Posts Tagged ‘time’
My life is playing out exactly the opposite as I had figured it three years ago. I’d have a comfortable living, working just enough to get by. I’d spend most of the rest of my time with my laptop. I’d spend whatever was left as another bored 20-something.
Yet by Friday, I’ll have clocked almost 60 hours — a third of that time-and-a-half, some of it even double time — over five days at an unsalaried job, and I spend nearly a fifth of that time driving. For fun, I spend on average 15 hours each week playing my trombone or hanging out with other band people — especially the really old ones.
I spared a minute or two to stop by a bridal shop to buy myself a tuxedo between work and rehearsal. In the same trip, it took another minute or two to replace my belt — never buy reversible belts with a built-in hinge, because expensive does not equal reliable — and I only had the time for both errands because the stores were right on the way to band practice.
Perhaps the best illustration: Because I’m the responsible sort, or like to think so, I don’t answer my cell phone while on the road, at rehearsals, working, sleeping and showering. Save for the 12 minutes I spend waking up every morning and perhaps the better part of my weekends, it’s impossible to get ahold of me.
I’m really busy.
Because I’m not salaried, I have no work responsibilities shoved on me for over my weekends. On two days of the week, I can spend as much time as I want reading long-winded histories and long-winded fiction, checked out from my local library.
I never achieved this sort of freedom in college. Owing to professors’ busywork, my frenetic schedules and a sadly delinquent campus library, I was doing almost as much as I am now, but it never seemed to matter as much. Papers were just another hurdle, over which I’d leap; going to class was just another sand trap, around which I’d aim.
Now, working matters. Now, I don’t have to worry about artificial deadlines, arbitrary assignments, fundamentally useless paper pushing. I’m doing it for real, now, and all doors are open — that’s liberation, and it changed my whole paradigm. I hated work, but now that I’m busier than I’ve ever been, I love it.
Funny how that works out.
Fantasy kinda sucks. As a longtime fan of the genre, I’ve somewhat earned some right to say that.
While “Harry Potter” is fun to read — excepting the fifth book — its colorful characters and whimsical settings are bogged down by weak writing.
“His Dark Materials” has similar strengths and flaws, and was worsened even further by the author’s tendency to proselytize.
The worst of all of them is that “Eragon” series; it reads like it was written by a 19-year-old homeschooler from Montana. In part because it was.
Whatever Neil Gaiman writes, he tends to exhibit the same self-indulgent fascination with multi-pantheon crossovers, leaving Terry Brooks alone among living fantasists for being above reproach. After all, Brooks is the only one who doesn’t take his fantasy settings seriously.
It’s become a rule, therefore, that fantasy as a whole is a thin, shallow genre of fiction with especially egregious pretensions that it has meaningful depth and that it’s romanticism profound rather than transparent. Science fiction, unfortunately, is much of the same.
Fortunately, because the overall crappiness of fantastic literature is a rule, there are going to be exceptions. I just spent the better part of two days — almost spilling over into three — reading one of the most important and, dare I say, literary exceptions in recent memory.
“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” had interested me ever since I first saw it on the discount bookshelves and bestseller lists, but I decided against bothering with it. I didn’t have the money to buy it, and it was too contemporary to be in the school library, besides. Having recently graduated to the local library, I saw it Thursday last and, on a whim, checked it out.
Though buying this book in its native Britain would set me back a good 7 pounds, I’d call it an even trade: the hardcover weighs almost that much. There are nearly 800 pages in the hardcover version I spent a weekend reading — that makes it roughly the size of a King James Bible after a begat-ectomy.
Despite that it reads like Jane Austen and the humanity of its title characters are straight out of Dickens — if you’re sure I exaggerate, you’ll appreciate this book more than I did — I enjoyed every moment.
I shouldn’t make my admiration seem so unlikely — I was bound to like “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” from the very start. It has the flair of a finely researched history, and more footnotes per page than “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” a history in which the author, for whatever reason, apologizes for including as many footnotes as he does.
It’s no criticism of the novel to say that these footnotes were my favorite part of the 7-pound blunt object that is “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,” and I suppose quite a few readers came to the same conclusion. Indeed, the footnotes were enjoyable enough, and added so much to the world of the novel, that when the author decided to make her second book an anthology of stories, at least a few of these stores were inspired by her first novel’s footnotes.
There’s a lot of story in the book, and it would be difficult to summarize it without unbecoming spoilers and lengthy exposition, but, given fantasy these days, that depth is one of the great charms of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.” Suffice it to say that the whole of it focuses on the careers of two British magicians of the Regency period, and is full of charmingly fleshed-out characters.
The early 19th century is the such a refreshing setting for fantasy. Rather than a world where dwarves and elves and orcs are the face of the fantastic, one of the great squabbles between the two title characters is over the status and usefulness of fairies, creatures that had once encompassed the whole of British fantasy before Tolkien injected high fantasy with his mish-mash blending of Old Norse mythology and Anglo-Saxon epic. However well-written “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is, and however well it stands on its own merits, that it ignores the 50-year-old precedent of swords and sorcery, a subgenre that might as well be mimeographed from the worst parts of “The Lord of the Rings,” is one of the greatest strengths that author Susanna Clarke chose for her world of British magic.
After reading so much of dwarves and elves and orcs, a reprieve was due; we needed a reprieve into densely imagined real literature from dense-minded pulp literature, even if that it lasts only a weekend.
But what a weekend.
It’s been a long few years since the last time I saw an Akira Kurosawa film, and I had forgotten how much I love them. Today, Sanjûrô reminded me.
Leading man Toshiro Mifune and Kurosawa were a high-quality, prolific team, and definitely one of the better combinations of actor and director in the history of film, not to mention one of my personal favorites. In my book, this coupling is eclipsed only by the Johnny Depp and Tim Burton team, and that’s mostly because I have a twisted sense of style. Great movies like that are few and far between.
It would be too easy to say that they don’t make movies like Sanjûrô anymore, and I’m not convinced that it’s altogether all that accurate, either. In an age when critics love to chastize Hollywood for cashing in on the blockbuster by churning out sequels, we forget that cheap cash-ins are nothing new. Sanjûrô is itself a sort of sequel to an earlier movie, and is, in my humble opinion, superior to Yojimbo, its antecedent.
Deep in the glory days of Hollywood — i.e., the mid-1940s — it was no accident for whole casts to get reunited for the cheap cash-in. After the surprise success of Casablanca, the studio powers that were got Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Laurie and Claude Reins back together for an astoundingly poor flick titled Passage to Marseille within a year of Casablanca’s release. Naturally, the only reason Marseille has withstood the test of time rather than fade into obscurity, like so many other B-list-quality films with A-list-quality casts, is that it’s a carbon copy of the Casablanca cast.
The film industry has just about always worshipped at the throne of the almighty dollar — and yen, and rupee — and to say that it was any different back in the glory days is to fall victim to your grandparents’ nostalgia.
I hope nobody disagrees, partly because I really want to enjoy all 152 minutes of The Dark Knight and partly because I know that few of those minutes could compare to a Kurosawa film.