Saturday, December 15, 2018

Three Movies

I was sitting here listening to some Stockhausen piano music I just don't understand, and I thought, "Maybe the MILTON CROSS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC will yield up some of its easily digestible and strangely bitter information." But I should have known better! Stockhausen has no place therein. But that made me think of this "blog," now defunct, which was, when it thrived in its way, a medium through which I often explored the twisted psychology of the MILTON CROSS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE GREAT COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSIC. And that made me think of how I once wrote a book about cigarette lighters, and how after I had turned in the final manuscript I continued to learn fascinating tidbits about cigarette lighters, which I collected in an appendix here on the "blog," until the very idea of learning fascinating tidbits began to fill me with dread. Furthermore I was forced to admit, within the course of the rumination thusly recounted, that I saw two movies recently, and a small part of a third movie, all containing cigarette lighter material that I would have dropped into very precise spots in the book, if only I had encountered them in time. I no longer care about that, or anything else, but the fact that I encountered them in such a short span of time, boom, boom, boom, one right after another, left me no choice... well, of course it left me a choice, but here we are. Bill Boyle and I have been watching, independently, a number of later period Clint Eastwood movies, and discussing, through email and other digital means of communication, the ones we have seen in common. It was for this reason that I watched FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, though Bill did not, nor did Dr. Theresa, the latter having already watched it some years ago as part of her research for the doctoral dissertation whence her title springs, and I guess she got out of it everything she wanted to get. Anyhow! A young man aboard a warship lights a lighter in a way I found historically questionable. Allow me to quote Paul Fussell, yes, the same Paul Fussell quotation that I quote in my cigarette lighter book, which is called CIGARETTE LIGHTER, in which he observes that in the paranoia of imminent battle someone "igniting a cigarette on deck is likely to be suspected of disloyalty rather than stupidity." You can't go around lighting your lighter on deck! It could be a traitorous signal, or a giveaway. Then I was skipping from one channel to another and I saw part of LAND OF THE LOST, the film adaptation of that work. Now! Lest you accuse me of finding it puerile, know from previous evidence that I am capable of enjoying literally any movie ever made, and I would not deny having watched the whole thing, had that ever been the case. But I saw just a snippet. One character was using his cigarette lighter to impress the technologically impaired dwellers, covered in hair, of a mysterious dimension, yes, the aforementioned LAND OF THE LOST. Ah! It was a comical "spin" on that old trope. A trope that I bring up in the book without much in the way of concrete examples to support it. Shame! A shame that might have been alleviated somewhat by the inclusion of the example in question... an example that seemed to imply, as I did, that the gesture was well known and ripe for allusion. So! Then Dr. Theresa and I were watching THE SHANGHAI GESTURE (pictured), in which Walter Huston (not pictured) is some old millionaire. At a board meeting he produces a cigarette. A dozen hale men leap up, ready to light it for him! In film, it is a ritual more associated with sex and beauty, and I included in my book plenty of examples of phalanxes of men falling over themselves to light a woman's cigarette. But now I saw, yes! It is also about power... an insight that came, like so many, too late to do any good.