Posts Tagged 'Memory'

Hyper-Critical-Mass

There’s just too much is the main issue right now. With a finite number of time-units and cultural consumables, how can there be such a great disparity between the two? Forget, even, news-related items. Think how unprecedented, really, is an individual’s particular tastes and experience (which for the purposes of sanity and this singular blog we’ll relegate to artistic experience). My own group of friends’ tastes are too varied to even begin to describe (I know, because I just started writing it all and realized it was too complex for this entry) – from film to TV to music to literature to podcasts to theater to graphic design (now that’s broad) to comic books to photography, and on til morning goes the list. How to follow it all? How to keep up? How to respond even to just that barrage of ABSOLUTE MUSTS in all those mediums? It’s unending. It’s overwhelming. (TV and Literature is just the worst to me. Great mediums, both of which I love, but there is seriously so much volume of great that I don’t have any time for the good or the very good. Except that it’s almost a guarantee that something or other I watch because it’s someone’s favorite won’t be my cup of tea, meanwhile something others may write off as “pretty good” might be a revelation to me (Can you say “Community”?))

The following litany is from Friday. That is, this is what I consumed on during some spare time in the morning, during my drives to-and-from work, and sitting at work for twelve hours (parts of which also involved some more driving). Later in the day, thinking back on it, I felt overwhelmed when I tried to place it all. So often there is a giant list of things to get through that the order and rate they’re in is discarded. Starting to think that might be a mistake. That when ambition overtakes absorption the point may be muted. There are plenty of people, no doubt, for whom this list is small; who have no trouble multi-tasking. My roommate watches movies and shows while he works on art. I can’t do that. My attention has to be devoted, and I need more time to consider.

Lately I have issues recalling specific episodes of podcasts like “This American Life” or “The Tobolowsky Files.” Except my few favorites, my attention may have been too divided to retain enough of each story. That’s a problem, my problem, which is why this is essentially an attempt to retain something from each thing.

TV:

The Office“Threat Level Midnight” – A very playful episode. Look, The Office isn’t what it used to be, and I’m not quite as gaga over this one as many reviewers seem to be, but it was a really-good-to-near-great episode. I enjoyed all of the small moments with former series regulars.

MUSIC:

Mumford & Sons“Sigh No More” – What a great album this is! Folksy, banjo-laden music that moves and thumps. Here are songs that are about something; you can feel it deep in your bones.

From “The Cave”

So make your siren’s call/ And sing all you want/ I will not hear what you have to say

‘Cause I need freedom now/And I need to know how/ To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope/ And I won’t let you choke/ On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain/ And I will change my ways/ I’ll know my name as it’s called again

And now hear a song played with two fists clenched:

Phoenix“It’s Never Been Like That” ; “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” – Yeah, they’re a hipster band to some degree, they just did the soundtrack for Sofia Copolla’s new film “Somewhere,” and I honestly haven’t listened to them enough to be able to articulate their M.O. They’re similar to Vampire Weekend, except even better.

PODCASTS:

This American Life“What Is Money?” – Few shows tackle complex subject matter this consistently – with staggering insight. This episode looks at the general abstract-ness of money and the two shocking instances – one in Brazil, one here – where the solution to a national crisis sounds more like something out of one of the absurdo-circular subplots in “Catch-22.” It’s like arguing semantics with an inanimate object. But somehow, these ideas work (well, one of them we’ll wait & see).

Radiolab “Cities” – So okay this would be the other show that aims just as high on a weekly basis. In this episode, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich explore what makes a city distinct. They start off comparing the rates at which patrons from different cities walk, then they speak with some experts who analyze that data (among other data) and have created a mathematical formula that is eerily accurate in predicting how many, for instance, people there are in that city; how many libraries, schools, theatres, et al. Then the discussion transitions to what the data can’t tell you – the soul or spirit of a city. Oh how many applications about truth and life can we draw from this? Oh how many types of many? The show ends with a moving portrait of a city torn apart and all-but abandoned (except that not in one final heartbreaking, beautiful way). Hearing it made me think of people who grow up in a place and decide to make their home there; have their entire extended family there. To stay, to remain. I’m not one of those people. I moved around to four different cities during my formative years. My parents now live somewhere else. So do I. Except now I’m somewhere and I can’t imagine leaving, although that too is less about the place than the people. You find a community and you want to make your life with them.

PLAY:

One of me, three of you. I like where this is going.

