I am typing this as a plea, mainly for myself, but for anyone else who bothers to read it and as specially those who don’t. Howard Zinn passed away a short time ago, and I am at a loss. I want things to mean something. I want art to change the world, and I want to be a part of something that does some good.
please discuss, you artists and thinkers alike, what it is we need and yet can not seem to attain. One more request, please: How might what we do, not only make sense of (you name it) but…how might it propose inspiration…or a solution…to?
One would guess that you post your manifesto’s below, but are these things You?
Can you really make an impact?
Let’s try, shall we.
It was a drunken rant in order to ask what is the point of art, of cinema, and its relation to the present and the future in relation to relativity. Meaning, how might it (art) affect the future?
If you gain nothing from a specific piece of cinema or art, than it has failed you. right? wrong?
if you lose something from a specific….
is it all just entertainment?
is it all just there so I spend that time watching something instead of DOING something?
KNOWLEDGE is a far cry from ACTION.
In a way you’re asking to generalize the entire hybrid perspectives on this board, and in another way you’re completely missing the point of all of them. In a way you’re asking the questions that’s essential for every person’s critical perspective, and in a way you’re asking questions that cannot be answered. I shall do my best.
“One would guess that you post your manifesto’s below, but are these things You?”
I hate manifestos. All they result in is counter-manifestos. I think they limit people’s thought, not expand them.
“Can you really make an impact?”
Yes. Is a lot of the stuff that we consider impactful really impactful? No. The universe does not care if you live or die, but the fact of the matter is that you live despite what the universe thinks. All you can do is make sure your life has meaning, not discover the meaning of life.
“If you gain nothing from a specific piece of cinema or art, than it has failed you. right? wrong?”
Ars gratia artis would disagree with that statement. If I get nothing from a specific piece of cinema or art, I typically note the ways in which it fails to engage me and mentally work out how to avoid the same pitfalls. So I make sure I gain something from everything—even non-art related. That is my prerogative.
“is it all just entertainment?”
I’m sorry but this forum of late has been making me REALLY reactionary and bitchy to a lot of things, so here my initial reaction is to say “Who the fuck cares, stop fucking worrying about it.” However, that is just me being grumpy and is not at all based in the struggle to express yourself that I feel from the above posts. All I can say at this time is “No, but that answer is not significant.”
“is it all just there so I spend that time watching something instead of DOING something?”
You’re talking about relativity, right? Well within relativity is a notion of perspective, and perspective can be changed with some simple, fundamental psychology. Let me just put it like this: STOP considering there to be any difference between work and play, investment and leisure. Leisure is investment into yourself. Watching movies could easily be “just watching” instead of “doing”, but that’s not what movies demand or are, and nobody has to give that idea credence unless they simply want to. Just see movie watching as “research” from now on, if it makes you feel better. If not, find another way of thinking about it. It’s all up to you, that has nothing to do with the material existence of eventuality of things. What you do with the world is your choice, even if you have no control over the world itself, is what I’m saying.
“KNOWLEDGE is a far cry from ACTION.”
Theory is indeed meaningless without practice, but practice needn’t necessarily be action (as much as I regret to admit that!). Action could simply be self-enlightenment or leisure, as discussed above.
" Let me just put it like this: STOP considering there to be any difference between work and play, investment and leisure. Leisure is investment into yourself. Watching movies could easily be “just watching” instead of “doing”, but that’s not what movies demand or are, and nobody has to give that idea credence unless they simply want to. Just see movie watching as “research” from now on, if it makes you feel better. If not, find another way of thinking about it. It’s all up to you, that has nothing to do with the material existence of eventuality of things. What you do with the world is your choice, even if you have no control over the world itself, is what I’m saying."
Very well put.
In order to calm down a bit from some of the surrounding forum pettiness and the own stressors of my own life, I’m just going to throw all reserve out the window and pretend that people care what my personal philosophies are. So here we go.
