Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Four More Movies I Have Seen Recently

Sophie's Choice (1982) It is probably apparent by now that my primary interest in movies, and most other forms of art, is escapist, so as to imagine myself communing with modes of life that have more camaraderie, mental activity, sensualism and so on than my own has. While I am not adverse to occasionally learning something or even having my comfortable world view 'challenged', provided the challenge is presented in a way that appeals to the idea of my having a better self that has for whatever reason not had the opportunity yet to properly consider whatever the matter is that the artist thinks himself impelled to call to my attention, I do not feel any obligation to seek out works that I sense may be calculated to make me overly uncomfortable or even merely unhappy. Perhaps it is true that one often does learn something by being made uncomfortable in this manner, but I have never found such learning to lead to anything either better or more useful than such learning as takes place under rosier conditions. At the best, it is a supplement to one's mental core rather than a replacement.

As the only thing, or one of the only two things, I knew about Sophie's Choice, whether the book or the movie, was the incident which provides it with its title, I had always avoided having anything to do with either of them, because I thought that this constituted the bulk of the narrative, and I did not see what good could possibly come out of reading or watching such a story, at least to me, as it was always presented to me as being like a kind of literary or historical medicine without any obviously redeeming benefits, and as such I had no interest in it. In time however it came up on my list as a 'great' movie, so I submitted to see it. I am still not sure if ultimately there are redeeming benefits in it given what everybody knows happens, but I was surprised to find that before you get to the infamous part, which doesn't come until nearly the end, there was a fairly mentally lively and energetic movie set mainly in late 1940s New York. I have seen it argued by some critics that the story is implausible. There is something in that. I think the problem is that the interpretation of the situation and its effects is an overly, even audaciously, American one, and it does seem off. It is hard for me to see an Eastern European artist-director treating the material in this way, certainly not from this particular angle, if he would have chosen to treat it artistically at all.

The other thing I knew about the movie beforehand was that Meryl Streep blew everyone away with her Polish accent. While I am always looking for an excuse to find fault with Meryl Streep, it does sound good to me too, and overall I have to say I can't find much wrong with her performance. Indeed, she is appealing enough here that one almost wishes she could have adopted the Polish accent as her permanent voice. You still always notice the work, the craft in her acting though. She is one of those people who forces you to confess that she is admirable at every minute, and never allows you the pleasure of making the case to yourself upon some overlooked or unconsidered point, for she admits no such points to exist in her work. This is why so many people find her annoying or only grudgingly give her the credit that is due her.

Kevin Kline is like a male version of Meryl Streep. Obviously very talented and capable at acting, but numerous qualities of his appearance and demeanor annoy me to no end. I don't derive any pleasure from watching him in a movie.

The director of this was Alan J. Pakula, whom I did not recognize as a household name, especially among the many celebrated directors of his generation (roughly late 60s on), but he made several well-known movies. All the President's Men was a big deal when it came out, though it does seem to have been forgotten in recent years. I saw his first film, The Sterile Cuckoo, which is a 60s college movie, on TV a long time ago and thought it was pretty decent, despite its having foisted the song "Come Saturday Morning" on the world (I actually kind of like the song, of course, but I doubt you will find anyone alive who is at all knowledgeable about music who does).

Respiro (2003)

In a similar vein as other those other modern Italian movies written about here recently, I'm Not Scared, and The Best of Youth. Like both of these, it makes heavy use of the incredible light and barren ancient scenery of southern Italy--Sicily in BOY, Basilicata in INS, and here the remote island of Lampedusa, which is out near Malta. Like I'm Not Scared, children are featured heavily, and also like that movie, despite being set in the present, or near present (1978 in the case of INS) the economic and communal lives of all the characters in the film appear to have much more in common with that of the 1940s and 50s than more contemporary times. The general consensus even within Italy is that the nation is sclerotic and dying, no one is able to move out of their parents' house or get a decent paying job until they're pushing forty, the birth rate has been so low for so long that even with immigration the population is already declining, the last golden era of Italian culture and style which flourished in the postwar decades is long dead, Venice has been almost entirely depopulated of native Italians and is probably sinking, the Pope is a German--the point is, these movies are indicative to me of this sense of decline. Their subject matter and sense of the world seems small. The attraction to remote corners of the country with great natural beauty where people lived as they did 50 years ago seems a confession that the filmmakers do not know how to set a story in the world of present society but need the familiar structure of the village, the square, the land and sea, the non-abstract occupations, etc, as a base (I notice something of this same effect at work in American movies set in Maine or other rural New England locales, as well as in some of my own efforts--indeed my own life even). Or perhaps I misunderstand, and Italy is such an ancient country that unlike America, where people and fictional characters and industries and everything else need be always on the way to some other destination than where they currently are, it is taken for granted that most people are going to live and die pretty much as people have for the last 5,000 years for the next 5,000, and that if you are living in a fishing village in Italy there really is not effectively anywhere else for you to go. I do not think that is the reality however.

