Monday, November 24, 2008

The Museum of You (1)

In an earlier post on objects and memory, I pointed out that our household is not blessed with an abundance of precious heirlooms. Other than an old Roman oil lamp, whose value is more symbolic than monetary, we simply don't own very many old things: you could very reasonably blame a combination of not being wealthy enough (nor, perhaps, inclined) to purchase such things and the fact that we haven't been completely orphaned yet. On my side of the family for instance my mother is the custodian of a fair collection of stuff, of varying sentimental, aesthetic and economic value. But at this stage it's the lamp, a pocket watch that my father used to carry around in his late teens in an effort to pose as a dandy (a picture that I am simply not able to reconcile with the person I knew, but I have unimpeachable witnesses) and a book dated 1824 entitled Conversations of Lord Byron: noted during a residence with his lordship at Pisa in the years 1821 and 1822 by Thomas Medwin, Esq. The book was a present from mum, who bought it at an antiques dealer's in Milan in an effort - I think - to convey her regret at having given me such grief when I abandoned the study of physics for the humanities. (For the record, it wasn't a difficult decision: I would have most certainly become the world's worst physicist. And I can do far less damage as a humanist.)

As it turns out, we're not taking exceptionally good care of any of these objects, but we could be doing much worse. I have it on the authority of Saving Stuff: How to Care for And Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms and Other Prized Possessions, a book co-authored by Louisa Jaggar, who came up with the idea, and Don Williams, senior conservator at the Smithsonian Institution.

The message of the book is simple. As Williams explains:
Saving Stuff is about preserving and maintaining "the museum of you". This museum is made up of the objects that have special value for you. I can't stop an earthquake, flood, or alien invasion, but I can share how to prevent most homegrown catastrophes as well as how to go about saving stuff: comic books, wedding dresses, baseball cards, furniture, stamps, papers, film, pictures, records, DVDs, CDs, dollhouses, flags, and weird and wacky things like Cousin Cecil's African water buffalo head or your private collection of sheep's eyeballs kept by your grandfather in mayonnaise jars. (p. xxvi)
'Objects that have special value for you' is of course a phrase very close to my sensibility. Indeed, being in charge of one's museum means having to make the full range of curatorial decisions: not only how to preserve an object and what measure of use it should be allowed to retain, if any, but also and in the first place what is in fact worth caring for and preserving based on one's resources and the space available.

I find the figure of the curator very interesting, both literally and metaphorically. Literally, in that I like finding out about what makes things decay: it turns out that for the most part it's light, and little animals, and a biggish animal (us) and use. Whereas metaphorically the curator - more so than the librarian - is an ideal character to study when thinking about how to remember the things that matter, as faithfully as possible, for as long as possible, while at the same time allowing them to be accessed and enjoyed.

And further, oftentimes the museum is the product of an ideology, and in is charge of constructing a narrative - the New Zealand reader will no doubt think: Te Papa. Both of these aspects, ideology and narrative, are not so readily associated with the other chief institution-come-metaphor, the library, and are mostly overlooked in discussions concerning personal memory, except when this memory is externalised in the form of a memoir.

But reflecting on the nature of the museum achieves a little more still: for a museum is also, non-metaphorically, a place in charge of preserving a collective past, so it is a locus of memory in its own right. The ensuing feedback loop with the museum-as-metaphor is productive in that it encourages reflection on the relationship between individual and shared memory, between history and art and their transmission.

Consider also this: typically a museum is in charge of storing artefacts with semiotic - but not predominantly linguistic - value. Try not to think of the Magna Carta or the paintings of Colin McCahon, for a moment; or if you must, try to think of them for their material value, to the extent that it differs from the value that you would assign to a transcription of the former or a photographic copy of the latter. And now consider personal memory also as a place where one attempts to make sense of meanings conveyed by concrete things, and not just at the abstract level of the written or spoken word. You can mentally detach the words from a page, often without loss of meaning; but you cannot quite so easily detach meaning from a statue or a building or an urban landscape. And because materiality is what is lost in mental representation - and mental representations are the stuff of memory - it is critical that we not allow it to be forgotten. We have to educate ourselves to think in the three geometrical dimensions, plus the many other physical dimensions of hunger and thirst and pleasure and pain and so forth, to develop a whole, functional conception of our environment. There are obvious social and political implications regarding the levels of abstraction one chooses to engage in.

