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Last night Sherry and I watched the movie “Birdman,” which is unlike anything I’ve seen in a long, long time. It's a compelling character study with an attention-grabbing element of fantasy (or is it?). Michael Keaton and Edward Norton are at full power, Keaton especially, complemented by an excellent supporting cast.

Keaton plays an actor named Riggin who played a superhero, Birdman, in blockbuster movies. Riggin's career as a superhero has faded, though. Now he is financing, directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation he has written of a short story by the short-storywriter Raymond Carver.


One exchange between Keaton’s character and his emotionally estranged daughter, Sam, is central to the plot. It involves the drive to do important artistic work that people will remember. How many millions of artists, musicians, actors and writers have that drive? More than we'll ever know. The dialog between Riggin and Sam is sobering to those millions of artists who want their work to endure:

Riggan: Listen to me. I'm trying to do something important.
Sam: This is not important.
Riggan: It's important to me! All right? Maybe not to you, or your cynical friends whose only ambition is to go viral. But to me ... To me ... this is—God. This is my career, this is my chance to do some work that actually means something.
Sam: Means something to who? You had a career before the third comic book movie, before people began to forget who was inside the bird costume. You're doing a play based on a book that was written 60 years ago, for a thousand rich old white people whose only real concern is gonna be where they go to have their cake and coffee when it's over. And let's face it, Dad, it's not for the sake of art. It's because you want to feel relevant again. Well, there's a whole world out there where people fight to be relevant every day. And you act like it doesn't even exist! Things are happening in a place that you willfully ignore, a place that has already forgotten you. I mean, who the fuck are you? You hate bloggers. You make fun of Twitter. You don't even have a Facebook page. You're the one who doesn't exist. You're doing this because you're scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don't matter. And you know what? You're right. You don't. It's not important. You're not important. Get used to it.

Sometimes art—movies, books, poems, short stories—smacks those millions of artists upside the head and reminds them the concept of birthing enduring art is unreasonable. Learning to accept this is challenging. And sometimes, so is life. Sometimes the best artists can do is keep on keeping on and hoping for the proverbial lightning bolt to strike, even though the chances of the right thundercloud to pass are minuscule.
The left sidebar of this blog contains a series of quotations that one way or another are pertinent to my life. The second one is from the musician/performance artist Laurie Anderson. It's second from the top to serve as a reminder of what I'm doing here at the keyboard and what's happening—or more accurately, not happening—as a result:
I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.

Exactly.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
matrixmann
Jan. 4th, 2016 07:59 am (UTC)
I don't know - a concept I embraced at some point. I even reject the idea of becoming famous because I don't find anything positive with it for your personal life. You know, you can't even walk on the street without being molested by someone or do normal human errors just because next day somebody is going to slap them in your face.
Can't understand those people which voluntarily aim at being known by each and everybody.
The truth is: In the end you're alone with your problems, you die alone and if somebody actually pilgrims to your grave or will actually remember you, you don't know by the point you start to walk into the direction of fame. How many fallen stars which have had their time are there in the world? Quite many and yourself is most probably to suffer the same fate.
And even if you manage, it's just a fucking planet out there in a huge, huge universe - alone and nobody watches it, and stars and planets still keep emerging and disappearing again, with or without your existence being there.
patrick_vecchio
Jan. 4th, 2016 01:11 pm (UTC)
"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain
matrixmann
Jan. 4th, 2016 01:14 pm (UTC)
Certainly suits that.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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