Akira Kurosawa's Ran is currently running on Mubi. See it.
I was lucky enough to see it when it premiered in theaters back in 1985, and I credit the movie for awakening my interest in Japanese cinema in particular and Japan generally.
It loses a little something when you watch it on a TV or a phone, but it's worth seeing in any form you can find it in.
Side note: There's still no good domestic BD version of the film. I've linked to an import (Region B, sigh) because it uses a remaster not used by the atrocious Studio Canal edition. Criterion was all set to bring out their own version, but lost the rights, and so us poor suckers in the U.S. have to either go cost-plus from overseas or make do with an atrocious mastering job that wouldn't have been fit for satellite broadcast.
Don't take it personally when you're misinterpreted.
I once came across the following quote from artist John Duncan (he of Blind Date infamy):
God is playing with you, showing you a film. Your job is to realize that you're watching the film, that the film is not you and that you're not in it. Your job is to bring the film to the end, walk out of the theater and find out what's outside.
Someone thought "bring the film to the end and walk out of the theater" meant that we should kill ourselves. I was baffled by this misinterpretation; I couldn't see how someone might draw such a conclusion. But someone had. The rock had been kicked, and I had thus been refused.
Don't take it personally when you're misinterpreted. It's something of an inevitability. Even people who want very earnestly to get it may not get it.
On the prevalence of righter-than-thou behaviors in fandom.
A friend of mine and I were having a talk about ... hold on, I have to check the dictionary. The German dictionary.
Rechtarberei. That's the word. You know what it is even if you don't know the word. It's this attitude of "disputatious knowing-it-all", as Werner Cohn so phrased it, that some people have. They're right and you're wrong, and that's all there is to it.
I don't really mind this attitude when it comes from people I don't have any reason to share time or space with. I can listen to them, nod, ignore them, and move on. It's worse when it comes from people who share a space that you inhabit voluntarily, like a fandom.
What if someone Did Something Bad with a creation of yours?
Some of you know about my day job. I've written for various consumer- and enterprise-computing publications; right now, I'm with one of the latter, which focuses on enterprise software development. It's a fun job, actually, and I work with some of the finest people I've ever worked with in a professional context.
Recently word's been circulating about an effort within Google to get the company to not provide support for government projects that could make it easier to oppress people. Another piece has been circulating about how Microsoft turned down a number of potentially lucrative contracts because they were unnerved by the ethical implications of some of them. I'm not implying that either of these outfits are The Good Guys or The Bad Guys, because nothing in life is that cut-and-dried. But it did lead to a question from a friend that I thought was worthy of answering: "What if you found out that someone had created something terrible based on information in a technical article you wrote?"
Not writer's block. Maybe we could call it conceiver's block?
Even with Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned barely off my plate (it's still in edits), I'm already mulling the next big thing. I thought I had some idea what it was going to be, but, ha ha, fooled myself again.
Movies have more second lives than ever, but only because they barely have first ones.
An interesting piece from Vulture about the 1983 Scarface, mainly about the difficult production and the controversy surrounding the movie. But the last part of the piece reminded me of how home video — everything from aftermarket DVDs sold at Redbox, to streaming both legal and illegal — is both the best and worst thing that happened to movies.
Being generally incurious about life is bad enough; it's far worse when you're trying to create.
I think a great deal about the bad habits that creators fall into without knowing it, or that they bring into the act of creation with them from their world of being a consumer of things. The one I keep coming back to most is incuriosity.
"No man demands what he desires; each man demands what he fancies he can get."
... people tend to adapt to their situation. We might look forward to getting married, or dread widowhood, but within a few years of both events we are as happy as we were before them. This suggests that what we want rises or falls with circumstances. As G. K. Chesterton said: “No man demands what he desires; each man demands what he fancies he can get."
The context of this discussion was not Buddhism, but I got to thinking about it by way of the quote at the end there.
"A cliché is as much about the deployment and the mode of use as it is the item itself..."
Something I wrote earlier that deserves expansion: "A cliché is as much about the deployment and the mode of use as it is the item itself; the mere fact something can be a cliché, or has been one in another venue, doesn't automatically make it one."
Blogging never "died"; it's just become harder to see. But it's as crucial as ever.
It's weird to bump into people who think that blogging is some archaism along the lines of writing with a quill pen on vellum. For one, blogging never "died"; if you look in, say, academic circles, or various other verticals, you find whole clouds of bloggers who are keeping the art and craft of it alive and well. But if all you know is Facebook and Twitter and Medium — which are to the Internet as Cheez Whiz and marshmallow fluff are to unprocessed foods — then of course that stuff isn't even going to register to you.
With Facebook out of my life, it's all the easier to spot unproductive discourse of all kinds, because of what else it reminds me of.
What with Facebook back in the news, and not in a good way, and a renewed wave of interest in ditching it, I looked back on my own experiences with walking away from it. Again, the single biggest boon is that I feel like I have my mind back. But with that came another boon: It was all the easier for me to recognize unproductive social things in most any form, because I now had a model for what they felt like.