Metaphors are important, they are tools for everyday thinking. And when it comes to memory, the computer has arguably (look: I'm arguing it) become the dominant metaphor, almost to the exclusion of all others. And it can be useful, like any other disciplined, self-reflexive way of thinking, I won't deny that. If you're the kind of person who likes to think of reading as an act of uploading of information into the mind, and of writing as downloading, you'll get no quarrel from me. But like all metaphors, this one too can be stretched to occupy and undue amount of conceptual space, and it has been.

Excessive allegiance to the computer metaphor has lead to reductionist notions such as the idea that everything can be digitised without loss of meaning or value, and that the digital repository is coterminous and coextensive with the mind's. The particular madness that lies this way is of course the great mind uploading project, aka immortality-on-a-hard-drive, a brand of post-religious fundamentalism that will make regular appearances on this blog as the object of varying degrees of ridicule.

But all in due course. For the moment, let's go back to the museum of my household. The collection thus far: a hundred years old pocket watch, an ancient oil lamp, an early nineteenth century book from England. And it turns out we're not doing too badly, according to Mr. Williams. The book sits on a shelf where it doesn't gather an undue amount of dust, nor is plagued by excessive humidity or extremes of temperature. The light that falls on it from the only fixture in the room is within the requisite number of foot-candles. We could do better by laying the book flat or wrapping it in acid-free paper, especially the latter; better still by creating a special box for it. But both options involve concealing, and we're not into that. The lamp is easy to care for: it sits on a shelf, gets dusted regularly with a brush. And the watch lies wrapped in cloth inside a drawer whose microclimate happens to be fairly stable, and that's just about ideal. Its only forays occur when my oldest son asks to be allowed to have a look at it and wind it up. Saving Stuff cautions of course against letting children within a nautical mile of something you care for, but we don't let the imperative of conservation impair the boy's ability to connect - however tenuously and symbolically - with his nonno.

What about you, dear reader? If there are any objects that are of value to you and you'd like some advice on how to take care of them, Mr. Williams will be here all week.

Don Williams, Louisa Jaggar. Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions. New York: Fireside, 2005.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Brush Your Teeth

We had wee bit of money sitting in the bank, earning paltry interest on account of the ever-diminishing benchmark rates, and of course we couldn't invest it - what with the world economy going to hell in a hellcart and all - so we spent long hours debating what to do about it until I came up with (immodest, I know) a brilliant idea: let's give it to my dentist, I said, and proceeded to make the requisite appointment. The negotiations were swift - I wish I could say painless - and the good man agreed to take the savings plus a good chunk of our future earnings, in exchange for the privilege of being let loose in my mouth with drills, hammers and other heavy machinery. Problem solved.

Yes, dear readers, I have bad teeth. I used to blame the weak enamel, for that was the explanation given to me by my first dentist, a chap who must be spending his retirement on a private island with money raised largely through my parents' contributions. Then when I was in the civil service I took a resident of the place where I worked to meet a free hospital dentist who didn't believe in cavities. "Explain," said I. And he: "The tooth decay, it's got nothing to do with bacteria: it's bad alignment in the teeth that leads to faulty chewing, and the irregular vibrations cause the teeth to decay."

I found the theory a little suspect, but either way weak enamel, badly aligned teeth - I was off the hook. Until the other day, that is, when I was due to visit the hygienist at my dental practice. Like all hygienists, she'd obviously attended Stern School, where I'm sure she graduated at the very top of her class. But in spite of her brisk manner, I hereby pledge to always hold this good woman close to my heart, because she told me how to brush my damn teeth. None of her colleagues - and I've met a few in my time - had ever done that. I spent my life thinking I was doing it right. Up and down and left and right and in and out, spending a good amount of time on each area. I remember this American chick in the Colgate ads when I was a child: she did the up and down thing, I swear, and then she bit an apple to show off her powerful and impossibly white incisors. Well, according to my hygienist, YOU SHOULD NEVER BRUSH IN AN UPWARDS AND DOWNWARDS MOTION. Nor left to right or right to left. You're supposed to proceed in circular movements, and brush your gums as well. I never brushed my gums in my entire life. I've been doing it all wrong. I might as well have not bothered. It's quite possible in fact that I made things worse, by shoving tiny particles of food in un-rinseable places.

