Here’s a link to my interview with Diana von Glahn, aka The Faithful Traveler, on her daily radio show on Real Life Radio.
Our town, perhaps like your town, has what many towns used to have: an ornate downtown theater, A “Showplace of [insert state or geographic region here]”
And like many of those ornate, state-monikered theaters, it occasionally shows films – during December and the summer, to be exact.
When I was growing up in Knoxville, the Tennessee Theater revived itself and began showing classic films and oh, it was glorious. I think for a time, they did it year-round, not just during the summer, and in those mostly pre-cable and pre-VHS days, this was my introduction, in real life, to the films I yearned to see, from the Marx Brothers to Casablanca. My most vivid memory was a showing of Gaslight in a packed theater – packed because Gaslight was on a double bill with Casablanca, and everyone had come to see Bogart and Bergman (although I had come to see Rains…more my type). Gaslight ended up surprising everyone, and the thrill of that collective gasp from the audience at various points in the film taught me all I needed to know about the difference between solitary and communal experiences.
We’ve been able to hit only a couple of showings at the Alabama this summer, and both in the last couple of weeks – the first was Singin’ in the Rain, and the second, last Saturday, was The General with a score composed by the organist.
As per usual, the mostly older volunteers at the door marveled over the presence of anyone younger than 25, and asked of the boys, “Have you ever seen a silent movie before?” They nodded – they’ve seen Chaplin, and a few weeks ago the ten-year old and I watched Keaton’s The Camerman when his brother was off somewhere else.
What a great film – (I’d never seen it either) – very funny, astonishing physical dexterity, and some visual humor that is a subtle as you can get without sound – the opposite of Kathy Selden’s accusation of “dumb show” in Singin’ in the Rain, of course!
And yes, the boys liked it. Kids learn to appreciate culture in whatever context their sensibilities are formed in, which is why it’s careless and irresponsible to just let them watch anything and everything. If they grow up exposed to increasing level of complexity and subtlety, a well as just quality – they’ll ultimately be bored by stupidity and (hopefully) turn from it, not out of outrage or offense, but simply because they have better things to do with their short time on earth, and they know it.
…or they could be the group of no older than 10-year old girls at the pool this week talking about how great Dumb and Dumber II was…sigh….
I FINALLY finished the trip report of our late May trip out West. You can find all the post by clicking on this, which takes you to all posts in the category, “Wild West 2015.”
Ended with Las Vegas. Hated it. Boys weren’t impressed either.
We started watching the Amazon series Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. One episode in, and I like it very much. It’s funny, a little magical and quite humane, knowing rather than know-it-all. It looks as if it might be a win.
New high school son has Fahrenheit 451 as his summer reading, so since I’d never actually read it – as much as I liked Bradbury as a teen, I never got to this novel – I decided to read it, too.
It’s quite different from what I expected, based on the use of the books by contemporary “anti-censorship” activists. (I put that it quotes because most READ BANNED BOOKS movements are pretty happy to ban Bibles and religious materials, so I find it difficult to take them seriously)
Have you read it? If you haven’t you should, and if you last read it 30 years ago, give it another look, because it might strike you a little more powerfully in this Internet Age. It’s not as much about “book burning” for specific ideas, but more about the differences between the act of reading, period and the state induced by visual and audio stimulation.
Basically? The act of reading and the time and space we live in when we read encourages and enables actual thought, contemplation and an individual, unique relationship to ideas and reality. The culture which Bradbury creates that stands opposed to that is instantly recognizable: people plugged in all the time. All the time. Living room walls turned into screens peopled by characters whose lives consume the public’s attention. Walking and sleeping plugged into earbuds. The reader, the thinker, the wanderer, the dreamer, suspect and exiled.
Written sixty years ago, the book is eerily prophetic. The modern reality of the plugged in world is a little different from what Bradbury creates in that it’s missing the communication aspect – his vision is that the power of technology is even more damaging because it emanates from a central source that uses it to keep the public uncritical, unaware and stupid. One could argue that our modern scene is the opposite – we don’t have a centralized source of technology, and in fact our lives are marked by a cacophony of voices that rain upon us from our screens and earbuds.
But somehow, even in that is uniformity. Because it’s still noise, it’s still a distraction, it still distorts our perspective and pulls us away from silence, contemplation, stillness and our purely individual encounter with words, ideas and images in the midst of that stillness, a stillness that affords us the mental space to relate, mull over, decide and, if we choose, close the book and walk away.
Pinball Hall of Fame or Whatever. Las Vegas.
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