Steven Savage's latest post is about "rethinking work", and it reminded me of an anecdote courtesy of Milton Glaser...
Steven Savage's latest post is about "rethinking work", and it reminded me of the following anecdote courtesy of Milton Glaser:
One night I was sitting in my car outside Columbia University where my wife Shirley was studying Anthropology. While I was waiting I was listening to the radio and heard an interviewer ask ‘Now that you have reached 75 have you any advice for our audience about how to prepare for your old age?’ An irritated voice said ‘Why is everyone asking me about old age these days?’ I recognised the voice as John Cage. I am sure that many of you know who he was – the composer and philosopher who influenced people like Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham as well as the music world in general. I knew him slightly and admired his contribution to our times. ‘You know, I do know how to prepare for old age’ he said. ‘Never have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. For me, it has always been the same every since the age of 12. I wake up in the morning and I try to figure out how am I going to put bread on the table today? It is the same at 75, I wake up every morning and I think how am I going to put bread on the table today? I am exceeding well prepared for my old age’ he said.
I have the same affection for Cage that Glaser does; constant readers know this. I even have some of the same philosophy Cage does about work: don't have a "job", just have things to do, and keep vigilant. But I don't like the idea of recommending Cage's solution as the solution to such things. It was his solution. It doesn't scale to the size of a society. The stoic disciplines that people find on their own do not lend themselves to being systematized without also turning into cruelties of whim. Unfortunately, I keep running into people who think that's a great idea.
An influencer seems more interested in being well-known, being "influential", than in being motivated by a thirst for the truth.
It is an unfortunate, but fairly obvious truth that most intellectuals, both on the left or right, don’t have particularly original ideas. Go to the Aspen Ideas Festival, or TED, or any of their ilk and you won’t find much that is genuinely surprising or exciting. Instead, you will find a lot of people whose stock-in-trade is not so much innovation as influence.
I don't mind it so much if someone doesn't have original ideas, but is a gifted explainer and educator. But there's a fair difference between being an explainer/educator and being an "influencer".
The productivity virtues of keeping it simple, stupid.
Steven Savage has been blogging about applying agile methods to creativity, with the most recent installment being about the virtue of keeping things simple. When you know what you are and aren't delivering, you don't waste time or bandwidth, you keep your own mission clear, and you deliver more of the right things from the outset. This is trickier than it looks.
Another road to creative improvement: thinking beyond your own view of your work.
Constant readers know by now I'm in the habit of saying, "You only get better by playing over your own head." The other night I wrote that line, then stopped and added: "You also only get better by playing outside of your own head."
Outside of the social media bubble, the void.
Not all of the stuff on this site is to my taste (his take on Black Panther seems particularly blinkered), but this resonated with me.
Righteous Ruminations: Hating Facebook (from 2015)
I don't blame Facebook for my friend's death, much as I would love to blame someone. I just hate that not having Facebook makes me feel like a bad friend. I hate that the Facebook / social media paradigm of socialization won. I feel that my only real choices are to either A. Get with the program and embrace the dominant protocols of society or B. Become further alienated.
Read the whole thing, but that piece there is the most relevant bit — the "Facebook / social media paradigm of socialization", where anything that doesn't happen on Facebook or social media does not really exist.
I've had a few things like this happen in my life, but none of them were of this magnitude. And now, what with me having backed off from Facebook except in the sense that these posts are robo-syndicated to it, I suspect I'm condemned to eventually experience similar things myself.
On the problems of a passive protagonist.
Among the rules I solemnly repeat back to others, and yet sometimes fail to follow myself, is a classic goof-up involving a story's protagonist: Make this person drive the story, not vice versa. A story about someone being dragged from place to place is not very good storytelling.
I missed commenting on this earlier:
I missed commenting on this earlier:
... why are creative works and acts so often frustrating, feeling like a trap? Why do we worry over writer’s block, argue about subjective artistic choices, or turn creative work into a death march? That’s because the sheer opportunity of creativity and all the options leads us to make bad choices.
Steve goes on to enumerate several ways we make bad choices: creative paralysis (too many choices, not enough power to choose); fear (second-guessing everything); miscommunication (putting the audience last because you have some unexamined contempt for putting it not-last); and safety (doing what you know works, for the 361st time).
Of all these, I want to concentrate on creative paralysis first, because it seems like the dilemma I hear about the most. I may circle back to the others in time, but this one stood out especially firmly when I read Steve's post.
Zen matters when it's practiced; it's getting people to practice that's the hard part.
My original forays into Zen, I'm not proud to admit, were almost entirely intellectual and literary. Meaning I did a lot of reading about it, and got good enough with the terminology and the theory to fake a smart discussion about it, but I didn't study it on a personal level.
Eventually I edged into doing just that — read: I began practicing zazen — and the ballgame was renewed in toto. All the stuff I'd read before wasn't theory anymore; it was practice. That said, I still think the majority of what's written about Buddhism and Zen, and the majority of the way we talk about it, is way too insular for its own good.