Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Roundabout Rumination on Matters of Proppage

Thats a word I made up, by the way.  Proppage.  I'll describe what I mean.

The last few days I have been having one of my obsessive fits of watching a TV programme in a big gorging feast in every spare minute I get.  What this usually ends up meaning, is that I start to get a sort of hangover where I feel that I am still in that imaginary world even when I am back in this one, the (lets not go there philosophically), 'real' one.  I think it must be a similar phenomenon to an article I read on the BBC website a while back (but can't find now, to link for you, annoyingly), about gamers in Japan, who would do overnighters, weekenders, completely hooked in to their favourite computer or online game.  They would thoroughly be living it, in their pyjamas, more in that world than this.  To the point that when they tried to unplug, and go to sleep, or go to work on Monday, they couldn't quite do it.  In their sleep, they would dream the game, and sometimes wake up confused.  One gamer attacked his girlfriend who was in bed with him, believing her to be one of the alien monsters he had been seeing off all weekend.  Another started to have sweats and paranoia at work, and was eventually sent home (and then to a doctor), after he kept seeing men with guns in Special Ops gear creeping about his office, out of the corner of his eye, coming for him.  When he looked around and tried to catch them, they would be gone.  But he knew he had seen them...See, now, this is fascinating stuff, this sort of temporary delusion (or tapping into another reality you co-created and being unable to put the cork back in the bottle for a while), aided and abetted by lack of sleep, eating loads of crap during these gaming sessions (and probably anyway)...These people usually recover, after a damn good rest, amazed at what happened to them.  Amazingly, some still game! 

Now that I've got you good and fascinated, and hopefully a little worried for my state of mind (nothing like a hook for the reading!), I will spoil the whole thing and say that what I am experiencing is a much lower level version of this, most of you have also experienced it, I'll bet, and its quite boring by comparison.  I just thought I'd mention the Japanese phenomenon because its so incredibly interesting, and it is related.  This sort of thing is all a spectrum of reactions to immersion in stories, interaction with them.

I'm going to complicate matters further, by not telling you what the prog was, that I was watching.  You'll note I did this last time, I was obsessed with a prog too.  I seem to find this info private, and I'm not sure why I do.  My secret private buzz, I spose.  A precious interior thing.  I don't want these progs I love criticised, and loads of others seem to think they are crap.  I don't need their opinion; yet I do seem to care, so I am quiet on the naming.

All I'll say about the prog was that its English made, I spose its a subject for girls (? that's actually confusing info because its not overfly filled with 'relationship' issues, though they feature), though I can guarantee men watched this in their droves because of the subject matter (until they realised not as much flesh would be shown as they hoped...hell, it was terrestrial TV, why be shocked at that?!).  Other than being private about my obsessions with programmes, the other reason I'm not telling you exactly which prog, is that its actually a full post in itself - the subject matter.  It roused very contradictory feelings and thoughts in me (and one actual nightmare, which surprised me).  I may post on the prog itself much later on, simply because it's damn thought-provoking, and I'd need some time to gather some references and such.

But as for this post, the point is the effect it had on me.  Considering the subject matter, it could have had several different effects on me, but everyone reacts to any stimulus based on what's going on in their lives at the time, memories triggered, semi-unconscious notions about 'rules' for appropriate behaviour in situations and that's how you judge what you see, etc.  The prog showed a way of life that could have been very sordid, but glamourised the hell out of it.  As TV does.  And what I was taking away was not (as I can imagine several of my friends doing) a desire to emulate the lifestyle shown, even in spirit really (I simply know I do not have the temperament to carry it off), but small lifestyle elements of it.  Small very silly ones.

So the Japanese gamers sit there, intently saving the universe from aliens of zombies or both, and then hallucinating them later, in temporary psychosis...whereas the BJ version of this (also aided, no doubt by chronic lack of sleep and not eating enough green veggies) to get infected with Proppage.

Remember Sex and the City?  How it called thousands of us females to try and live lives if not of utter sexual liberation, then instead of ridiculous high heels, interesting fashion choices (though always short skirted ones) and incessant cocktail drinking in bars?  How some of us became temporarily convinced this was in fact The Life To Be Living?  There may be a boring as hell office job, there may be a boring boyfriend or no boyfriend - but you go out with your Girls, your Ladies, and you have your sparkly little bag (that really does not allow room enough for all the stuff we need - and I have never been a person content to carry a phone, a lipstick, a doorkey and a condom...if I had a tiny desert island bag, it would have a book in it, really...and the world's tiniest first aid kit, some scissors, and yes, the phone and the doorkey, a spare book just became a much bigger bag, didn't it?  See why this all doesn't work for me??  I also, by the way, CANNOT walk in those heels, and I have tried, just to see what it felt like.  I used to be able to, I used to wear moderate high heels to some of my earlier jobs, imagining it made me look more, er, officey and professional somehow...but you HAVE to be able to make the walk look natural, or those shoes look really stupid.   By natural, I do not mean that artificially sway-ey hip walk.  I just mean - do not totter.  That looks ridiculous.)

Anywaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay...You have your sparkly little bag, and you go out with your girlfriends and sit in the English equivalent of an upmarket bar, sip cocktails, and talk about ....the usual stuff.  (Another point where the scenario fails me:  my usual stuff is psychology, philosophic type thoughts, any questions about anything I may suddenly want to ask - like the other day when Stanley came home, my computer was down, and I really wanted to know what happens to all the sewage, where does it go and how do they treat it and is it true that all the tap water has been through 8 bodies before it gets to us??  Or discussing about sci-fi TV shows, or fantasy books, or any kind of book...most subjects not considered generally good pub/bar conversation...Don't get me going on what most people consider good pub/bar conversation: memories of drunken stuff they already did, endlessly, as a group; sports; moaning about boyfriends - what do the men talk about during this segment: work?  Dunno...I have one friend who is always told she is "too heavy" when in the pub, in her conversations; she is about the ONLY interesting conversations I have ever had in pubs/bars.  I wish she lived closer, I wish we could go and have "heavy" conversations in nice sparkly environments alot more often.)

That last brings me to the point (which I am doing a very good job of not getting to, before now - Alias Time Traveller, this is like one of our coffee shop conversations!).  So you're sitting in the bar, showing your legs, feeling all glittery, with your cocktail and your moussey eyeshadow, there with your Pack of Girlfriends, and you are really Playing a Scene.  You are partly imagining that there you are: you are Samantha, you are Charlotte, you are Miranda, you are Carrie, you are IN Sex and the City, in a small way, a sort of imitatory, liberated female, I have a cocktail, its after dark, anything could happen my life IS NOT BORING kind of way.

That is Proppage.  (By the way, I am a Sex in the City fan, just to set the facts straight - I may sound like I am mocking it, and I bloody am!!; but at the same time - its seductive and cute, and it did have alot of good points to make: the visuals being so sumptuous and its shock-value often got in the way of the actual points.  Aside: Reginald D. Hunter did a very annoying sketch about Sex and the City 2, I think it was, a while back.  He did that comic thing of stating the characters (approximate: 'so here  we have SlutWoman One') and plot very baldly, thereby making it sound very shallow and very stupid indeed (approximate: 'so she thought she was going to overcome radical Islam with...slutty sex?'), instead of getting the oddly thought out but actually rather serious point the film was trying to make (that regimes seen as fascistic in some ways, especially towards women, can still inspire revolution from within, by means of liberation via colour, beauty, individualism with what you do have: your body, your clothes...which in the case of some of the Middle Eastern women depicted in the film, could be hidden by their burkhas. Big outcomes can start from small insignificant seeming things.  Those Reginald D. Hunter quotes were approximate because I don't have the DVD of that gig, Fry does and he's not here; also, I tried to link it on YouTube for you, but the Gods of Copyright have decided that my country is blocked for that content, irritatingly.  I shall ask Fry and get the proper quotes up when he tells me).

The thing is, for Sex and the City fans, I don't know what the major article of the Proppage is, I think it depends on each person.  Is it the sparkly bags, the high heels, the little dresses, the grooming and the makeup?  Or the hailing the cab?  The cocktail drinking?

Proppage is, of course: using props and small smippets of scenario to get you in the mood, get you in the character, get you feeling like you are in the Scene you are trying to create.  (Was it Alec Guinness who always used to feel like he HAD the character he was trying to play when he found the right hat?  Or was that Peter Sellers?  And false noses...?  Anyhow...)  The difference between being an actor and using props to get you all hooked in to your character's physicality and mindset, and the phenomenon of Proppage is real life.  When you're out, at that bar, in those clothes, with your cocktail - you aren't trying so much to be Samantha or Carrie etc, as a part or a are trying to take their essence of liberatedness (as it can be viewed) and exciting life into yourself.  To nick the best bits and incorporate them into your actual real life.  To try to make it truly real, but as yourself: just with these confident additions, add ons. 

So here I am, very little sleep for two and a half years, practically zero social life outside of the house, NO social life after 6.30 p.m. at all - no night life...and memories of having one previously.  I never was a clubber type person.  Too many people, too loud (distorts the music: that's annoying), can't talk or listen much; am a crap dancer infront of people.  But I do have memories of relaxing after work, on fabled Fridays where the sun took a long time to go down, smoking a cigarette, watching that curling smoke, sipping my drink, watching the people go by, the cabs flash past in a hiss of late light.  Getting a bit beyond tipsy, seeing the beautiful way the streetlights stopped just being on and started to glow: gorgeous orange.  Beacons in the night.  Where rain on pavements became a wonderful shiny haze.  My co-workers would laugh more, by about 8.30 p.m. (still early); someone standing on the very edge of the pavement in silly high heels would laugh just a little too much at something and miss her footing and tumble backwards into the road - where she would be fine as there was such a press of outside drinking, laughing, relaxing people in that late summeriness, that she would hit another group softly, embarrassedly apologise, and they would good-naturedly catch her, and there would be  more laughter, some wry comments about the shoes, or the drink or the coming darkness, and the groups would re-form.  Not a problem, all is well on the Friday night in that pub outside my old work where we used to stand.  Not a punch up or loud arguments sort of pub: a nice one.  Not posh, and had that icky pub smell (stale beer and old cigarettes: heave and shudder), but not a dive, either.  Just the pub down the road from where I used to work, in Victoria.

