June 22, 2017

Fiction and Mood Affiliation

I want to find time this fall to see the documentary Detropia and the movie Argo. Of course, if I must see Detropia and Argo, I’d declare that I will have time. But I can only make such a declaration about Argo. Detropia is too close to home. It would be like a war veteran watching the military movies about Vietnam. The ruin porn photographs on G+ are in a sense just voyeurism to the suburban followers of those threads. I also dislike the street photography threads for much the same reason. The pain of the street is buried in the ooh’s and aah’s of the pixels.

I’m embarrassed to call this blog a blog, which to most people means things such as “branding,” readership, and page views. Imagine that! I always thought of this site as my shag bag full of nouns and verbs that I hit around the Web ¬†at night when I had “time.” I used to sneak on the golf course as a kid and hit balls at night under the street light. Crickets and bats were in the gallery most nights. Occasionally police sirens were heard and once the police chased a guy who had stolen a car down the hill and into the river while I was in my back swing. I don’t think the cops let him take a mulligan. Another time a balloon rider made a crash landing. Bad weather meant I had more “time” to practice. I had the whole course to myself. Everyone else with a brain stayed inside. The golf course, as with fiction, was my escapism. In the winter, I always imagined I was some character in a Russian story. On the paper route with the eccentric characters, my imagination took me down the fictional path of the Canterbury Tales. At that time, the inner city schools had some very good teachers that really taught the classics to students like me who could recite Milton and Willie Horton’s stats without a hitch in the swing.

Detroit Tigers slugging star Willie Horton didn’t make an appearance in Detropia. Detroit has been celebrating Willie Horton Day for nine years now. The 70 year old hero of Detroit’s ballfields never moved from the city. As long as Willie Horton remains in Detroit, that city will always be in the big leagues. One time on my job, I received a request to find a particular kind of bratwurst. Every product on a store shelf has a UPC and goes into the national database for market research. This obscure bratwurst was subject of a nation wide manhunt to confirm its UPC. The last known sale of it was in my area of Michigan. Could I help? As they say in Twitterland…Boom!

The bratwurst belonged to notorious Tiger star, 30 game winner, and ex-con Denny McLain’s bankrupt company. I was watching a host on a television show recently. She had moved out of Michigan many years ago. She was reminiscing about her father taking her to Tiger games during the Willie Horton and Denny McLain era. She began to cry. Detroit will remain a sports town long after it’s out of the car and bratwurst business.

I’m not surprised so many great writers first achieved success with a sports novel. The authentic self can’t hide behind imitation on the ballfield. Willie Horton can be the hero of kids on the inner city playground but when the bat comes off the shoulder, it does so in the true identity of the batter. ¬†Hemingway wrote about the importance of using your own voice , eyes, and ears to discover “what really happened in action” and what you actually felt and not what you were expecting or trained to feel and observe. Hemingway’s most important lesson of his lifetime was in writing the truth of what he witnessed. Hemingway used fiction to express the meaning of reality. Historian Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals is tough on the intellectuals who pandered to their own moods at the expense of humanity. Hemingway and George Orwell were the exceptions.

Economist and Marginal Revolution blogger Tyler Cowen calls it the “fallacy of mood affiliation.” People choose their mood or attitude first and find views that conform to their mood. Driving through the ruin porn of once great cities like Detroit can ruin the mood. After so much, I go to the Christmas capital of Frankenmuth or a Great Lake to change my mood.

I love the story of Argo because it used fiction to escape a hostage situation. Affiliate your attitude to a good ending and let’s get the hell out of here.

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