red hats are out of focus in the row behind LaBeouf’s seat. How many people are seeing this image with me? Have now also focused on these unknown red hat wearers?  Why do we wait for his return? Why are we watching this at all?

What is our fascination with that which is live? With celebrity? I myself have never been able to understand the attraction of shows like ‘Big Brother’ but I wonder if this doesn’t rouse in some people the same kind of fascination that I now hold in regards to LaBeouf’s soft, screen lit features. There is something stirring in knowing that he is as presently there as I am here; writing these words, split screen allowing me to catch his smiles, sips of water, beard stroking. I’m not sure that I like LaBeouf – the Shia LaBeouf that lives in my mind that is, having very little to do with a man that I have never met and do not know – but I feel slightly sad that he is not going to be there tomorrow, a reassuring presence amid the turbulence of having to live a life in the world. Is that it then, a constant? A friend, a familiar face? Do we empathise with LaBeouf? Why do we… Why do I care? I am reading into his expressions as he watches himself act as a child. Does he think kind thoughts about his younger self? Does he cringe? I imagine that these are the types of questions ‘the art that is the life of Shia LaBeouf’ was hoping to raise with this stunt. But self aware narcissism is still narcissism right? And yet I am somehow moved by this weird wannabe art kid’s idea, and isn’t that enough?

Where all this leads I don’t know, suffice to say that LaBeouf is a product of our age,
a practitioner of self indulgence and experimenter with the attention fame allows, which is not something I jump to dismiss. After all LaBeouf is a millennial, using the tools at his discretion, as am I.

Posted in Art, Expression | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Vegan?

Why are you vegetarian? Why am I vegetarian? I have been asked this question all of my life and it always strikes me as a bit strange, I mean why are you NOT vegetarian is surely a more obvious question. I have always believed that if the meat eaters in my life were really faced with what it is they are supporting they too would become veggies. I feel myself to be a good judge of character; I like to think that I surround myself with conscientious likeminded people, people who care about each other, people who appreciate and have empathy for life in all of its forms. I mean who in this country of dog lovers would think it’s okay to kick a puppy? So why is it okay to torture a piglet?

I am vegan. This doesn’t mean that I am wishy washy or hippy or happier or even healthier. What being vegan means to me is that I can no longer justify my own consumption and support of the dairy industry. I’ve always known what it means to eat meat: direct and indisputable support of the most horrific degradation, torture and murder of animals for our convenience, our taste buds. And there was a time when I weighed all that up, and chomped down, because ‘I know I shouldn’t but..’, and ‘I know I’ll stop when I’m more settled, have more money’, yada yada. And this is support of completely open torture we’re talking about here, there’s nothing covert about the meat industry, we all have access to YouTube. (Disclaimer: I am talking directly from the privilege of my birth, social class, education and access to alternatives. To talk about veganism and poverty or veganism and the lack of a supermarket, is a completely other topic.) But if somebody who considers them self to be kind and conscientious can justify supporting the meat industry regardless of their awareness of its realities, then questioning the dairy industry just seems too much, right? A step too far, over the top, do goody.

I have always loved dogs. They are joy incarnate and I think that the world, and my life, is better off with dogs in it. I mean I REALLY love dogs. AND I love cats. I grew up with both, as so many people are lucky enough to do. I would never have tried to consciously hurt a cat or dog or any other animal, because I had a good childhood and I was taught that it wasn’t right. We all understand pain before we can talk, we all – hopefully – learn that it is something to avoid inflicting on other living beings. But we are not taught about cows and pigs and chickens and fish and all the other animals that our species is responsible for systematically mutilating and killing, because it happens elsewhere, out of sight, out of mind. So just let it go, don’t think about it, it’s a horrid thought and there’s no need. Why stress yourself out or make yourself feel uncomfortable?

