No movie today, alas. I went down to the Macy’s Flower Show to see if I could get something, but the video muse did not whisper in my ear. Mostly I saw a bunch of stupid flowers, and some pictures of peasant women with such gargantuan posteriors Robert Crumb must have slapped himself in the forehead and exclaimed “So THAT’S how you do it.” There were also some lovely shots of Havana falling apart. My opinion may have been colored by my mood, which was raw and peevish for no good reason. So I took some photos and posted them on buzz and decided that was sufficient.

Turns out we’d already done a video on the event, so it was all for the best.

As for the “stupid flowers” – sorry. I like flowers. I miss flowers. I look forward to seeing more flowers. But I had expected a room full of flowers, awash with the perfume of faraway lands, and instead they moved the show to the main floor from the 8th, and stuck the flowers in the aisle. It was less than impressive. Also, some flowers are creepy.  They’d eat you if they could figure out how. They don’t have to, so they don’t.

I think we’re just lucky that flowers are beautiful; it would be a strange world if flowers and most plants revolted the hell out of people the way most large insects do. Well, you can say, our aesthetic preference to flowers is simply the result of millennia of acclimation. There is no inherent beauty there; we mistake our inbred subjective reaction for an object truth. If flowers looked “hideous” in the same sense as big insects – a revulsion that’s also grounded in subjective reactions, not AGGGH THERE’S A COCKROACH ON THE DESK GET IT OFF GET IT OFF

Sorry; it was just a shadow. Anyway: we would have thought “ugly” flowers were beautiful if our species’ consciousness had evolved alongside “ugly” flowers, or perhaps we would have regarded them as neutral, the way we regard most small ordinary rocks. It’s possible another species might land on Earth on a mission
from Voltarus IV, examine our great botanical gardens, throw up en masse and leave, never to come again.


So why are the heavens so beautiful? Why, when we look deep into space with the eyes of Hubble and other machines, does everything seem so gorgeous? It’s not as if we evolved looking at that.

It would be interesting if it turned out Keats was right: beauty is truth. Imagine that: an aesthetic standard that exists whether we do or not. The tree that blossoms in the forest with no one around to see it.

Well, I’m babbling. 

I finished the rough draft of the script for the rifftrax episode last night; let me tell you, friends, there’s nothing quite so grindingly dull as watching Spiderman 3 over and over in 7 second increments, trying to slip in a quip. But I have the first version done, and tonight it’s time to rewrite the entire thing. When I was finished I went downstairs for popcorn and the Alfred Hitchcock Hour. I mentioned before how half the episodes reuse the same sets – well, this time I noticed something else. It was set in a Small Town, one of those places that gives you a sense of Perfect Scale. Everyone has their own idea of the perfect scale, of course – for some it’s three people separated by a mile each, for others it’s millions jammed atop millions. (Which reminds me of this entry by Megan McArdle in the Atlantic blog, linked by Instapundit – to lift the quote he used:

"If they wanted to live in the New York that I liked--the one with the Dominicans hanging out on the street corner, the little hole-in-the-wall pizza joints and the improbable shops with ancient leases that sold scavenged junk alongside ticky-tack imports--well then, I could understand their celebration. But they want to live in the New York that the bankers created without the bankers. This is like wanting to go to heaven, but not wanting to die."

This is something that’s always mystified me as well – the most boho of the boho are usually the most anti-captalist, but it’s the very thing they hate that built the extraordinary edifices around them. Government is good for Hoover Dams and Saturn Vs, but it takes profit and pride to build skyscrapers. For the last few days I’ve been hovering up some pictures from this site, an Old New York City photo collection. Ninety-nine percent of the pictures are uncredited; there’s the old familiar Bernice Abbott shots, some of the Feininger stuff, and some enormous scans of the Peyser / Patzig company, who did commercial work in the 20s and 30s.   (I was pleased to see a picture from my site up there as well.)  If you have the bandwidth, look at this, and scroll down about 5/8ths of the way. Jeebus. As I keep saying, as though it’s some novel insight: thirty floors of brick and terracotta look bigger than sixty floors of glass.

See what I mean?

That’s a scaled down version. The original is 4X the size.

Anyway. There was something about the scale of the town in the Hitchcock episode that appealed – the tidy trimmed nucleus of the town square, the librarian everyone knew, the sherrif respected by all, the doc, even the crazy tetched feller what did the moppin’ up and didn’t hurt no one no how. Mayberry, in other words. Having grown up in a small city, I have the natural nostalgia for something that had all my hometown’s virtues, at least as I remember them, and had the added benefit of being small and quaint in a plainly Midwestern style. I would go mad if I lived there, but for some reason, last night at 12:17 AM I just got a pang of homesickness for the Small Town.

Then I had a bit of a jolt:

Um –

All of a sudden I knew that place. Of course, it’s not a real place at all. It’s Hill Valley.


Or rather Courthouse Square. It’s a set, and quite a famous one. So. It turns out that my desire for an imagined little town is just the product of the fiction factory, a nurtured illusion put in place to let me ignore the realities of the world and luxuriate in false implanted memories of a bygone time that never existed.

Or it’s because I used to find these places when I was driving around the South, and would sit in the square by the courthouse and watch the world go by, wishing I didn’t have to get back on the road right away, but curious what I would find an hour down the highway. But I suppose if you believe that, you think flowers have inherent beauty, and we’re more than chemicals and subconscious commands from the instinct gland in the bottom of your brain. You do? Me too.

New Minneapolis site: the Baker Building. See you at!