Memento: File, File, File.
April 15, 2002 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Memento: File, File, File. Tax Day. Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Choke) reflects on Memento and the predominant art form of our time: Note Taking. He writes, "My filing system is my fetish."
posted by jacknose (23 comments total)
I would just like to throw out there that I saw Memento this Saturday at our local Rerun Film Festival, and I was totally amazed. I had been waiting until I was awake to absorb it and was truly impressed.

Re: Notes. I am constantly writing, rewriting, and updating notes in order to obtain the most up-to-date accurate status about my life. Only then can I rest (it's about 4 minutes of nirvana before something else happens.).
posted by byort at 8:53 AM on April 15, 2002

His "filing system may be [his] fetish," but my new filing technique is unstoppable. And did you know that get your war on is now up to eight? (Actually 8.5 according to the site?)
posted by Sinner at 9:05 AM on April 15, 2002

from the article: Socrates is trying to convince the young man that speech is better than written communication, or any recorded communication including film.

I wonder if Socrates was talking about 35mm, or if he was including DV?

This article isn't about memory; it's about how the author bragging about how much money he has.
posted by bingo at 9:06 AM on April 15, 2002

it's about how the author bragging about how much money he has.

Because he bought some five dollar file cabinets and stayed at a hotel in Carson, Nevada?
posted by rodii at 9:23 AM on April 15, 2002

i need note taking, because while the retention of my long-term memory is sick in its large capacity my short-term memory is shit. if someone calls for another and i don't write a note, it's out of mind until that someone calls back wondering why the other hadn't returned.

by the way -- i'm all for conversational writing. that's my usual mode on mefi and other forums. but can chuck palahniuk ever not write conversationally? i recently read Choke and thought grammer, grammer... choking!
posted by moz at 9:40 AM on April 15, 2002

Many cheap forms of filing systems can be had or invented. Whether scraps of paper or card stock stolen from a temp job, ascetically ripped by hands into quarters and rigidly placed onto a metal spoke plundered from a junkyard (sanitary measures up to plunderer), or a $10 box of file folders, the issue of how one creates a file system is largely beholden to the filer's own eccentricities.

As for the onus of Palahuniuk (and Memento), he has a definite point about two conditions plauging the Western world: cultural amnesia and sensory overload. We have reached a point in human history in which the harsh dissonance of information is not only unreasonable, but in most cases unmanageable. One can aspire to be a renaissance figure all s/he wants, but unless possessed of a mind capable of simultaneously weighing the complexities of quantum physics equations, an encylopedic knowledge of every comic book title ever published and a crystal memory devoted to all known ailments that afflict the human, one must choose his/her fields of expertise or be drowned in the ice flow.
posted by ed at 9:43 AM on April 15, 2002

I think this is a boy thing. I have a hopeless memory but am completely incapable and it would seem unwilling to construct a filing system. I tend to print put only very essential things, scatter them round the room then forget about them. There's something very masculine and slightly autistic about obsessive note taking and filing.
posted by Summer at 10:17 AM on April 15, 2002

Like the robotic birds, these are interesting facts, but what can I do with them?

Do what the rest of us do, Chuck; blog them. The archives do all the work.

And how come he gets to be joined at the hip with Guy Pearce?
posted by iconomy at 10:27 AM on April 15, 2002

summer: What a terribly genderist thing to say. Why don't you tell that to Amy Wallace, one of the authors of the ever-resourceful Book of Lists books? Or Caterina Fake, who has several lists of the books that she's read?

There's nothing remotely gender-specific about keeping lists or filing systems. Every person has a different way of keeping track of the knowledge inside their heads. Depending upon the person, they may memorialize it in a notebook (a la Anais Nin) or keep lists or a filing system.
posted by ed at 10:39 AM on April 15, 2002

i don't mean to imply that i've a well-organized filing system. i don't. i'm not a terribly masculine person either, though i have been known to kill small, many-legged bugs.
posted by moz at 10:49 AM on April 15, 2002

I actually own a Handspring Visor, but I don't use it anymore. If something is worth remembering, I should use my brain to do so (I have hundreds of urls in my head, for example). Otherwise I use technology as a crutch, as a consequence my mind is weakened (haven't you noticed?).

It's the same deal with calculators. The only things I take notes on are class discussions, and phone numbers, simply because of the sheer volume and cost benefit of spending time to recall all of those things or being able to get them instantly from notes.