These nagging thoughts aside, I enjoyed this movie more than either of the others I have associated it with in this post. I don't know how memorable it is however, since I actually saw it several years ago and had no recollection of it whatsoever when I read the title and even the synopsis of the plot (which in a way is a justification for keeping this diary of all the movies I see) and while I knew in the early parts that I had once seen a movie with a similiar milieu some years before, it was not until about an hour in that I recognized 2 distinct scenes as ones that I had definitely seen before, at which point the memory of the other elements of the story began somewhat to return to me. I don't know how I could have forgotten about Valeria Golina, aged 36 at the time of the movie, and a mother of 3 adolescents in it, but acting and dressing about 20 years younger in erotic terms, and pulling it off rather well; but as I have noted here before, the rather astonishingly sensual late-30s mother character, often from a traditional or working class background, has become a staple of the modern Italian cinema. This development may say something about the psychology presently at work in the Italian nation, though it may also just reflect a real phenomenon. I remember when I was staying in a perfectly adequate but modest one-star hotel in that nation--I forget which city, possibly Mantua--and one of the maids working in the place, who looked to be around 40, was absolutely mesmerizing to look at, and at the time I was 27 or so and generally had a very scant interest in women any more than a year or two older than I was. Her poise and grooming and sense of self were remarkable, a realization of mature femininity that was very much of the old world, though one recognizes it for what it is when one sees it. And this was a chambermaid.

Melvin and Howard (1980)

This is about a more or less regular, though impulsive and not doggedly steady or responsible guy (Melvin) living in Utah who picks up a stranger by the side of the road after a motorcycle accident one dark night out that way who, unbeknownst to him at first, happens to be the legendary reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. A few years later, when Hughes dies, he leaves Melvin, along with bequests to about ten other obscure people, 156 million dollars. This was evidently based on actual events. Needless to say, Hughes's family and other important interests intervened and got the will declared invalid so none of the nobodies ever got to see any of the money. While this last is part of the narrative, Melvin kind of knows that the powers in society are not going to let the likes of him walk away with the cash, so the movie is more or less about the possibility of his rather uneven lower middle class life being dramatically altered. I didn't love it, but I liked it. It gets the feel of what life was like in that time and place and stratum of society pretty good, or at least as good as any movie I have seen lately. Melvin's major problems in life seem to be largely the result of his having an excess of vitality for his social station. He is not able to just while away his life in the boring jobs that are available to him and the restraints of social conventions and periodically has to blow up the aspects of his life in which these inconveniences were involved. He is the kind of guy who, to the extent that he still exists, gets slaughtered in short order in the economy and legal system today. No chance.

Hearts and Minds (1974)

Anti-Vietnam War documentary. It's a little dated, and I didn't find that the different parts of it had quite the coherence that I would really like, but it's worth seeing, if for nothing else than to be reminded of how events that seem all-consuming and hopeless of resolution at a particular time eventually exhaust themselves and enter the realm of history. I would say as well that it is also a good reminder of how stupid most wars are, especially when carried to the totally unnecessary extreme than this one was, though the determination of so many of the Vietnamese people to persevere unto the point of death through decades of this dreadful conflict also reminds that when you are fighting against a foreign power in your home country your experience of what is happening necessarily takes on a different sense. The movie of course was made several years after the main fury of both the American involvement in the war and the domestic protest movement had attained their peaks, and the prevailing atmosphere is one of weariness. There are a number of interviews with important American military and political figures in which these men say what seem to us incredibly stupid things, and reminded me (again) of how clearly stupid all of the rhetoric and chest-beating of this whole period of history we are living in now will seem to most sensible people in 30 years time.