I'd estimate that I started brushing regularly when I was three and a half. Morning and night, for an average of, say, six minutes per day. I'm now thirty-seven and a half. There are three hundred and sixty five days in a year, twelve thousand four hundred and ten days in thirty-four years, plus eight more on account of the bi-sextiles. Times six, that makes seventy-four thousand five hundred and eight minutes, which is to say twelve hundred-odd hours, which is to say almost fifty-two days. When I die, I want those deducted from my tombstone - they should in no way count as "life".

So, let me ask you, dear readers: am I the only person who wasn't told about this? Did I miss a crucial day at preschool, a visit by the district nurse? Or is this indispensable tip for personal maintenance in fact a half-secret, something that is sporadically passed on by hygienist to blogger when it should in fact be oft-repeated on TV and attached to the phone book and stapled to Gideon bibles to ensure maximum penetration among the populace?

Perhaps I ought to sign up for one of Babette's courses. In Don DeLillo's White Noise, she's the lady who teaches the fundamentals of breathing, in a course so successful that she is soon enlisted to teach another entitled "Eating and Drinking: Basic Parameters". The syllabus, explains Babette,

[is] practically inexhaustible. Eat light foods in warm weather. Drink plenty of liquids... Knowledge changes every day. People like to have their beliefs reinforced. Don't lie down after eating a heavy meal. Don't drink liquor on an empty stomach. If you must swim, wait at least an hour after eating. The world is more complicated for adults than it is for children. We didn't grow up with all these shifting facts and attitudes. One day they just started appearing. So people need to be reassured by someone in a position of authority that a certain way to do something is the right way or the wrong way, at least for the time
being. (p. 163)

In DeLillo's satire of the postmodern condition, it is the din of information the makes people forgetful of the basic rules for taking care of oneself, of life's user manual. It's a culturally induced amnesia whereby the mind's capacity to store information is entirely exhausted by trivia and factoids, leaving the characters gasping for intelligent thought. Another bringing up to date of Plato's lesson? Yes, but consider also the parallels with Leonard's condition in Memento, the erosion of the self caused by the inability to sustain a complex personal narrative, make sense of the world and other people. 'Forgetfulness,' says Jack Gladney in the novel, 'has gotten into the air and water. It's entered the food chain' (p. 52). No longer the individual affliction of Plato's solitary reader, whose learning was desocialised by the technology of the book, or of trauma victim Leonard Shelby, amnesia becomes in DeLillo a social illness, something you can catch and pass on to others.

Feel free at this point to keep metaphorising along the lines of the computer virus, and to wonder whether the Internet is in fact the ideal place to spread such a contagion - a suggestive image that might be worthy of a little pause. I am not drawing that conclusion myself (not yet anyway), nor suggesting that the solution to the problem is to return to earlier ways, more traditional authorities, fewer voices, less technology and a quieter culture. The solution I envisage, the vaccine if you like, consists rather of a more nuanced understanding of the social modes of remembering, greater economy of expression, better cultural and technical tools to navigate information and produce knowledge - in short, a new ecology of memory. It is a recipe that I'll keep repeating and refining, defining, redefining, as I learn to come to terms with the blog-form and its lack of a clear reading path, of premises and conclusions - a text continually written and always approached from its latest page.

But I am conscious that I may not have convinced anybody thus far that there even is a problem, an actual breakdown in the transmission of memory, as opposed to fashionable musings and the complaints of those who fear or resist our current reconfigurations. And fair enough, I'm mostly mapping out an imaginary after all, and the connections to the real world have not been forcefully made, yet.

One thing I can tell you with some confidence, though: you should always use a soft-bristled toothbrush. My hygienist reckons they shouldn't even sell any other kind.

Don DeLillo. White Noise. New York: Viking, 1985.
The Simpsons: You Kent Always Get What You Want (2007).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Memento (2)

Go to Part 1.