The other day, okay maybe it was a year ago, I watched a TedTalk on neurons and how the human brain is just the same as any other large primate brain, nothing special, other than that we grew larger and could sustain more neurons through the cooking of our food. It was necessary for our evolution to eat and cook meat, to get the calories needed – 500 per day just to run this super computer brain – in order to not just survive but become intelligent, to get to this place of space travel and the internet, of open heart surgery and 3D printing. And I’m so thankful for this brain and this advancement and this life, this life that I am cognisant of, this awareness of myself and of all other beings, this ability to comprehend so much wonder. But even if consuming cooked meat allowed us to evolve, we now have countless alternatives. To argue that it’s “natural” for humans to consume meat and dairy products is like arguing that it’s “natural” to smash someone’s brains in because they pissed on your territory or slept with your mate, barbaric is what we would call that, not natural.

I think we generally imagine cows spending their days in fields being milked and eating and living and having babies and so on and so forth, and it’s all okay. I think this idea is something that lives quite deeply within us, those of us brought up with breakfast cereal, with a glass of calcium enriched milk and cookies. With eggs as the ‘proper breakfast’, the one you make at the weekend when you can be bothered to, the brunch you meet up for. Even when told that this industry also supports the horrific treatment of living creatures, there is some part of many people that just shuts down and says enough is enough, I can’t be responsible for everything, haven’t I done enough already, or maybe I just can’t think about that as well as global warming, Monsanto etc. The media has not helped: painting an image of ‘the Vegan’ the tree hugger, centre parted hair, a low impact lifestyle not conducive to your own desire for a new iPhone and nice car. You’re not that person – of course you care, but that’s a step beyond.

When you buy that pint of milk you are handing your money, the purest vote, to a person who keeps unhealthy cows locked up and always pregnant, tits bulging and gross. When a cow gives birth to a male calf he is often dragged away from his mother before he can even walk unaided, and sold for meat, his body stripped and flesh cut up and consumed, or he is shot/poisoned there and then and his body dumped. When the cow gives birth to a female calf, that calf will also be forced into a life of pregnancy, confinement and constant milking for the rest of her unfortunate life. That’s what you pay for, what you support and condone. That’s what I’m not willing to condone anymore. It is not justifiable. The benefit and actual cost are not even comparable let alone equal.

That said, we are all on our own journeys through life, we all do what we feel is right and what we feel we can, and when we act in a manner that contradicts what we feel to be right, we each know it on some level. And maybe you think I’m preaching or that ‘ah yeah I know but’, and that’s okay because we’re just trying to get along in the world. But every time you make the choice to buy vegetarian or vegan goods, every single time you consider supporting the meat and dairy industries but choose not to, even if tomorrow your choice is different, you have helped to reduce demand and also supply.

I want to live in a world where we each take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. The knowledge is there, the alternatives are there, and all we need to do is act on our desire to make this world a better place for all living things.

Posted in Moving to Canada, Toronto, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I lost my hat. It’s started to snow.

It’s New Years Eve. A man leans over his dog, the station is cold and people bustle to a fro trying to find a free space to lean and wait for the train, a subway carriage but over-ground. The dog is dressed in a dark green dog jacked to protect him from the chill, its eyes are droopy and bloodshot not unlike the eyes of its person. The man sits on a bench, his hair sticky looking, tangled at the top but shaved around the sides, a strange take on a mullet. He leans over the dog, sitting patiently between his legs, wrapping both arms around it he nuzzles into his companion’s fur and mutters under his breath. He isn’t particularly old but has a few teeth missing, the man that is, and as he nuzzles in the dog lifts its head and nuzzles him back, an image full of love and connection. Is this man homeless? Do they live together out here in such cold conditions? Age falling upon them both with a speed unattached to years. A tall thin austere woman looks at the pair with slight distain, or maybe she’s just frowning into the cold, but he catches her eye and looks away, talking continually to his dog. The train comes and goes, leaving them on the platform, him bent over, face hidden in fur.