The fact is that I consider myself an observer/participant in all things, in that I keep at an intellectual remove from everything that I do while still insisting upon first-hand experiential awareness so that I am engaged in the structure of it itself. This stems from a resistance to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and its associated analogous forms, which is a physics term that states that the observation of a system (again, physics system) disrupts that system because in order to observe the system you need a tool, and that tool when put into the system becomes a part of it—the system can no longer be closed. People have, albeit technically incorrectly, still semiotically moved the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle into all forms of observation: the sociological observation of a tribe changes the tribes dynamics, the self-aware observation of habits makes you consider changing those habits, the observation of your friends’ relationship changes the way they feel they need to present their relationship and thus changes the relationship. Self-awareness is already understood as damaging when it derails and becomes un-self-aware self-involvement (egotism) or when it becomes hyper-self-awareness (anxiety) or when it leads to the conclusion that there’s nothing else, or at least nothing else important (solipsism). However, I find typically in society that a massive part of people’s problems and conflicts stems from a lack of self-awareness, in that they do not bother focusing on how they come off to others, they don’t realize the ways in which they present themselves (you are your own medium—and the audience is constantly changing), or even they cannot relate or emphasize with the others because they are not aware of the difference in perspectives. This can go further to a sociological level when you consider the importance of self-responsibility.
IN FACT, I consider most of the issues with politics to be rooted in the simple fact that politicians are “representatives”, which means that people expect them to represent their own specific viewpoint when politicians have to, by sheer job description, represent generalizations, and because people believe other people are on par with their specific viewpoints (or they are wrong). The fact is that no matter when or with whom you’re discussing politics, the reason why you’re arguing is that if you agree, you’re not talking about it. Thus the false dichotomy in America of the two-party system: when I say that “nobody is a Democrat or Republican” (despite the very VERY clearly laid statistics that so many people are registered Democrat and so many people are registered Republican), it is because I have never gained any consensus as to what are the direct and specific definitions of Democrat and Republican, and even with every individual’s opinion on the matter of who is what, I have never met a person who matches that description to any level of thoroughness. We are all independents voting for two vague institutions who represent nobody. I will not attempt to move this argument further into the realm of other countries’ politics, because I have not observed NOR participated in them, and thus everything I ‘know’ about them are hearsay. Nor do I really give a shit, sorry guys, if you disagree with me. That is besides the overall point I’m trying to make.
Which is this: translate this relationship I’m talking about to the individual in the collective as organisms in a world in the midst of a Universe. Frankly, I keep all of this from entering too far into the realm of the abstract by attempting in my own ways to keep it practical with what can or cannot be observed, and the only way I know it’s observational is if a) I can see it for myself, b) I can understand the reportage of it if I cannot see it myself. So, for all intents and purposes, I don’t give a shit if there’s life after death—if there is, we’ll deal with it when we get there, and if there isn’t, we won’t care because dead people don’t have that capacity. I don’t care if this is one Universe in a multiverse—we’re stuck in this one, so we have to deal with it. That does not mean I believe that we should limit ourselves to our current knowledge and not TRY to look BEYOND… beyond quarks, beyond black holes, whatever. And I do find the search for knowledge to be an end unto itself. It’s just that, from my perspective, that which is possible is not significant—it only indicates that it could be, not that it is. This is why I am so abjectly revolted by the type of New Age thought put forward by shit like the Law of Attraction (which is no law, damn it). That type of stuff is merely mental exercises people put themselves through to, as they call it, change their way of thinking, but as I put it, craft blinders to Shit They Don’t Like. The issue is not that you shouldn’t try to be positive and that there is anything wrong with positive thinking—I consider myself to be a very positive, productive person (some people disagree, but that’s their prerogative). The issue is that whether you like it or not, not even Bill Gates can prevent his own death. In short, shit happens.
And of other important understanding is that although Bill Gates cannot prevent his own death, he also a) cannot allow himself to worry too much about it because like it or not, if he’s worrying, he’s alive, and b) No, he won’t know how he dies, ever. So what’s worth worrying about? Why do people care so much about getting anxious, living fleetingly? I’m not saying have a mid-life crisis and go skydiving, I’m saying that the issue is not what could be, but what you want to do with it. Always always always and in everything. It really, honestly, does not matter if this movie is entertaining and that one is deep, if you know how to use your resources (mental faculties) correctly, you will gain from the movie’s mere existence something to do with it. Again, whether you like it or not, you’re living, and living is largely a process of experiencing, and those experiences always inform your actions in some way or another, whether you care about them or not. “I am who I’ve always been and everything that’s ever happened to me” —James Joyce.
