josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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10 Jun '04 06:30:16 PM

(And the French.)

10 Jun '04 06:23:22 PM

I suppose it figures that the lyrics to 'International Colouring Contest' are so clear: as if by having a 'weird' theme they thought it was safe to come out from behind the cooing.

8 Jun '04 11:14:05 AM

Ray says that I am of the majority opinion (concerning Lost in Translation), and notes the well-established narrative convention of the autobiographical protagonist who is forecast a brilliant future.

1. I did like the movie, and I thought it was 'good' - or maybe I should say I 'thought it was good' - but my reactions to movies especially (other art forms too, though, depending) tend to be very hermetic.

2. I'm not sure how important the 'autobiographical' part was supposed to be. The people who seem to make a fuss about it are the ones who didn't like the movie, and when they bring it up it always seems as if they do so only so that they can sneer at the fact that the director enjoyed privilege.

3. I thought the scene in question (where Bob forecasts Charlotte's brilliant future) was played with a clear understanding (on our part, and on the characters' parts) of the existence of the convention, not just as an artistic convention, either, but a conversational, interpersonal, ethical one. It was the way it was played that I took to indicate how much faith Bob had in Charlotte's abilities. Or, well, not her abilities. But talking as they had been about whether or not life gets any better, or easier, he was in no position to assure her, given his own unsettled life.

8 Jun '04 10:40:35 AM

Touching Evil doesn't require, but requests, maybe, to be seen movie-style, lights in the room off and everyone shutting up: not because the murders set an especially creepy mood (they do not), but because the matter of the show consists so much of moods, looks, variations on near-silence. At times this even gives it a slightly delicate quality, as if each episode could pull apart in one's hands, with the narrative details of each week's case presented only in enough detail to give the detectives something new to negotiate.

8 Jun '04 10:21:56 AM

And at other times - far more apparent when reading than when writing, though present for both - it's the need to be done, over with, on to the next thing, that presses in and renders me incapable of anything else. I have come to think that this is rarely due to whatever is actually before me; rather, it is my more basic need for a change of life, hoping, insisting, stupidly, futilely, that that change will be effected by the end of the current paragraph, or sentence.

8 Jun '04 10:17:44 AM

Cult of the genius out of vanity. - Because we think well of ourselves, but nonetheless never suppose ourselves capable of producing a painting like one of Raphael's or a dramatic scene like one of Shakespeare's, we convince ourselves that the capacity to do so is quite extraordinarily marvellous, a wholly uncommon accident, or, if we are still religiously inclined, a mercy from on high. Thus our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius: for only if we think of him as being very much remote from us, as a miraculum, does he not aggrieve us (even Goethe, who was without envy, called Shakespeare his star of the most distant heights; in regard to which one might recall the line: 'the stars, these we do not desire'). But, aside from these suggestions of our vanity, the activity of the genius seems in no way fundamentally different from the activity of the inventor of machines, the scholar of astronomy or history, the master of tactics. All these activities are explicable if one pictures to oneself people whose thinking is active in one direction, who employ everything as material, who always zealously observe their own inner life and that of others, who perceive everywhere models and incentives, who never tire of combining together the means available to them. Genius too does nothing except learn first how to lay bricks then how to build, except continually seek for material and continually form itself around it. Every activity of man is amazingly complicated, not only that of the genius: but none is a 'miracle'. - Whence, then, the belief that genius exists only in the artist, orator and philosopher? that only they have 'intuition'? (Whereby they are supposed to possess a kind of miraculous eyeglass with which they can see directly into 'the essence of the thing'!) It is clear that people speak of genius only where the effects of the great intellect are most pleasant to them and where they have no desire to feel envious. To call someone 'divine' means: 'here there is no need for us to compete'. Then, everything finished and complete is regarded with admiration, everything still becoming is under-valued. But no one can see in the work of the artist how it has become; that is its advantage, for wherever one can see the act of becoming one grows somewhat cool. The finished and perfect art of representation repulses all thinking as to how it has become; it tyrannizes as present completeness and perfection. That is why the masters of the art of representation count above all as gifted with genius and why men of science do not. In reality, this evaluation of the former and undervaluation of the latter is only a piece of childishness in the realm of reason.

The serious workman. - Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became 'geniuses' (as we put it), through qualities the lack of which no one who knew what they were would boast of: they all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole. The recipe for becoming a good novelist, for example, is easy to give, but to carry it out presupposes qualities one is accustomed to overlook when one says 'I do not have enough talent'. One has only to make a hundred or so sketches for novels, none longer than two pages but of such distinctness that every word in them is necessary; one should write down anecdotes each day until one has learned how to give them the most pregnant and effective form; one should be tireless in collecting and describing human types and characters; one should above all relate things to others and listen to others relate, keeping one's eyes and ears open for the effect produced on those present, one should travel like a landscape painter or costume designer; one should excerpt for oneself out of the individual sciences everything that will produce an artistic effect when it is well described, one should, finally, reflect on the motives of human actions, disdain no signpost to instruction about them and be a collector of these things by day and night. One should continue in this many-sided exercise some ten years: what is then created in the workshop, however, will be fit to go out into the world. - What, however, do most people do? They begin, not with the parts, but with the whole. Perhaps they chance to strike a right note, excite attention and from then on strike worse and worse notes, for good, natural reasons. - Sometimes, when the character and intellect needed to formulate such a life-plan are lacking, fate and need take their place and lead the future master step by step through all the stipulations of his trade.

6 Jun '04 08:56:40 AM

Sitting in the coffeeshop, I more than somewhat unintentionally caught a girl's eye as she was walking by, I think because besides the obvious me looking at her part, it was a good look, somehow.

And I thought, I wish I knew how to do that (since I seem to do it only rarely and then by accident).

And I thought, jesus, of all the things to not know how to do.

And also, I thought, it is obviously not something that you can figure out how to do if you're the kind of person who's gotten it into your head that you need to learn how to do it.

6 Jun '04 08:10:31 AM

Always, there may be something in it that we can't see.

3 Jun '04 05:23:53 AM

Why on earth would one not think that Bob and Charlotte were depressed?

And: Ray notes the 'voice-of-authority encouraging the protagonist to keep on writing, she'll be great someday'. But how much hope is Bob supposed to provide there, exactly?