The reading of Memento I proposed last week was based on the straight story, the plot that viewers are called upon to piece together in traditional whodunit fashion from the two less-than-traditional concurrent narratives proceeding on opposite timelines. I'm talking about the story you might tell your friends if they asked you what the film is about. To beef up a bit last week's synopsis:
an insurance investigator called Leonard is attacked in his home, survives (his wife does not), loses his ability to form new memories, embarks in a search for his attacker, whom the police was never able to find; during his search he is deceived by a cop, Teddy, who exploits his amnesia to make him take vengeance on the wrong people, but discovers this and in an act of self-deception plants evidence that will convince him his attacker was Teddy himself, whom he then proceeds to kill.
And that is the resolution of sorts reached in the film's opening sequence, which is the culmination of the backward journey of the main scenes, shot in colour. In the other interwoven narrative, made up of brief interludes in black and white moving forward in time, Leonard drip feeds to us in the course of a phone conversation the background to the main narrative, including the story of a client of his insurance company whose claim of suffering of amnesia he had investigated, one Sammy Jankis.

The function of these interludes would seem to be to clarify and reinforce our gradual understanding of the story, but they also do just the opposite by planting doubts on the reliability of the narrator, and introduce elements - supported in turn by claims made by Teddy at various points - that lead to an alternative and far more uncertain storyline. It is just possible that the Sammy Jankis that Leonard discusses on the phone may be Leonard himself; that his wife was diabetic and had survived the attack, only to die due to an insulin overdose unwittingly administered by Leonard; and even that the attack itself might be a product of Leonard's psychotic imagination. Like the origami animals made by James Edward Olmos' character in Blade Runner's Director's Cut, these clues are few and, well, small, yet impossible to ignore altogether. Some of them are in fact so small as to be practically subliminal, like the split-second switch of Sammy's figure in a mental hospital with that of Leonard in one of the flashbacks. And yet, like the Sammy Jankis plot as a whole, these brief and sometimes ultra-brief moments produce an interference that clashes with the linear reconstruction of the events, and prevents the comforting act of making sense of the straight story from being fully realised.

This interference is worth mentioning because it represents an unusual turn. It is rare nowadays for cinema to question the safest of assumptions regarding the means of construction and the unified nature of the subject. True, there are a number of filmmakers, most famously the Wachowski brothers in the Matrix trilogy, who tackle the Cartesian problem of illusionary realities, but they invariably assume the existence of a kernel of identity, a tightly bound Self, which is present at a deeper level for those who know how to dig. What I have in mind is more akin to the Lacanian cinema that David Lynch practices from a well-established place on the fringes, and that used to be the bread and butter of auteurs of old such as the Alain Resnais of Last Year at Marienbad, the Alfred Hitchcock of Vertigo or the Luis Buñuel of That Obscure Object of Desire. All films that, at the same time as they reflected on the past and identity, brought to the fore the formal dimension of cinematic narration and how it is implicated in constructing such categories. But that was then, and filmic forays into the unconscious capable of problematising the notion of the self, while at the same time reflecting on the medium's role in the development of subjectivity, have become rather less common.

In Memento, this foray is also characterised by a strong formal dimension, in that is produced by the overlapping contributions of various technologies that are at once of memory and of representation. The Polaroid snapshots are one example, the tattoos another; but so is film (including its flashbacks, an important convention / technique for representing memory), and so is even the film's website ( This opens with a picture of burning media - of a memory technology in the very moment of its destruction

followed by a Flash animation that plays on the same oscillation between recollection and erasure. The first frame is this:

and it rapidly morphs into this:

and then back again, so rapidly in fact that the phrase some memories are best forgotten may in fact never be entirely on screen at any one time. Then the broken up word m em en t o disappears, and what remains is the piece of paper, now blank, on which the letters en were printed. This expands in turn to become a newspaper clipping, at first glance a teaser designed to give some idea about the plot of the film without spoiling the ending. If we turn however to this sentence:
Little is known about Shelby himself, but a man by the same name was reported missing from a Bay-Area psychiatric facility in September of 1998,
we notice that the clipping does in fact give away the other, alternative ending, the one that subverts the foundations of Leonard's life story (as told by himself), by suggesting that Sammy and Leonard are in fact the same person.

