Friday, April 15, 2016

Is it plagiarism if you steal from yourself?

I could (and do) watch old cartoons all day long. Now that I have YouTube, I am in fact good for nothing else. But it's an interesting thing to look at the really old ones, like these two. They represent the first entries in a very long series by Warner Bros:  Merrie Melodies. (Perhaps you've heard of them.)

The first one, Lady Play Your Mandolin, features a drunk horse, and the second, You Don't Know What You're Doin' (which some YouTube wag called Justin Trudeau's theme song) a drunk dog who must have had a genetic mixup with the horse or something. Or else the animators just got lazy.

I mean! This is Cartoon One and Cartoon Two of the immortal, incomparable Merrie Melodies series, and they're repeating themselves in the second cartoon. The shot of the character screaming at the camera is pretty much identical, except the horse is white and the dog is black. Even the dragon-ish looking thing is pretty similar.

They say Disney stole from everyone - I wrote about that once, and I may steal from myself and re-run it because I don't remember much about it. But on the second cartoon? I think they should've quit while they were ahead.

Actually, it was this documentary I was thinking about. (I can't believe I found it again! I had no idea of the title or when it came out or anything, but if you keep Googling, anything is possible.) It was shown once on CBC, years and years ago, and never again - in French, with English subtitles. There's no English in this version at all, so I didn't get very far. But hey, if you're French. . . It's an eye-opening look at just how much Uncle Wally got away with.

The pitfall trap

Have I been feeding this beast (my blog) regularly? Depends on what you mean by regularly. I usually consider that to mean "every day", but to my shock, I now see I haven't posted anything much all week. And I think I know why that is.

Something will sneak up on you sometimes, something that snags some issue from the past. Ten months ago I had a serious falling-out with someone whom I considered to be a reasonably close friend for a very long time (he was maybe 6.5 on my friend-o-meter). Then, this past Easter Sunday, and without any warning whatsoever, he died. I only found out about his death because I was part of a mass mailout: somehow I had been left in his email address book, maybe because he didn't bother to remove it.

What does it mean when someone dies, and there was unfinished business? Maybe it WAS finished, and that was the whole trouble. I ask myself sometimes: Glass Character, why is it that you seem to be cutting certain people out of your life? And I always come to the same conclusion. They're people who, for one reason or another, appear to have seriously lost their way. In particular, this applies to their personal integrity.

It happens. It happens that people begin to live in a way that is not only deceptive, but deceitful. It happens that a person who has been refreshingly tart turns irreversibly sour. It happens that people begin to use you as a dumping ground for resentments that they're too afraid to meet at the source. Or maybe it's just more convenient that way.

So what happened? It's not as if I have lost all my friends, but I will no longer give quarter to anyone who sucks my energy away, or demeans me in any way, or hauls their support out from under me and still expects ME to support THEM (i. e. act as a bottomless receptacle for their toxic waste).

This most recent shock - and shock it was - has had yet more shocks attached to it. When he suddenly died of a massive stroke, my former friend left his longtime partner completely in the lurch financially - not merely penniless, but in an abyss of debt that he cannot possibly cope with. This is so extreme that it's quite possible he will end up homeless and/or have to declare bankruptcy, not exactly a desirable legacy from a 25-year relationship. The community has set up a GoFundMe account for him which so far has only taken in a few hundred dollars.

How could he not have known they were in such dire straits? I don't believe he did. I think he just trusted his partner to take care of him. In some ways, he was like an old-fashioned wife who has no idea of the state of her husband's finances until he dies. Then comes the nasty surprise, and the crushing burden that accompanies it. 

An important aspect of love is financial responsibility, though many people would be incredulous to hear me say that. Or even appalled: dirty, crass money, attached to something as sublime and ideal as Love? Well, think of it. One must live - isn't that so? To live, one needs financial support of some kind. Unless you think you're going to live forever, you must make provisions for your partner, especially if that partner is more than twenty years younger than you (meaning he may have another 30 to 40 years left to live, with no significant means of support except a disability pension). If you don't make these provisions, if you don't think about it or bother about it, it's not only arrogant but thoughtless, ignorant, and - I think - cruel.

Ten months ago when we had our falling-out, I was reacting to something that I now see reflected this arrogance and thoughtlessness, well-concealed by his "sweet" public persona. I felt the ground being cut away under my feet, destroying what I thought was his support. But then, being truly supportive was something he did not seem to know how to do, or even have any interest in.