This whole stuff I spout always tends to make people think I’m fatalist or cynical. I find it self-empowering.
Think about it like this: nobody can stop you from being you, no matter how much they try. People are incapable of changing other people, all they are capable of is suggestion . And there is a lot of suggestion out there: ads to buy things, politics to get you to support things, requests for things, people giving advice, other people telling you to “Go fuck yourself”, stop signs and laws to increase their acknowledgment and use. However, it’s pretty much up to you and your own self-awareness to decide what suggestions you follow, even with the complete and hopefully sober acknowledgment that you will never fully remove suggestions from actions. The important thing here is what separates a person who has self-control and free will from someone who is constantly compelled by suggestion is education, and not just fact-based education (learning to add is not learning that 3+2=5. It’s learning to understand the concept of addition, so that when Big Bro comes and starts spouting that 2+2=5 nonsense, you can say, “Hey man, that shit don’t jive wit’ me.”—or for more advanced mathematicians: “In what base are you counting?”).
Here is the irony of public education: “What use will this be to me in the future?” Actually, I can answer that question. Education is set to develop minds towards critical thinking. Here could easily be any moment for someone to get all cynical and say, “Well then it’s failing”. Eh, sure, why not? That’s a discussion for another day. Anyway, the point is, when you’re in pre-school and kindergarten, you’re learning to become comfortable in a school system while learning initial concepts like how to follow assigned instructions and stuff like role-call and motivation and so on. In elementary school, you learn the basic units of literacy and critical thinking: add and subtract, alphabet and spelling, composition of sentences and paragraphs, what science is (Science fairs, anybody?), what history is (Dressing up as pilgrims for Thanksgiving, anyone?), and how to read. Middle school is when grammar and algebra get taught to you; now it’s not enough to just know what a sentence is, but what a phrase is, a preposition is, etc. Units are no longer important: 3+2 may equal five, but then what does x equal if 3+x=5? Science moves past general hypothesis and moves into the structure of scientific reasoning, and history starts to fall along a timeline. In high school, now you know not only the units and measurements, but you learn composition. Who cares what a phrase is, don’t you know a five-paragraph essay when you see it? Who cares if you can identify who the character is in a book, can you identify what he means ? Algebra becomes trigonometry and geometry and, technically, should be calculus or at LEAST pre-calc. Science goes past the need to process and becomes about the structure of the physical world, history becomes not dates but trends . Now it doesn’t matter that Columbus (elementary school) sailed the ocean blue in 1492 (midschool), but that he was part of an international movement to seafaring and colonialism (high school) that represents HOW the Americas came to be (despite other people’s pre-Columbus discovery of America…. college). Things like “humanities” are now itemized and classified into segments: economics, geography, etc. Unfortunately, many people stop there, but it continues to college: now it’s not about basic fundamentals of knowledge but application. So you can read and write, eh? What are you going to do with it? So you can understand math as a language now, can you apply that language to discovering and describing natural and even irrational phenomena? So you know what the components of the physical world are made of and how the scientific method works, can you figure out how to think beyond your observations to the realm of understanding currently not understood or even misunderstood phenomena? College undergraduate courses are all about changing the focus to a general discipline and enhancing that discipline into a wider specialty. Graduate courses are about focusing that specialty into authority. Post-graduate courses are about turning authority into imminent authority. Now, at this point, you may not know anything about what someone else is talking about—but you know what you’re talking about, which is very important, and even more important, you know how to think .
Thus the development of educated peoples traces the development of the human race. Education is history.
