Saturday, September 04, 2004

memorize your memory

My girl-friend and I took turns this morning asking our house-guest questions about things she has no special qualifications over. But she is very bright and so we trust her.

"Why is that plant over there not doing well ?"

"You should move it over closer to the window."

"Why don't they have milk in little plastic bags anymore ?"

"The environment buddy, it all comes down to the environment."

"Can you mail white powdery substances if there is no label on them ?"

"No way, that's very illegal and your white powdery thing will be confiscated by somebody."

"Why, when we know so much about actors like their shoe size, the last car they bought, their background, etc, do we never hear about how they memorize their lines ? Is that really so boring ?"

This was her answer:

"Well the image of actors in America is that they live this enchanted existence of leisure. They relax, they eat at expensive restaurants, they holiday in far-off exotic locales. They literally embody the American dream. Of course we are jealous creatures and so in tandem with tales of the stars fairy tale lives we also get stories of how ordinary they are, how they squabble with spouses, or gain weight, or get stressed out beneath the scrutiny of the media. People also want to read about the warts and weaknesses of these super-stars. Then after we get this tiny little satisfaction we go back to reading how their limos are studded with diamonds again."

She took a breath.

"An actor memorizing his or her lines is not really a story that can be spun in either of those directions. It's the work part of acting and the majority of media that supports the star system isn't interested in the 'craft' of acting. On top of all this, when you've only got two minutes to interview Tom Cruise there are tons of other questions you're going to ask first: what's your new movie about, how's your love life, what do your kids think about your movies, blah, blah, blah."

This is true I suppose but it's sad because I'd love to know these little details. Perhaps in some really good biographies there might be some information about Tom Cruise learning his lines whilst sitting on the crapper. Maybe this is too mundane.

But what greater mystery is there than memory ? How is it that some people retain so much of the things they see and hear while for others so much of the world goes in one ear and out the other ? Of course we're all familiar with the knee-jerk answer to this: it depends on what interests you, if you're a fan of different varieties of bird feces then that is what you'll remember, but come on let's not kid ourselves, there must some other very basic difference, innate or otherwise. There are people who are very interested in something but they forget so much of it while others who aren't interested in the least about some topic will still be able to spout off a wealth of facts about said topic. Anyway this really interests me.

I prefer memorizing lines while moving. I memorized the majority of lines for DISLOCATED LIPS while on my bicycle. I had my script scrunched up in one hand and as I rode to a friend's place or to meet my girlfriend after work I'd go over the lines again and again. The Japanese parts have been the hardest and I'm still working on those lines. I try to find a rythme in the lines that carries me through the repetition of those words.

Speaking of which I've got to get to those Japanese lines....

Here's a story about a student memorizing English


Of all the students at the Language Construction Zone, the most diligently hard-core was Kazu Suzuki. He would carry his tape-recorder everywhere and practice the pronunciation and memorization of English without shame on the bus, skytrain, even while walking on his way to school. Kazu was commited.

"Can I sleep in classroom ? I will rest head on table and then when class starts at nine o'clock I will wake up to study," he asked the director of the school John Parsons, one afternoon. "I want to immerse myself in the English language." (He'd practiced saying that last line twenty times on the bus next to an old woman with alzheimer's who thought he was talking into a new-fangled cell-phone.)

John immediately calculated the potential value of such a request against the possible strangeness that others might feel about having their classmate wake up next to them. "Sorry man. Kudos to your hard-working nature but I've got to give you a big degatory on the request. Insurance problems really."

On the way home from school Kazu practiced: "Kudos to your hard-working nature but I've got to give you a big degatory on the request," fifty times on the bus. The pitter-patter of the rain on the bus didn't drown these words out to a man sitting across from Kazu who'd just been denied a request for a raise.