Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Joys of Commuting by Bicycle

I’m riding my bike home today. If you’ve never been to Nashville, then you’d hardly understand. There’s a song by the Kamikaze Hearts called “Tennessee.” A line in it says, “I never knew there was* hills in Tennessee, I always thought that it would be flat.” Yeah, me too. But no, no, it’s not flat. I guess a lot of places in the U.S. are hilly**, but are they hilly, hot, and humid all at once and are you on a bike with a bag strapped to your back?

Because if you’re not, you should be. It’s the only way to travel. Riding your bike in a place like, oh, Salt Lake City? That’s nothing until you’ve ridden Tennessee. Ha ha. Mwah ha ha ha ha ha. (Riding crazily into the misty distance, uphill, with a bag strapped to my back.)

*sic -- yeah, I know, it should be WERE.
** The world, really.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Julius Caesar: Impostor or Emperor-Incarnate?

So, recently some divers in France found this, the oldest known bust of Julius Caesar at the bottom of the River Rhone in southern France. But what really happened was, my friend Mike posed for someone during his brief stint in the art program at Utah State, and the student—in a fit of rage because he couldn't get the nose right— flew to France and . . . . dropped it . . . . in the river. Is anyone buying this?

That's really what happened.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Golden Age of Film

This weekend I realized the truth about movies, again. That’s how life is, I believe, learning the same lessons over and over again until you die, and by that time, hopefully you understand everything that you should.

The truth about movies is that modern films suck. Old films have it all.

Just ask Stoker. Finally, after all these years, I sat down and watched Cool Hand Luke. Stoker watched it with me, but I said “I” in that last sentence because I have known that I ought to watch this film for a long time. At least since my first years in college, but I put it off and put if off, since I’m not a huge Paul Newman fan. I’ve got my Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, and from time to time Rock Hudson and Robert Mitchum (I’ve heard tell that Gary Cooper should be in there somewhere, but I’ve never indulged in a Gary Cooper film). So anyway, I should have known. I should have known better, should have seen Cool Hand Luke a long time ago.

Anyway, Stoker, bless his insight, pointed out that the Coen brothers’ style isn’t really a style at all, it’s a rip off of the techniques from old films. And I mean, the day before we watched Cool Hand Luke (I was very sick this past weekend) I watched (again) North By Northwest and had noticed the same thing. Recently Stoker and I rented and viewed that let down film, No Country for Old Men, and what we loved about it (didn’t make up for what we loathed about it) was the absence of a film score. Older films didn’t have overproduced sounds. Many of them DID have film scores, but there is a distinct absence of, say, a microphone right next to the actor’s mouths, so we don’t have to listen to the suction and sloppy noises of a kiss. C’mon! Who wants to hear the details of a kiss!? No one. It doesn’t ADD to the moment, it’s a distraction!

Anyway, though I love many of the Coen brothers’ movies, I have to say, what I realized this weekend is that I don’t need to overdo it. My first love was correct and true. My first love, which bloomed in junior high and high school, was old films. There was a short period during graduate school when I watched an old Cary Grant show and felt a little embarrassed at its innocence, and I swore I’d never go back. I was cynical and bitter, I thought my eyes had been opened to the real world and that I finally knew what great art was. But I was na├»ve to assume so much.

The truth is, old films are pure and untouched by the dirty hands of modernity. What directors like Hitchcock couldn’t say outright, they said through implication and innuendo, they crafted a story around what could not be explained and in doing so, shed light on the dark corners of the human psyche. They created meaningful dialogue through what was said as much as what was UNSAID. Their sparse sets and stark images, such as those in North By Northwest (i.e. the scene outside the United Nations), say as much in the positive space as they do in the negative spaces. The color in North By Northwest is gorgeous. Tell me, have you ever seen anything like it?

In any case, I have always known that Stoker is a genius. He understands things and he has ideas about things. I’m an idea-lover. I can’t help it. And when I hear his ideas, I realize I’m madly in love with him all over again. Tonight or tomorrow night, I’ll finally see a Steve McQueen movie. I had this mentor a long time ago who raved about Steve McQueen. All this time I’ve never seen a Steve McQueen film. Can you believe it? It’s nice to still have things to do even though I’ve lived such a long life.