Though these are not the object of the movie, the glimpses of America circa 1973 are of some interest, just to see how things have changed just in the course of my lifetime (I was 3 then). The fashions and hair of course were atrocious, though that is a minor point. Most of the regular people over age 45 or so look much older than people the same age do now; their skin is sallow and rather nasty-looking--I remember this in the older people I knew at the time too--perhaps from smoking and drinking too much hard liquor. A one point they were interviewing a soldier who had been a POW for seven years on the back stoop of his parents' house in New Jersey and the screen door and the iron railing were the exact same ones that my grandmother had at the time. There was a section where they interspersed scenes from a high school football game in Ohio with some of the war footage, including a genuinely insane halftime speech delivered by one of the coaches, which did not quite work, though there was an awesomely cute cheerleader who admitted to the camera that she was too wrapped up in her own life to think much about the war in Vietnam.

It is ironic that global communism, which wide swathes of the American populace were so obsessed with for so long to, at times, the point of madness, at the moment looks like it may have been the best thing that ever happened to the American laboring classes.

This film was produced of course by the legendary so-cool-it-was-actually-scary 70s Hollywood mogul Bert Schneider, who was one of the more interesting characters of that era to me. His rougish production company backed Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces among other iconic films of the era. Babes and cocaine were part of the workday at the BBS offices. Given how cool he was, his downfall shortly after this film is puzzling to me. I guess he made some powerful enemies, but still, a guy with that much charisma and sense for the business seems like he should not have receded from any position of influence that easily.

The 4th movie in these sets always gets the sloppiest review. I know I should cut them down, and do one post, one movie, but then I might be tempted to go on forever about each movie and I don't want to do that.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Greatest TV Themes of All Time #s 10-6

#10 Car 54, Where Are You?

I went through various periods in my teens where I would watch a certain TV show, or sometimes two, every day for what seemed like several months, though maybe it was as little as 4-6 weeks, as part of my daily routine, and then something would happen where the routine would be broken, or changed, either on my part or that of the programming station, and I would never watch the show again. "Car 54" which originally aired in the early 60s, was one of these shows. On the surface it seems to be an even more than usually silly show, yet there was an exuberance in its absurdity that my young self found satisfying, and which was of a quality that is not much prevalent in the current culture. My favorite episode was the one where Gunther confesses to not having read a book in his entire life and everyone nags him about it until he agrees to try The Robe, which proceeds to consume him to the point that he ceases temporarily to be the guy everyone loves such that by the end of the show they are begging him not to read any more books.

When I was a very young child, my grandmother had a dog named Gunther J Toody, so I gather the program was popular in that household as well.

It is worth noting that despite the show's protagonists being New York City policemen, its storylines rarely centered around any actual crimes, and when they did I cannot recall anything much more serious than petty fraud or running red lights, though it is possible my memory is faulty in this.

#9 Dallas

They aren't letting me embed the themes from any of the early seasons, so I will have to link to it here.

As far as embedded material goes, I can offer some footage of the great Victoria Principal disco dancing.

Dallas was to me the opposite of Car 54 in terms of the emotional reassurance it offered, and I often wonder if it did not mark a significant stage in the decline of the overall morale and spritual well-beings of the mass of Americans during this period. This was the first television show I can remember that openly reveled in the total ruthlessness and moral depravity of wealthy and powerful people rather than affecting to be appalled by it, indeed even presented it as a central component of their success. And make no mistake, compared to the average schlub viewer, they were indisputably successful, and the schlub viewer was not so gently warned that if he should ever run across people of this type he had best get the hell out of their way as quickly and unobtrusively as possible, unless he has a taste for seeing the entire edifice of his pitiful life collapse in humiliation and ruin in a matter of seconds that those inflicting the pain upon him probably would not even notice. I am quite certain that the show scarred me at an impressionable age when I ought not to have been watching it. There was in particular one episode in which J.R. had just finished financially destroying a minor rival in the oil business and giddily delivered the news by telephone from bed after ravishing the rival's woman. I realized all at once that this was what serious people were really like; and all the years of optimistic and supposedly uplifting movies and books and TV programs about adhering to the bourgeois virtues were swept away in a single blow, and I don't think I have ever had true faith in them again.

