Monday, April 16, 2012

Internet Lovelies

My biggest problem with grocery shopping, and it isn’t the store’s fault in the least, is that I’m a complete sucker for anything new and different. Korean barbecue sauce? Gotta have that! Bacon horseradish potato chip dip? In the cart!
Then, once at home, I open my pantry and survey the irrational amounts of sauces, mixes, exotic ingredients, and just plain weird stuff (I’m sure I bought those anchovy-stuffed olives for a reason, I just don’t remember what it was). I very rarely eat salads at home, and yet I have eight different types of salad dressing. Why? Because Bacon Ranch!
What I need, and what the grocery stores will never provide, is someone to follow me through the store and just smack my hand whenever I reach for that interesting jar of mustard or that I-never-know-when-I-might-be-in-the-mood-for-Swedish jar of pickled herring in cream sauce.
Commenter "Jeff", Link

My refrigerator is a sad thing to behold. It very rarely contains anything that's 100% edible. If some natural disaster ever barricades me in my apartment, you'll probably find me emptying out jars of curry paste and balsamic vinaigrette onto dinner plates.

I read in the newspaper that your community is mystified by the outcry from all over the country about what you have done. Well, you have discovered that Drake is a part of American civilization, and your fellow Americans can’t stand it that you have behaved in such an uncivilized way. Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons, and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.
Kurt Vonnegut, in a 1973 letter to Charles McCarthy, head of the Drake High School school board, who had demanded that 32 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five be burned in the school's furnace. Link

Art is both love and friendship, and understanding; the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of Things, it is more than kindness which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these.
Ansel Adams, in a 1937 letter to friend Cedric Wright. Link

That has to be my favorite definition of art I've come across so far.

And are you familiar with the site Letters of Note? You should be. It's only the greatest thing ever. It's a blog that shares incredibly interesting letters written by notable people from the past. Like this letter from an escaped slave written to his former master after emancipation. I want to go back in time and give that guy a high five. (btw, happy 150th Emancipation Day, D.C.!) Start browsing this site and I promise you'll only look up from the screen hours later. Reading before bed is not recommended.

Now. Let's talk Hunger Games.
Why should I care about your story? You have a bad job and want to be doing something different but feel paralyzed because of something and so you gchat with your friends all day the end. [Suzanne] Collins and [George R.R.] Martin keep you reading deep into the night because at the end of a chapter Katniss’ head suddenly falls off. And you’re like, her head just fell off??? I have to keep reading. Like holy crap. And so you stay up all night furiously turning pages. What happens at the end of your chapters? Someone doesn’t reply to your email or something. Or, like, 9/11 happens. I’m so fucking riveted.
Jim Behrle, Link

Saddest book title of all time: The Unreplied-to Email :(

Thich Nhat Hanh speaks out a lot about films and music that he thinks poison our minds. "We (writers) do not have the right just to express our own suffering if it brings suffering to others," he says. "Filmmakers, musicians, and writers need to practice Right Speech to help our society move again in the direction of peace, joy, and faith in the future."

I have a hard time agreeing with this. I do think that there are forms of entertainment whose sole purpose appears to be to excite people in unhealthy ways and generate profits. But almost every time I think I've come up with the perfect example of this, it turns out that either the makers of the thing had a higher purpose in mind than I'd imagined or that the fans of the thing got more out of it than I ever would.

I also think that many of the films, books and music that helped me get through my life -- particularly my adolescence -- would have probably been labeled "negative" by Mr. Hanh and his loyal followers. I can imagine him recommending me to watch Mary Poppins and listen to The Carpenters instead of reading Philip K. Dick and listening to the Sex Pistols. This would have ended up making me kill myself since I would never have known there were others just as dissatisfied with life as I was. At least that's how I take what he's said on the subject. And I'm certain I'm not alone in taking it that way.

