26 January 2016

Unoriginality… memory… movies…

I begged my assistant to snap this picture because I liked the look of the screws in the artificial stone.

Give ear, O weblog!

I awoke in the middle of the night with a phrase in my mind which I thought was so clever that I broke my slumber just to write it down. But then I researched the phrase online and found that it had already been employed as a popular song lyric. Before learning of this letdown, I had written a few sentences to begin the present entry. In demonstration of my prescience, here they are:

I wonder if anyone has ever arranged the following words like so: [phrase deleted]. It sounds to me like something that someone must have said sometime before. The statement came to mind naturally, but that happens to me often: I end up inventing things that have already been invented.

To review: After writing the above, I did research on the phrase and then deleted it in a huff. Now, in retaliation against this bad start of my day, I vow to make this entry as UNORIGINAL as possible.

I used to love eating chocolate chip cookies. I would always consume four of them, after a meal. How I fixed on that number as the proper portion, only God knows.

Last evening, my sweetheart and I watched a movie. The movie’s original release date was in the mid-80s. (I mean the 1980s, not the 1880s.) As a child, I saw it in the theater—I liked it a lot, when it first came out. The reason we chose to review it is to satisfy my curiosity: I wondered whether the movie would still seem as good now as it did back then. What was my verdict? I still enjoyed it, but it seemed hammier than I remembered.

Why do I let my present-day opinion overrule the reaction of my youth? Who’s to say that my younger self wasn’t right?

These questions remind me of a poem that John Ashbery named after a short film directed by D. W. Griffith: “The Lonedale Operator.” Ashbery’s poem deals with thoughts about memories of movies that he watched at different times of his life. After giving some recollections about seeing and liking (when young) an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, he writes:

Years later I saw it when I was grown up and thought it was awful. How could I have been wrong the first time? I knew it wasn’t inexperience, because somehow I was experienced the first time I saw a movie. It was as though my taste had changed, though I had not, and I still can’t help feeling that I was right the first time, when I was still relatively unencumbered by my experience.

If I were forced to relax, chill, hang out, lounge about, laze around, and spend quality time with either (1) myself as a child, or (2) my current self, I would choose the younger Bryan. I think the kid was more fun.

On second thought, I’d choose the adult Bryan. The kid version was nervous, high-strung: he wasn’t that much fun at all.

But the adult is mind-numbingly dull… All I do is read books…

Here, I’ll quote another brief reflection from Ashbery. The entire poem is well worth reading, by the way; it’s very short… but I like this part:

There was a second feature, with live actors, called Bring ’Em Back Alive, a documentary about the explorer Frank Buck. In this film you saw a python swallow a live pig. This wasn’t scary. In fact, it seemed quite normal, the sort of thing you would see in a movie—“reality.”

Having given this example of what he says isn’t scary, I now want to copy the part where he tells what is… (This next passage occurs near the ending; the subject is a different film now):

…the boredom of living in a lonely place or having a lonely job, and even of being so far in the past and having to wear those funny uncomfortable clothes and hairstyles is terrifying, more so than the intentional scariness of the plot, the criminals, whoever they were.

I feel that my body is trapped in the distant past, while my mind lives far in the future. Like if you roped a mass of fire to a millstone.

(I like gems. I wish that we could liquefy and drink gems.)

But since this is supposed to be my least original entry yet, I’ll give more quotations. Every atom of my soul winces at the thought of giving more quotations; but the novel that I happen to be reading contains some interesting passages that share the subject matter of cinema, so I might as well put them here…

The Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West. That’s what I’m reading. I’m about halfway through, and I’ve never read it before. I’ll give just two excerpts, from the chapters that I finished yesterday.

This narration follows after Faye tells Tod a few of the ideas that she thinks should be made into movies (she voices these ideas to him in the form of stories):

Although the events she described were miraculous, her description of them was realistic. The effect was similar to that obtained by the artists of the Middle Ages, who, when doing a subject like the raising of Lazarus from the dead or Christ walking on water, were careful to keep all the details intensely realistic. She, like them, seemed to think that fantasy could be made plausible by a humdrum technique.

This next part I want to share simply because I find it beautiful. It’s a description of what can be heard while the characters walk out into a field to check on a bird trap.

A mocking bird was singing near by. Its song was like pebbles being dropped one by one from a height into a pool of water. Then a quail began to call, using two soft guttural notes. Another quail answered and the birds talked back and forth. Their call was not like the cheerful whistle of the Eastern bobwhite. It was full of melancholy and weariness, yet marvelously sweet. Still another quail joined the duet. This one called from near the center of the field. It was a trapped bird, but the sound it made had no anxiety in it, only sadness, impersonal and without hope.

Now I’ll write down a few more unimportant words, because I have a little time before kitty starts meowing at me…

I’ve noticed that I tend to put on weight during the winter months. Is this observation original enough for you? I end up eating too much and exercising too little. …But instead of “eating too much” I should have said “drinking too many gemstones.”

Consider this: At some time in the past, there were soldiers in what we now refer to as the Greek islands; and at least one of them wrote words that we now label poetry. (I am thinking of Archilochus.)

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