And it’s once you know how to think that the outside world simultaneously ceases to hold you in sway, and yet when the outside world becomes the most important towards your role and intentions in society, in art, in culture, in the scientific, political, creative, or whatever world. In my opinion, an absolutely essential understanding is that creative thinking comes from critical thinking, when so many artists say otherwise. However, even those artists who “say” otherwise don’t strictly “mean” to draw a false dichotomy, and it is a misrepresentation of their assumptions and arguments to say otherwise. What artists mean by thinking outside of assumptions and pre-considered notions is to provide a new perspective, and sometimes the struggle to do and think that way begins to become so involved that it extends beyond language—language itself being a formal, structured set of rules and functions applied incompletely to wider consciousness and thus “informing” thought to such a degree that it can even divert or close thinking to essentialized notions ill-used. Language is propaganda. However, you cannot subvert rules without knowing them, and back to Heisenberg, you cannot know rules without them informing your thinking and your thinking about them changing them. Psychologically this is true, too: the best way to get kids to not smoke is not to tell them not to smoke, but ask them to explain why smoking is bad. In the mental exercise of arguing against smoking, the kids craft neurological processes in their consciousness to not smoke. As an aside, it is also worth noting that the best way to make someone “love” something is to make them sacrifice for it. Since sacrifice cannot be achieved without purpose, a person forced to sacrifice will create an argument for its own purpose. For instance, on this board: since we have all sacrificed constant man hours, thought processes, time, energy, passion, and interest in movies, movies are not only just “important” to us but simply important. Other people who believe that movies are not important are wrong. And I’m not making fun of this type of thinking, I’m serious—the only place in which I feel needs emphasis is the fact that everybody who has lived has sacrificed for something, and that a lot of the conflicts of values in the world stem from the inability of people to understand other people’s values. WHY, for the love of god, do other people REFUSE to see movies my way, to take them seriously, to get involved, to be informed, to read into them? In most cases, simply because they haven’t been given the opportunity to. In some cases, movies are so far removed from a person’s value system that it’s not even worth arguing to because to them, there is something more important to do . So to answer the question “Is this important?”, oh totally, without a doubt: cinema is one of the biggest and most important inventions of the 20th century (even if it was invented in the 19th, its real effect is felt in the 20th). Cinema has literally changed the way the human race thinks. And yet, as much as that is true, it does not change the fact that cinema is not particularly important to individual people, nor is the human race really dependent on its existence. From my frame of reference, cinema is incredibly important to our culture, and not at all important to the human race. Now, frankly, cinema’s importance is declining. Whether you like it or not, Western culture has become an Internet culture—which I believe to be more of a good thing than most people in most situations.
The medium is the message. In the Internet, you not only have information transferal, but it is self-organizing. If you’re reading this, you are a member of an online community that more or less coincides with a general range of your value systems and specialty—and, like politics, practically nobody here agrees with everything you have to say, which is why you feel the need to argue your perspective so often. This is DIFFERENT than most other forms of media because it means that your not just tuning into a channel or reading a specific book for someone to inform you on the subject, and trying to get your word or knowledge out there as some form of published or authoritative statement; rather, that the Internet is USER-UPLOADED information and SELF-PUBLISHING. In all of its bad-grammarized non-critical thinking trollish misrepresentation unfactual form, the Internet is significant in that the very encoding-decoding structure of it puts the power of its signs into its own users’ hands. For instance, Google just today threw out Google Buzz, it’s answer to social networking, that hardwires right into their previously established infrastructure of Google Docs, Google Video, and G-mail, because (and I’m not lying or exaggerating here) Google wants to take over the world. And who doesn’t, really? Except keep in mind that you can simply not get a Google account, as well as having alternatives there’s the simple fact that you can create any number of intranets that exists and operates outside of the Internet, effectively demolishing any government or corporate ability to control it. The only reason why government and corporate control works as it is is because most people are, simply, not interested in the programming or the structure, but only on the self-publishing, ends of Internet age thinking. Let me be very fucking clear: nothing, absolutely NOTHING Bush did to destroy privacy is matched to what Facebook has done. No information that the FBI could possibly process matches the range and degree of information uploaded willingly to LiveJournal. It almost begs the question: if people are so damned concerned about their privacy and self-security, how come a self-uploaded picture of their drunken vomiting is a click away from their MySpace whine about how nobody understands them?
