He Was a Quiet Man, La Jetee, & Owl Creek Bridge

I didn’t really get too much accomplished today.  Just worked on some stuff for QRD mainly.

I also watched He Was a Quiet Man again which is kind of a Donnie Darko/Office Space/Punch Drunk Love hybrid starring Christian Slater.  So if the Christian Slater part makes it sound better to you, then you’ll probably like it.  The portion at the bottom of this entry (after the videos) is a bit of a spoiler for the movie.

As a lot of you might know, one of the things I’m kind of obsessed with is time travel.  Especially La Jetee, which I just found out Time magazine named as the best time travel movie of all time (but strangely Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure also made their top ten).  & I found that the whole thing’s available to watch online, so here you go:

I also found this bizarre tribute to La Jetee from Sigue Sigue Sputnik.  I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it.  The way too fast of text is a bit annoying, but in general I could figure out a lot of it as it quotes La Jetee at times.

Okay now for the spoiler bit on He Was a Quiet Man.  So it is basically the last moment of life artificial life story as made famous by “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (you can read it here if you never have, it’s about 8 pages long) in the 1880s.  But I decided to trace back a bit & supposedly the following is the earliest version of this story I could find as fiction (I’ll grant you there may be some mythology stories that could be classed like this).  It was a pain to find, so I figured I’d just paste the text in for you below.  But I do find it interesting that the idea goes back this many hundreds of years & you have to wonder if it doesn’t go further back.  Because granted I’m from a point in time where “it was all a dream” is a bit of an overused plot device, but it seems like this idea is hardwired into me & I remember having trouble separating dreams from reality as a child & always being a bit obsessed with them.

Count Lucanor, or The Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio
Written by Prince Don Juan Manuel (1337, translated 1868 by James York)


Of that which happened to a Dean of Santiago, with Don Man, the Magician, who lived at Toledo.

One day Count Lucanor was conversing with Patronio, whose advice he sought under the following circumstances. “Patronio,” said he, “a man came to me and begged I would assist him, knowing I was able to do so, promising to serve me in return, at any time, either for the promotion of my interest or honour. I rendered him all the assistance in my power, when, before his trouble was removed (although he believed it to be so), a circumstance happened in which I knew he could render me assistance, which I begged him to do; but he made me some excuse. Since then another case has arisen where he could have been of service to me, but again, as before, he has excused himself, and in every instance when I have needed his help he has always declined assisting me under some plea or other. Now his difficulties are not yet removed, nor can they be without my assistance. I, therefore, pray you, having so much confidence in your judgment, to advise me how to act under such circumstances.”

“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “in order that you may know how to act in such a case, it is desirable that you should hear what happened to a Dean of Santiago, with Don Illan, who was a great magician, and dwelt in Toledo.”

The Count begged he would narrate it.

“My lord,” said Patronio, “there was a Dean of Santiago who had a great desire to be initiated in the art of necromancy; and, hearing that Don Illan of Toledo knew more of this art than any other person in that country, came to Toledo with a view of studying under him. On the day of his arrival he proceeded to the house of Don Illan, whom he found reading in a retired chamber, and who received him very graciously, desiring him not to inform him of the motive of his visit until he had first partaken of his repast, which was found excellent, and consisted of every delicacy that could be desired.

“Now, when the repast was concluded, the dean took the magician aside and told him the motive of his visit, urging him very earnestly to instruct him in the art in which he was so great an adept, and which he, the dean, desired so anxiously to be made acquainted with.

“When Don Ulan told him that he was a dean and, consequently, a man of great influence, and that he would attain a high position, saying, at the same time, that men, generally speaking, when they reach an elevated position and attain the objects of their ambition, forget easily what others have previously done for them, as also all past obligations and those from whom they received them failing generally in the performance of their former promises, the dean assured him such should not be the case with him; saying, no matter to what eminence he might attain, he would not fail to do everything in his power to help his former friends, and the magician in particular.

“In this way they conversed until supper-time approached; and now, the covenant between them being completed, Don Ulan said to the dean, that, in teaching him the art he desired to learn, it would be necessary for them to retire to some distant apartment, and, taking him by the hand, led him to a chamber. As they were quitting the dining room, he called his housekeeper, desiring her to procure some partridges for their supper that night, but not to cook them until she had his special commands. Having said this, he sought the dean and conducted him to the entrance of a beautifully carved stone staircase, by which they descended a considerable distance, appearing as if they had passed under the river Tagus, and, arriving at the bottom of the steps, they found a suite of rooms and a very elegant chamber, where were arranged the books and instruments of study; and, having here seated themselves, they were debating which should be the first books to read, when two men entered by the door and gave the dean a letter which had been sent to him by his uncle the archbishop, informing him that he was dangerously ill, and that if he wished to see him alive it would be requisite for him to come immediately. The dean was much moved by this news partly on account of the illness of his uncle, but more through the fear of being obliged to abandon his favourite study, just commenced so he wrote a respectful letter to his uncle the archbishop, which he sent by the same messengers. At the end of four days, other men arrived on foot bringing fresh letters to the dean, informing him that the archbishop was dead, and that all those interested in the welfare of the Church were desirous that he should succeed to his late uncle’s dignity, telling him, at the same time, it was quite unnecessary for him to inconvenience himself by returning immediately, as his nomination would be better secured were he not present in the church. At the end of seven or eight days, two squires arrived, very richly dressed and accoutered, who, after kissing his hand, delivered to him the letters informing him that he had been appointed archbishop.

