Monday, December 31, 2007

Random Thoughts for a New Year

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose, new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterward.” – G.K. Chesterton

“Optimism is a revolutionary act.” – Cameron Crowe, screenplay for Say Anything

"For me prayer is an outburst of the heart, it is a simple look thrown towards heaven, a cry of recognition and love both in times of trial and in times of joy.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

“Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” – Mark Twain

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself
(I am large, I contain multitudes)." – Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

If I contain multitudes now, what did I contain a year ago, before I lost 50 pounds?

Call Me Tubs

I’ve always wanted to write in the worst possible way. Now, all my friends tell me that I do!

Although I’ve been reading blogs for some time now, it’s only been within the past three months or so that I decided to create my own. The idea took root years ago, from two wildly different inspirations: Canadian novelist-playwright Robertson Davies, who kept “theater diaries” of plays he attended at the Stratford Festival and elsewhere, and President Franklin Roosevelt, who noted brief impressions of each book he read.

Several years ago, my brother John gave me some very handsome journals in which to record my thoughts. (Thanks, Bro – now look at the monster you helped create!). For a time, I could only record my impressions intermittently, busy as I was with my regular 9-to-5 (and all too often, beyond) job in New York City. Finally, I decided that the physical act of writing alone might help me remember my fleeting impressions of culture; that it was a shame to let the beautiful notebooks I’d been given go to waste; and that using them might actually compel me to think more systematically and write more fluidly.

So, in two separate notebooks, whenever I could get a chance, I began to write about books I read (not my published reviews) and plays I attended. At some point, I began to entertain the mad idea not so much of broadcasting the intimate details of my so-called life, but of broadcasting my shallow opinions to an unsuspecting world.

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show,” goes the opening line of Dickens’ David Copperfield. I beg to differ. Bruce Springsteen said it best for me (as he so often does), in “Thunder Road”: “Well, I’m no hero, that’s understood/All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood.”

I toyed with several titles for this blog: “Movie Mike’s Bites,” “MUSE-ical Mike’s Bites,” “Random Ruminations of a Lifelong Learner,” “Ramblings from Gibbsville,” and two that drew an alarming amount of acclaim from several of my Celtic friends: “CIB Central” and “Confessions of a CIB” (CIB, for those not in the know, is the nickname that an octogenarian acquaintance bestowed on me, standing for “Crazy Irish Bastard”). But none quite fit.

Then the perfect title arose from a discussion with my longtime friend Ellen. Knowing my interest in all Fitzgeraldiana, she asked, “Why don’t you name it after Gatsby?” Chuckling, she spun off a host of ideas (e.g., “The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg,” “Ruminations From West Egg”). But a good night’s sleep brought the current title bubbling to the forefront of my susceptible cerebellum. It was perfect – not just a tip of the hat to possibly the most rhapsodically beautiful ending in American literature (one even memorialized in probably the finest album by 70s power popper Eric Carmen), but also an indication of my own contrarian leanings – one lone person, “against the current,” if you will.

With postings covering matters literary, spiritual, theatrical, historical, and cinematic(al), this blog will, in its way, “cover the waterfront.” Rehashing the daily doings of my life is not my intention here (I’ll save my confessions for my favorite priest, who’ll undoubtedly doze off to sleep when I get to the most exciting sins, I’m sure). But inevitably, faithful readers will receive a pretty good idea of my life from the subjects that I’ll treat – sometimes glancingly, sometimes obsessively – here.

Okay, it’s my world and welcome to it. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here