Oddly, that atmosphere is what I took from my current obsessive TV viewing.  I think this was helped by the fact the prog was filmed in 2 places where I used to live for 20-30 years, in and around Westbourne Grove and  Notting Hill, and the West End.  So I saw those familiar streets, reglamourised, all that light diffusion and sparkly lets make it look brilliant effects, and it reminded me of tipsy good nights out, the feeling of well-being, the feeling of finally fitting in somewhere (for a brief while).  This is in complete contrast to my life at the moment which is, by necessity, very small in scope (I have the 24 hour Fluffhead and hardly any money to go anywhere or do anything; only very recent friendships have been made - none at the going out anywhere stage).

So the effect it had on me, the prop I got the urge to turn to, was my wineglasses in the cupboard.  I have these wineglasses, from back when I was with Troubadour.  They used to come free, one with every 4 books in a series I ordered online.  The books were rubbish: I was in love with the glasses.  Troubadour hated the glasses.  (I have no clue why: I think their blue chunkiness and bigness is both beautiful and not tacky at all!)  When I left, they uncomplainingly accompanied me.  But I have no occasions that call for them.  Really.  So they sat about being dusty, after a while.  Then this prog came, and I wanted to drink wine from a beautiful glass, and swan about the living room and kitchen, asking Stanley in chirpy yet slightly alluring tones, whether he had had a good day at work.

But I don't hardly drink these days.  I have had migraines that last 2 days since I was 13.  One of the triggers is too much - or sometimes ANY - alcohol.  I can have whole years where I am fine to drink. And I can have whole years where I'm not.  I think I may possibly be just emerging from one of my NOT phases.  But I'm not sure, and added to the lack of sleep I already have, and my general state of run down-ness, I didn't want to chance it for no good reason.  The other day, one of our rare visits from old London friends occurred (the first people to visit from some of the old lot, in oh....9 months).  One of them was pregnant and not drinking.  So she brought Schloer grape juice with her, which she left as a gift, as she was feeling a bit nauseous while here (the joys of pregnancy).  I always loved Schloer.  I also went through a 13 year period where I didn't drink at all, and during this time, whenever there was an event or Christmas or whatever, when other people would be wineglassing, I would produce my bottle of Schloer, and drink what looked like white or red wine, but was scrummy non getting you ratarsed fruit juice.  So no headache, no silly behaviour, and no stomach upset or hangover!  Great deal!

The point of this entire post has been to inform you, that under the influence of TV, I have been fannying about the living room and kitchen, holding chilled glasses of non-alcoholic Schloer grape juice, asking Stanley how his day at work has been...and its been making me feel quite happy.  (And he has been asking me if I have been on the sauce: apparently I am genuinely exhibiting that tipsy good humour glow.)  Just the stimulus of the chilled glass, that condensation running down it, over the ridges; that cool taste of sweet juice on my tongue and down my throat...the walking confidently from one room to the other: a sense of spaciousness within my circumstances opens up inside my head while I am doing it.  Funny.  Silly.  I feel like a person, a woman, IN the world, not relegated to the outer edges, doing a 24 hour job that will no doubt feel terribly rewarding in retrospect, but which I also know I will likely never forgive myself for not enjoying as I wish I could, at the time...

During these moments though, all is forgiven.  I am the old BJ in a way, the one who fitted for a bit, the one who had a whole life outside the home, and friends, I dressed in nice smart clothes (that annoyed the hell out of me at the time: I wanted to wear jeans and T-shirts all the time and be as I do now I am longing to dress up a bit....this does NOT indicate a complete lack of being contented no matter the circumstance.  That's very uncharitable.  It simply shows just how incredibly important having BALANCE in your roles and your life is.  Not just all one thing all the time.  You see?)

So: cheers, my friends!  Here's to swanning about the house with my chilled glass, smiling in a slightly secretive way, and experiencing odd little bubbles of very good humour, where I manage to be quite amusing and happy in conversation.  It's all good.  A toast: to Proppage!  All things in relative moderation (Japanese gamers, harken!), but go to it!  Be the parts of yourself you need to be, lighten the load.  Sometimes a small thing is oddly, all it takes...