Until I watched the movie Blazing Saddles as an adult I never realized that I enjoy the ending the best. It’s a spaghetti Western that pokes fun at gender, race, and politics. Oh yeah, it’s got fart jokes, too, which before I get too far in I also recall something about the banality of old film. Having watched it recently in mixed company, I realize this may very well be the best last film made for men. Our little watching group wondered who would star in the remake. Would Amy Schumer play Madeline Kahn’s part? Maybe Dave Chapelle could be beckoned back to play the sheriff. We lingered for a minute at best, declaring that no one would ever be caught dead doing a remake of Blazing Saddles because it just couldn’t be done today. Too much tension. Too many waves. All fart jokes aside, certain things don’t translate well into the parlance of our time.
Within the final twenty minutes of the film, the camera pans out past the Western sun to reveal the Hollywood studios in which the sets were built and scenes were filmed. One of the final cowboy fight scenes interrupts Dom Deluise directing dancers on a closed set, where tuxedoed men show down against dudes in bandanas and chaps. Then the mob blows through the actor’s cafeteria, where everyone ends up pie-faced. The meta feel was just right on. I had begun to get the feeling they were making an actual movie there. Boy was I wrong.
I forget so much of life is not just one thing. It’s the many things we cannot see now that must awaken in us hope, a less pointed movement to the disappearing headline. I love the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album. Recently thumbing through an online discography, I realized there are many repeated songs in slightly differently performed ways. Over half of their albums have mono and stereo versions of the same tune, or digitally remastered versions set to entirely new albums. I came across the Smile Sessions boxed set, where there are 24 different tracks of Good Vibrations and 38 songs titled Heroes and Villains in varying takes and remixes. In Holland remastered, California Song comes in three versions: Big Sur, the Beaks of Eagles, California. Pied Piper appears twice in different lengths, one at 2 minutes 20 twenty seconds, the other at 2 minutes 9 seconds. This is the land of new technology, at best offering version 2.0 of the same thing you bought last year. At worst it lets the nerds discuss, degree by degree, permutations of their specifically turning desires.
I like the repeated versions, the slightly similar embodiments of creativity drafted out into the finished product. It says more about the way people can attribute a mood or feeling to something so trivial as the presence of a triangle ding or the extra three measures at the end of a verse, or how through so much effort we see simply some different rendition of our own preferences.
It also speaks to a larger narrative of how our own internal rhythms are staged and performed over and over, throughout our lives, which makes me think about family movies on old-fashioned 8mm movie projectors. They are a nearly extinct medium played on a reel that burns a little bit of the end frames. The stopping is so hard against the light, if you simply set a frame of film down on the bulb within seconds it sets fire. I burn a bit in the process of finding my younger self. I forget it’s me out there, it’s me every time. I may be taking something for granted. Or maybe it’s not this, not what I can see from this perspective.
The convenience of today is not so much in the hardware, but the software. A ton of the data from websites and online businesses are plucked from a cloud. Floppy discs are obsolete. Items with no digital interface that cannot be shared or distributed over social media have less value until they are scanned and uploaded into the web. One’s cell phone provides the clearest view of a captured sense of something and its feeling therein. Many ways of looking at things, old photographs on 35 mm film, are oddly unappealing, and I say this because we are re-appropriating the way we see things. If other people do not see it, it doesn’t exist. It is giving more credence to the term if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? It does not until it creates an electrical impulse inside the human ear.
Things that are not witnessed by many people do not make an impact. They are not what you can most easily see with anymore, and by you, I mean the royal you. On the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borgs were part computer, part human. They assimilated everyone they came into contact with, except for Picard, as he kept some of his human memories inside of him, which helped hoist himself free from the ice block of the collective unconscious. I wouldn’t go so far to say that our Facebook accounts are us, but maybe it’s the closest thing to this sentiment that I can find right now.
I often forget to look up, up and away and distract myself from this. I often forget about the meaning of things, to look out and away from the face of something close up and just look away so that the things in the background are in focus. When I was in kindergarten I used to count the grades I had until I would be done with public school. I recall how impossible it seemed to get through twelve more years of suffering. I always try to think of life this way, a series of suffering years one must endure to get to the good times, and then I remember to look at things from far off, breathe, step out of the vortex.