“Every one of us is
losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities,
feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.
But inside our heads – at least that’s where I imagine it – there’s a little
room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And
to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new
reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh
air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever
in your own private library.”
– from Haruki
Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore
Finishing a Murakami book always leaves me feeling a little
gut-punched and stupid and wowed and moved and thrilled. (Okay, I’ve only read
three of his books, but it’s happened every time so far.) I wrapped up Kafka
on the Shore after work this afternoon full of amazement and adrenaline and at
the same time, that college student voice wouldn’t shut up about whether I
fully grasped the symbolism or allegory or imagery in the story and characters
But I think that feeling of not quite fully understanding
them only makes them more powerful to me. It’s like there’s something else
there, hidden around a corner, or not quite coalescing from the shadows; a tune
I can’t quite pick out, secreted behind the folds of a larger song.
And yet I like it. I like that I still have questions, and
that I wonder what Murakami means in one passage or another, or why one
character behaves one way, or what another is supposed to represent. I like
reaching that point of asking, “Wait – what just happened? But how – ?”
but then realizing that the story’s power is enough to keep pulling me along even
if the pieces don’t click into place with any kind of neat finality. I like to
be left wondering, and thinking and letting things soak and ferment and trigger.
It may not be the tidiest way to handle storytelling, but it’s
masterful if you can pull it off like Murakami, because too often, it’s just
clunky when authors try to come up with a click-and-clack explanation that
melds the real to the fantastic. (Another good example: W.P. Kinsella, who
wrote Shoeless Joe – inspiration for the movie “Field of Dreams.” Dead
ballplayers come out of the cornfield, and it just happens. There’s no need to
explain it. It just IS.)
Or, to be honest, maybe I am missing some big picture point
here: Maybe all the nuts and bolts of “Kafka on the Shore” do tighten down and
fasten things neat and shiny but I just don’t recognize the machine they’re
meant to create.
But when I read a passage like the one I’ve quoted, and I
have to get up almost immediately and get a pen to scribble it down because there’s
suddenly an icy, electric trickle running through the center of my chest, then
I think maybe I’m at least seeing the part of the picture I was meant to for now.
No, really, it happened!The little green guy dodges a laser blast, then pulls a Crocodile Dundee with that stick he carries, and it whips around like a boomerang and sets off Boba Fett’s backpack – don’t you remember?
This sequence played out in the world of The Software Toolworks’ Star Wars Chess, released back in 1993, just as Star Wars geeks the world over came out of hiding …er, grew up and got jobs which enabled us..er, THEM – to open their wallets and refuel the Star Wars flames with money that wasn’t an allowance.
I had this game for my first computer – an IBM PS/2 with a 486 processor – and it reinforced one thing: I’m not patient enough to be much good at chess. Fortunately, you could set this game up to watch whichever animated battles you wanted: R2-D2 taking on a Scout Walker? Done. The Emperor opening a can of whoop-ass on C-3PO? Order up.
Recently, through a fellow enthusiast in the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club , I got my hands on a nifty piece of collecting: The 40 original pencil drawings that illustrate Boba Fett’s death at the hands of Yoda. (That would be, for those who care, a white rook taking out a black bishop.) I’m not scanning all 40 drawings in here -though it would be cool sometime to see if it’s possible to make a flip book out of them – but I did make a photo album to show some of them off. The shot with the action figure in it is just to give some scale, and I also compiled a set of screenshots showing these particular frames.
Each element of a battle was animated separately – so Yoda and the laser blasts and even the crater at the end are not seen on these pages. It’s just Boba Fett taking his twirly-whirly ride of doom. And the "bleed through" visible in some of the shots is just because I left the drawings stacked together to keep them in order while I was taking the pictures.
My collecting’s toned down lately – but it’s tough to resist something as unique as these.
Just a quick note: My friend Adam Besenyodi has written a very cool essay about of the recent Nine Inch Nails/Bauhaus show at Blossom Music Center. He goes beyond a simple rehash of the evening and puts a lot of nice gut-feeling into it. It’s a good piece of writing from a guy who’s been listening to NIN for closing on 20 years now.
