Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mighty Hot Wind

Years ago, watching “A Mighty Wind” with Mr. X, he had a head-shaker moment, in the midst of one of the more breathless faux-interviews about folk music’s supposed sweeping importance, when he was so inside the film he actually said, “I don’t remember it being this big a deal” basically.

Which, of course, was pretty much the point.

Mighty Wind is such a good mockumentary, you fall in like that, you forget it IS a joke at times – as with Spinal Tap actually selling albums in the real world, as with dog shows actually capturing the national attention every Thanksgiving now.  It’s completely sunk into one of those things most people are aware of, but few people are quite as breathless (or windy …) about as those who dedicate themselves to X or Y or Z with the fervor of a calling.

And that breathlessness … I think there are times we all pick and choose those things we accept as epochal, and those we ignore or even frankly deride.  I don’t get baseball, but there are those who would explode with testimonial passion if they heard me say it.  Few people understand how ancient Frankish history could possibly be conceived of as interesting, but for me it’s a rabbit hole well worth the burrowing into, and I can curl up in it all warm and contented.

We all have our fan-child obsessions.  If we didn’t, how would the perfectly astounding world library of documentaries survive – hagiographies of comedians, politicians, birds, towns, pieces of interesting infrastructure … ?  Some are unintentionally hilarious (have you ever seen the “Pursuit of Excellence” series?  The ferrets one is glorious), some you get into (American Experience and Ken Burns are terrifyingly good at this), some teach, some just provide slathering tongue jobs to celebrities.  But they are everywhere, and an awful lot of people have begun to live lives unconsciously dedicated to inspiring this kind of breathless adoration in others.

See also: this blog.  Not only do I get a bit wheezy myself on certain exciting subjects like Carolina dogs, pattern welded steel, and “Barbarians”, but I write the whole thing (as an unpublished one) as my “authorial platform” – which we’re actually *supposed* to do.  When I’m dead, this blog will be the precious, precious snoflake in the internet’s blizzard of silliness and verbiage, paying homage to my own silliness and verbiage.  My testament!

I’m not done with vanity yet, clearly.

If there are times “real” documentary such as the ferrets outing, and mockumentary like “A Mighty Wind” are indistinguishable, it’s hard not to think all of us veer into parody.  For me, that’s dandy and amusing.  I enthuse, but have never expected my blather to actually matter to any but the most particular, kind, and probably acquainted-with-me audience.  I’ve worked to build readership, and had fun with it – and I do take seriously the fact that this is a major facet of my public face, even if it’s difficult to take seriously the notion that my public’s ever going to make documentaries about me, treasure the marginalia scrawled in my personal collection of books, or remember me when I’m dead longer than my nieces live.

My enduring aspiration, even with my work, which I honestly want to support, is to become that dusty book on a shelf which some desultory kid will discover on a disused relative’s bookshelf (and, yes, I mean that adjective to modify “relative” there), and accidentally fall into and unwittingly love, someday.  All the rest is business.  Worthwhile, hopefully rewarding in a real and financial way, gratifying in ways I can’t even imagine from where I sit.  But beside the point of storytelling.

We can get breathless again tomorrow (or, perhaps, in January, when the agents say it’s okay!).  For now.  Just breathe.  Maybe smile, too.

Chappy Channukah, Merry Holidays, Sweet Kwanzaa, Hippo New Year, and a blessed Christmas (and all the rest) to all.  I’m so in this season.  Hoping it is wondrous for all of you, too.

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