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Memos

Wednesday 6/10/20

One goes to sleep--or steps away for a few hours--and then logs on to Twitter, or sees the news as it comes up anywhere, and what can be witnessed is the latest attempt, or series of attempts, to elevate mediocrity and ignorance, and kill individuality and art. Also, to end lives in what has become a hunt for humans. There has been more of this during COVID-19 and a period of greater isolation, because many people--I'd say most--hate themselves, and hardly anyone can spend any time with their own thoughts and be healthy, let alone grow. All of that anger, all of that self-loathing, all of that self-doubt, that sense of failure, needs to go somewhere. It's not instead invested in the hard work of self-examination, a process of self-actualization. It's going to go on the attack.


I think what we hate more than anything right now in American is genius, is intelligence. We worship mediocrity. Why? It's a comfort. It is like us. We want our "intellectuals"--the people who we turn to, with the 3.2 million followers, the voice, the platform, the money and the pulpit--to be people exactly like us. Mediocre. Ignorant. Free of talent. We are not threatened by them. They are a surrogate, a stand-in, a proxy, our representative. We never look at them and think they are smarter than us. They never make us think.


Many of them often have twisted, almost always ignorant, thoughts which are simply the thoughts pinging around the echo chamber made by a person with a blue check mark. Jemele Hill. Talentless racist. Says Woke slogans. Utterly incapable of having an original thought, a hate-free thought. Utterly incapable of doing anything but baiting the race hook. Knows nothing about anything. Has no expertise. Has no skill as a writer. Will never create a memorable phrase that lodges in anyone's head.


She's just one example. She's paid a lot for it. She is a typical racist in our society. You take away race, and there is nothing she can talk or write about. She needs you to think things are a certain way, and that she is a lighthouse and rescuer. It's how she makes her millions. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the same, but an even worse writer than Jemele Hill. And more of a fraud yet. She has out-of-control anger. He came up with a business plan. He realized he could say utter nonsense that no one could understand, and sell it to rich white people who hated themselves. He could hoodwink and exploit. What he was selling was perfect for the ignorant, rich, white people, the pretentious frauds of the publishing industry, not two of whom, if you tested them, would ever come up with the same thing for what a Coates sentence actually means. Remember when you were in college and it was late the night before a paper was due, and you just did jargon, double-speak, intellectual masturbation to fill up a word count? That's how Coates writes. None of it means anything at all. But he made himself a millionaire many ways over by selling his nonsense, his complete lack of skill, to pretentious, rich, self-hating white people who went to Harvard, Yale, Princeton. They give him anything he wants, and nothing that his work actually deserves.


Today I woke up to see that Gone with the Wind has been pulled down from an HBO streaming service. I've seen Gone with the Wind many times, as one would expect, given that film expertise is one of the many parts of what I do. I have never cared for the film. It doesn't move or impress me at all. It's bloated, kind of like a big, colorful toy. David O. Selznick wished to dazzle with it; it's a testament to his hubris to create something more grandiose than had been created or maybe could be created again. I feel the same way about Titanic, which is worse, because the writing is worse, and you'll at least see technical things--like some of the crane shots--in Gone with the Wind that have artistic value. I don't know how one could really care that much about either, have either be your favorite movie, but that's how it is for some people, which doesn't bother me, except in the sense that I'll often think it's sad what people have not seen or elected to expose themselves to. I think if they opened their eyes, put in a little more time, moved away from what was on TV or Netflix, they'd be able to discover wondrous things they'd love deeply, that would play a real role in their lives. Entertain them a hell of a lot more as well.


But people don't do that. If I get where I am trying to get, more people will do that. But back to Gone with the Wind. When you watch a film from decades ago, you are apt to see all kinds of characterizations that jar us now, that are wrong in the grand scheme of decency, which is different from the grand scheme of a given time. They can make us sad, uncomfortable, angry. That's how things were at the time, just like there are things here during our time that will make people sad, uncomfortable, and angry later, which we call the way of things now, or even decency and justice. Here is how I have always viewed these films: Many of them are great works of art, and those great works of art inevitably featured some of the cultural argot and mores of the periods in which they were created. A lot of people who have not seen Gone with the Wind and who do not care about art or cinema at all, are carping, on both sides, on social media now. HBO will return the film to its rotation, I believe, with a disclaimer at the start of it. Here's a thought: Let people think. Let people think for themselves. You need to tell them what they need or might need protection from with their books, their records, their films? If you think people are that stupid, then what's the point of any of it?


