Mal on the Street

“In conventional business attire, trusty Mohawk at their side, the two would waylay pedestrians and proprietors. Clandestinely recording each conversation, they would retreat to the curb to rewind: The Mohawk used quarter-inch metal cassettes and rewinding the tapes required the operator to manually turn a handle like a fishing reel. Then they’d hook up the earpiece and listen to their latest. If they only collected usable material every two or three days, they were happy.

The best of these hidden-mike recordings is a long encounter with a druggist, from whom Coyle solicits advice about performing home surgery on Sharpe, who is complaining of chest pains. The druggist is aghast at Coyle’s medical “experience” — third-year high school, plus a few days of home study. They offer to do the surgery in a station wagon outside. The druggist begs them not to, saying they’re running huge risks for no reason. Coyle replies, “He’s willing to take the chance, and it would be very interesting for me.”

-Staff, “Mal on the Street.” SF Weekly. May 25, 1995

Pace Yourself

Open Question: What does it mean to “pace yourself” in modern culture? Does it mean staying with something long enough, over time, to truly develop a relationship with the material and love it?

“There’s a willingness, there’s a faith, there’s a very, very magical alchemy that happens when somebody looks at something with enormous love and enormous passion—and it doesn’t matter what that material is. It can be a comic book page, it can be a silly story, and you don’t change it, but the way you look at it transforms it. Which is a very different exercise than postmodernism. Postmodernism or kitsch is me winking at you, saying ‘I know it’s silly, but I’m being ironic. I’m above the material.’ And for me, the transformative power of art is you are not above the material…

…I think it is amazing that I can travel with my iPad with thousands of movies. I think it is amazing that I can streamline thousands more. I think it is amazing that I can know what happened in far-flung countries, in one second. But it is up to us, as humans—one of our ethical tasks is to say, how am I going to pace myself? What am I focusing on? Because otherwise we live life in a blur. We’re texting and driving. So it is—media is not evil. The speed of media is not evil. What is toxic is that we don’t pace ourselves. That we’re not having dinner without texting; that we’re not capable of paying full attention to the moment we’re living. And that is true also of the cinematic discourse.”

-Guillermo del Toro in an interview with Lauren Wilford, “Death is the Curator: An Interview with Guillermo del Toro.” Bright Wall / Dark Room. Issue 44. February 2017.

This whole interview is packed with wisdom and might change the way you think about culture, particularly film. Read it.

The Portal, Episode 3: Werner Herzog

“In depth and somewhat reverential interview with Werner Herzog, who the host considers to be an unparalleled genius living in an age that might not be chaotic enough to appreciate him — ”what does a Winston Churchill do if there’s no World War Two to win?”. The answer, apparently, is make films: bizarre, varied, brilliant, inexplicable films that challenge narrative and perception. The conversation here ranges more widely than cinema though, with Herzog giving his views on travel, politics and education among other things. Beyond technical skill, an aspiring filmmaker must “read, read, read,” he says (82m16s).”

—”Expanding Brain.” TheListener.co. November 22, 2019.

Hour of the Wolf

“[B]ecause I am a romantic, I still believe that we have the potential to be nobler than we know and better than we think. […] So I urge you to keep your heart’s compass on the true north of your dreams. Be free to be romantics, to reject cynicism, to believe that good will prevail and that those who do wrong will be punished, because, when the hour of the wolf comes, as it comes to all of us sooner or later, those are the things that sustain us.”

—J. Micheal Straczynski wrote that speech 20 years ago for Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher, the protagonist of Murder, She Wrote, quoted in Cord Brooks, “‘Writing Superficially Is Easy’: An Interview with J. Michael Straczynski.” Los Angeles Review of Books. September 21, 2019.

Also:

…”it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you endured or what your resources were or who didn’t believe in you. Your success is the result of your talent, your dreams and the degree to which you are — or are not — prepared to fight for them…

…What mattered to me in the telling was to illustrate that we have choices about how we react to the things that happen to us, that we can choose differently than others would have us choose, and that we can break the cycle of violence or abuse or alcoholism by taking responsibility for ourselves instead of blaming others or indulging in victimhood. If it can help some people understand that there is a way out of the darkness that does not require doing unto someone else as was done unto them, then the book has been worth the effort.”

ibid.

David Byrne on Love – Believer Magazine

“Love, it seems to me, is a joyous self-deception, practiced by two
people at the same time. No one is as wonderful as the object of one’s love appears to be, and yet who among us would trade that illusion for the truth? Being an illusion, it is not real, but despite not being something we can see or touch, feelings are as real as any physical object. So in that sense, love is absolutely real. Real and not real at the same time. Like some kind of quantum physics puzzle, it binds the universe.”

—David Byrne, “David Byrne in Conversation with David Byrne.” The Believer. August 1, 2019.

The Work of the Three Minds

“We have three minds, I reckon, one of which is the body, while the other two are forms of mentation: daylight consciousness and dreaming consciousness. If one of these is absent from a work, it isn’t complete; and if one or two of them are suppressed, kept out of sight, then the whole thing — whatever it is you’ve created — is in bad faith. Thinking in a fusion of our three minds is how humans do naturally think, at any level above the trivial. The questions to ask of any creation are: What’s the dream dimension in this? How good is the forebrain thinking, but also how good is the dream here? Where’s the dance in it, and how good is that? How well integrated are all three; or if there is dissonance, is that productive? And, finally, what larger poem is this one in? Who or what does it honor? Who does it want to kill?”

—Les Murray, “Les Murray, The Art of Poetry No. 89.The Paris Review. Spring 2005, quoted in Alan Jacobs, “The Work of Three Minds.” Snakes & Ladders. June 28, 2019.