"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Meme On You Crazy Diamond

Another Meme...

Well, look here, another post. At this rate you’d almost be conned into thinking I was prolific...

First, a nice little piece of Six Degree-ism: my sister mentioned the other day that she went to College with Gwen from Torchwood (of which, possibly, more later); I knew she knew the ghost, just didn’t know they were one and the same; on top, of that she teaches at one of the schools where the kids froze, the one where they wear red blazers (I think she said).

Within the same week the last meme (what I done) arrived, so did another from over yer , and I can’t recall which came first. Anyway the rules of this one...

“put the image on the blog (however, it doesn’t really match the decor),
List 10 truths about yerself,
Give the award to 5 other people
(let’s not worry about that neither),
Provide a meaningful quotation
(see bottom),

Here goes...

1. I have taught myself most of what I know, since a long time back; I taught myself to type a few years ago by cataloguing all my records and videos; following this up by copying out some complete Shakespeare texts. Last year, I took an online typing test (actually 5 or 6 and averaged them) and found my speed came out a rather neat 60 w.p.m.; I’m sure it’d be faster if I used more than two fingers on my left hand!
2. I have no heroes. Certainly none that are alive- to me, it’s a very dangerous practice, at best it can lead to suspension of critical faculty, at worst it leads to fanaticism. Also, living heroes are not a good idea; firstly, with the long-dead most, if not all, of the bad stuff has already emerged (anybody with a Gary Glitter tattoo must feel pretty daft); secondly, you might meet them... and you may find they’re loathsome or alternatively find them unspeakably lovely then feel unable to criticize their work. I know someone who reveres Kubrick, Scorsese, Tarantino, all the usual suspects- there is no argument that will shake their belief that every celluloid inch is a frame of perfection; I think Dennis Potter was a fine writer, better than he’s now given credit for, but I’m not about to claim every drop of ink that fell from his nib was holy writ- every Singing Detective or Pennies From Heaven is matched with a Blackeyes. So, heroes, bad thing; Shakespeare’s quite a good hero, very little’s known about him; but give me Beethoven, genius, Romantic, part-time bastard.
3. I have no favourite film, TV series, album or anything else. Last time I tried to make a top ten it came out over 200... how can you judge films from entirely different genres and eras against one another? How can I come to a conclusion that Singin’ In The Rain is better than say Chinatown, My Fair Lady, 2001, Casablanca, Oldboy, Spider, Hellraiser, Alien, Once Upon A Time In The West, the best Capra or Powell & Pressburger, 28 Days Later, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Deliverance, Performance, The Devils, Double Life Of Veronique or Kor-eda’s After-Life... ? How do you compare? By what criteria? To me, favouritism is a futile exercise and again leads to the suspension of critical faculties; even the greatest art is usually flawed, sometimes it’s those flaws that lend greatness; it’s by understanding these flaws that greater insight arrives. (This is not to say there are not things or creators I value over others just not to devotional levels.)
4. I am possessed of many ‘critical’ heresies. I believe the critics are worth listening to, particularly those who write ‘criticism’ rather than just opinion (or worse, those who are in cahoots with the film industry) but I repeatedly find there is a cultural orthodoxy which now seems so set in stone it’s left unchallenged and that no-one bothers to justify. For me, this in part stems from (sort of) learning much of what I know about film from watching all the 4 star films listed in the back of Halliwell (and most of the 3 star films as well) and deciding for myself what’s good and why. Many films I could say ‘yes, that’s good’ but there was, and still is, a significant number of masters and masterpieces which I believe require some justification including Bunuel, Godard, Truffaut, Mike Leigh, Hitchcock... Does that shock you? Does that make you uneasy? I don’t like Hitchcock films! Next thing you know, I’ll be wearing ‘I hate Pink Floyd badges’!
5. I believe in context and interconnectivity. In a world where everybody is becoming increasingly insular and specialized in their fields I suspect great thinking is being diminished as there is no-one left saying ‘this in this field is very similar to this in this field’- think the Fibonacci sequence- not only occurring in maths but also in biology; Da Vinci, artist, scientist, philosopher. Very little occurs in isolation, in the art/ media world this is surely more true than in many others- otherwise what would anybody write, paint or sculpt about.
6. I’m not a big fan of cities. They’re too loud, too bright, have too many people and smell funny.
7. π unsettles me. Can you think of a more deeply sinister number? 666 and 13 are just numbers; π is the number. Scary.
8. I have never wanted to be famous. Still don’t and quite possibly never will- who would?
9. I write incredibly long emails. I have a sneaking suspicion in a previous era I would have been ‘a man of letters’; misspelled and frequently ungrammatical, rambling and often nonsensical, but letters none the less. It has also occurred to me- just then- that there’s no reason I can’t edit a few of these emails and use them as easy posts here.
10. Music affects me far more than film. Being a far more concentrated and immediate medium music can produce a far deeper response; there are moments that are deeply unsettling, like the final movement of Mahler’s 10th, Shostakovich’s 4th and 15th (particularly the latter bars of the final movement over the unresolved chord while the massive percussion section enacts a mocking fading mechanical heartbeat), much of Penderecki’s 1960’s output (the doyen of the horror movie soundtrack such as Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, the De Natura Sonoris pair), the aleatory passages of Gorecki’s Second Symphony, etc. However, over all these are three (possibly a couple more that I can’t recall) that I find genuinely unnerving...

Pink Floyd: Jugband Blues

Pink Floyd: Bike, the first 3 minutes are a slightly silly song, however, then it moves into the musique concrète section. When I was at school this song was thought hilarious; when I first heard this bit I felt sick... and the ‘clan of gingerbread men’ aren’t quaint, in my imagination, they’re a small army of quite heavily armed, re-animated gingerbread men, with rows of razor-sharp fangs, who descend from mountains on the unwary with murderous intent.

Portishead: Deep Water.

Finally, there is a necessity to include a meaningful quote, though to whom it has meaning or if the meaning is supposed to be inherent is left unspecified. On the Manics’ album, The Holy Bible, at the start of the track Of Walking Abortion, there is a sample of Hubert Selby, Jr. speaking. It is quite bleak but when I found the complete quote it struck a chord.

"I was home alone, and I had what I realize now was a spiritual experience, although I didn't understand it as such at the time. But I knew that someday I was going to die. And just before I died, two things would happen: Number 1: I would regret my entire life. Number 2: I would want to live my life over again, and I would die. And I was terrified, absolutely terrified. So I knew I had to do something with my life. I was terrified of living my whole life, and at the end looking at it and having blown it. I was on disability at the time, and my wife was working part-time, I think at Macy's, it was the Christmas season, so I bought a typewriter, and decided I was going to be a writer. I didn't know anything about writing. But I knew I had to do something with my life, and that was the only thing I could think to do....

So I sat there for two weeks with that typewriter and I had no idea how to write a story, I just had to do something before I died. So I wrote a letter to somebody. And that's how it started. The long process of learning how to write."

...either that or the lyrics to an old Andy Williams song...

Now, tea and cake...

1 comment:

L. Emily Davies said...

Thank-you. I sat down today to write, for the first time. I wrote "at best, they'll re-think their entire life", which put me in mind of the quote from The Holy Bible. Your blog was the only place I could find the answer as to where the quote came from, and I consider myself tremendously lucky to have encountered it the day after you wrote it. Thank God I didn't start writing on Monday!