It was Sara’s birthday yesterday, and with many of us still fighting off sickness, we didn’t get a chance to see her. But she did post a few tidbits from her day, and this one is too irresistible not to repost here:
I posted this, which I had scanned, nine years ago. I’m doing a double-nostalgia move, one where I remember nine years ago, and one where I remember 1967:
This comes from the program for the first play I participated in once I got into high school. It was called My Three Angels, which was made into a movie with Humphrey Bogart. My part (“Alfred”) was played by Darren McGavin in the original Broadway run, by Aldo Ray in the Bogart film version, and by George Grizzard in a later TV version. There was a Robert De Niro version in 1989, but my character wasn’t in that one, I guess.
I was a sophomore, and the way the Antioch school system was structured in those days, 7th-9th grades were “junior high” and 10th-12th grades were “high school”. There was no “intermediate”, or whatever they call 6th-8th grades now. Of the three junior high plays listed, I only remember The Wizard of Oz. I was the Scarecrow, and I was unable to hold my arms straight out when Dorothy discovered me guarding the corn field, so they gave me a pole I could use that enabled me to rest my arms using my shoulders as support. I should probably remember more about that, but hey, I was in 7th grade.
It says I was “majoring” in drama, but I don’t recall having “majors” in high school. While I was doing OK in school, I apparently had no thoughts of college. This was the end of the Summer of Love, all I wanted to be was a hippie, and thus my plans were limited to going to San Francisco and eating (no mention of a job, of course). I actually did spend about a month in S.F. after I graduated from high school, but with no money and no job, I was soon back at home with my parents.
Here’s a lo-fi picture of me in My Three Angels … that’s me in the back:
They are seemingly untrainable … you can get a dog to do anything, which isn’t true with cats (although Robin taught Six to play fetch). Does that mean cats are dumber than dogs, or does that mean dogs are dumber because they do stupid shit for people?
Many nights, Robin and I watch TV on the big screen in the attic. We’ll usually watch two episodes, but sometimes only one, or even occasionally three. Sometimes we start watching at 6:00, sometimes 7:00, sometimes even later.
When we watch, Starbuck and Six usually join us. Six doesn’t much like to be alone, so she usually follows us … Starbuck likes to sit on Robin’s lap.
Boomer rarely joins us. She spends much of her day sleeping on our bed, which she seems to consider her turf.
Now, I haven’t done a study, but anecdotally, the following seems to be true. When we are done watching for the night, Robin and I will chat for a bit, and then she’ll go downstairs while I watch the end of a ballgame or something. Given that we watch varying numbers of episodes, and that we start watching at varying times, there is no fixed schedule for when Robin will head downstairs. Last night it was around 9:00 … other times it’s closer to 10:00 … rarely, we’ll start early, watch one show, and be done around 8:00 or even earlier.
Here’s the thing. Robin and I both agree that Boomer seems to know when we are done watching. She comes upstairs about when the last episode is done and we’re chatting for a bit, as if to say, “OK, time to come downstairs, Robin!” I can understand why she does this … often, Robin will go to the bedroom and read, after we’ve watched TV, and Boomer likes to join her there. But I’ll be damned if I can figure out how she seems to know when it’s time to get Robin.
Quoting from the blog now, since it means I don’t have to type stuff in from the book:
Is there a certain song you love, or a work of art? Perhaps there is a movie you keep returning to over the years, or book. Go ahead and imagine one of those favorite things. Now, in one sentence, try to explain why you like it. Chances are, you will find it difficult to put into words, but if pressed you will probably be able to come up with something. The problem is, according to research, your explanation is probably going to be total bullshit. …
This brings up a lot of concerns. It calls into question the entire industry of critical analysis of art – video games, music, film, poetry, literature – all of it.
