September 4, 2022 • By Darrell Spencer
[Y]our death is not the end of your body. The chemical bonds that held you together at the molecular level continue to break in the minutes and months after you die. Tissues oxidize and decay, like a banana ripening. The energy that once animated the body doesn’t stop: it transforms. Decay from one angle, growth from another.
Unfettered, the decay process continues until all that was your body becomes something else, living on in others — in the grass and trees that grow from where you might come to rest, and from the critters who eat there. Your very genes, little packets of stuff, will live indefinitely as long as they [find] someone new to host them. Even after interment or cremation, your atoms remain intact and scatter to become other things, just as they pre-existed you and became you.
— Dr. BJ Miller, “What Is Death?” The New York Times, Sunday, December 20, 2020
As […] the centuries passed, she finally
Became so tiny they had to put her into a jar, at which point
Petronius lost track of her, lost interest in her,
And at which point she began to suffocate
In the jar, suffocate without being able to die, until, finally,
A Phoenician sailor slipped the gray piece of pottery —
Its hue like an overcast sky & revealing even less —
Into his pocket, & sold it on the docks at Piraeus to a shop owner
Who, hearing her gasp, placed her in a birdcage
[O]ne day the voice became too faint, no one could hear it,
And after that they stopped telling
The story. And then it wasn’t a story, it was only an empty cage
That hung outside a shop among the increasing
Noise of traffic
One of the greatest pleasures in golf — I can think of nothing that truly compares with it unless it is watching a well-played shot streak for the flag — is the sensation a golfer experiences at the instant he contacts the ball flush and correctly. He always knows when he does, for then and only then does a distinctive “sweet feeling” sweep straight up the shaft from the clubhead and surge through his arms and his whole frame.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
The faded quality of the color is Altman’s deliberate attempt — by methods known as flashing and fogging — to create the archaic feel of an old photograph left for too many years in somebody’s attic album.
Except for the snow sequence at the end of the film where he wanted to increase the reality of “the moment of truth” with as harsh a black-and-white effect as possible, Altman used fog filters throughout the picture. Then, before the negative was developed, the film was put on a printer and re-exposed to light. According to Altman, “adding more yellow than normal not only threw the film toward yellow but made the look of the film more extreme. Adding more blue did the same thing.” Altman’s intention was “to complement the period, the set, and the look of the people, to make the audience see the film as more real.” To him the blue and yellow suggested the faded printed material of the period — old magazine and bottle labels, aging and yellowed newspapers.
A poetic word for “twilight,” or the time of day immediately after the sun sets, is gloaming. The best thing about summer evenings is looking for twinkling fireflies in the gloaming. That romantic time of day when the light has mostly faded but it’s not quite dark yet? You can call that the gloaming.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Music and Soundtrack
I suppose, as a poet, among my fears can be counted the deep-seated uneasiness that one day it will be revealed that I consecrated my life to an imbecility. Part of what I mean — what I think I mean — by “imbecility” is something intrinsically unnecessary and superfluous and thereby unintentionally cruel.
— Mary Ruefle, “On Fear”
Like any dealer he was watching for the card
That is so high and wild
He’ll never need to deal another.
The first Leonard Cohen album had come out, and I was just crazy about it. We’d come home in the rain to eat dinner, and we’d put that record on so often we wore out two copies! We’d just get stoned and play that stuff. Then I forgot all about it through the next movies. When I walked into that apartment [where Altman was visiting a friend in Paris, where he went to a party] and heard that music, I said, “Shit, that’s my movie!” So I called the editor, Lou Lombardo, and said, “Get hold of the Leonard Cohen album, transfer all those songs, and I’ll be back in a couple of days.”
Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on,
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song
Oh I hope you run into them, you who’ve been traveling so long.
When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy but that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China
Traveling lady, stay awhile
Until the night is over
I’m just a station on your way
I know I am not your lover
The sound track was very very courageous because he deliberately made the sound so too many people are talking at the same time. […]
He recorded on sixteen tracks. He needed the separation of the tracks, because in the mixing stage, he could actually bring one forward and leave the others in the back. So he would select which voice should be dominating and the other ones secondary.
Plot and Character
Plot is people. But it is never other people.
— Stanley Elkin
Think of the Goof as a composite of an everlasting optimist, a gullible Good Samaritan, a half-wit, shiftless, good-natured […] hick. Yet the Goof is not the type of half-wit that is to be pitied. He doesn’t dribble, drool or shriek. He has music in his heart even though it may be the same tune forever and I see him humming to himself while working or thinking. He talks to himself because it is easier for him to know what he is thinking if he hears it first.
“Hey, hold it, Sonny. […] Hold up on your target practice a minute. I don’t want to get shot.”
“Well, then get off the bridge, you saddle tramp.”
“I want to buy some socks. I got a long ride ahead of me.”
“What’s wrong with the socks you got on?”
“I wore ’em out running around half-naked in that whorehouse over there. That’s really quite a place. You been there yet?”
“Take off your boots and show me.”
“Ha. You’re joshing me.”
“I said take off your boots and show me, ya egg sucker.”
[Cowboy turns to leave.] “I ain’t gonna do that.”
“What are you wearing that gun for?”
“Nothing. I just wear it. Can’t hit nothing with it.”
“Well, that don’t make no sense. What kind of a gun is it?”
“Them’s good guns. That’s what I’ve got. Must be something wrong with it.”
“Nah, it’s me. I just can’t shoot good.”
“Well, let me see it. Come on, maybe I can fix it for ya.”
[The Kid kills him.]
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