Have you read Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, by Oliver Sacks? (Man who mistook is wife for his hat, Awakenings, etc.). I haven't read it yet--daughter hijacked our copy--but your whale question made me think of this. Even if it doesn't answer the question, his writing tends to be very witty and informative.
My willing suspension of disbelief is a lot more willing with movies than with books--I suppose because the movie goes so much faster that the brain doesn't have time to mull it over. I must say, I often get the feeling while watching the news that if it was a movie instead, I'd walk out for having such an unbelievable plot....
Oh, and the huge plot holes in Agatha Christie stories are part of the fun! LOL! That, and trying to remember which other book or short story she used the same twist in....
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When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone I cannot put my finger on it now The child is grown The dream is gone I... Have become comfortably numb
Your fourth example brought these lyrics from Pink Floyd to mind. And a time, a few years back, when I kept thinking I'd seen something, some ghostlike motion, just out of my line of vision. It was mildly annoying. At that time I was teaching stained glass art to small groups. I had one class that was only a man and wife, who were local First Nations people. In the middle of my first class with them I must have stopped what I was doing and looked up because I'd experienced that subtle movement again...nothing more. I did not comment or do anything overt in response to it. The man said to me "You see them, too, eh?" That startled me. "What?" I asked. "I am able to see the spirits. There was one here just now. You saw it, didn't you?" We didn't talk about it again but I've never forgotten that moment. Who's to say if there are other dimensions of existence? Certainly not me. I've had enough unexplainable episodes of a similar nature in my life to keep an open mind about it.
I'm not good at suspending disbelief when it comes to fiction or drama, though. I almost always get angry when I read Stephen King because I come to the same conclusion, again and again, that he has the potential to be such a fine teller of tales but he opts out for cheap thrills and suspect endings. I think I should just accept that the genre isn't for me.
When I start finding gaping holes in the plot, I jettison the offender. Agatha Christie is one of my pet peeves in that regard. I detest also the genre of spy thrillers that try to hide the weakness of their major plol ine by overwhelming the reader with twists, turns and intrigues....and too many peripheral characters...Night of The Supernumerary...bah! I'm a grumpy old lady reader, now I think on it.
Loved your musing on music and whales. Reminded me of a great story I read in a book called 'Mind in the Waters' entitled 'Say Ruby for Me' in which the marine biologist writer has been working with a dolphin, trying to teach her to say her name. At some point it dawns on him that she has been telling him her name, in her own tongue and probably his name as well, moved well beyond his slow human intellectual plodding and is bored to death but still humoring him because of her wonderfully good-natured willingness to play with these odd, dull-witted human creatures. He, of course, was blasted for anthropomorphizing by the scientific community.
I have a lot of trouble with the contemporary trend for stories, novels and films that lack a protagonist. I guess it has to do with growing up reading sappy ol' Dickens but I always long for at least one character to have some redeeming qualities, someone sympathetic Does that make me simplistic and unrealistic? Probably.
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Mohandas Gandhi
Many times when I'm reading or watching a movie, I'll come across something that seriously gives me a "huh" moment. Sometimes it manifests as simply an idea I'd never consciously thought about. Other times it's something that makes perfect sense until your brain catches up and says, "hey, wait just a minute!" Then there's the ones some part of your psyche always suspected but buried for you. And there's those perfect little vignettes of joy that go straight to your soul.
I wonder what those instances are for the rest of you? Here's a few of mine:
In a book titled, "The Practice Effect" (can't remember the author at the moment) - part of the premise of the story is that the lower classes lived in beautifully appointed homes *because* they used every item regularly. This act of using things kept them in good condition and actually improved their quality. The elite were bound to them in order to exchange their scruffier property (due to lack of use) for "the good stuff." On the surface, my mind accepted this without any quibble whatsoever. Of *course* things look better when they're used! I mean, just look at the beautiful patina of antique furniture compared with the rustic squalor of old barns (OTOH, I do love that look, too!). But then my brain caught up with the idea and said, "just hold on there a minute!" So it's queer to me that it was accepted with no second thought whatsoever until a few lines later when I had to go back and actually THINK about what was being said! An oddness.
In the movie, "The Langoliers" (of course it would be Stephen King!), reality exists in a sort of "zone" in which the future is continually being created and the past is just as inexorably being destroyed. A group of people get stranded way close to the destruction zone where they can hear these Langoliers munching up the world on their heels. Now, somewhere along the line, there's a little piece of my animal brain that can jump on this wagon with dreadful enthusiasm. It gave me nightmares - silent ones, full of nothing but darkness and *That NOISE*, and I'd wake up in sweats. Even now, certain sounds on the edge of hearing, and especially out of sight, can raise the hairs all over my body. It's just not fair that he gets in our heads that way!
