perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us, yesterday, separate, in the evening

July 30, 2009

♥ I really love these lines, from Rainer Maria Rilke‘s
“[You who never arrived]“:

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house—, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me. Streets that I chanced upon,—
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back
my too-sudden image. Who knows? perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening…

This line is especially lovely:

♥ I am enamored with this photo of Serge and Anna (can’t recall where I found it), and I recently discovered this video of them singing “Ne Dis Rien” (“Don’t Say Anything”.) I believe that it’s a rehearsal of sorts for the 1967 French television program Anna (the photo seems to have been taken during the same rehearsal.) They’re amazingly beautiful here, and interact in such an intensely sensual and lovely way:

♥ I’ve been enjoying browsing the fascinating Life photo archive over at Google Images, where I came across the work of Gjon Mili. Very lovely, evocative work, and these, from 1945, are my favorite:

So incredibly beautiful. I think they were probably a part of a fashion article in the magazine, but I’m not sure. Dreamy.

Also from the archive, here’s a lovely 1981 photo of Paul Simon and Carrie Fisher. It’s so sweet. They were a ridiculously cute couple:

♥ I have a bad habit of re-reading beloved books. This is a bad habit because I have SO many unread books sitting around here, books that I’m excited to read, books waiting to be read. One book that I return to again and again is The Great Gatsby, because I find it to be beautiful, smart, inspiring, and because I enjoy the manner in which the text/subtext/context interact in the story (however, being that I wrote at least four papers on it during college and graduate school, you couldn’t pay me enough money to write another!).

I know that it’s a bit cliche, but these are my favorite lines, and are some of the most gorgeous phrases ever written:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

It makes me gasp every time I read it. Every time.

Also, the 1974 film adaptation is beautiful and very well-done. In general, I’m rather wary of film adaptations of books I love, but this one, overall, got it right.

(Image taken from Livejournal’s Film Stills community)

Relatedly, Hemingway’s stunningly beautiful description of Fitzgerald, from A Moveable Feast (also one of my favorite books and one that I re-read at least once a year) are some of the most moving lines in all of literature:

His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.

I think that can also be extrapolated to describe what many of us feel (I know that I do) when we are doing something we enjoy, are immersed in something we feel passionately about, but then suddenly realize that our ideas/work/creations aren’t perfect, aren’t going to be perfect, and thus we perhaps shouldn’t even bother trying. It’s the curse of we perfectionists and it’s something that I work hard to overcome.

Thanks so much for reading! I’m currently working on a few other posts, and they should be up soon. ♥

the main thing is to try

July 19, 2009

(Edward R. Murrow, 1957)

Lately, I’ve found myself cringing when I see or hear television, radio, or print media using Twitter or Facebook as their sources for information. It comes across as a desperate attempt to be relevant and to stay afloat in today’s media culture. And, of course, they cannot be blamed for fighting for their survival in an economy as unstable and poor as this one, and in a culture that, in general, no longer seems to value high-quality, informative, well-written/well-presented news and analysis.

This isn’t a completely new phenomenon. For years, American mass media (and I focus on American mass media here simply because it’s what I know most about/what I’ve experienced a great deal of) has been slowly but steadily moving towards an extreme commercialization of the news, leading up to today’s media climate, in which many media outlets seem to think that all news must consist of entertaining, easy-to-digest, and simple stories that require little to no critical thinking, analysis, or self-questioning on the part of the audience. The goal, it seems, is to make everything easily understandable and non-disturbing for the reader/viewer/listener; in other words, they don’t want us, as consumers of media, to have to think or to have to face the reality of what’s happening in the world. This attitude is often justified as “giving the audience what they want.”

It must be admitted that there is some truth to that. If we, as media consumers, choose to spend a great deal of time and money in support of news media that refuses to report on anything that isn’t entertaining or mindless, then, yes, we’re indicating that such writing/reporting is indeed what we want. However, it is also important to remember that media outlets have chosen to value entertainment and advertising revenue above useful, thought-provoking, and important news that informs us and requires us to think, to truly think, about the issue under discussion. It seems to me that the “well, the audience wants it so we better give it to them!” excuse is often simply a refusal to take responsibility for having chosen the easier, more profitable road.