As well as pushing this interpretation from the margins of the film proper, that is to say from the nobody's land of promotional material, or 'extra content,' which in the era of Web presence and DVD makes a strong case for inclusion in the interpretation of the cinematic text, this piece of quasi-filmmaking calls attention to that which by definition does not: subliminality. Before the clipping comes into sharp focus, seven words in it - the first to burst into view for a fraction of a second during the animation - appear highlighted, for a duration far too short to be consciously apprehensible. Here's the best snapshot I was able to capture:
I cannot make much of the choice to emphasise those seven particular words, but there is again here an echo of that switching of Sammy and Leonard in the mental hospital, a clue of tremendous revealing force almost entirely blunted by its ephemeral duration on-screen. If one takes theatre projection as the primary mode of viewing of a film, it makes sense to ask if the image is actually there, or if we should think of it instead as the proverbial tree falling in the wood when nobody is there to hear it. Does an image that nobody can apprehend create meaning? In one sense, the image is unquestionably there; in another, its being there is dependent on the audience's ability to perceive it. The ontological status of the image, in this regard, is partly dependent on its highly specific context, that is to say, a scripted and tightly crafted feature film. Suppose we were talking instead about the film of the Kennedy assassination shot by Abraham Zapruder: each single frame in this case could be (and has been) magnified and subjected to minute inspection in search of clues that would be invisible if the film where shown at normal speed, and the circumstances do not pose issues regarding the legitimacy of such manipulation. But this forensic mode of reading is based on the assumption that, in this instance, the cinematic real corresponds entirely with the real real of November 22nd, 1963. Memento, on the other hand, is a piece of cinematic fiction, and as such it requires an audience to view and interpret it.

What of the subliminal clues, then? We know they must have deliberately inserted, 'put-in-the-scene,' as a French person would say. But a mise-en-scene is there to be (re)activated by the spectator. An image produced in a feature film of this kind does not register at any level of the scale of cinematic reality unless a spectator can see it.

Enter the DVD player, and the perfect freeze-frame. The home spectator can now slow down a film to the point of dispensing with subliminality altogether, pause on a single frame in the same way that the reader of a novel can gaze at an individual sentence or word for as long as s/he likes. Films made since the mass commercialisation of VCRs were already partly exposed to this phenomenon, but those made in the (brief) age of laserdiscs and since the advent of DVDs are totally open to near-infinite modulations of viewing duration. An entry-level DVD player can slow down a film to the level of single frames or accelerate it by as many as thirty-two times its normal speed. Except that there is less and less ground to consider Speed One the norm, of course. For one thing, it is far more problematic than in the past to claim that cinema projection is the primary, intended and ideal site in which a feature film should be viewed. For another, there are growing signs that filmmakers are becoming more conscious of the modulation of the viewing speed allowed by these new instruments. The freeze frame is being recognised as a legitimate viewing practice, and is therefore factored in, made part of the creative process.

This complicates further the thematic relationship in Memento between memory technologies and interpretative practices. Leonard's readings are fragmentary and ultimately misguided because what he looks at are snapshots and short statements, texts that aspire to transparency and perfect referentiality (one snapshot plus one caption equals one incontrovertible fact), but fail to achieve it. By obsessing over small details and sparse connections, Leonard loses track of the whole picture. But obsession over small details also happens to be a fairly normal behaviour in the age of DVD and home theatres (Figwit, anyone?). Thus added layer of subliminal and near-subliminal clues in Memento invites a reflection on the nature of the several media, including film itself, which encode them, and on their ability to carry and communicate meaning, and inscribes the breakdown of memory not only in the vagaries and failures of the human mind, but also in the dysfunctional relationship with our technologies.

But again, as I observed last week, this would be as far as it goes, and interesting only up to a point of cool reflection, if it wasn't for Nolan's determination to put this formalistic innovation at the service of pursuing the story into its darkest and most meaningful corners. For Memento is not only a film about the impossibility to remember, but also about a tragic failure to forget: Leonard's ever-present grief is also carried inside of objects, the few props he uses to remind himself of his dead wife and to stage fake domestic scenes designed to fool himself into thinking, however briefly and with the help of a prostitute, that she's still alive; a heart-rending ritual that he finally abandons, staging the bonfire of the memories echoed in the website's homepage reproduced above, but of course to no avail: for it is not through things alone that we remember, nor just by getting rid of things that we forget.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Memento (1)

It's easy to sound intelligent when talking about Memento, for if you spend enough words about it some of its clever goodness is simply bound to rub off. And I'm referring here not only to its virtuoso narrative structure - weaving together the main scenes, presented in reverse chronological order, with interludes that proceed forwards in time - but also to its questioning of the role of the narrator, the positioning of the spectator and the nature of experience and memory. So naturally I made a very big deal out of it in my PhD. And I was hardly alone, judging from the sizeable contingent of academics making up the 640 results in Google Scholar, which sweep far more broadly than film studies alone and include a number of dedicated MA theses. For the knottiest, more philosophically minded critiques, try adding the keyword Deleuze (we're still in the Scholar subset) and you'll get a very impressive 98 hits. Subtract Deleuze, and add this time one or two more titles such Iñárritu's 21 Grams, and you'll be more likely to gravitate towards film studies proper. These Google games provide endless fun.