#8 The Jeffersons

Whoever owns the rights to the Jeffersons theme song is adamant that no one be allowed to hear it without a royalty, hence the silent video.

Obviously one of the great songs of all time in this category.

#7 Green Acres

While I don't remember it, Green Acres apparently vied with Petticoat Junction as my favorite TV show when I was four. I would love to be able to figure out why these 2 programs appealed to me so strongly as they did, but thus far I cannot do so.

#6 The Odd Couple

I've been having one of my retro-crushes lately on New York in the early 70s, or more precisely from around 1969-73, roughly the apogee of the Joe Namath and Tom Seaver era. In the case of New York it seems to be especially true that the heyday of sporting icons roughly parallel a particular character in the epoch of the city, and they start to fade when the character of their time fades, or perhaps vice versa--for while the changes in the city's character are fairly easy to mark through most of the 20th century, and the 1965-1980 period can almost be identified season by season, I find I have lost track of any sense of the subtleties of such changes since the late 90s--perhaps until Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera fade from the scene and are replaced by new heroes everything will seem to me fundamentally the same as they were then. As far as New York in the 70s goes, it is only this early part that I have as yet come around to finding somewhat attractive. The disco era, perhaps because I have some actual memories of it, I still have not been able to warm up to, and the Death Wish/Taxi Driver-era New York of the mid-70s, and even of the later seasons of this show, while fascinating, also seem yet a little too dark and despairing, as well as representing the period when certain appealing aspects of the old New York that were still lingering into the early 70s seem to have been, if not entirely killed off, stifled to the point that they became overwhelmed by other qualities and difficult, or at least more difficult, for people like me who are perpetually starved for them, to imbibe at second or fifth hand as perhaps it was possible to do formerly. What were these mystical qualities of which I speak? I am going to have to try to identify what it is I mean, only because it is an important matter to me, and I experience it when I do sense its presence as some absent or lost vigor that I should be partaking in, but am not. But this will have to be saved for a future post.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Robert Burton--The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) {I}

Often extolled as one of the most remarkable books in all of European literature, I think I may have come to this at the wrong time of life. Like Thomas Browne, Burton's most ardent admirers tend to be men past the age of 50 who have a lifetime of committed reading behind them and are tired even of most of the classics. Among the testimonials left by fogies of this class, Anthony Burgess, a noted linguist and composer of music as well as the author of dozens of books, A Clockwork Orange being perhaps the most famous, stated that "Most modern books weary me, but Burton never does"; gruff middle-aged male man of letters extraordinaire Samuel Johnson declared it "the only book that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise"; Llewelyn Powys, whose late Victorian son of a clergyman to Cambridge to Africa to country retirement biography is practically the template for the kind of reader who has traditionally found Burton most engaging, called it "the greatest work of prose of the greatest period of English prose-writing". In addition Anthony Powell in the 10th volume of Dance to the Music of Time (Books Do Furnish a Room), which is set in the couple of years just after the conclusion of World War II, has the world-weary character who is supposed to be the stand-in for himself undertake a book about the Anatomy as his means of finding some bearings again in a world gone mad. Thus I will leave open the possibility of reading this again when I attain that time of life and have more time to bestow on it the concentration it evidently deserves. This is not to say that I did not to some extent enjoy the book this time around. For a 1,132 page tome written in the 1620s it was not too much of a slog nor took an unusually long time to get through, and it is full of interesting and ingenious anecdotes and stories and observations, enough to fill up 11 pages of notes, which is much more than I usually take down. My problem was that I could not keep the overarching structure of the book, and the way that these anecdotes were supposed to be relating to each other, straight in my mind, so that all of the amusing and interesting parts I was experiencing in isolation, and not as part of this highly fascinating personality and worldview that one presumes these other celebrated readers were commiserating with. Now it is possible that this aspect of the book was simply over my head as far as being able to appreciate it went, but the truth is I did not put in the necessary effort to grasp Burton's very complicated system of melancholy in all its types with their origins and effects and treatments, presented in the form of a medical treatise, which besides being difficult seemed too ridiculous to expend the energy to keep properly straight in my mind, assuming the real brilliance of the book to lie elsewhere. Apparently the exquisiteness of this system and the peculiar genius of the man who conceived it are where a considerable amount of the beauty and appeal are to be found, and I, reading under the constraints of time and the various distractions which afflict me in my current state of life, was not able to focus my concentration on these with the attention they required.