Edward R. Murrow’s 1958 Speech to the Radio and Television News Directors Association convention explains these ideas so very eloquently, insightfully, and thoroughly. I find it to be one of the most inspiring rhetorical pieces I’ve ever read.

A few excerpts:

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally. If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show. If Hollywood were to run out of Indians, the program schedules would be mangled beyond all recognition. Then some courageous soul with a small budget might be able to do a documentary telling what, in fact, we have done–and are still doing–to the Indians in this country. But that would be unpleasant. And we must at all costs shield the sensitive citizens from anything that is unpleasant.

I am entirely persuaded that the American public is more reasonable, restrained and more mature than most of our industry’s program planners believe. Their fear of controversy is not warranted by the evidence. I have reason to know, as do many of you, that when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is–an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than by the fact that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission publicly prods broadcasters to engage in their legal right to editorialize. Of course, to undertake an editorial policy, overt and clearly labeled, and obviously unsponsored, requires a station or a network to be responsible. Most stations today probably do not have the manpower to assume this responsibility, but the manpower could be recruited. Editorials would not be profitable; if they had a cutting edge, they might even offend. It is much easier, much less troublesome, to use the money-making machine of television and radio merely as a conduit through which to channel anything that is not libelous, obscene or defamatory. In that way one has the illusion of power without responsibility.

I am frightened by the imbalance, the constant striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything; by the absence of a sustained study of the state of the nation. Heywood Broun once said, “No body politic is healthy until it begins to itch.” I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers. It can be done. Maybe it won’t be, but it could.

Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information. Let us dream to the extent of saying that on a given Sunday night the time normally occupied by Ed Sullivan is given over to a clinical survey of the state of American education, and a week or two later the time normally used by Steve Allen is devoted to a thoroughgoing study of American policy in the Middle East. Would the corporate image of their respective sponsors be damaged? Would the stockholders rise up in their wrath and complain? Would anything happen other than that a few million people would have received a little illumination on subjects that may well determine the future of this country, and therefore the future of the corporations? This method would also provide real competition between the networks as to which could outdo the others in the palatable presentation of information. It would provide an outlet for the young men of skill, and there are some even of dedication, who would like to do something other than devise methods of insulating while selling.

It may be that the present system, with no modifications and no experiments, can survive. Perhaps the money-making machine has some kind of built-in perpetual motion, but I do not think so. To a very considerable extent the media of mass communications in a given country reflect the political, economic and social climate in which they flourish. That is the reason ours differ from the British and French, or the Russian and Chinese. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of our culture and our defense. But I would just like to see it reflect occasionally the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live. I would like to see it done inside the existing framework, and I would like to see the doing of it redound to the credit of those who finance and program it. Measure the results by Nielsen, Trendex or Silex-it doesn’t matter. The main thing is to try. The responsibility can be easily placed, in spite of all the mouthings about giving the public what it wants. It rests on big business, and on big television, and it rests at the top. Responsibility is not something that can be assigned or delegated. And it promises its own reward: good business and good television.

To those who say people wouldn’t look; they wouldn’t be interested; they’re too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter’s opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

Every bit of that is, unfortunately enough, still as relevant and as important today as it was in 1958. Things have only gotten worse since that time. I find it to be such an inspirational and powerful work, and one that offers advice that we would most definitely do well to heed.

The wonderful 2005 film, Good Night, and Good Luck, gives a glimpse into Murrow’s professional life and his fascination with and fierce passion for the truth.

In it, David Straithairn, playing Murrow, delivers excerpts from the Radio and Television News Directors Association convention speech, and the excerpts have been collected in this video:

Now, back to what I mentioned at the beginning. It upsets me to see traditional news media relying on social networking sites as a source of content. I want to hear quality news reporting and analysis delivered by experienced, skilled, and passionate reporters. Instead, what many news outlets give us today are talking heads reading out viewers’ responses from Twitter, or Facebook, or reading their text messages aloud, or taking calls on the air. And, unless it’s in the context of a specifically designated call-in program, that’s just ridiculous. It seems as if these media outlets do this to try to be relevant and entertaining, and also because they seem to think that giving all voices equal time and equal value will make the news more interesting to viewers. And perhaps that does make it more interesting to some. But “interesting” isn’t what I’m concerned with. I want these news sources to inform me and to provide explication and analysis from highly-qualified, skilled, and thoughtful professionals. Having a few truly informative and quality voices is so much more important than giving airtime to everyone who fires off 140 characters of nonsense on Twitter.

