Monday, July 16, 2007

The fine print of everyday life

Yesterday was a day of disparate elements. Finishing a non-fiction book about exorcism whilst listening to sea chanteys. Watching Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse, and then going on a whole tangent about tiki culture and faux tropical drinks, largely inspired by my recent reading of Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari: In Search of the Great "Lost" Tropical Drink Recipes...and the People Behind Them. What a fantastic aesthetic!

Then we went in a direction that was about as far away as you can get and still be under the umbrella of Americana: the Wisconsin Death Trip documentary. If you haven't read the book of the same name it's based on, run right out and do so; it's one of the all-time classics. I was very excited that they made a movie, and it's good, very true to the source.

The film contains a large number of the still photographs from the book, and filmed black and white period scenes that are in the same style as the photos. Then there's some material, in color, about modern day Black River Falls, Wisconsin. In one of those shots, the camera is just going along the street, and it films a Schwan's truck parked in front of a house. That gave me a really weird frisson. I'm pretty sure I've never seen a Schwan's truck in a movie before. A little aspect of life and popular culture that I have taken completely for granted, but that one never sees represented.

It reminded me of the first time I saw the movie Fargo. What struck me most was that I've been watching movies in excess my whole life, and I'd never seen anybody scrape their windshield in one before. It doesn't matter how cold it's supposed to be in a movie, their windshields are clear, their cars start right up (and they're certainly not plugged in), and usually nobody ever wears gloves or even closes their freakin' windows.

So the scraper was a small detail, and yet, the world of film conventions turned upside down for me. A little interjection of what we see in so-called "real life," that's probably pretty alien to people in other parts of the country. It's not true that everything's been said, or that there are no new stories. There are. It's just hard to resist the established ways of expressing things, in all media.

I guess my mood has shifted from "oddly relaxed" to "oddly optimistic." How crazy is that?

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