07 January 2017

Maybe avoid this

Here is the other side of the piece of paper that I told about finding on the street in a previous intro.

Dear diary,

It’s hard to think that nothing is meaningless, and it’s hard to think that everything is meaningless. It seems possible that, somewhere out there, something might have escaped the burden of meaning; but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what and where.

To say that a thing does not matter is to say that the thing is free of consequence. Isn’t this another concept (like beauty and truth) that requires a beholder? Whether or not a thing matters is entirely dependent on…

God it’s annoying to write like this. I’ll try to change it up.

Let’s say that my name is Bryan. I now decree: It matters that Bryan gets fed; it does not matter if Joe and Sal get fed.

No, I would not decree that, because, if Joe and Sal starve, then my bicycle will never get repaired. (Joe and Sal are repairmen: the last on Earth.) And for similar reasons the whole world matters to me:

If even the lowliest creature among us is ailing, it subtracts in some crucial way from the bliss of the highest. That’s why I monitor the squirrels outside of my bedroom window; I care if even one hair on their coat becomes disheveled.

To Joe and Sal at the local hardware shop, I dedicate the following quote from Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (translated by Arthur Goldhammer).

Take the bicycle. In France in the 1880s, the cheapest model listed in catalogs and sales brochures cost the equivalent of six months of the average worker’s wage. And this was a relatively rudimentary bicycle, “which had wheels covered with just a strip of solid rubber and only one brake that pressed directly against the front rim.” Technological progress made it possible to reduce the price to one month’s wages by 1910. Progress continued, and by the 1960s one could buy a quality bicycle (with “detachable wheel, two brakes, chain and mud guards, saddle bags, lights, and reflector”) for less than a week’s average wage. All in all, and leaving aside the prodigious improvement in the quality and safety of the product, purchasing power in terms of bicycles rose by a factor of 40 between 1890 and 1970.

Piketty’s point, I assume, is to show how the average Frenchman’s purchasing power increased over the years; but I like the parts of the passage that describe each bicycle’s details. And the epoch spanned by those dates at the end of the quote, 1890 to 1970, brought to mind a writer I admire: Alfred Jarry, who was born in 1873 and died in 1907. The country and the type of transportation listed reinforce the association as well: Jarry lived in France and wrote in French, as far as I understand (though it’s hard for me to understand things); and he also rode a bike. Here’s a quote from Alastair Brotchie’s 2011 biography – it’s is an account of Jarry attending Mallarme’s funeral:

Jarry cycled the twenty miles from Corbeil; his shoes were in tatters, so he had helped himself to a pair of Rachilde’s for the ceremony. Unfortunately they were bright yellow, and particularly prominent since his trousers were, as ever, tucked into his socks at the knees. The trousers too were filthy, and Mirbeau gently chided him for them. “We have much dirtier ones,” replied Jarry.

None of this stuff that I’ve written or quoted is interesting, by the way. I’m just typing to waste time. Any interesting writing that I can manage will occur much later, if at all. I make no promises.

My gloom is nothing new; I’ve long been a defeatist. I don’t believe that any communication lengthier than a paragraph or larger than a phone screen will survive the end of this age. But I’m not unwilling to try to accomplish something worthwhile, something that matters – I AM trying, can’t you tell!? I’m just running out of juice.

One loses hope; one loses care. Why is hopeless a bad word, whereas carefree sounds fun?

Optimism and ambition are fed by holy ignorance; that’s why I envy whoever was born yesterday – I mean the littlest ones, who cannot comprehend the superfluous nature of tort reform. Basking in your manger, you have zero thought to spare for the global economy; you are satisfied by the simple, soothing song from the mobile that is hanging overhead.

Notes from a music box can be heard during the intervals between bombings, if you’re raising your child somewhere outside of the U.S.

I myself, during the time that spanned the late 60s up thru the mid-1970s, haunted only the sideline of life: not daring to participate, I kept to the bleachers, where the angels jeer the suckers on the field. This is a convoluted way of saying that I remained unborn during the Nixon administration.

Something must have pushed me to become human. I can’t believe I wanted it.

Please note that when I used the word mobile above, I meant “a decorative structure that is suspended so as to turn freely in the air,” NOT “a cellphone or handheld computing device.” And before changing it to bleachers, I had written bullpen, by which I meant “the area outside of a baseball diamond where the starting pitcher performs her pregame warm-up,” NOT “an enclosure for bulls.”

I pity all contemporary artists who take pains to hand-copy the paintings of ancient masters. It seems easier to snap a photograph. But then I suppose the surface would be too glossy: the texture of paint on a canvas is not identical to chemically sensitized paper.

Yet I disagree with the opinion that a copy is inferior to its source. Sometimes the source is better, sometimes the copy is better; I’m the appraiser, and whatever I say becomes law.

When a movie is distributed to the multiplexes that will show it to the public, each theater receives a copy of the film to exhibit. Is there an equivalent of an “original,” like a set of source reels of the movie? I mean, the copies of the film that are doled out to the exhibitors were all derived from the same set of masters, right?

Spectators seem to make a big deal about viewing a painter’s original work in oils (as opposed to a copy or photo replica): they demand authenticity; whereas audiences not only accept viewing but even expect to view a PRINT (that is: a COPY) of a movie. For instance: I was at a “revival cinema house” the other night, and when the film began, the nerd next to me gasped: “Whoa, this is an original print!” I thought to myself: Isn’t there something oxymoronic about that phrase? For a print is a duplicate: it might be AN original (among however many reproductions were run off with it) but it’s not THE original. It’s a sibling, not the parent. So its quality is only questionably better than a copy of a copy (think: Jesus vs. Yahweh).

This trend is opposite among humans: the latest generation of dupes is considered superior to their elders. But that’s because old prints wear out – they get dust, dirt, and debris all over them, and their frames get scratched. Plus the heat from their projector’s lamp often melts their celluloid.

Now I’m thinking of that moment in the middle of the movie Persona (1966).

And if copies are undesirable, then why are people satisfied with a C.E.O.’s signature?—they should insist on viewing the rubber stamp itself. The stamp is an object: it is tridimensional; but the ink that it leaves is just flat. Nonetheless, we can regard the ink pattern as the thought of the stamp. NOW we’ve achieved a predicament, because thoughts are far more important than the things that think them.

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