My particular handle on the film was that it epitomised the contemporary anxiety towards memory which was the subject of my thesis. The protagonist Leonard Shelby, I postulated, represents one pole of this anxiety: he is the everyman of a society that knows nothing, whose ability to remember - that is to say, to turn experience into lasting knowledge - has been lost; whereas at the opposite pole stands a character we encountered a few posts ago, Borges' Funes, surveying from the Library of Babel a society that remembers every single piece of information, but for that very reason is unable to discriminate and produce any knowledge at all.

Writing down this statement even now, I immediately launch the contrary argument in my own head. Your scholarly elucubrations notwithstanding, I tell myself, societies continue to exchange wisdom and knowledge, memory works, the Internet improves lives - most notably your own, old chap - so what's your point? And my point, I answer somewhat feebly, is that actually not all is well, that we do some things well but fail miserably at others, and that all the stories of mnemonic dysfunction that populate our culture are symptomatic of something, and not told simply because dysfunction happens to be interesting. This blog is also a way to silence this internal conversation and annoy somebody else for a change.

Returning to our muttons, I'm sure you're all familiar with the plot: insurance investigator is attacked in his home, survives (his wife does not), loses his ability to form new memories, embarks in a search for his attacker, whom the police was never able to find. To overcome his amnesia, he has had tattooed on his body what little information he has collected about the case, not to mention what little he knows about himself after the accident.

And in order to incorporate new facts into this sparse database, he goes around with a Polaroid camera, taking pictures that he carries in his pockets for easy reference.

Being memoryless and having to rely entirely on technology: this is the limit case that Leonard represents, allowing us to test the proposition I put forward towards the end of last week's post: can we in fact make the jump, cease to even try to remember stuff, seeing as it is so easy nowadays to take notes, and pictures, and videos, and lead perfectly documented lives? To which the answer, if the film is any evidence at all, is of course that no, we can't. Thus we discover that during his investigation Leonard is manipulated in turn by a crooked cop and the girlfriend of a drug dealer, each attempting to use him as a witless killer, an automaton sent on a path of destruction by means of few distorted directives. And it matters little that by the end of the film - which of course is also the beginning - Leonard manages to get on at least to the crooked cop, figuring out a way to deceive himself and set in motion the other's ruin. If anything, this underscores even more forcefully how little capacity Leonard has to infuse disjointed memories with sense, and how pathetically ill equipped he is to fulfill his wish for revenge.

To belabour the point a little, what I'm proposing then is an allegory: Leonard as homo technologicus, his memory incapacitated not by a blow to the head but by having surrendered to technology too much of the task of remembering. And that would be as far as it goes, and maybe not a long way towards convincing you of anything. Except I think there is a deeper aspect to the film, and something altogether darker in the anxiety itself.

Many discussions of Memento, and especially most of the academic ones I've come across, tend to underplay its violence and its most disquieting aspects, drain it of its blood, as it were, and focus rather on the conceit. But Nolan's is not just a film about narrative and editing and temporality, nor about memory in a neatly defined sense; it is also a film about crime and cruelty and retribution: about self-mutilation and deception, about the violence of a society that inscribes its norms in the naked flesh of its citizens - a vision straight out of Kafka's penal colony - and about subjects at the mercy of incessant mediations, of phrases and images that are as compelling as they are empty of meaning.

Compare Memento to another recent film that also happens to have become a machine for generating essays - The Matrix - and observe how uncompromising, unrelenting, true to itself the one is, and how contradictory, muddled and ultimately consolatory the other. And that's not the least of the reasons that led me towards my anxiety-hypothesis: the belief, grounded perhaps in an outmoded aesthetics - that a philosophical tragedy[1] of such force would have to be tapping into something real.

More on this next week.

Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)

The definition is Andy Klein's in
Everything you wanted to know about "Memento",, 28 June 2001