Ironically enough, Twitter is now one of the best places to follow current news (although it comes with neither context nor analysis, a fact which greatly lessens its usefulness), not only because so many of us now use it on a regular basis, but also because much of the traditional news media has become so obsessed with entertaining us and so focused on selling us things that they rarely choose to offer their audience anything of value or usefulness anymore, let alone any contextualizing of the information or useful analysis of it. Instead, they spend their programs reading aloud from Twitter.

I love to be entertained, and I would never argue that every bit of media we consume should be solely informative, or that news should never be entertaining. However, combining news and entertainment in the way that much of the mass media do today has left us with an under-informed populace who are rarely given the information we need in order to make sense of and make decisions about the world we live in. We’re also being denied quality, thoughtful, and thorough analyses of current events/issues that explain, contextualize, and comment upon the news, providing us with much more food for thought than a simple burst of facts without explanation ever could.

We can handle reality. We can think for ourselves. We can think critically and thoroughly about an issue. We don’t always have to be entertained. We owe it to ourselves and to everyone else to stay informed about and to truly understand the current events of our world. And the media needs to be responsible enough to provide us with that information.

As Murrow said (quoted above), “I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers. It can be done. Maybe it won’t be, but it could.”

With our time and our money, let’s make it clear to the media that we’d like a good dose of “itching pills” along with the constant stream of “tranquilizers” they’re currently so eager to force down our throats. To use a cheesy but apt metaphor: let’s close our throats a bit and then open our eyes as wide as they can go.

the endless endless summer in your laugh

July 1, 2009

Flowers at Pike Place Market

♥ Gorgeous pink flowers, seen at Pike Place Market last weekend. Oh, how I love that place!:

Pike Place Market

I’ve been there so many times, yet I’m always so enchanted with it and always become very absorbed in it. I love the flowers, the little shops spread out over so many different floors, the restaurants with the views of Elliott Bay, the bakeries, the musicians (I sat for a while and watched a man who was singing Simon and Garfunkel songs very beautifully), the hidden treasures. I also love the vitality of it all and really like to wander around and watch the crowds and the activity.

I was in Seattle with my mom for a few days. We had a great time and very much enjoyed downtown. Sometimes I really, really miss living there and would love to again, if it becomes feasible to do so.

And, oh goodness, the Seattle Central Library is gorgeous and wonderful! It was my first time visiting it. I’m generally not a fan of Deconstructivism (which is probably the most accurate classification for the building’s style), and most often prefer classical/neo-classical type architecture/buildings, but if a building is splendid and beautiful, then it is, regardless of its style:

Seattle Central Library. Oh my goodness! It was my first time visiting it. SWOON!

At Seattle Central Library. Oh my goodness! It was my first time visiting it. SWOON!

At Seattle Central Library. Oh my goodness! It was my first time visiting it. SWOON!

In Seattle Central Library. Oh my goodness! It was my first time visiting it. SWOON!

In Seattle Central Library. Oh my goodness! It was my first time visiting it. SWOON!

I would love to spend more time there! ♥

It’s always so wonderful when I’m listening to my I-pod, on shuffle, and, by chance, a song comes on that feels so appropriate and perfect for what I’m doing at that moment. While in Seattle, I was sitting on an outdoor terrace at one of the downtown malls, eating lunch, watching everything intently, when M. Ward’s “Hold Time” came on (it’s from the album of the same name. I’ve been rather enamored with it since it came out in February- definitely recommended) and it perfectly reflected the wistful, poignant loveliness that I was feeling/seeing. It’s one of my favorite songs, and the video is mesmerizingly beautiful:

My favorite lyric is:

I wrote this song just to remember the endless endless summer in your laugh

And a screenshot from the video, with that lovely lyric:

So gorgeous ♥♥♥

More soon! Thanks so much for reading. ♥


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.