In the case of Hunger Games, there's a lot of violence and ugliness. But that ugliness and violence appears to me to be intended to make an important commentary on contemporary society. So it's valid and good. You couldn't make the points they wanted to make without all the bloodshed.
Brad Warner, Link

I have a theory, and that theory is if you try to erase ugliness from your child's experience of the world (particularly entertainment-wise), the more likely it is they will turn out to be an asshole. It might would take a full-length dissertation to explain, but I'm convinced that watching crazy violent/morbid anime* as a youngster, reading A Tale of Two Cities before I even understood what monarchy meant, and listening to Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill and Metallica non-stop as a pre-teen made me grow up to be a better, kinder person.

* I dare you to watch part 10 and not weep in mortification at the unfairness and temporal nature of life. But also unicorns and rainbows!

I learned a long time ago that life often introduces young people to situations they are in no way prepared for, even good girls, lucky girls who want for nothing. Sometimes, when you least expect it, you become the girl in the woods. You lose your name because another one is forced on you. You think you are alone until you find books about girls like you. Salvation is certainly among the reasons I read. Reading and writing have always pulled me out of the darkest experiences in my life. Stories have given me a place in which to lose myself. They have allowed me to remember. They have allowed me to forget. They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds.
Throughout the books, Katniss endures the unendurable. She is damaged and it shows. At times, it might seem like her suffering is gratuitous but life often presents unendurable circumstances people manage to survive. Only the details differ. The Hunger Games trilogy is dark and brutal but in the end, the books also offer hope—for a better world and a better people and for one woman, a better life for herself—a life she can share with a man who understands her strength and doesn’t expect her to compromise that strength, a man who can hold her weak places and love her through the darkest of her memories, the worst of her damage. Of course I love these books. The trilogy offers the kind of tempered hope everyone who survives something unendurable hungers for.
Roxane Gay, Link

The book wasn't perfect. Neither was the film. But my god, I'm so happy they exist. Everything about the story screamed against them becoming so outrageously popular, and yet, here they are. I love it.


  1. Ansel Adams is a hero of American history. He showed the true power of photography as an artform. The conditions back then were crazy. In Yellowstone, he'd search for hours, even days for the perfect vantage point to take a picture. Then he'd have to wait for the right weather and sunlight. In the case of Old Faithful, he'd have to wait for the geyser two blow. Then he'd snap his picture, literally one picture. It's all he could do. I believe he used a colloidal coated glass negative. After taking that picture he'd have to literally run as fast as possible back to his darkroom because it would be ruined if not developed by a certain time.

    Now consider today's photographers. They get a DSLR that shoots 20 frames a second. Then they put on a constant F2.8 lens that allows them to take thousands of photos in any light condition. Then they spend hours, even days on checking to see if any of those photos has accidentally turned out better than expected. If it has, they'll spend a few hours on Photoshop making every little flaw disappear.

    Those are the kinds of people that made me give up pro photography.

    There's still some great photographers, but they are few and far between. James Nachtwey is probably the best current photographer on the planet.

    Yes, I read the rest of your post, it's just the Ansel Adams part that really stuck with me.

  2. I've only read the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy. I was thinking about it relatively recently, actually. In particular I was thinking about how you said it's easy to tell how it would turn out because of the perspective in which it is written.

    I was sitting on the couch and thinking, "If I wrote that book, maybe I'd just end the book suddenly... Have the final chapter be empty."

    My roommate entered the room and said something about how I was looking. I think he said I looked like I was in pain or deep in thought or something. "I think I hurt myself at Aikido," I said. This was true, but not the reason for why I was just staring at the wall.

    1. Ha! I probably look like I'm in pain while thinking deeply as well. I understand why Collins wrote in first person, to better show the thought-process of the heroine. But I still think it made it way too predictable.

      I always tell people if I ever wrote a novel or made a movie, I would always end it with everyone falling off a cliff at the end, or an asteroid crashing into earth and killing everyone before the credits roll. I would be the most hated author/director of all time.

      "Oh, Auntie Em -- there's no place like home!"

      * roll credits *