Theme and Meta-Theme in Coco

In Pixar’s movie Coco, one of my favorite lines is by Ernesto de la Cruz. Ernesto is a famous singer and performer, who is shown playing a priest in one of his films. After a woman in the film exclaims “Oh, but padre, he will never listen,” Ernesto de la Cruz responds,

He will listen to music!

Theme and Meta-Theme in Coco

Here Pixar has put a movie within a movie, and the theme of this sub-movie happens to be the exact same theme of the overarching film Coco.

Not only is this a great line to explain the motivations of the priest, but it is also a line that applies to Ernesto, and Miguel, the protagonist who looks to emulate him.

Theme and Meta-Theme in Coco

It’s a very meta moment. A movie within a movie. A segment that is delivered in an over the top way, almost comical, manner in the film within the film, has also the function of perfectly calling out the theme of the larger story. And the beauty is that Pixar does all this without ever using a single metaphor. The meta qualities of ite film allow it to remove layers, and spell things out for us calling things for what they are.

The closer the story within the story is to the actual story encompassing it, in terms of story plot, the closer the thematic references can be made. If the plot matches, the themes can be expressed with little to no obfuscation. No metaphors, no allegories.

Theme and Meta-Theme in Coco

All that mumbo-jumbo, plus the fact that Ernesto de la Cruz’s charms are unquestionable.

Logic and Emotion

Ever think “what the fuck am i doing with my life”? Ever think that the purpose of all the struggle is? Am I making the best I can with my time in this Earth? The time we have is fleeting and it is tempting to want to do without diplomacy. Of any single endeavor I have embarked on people are the hardest part of the challenge.

Logic and emotion go hand in hand. We can’t forget whenever we try to appeal to somebody’s brain, that their heart is part of the package. Even those of us who think we are driven by logic have to deal with our internal emotions.

So I constantly remind myself that emotions are human but we don’t have to be driven by them. I can observe the world around me, I can observe my reactions to it, and accept the emotions without being at their mercy. The emotions will pass, just like my circumstances will change.

So what the fuck am I doing with my life? People, we bring joy and sorrow to each others. I don’t want to turn my back to humanity just yet, but also not letting my emotions write the story.

On Being Scrappy and Clever

I just came out of a talk by Danielle Feinberg (Pixar’s Director of Photography for Lighting) titled ‘The Art of Science’. It was beautiful and inspiring as one would expect from Pixar.

The one concept that caught my attention was this idea of making do with what you can. Building something apparently very complex doesn’t necessarily need to be a complicated process. Danielle talked about using small, simple ideas as building blocks for more elaborate solutions. Sometimes you don’t need a very complex element to communicate an idea. Less is more.

She also reiterated that technique should go unnoticed, and always be in service of the story.

No Comments

I removed the comments from this blog. The trigger was the GRDP law and how it affects sites that capture user data (via the comments form), but also the realization that I have zero comments on the site, so why bother. And do I really want comments on the site? Isn’t there some sort of freedom that comes knowing you have the last word.

I don’t link to this blog from anywhere, and my only visitors are a bunch of lost robots. This is really a small place. A quiet place to speak out loud. A place of discovery, and learning.

Like for instance: I meet John Harris today (digitally speaking, virtually?), who is a fucking master. Just look at this stuff:

So there you have it. Any comments? That’s what I thought.

Writing can save your life

Writing can save your life. Writing, at its best, is a way of thinking. You put words down on a page to discover who you are and what you think. Writing is an ancient practice that helps you make sense of yourself and the world.
Austin Kleon

I just been discovering lately (very late, I know), that writing is a special kind of activity. To me it falls somewhere between drawing, meditating and therapy. It’s a pause, a moment away from everything and everybody, a small bubble of quiet comfort that helps me reflect and put my thoughts in order. And it is also a physical activity. It is a play of words and language, yes, but when I write longhand it is also an experience close to the visual arts.

And yes, I have only lately been aware of all this.

On Tom Wolfe

The NYT published a great obituary for Tom Wolfe with many quotes from Wolfe himself.

Regarding the term “New Journalism”, that he was associated with,

In an author’s statement for the reference work World Authors, Mr. Wolfe wrote that to him the term “meant writing nonfiction, from newspaper stories to books, using basic reporting to gather the material but techniques ordinarily associated with fiction, such as scene-by-scene construction, to narrate it.”

Regarding his work ethic:

Every morning he dressed in one of his signature outfits — a silk jacket, say, and double-breasted white vest, shirt, tie, pleated pants, red-and-white socks and white shoes — and sat down at his typewriter. Every day he set himself a quota of 10 pages, triple-spaced. If he finished in three hours, he was done for the day.

“If it takes me 12 hours, that’s too bad, I’ve got to do it,” he told George Plimpton in a 1991 interview for The Paris Review.

And finally, regarding this style:

But as an unabashed contrarian, he was almost as well known for his attire as his satire. He was instantly recognizable as he strolled down Madison Avenue — a tall, slender, blue-eyed, still boyish-looking man in his spotless three-piece vanilla bespoke suit, pinstriped silk shirt with a starched white high collar, bright handkerchief peeking from his breast pocket, watch on a fob, faux spats and white shoes. Once asked to describe his get-up, Mr. Wolfe replied brightly, “Neo-pretentious.”

And to end this, a quote from another author, Norman Mailer, who wrote in The New York Review of Books:

“Tom may be the hardest-working show-off the literary world has ever owned,” Mr. Mailer continued. “But now he will no longer belong to us. (If indeed he ever did!) He lives in the King Kong Kingdom of the Mega-bestsellers — he is already a Media Immortal. He has married his large talent to real money and very few can do that or allow themselves to do that.”

Damn, somebody is bitter! Norman, don’t be sore.

Read the full text at the NYT: Tom Wolfe, Pyrotechnic ‘New Journalist’ and Novelist, Dies at 88, and subscribe to your favorite newspaper to support journalists like Wolfe.

Roosevelt on victory and defeat

Roosevelt on victory and defeat

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

—Theodore Roosevelt, excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”

r.H. Sin on using Instagram as a writer

r.H.Sin is a best selling author that uses Instagram to post poems in the form of screenshots of text. In this article he explains his numerous experiments on the Internet until he landed the current formula. He specially emphasizes the effect hard work had in his success.

r.H. Sin on using Instagram as a writer

“That’s what they call it in the beginning, ‘we’re just talking,’ yet no one is saying anything,” he wrote. “People aren’t discussing things of substance. They’re not asking questions. All these forms of communication but no one communicates. Social media has become a way of window shopping, of watching other people love one another.”

“I am a workhorse. I think a lot of people in my industry are content with the ‘struggling artist’ ideology. I’m not. On any given day, my account brings in 600,000 to one million ‘likes.’ The object is to be seen or heard, and I make a lot of noise.”

“Your account should be growing, you should also be growing. Evolving is the point,” he said. “People bullshit in our niche, they say follower count doesn’t matter but how in the hell do you expect to reach this generation if they’re not following you in some form or capacity?”

—r.H. Sin, The Life of an Instagram Poet