Everything else I remember with my digital camera. Besides, some stuff just isn't worth remembering.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:10 AM on April 15, 2002

summer: take it from me, i'm a woman and i (nearly) obsessively make lists. it's about the only neat and tidy thing i do. my house is a mess but i always have an orderly, numbered to-do list on the go. and when a couple new appointments/tasks come along, i am compelled to create another list with those new items included (no scribbling allowed!). it makes me somehow feel i'm getting things done, otherwise i feel at loose ends. the funniest part is when certain not-so-fun tasks get transferred from list to list to list—perpetually "to do" and never "done". quite odd and ocd, i suppose, but certainly not the domain of men only.

btw, my short-term memory stinks too.
posted by meowmix at 11:26 AM on April 15, 2002

I make to-do lists obsessively also. Not so much a memory thing as a stress thing. I get very stressed, so I make a list. It helps me figure out all what I have to do and makes the large tasks smaller. Of course, if I don't do what I've got on my lists, my problems don't get smaller. Oh well.
posted by stoneegg21 at 11:40 AM on April 15, 2002

I store everything in my brain. Phone numbers, addresses, appointments etc. It works pretty well. Just last week, I reminded a friend about an appt. even though we had made this appt. two weeks prior. She had forgotten it and had neglected to look in her Palm Pilot.

Its amazing how taxing your brain in this regard actually strengthens it. I do use mnemonics from time to time, most of them spatial.

Matteo Ricci, in his mission to the Orient, was spreading not only Catholicism, but also mental filing systems known as memory palaces.
posted by vacapinta at 11:42 AM on April 15, 2002

i've linked it elsewhere :) but i think lev manovich's database and narrative (and perhaps more apropos, database cinema :) is particularly relevant!
An ordinary person finds himself in some sort of environment, gets lost amidst the zillions of phenomena, and observes these phenomena from a bad vantage point. He registers one phenomenon very well, registers a second and a third, but has no idea of where they may lead... But the man with a movie camera is infused with the particular thought that he is actually seeing the world for other people. Do you understand? He joins these phenomena with others, from elsewhere, which may not even have been filmed by him. Like a kind of scholar he is able to gather empirical observations in one place and then in another. And that is actually the way in which the world has come to be understood.
like with momento, run lola run, time code (and code unknown :) and pulp fiction recently non-linear narrative is making a comeback! and not just in movies!
posted by kliuless at 12:18 PM on April 15, 2002

Things I retain in my brain: phone numbers, names, references and random associations.

Things I put down on lists: Things that need to go into my brain and stick, $25,000 Pyramid ideas, other ideas I'm afraid I'll forget and strange MeFi posts.
posted by ed at 12:20 PM on April 15, 2002

Are note-taking, list-making and generally making an external memory for yourself things that we do simply because we can and don't need to discipline our memories? Or are they natural follow-ons from the fact that it is no longer possible to have the totality of human knowledge stored in your head and so we need to make our 'heads' a little bit bigger? I mean, once the cool, clever kids are doing it then everyone else is going to as well, right? Nah, I reckon that for most people it's the former option. Such methods provide a handy excuse as well: "Sorry I didn't meet you like I said I would - my computer crashed and I lost all of my calendar information for the week."
posted by MUD at 12:26 PM on April 15, 2002

Because he bought some five dollar file cabinets and stayed at a hotel in Carson, Nevada?

No, because most people, disorganized or not, would remember posing for GQ, an evening spent at a producer's beach villa, and the reason for a seventy-dollar cab trip without too much trouble.
posted by bingo at 12:51 PM on April 15, 2002

No, because most people, disorganized or not, would remember posing for GQ, an evening spent at a producer's beach villa, and the reason for a seventy-dollar cab trip without too much trouble.

I somehow fail to see how talking about staying in Nevada for a photo shoot, and taking a 70 dollar cab ride constitutes bragging.

Perhaps he had some more important things on his mind that year, like his father being burned beyond belief and murdered by white supremacists in the woods of northern Oregon. Maybe he lost track of that specific date on his promotional circuit for Fight Club. Or maybe it's the years that he spent as a drug addict that have kind of messed with his long term memory?

I mean, give me a break. If he wanted to brag about being rich, there are a lot other ways he could do it. He got millions from Fox for Fight Club, and he's a New York Times best selling author. I think you're reading way too much into it.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:59 PM on April 15, 2002

I have hundreds of urls in my head, for example

URLs are much easier to remember than, say, names, because URLs have significance (they are a path that made some sort of the sense to the person who set up the directory structure), whereas names are more or less arbitrary (there is no reason Jane is named Jane that helps me remember that her name is... um...).
posted by kindall at 3:36 PM on April 15, 2002

non-linear narrative is making a comeback! and not just in movies!

last experimental film. a nice point. enjoyed The Limey. You make. That's why I. which was Soderbergh's.
posted by jacknose at 4:32 PM on April 15, 2002

posted by jacknose at 4:33 PM on April 15, 2002

kindall: URLs are much easier to remember than, say, names, because URLs have significance

bruce willis: I'm an American, baby. Our names don't mean shit.

Depends where you're from. A patronymic is a bit like a genealogical URL, but backwards. If I'd been born 200 years ago, I'd be Niclas ap Mihangel ap Siôn. Much easier to remember ;-)
posted by ceiriog at 9:08 AM on April 16, 2002

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