There are five hours, fifty minutes and 30 seconds left for me in 2014. Under an hour left for those at home. I wonder how much time a person could gain in a year by travelling through time zones, but then you never really gain any time at all, only numbers representing the passing of days, no real time, still the heart beats and lungs pump air, nothing stolen from death.

This has probably been the coldest day of my life. Temperature only -6 or -7 but with wind chill more like -16 to -18. I’m surprised by it, not because I didn’t know that it would be like this, indeed it will likely get a lot worse, but surprised at the effect reality at these temperatures has. First legs hurt with it and then go completely numb. Face begins to leak salty water, my eyes streaming with it. Gloved hands become stiff, time starts to move more slowly, or so it seems. A walk taken around the block in search of a café, outside only maybe 15/20 minutes and it feels like I’ve been walking for hours. Unprepared I walk into an interview almost 45 minutes early, this time – meant to be given to research and answer preparation – suddenly seems a reasonable sacrifice for the warmth of the office. My mind clears first, breathing in the warmth, how delicious. Then my face starts to burn with it, a glance in the mirror shows bright red cheeks and lost puppy eyes. Legs too burn with the relative warmth. Sitting I don’t look at any notes while I wait, don’t feel nervous really at all.

The time between Christmas and January here in Toronto has, for me, pulled everything together, everything that for the month of December felt shambolic to a fault and at times like the biggest mistake of my life. The harsh reality of actually becoming a self sustaining human being, amplified by my lack of connections and lack of real direction. I fell into this city, a completely alien environment, with nothing to rely on but luck and hope, two things that have always come naturally to me. But after one week I felt as if the stuffing, the hope, had been knocked out of me. Staying too far north, too much of a commute to even get a cup of coffee, too lifeless and sad. Highways and high-rises the only things breaking up the bleak grey scenery. Pointless and seemingly endless trips around the city looking for a room to rent, hope filling me each new area I visited and falling away again when shown shoeboxes in houses with no sense of community or friendship. Twice I saw rooms that I would gladly have taken, only for the people living there to choose to give them to someone else, confidence crushing. But Christmas came and I moved into my friend’s house while he is away and everything began slowly to turn, rotate around, the future becoming brighter.

First I found a room, the house is small but warm and friendly. Then I spent Christmas Eve with a kind family of Swiss Canadians, I went skating and didn’t fall over. Then I made friends with the friend of somebody I know from Ireland, ah the wonders of friend theft. In fact, if I was to be asked how I have spent the most part of 2014, I could only really respond with; befriending friends friends.


New Years Day, a bit hungover I take advantage of being alone, decide not to bother getting dressed today, the first day of 2015. I watch a woman bare all in a TedTalk relating to the use of power poses to feel and eventually become powerful. The talk is okay, but I’ve heard it before, not the actual talk but the concept so I’m not really giving it my full attention. It comes to an end, she makes a closing statement about sharing this with those who really need it, the weak, the powerless, at ‘Thank you’ the audience rise and give her a standing ovation. Something strange happens to me, a kind of whooshing feeling of empathy in my chest, and I start to cry. Not because there’s anything sad going on, not really even with empathy for her I don’t think, but rather with the audience, the support that they show her, the way they all stand up one after the other, some in unison, raising hands together without really processing what they’re doing, smiling without thinking about smiling. I sit quietly and cry at the people on the screen, my heart brimming with something, love for humanity I guess.

This kind of feeling happens to me really quite often. It catches me off guard and my body reacts to it instantaneously, and I’m left feeling so completely for or about something, it takes longer for my mind to catch up and then sometimes, if it seems somehow silly – I could be walking and the sun catches leaves in a certain way – my brain kicks in and tells me to keep walking, or I become self-aware and so other feelings chime in and drown out this love for simplicity. Is this something we all share? These up surging and uncontrollable bouts of empathy with the world and human emotion in all of its forms?

Through this thoughtless support, given to a stranger by a group of strangers, I am supported myself. I feel connected and completely capable of this strange Canadian adventure.

Posted in Away from Home, Emmagration, Living, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments