Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why Windmills?

"How do I do a film called 'The Old Mill' When I don't have an old mill?"
"Well, first you've got to change the title."
--STATE AND MAIN (David Mamet, 2000)

Not too long ago Andy Horbal addressed the question (asked of him by many people I've no doubt) of why he adopted the name "No More Marriages" for his site. As a fellow-lover of Hamlet I knew immeidately where the name came from but did not know why he chose to use it, particularly for a film blog. If it were a literary or theatrical blog, then I could understand. As it turned out, I think he did a great job explaining his reasons (you can read his post on the subject here). In the comments section I mentioned that someday I might do the same for my bog: elaborate on how/why I arrived at its title. Well, that time is now. So, here's the answer for any of you out there who might've been asking yourselves: "Why did he choose to name his blog Windmills of My Mind?" For those of you who weren't wondering that, I'll explain it anyway.

For anyone who may not recognize it, the title is a not-so-subtle reference to the Oscar-winning song from the film The Thomas Crown Affair. I am referring, of course, to Norman Jewison's 1968 original with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway and not John McTiernan's 1999 remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo (although the song happens to make an appearance in that film as well). It can first be heard over some very 60's-style opening credits and is "sung" by Rex Harrison's son Noel (who apparently inherited his father's gift for speaking song lyrics in tune).


It's a very cool little tune (if you've never heard it before, you can listen to it here) and it made a big impression on me when I first saw the film, not just hecause of it's jazzy style and haunting melody but because of it's amazingly poetic lyrics:


Round, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning wheel
Like a snowball down a mountain or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of it's face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of it's own
Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving in a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream.
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of it's face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle your head
Why did summer go so quickly? Was it something that you said?
Lovers walking along the shore and leave their footprints in the sand
Was the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand?
Pictures hanging in a hallway and a fragment of this song
Half remembered names and faces but to whom do they belong?
When you knew that it was over you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair

A circle in a spiral, a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning wheel
As the images unwind like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind


This is often precisey how I feel about the state of my own mind: like everything up there is just running around in circles, like I am frantically trying to organize the messes both up there and in the world that surrounds me, finding meaning in things that on the surface seem meaningless, finding order in things that seem chaotic, searching for truth when others say that there is none to be found. Starting this blog wasn't just an excuse for me to be able to talk to the world, to share my thoughts, to have a voice. It was also a way for me to work out a lot of my own ideas, to see if the things I think/believe/hold to be true really make sense, to provide an opportunity to hear as well as to be heard. I realize, of course, that at times it may resemble the incomprehensible rantings of a madman, so as I was searching for a fitting title to this blog, in addition to my affection for this song and the film it accompanies, I thought it could almost serve as a sort of "warning" to anyone that came onto my blog as to what they might be in for.

And so, I had at last decided on a name for my blog. All that remained was for me was to change it slightly from the song's official title "Windmills of YOUR Mind" to "Windmills of MY Mind" for the obvious reason that it is my blog and these are my musings coming from my mind (incidentally, I'm not the only person who's thought of this as I've since encountered at least three other blogs with the same name; I guess it was too good of an idea to be completely original).

Initially this blog was not intended to be a film blog. It was simply going to be a blog about whatever I chose to write about, but I realized very early on that a blog about anything and everything can easily become a blog about nothing. My blog needed an identity, a focus. Hence, as a self-proclaimed lover of film (and since it was two films blogs that a film blog (you can read that announcement here). It ended up being sort of fortuitous that the title of my blog originated from a film. I have to admit that if I had a chance to do it over again and had planned on making this a film blog from the very beginning, I probably would've gone with a title like: "Are Women Magic?" Something a bit more subtle and obscure perhaps but no less fitting since it comes from a great film about making films. Also, as silly as this may sound, since most people list the links on their sites alphabetically (including me), Windmills of My Mind typically ends up being put on the bottom while something like "Are Women Magic?" would be near the top. A minor point I know, but not perhaps an inconsequential one. At any rate, I'm happy with my name for now and I don't intend to change it.


I'll close this already sickening self-indulgent post with one final word. It's virtually impossible nowadays to think of a windmill without somehow making a connection to a Quixotic sort of quest: fighting giant monsters, which aren't really monsters, with armor and weapons that aren't really armor and weapons. I knew this associtaion would also probably be made and I didn't mind it at all. Understand that I do not see myself at as a Don Quixote-like character, but I certainly feel like it sometimes. There is a profound speech (probably worthy of being featured in my "Great Cinematic Speeches" series) given by Don Quixote's creator Miguel DeCervantes (as played Peter O'Toole) in the 1972 musical film version of Man of La Mancha. The last few lines especially pretty much sum up what I consider to be my philosophy toward life:

"I've been a soldier and a slave. I've seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I've held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words, only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning "Why?" I don't think they were wondering why they were dying, but why they had ever lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? To surrender dreams--this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all--to see life as it is and not as it should be."

31 comments:

cineboy said...

I first heard the song onThe Muppet Show, so I always had a kind of "zany" perspective on the song until I was older and heard the original - and also realized many of the songs on The Muppet Show were borrowed from actual songs that the adults already knew about.

Damian said...

Wow! I had never seen that bit before. Crazy. Gotta love those Muppets. Gotta miss Jim Henson.

I've often wondered how many classic songs/stories/images have been introduced to young people via parodies, homages and so forth. I know that in my own life I've seen/heard pieces of classical music or famous quotes used in movies and TV shows and then years later I've gone back and viewed the initial work from which they originated and been totally surprised (such as Gene Wilder's quoting Oscar Wilde in Willy Wonka). "Oh, so THAT's what came from!" is a statement I've said to myself more times than I can count.

Anak Merdeka said...

I was searching for the lyrics to this long-forgotten song and it brought me here.

You wrote from the heart and it touches the reader in me much like how that song touched my heart many many years ago when I sang it in the school choir.

It also brought to my mind another evocative song - Memories. How nostalgic!

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