Fair warning disclaimer: This one is in search of a point. I kept thinking I would get there, but at the end of the day have failed miserably. But I want to post it as I haven’t posted in a few days, and I’m trying to get back to an every-other-day schedule.
I think Finding Forrester is one of the best films ever made. I watched it again, last night. It’s absolutely one of my all-time favorites, and one of those I can watch over and over again, still maintaining rapt interest. Some people do this with many films, but I’m sorry, three times was it for Star Wars with me, and once is enough for most others. But I happen to love Finding Forrester with Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Anna Paquin and Busta Rhymes, for so many reasons. It’s about writing, and finding a voice, and dealing with criticism. It’s about overcoming expectation is an essentially racist and sexist society where there is, nonetheless, real opportunity for someone willing to put in the work and display the talent and aptitude. It’s about demanding more of oneself, even when those around you have lower expectations. And it’s also a quintessential New York movie to me, in that it feels and looks like the New York I lived in for 12 years, and still miss, and which very, very few movies ever successfully capture.
My favorite expression from the movie is one that peppers my conversations from time to time, and that no one who doesn’t love that movie as I do (read: no one) ever gets.
Forrester: You better stir that soup.
Forrester: Stir the soup before it firms up.
Jamal: Why doesn't ours get anything on it?
Forrester (looking out of the window through his camcorder): Come on. Closer. Now.
Jamal: You got someone doing that kind of yelling? (a reference to an earlier conversation where Jamal describes his neighbors yelling during sex)
Forrester: What I have is an adult male. Quite pretty. Probably strayed from the park. (Jamal looks at him quizzically, until Forrester shows him the image on the camcorder-a close-up of a bird) A Connecticut warbler.
Jamal: You ever go outside to do any of this?
Forrester: You should have stayed with the soup question. (getting angry) The object of a question is to obtain information that matters only to us. You were wondering why your soup doesn't firm up? Probably because your mother was brought up in a house that never wasted milk in soup. That question was a good one, in contrast to, "Do I ever go outside?", which fails to meet the criteria of obtaining information that matters to you.
Jamal: All right. I guess I don't have any more soup questions.
Later on, they’re talking in Forrester’s apartment, amid his endless volumes of books and papers, and the theme comes up again.
Jamal: Did you ever get married?
Forrester: Not exactly a soup question, is it?
At the end of the movie, after Jamal makes a stand and proves he’s more than just a black pair of hands on the basketball court, he and Forrester are walking and talking outside the school. This is significant because the reclusive Forrester has panic attacks, and, before Jamal came into his life, would never leave his apartment, and had never left, without Jamal. This last time, to help Jamal, he left on his own.
Forrester: I'm thinking you'll make your own decisions from here on.
Jamal: I thought you'd say something like, "I always could."
Forrester: No more lessons. I have a question, though. Those two foul shots at the end of the game…did you miss them or did you miss them?
Jamal: Not exactly a soup question, is it?
So, I’ve picked up the expression, “That’s not exactly a soup question” as a way of saying, “I’m not sure that’s really any of your business” in a polite, if puzzling way. Now, you might get it and thus be part of a select group in the non-sequitur know.
Part of my problem with small talk in general is that it’s made up of questions masquerading as soup questions. People who are the best conversationalists are, IMHO, those people who can get people to talk about themselves. Get someone to talk about himself, and you’re guaranteed a five minute conversation with little more than slight pushes to get it rolling and with little effort you can keep it moving easily for another five minutes. Snippets along the line of answering the old joke, “But enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”
But the flip side of that is when you’re genuinely interested in someone, in what they think, in their experiences. Then those questions become soup questions, as they help you form your opinion of and expand your interest in the person, thereby establishing or strengthening your bond with that person. I miss those kinds of conversations. It seems I have less and less of them, replaced by something else. That something else is party conversations-those intermingling discussions that are designed mainly to fill the empty void between two people who likely aren’t going to see each other again for months or weeks, if ever. I find myself drifting in those, thinking I’d rather be drawing, or I’d rather be writing. Sometimes, I just plain drift over to a quiet corner and pull out my notepad or my sketchbook, and do.
What this blog has become is a place to have those conversations-to answer the unasked soup questions, if you will. This is a place to talk about some stuff that matters. To ask some questions that, perhaps, give some insight into information that matters to me. To whom? To whoever wants to read. And to some (selfish) degree, to myself.
So, ask more soup questions, friends. Make them count.