Althouse | category: Donald Sutherland



a blog by Ann Althouse

Quentin Tarantino's alternative reading of the Body Snatchers movies.

From his new book, "Cinema Speculation" (boldface added):

[T]he Pod People transformation is closer to a rebirth than a murder. You’re reborn as straight intellect, with a complete possession of your past and your abilities, but unburdened by messy human emotions. You also possess a complete fidelity to your fellow beings and a total commitment to the survival of your species. Are they inhuman? Of course, they’re vegetables. But the movies try to present their lack of humanity (they don’t have a sense of humor, they’re unmoved when a dog is hit by a car) as evidence of some deep-seated sinisterness. That’s a rather species-centric point of view. As human beings it may be our emotions that make us human, but it’s a stretch to say it’s what makes us great. Along with those positive emotions—love, joy, happiness, amusement—come negative emotions—hate, selfishness, racism, depression, violence, and rage....

Imagine in the fifties, when the [first "Body Snatchers"] film was made, that instead of some little town in Northern California (Santa Mira) that the aliens took root in, it was a horribly racist, segregated Ku Klux Klan stronghold in the heart of Mississippi.

Within weeks the color lines would disappear. Blacks and whites would be working together (in genuine brotherhood) towards a common goal. And humanity would be represented by one of the racist Kluxers whose investigative gaze notices formerly like-minded white folks seemingly enter into a conspiracy with some members of the county’s black community. Now picture his hysterical reaction to it (“Those people are coming after me! They’re not human! You’re next! You’re next!”).

"Some internal thinking can be detrimental, especially the churning, ruminative sort often associated with depression and anxiety."

"Try instead to cultivate what psychologists call freely moving thoughts. Such nimble thinking might start with a yearning to see your grandmother, then careen to that feeling you get when looking down at clouds from an airplane, and then suddenly you’re pondering how deep you’d have to bore into the earth below your feet before you hit magma. Research suggests that people who do more of that type of mind-wandering are happier. Facilitate unconstrained thinking by engaging in an easy, repetitive activity like walking; avoid it during riskier undertakings like driving."

It's funny that walking, that is, physically wandering, helps the mind wander. That makes me think of one of my favorite songs, "I Wonder as I Wander" — sung here by the man who wrote it, John Jacob Niles. And there it is, the mind wandering once again, and I'm not even walking. Just blogging, not slogging. Tripping along.

I like walking, but I find I get my best mind wandering done while running. I do 1.6 miles at sunrise nearly every day, and I like the quality of thinking that happens with that activity — at that time of day, in that setting. If I start thinking about, say, a movie I just watched — e.g., today, "Little Murders" — I can access all sorts of ideas about it and tangential to it. 

Maybe I could do even better mind wandering while walking, but there's so much mind space in walking that I use an audiobook to fill it up. I rarely use headphones while running, but I nearly always use headphones while walking alone (and conversation when walking not alone). Maybe I should leave the headphones out — they're fixing 2 holes that stop my mind from wandering. 

The other thing I do for exercise lately is mountain biking. Now, mountain biking is terrible for mind wandering. It's something I like about mountain biking: My mind automatically stays focused on precisely the task right there in front of me. It's great for flow. Flow, the mental state. There's also flow, the type of mountain bike track. That flow/flow is like the wander/wander mentioned above.

Anyway, here's the original trailer for that movie, a weird and very dark romcom about what happens when a thoroughly apathetic man (Elliott Gould) goes along for the relationship with a entirely energetically optimistic woman: 


I don't think there's a better bad wedding than in that movie, with Don Sutherland as the hippie priest:
Why does one decide to marry? Social pressure? Boredom? Loneliness? Sexual appeasement? Love? I won't put any of these reasons down. Each in its own way is adequate, each is all right. Last year, I married a musician who wanted to get married in order to stop masturbating. Please, don't be startled, I'm not putting him down. That marriage did not work. But the man tried. He is now separated, still masturbating, but he is at peace with himself because he tried society's way.
So did I use all the ideas my mind wandered into as I wrote this post? No, not yet anyway. There was that Donovan, but the lyric ran through the head with a misremembered word, "trip" for "skip": "Rebel against society/Such a tiny speck... -ulating whether to be a hip or/Skip along quite merrily." It fits now, though — don't you think? — with that priest's wedding homily. 
"Some internal thinking can be detrimental, especially the churning, ruminative sort often associated with depression and anxiety."

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