My wife and I went with tx_cronopio today to "Julie and Julia", a movie much better than the rather shallow lukewarm reviews I read prior to going. I found the movie charming, and a good contrast between the high seriousness and simple eleganza of bygone days and the informal blogosphere interconnectivity of today.
The movie contrasts the lives of Julia Child and Julie, who weblogged cooking a Julia Child recipe each day.The reviews tend to dismiss the "Julie" half of the film in favor of Meryl Streep's "Julia" half. I felt that both halves of the film mattered to establish the central irony being presented by the screenwriter. What could have been a good but predictible Merchant/Ivory-ish biopic became instead a lighter and yet more perhaps more engaging film. It's undeniable that a far better film could have been made with this central conceit and these actors, but isn't that so often the case?
I wonder, too, if we haven't all gotten a bit too obsessed with money and economic/social class nowadays. In theory, the late 60s and early 70s should have put a big leak in that boat. But it hasn't sunk yet.I find over and over people weighing the value of everything by "did it sell" and "did it get published in New York".
To me, the virtue of this new media is that it need not sell, and it need not come to or from a coast. I do value the virtues of the old-fashioned literary editorial establishment, back before corporate returns ruled the roost so thoroughly. But what I have learned about culture since 2000 is that we all make it together, in weblogs, in on-line journals, in netlabels and in our own ways and times.
I like business and proudly co-own a small business. I get easily bored of people who think all corporations are bad, or that business is inherently evil. Yet I think it's a terrible mistake to value everything in terms of "did it sell?".
I also distrust the 'establishment' for artistic matters. I was reading about this fellow Verdi yesterday.
Verdi ended up writing operas, and is, with Wagner and Mozart, perhaps one of the "big 3" of conventional opera. Yet he was rejected for music school--for want of musical talent. If you study the work of anyone who later moved and shook in the creative world, you'll find thousand of examples of people who did not fit the expectations of their time, and yet found an audience in the long run. By the way, I also do not agree that "if it's popular, it can't be good" way of thinking. To stay with classical music, Haydn was deeply popular in his day, as was Mendelsohn, an "establishment" composer. Yet both of them were great composers.
I think that it's hard to do any career, because the signposts of success are so difficult. In conventional careers like my own legal career, one can always find a goodish number of lawyers who make more money, got recognized by their peers, or tried more and more famous cases than one has tried. I've always been fortunate to make a good living from the field, without ever being any sort of Clarence Darrow for my generation. I take pride in doing good work, and am grateful when things stay on course.
When all but the most successful or most failed lawyers pass away, nobody remembers anything about them for five minutes. Most lawyers are forgotten even in life the moment they leave the room.
I think that lots of professions less well paid than law involve even more opportunity for self-doubt. Art, music, and cultural careers often involve dismal pay and little recognition. Education is in general low paid for all but university professors. A lot of really important jobs that save lives or take risks are not remunerated, and disrespected. To my mind, it's outrageous that pork barrel politics save outmoded weapons systems while enlisted people overseas have spouses on food stamps or soldiers who served honorably and were wounded cannot get proper medical treatment.
So many things in the economics of life are so frustrating--the gender pay gap, the way that the marketplace has different priorities than my own, the way people engage in short-term thinking to their own and societal detriment, on both a consumer and a corporate level.
I submit, though, that one rule worth following is this: you can't judge your work solely by whether you got rich, or whether you got famous.
You can judge about whether you did things that mattered to you--and perhaps if you gave joy or aid to anyone else.