Roaming Ohio by car is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. I love driving the freeways and the two-lanes and watching the land change from hills to forests to fields; passing through one-stoplight, two-tavern towns and cruising through underpasses that dive beneath cityscapes.
If I’m alone, my mind really gets cooking, so I made some very sparse notes from a five-hour round trip drive today, hoping to put the inspiration to use at home tonight. And with all that time in the car, just me and several CDs, there is some real wandering in the works tonight. I’m just going to break this up into a couple different pieces, since the thoughts kind of popped into my head as I was driving, with little or no connection between any of them.
Part 1: Past perfect tense
Friday night, when I went to a wings-and-beer place around 10 p.m. to meet up with some friends I used to share a newsroom with. Only one of the group is still at that particular newspaper. I realize the nature of the news business is that practically everybody is looking for their next big break almost constantly, but the shame of this situation was that when I looked around this table, I saw a hell of a good news/sports/editing team – and there were others out of the picture too, both in terms of the paper and our get-together. Point is, we had a damn good staff gathered at this place, but all of us wound up leaving around the same time, because of the way certain aspects of the business were handled.
It was such a relatively short window of opportunity, too, because just as the group of us was becoming kind of tight-knit and reminiscent of my days in the Orlando Sentinel’s composing room, when we’d work until 1 a.m. and then go hang out at Denny’s until 3 or 4 in the morning, things at this paper grew unbearable for most of us. Hanging out Friday night at BW-3 made me miss the place – at least, it made me miss working with this bunch of people – and it pissed me off to think that things could have gone so freaking well if only folks in higher places had had their acts together.
Part 2: If I’d only had wine to go with it…
The drive home tonight was the best: It was pretty hot & humid all day, but by about 6:15 or so, I was on the freeway, and it was cooling down just enough that I could put the windows down and enjoy the summer. For me, that meant running through a cycle of
music that moves me, mostly by pulling me back to places and times and people long gone and unreachable. Hell, yes, there’s a lot of cheese here – one of the CDs I mixed is called “Drive Alone, Bring Crackers” for that very reason – but dammit, zipping up Interstate 71 with the day’s heat slowly giving way as the smell of turned dirt comes in off the fields and mixes with the scent of cooling blacktop, it’s a fine thing to be carried back a ways, even if you’re riding the goofball-80s-rock train.
You know what, I’ll even dare to type up the frakking track listing from Drive Alone, Bring Crackers, with the following disclaimer: What’s odd about this list is that many of the songs, when I think about them, didn’t seem “important” at the time when they
were popular. They were just there. It’s only now that I realize the odd memories and emotions that have stuck to them over the years. So here goes:
- Pat Benatar – Shadows of the Night
- Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard
- Lindsey Buckingham – Go Insane
- John Waite – Missing You
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Dreaming
- Dennis DeYoung – Desert Moon
- Phil Collins – Against All Odds
- Bryan Adams – Heaven
- Night Ranger – When You Close Your Eyes
And you know, no matter what you think this song list says about me, with the exception of Night Ranger, who put on a free show at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Ribs Burnoff a few years ago, I have seen absolutely none of these artists in concert. In other words, when it comes down to plunking down actual money, to quote Bloom County’s Steve Dallas, “I have SOME scruples, dude!” (And for my friends who are readying to disassociate themselves from me because of this list, remember: I know who owns the Spice Girls albums.)
Anyway, following the 80s fromage-fest, in went the early-college-years Alphaville CD, from which I plucked Summer in Berlin, Big in Japan, and (of course) Forever Young. This was followed by my own “The Only 4 Asia Songs You’ll Ever Need,” which are, naturally, Go, Don’t Cry, Only Time Will Tell and Heat of the Moment. After that, there was a quick turn to Johnny Cash for When The Man Comes Around and his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt. I closed out the trip with selections from REM’s Automatic for the People, including Drive, Sweetness Follows, Nightswimming and Find the River.
All that, and I also got to see a majestic peregrine falcon staring over the highway from a huge bare tree branch, and pick up a half-dozen White Castles, which I always associate with road trips, because the only times I eat ’em are when I’m driving around central Ohio.