So a huge part of my perspective when it comes to media, social engagement, civil rights, and power-structures comes from an acknowledgement that frankly, human momentum moves far beyond efforts to control it—the only power and control any entity (organization; corporation; institution; government) has is also in suggestion . You cannot stop the momentum, so you aim it instead. You cannot prevent people from smoking, but you can regulate it. You cannot prevent people from file-sharing, so you restrict it. You cannot prevent people from spamming, so you try to program blocks around it—this is all analogous to human nature in general, outside of the web, and speaks to a hilarious irony: governments are functions of anarchy. Socialism is a function of capitalism (and so’s communism). The golden rule itself stems from the wider historical, cultural, sociological, psychological, anthropological, and SIMPLE understanding that if you fuck with people, you better expect to be fucked with. When has flipping off another vehicle in traffic EVER granted you an apology from the other driver for driving so chaotically? And yet we do it because damn it, we had right of way mothofucker! And in doing it we are not expecting to fix anything, but to reinforce the only thing we have to us: our personal perspective. We cannot control that other driver, ever, but we can control our driving and we can assert ourselves. That is the function of the way we operate.
THUS, for me, the most important point to understanding anything, any topic at all, any piece of knowledge, is understanding its structure: how does it operate, what is the language that defines it, how is it used versus how it is intended to be used versus how it actually works (these things are always misaligned), what are its limits, what are its possibilities, and what can you do with it ? In cinema, movies operate as motion, projection, framing, blocking, performance, music, imagery, mise-en-scene, etc. It is defined by mise-en-scene and editing. It is used as entertainment, intended as art or business, and works as a medium of expression. It is limited by its two-dimensionality (not to be confused with 3D projection, either, as that 3D projection is still an optical trick along a 2D frame, and even projecting off of 3D surfaces does not change its inherent 2 dimensionality), its framing, its lack of user interaction or real-time dialog between audience and creator, etc. It’s possibilities are confined to whatever can be captured and projected with light—like it or not, “existentialism” cannot be filmed, a lot of its ideas can. These answers are purposefully vague and specifically disinterested. What is “framing”? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? A liability or an asset? Frankly, all of that comes down to your perspective and value judgments. What’s undeniable is that it’s there—you cannot project every angle of the Universe at once into a confined screen, you are limited to the material and light-sensitive universe and what can be seen by the human eye.
As much as speciation exists in the modern world, it’s always been a fallacy. Everything informs everything else. I think this is even more true in the Internet age, where any concept or idea can be hyperlinked to not only another idea or concept, but an entire codex of related topics (ever tried to follow every link within Wikipedia? How about the links that lead to sources outside of Wikipedia?). Again with the question of the importance or value of cinema: cinema has taught me a whole lot about the world that I’ve previously not known, but again, it could disappear tomorrow and I could still glean from the world the information that I need. I tend to translate everything I learn into the uses it can give to cinema, but I tend to translate everything I learn from cinema into practical use for everyday living. Again with some self-awareness: doesn’t everybody?
Structure can also define individuals and groups, technologies and trends, revolutions and dictatorships. Anything, and I state anything, man-made is built around self-defining and traceable structures, and much of the physical Universe is too—in fact, I think all of it, but again the issue with relativity is that we may not possess the tools or instruments to observe those structures, and even if we could—hello Heisenberg!—we’d change them. It is false, however, to take this too far and think that the structure can ever be fully dilineated, since it’s always changing. American culture can be as much explained by the fact that it was insane Puritans who founded it as it can be understood as a culture that has deviated strongly from the Puritan model of living; film is no longer film, but programming (cameras are programmed to turn light into zeroes and ones; entire movies are made on computers; etc.). For me its exasperating to spend so much time trying to show people that there are huge and distinct differences between two forms of one thing, and that at the exact time they’re still just one thing. Videos and films are still the same medium, and yet one is chemical and the other electromagnetic! The significance of that difference cannot be understated, and yet it doesn’t change the fact that the purposes of using a camera maintain the same—expression. Democrats and Republicans are on opposing sides of issues specifically because that’s what MAKES it a political issue, and yet their functions and perspectives are the same, especially in comparison to wider world politics. Zen Buddhism and Taoism share thoughts and values and conclusions stemming from Eastern perspectives, but it would be straight-up Orientalism to believe that essentially they’re the same philosophies.
