Charlie's Blog: Four Sticks


Four Sticks

Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.

Where will I ramble today? Right now, I have a severe cold that has turned my head into a giant snot bubble. This particular strain has been making the rounds where I live, so I am taking my turn on the disease merry-go-round. It makes doing anything difficult but not impossible. But I will endeavor to write what is on my mind.

The first thing I have been contemplating has been this recent rate hike the Fed has done after all these years of virtually free money. Naturally, the market is heading down as the air leaves the bubble. I think this is needed, but I suspect the Fed will rescind this rate hike at its next meeting as the economy and markets begin to collapse. Needless to say, I despise the Federal Reserve and central banking, and I think we should go back to the gold standard and sound money. Either way, I think gold is the only safe place to park your money for the long term.

The new Star Wars movie is out, but I don't know if I care to ride that train again. The original trilogy was awesome, but I realize that was by accident. George Lucas had a few flashes of brilliance, but he is inept as a director and as a storyteller. Basically, Star Wars owes its greatest debt to Joseph Campbell and the limited budget of the original trilogy. The demise of the Star Wars universe has come as a consequence of technology and merchandising. The simple and pure fact is that people love a good story. Lucas forgot that.

A great director that gets story and the shortcomings of technology is Christopher Nolan. I was amused to learn that the director of the Dark Knight trilogy does not own a cellphone and does not have an email address. When he makes movies, he prefers real over CGI whenever possible. He also prefers film to digital cameras. The result of this virtually anti-tech stance is an embrace of the timeless craft of storytelling. At the very least, it makes me feel perfectly fine carrying a flip phone in a world of smartphones.

Nolan is not completely anti-tech as he does employ some CGI in his moviemaking. But it is not gratuitous. This is very important because it makes us consider what should truly matter with tech innovation. Does the technology improve my life? Does it make things better?

Educators know the limits of tech as they have used all sorts of gadgets and whatnot to make teaching easier, but it all comes back to books, paper, pencils, and the chalkboard. I can't help but experience that the people with the smartest gadgets are the dumbest people I know. I am convinced that the only real thing pushing the popularity of smartphones is that they allow men to masturbate to porn more easily. Otherwise, they are simply really bad phones that turn people into ADD freaks unable to withstand a minute of non-stimulation.

People are bored, but this is not a tragedy. Boredom is a resource because it becomes the fertile ground of imagination. Technology kills imagination. First, it eliminates the boredom by providing constant stimulation such that you never really have time to think. Second, it fills in the gaps of people's imaginations with digital creation. For instance, old horror movies are scarier than the CGI horror movies because a dark room was all that was needed for people to lose their minds. This is also why The War of the Worlds was so awesome on the radio but not so good when it became a big budget motion picture. Then, there is the fact that books are so much better than movies.

Truly great artists and creative minds learn to leave spaces blank. A work of art is not complete in itself but is completed in the mind of the observer. This is why you should always leave some room for mystery in any story.  You can explain a mystery later if you choose, but you must leave another mystery in its place. With Star Wars, the mystery was Darth Vader. Who was he? How did he become the man in the mask? And what was up with that emperor guy? Lucas answered those questions, but they were not satisfactory answers. I suspect it was because people had imagined something better than what Lucas delivered.

I have my own stories to write, but I hesitate to write them. Writing fiction is way harder than writing non-fiction. But I need to get on that horse no matter how much it tries to buck me off. There are no good stories today. All the good stories we have come from yesterday. I need to put my imagination back to work.