Saturday, May 10, 2008

Take the 5:10 to Meme-land

I've been tagged with a meme. Thom Ryan, the mastermind behind one of my very favorite blogs Film of the Year, has selected me, along with four other bloggers (a distinguished group, I might add), to follow some simple instructions for a post on my site, and to pass on the instructions to five more bloggers. Like a chain letter, except without the curse of bad luck at the end if the recipient doesn't participate.

I've been tagged with memes before, and though I've always felt honored to be thought of, I've also felt enough resistance to the idea that I've never complied. This time, I'm in the mood to do so, for several reasons. One, I've lately been more inclined to embrace the myspace-y, facebook-y aspects of the blogosphere rather than pretend that what I do here at Hell on Frisco Bay is so fundamentally different from the activity on those and other social networking sites. Two, with my blogroll currently missing from this blog while I complete my redesigned reconstruction, I'm more compelled than usual to give shout-outs to some of my fellow travelers (though I'm happy to report that my archive, and blogroll, has been recovered by blogger and can be found here until I complete the transition back to this url.) Three, this particular meme gives me an opportunity to point to a book I've been meaning to mention here since I bought it and started paging through it a couple months ago.

That's right, this is a book meme. Here's the instructions Thom sent:

1) Pick up the nearest book.
2) Open to page 123.
3) Locate the fifth sentence.
4) Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing...
5) Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

OK, Thom!

1) So, when I received this tag, I was mere feet away from Scott MacDonald's Canyon Cinema: the Life and Times of an Independent Film Distributor, filled with primary source material concerning the venerable Frisco Bay institution that grew out of Bruce Baillie's film exhibitions in Canyon, California by Redwood Regional Park.

2) I can't resist giving a little bit more context. The opposing page 122, it so happens, reprints a fan letter to Canyon Cinema filmmaker Bruce Conner (and a current research subject, the reason why this book was so close at hand this afternoon) from none other than John Lennon, in response to Conner's dazzling Looking For Mushrooms. As he explains in an interview later in the book, Conner sent the film to Lennon because it included a Beatles song as its soundtrack, and he wanted the composers' blessing so he could legally show the film.

3) It's page 123 that we're concerned with at the moment, however, and it's got a letter from a Frisco Bay filmmaker I'm less familiar with (having seen only one of his works, Six Loop-Paintings), Barry Spinello. He's writing about how his 1969 film Soundtrack was influenced by a 1938 John Cage text found in Silence.

4) The three sentences:

Any image (his example is a picture of Beethoven) or mark on the soundtrack successively repeated will produce a distinct sound with distinct pitch and value - different from the sound and value of any other mark. The new music, he says, will be built along the lines of film, with the basic unit of rhythm logically being the frame. With the advent of magnetic tape a few years later and the enormous advantages it has in convenience and speed (capacity to record and play back live sound, and erase) the filmic development of electronic music initially envisioned by Cage was completely obscured.
5) Now, to select the five bloggers I'm to pass this meme to. I'm going to stay local here...
Max Goldberg of Text of Light comes to mind because he wrote a terrific review of the MacDonald book a few weeks ago.
Michael Guillén of the Evening Class comes to mind next, as he's the one who let me know about Max's blog.
Sister Rye comes to mind because I wish she would post a little more often.
Ryland Walker Knight of Vinyl Is Heavy comes to mind because I owe him an e-mail right now.
Rob Davis of Errata comes to mind because he's only going to be local for another week or so. Frisco Bay's loss is Chicago's windfall.

Thanks again, Thom!


  1. Yes, the meme marches on! Terrific post, Brian. Though as intriguing as the sentences on filmic sound are on page 123, I have to admit the music fan in me is wondering about how Conner's loop film sync's with "Tomorrow Never Knows." And did Lennon include one of his infamous line drawings with the letter?

  2. I'd love to see a full post on Lennon's Letter. A different age of celebrity, that's for sure. Thanks for the link Brian, the CANYON CINEMA books is so full of strange riches.

  3. I'm so glad to hear you've been able to recover your archives. Now if we can just keep your big fat fingers from pushing computer keys they shouldn't....

  4. That book cover looks awesome with your new design! :) I love the colors. Thanks for the excerpt!

  5. Yeah, that book's cover fits really well with my new palette, doesn't it? Just another reason why responding to this meme felt somehow preordained in an almost spooky way. There's so much fascinating material in this book that I could probably put the book cover on my site semi-permanently, and blog on it and nothing else for weeks if not months if I wanted to.

    But my interests are too scattered, and I'd feel like too much of a parasite on Scott MacDonald's tremendous research and compilation. I just hope a lot of people sample it for themselves.

    Thom, the letter does indeed include a Lennon line drawing. As well as some "artistic" usage of a typewriter. As for the film itself- on most days I think of it as Conner's greatest masterpiece (well, a Movie and Cosmic Ray and Crossroads and the White Rose and..., and..., and... contend for that title as well). "Tomorrow Never Knows" syncs perfectly to the rapid-fire images.

    I thought about simply responding and not passing the meme, but I'm glad you're being a good sport about it, Michael. As for my finger, they're on a new training regimen that seems to be working out so far.

  6. I just composed a response post for VINYL but then Safari quit unexpectedly -- and blogger didn't save my draft -- so I'm not going to tackle this silly beast again. I'll just say thanks for the nod and of the eleven books on my desk I quoted from the Library of America's second volume of collected James Agee work, _Film Writing & Selected Journalism_. It was open on the desk when I read your email this morning so I figured I should probably elect that one. Although I equally dug what I found on page 123 of Cavell's _The World Viewed_.

    That's great news about recovering your archives. Hooray! And don't worry about the email; I'd never say you "owe" me one.

  7. Oh I hate it when that happens. Thanks for dropping the book titles, anyway- I think that's probably what this meme was originally programmed to collect. I've read some, but not a lot of Agee. And one of these days your Cavell mantra is going to break though to me.

  8. Brian, thanks for the tag. I'd respond, but I'm stuck in the middle of a meme in which I'm not allowed to respond to memes. I'd tell you who tagged me with this one, but that's also prohibited, as is saying anything to anyone (including, awkwardly, the tagees themselves) about the bloggers I've tagged. Once my tagees stop responding memes themselves, then I'll be released. Problem is, how long should I wait? This is a variant of the halting problem.

    But if I were going to respond to this one, I'd have to grab one of these, the top three books in my stack: Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke, Welles/Bogdanovich's This is Orson Welles, or Stephen Dixon's I.

  9. Gawrsh, now you've got me wondering if I've been tagged with that particular meme myself. If I have, how would I know it? Even if I haven't, wouldn't the polite thing be to act as if I had from now on, just in case my tagger's waiting on me? You pose such existential dilemnas, Rob.

    Thanks for the reading list, though. Human Smoke sounds absolutely fascinating. This is Orson Welles is a favorite of my own. And I sounds like the kind of thing I don't read much these days, but probably should.

  10. Sorry to do this through comments.

    Just wanted to quickly tell you about a website I've just finished building to celebrate the release of Wojciech Has' masterpiece Film 'The Saragossa Manuscript' (1965) at:

    Having read posts on your blog, there is a chance you might be of interest to you as its an old Frisco favorite.

    Best wishes

    Timjim (site creator)

    PS: Please let me know if you ever write anything on Saragossa as I'll link to it onsite.

  11. Nice website; I hope a print of the Saragossa Manuscript comes to a local theatre!