Despite having endured years and years of lukewarm expectancy about his movies (“Surely the next one will work as cinema. Hmm. Okay, the next one, then...”), I think I may worship Kevin Smith anyway. So he wears black hoodies and billowing jorts. So he writes scripts where characters say lines like “I didn’t have a roadmap to sexuality.” But damn, not only has he put together an uncommonly unified life and work, he’s hypnotized me with the sheer power of his words. I’ve listened to, like, six hours of The SMODCast in the past two days. And I have other things I need to listen to.
In my experience, the show’s formula works like this: come for the astonishing fact that Smith and co-host/producer/pal Scott Mosier can release wave after wave of dick jokes and observations about Namor the Sub-Mariner and actually make you laugh with them; stay for the weirdly penetrating insights about living life and making stuff. For these guys, living life and making stuff seem to have merged into one and the same, which I’ve long assumed the only viable long-term way to play it. They crack the dick jokes, make the Namor references — indeed, Namor dick jokes — shoot the movies, and record the podcasts, each as facets of the same big... thing. Therefore, any given subject, no matter how seemingly vulgar or juvenile, can well lead to observations that remind me of just that of which I must be reminded.
So first, on an episode where they talk about the details of their self-distribution plan for the upcoming Red State — a film that has drawn mainly eerily reserved responses so far, but never mind — Mosier points out that, when it comes to making stuff and getting it out there the way you want, you can’t truly fail. God, that sounds trite when I type it out, but bear with me: he and Smith go on to explain that, if you do your thing and all goes “successfully” according to plan, sweet — and you’ve got the story to tell on a podcast. If you do it and it sinks, well, then you’ve got, like, three stories. Doing = winning, in some sense, no matter what. Not that they spelled it out this way, but you also enjoy the self-respect that comes with acting on your ideas. You don’t get it as a consolation prize for forfeiture; in fact, I fear you don’t get anything.
Second, on one of the shows where they recall their days at the Vancouver film school where they met, they discuss the making of their first documentary short, Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary. Groups had to come up with a documentary idea and pitch it to the class, so Smith and Mosier, simply wanting to win, came up with this super-earnest speech about nobly bearing cinematic witness to the gender journey of Emelda Mae, a local transsexual. This won over their classmates, as designed, but then the guys realized they didn’t actually want to do a project so fakily high-minded. Luckily, Emelda Mae suddenly skipped the country, which offered Smith and Mosier the chance to have actual fun making a jokey, self-deprecating movie about their failure to produce the cinematic gender journey, etc. Mosier drew a lifelong lesson from this: unless your projects amuse you, and thus you can amuse yourself making them, you’ve probably got nothin’.
Third, and in the same episode, Smith brings up a post from You Are Not So Smart about “present bias.” The relevant research found that, the sooner a subject had to watch a movie, the stupider a movie they would pick to watch. Which movie did the subject want to watch next week? Schindler’s List. Which movie did the subject want to watch right this second? Mrs. Doubtfire. This comes as old, old news to those interested in things procrastinatorial — that post even invokes the marshmallow kids — but perhaps it took a couple of Namor-dick-joke-making podcasters to bring my mind back to it.
“There is no future,” Smith says. “The future is an illusion.” The sharp, supremely capable, immaculately organized future versions of ourselves do not exist, so we’d do well not to lard them with all the challenges and responsibilities we feel unable to handle today. You won’t find future-you substantially more able than present-you — or you might, but it doesn’t help to assume you will. I feel I should make one of these claims: either “Whatever you’re not doing now, you’re not doing” or “Whatever you wouldn’t do now, you wouldn’t do at all.” A tired point, perhaps, and one I’m sure I’ve made before, but I consider my most of my thoughts about the past and future wasted, irrelevant: the present winds up dictating both of them anyway.
Despite the energizing observations from Smith and Mosier that moved me to write it, the process of cranking out this post has laid upon me an overwhelming weariness. Maybe I’ve simply grown weary of relaying things people have said about doing stuff, no matter how inspirational. Maybe the element of self-amusement has dissolved. So I guess I’ll stop doing it — right now.