24 May 2010

Why I Shouldn't Have Written This Blog

by guest columnist Frederick Marx. Follow him on Twitter.

I must be a closet cowboy. I’ve never liked talking all that much. I never want to say more than has meaning or value in any given circumstance. I always prefer doing more, letting my actions speak for me. For anyone who really knows me, the question you should be asking right now is: How the hell did this happen to an intellectual?!

It probably was my early exposure to Westerns, though, truth be told, I never liked the genre much. I always preferred adventure stories, psychological dramas, comedies. But there was something about the Western hero that appealed more to me than just about any other kind of hero. Sure, the stoicism was part of it. Holding back emotion because, after all, what was there to say? It was all so self-evident. Being outdoors all the time, the wide open spaces, a man alone with his horse, the rugged, unprettified working clothes, all the complications and rigidities of women, families, mortgages, 9 to 5, left to other people’s lives, other people’s entrapments. The simplicity. The clarity. The purity.

Anyone recognize the wafting fragrance of Romanticism? All the key themes are here: the hero as loner, the saving grace of nature, the questioned value of human accomplishment. The Romantic ideal is part of who I am and always will be. There ain’t much room for yackety-yack in that equation. But there’s another part too.

Back in the early 70s there was a popular introduction to marijuana called A CHILD’S GARDEN OF GRASS. I still remember with fondness a simulated stoned conversation that went something like this:

Person A: Are you hungry?

Person B: Hmmm?

Person A: Are you hungry?

Person B: Hungry for what?

Person A: Hungry.

Person B: Hungry for adventure? Hungry for love? Spiritual fulfillment? Material success? What?

Person A: Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that.

Person B: What was the question?

(Let me pause for a moment with a footnote. I’m sure it’s been over 35 years since I looked at that book. I suppose you could argue that extensive adolescent marijuana use does not have deleterious effects on memory cells after all.)

The point here is that language, from my perspective, is perhaps best utilized to create nonsense. If you have to open your mouth why air out tired old opinions that everyone’s already heard better expressed by someone else, ideally someone else with true talent for erudition and argument? If we have to speak and write why not use language simply to have fun? To turn words back on themselves, inside out, spin them in circles and create the games of puns, double entendres, illogic and absurdity that language is uniquely qualified for?

Language, when you think about it, is so self-serious. We say things as if there were in fact some absolute assurance that what we intend to mean will in fact be received the exact same way by all people at all times. It’s a literal impossibility. Talk about nonsense!

I bow down before the masters of Samuel Beckett and Firesign Theater. I prostrate before Lenny Bruce, Edward Albee, and the Marx Brothers. (I claim Groucho only as my spiritual father; as far as I know we’re not related.) So if I have to open my trap, my “pie-hole” as my friend likes to call it, I try to remind myself that any rational purpose for communication must include the irrational, the absurd, the downright ridiculous. If the calendar says now you must write a blog why not make it plain silly? If you have to go out to the store why not make it a joyous outing?

Frederick Marx  is an internationally acclaimed, Oscar and Emmy nominated producer/director with 35 years in the film business.   He was named a Chicago Tribune Artist of the Year for 1994, a 1995 Guggenheim Fellow, and a recipient of a Robert F. Kennedy Special Achievement Award.  His film HOOP DREAMS played in hundreds of theatres nationwide after winning the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was the first documentary ever chosen to close the New York Film Festival.  It was on over 100 “Ten Best” lists nationwide and was named Best Film of the Year by critics Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, Gene Shalit, and Ken Turran and by the Chicago Film Critics Association. Ebert also named it Best Film of the Decade. It won numerous prestigious awards, including an Academy Nomination (Best Editing), Producer’s Guild, Editor’s Guild (ACE), Peabody Awards, the Prix Italia (Europe’s top documentary prize) and The National Society of Film Critics Award.  The New York, Boston, LA, and San Francisco Film Critics all chose it as Best Documentary, 1994.  Utne Reader named it one of 150 of humanity’s “essential works,” the Library of Congress recently added it to its prestigious National Film Registry and the International Documentary Association named it the Best Documentary Ever.


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