If I had read this when I was 26 or 27, I probably would have put in more of the required effort, or at least would have been able to more easily. Whether my overall understanding of the book would have been good, or better, I am not certain, but I would have been able probably to enjoy a more unified and coherent sense of reading.

I'm really going to try to keep the transcribing of quotes and half-legible observations from my notes to a minimum here. With Locke I allowed myself to get carried away, in part because I did not think his book worked on the level that a "Great Book" properly ought to--which I thought I had become pretty adept at over the years, especially with English language authors--and could not think of how else to to demonstrate my meaning, in part because I probably will never read anything else by him again and wanted to have some sense of why he was, and sometimes still is, considered great, but I need to show some restraint here.

Unfortunately for my purposes he gets off to a good start with a lawyer joke in the introductory poem: "Should crafty lawyer trespass on our ground/Caitiffs avaunt! disturbing tribe away!"

Another poem follows immediately after, titled "The Argument of the Frontispiece", which refers to the illustration above depicting various types of melancholics. which hopefully is still visible. This was a inspired and helpful idea. Of the Inamorato (pictured middle left), for example, it is pointed out that "His lute and books about him lie,/As symptoms of his vanity." Of his own picture (middle panel below the title), the author notes:

"It was not pride, nor yet vainglory

(Though others do it commonly)

Made him do this: if you must know,

The printer would needs have it so."

This is followed by yet a third poem, "The Author's Abstract of Melancholy", which features these choice lines:

"Now desperate I hate my life,

Lend me a halter or a knife..."

There is very little I derive more enjoyment from in literature than the hilarious rhymes of 17th and 18th century verse.

After these poems comes the "Introduction to the Reader", which is 106 pages long, and is full of riotous sentences and thoughts, of which I will give a sample below:

"I am insignificant, a nobody, with little ambition and small prospects".

"So that oftentimes it falls out (which Callimachus taxed of old) a great book is a great mischief." The concise quotation referred to ("Mega biblion. mega kakon.") was included in one of the early exercises of the Greek manual at SJC, at the stage before most people began giving up any hope of learning that language to any substantial degree, and as such was a favorite phrase there, especially among people like myself who scarcely knew any other fragments of Greek thought to toss about in company.

Referencing Proverbs XXX.2--Burton was a walking encyclopedia of quotations, perhaps rivaled only by Montaigne among authors I am familiar with--"Surely I am more foolish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man in me."

I think I will stop there for now.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Checking Up on my Class Markers

I'm suddenly missing some big ones.

My passport expired last summer, so I now make part of that oft-cited figure--is it 70%?--of Americans, most of whom are presumed to be benighted, who don't have one. Sadly, I probably won't be getting another one any time soon either--certainly I won't need to--unless something spurs me with great force to desire to go to Canada again, as I think you need one even for there now.

I also don't have a master's degree, which I did not think of as a socially crippling lack formerly, but it seems in the past few years, especially since women have started getting the sizable majority of them, to be the new cutoff in some quarters for qualifying as officially educated. Real men don't care about this, but lacking a high degree of authentic competence, as well as basic horse sense, I have a pathological need to retain some means by which to plausibly deceive myself that I can claim to other contemporary people to be an educated person, or at least comparable in mental development to what they are themselves. It is doubtful that my projected M.A. in theology or whatever will make much of a difference in how I present myself socially, but by not having one I am almost making it too easy for people to dismiss me out of hand.

