Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Swimmer as a Geographical Temporal Narrative

On writing a film review…
Student: I’d like to review The Swimmer. Good movie. It got a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tutor: How many reviewers?

Student: Twenty.

Tutor: Can’t use Rotten Tomatoes as a reference. Everybody does, it’s ubiquitous, but a global ballpark percentage isn’t de rigueur, academically.

Student: So how do you justify a movie as good?

Tutor: Cite the view of respected critic: Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert, Joe Morgenstern.

The Swimmer (1968) traces Ned Merrill's swim home through the pools of a suburb in Connecticut. It is a backward journey through space and time, through neighborhoods he knew, and his past. Although it is a structured succession of satirical scenes, it is as much a geographical and temporal narrative as a picaresque portrayal.

Other movies to score 100% on Rotten Tomatoes include The Godfather (1972), Citizen Kane (1941), Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), Toy Story (1995), Rear Window (1954)… There are quite a few listed here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Champion Juicers, Spark Plugs and Socks

On aliens and economics…
Chaman: I had a dream: I saw a Champion Juicer as a big, black truck, pulling a load of vegetables.

Chantoya: You’re constantly fantasizing about Champion Juicers.

Chaman: I’m not sure if it’s their rugged engineering, or the quality of the juice.

Chantoya: With you, it’s probably the motor.

Chaman: No, no, I like the juice they make, too. But you know, Champion is also the name of a spark plug.

Chantoya: What’s a spark plug?

Chaman: And Champion is the name of sock maker.

Chantoya: Next you’ll be telling me that Champion is a company that’s set to dominate the world economy.

Chaman: I’ll let you in on a secret. No one knows this, but it’s actually a company run by aliens. They’re set up take us over by economics.
Champion Juicers date from the 1950s. This coincides with the time when UFOs began to appear. Convinced?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Travels through the Time of Cherry Trees

A picaresque proposal…

Chikara: Had this idea of following the cherry blossom season starting from western Japan in mid-March and taking a couple of months to travel up to Hokkaido where they bloom in mid May.

Chiharu: Sounds intense. Why don’t you just stay in one place and watch one tree every day? Take a time lapse photograph once an hour. Make a movie of the petals falling. Cheaper.

Chikara: But that’s not a travel narrative. It’s only a temporal narrative.

Following the cherry blossom blooming seems to have elements of a picaresque tale, since it does carry a hint of satirical comedy, and seems for some, like Chiharu, a pointless quest. But is the hero Chikara, or Cherry Blossom herself? Could Cherry Blossom be personified perhaps? Can a traveling tale have multiple heroines?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

White Rabbit Reading

White-Rab-bit, White Rab-bit, White Rab-bit
White + Rabbit Reading Rapidly. 

3 beats per chant, 3 times.
White Rab-bit, White Rab-bit, White Rab-bit. 
1-2-3. 1-2-3. 1-2-3. 

Chants Cheer even Cherubs!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Significance or Serendipity?

On the train, Joe shows Flo a series of coincidences…

Joe: We departed Yoyogi  - that’s 6 letters, at 2:04. 2+0+4=6. Coincidence!

Flo: So?

Joe: It gets more amazing. Listen. We will arrive at Takadanobaba - 12 letters at 2:10. 2+10=12. A second coincidence!

Flo: So?

Joe: This is the way a numerologist navigates. Looks for coincidences. Could I plan on a future consulting job in this field do you think, or should I forget it?

Flo: I say forget it. Stick to knitting.


Stayed 2 years, 2 months, 2 days
Nevertheless, playing with numbers is not just the pastime of people wanting to get rich at winning a lottery or start a new career as a numerologist. Henry David Thoreau built a cabin in the woods near Concord and stayed there for 2 years, 2 months and 2 days. Planned, or was it merely happenstance?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Nope Yep

Swift and Sleek
Fast and Furious 

Brian: Great movie.

Betsy: Trash.

Brian: But you like action.

Betsy: Not cars.

Brian: Drift cars are a culture.

Betsy: Subculture. As in subnormal.

Brian: Some would say sublime. I have an idea. Your black Toyota. Paint some red stripes on that and we’d have a Mustang lookalike.

Betsy: Nope.

Brian: You sound dead set against it.

Betsy: Yep. End of discussion.

Betsy is adamant. She signals this by ending her dissent "No" and assent "Yes" with the unvoiced plosive /p/. An audible punctuation mark. "Nope!" "Yep!" Signalling an incontestable, indubitable, incontrovertible viewpoint. An unequivocal. unarguable, unassailable position. This lady’s not for drifting.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Narrative Reductive Extremis

Story pared to the bone...
Minimal storytelling…
Ernest: When I was in fifth grade, my friend Andrew wrote a story which went,
“Last Sunday, Dad and I went fishing.

We caught a tiger shark.
Then we went home.”
The teacher said it seemed to lack something.

Yang: Hmm. It has a narrative. It has structure.

Ernest: Andrew wasn’t much of a communicator. His story had no description. No drama. Sharks are big. They fight. They’re scary. So there are questions. How big was the boat? What was the sea like? How big was the shark? Did it fight? Was Andrew afraid?

Yang: Perhaps it’s reductive narrative extremis. Maybe it’s like Hemingway’s six word story.  What was it? “For sale. Baby shoes…”

Ernest: Yes. “Never worn.” But in Hemingway’s story, there is description. There is drama.

Yang: Maybe the “tiger shark” hints at the drama. The tale may be very reduced. But haiku is reductive extremis too. “An old pond, A frog jumps. Sound of water.” Description and a splash as dramatic punctuation.

Stories need to be clear. Tiger Shark is certainly clear.

Stories also benefit from details. 
Too much detail and the story becomes flabby, even obese. But too little detail and the story is nothing but a skeleton.