Suddenly I knew nothing, I shouldn't even be taking one step towards the issue at hand because I had not had the years and years of training he had, and blah blah blah blah blah. He had to be right, always, and his righteousness had to be acknowledged. That's the way it went, those were the rules, and I wouldn't play by them.

My reaction and throwing the friendship into reverse is only a particle, not even that, compared to what his partner is going through now. He has less than nothing: he's in the red, the minuses, though to what extent I don't know. How could this happen? How could two ageing men living quietly in one of Canada's favorite retirement communities get themselves into such a godawful mess? I have a bad feeling about it, and it seems to confirm some suspicions that there was a lot going on in this case that is deeply disturbing to contemplate.

But I can't write about it now.

When people die, they are often elevated to sainthood. I'm sure this will happen tomorrow afternoon at his memorial service. It's just something we do, a social custom, or else a superstition (don't ever speak ill of the dead or they will rise up out of their grave and fly around your house making pictures jump off the wall and going "Wooooooo!"). Suddenly we can't say enough about them, though it's not really about the person who died at all. It's to make US feel better about harbouring all those resentments and negative feelings, to pretend they don't exist at all. 

But sometimes they exist for a reason.

It's Friday now, and it hasn't been a good week for blogging because I just feel kind of flat. It depresses me when someone I respected turns out to be this irresponsible. Or should I say: this big an asshole. For that's what he was, or he wouldn't have held his partner hostage to a crushing, stigmatizing financial burden he can never repay.  At its worst, debt is dishonest. Even at its best, it's like living on top of a gigantic hole with a fragile floor over it (and there is a name for that, by the way: it's called a "pitfall trap") that will barely hold your weight. Sooner or later disaster strikes, and it all caves in. Then the person you supposedly love the most must fall into the abyss.

To quote Bob Dylan, whom I've been thinking a lot about lately: "But oh, what kind of love is this/Which goes from bad to worse?"

We carried you in our arms
On Independence Day
And now you’d throw us all aside
And put us on our way
Oh what dear daughter ’neath the sun
Would treat a father so
To wait upon him hand and foot
And always tell him, “No?”
Tears of rage, tears of grief
Why must I always be the thief?
Come to me now, you know
We’re so alone
And life is brief

We pointed out the way to go
And scratched your name in sand
Though you just thought it was nothing more
Than a place for you to stand
Now, I want you to know that while we watched
You discover there was no one true
Most ev’rybody really thought
It was a childish thing to do
Tears of rage, tears of grief
Why must I always be the thief?
Come to me now, you know
We’re so alone
And life is brief

It was all very painless
When you went out to receive
All that false instruction
Which we never could believe
And now the heart is filled with gold
As if it was a purse
But, oh, what kind of love is this
Which goes from bad to worse?
Tears of rage, tears of grief
Why must I always be the thief?
Come to me now, you know
We’re so alone
And life is brief

TAG-ON: Obsessed with Dylan again, and re-reading one of the bios, I had a bizarre experience last night. Didn't sleep worth a shit, didn't even think I WAS asleep all night, because I kept seeing or experiencing a long series of short films about Dylan. These were all from different times in his life/career and not in any order. They looked sort of like they were on panels or things like piano keys and I went from one to the other, and I didn't want to see them but couldn't stop. Sometimes I felt like I was IN the movies, but probably not. I wanted to get out of them and felt like the movies went on all night and I got no sleep at all. I was full of anxiety because I don't do well when I don't sleep, and serious sleep deprivation has been known to make me go completely crazy. But when I woke up, I said, Jesus, Margaret, don't you know those were dreams, and if they were dreams you must've been asleep?

TAG-ON TWO: While Dylaning around on the internet last night, I found a crazy and incredible speech he made at the Grammys in 2015, after receiving some sort of award. It just went on and on. Normally if he gets an award, he nods tersely, takes the award and goes home. In this case, God knows how long the speech took, but this is the part I want to share with you because it moved me so, and somehow ties in with the video I used to illustrate this post.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Joan Baez. She was the queen of folk music then and now. She took a liking to my songs and brought me with her to play concerts, where she had crowds of thousands of people enthralled with her beauty and voice.

People would say, "What are you doing with that ragtag scrubby little waif?" And she'd tell everybody in no uncertain terms, "Now you better be quiet and listen to the songs." We even played a few of them together. Joan Baez is as tough-minded as they come. Love. And she's a free, independent spirit. Nobody can tell her what to do if she doesn't want to do it. I learned a lot of things from her. A woman with devastating honesty. And for her kind of love and devotion, I could never pay that back.