Nov 22 2018

Okay, this is hard!


My Internet fast is far more difficult than I thought it would be.

One reason is that I spend so very much time at my office.  It’s not just where I write; it’s where I do pretty much everything, except sleep at night and have breakfast in the morning.  Writing, reading, finances, correspondence, research, phone calls, social media and even general chilling out — all of that gets done at my office.  I keep my guitar there as well, and do most of my practicing there, after normal business hours.  Very useful, given the amount of noise I can generate, including vocal exercises that are no fun for those listening, and the endless repetition necessary when learning a new and demanding guitar lick.  It’s cruel to inflict those on housemates and neighbors.

But being there for so long every day now means being disconnected for that whole long day.

It’s really surprising how often one (or at least this one) generally accesses the internet. Admittedly, I don’t need to look at Facebook or Twitter as often as I had been.  And even though, of course, I do so not merely out of social curiosity, but for legitimate writerly business reasons — well,  it’s still easy to slide from biz to social without even noticing.

And aside from that, there’s a sort of casual info-checking that I do automatically.  You know: how a particular word might be spelled ; where Albania is really located as opposed to where you think it’s located (I actually did need to know that the other day); that news the other day, about the black hole at the center of our galaxy, now where’s that article located again?; and really,  how many calories are there in a cucumber?

It’s a sort of off-site memory storage.

And I find myself a bit dubious about that lately.

I don’t want to sound like Socrates arguing against the usefulness of writing things down; but I sometimes worry that it’s become too easy to look something up instead of, say, learning it.  There’s a significant difference between knowing where to find something, and actually knowing it.  Especially if your intention is to create something new.  You can’t manipulate a fact or a principle in your imagination if it does not reside in your working memory (at least), or your long-term memory (for best result).

But if you’re a nerd like me, you love finding things out.  Every now and then, I’ve caught myself allowing the fun of finding information to replace the satisfaction of acquiring it; like picking flowers, and then tossing them over your shoulder so that you can go pick more flowers.

But despite all the above — damn, the internet is a godsend, isn’t it?   You know: information on your medical condition that your doctor doesn’t have time to explain; research into esoteric subjects; beauty, beauty, beauty;  inspiration; that book you’ve wanted all your life but couldn’t find, oh, there it is!; instant support from your far-flung friends when you’re down in the dumps and no one around you really understands; witticisms and wonders.

Well.  I feel I’m coming to appreciate the internet even more, now that it’s not always available.  As well as recognizing more clearly how easily it can steal time.

And in case you’re wondering: allowing myself to become bored is starting to pay off.

In other news: I mentioned briefly last time that I’d seen the movie First Man, and really enjoyed it.

I found the style particularly interesting.  The director (Damian Chazelle) made the decision to keep the camera, and thus the viewer, very close to Armstrong’s own perspective.  It’s immediately evident from the opening scene, where Armstrong is test-flying the X-15, and our point of view stays inside the cockpit.   We get to experience the events as  Armstrong did. It’s quite a different approach from other films about the space program.   As much as possible, a close perspective is maintained through the film.  And when it can’t be — say, when portraying events Armstrong did not see for himself — the film still employs a version that close style.  This leads to the sort of understatement that can make some things come across even more powerfully than if they were highlighted and stressed in the usual sort of way.

(Thinking of one scene in particular, but I can’t tell you about it without spoiling the power of the effect.  Yes, I know: it’s impossible to spoil the events because this is history.   Lots of you out there — space-program fanatics like me — will be following along in indelibly-graven memory, word-for-word.  But naming the scene would still spoil the effect.)

And the close-focus effect works particularly well because this is not a film about the space program.

It’s a film about Neil Armstrong.   It’s specifically about his experience, and it’s a portrait of the person he was, and how he lived within the world as it existed at that time.

And you know… I had completely forgotten how really oppressive it was to be a guy in the 1950’s.  We tend to talk about how hard it was for women (and damn, it was), but the guys had it rough in a whole other way.

And sure, things got loose & wild in the 60’s — but not for the mainstream, folks.  For most people, it was basically still the 50’s.

So:  a very good film, in so many ways.  You should see this.  Even people indifferent to the space program should see it, because of the excellent character exploration.   And hey, you’ll probably find yourself with some time this weekend, what with hanging with family for the holiday, and running out of things to do.  A good opportunity to drag ‘em to the movies.  Although, small children would not be able to relate to this, I think; it’s probably too nuanced.  But that’s why multiplexes were invented!

Now, if you want something that is about the space program, that really explores, explicates and celebrates it — you want this:

From the Earth to the Moon

12 hours of brilliant, brilliant presentation.  Great actors, great writing, and it looks at how we got ourselves to the moon, from every possible angle, including angles that you did not know existed.  Produced by Tom Hanks — hey, with Tom Hanks involved, how can you go wrong?  I could write reams and reams about how wonderful this miniseries is.

But I’ve said enough.  Time to post this thing and get back to — well, I’ve actually taken the day off to catch up on home tasks, internet tasks, and general home-style chilling out (including TV — have you seen Netflix’s Bodyguard yet? Wow).

I hope your Thanksgiving was great, and full of good food, good friends, and dear family.  Or equivalent other things that you want to spend time on instead!