All of this is, frankly, straight-up banal pop philosophy in its conclusions, but it’s amazing to me how little-acknowledged the CORE of it is. However, there’s also the mere and irrefutable fact that I’m coming from an era very familiar with post-modernism, which is defined as a decentered, disessentialist perspective. For me, it is second nature to realize that “cat” is not “car” is not “cot” is not “rat” is not “cart”, and then that fact does not matter in the slightest because it means absolutely fucking nothing to a guy speaking Japanese, whereas for some people that Platonic based, wonky French way of habitually deconstructing everything while allowing in personal agreement to take on its assumptions is this, like, extreme mental exercise the results of which are far from clear. For me it’s obvious that the word is not the thing, the map is not the territory. If you read any of the specific examples above, none of them have any bearing to the meaning of what I’m saying, and are only mere semantics in examples, and are of a bad personal habit of applying unrelated concepts as representation instead of analogy. It’s hilarious that for all of my claims towards practicality, I’m also quite aware that none of this thinking or typing of the past while (and I’ve been typing this for a while) is putting food in my mouth or getting me a job. For me, however, I find things like metaphysics, spirituality, the sublime, many philosophies, and subjectivity to be irresponsibly abstract, and yet quantum physics, intertextuality, aesthetics, many philosophies, and relativity to be FUCKING IMPORTANT, PEOPLE.
And now here comes the fun part: posting this goddamned thing. Which means you guys will react to it, and I cannot possibly imagine what you’ll end up reading versus what I thought I was saying. Sigh
This will no doubt die with you Dib-stick.
I want to see more documentary film makers on the auteurs, personally.
Well I’m half-heartedly trying to get a documentary together about the young unemployed to be shot in March, so maybe that will happen (if I ever have the time to do it!)
I read the whole thing (i know, right?), but I really don’t know what you’re saying. Though I have to say, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle has nothing to do with the instruments used affecting the system (I’ve read someone else here claim the same thing, you probably got that from them) but the fact that some physical properties are completely contingent on others. For example, to know both the position and the velocity of a particle is impossible, even theoretically.
Governments are a function of anarchy. I like that.
Just like light is particles and waves.
In response to BOTH things you’ve said!
Edit: the “tools” thing I mentioned was a misunderstanding of what my physics professor said, which is pretty much exactly what he said: “You can create a tool to find the position of a particle, or a tool to find its velocity, but not a tool to do both” or something closer along those lines. The basic example was the same, the information I misrepresented, but the analogy in the above text (I believe) still stands.
PolarisDiB, I really don’t have a reply to that, I agree with much of it, and have some quibbles with other parts, but, damn it, I’m glad you take the time to write things like that. It gives me hope that the future won’t be entirely written in 140 characters or less.
I actually like things like the movie’s Wall posts on this site or txt messaging, where I have to figure out how to say what I mean in 140 characters or less (and I’m that type of guy who must use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation unless purposefully breaking it). I find it a neat exercise (though I get frustrated when conversations over txt messaging continue past the point of three replies, because at that point I figure the two of us might as well talk on the phone we have right there in our hands). I’ve always greatly admired one-line reviews and film capsules (I tend to find them more informative about the film than full length reviews or criticisms, which I find are more informative in understanding the character of the reviewer or critic than the film), so I’ve been playing around with them on The Auteurs with the movie’s walls.
But there has to be more
Only on Thursdays.
Oh, yes, concise writing has its place, but, for nuance, one needs to expound freely.
Honestly, my rant of above is many times longer than the typical Borges story, and his has more meaning and intelligence.
Hey, yeah, why aren’t you writing more like Borges?! I’m starting to feel ripped off here!
On second thought, writing fiction as well as Borges would be great, but his film criticism? Definitely needed more in the package.
Oh, well if we’re comparing to film criticism, then I’m nothing to the length, depth, and audacity of David Foster Wallace!
But keep in mind Borges was doing film criticism before it was anything in depth like it is today (ostensibly, though I think artistic criticism at least in America has been on a steady decline for about the last 30 years).
Hahaha, Polaris :). You could use some footnotes, I think, in your eloquent treatise above.
I like footnotes.
Thanks for starting this thread Tom. I too struggle with these issues from day to day.
Oh and to you too DiB for shedding light.
or should we say for shedding particles and waves :)