Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Intellectual Pursuits -- Writer's Poke #267

Like me, Roger Ebert is an Illinois boy. He has dedicated his life to one thing: watching movies. My initial reaction to that is: Gee, what a way to waste a life -- sitting in a dark room all day, living life vicariously by watching the fictional stories created in the minds of others. But that's just my initial reaction. When I stop to think about it for another two seconds, my thoughts shift to: Wow. He got paid to watch movies for a living.

Of course he did a lot more than watch movies. He thought about them; he analyzed them; he wrote about them.

I'm no Ebert fanboy; he and I don't always agree, but I generally respect his opinions and observations, and I love to read how he viewed a movie. I've never had the chance to watch a movie frame-by-frame with him, but I imagine that would be an illuminating experience.

At this point in my life, all I can do is work my way through his The Great Movies I & II. Thanks to the invention of Netflix and the instant availability of streaming movies, over the past several months I've been able to watch about one hundred of the movies that Ebert rates as among the greatest of all time.

Last night I started watching an Ebert-recommend black and white Japanese movie, and my wife said, "You really like this stuff, don't you?" And honestly, I do. I'm not watching Ebert's picks as an "intellectual pursuit," per se, but I do appreciate the fact that some people make movies with a goal other than box office receipts.

Now that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy watching The Transporter; it simply means that most movies come and go and are forgotten once they leave the theaters on their initial run. Others, however, have the potential to stand the test of time.

What is a worthwhile pursuit to spend one's life? To spend your life?

"Men tire themselves in pursuit of rest." -- Laurence Stern

Human Nature -- Writer's Poke #266

Should we apologize for what is in our nature? According to Madonna, we shouldn't, and yet perhaps it's society's need to curb the individual that has promoted thousands of years of repression.

The basic thesis of the movie Roshomon, for example, is that everyone lies. We all embellish our presentations to others to place ourselves in the best light. In other words, we attempt to present not our real selves, but our ideals. In truth, however, no one ever lives up to their ideals.

So why do we feel the pressure to be something we're not? Why do we feel the need to pretend, or to apologize for failing to live up to something fake?

The question is, what's wrong with being human? Granted, except for Britney Spears, most people wouldn't turn to Madonna for advice on how to live their lives, but perhaps Madonna actually is a modern-day prophet?

"Dogs never bite me. Just humans." -- Marylin Monroe

What is your definition of what it means to be human?