I went to my local Borders the other day, which is already in full-fledged shutdown mode--they have already taken out all the chairs. While I haven't spent as much time in bookstores in the last couple of years because seeing all the books that had made it successfully to publication was depressing to me, it never impressed itself upon me that they would literally begin disappearing. Librairies doubtless will be next to go--I think half the people running for my local city council in the next election are doing so just so they can close the library down. A lot of people want to put college online too and turn the current campuses, or least the non-STEM portions of them, into tract housing or something. When I was young of course these places were inspiring to me--wrongfully so, apparently, though in my defense children generally are still not allowed to hang out in and poke around insurance offices or medical research labs or other places serving useful purposes--and these are very sad changes and passings for people like me (I seem to be too old to be able to imbibe from the computer screen the physical and aesthetic atmosphere and more appealing conception of life that the presence of actual books, pictures, oak reading tables, etc, suggests, and while it doubtless sounds ridiculous to someone who did not pass many significant hours in one's early life in such places, I do experience many aspects of the new age as a loss which I won't be able to wholly recover with the new and improved methods). I do enjoy tormenting myself by reading the myriad commentators who find these developments cause for celebration, directing laughter and a surprising amount of contempt at English majors and other sensitive idiots whose cherished and already irrelevant world continues to collapse around them. I can sort of grasp the hardcore technophilia, and the exhiliration of feeling one is fully on board with the creative destruction ushering in a new cultural paradigm and all that. The total disdain for the era that is passing away does always catch me off guard. I don't get that.

As I had another weekend of staying behind to work whilst the family was away I tried going out to dinner again. This place was not as bad as the Olive Garden though the dining room was full and I had to sit at the bar, which I would have preferred not to do. There were a pair of distracting TVs on--in my inexorable march to unmitigated crankiness, I find I increasingly dislike televisions on when I am eating in a restaurant, which formerly did not bother me, and which indeed I often enjoyed, especially when in a foreign country--one of which had on COPS, which really puts one in a great frame of mind for enjoying one's dinner, and the other was showing a competition from the "X Games" in which a bunch of guys oozing some kind of I'm-better-than-you attitude whom I still have no real desire to be like other than that they get to sleep with tons of the kinds of girls I would have wanted for myself were doing some skateboarding thing on a U-shaped wooden track kind of structure. Shaun White, the multiple Olympic snowboarding gold medalist, was one of the competitors in this event, though I did not notice where he finished. This guy seems to get a lot of publicity, and I don't really see why. Is he genuinely popular among any segment of the public? I have seen that he also has a clothing line with an alternative sportswear type theme at Target. There isn't a lot in his presentation that I can see would be appealing at all. He is the dominant figure in his sport, but what kind of a sport even is it? I did watch his turn at skateboarding expecting to see clear evidence of unique athletic abilities, but nothing jumped out at me. It does seem to be true in general in the winter sports, especially those contested on mountains, that the most skilled practitioners are the kingpins (and sometimes queenpins) of a fairly vibrant social scene, with groupies and disciples and the rest of it. This is not the case in every Olympic type sport. Top runners are greatly respected by other runners, but as compared to skiers their lives seem rather boring. They neither rule over a desirable party scene nor exude much sexual charisma. But does Shaun White exude sexual charisma, or any other kind? He probably does, but it's so original I can't even see it.

The main thrust of this post was going to be a short discursion on the subject of immigration, but there really is no short discursion on that subject. Politically I have the problem that I can rarely refute the arguments of either of the more extreme positions, so I end up having to stake the moderate ground where you mainly hear the furious demands coming from both sides simultaneously that you grow a pair and declare for one side of the confrontation or the other. None of this namby-pamby I-can't-make-up-my-mind-stuff. So my article, at least for now, was not going to be intentionally inflammatory, and indeed likely would not have had anything in it that hasn't been written a million times. It would mainly have served the purpose of adding support to a few particular positions which already exist, and which strike me as reasonable enough, and not callously offensive. Questions such as What is the plan in instances when say, several thousand Somalian refugees begin turning up in places like Lewiston and Portland Maine? Should there be a plan? Why are the perfectly legitimate and natural concerns of the native population regarding quite drastic demographic changes as well as strains on existing institutions not treated seriously, and indeed with contempt, by so many of their fellow citizens, including most of those in positions of influence? What is the source of the ideological refusal to even address these concerns as adults and equal partners in the future of the country. Why has the leadership of the country seemingly given up on developing intellectual talent and other desirable qualities for a vital civic life in the native population? or, Why has the human capital and spirit of the native population collapsed so spectacularly that the top people increasingly prefer to deal with any other people but them? (For me a lot of the emotion on this subject is the sense of shame and rejection by the elders and leading people of my own country and seeing them extol foreigners as preferable and better than I am. I can't claim that I didn't deserve this rejection, I guess, but it still hurts).

All of this would have taken a long time to write.