Culture is a car. We are babies strapped in backwards now in our special seats in the back. When I watch old films, I realize their will be characterizations that are not accurate. What one has to decide is if everything else in that film offers something that is still useful, be that as art, entertainment, ideas, the acting, the direction, a thousand other things. It's like there's a record, and there's a song or two on the record that holds it back in some ways. Do you still listen to Sgt. Pepper even with "Within You Without You" being there? Now, this is a different example, because that's a qualitative judgment, not a characterization or a caricature of a people, race, nationality, etc. There are a lot of pretend heroes right now. And there is virtually no one in America--or the world--who will do anything on their own. Who will do anything that no one else is doing. Who will say what no one else is saying. I am one such person. I have proven that. There is ample evidence to back up the statement. But I'm a different kind of cat, trying to do different kind of things, get to a very different kind of place. But the pretend heroes who are all about some cause in the moment, were not interested in that cause three weeks ago. Three years ago. Ten years ago, the issues that people believe are present now were present then. What were you doing about it if you are one of these people? You were doing nothing, because you didn't care. But you saw a lot of people doing something, and it's easy to join, and when you join, you can say you're all kinds of great things that you are not. Were you making movies in the 1930s, you never would have, in a trillion years, said, "Wait, I'm going to do this thing this way, that no one else does it, and there won't be a black butler, I'm going to take this huge budget and what you'll see from me is the ultimate assertion of filmmaking individuality, I think differently than everyone else, and I will take on the critics, the haters, my family, my friends, the industry, I'll go against the grain of all expectations of this time period."


And it's like, no you wouldn't. You would never do that. You would never do anything on your own without a mass of people, and the mobs of the masses, doing it first. You are not that brave, you don't think outside of the realm of what lots of other people of your time are thinking or saying they are thinking, and all you see is what is put in front of your face. You never put your face in front of new things, on your own, to see on your own, to care about on your own, to then get others to care about those things. I'm speaking of a general "You," of course; not directly addressing the readers of these pages. As a rule, I don't generally address anyone here.


That's just a reality of people, and it's a reality, more than ever, of right now, with the internet. But what we presuppose is that Buster Keaton did something wrong that we would not have done were we in his time, and that is complete and utter bollocks. What you are seeing right now is a very real stage of moving us to complete censorship of art. This is how it begins, or how it goes. I don't know how far along we are. In the publishing industry, for instance, people are often signed up because they are a POC or they are gay. That can be the only reason. If you are trans and you have a story collection and you are black, and you have a connection or two, a major is going to sign you up for that collection, no matter how dreadful the writing is, no matter how nonexistent your ideas are, no matter how little you've done in your career, no matter how infrequently you write, no matter if you hardly ever publish. They are signing you because of your skin color and orientation, in that case. That's fine? That's not racist? Sexist? That's what you're marketed on--your skin color, your orientation. Prejudice isn't just discriminating against somebody--it's discriminating for somebody.


There are people who love--or would love--great art that contains truths, that shows us how we come to be who we are, both as individuals, and as larger bodies. That's what great art does--it makes you feel like it's speaking directly to you, like it was made for you and you alone, and everyone, in the community, has that same reaction, but in their way, within their highly personal minds, hearts, souls. We don't get any of that right now, because 1. It is seen as not safe by these industries and 2. Fewer and fewer people can do it, because what the would-be creators do do is imitate the awful, meaningless work that is put forward by the industry. Which anyone can do or be taught to do. Anyone can write like Laura van den Berg if they come from enough money and follow the recipe. It's just some money, some schools, some instructions and instructors, and you learn the vapid formula. It's not writing. It's baking. When we don't have great works to turn to, and great thinkers to put things to us in ways that maybe we wouldn't have come up with on our own--to help us see new ways of seeing--you see what is happening right now.


You can cancel anyone or anything by the definitions we now apply. I can take any one of 1500 thoughts you have each day--because you are human--and if I could put one of them out there, as though it were a screenshot from a text, you could be cancelled. Now, I think that the person who we attempt to cancel has some say in their own cancelling. I believe that someone smarter than other people, with character, with strength, can actually turn the attempt to be cancelled into a boon, into a springboard, even into a revolution. But that's not most people. Most are done, most cave in on themselves, most issue an apology which they don't mean, which no one wants, because what the other group wanted was that person's annihilation. Not the knowledge that they once made a mistake, not the proof that they were a different person now. They have no interest in that. In fact, if and when they learn that, because they themselves do not grow and instead stew in the rage of self-loathing, they hate that person even more.