“When Don Ulan heard this he told him he was much pleased that this good news had arrived during his stay in his house; and, as God had been so gracious to him, begged that the deanery now vacant might be given to his son.

“The archbishop elect replied, that he hoped Don Ulan would allow him to name to the vacancy his own brother, saying, at the same time, that he would present him with some office in his own church with which his son would be contented, inviting, at the same time, both father and son to accompany him to Santiago.

“To this they consented; and all three departed for the city, where they were received with much honour. After they had resided there some time, there arrived one day messengers from the Pope bearing letters naming the former dean Bishop of Tolosa, permitting him at the same time to name whom he pleased to succeed him in his vacant see.

“When Don Ulan heard this he reminded him of his promise, urging him to confer the appointment on his son. But the archbishop again desired that he would allow him to name one of his paternal uncles to succeed him. Don Ulan replied, that, although he felt he was unjustly treated, still, relying on the future accomplishment of his promise, he should let it be. The archbishop thanked him again renewed his promise of future services and, inviting Don Ulan and his son to accompany him, they all set out for Tolosa, where they were well received by the counts and great men of the country.

“They had resided there about two years when messengers again came from the Pope with letters in which he announced to the archbishop that he had named him cardinal, allowing him, as before, to name his successor.

“On this occasion Don Ulan went to him, and again urging that many vacancies had taken place, to none of which he had named his son, so that now he could plead no excuse, and he hoped the cardinal would confer this last dignity on his son. But once more the cardinal requested Don Ulan would forgive his having bestowed the vacant see on one of his maternal uncles; saying he was a very good old man, and proposing they should now depart for Rome, where undoubtedly he would do for them all they could desire. Don Ulan complained very much; nevertheless, he consented to accompany the cardinal to Rome. On their arrival they were very well received by the other cardinals and the entire court, and they lived there a long time. Don Ulan daily importuned the cardinal to confer some appointment on his son, but he always found some excuse for not doing so.

“While they were yet at Rome, the pope died, and all the cardinals assembled in conclave elected our cardinal pope.

“Then Don Ulan came to him, saying, ‘You have now no excuse to offer for not fulfilling the promises you have hitherto made me.’

“But the new pope told him not to importune him so much, as there was still time to think of him and his son.

“Don Ulan now began to complain in earnest. ‘You have,’ said he, ‘made me very many promises, not one of which you have performed.’ He then recalled to his mind how earnestly he had pledged his word at their first interview to do all he could to help him, and never as yet had he done anything. ‘I have no longer any faith in your words,’ said Don Ulan, ‘nor do I now expect anything from you.’

“These expressions very much angered the pope, who replied, tartly, ‘If I am again annoyed in this manner I will have you thrown into prison as a heretic and a sorcerer, for I know well that in Toledo, where you lived, you had no other means of support but by practising the art of necromancy.’

“When Don Ulan saw how ill the pope had requited him for what he had done, he prepared to depart, the pope refusing to grant him wherewith to support himself on the road. ‘Then,’ said he to the pope, ‘since I have nothing to eat, I must fall back upon the partridges I ordered for tonight’s supper.’ He then called out to his housekeeper, and ordered her to cook the birds for his supper.

“No sooner had he spoken, than the dean found himself again in Toledo, still dean of Santiago, as on his arrival, but so overwhelmed with shame that he knew not what to say.

“‘How fortunate is it,’ said Don Ulan to him, ‘that I have thus proved the intrinsic value of your promises in prosperity; for, as it is, I should have considered it a great misfortune had I allowed you to partake of the partridges.’

“And you, Count Lucanor, will now see how you ought to act towards the man, who, desiring your assistance, is so ungrateful. Risk not too much on the chance of your services being repaid at some future time, or you may anticipate the reward Don Ulan received from the dean.”

The Count found this to be very good advice, acted upon it, and was benefited.

And Don Juan, thinking this to be a very good example, had it written in this book and composed these verses, which say as follows:

Who pays thy kindness with ungratefulness,
The more he has to give, he’ll give the less.

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