Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!
Everything is connected: somehow it seems like we only got started on our weekly exercise in free-fall association yesterday – but no, we’ve already arrived at the hundredth instalment of Six Damn Fine Degrees – and what better occasion than this to reflect on the feature and on cultural links of all sorts?
Julie: The cool thing about writing for A Damn Fine Cup of Culture and its fabulous Barista Collective is exactly that: it’s a collective. And while I always enjoy burying myself in a mountain of books to find something old-timey and sparkly about The Movies, the Six Damn Fine Degrees series has become a treasure trove of the scintillating stuff my co-baristas come up with. From Shakespeare to disaster movies and games of sometimes dubious quality. Among my many faves are Sam’s wonderful article Dubbed and Snubbed. Or Alan’s keen indictment of the portrayal of Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A worthy successor to our Rear-View Mirror series, it’s turned into a treasure trove fit for a dragon.
Matt: How do we learn to enjoy art and culture? First and foremost by enjoying them. We learn how to read novels and poems, watch films, listen to music but doing exactly that. And by making links between them – and by talking about them. This is a big part of why I created this blog a long, long time ago, and why I then looked for people to share their ideas and opinions with me and with the readers. The Six Damn Fine Degrees series has been a fun, silly game, certainly, allowing for all kinds of surprising, unexpected links – from tragic actors to tragically unfunny cartoon cats, from superpowered mutants to LGBT stereotypes in the Age of Disco. But it’s also reminded me of why I love films and books and games so much (not every single one, obviously, but as art forms), and it’s highlighted to me artists and works that I want to check out or revisit. May the chain of associations continue for a long, long time!
Mege: Isn’t that the most valuable thing to do – telling other people about good movies, new faces, creative heads, original cinematic ideas or atmospheric moments in this or that story? If I had to boil down Six Degrees to its very bones, then that would be it – a kind of word-of-mouth via screen. The flimsiest or weightiest of anchors holding down the next instalment – and believe me, sometimes I inserted a mere word to make the connection to last week’s entry. And then on to next week’s – like in the movies, you never know what’s coming.
Sam: Making connections has been an incredibly important concept during my extensive train travels over the past six weeks. Without reaching the next vehicle, our journeys would soon leave us stranded and without direction. Astonishingly at the same time, our series of articles meant to in one way or another make cultural connections to each previous instalment has just reached instalment #100! What appeared to be a cooky concept to unashamedly link to something wildly similar or absurdly remote, to me, has become such a fascinating metaphor for culture itself. Yes, indeed certain indefensible movies may have simply reminded us of that all-too-forgotten actor, underrated composer or even the dubbing voices behind them, but in itself it also showed how indeed everything is connected simply by our memory and association. There have been some random connections I enjoyed most of all (from actor John Garfield to Garfield the Cat or from Madeleine Kahn to Star Trek’s Khan) but most of all, our series has become such a refreshing reminder that everything is everything, that we carry an intricate web of links inside us and that this network of culture becomes all the more complex and fun once we share it with others and go for a wild train ride along uncharted memory territory. Being part of that ride with Matt, Julie, Alan and Mege has been a true pleasure and I can’t wait to make the next connection!
Alan: If you like planning things way in advance, this is not the job for you. The worst mistake to make is, a fortnight before you’re due to write something, to start mentally preparing what you’re going to write. I mean, how off-track can this whole process go in a couple of weeks? I have learnt the hard way that it can go anywhere! Leaving you trying to find a subject you want to write about, with the clock clicking down to Friday afternoon. I had the brainwave to draft possible subjects, to have in reserve because, surely, eventually I can connect them to the previous week’s column. They all sit there, in my drafts folder, gathering dust. Unwanted understudies stuck behind the scenes, never to step out into the light. Or at least not yet. But there’s a considerable upside to this, which is its fun not knowing what the other will write, and enjoying reading posts on subjects I don’t think I would ever have read otherwise. Which I think works tremendously well as an inspiration when the Six Damn Fine Degrees arrow spins round and points to me again. I’m hopefully writing something somebody didn’t expect to ever read about, but will enjoy nonetheless.