Imaginary Brazilian Revolution

Brazil is a state of carefree serenity. Brazil is attained by forsaking sanity.

Return . . . I will . . . to old . . . Brazil.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bug Sex and Me

This morning I had to go to work at 7:00. When working the early at Harmons the grocer in your neighborhood, one can expect that the first two hours will be relatively slow. It's always nice to be scheduled with checkers who are reasonably cool because it gives you somebody to talk to and help the time pass. This morning I was working with a checker named Tiffany. I was telling her about a movie called "Microcosmos," which I watched yesterday. It's a French documentary about bugs. The only human dialogue in the entire film is at the very beginning when a little girl sings a really weird song about bugs, and at the end when an old woman reads a really weird poem about bugs. In between is the sound of fluttering wings, of pitter-pattering ant feet, and of classical music. We quietly behold the microcosm of the insects. This film, incidentally, contained the first, second, and third times I ever intimately watched bugs have sex with each other.

I told Tiffany about this film, and she asked the eternal question: "Why would you watch something like that? It's weird."

Why would I watch something like that? Furthermore, what would I find enjoyable about it? Why are 10 million Americans watching King Kong while Tyler watches amorous ladybugs?

"Why," asked Tiffany, "do you try so hard to be different?"

It's not often that I'm left quite speechless by a line of questioning, but this was a striking inquiry today. Indeed, why? Why anything? Why everything? Do I strive to be different? Do I partake of insect pornography just to be able to talk about it tomorrow? just to assert my uniqueness to the robots I perceive all about me?

The answer is ultimately no, that I don't view such things in order to assert individuality, (though I am a staunch individualist.) I think I have pinpointed my disease. It's my sick addiction. I am addicted to newness, I am addicted to ideas, and for some reason it's very difficult for me to embrace the formulaic.

Now I believe that all of these questions have something to do with the last post about conventionality in art, and namely, our boy Elliott Smith. I've listened religiously to Elliott for a long time, much more so lately. This, for me, is a complicated paradox, as we have identified him as a fairly traditional singer/songwriter type and my entire post is about my obsession with experimentation.

I'm in the middle of Persona right now, so I'm gonna cut this short and remain intellectually woven in this confusion. But maybe it's no paradox at all. I just love what I love and eff what anybody else thinks about it. Strange though.

5 Comments:

At 3/10/2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Tyler said...

It's all about the integrity quotient. Pretty much any monkey could pick up a guitar and learn how to play it reasonably well. The "why" is what impresses me to either positivity or negativity. My bands of late have been The Mountain Goats, Stars, The Magnetic Fields, Sons & Daughters, and Elliott Smith. None of them are really trailblazing new musical concepts. None of them are playing anything too ridiculously unique. They are all lyrically good, but they aren't saying anything that hasn't been said. Seems that the unifying quality is that they are all very true to their art. That must be what I find so accessible.

 
At 3/11/2006 5:50 AM, Blogger Tom said...

While on a fundamental level these guys aren't doing anything strikingly unconventional, they aren't unoriginal. They don't blend in. And they don't have mass appeal (Stars have the most of the bunch). To my ears Elliott makes some of the most enjoyable music around, whether it breaks ground or not.

Which is what it's all about. Consuming art has no other purpose than to bring pleasure. Sometimes the pleasure comes from pleasing aesthetic qualities, like a great hook or a beautiful harmony. Sometimes it comes from the experience of exploration, the adventure of breaking new ground. Sometimes it comes from knowledge gained of the world or understanding of somebody else's experience in the world. And, yes, sometimes it comes from being able to tell people about it. I'm convinced that there is a social aspect to experiencing art. The things we watch and listen to and become enthusiastic about help us carve out our own little social niche and give us a conception of ourselves, of where we stand in relation to the people we interact with and to the larger society. For example, sometimes we read a book and find pleasure more in being able to regard ourselvese as a person who has read and understands the book rathern than in experiencing the content of the book itself. We find pleasure in being someone who has "been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books." Or we find pleasure in being able to regard ourselves as individualists, so we especially enjoy enjoying work that most others don't enjoy. Or we find pleasure in fitting in, so we convince ourselves that rap doesn't suck.

I think we're not often conscious of the social factor that goes into how we regard certain art, but I think it's there.

 
At 3/11/2006 6:23 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Which is a problem for individualists. We don't want the way we experience something to be influenced (tainted) by factors extrinsic to the thing itself, especially social factors.

But to shun films or music because it is popular or conventional for the sake of individuality makes one a slave to the idea of individuality, which kind of defeats the purpose, no? It's like goths with their non-conformist mantra while they wear makeup and stink in order to conform to goth-ness.

I will say a word in praise of conformity. Conformity is a very good thing when the standard to which you are conforming is a standard that you yourself regard as true or valuable. In other words, one doesn't surrender one's individuality by conforming to, or striving to conform to, an ideal which one regards as true. It doesn't matter if everyone else in the world or noone else in the world is conforming to that ideal.

I say that because I used to see gospel standards as an imposition and adherence to gospel standards as conforming to family and societal expectations. But when I came to adopt church standards as my own, living up to those standards became an act of exercising my individual will to be what I want to be. Of course, that's not to say that I do this particularly well. It's just sort of a rebuttal to some of the things that I hear people saying when they talk about religion.

Dang I'm long winded. Did I say that already?

 
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