“Ignored beauty” and Robin Williams

I am just going to have to put up with Jonah Lehrer being a very good, thoughtful and entertaining writer, even though there’s something about him I find unsettlingly irritating. Thankfully, I think he made a bad slip in his diagnosis of this video of “moments.” As ever, he plugs it into his neuroscientific framework, while adding a Stephen Jay Gouldian ripe bit of prose at the end.

“first glance, it’s a mere collection of ordinary moments – a falling teardrop, an escaped balloon, a dive into a pool – but I think it’s also evidence that the things we see everyday, when carefully framed, can ache with ignored beauty:”

At first glance it’s cliched images we can’t avoid in every day life (here, for instance, or here) mixed with sentimentality! It’s like the videos that Robin Williams makes in Final Cut out of the memories people have stored on memory chips: babies, sex, being wrinkled, hitting home runs, stages of life, and, yes, even footprints being washed into oblivion by the sea. “And what about all the bits in between,” asks a character.

(Disclaimer: Final Cut is awful, awful, awful.) Here are some slightly more serious attempts to capture on film the moments in between the moments we usually recognise as moments.

Iconic vistas, made personal. Everyone has their favorite clips from here: mine is the Staten Island ferry arriving monotonously and the guy seen carrying a book shelf past “Parke Benett.”

Perhaps this falls into the same traps as the Moments video. But it makes a few leaps of imagination the Moments video doesn’t. Do stick around for the payoff in this sequence, which is shocking:

Admire the neutrality of the elevator ride and pardon the weird soundtrack:

The only thing that could make these people cooler is knowing what they’re thinking and how they’d look dancing if there wasn’t jazz music to back them up:

I never know what I’m meant to be looking at in the first shot: the policeman and the houses of parliament seem like supporting characters. The space between is where the action lies.


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