An imaginary world that captivates me, lures me, and was an obsession for a while is "Ringworld," by Larry Niven. There are lots of interesting concepts in the tale (there's more than one book in the series), but the first one, and the one that's haunted me, is the notion of creating an entire world from a planetary meteorite zone - the "trash heap" of debris and errata associated with solar systems or galaxies or whatnot (I'm no astronomer; that's just my "take" on the science of it). This "world" was mined and built from these objects, and set to revolve, as a wheel turns around an axle, around its sun. Looking toward the sun, you could see beyond or at certain angles from it the razor-thin band of the opposite side of the wheel, or the world. It was a band, not a sphere. The surface area was so immense that you get the impression that it was sheer impossibility to ever use it all up. There were zones of "day" and "night" created by an intermittent band of plates orbiting in the same plane between the sun and the surface of the world. The atmosphere was "held in" by high/tall "edges" or a rim all around the Ringworld. This made such an impact on the REAL scientific community that there was (and may still be) a lobby to (I think) our government, or to some realworld agencies in existence, to launch some sort of action to make a real Ringworld. Do a search on "Ringworld" - there are some pretty realistic graphics and data out there for it. I don't know if they intended it to be for our solar system or some other. The vast scope of the thing would require many generations to even begin, starting with sending out robot drones and machinery to find and begin to collect materials. I was and am enthralled with the whole idea. I want Ringworld. And I want to live there! as impossible and impractical a longing as it is.
Another author who drives me over-the-edge crazy (like I need any nudges there) I, again, cannot remember his name. Any of you who read fantasy will no doubt know him. He writes a lot of urban legend sorts of things...mostly where fantasy realms overlap our world. The creepy thing in most of his writing - which is not intended to be frightening, only curious - is that because our minds choose to shut out "the impossible", a thing we don't know yet as children, and so it feels familiar even when we refuse to acknowledge it as adults, we don't "see" that alternate reality that brushes against ours. Little motions and impressions at the edges of our sight or senses are explained away, when, in fact, they are true. Fantastical creatures, some good and some not-good, exist on our periphery. Once you start to see them, it seems you can't let them go again. Most of his stories are along some vein in that nature. I love his writing, but I can only read it a bit at a time before I start seeing or hearing or feeling things that I *know* aren't really there. Or are they?
Another thing that haunts me is in the musical realm. I have a recording of music intermixed with whalesongs called "Whales Alive." It's beautiful an eerie; not in a scary way, just unique. I believe the whale songs are time-altered to fit alongside human music, but the songs are totally recognizable as songs. This is a beautiful concept, until... I listen to a lot of music from everywhere and anywhere. Most of it follows a recognizable "language." You can still hear tonal qualities and harmonics and phrasing in most music, even if you don't especially like the genre, it still translates as "music" to your brain. The ones which are alien to me, and I don't hear music in at all, are mostly Eastern and Oriental "music". These present to me simply as sounds. I hear no cadence, no phrasing, I can predict no "next step" in the performance at all. And then there's whale songs, which DO have those elements. They repeat. They have expected curves in their progression. They're harmonic, except in places they're *meant* to be disharmonic - and you can recognize that attribute too, and not just as a thing you've failed to understand. So explain to me, if you can: why would an alien species (whales) "make sense" to me musically when I cannot make any sense whatsoever of some music created by my own species? For that matter, even songbirds share some of the tonal and rhythmic characteristics I recognize as "music," even though the majority of their utterances are learned behaviours, and not truly song. The whales create songs. As we do. And I understand them in their emotional complexity: joy, sorrow, drama, hopefulness... in ways that I cannot hear in some human music. Explain this to me. I have approached many whale experts, and they will tell you about migration routes and histories and identities and mating displays... but they still cannot explain WHY it *sounds like music.* I am still confounded. Another thing I "need to know" and evidently am not slated for that enlightenment. Perhaps this is a thing that some people would cite when they're asked what they would "ask god", if they had a chance.
So, do any of you have things of similar nature tossing about in your brains? I would like to know them!
...the problem with people these days is they've forgotten we're really just animals ... (attributation forgotten)
We did not create the web of life; we are but a strand in it. ~attributed to Chief Seattle
We don't have souls. We ARE souls. We have bodies. ~C.S. Lewis
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