These are the sheriffs of morality now. The drunken mob of morality. I've noticed, too, that people drink more than ever, and they drink more than ever during this time of quarantine. We are so fundamentally sick now in so many ways. We don't talk about those ways, though. Self-medication. Self-loathing. Anger issues. A lack of drive. Mental illness. Depression. The cheapjack righteousness that you see is more a result of those things, than any of the official causes. We often hate ourselves so much now. We can't deal with that. So we become hangmen and women in the name of justice. We snap necks, because we are incapable of reaching ourselves. We don't even try. It's too daunting. But that anger, that pain, that doubt, it has a residual effect; it needs to go somewhere. So it is put upon, fired into, other humans.


As I mentioned on Twitter the other day--which caused some of the very few people who follow me to unfollow me--the Beatles had a song called "Baby, You're a Rich Man," which had the lyrics, "Baby, you're a rich fag Jew." They audibly laugh on the record after singing this line. It was a reference to their manager Brian Epstein, and the song was the B-side, ironically, to "All You Need is Love." Should we cancel the Beatles now? Because I bet you didn't know about that line. But I know these things. I know millions of things like them. Name any artist, and I can play this game. So, cancel all of it? Or, it's a matter of someone else out there not stumbling, randomly, on to information that I knew when I was fourteen. Because I actually learned things. I went looking for things hard. I devoured, I remembered.


When some of these things become known--or reported--a given whatever is cancelled, pulled out of a rotation, denounced. There is a direct link between what an industry like publishing puts out and how we are rotting here in this thing called humanity. The more emphasis that is placed on mediocrity, on trying to cause no offense, the more we all but call everyone stupid, incapable of thought. We deny people of things they'd like, they'd love, that make them feel something, that spark thoughts, emotions. You take that away, and humanity rots. You shovel Ta-Nehisi Coates at people and brains rot. If that is hyped as important, the best, what you need to see, if that is a star in this warped, sick show, then no wonder no one reads or cares, and idiocy, lies, agenda, mediocrity, post-literacy, poses, con men have free-reign. The hype, the cheerleading, it's one pandering untruth after another, and not just another example of our religion of mediocrity, but one that says that if someone spews nonsense that doesn't show the vaguest command of language, the merest low-level competence with making a sentence, then that person's dreadful work can be called whatever one wishes to call it if they fit other parts of the bill we want. "Masterpiece." "Epochal." Those people of that industry, and the people in Darien with magazines and books they buy so that their rich friends can see that they have them--not that they read them--can then speak for the fake authors like Coates and their awful texts, and they can say they're so important, they do this, because it's tantamount to a blank page upon which you can project untruths, attest that you are one of the good ones, and you are not the hollow sack of nullity and pandering platitudes that is all a person like that ever is. The key right now is to say nothing at all. Use lots of words, but say nothing at all. And have the right people apply favorable labels to you, and the right people in your industry. You'll then have a voice, a platform, and a lot of money, to continue to say absolutely nothing at all. You are having a hand in killing culture, killing truth, and you are making bank, as they say, off of it.


I'm talking publishing with the above example, but you see elements of that in every medium now, every artistic industry, and throughout all of culture. Nothing actually is anything. It's about what it can be presented as, sold as, and how readily others can join up and parrot what something is being billed and sold as, so they can bill and sell themselves, to themselves, as things they are not. You know what I thought of when I saw the publishing industry outrage of Trump holding up a Bible upside down--as a prop, of course, this being Trump--and all of the comments about how he's never read that book? I thought, you don't read most of the stuff you say is amazing and that you sell and shill. It's all a prop to them as well.


As for Gone with the Wind--if you're ever going to care about film, or you do care about film, you need to see it. It's not some masterpiece. It's heavily padded. David O. Selznick didn't make great movies. They tend to have bloat. They're not sharp. He got caught up in spectacle. His best contribution, in my view, is a book called Memo from David O. Selznick, which is really a collection of his letters, and can teach a person a lot about that period in Hollywood, how films were made, and also how to view films. And the two best things with the words Gone with the Wind in the title are these recordings: Wes Montgomery's "Gone with the Wind" (1960), and Charlie Christian's "Gone with 'What' Wind" (1940).