“Spring Awakening” – Ashley loves this musical, from which I’ve heard all of two songs (her idea it’s clear enough without saying, but nonetheless). Can’t recall either one. But a couple years ago, blissfully unaware of the musical (small miracles and all that), I bought the play during one of my online searches for all-things Jonathan Franzen (he did the translation of Patrick Wedekind’s more-than-100-year-old work). I read his introduction – which is not-at-all flattering of the musical – but never made my way past the first scene. I’m told the musical retains maybe 50% of the dialogue (it’s a relatively short read at about 80 pages), and it is unfortunately one-note. The play rails against any notion of parental, educational, and spiritual guidance, save for one mother whose idea is to let her 14-year old figure things out for himself. The writing is beautiful – Franzen’s translation is eloquent and sly and contains a number of passages that feel as much like literature as dialogue. Among other things, the play explores all manor of sexual experience (which might be more harrowing to see than read, except the idea of children committing these acts is undercut by having sexy 20-somethings inhabit the roles (because otherwise it might be oh um uh illegal?)) Still, the themes of repression-in-the-name-of-innocence (although it’s really ignorance), the fear of even the idea of the subjects, and the youthful speculation and confusion about school, life, and sex are all fully realized. My one wonder is how much stock the author placed in the logic of his pubescent subjects. They are true in that they make sense to us at that age. Are we to see them as free-thinkers who are stifled? Or as developing thinkers who are dissuaded from maturing at all. There are arguments to be made for both sides.

Act II, scene i:

MORTIZ: Before the exam, I prayed to God to give me tuberculosis and let me off the hook. And I got off it –although even now I can sense it hanging in the distance, with a glimmering around it that makes me scared to raise my eyes, day and night. — But now that I’m on the ladder I’ll keep climbing. My guarantee is the logical certainty that I can’t fall without breaking my neck.

Act II, scene iii:

HANSY: *Moritura me salutat! — Girl, girl, why do you press your knees together? — Why even now? — — Are you mindful of inscrutable eternity?? — One twitch, and I’ll set you free! — One feminine gesture, one sign of lust, of sympathy, girl! — I’ll frame you in gold and hang you above my bed — Don’t you see that it’s your chasteness alone that gives birth to my debaucheries? — Woe, woe unto those who are inhuman.

*Moritura me salutat = “Those doomed to death salute me.”

Gram

My 9-yr old cousin Mimi sold Girl Scout cookies this past winter, and I went a little crazy. I bought 8 boxes. They were left for me at Gram’s house (that’s what we call my Mom’s mom; it was the way we distinguished the different sets of grand-parents. Now, the two grand-mothers are all that’s left), and since she lives only about five minutes from my work, I went over and spent my lunch hour with her.

Sign me up

Sometimes she’s quiet; it might take her time to get comfortable with conversation, but today, she was set the moment I sat down with her, rifling through my Green- and Blue- and Purple-Boxed cookies. So there I sat, cookies in lap, a glass of orange juice set on a thick paperback about Ronald Reagan, and we talked. At first just about my job and some evening plans for making fettuccine and watching “LOST,” then about Mimi’s visit last weekend for Gram’s birthday. I brought up the “Harry Potter” series, because Mimi’s on “The Order of the Phoenix,” and we’ve made a plan to read “The Deathly Hallows” together. I hope she’s still a slow reader. Gram said she’d thought about reading them, but thought they’d be too daunting, but I convinced her to borrow the first one from me.

Kodiak Moment

Right now she’s 300+ pages into a book about Alaska, and just mentioning it changed her entire countenance. She has trouble standing and often leans far back in her recliner, her voice is usually passive and a little distant. She sat up, picked up her book and started telling me about all the places she used to live that the book talked about; visiting friends from California on little Kodiak island; which led to her fascination with travel and planes, which led to one of my favorite stories she’s ever told me.

When she was much younger, she and her sister Audrey lived in North Hollywood. When their father died back in Montana, their mother moved out to California and the three lived together. She told me how they would drive into Burbank to the airport, sit inside at the restaurant and watch the planes take off. “It was one of the few things that we did just together. Well, we did everything together, but this was just me and my mother. Audrey didn’t come. She didn’t have any interest in it, I don’t know why.”

Going Somewhere?

She told me how she loved planes, loved working for TWA and then later a travel agency. She told me stories of driving my mother and aunt to the Van Nuys airport, just about a mile from where I live now (and right past which I run on sunny days like today), to take a helicopter ride from there. And how neither of her kids seemed as fascinated by the experience as she was. “After we got done, we got back in the car, and your mother got in the backseat and then she threw up all over herself… She didn’t travel well.”

I’ve always meant to bring a recorder with me to capture these stories and I always forget. These are things that need to be preserved, these are memories that deserve to live on. They are those small, perfect little bits of family history that don’t get taxied out enough. Hearing little stories about my mother or about my great-grandmother, who I never met (I don’t think) but was such a vital part of Gram’s life when she was my age.

We talked about grandchildren, how I don’t have any and won’t. How my sister may have them before my brother or me. About high school reunions and their increasing obsolescence. “You go to one or two, but by then everyone has grown up and changed. People change.” My brother’s 10 year reunion is this year. I have no idea if he’s going to it. I have no idea if I’ll go to mine in 2 years. It feels like another lifetime. I still keep in touch with the people I want to be in touch with. More than anything, I think I agree with Gram: “Thinking about it, it just seems so long ago.”

Her stories can’t be told forever. I have to seek them out while I can.


It Has Come to This

May 2017
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