Into the Darkness…

Following directions can be important when you are doing something that’s pretty complex and you don’t want to mess it up. However, there are times when departing from the script will give rise to some pleasant and not-so-pleasant results.

Example #1: Knowing that I’m a coffee snob, Jefito sent me a sample of some coffee that is different from my beloved Peet’s, or my standby, Starbucks. The name of the company is the Storyville Coffee Company (out of Seattle, it seems).  But this stuff is no bitter brew. Rather, they have tried something different in the roasting and packaging of coffee. Ready for this? They roast their beans at a lower temperature, then the package the beans and mail it off to you with the date it was roasted on the package. They also suggest that you use all the beans in 3 to 12 days. Mind you, this stuff is for coffee snobs, and if you are happy with the canned swill you buy at Safeway (or whatever grocery store you shop at), don’t bother following me on this post. You are a lost soul and I cannot help you.

Okay, back to it! So, Storyville says that because they roast their beans at a lower temperature, their coffee does not have that bitter and/or burnt aftertaste. Rather, it’s very mellow (almost soft in you mouth) and it’s supposed to taste like no coffee you’ve ever had before. Well alrighty then! I was ready to grind, brew, and drink my way to coffee bliss. So, I studied their instructions for “the perfect cup of coffee” did the following:

1. Measure 1/2 cup of beans to 4 cups of water.

2. Grind the beans coarse, not fine.

3. Place into coffee filter and brew.

4. Pour into a mug and enjoy.

And? It wasn’t that good. It tasted like brown water and I just wasn’t the impressed. Then I realized that I lacked the proper tools for brewing. I didn’t have correct grinder, I didn’t have a French press, nor I have the special spoon to stir the grounds so they became saturated. What to do? Well, I fell back on my usual technique for making coffee: eyeball it. Yep. I eyeball the amount of beans I put in, I eyeball the amount of water I pour in, and I use a better-than-ordinary Mr. Coffee maker. And you know what? Nine times out of ten I make coffee that I really like. So, I brewed another pot with my “Yeah, this looks about right” technique, and, well, it worked! I really liked the second pot, and was so happy I brought in the beans for Jeff to try at work. He thought it was quite good, too. But the price of this stuff is pretty expensive, so I’m not sure if I’ll plop down my cash just yet, but maybe after going back bitter Peet’s, I just might suck it up and plunk down my credit card.

The lesson in all of this? Perfection, when it comes to coffee, is a relative thing. So, don’t follow the instructions.
Example #2: David Lynch. He’s a filmmaker I’ve been fascinated with since I first saw The Elephant Man back in the early 80s. Then I saw Eraserhead (which I loved just because it was weird for weird sake). When Dune came out, I was really amazed that Lynch could take a classic science fiction novel and make it his own. Then Blue Velvet was released and I loved what he was able to do with a fairly simple plot. Twin Peaks was my weekly ritual in college, and on and on it went. Each film (or TV show) became more fragmented and strange with each release. The plots were more abstruse, the main characters were surrounded by bizarre people whose function in the film served as a symbol for…well, I’m not sure. The last two films he did (Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive) were explorations of the fragments of one’s identity. What I like about Lynch (of late, anyway) is that he operates without a net. His films take the viewer on a trip through the mind of a character, and because his films are so psychological in nature, the surreal and the real blur together in a frustrating way. It’s frustrating because we’ve become conditioned to have a film’s plot spoon fed to us. So when Lynch refuses to wrap one of his films in a pretty bow and force a smile on your face as you leave the theater, people write him off as a weirdo who should be prevented from making films.

Well, Lynch’s new film (Inland Empire) is not going to make any new fans, but it will continue to frustrate viewers who want easy answers to a film where even the filmmaker doesn’t know what’s going on. Lynch wrote the scenes the night before shooting and didn’t know how the film was going to start or end. So, the actors would show up and get their lines, and try to piece together the narrative whole. Even Laura Dern (who stars in the film and is one of the producers) has no idea what this film is about. Well, neither do I, but from the early reviews, I think Lynch’s film is an example of what happens when you have the ingredients for making a cup of coffee but decide the turn the directions on its head and see what the outcome is. It may not be pleasant, but it has the distinction of never being tried before.


Inland Empire trailer:

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