This ties into something I wrote in a comment yesterday, which reiterates a theory of mine: While we pretend that we construct analyses from scratch and then offer a final evaluation, in fact we first react in a like-don't like-meh manner, and then construct analyses to explain our taste preference. (It’s not analysis followed by evaluation, but evaluation followed by analysis.) I don’t think this process results in total bullshit, or I wouldn’t have spent eleven years writing this blog (or spent nine years getting a Ph.D in English). But the results aren’t what we think they are, and I find this statement of McRaney’s interesting:
When you ask people why they do or do not like things, they must then translate something from a deep, emotional, primal part of their psyche into the language of the higher, logical, rational world of words and sentences and paragraphs. The problem here is those deeper recesses of the mind are perhaps inaccessible and unconscious.
As I was reading this on my Nexus 7, I commented to my wife that there was a connection between the above and something that has fascinated me over the past couple of days. I have taken the following photo and made it the wallpaper for my Nexus, for my smartphone, and for my computer desktop:
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time just staring at this photo. Something about it reaches me beyond “isn’t my grandson cute?” There are plenty of cute pictures of him … some are probably better than this one, especially when the camera catches him laughing, which is often. But I love this picture.
And so, as I stare and stare, I try to construct an explanation for why I like it so much. I’ve thought about how it is well-composed (although I’ve cropped it for my wallpapers, so that’s not likely the reason). I’ve thought about how he really is pretty darned cute (but, as I say, there are lots of cute pictures of him). I’ve noted the smoothness of his skin (more obvious with higher resolution) and extrapolated a theory about the innocence of a child and how it speaks to me. I even imagined that if you took a picture of me when I was on acid, my facial expression would be something like this.
Anyway, I told Robin about the book passage, and about the photo, and she replied fairly quickly. “You like that picture because he’s looking up, and that appeals to you for some reason.”
Here is one of my favorite pictures of Robin. As a picture it’s nothing special, just one of those “I’m gonna take a picture of myself using my phone” photos:
I couldn’t tell you why I like that picture so much, any more than I could tell you why I like the picture of Félix so much. If I tried, it would be an example of an Introspection Illusion, translating something emotional into words.
But Robin knew right away what was going on, because she doesn’t have an emotional attachment to the pictures. She is able to identify my taste for pictures where the subject is looking up. I would never have thought of that.
Does this call into question the critical analysis of art? Are our responses to art completely subjective, and buried too deep for us to fully understand? And are all our attempts to analyze art total bullshit?
Again, I think the answer to the latter question is no. But it is at least possible that our work as critics, valuable as it might be, has less relationship to the work of art than we realize. And if that is the case, then the best critics are not the ones with the best taste, but the ones who are the best writers. And what we get from critics isn’t a consumer guide (which is being taken over by AI systems, anyway), but rather the pleasures of reading good prose.
This photo was taken in late 1975 or early 1976. The youngest one in the picture was born in May of ‘75, so figure out how old he looks, add that to May, and you’ll get a date.
There are four generations represented in this picture. In the middle is my grandmother, Frances Rubio, born and raised in Andalucía, came to the U.S. in the late 1910s. She would have been around 80 in this photo. Her son, my father, is the laughing guy on the right, holding the baby. He was in his early 50s. His three sons, left to right, are Geoff (born in 1947), David (born in 1958), and me (born in 1953). There were two sisters, as well, but I guess this was a Guy Picture. The baby is my son Neal, who is now 37 years old, which tells you the age of the picture.
My cousin Gabe took a ratty-ass old copy of this picture and made it nicer, and he deserves a tip of the cap.
It’s Blast from the Past day on Google+. It’s also Robin’s birthday! So I’ve combined the two and chosen this picture:
This is a list Robin made before we got married in 1973, itemizing expenses. She can give the details … her dad gave her money for school (she was going to Cal at the time) and added a bit for the wedding. She was expected to take care of both school and wedding with the money. It was an inexpensive wedding, even in 1973 dollars. She saved money by making her own wedding dress (and my wedding shirt). We got married by a friend who was a judge, in a public park, so no expenses there. There is no record of how close we came to the budget she laid out here.