Sunday, September 14, 2014

saturday double-feature

hubert selby, jr.: it'll be a better tomorrow [2005]

it was hotter than the surface of the sun, triple digit highs during the day.  makes me want to cocoon with a book and/or movie.  and i did just that yesterday.  after the sprinkler guy, a real cool old bohemian/hippie dubbed 'the irrigation einstein', left after he completed the work that knocked me on my ass last weekend, i switched to the on-demand documentary channel, docurama, and watched a couple of flicks.  the first is the above titled feature.

selby is that rare artist, a genuinely good man.  his fiction is tougher than leather.  his characters lead lives of addiction and madness.  but the man himself  -- gruff, ornery -- was on a spiritual journey.  he was a bodhisattva of the late 20th C.  this documentary is a testament to selby's goodness.

selby did not die rich or famous.  and yet his goodness and his writing touched millions of people.  this flick has the usual talking heads recounting the decades of addiction and bad health.  his friends, and i think if you knew selby he was your friend, also tells us of the love he shared and cultivated with the people in his life.  i should've taken notes and wrote down some selby quotes.  nevertheless, this movie is a delight of the mind and senses.  and a life lesson for artists, one does not need to be an asshole to be a good artist.

happy [2011]

in 1621 richard burton published the anatomy of melancholy.  ever since, it is cool to be schooled in depression.  most of our artists and writers have trafficked in the southern end of our emotional palette.  so have scientists, economists, politicians and all the rest of us.  a poet's work is given more gravitas if it explores the blues.  if a poet writes about joy we look at her work with a sideways glance.  for sure, you can't be serious if you are happy, right?

that trend is turning.  there is a branch of brain science studying happiness.  what makes us happy?  this documentary asks this question and comes to some non-surprising answers. 

the filmmakers travel the world and seek out peoples, and scientists who are studying this relatively new field, whose claim on happiness exceeds the average u.s.american.  and they found out what makes us happy are not wealth and the acquisition of more and more stuff.  50 percent of our happiness is based on genetics.  that is our set point.  some people are more prone to be happy while others are not.  10 percent depends on circumstance, like having enough money.  40 percent is a mystery but can be influenced by our training.  we can teach ourselves to become happier people.

we are so conditioned to poo-poo the language of happiness.  but why?  this is a refreshing documentary.  very few of our poets write from and thru joy and happiness.  whitman was such a poet, and i think the cuban-born jose kozer is another.  we need more happy poets.  that is not an oxymoron.  first start with the first noble truth: life is fucked up.  and yet, we can, with practice, be happy. 



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