Archive for December, 2022

History v Entertainment

At a dinner party recently, a few of us somehow got onto the subject of movies.  I suspect one of the participants in the discussion was woke before anybody thought to call it that.  We all agreed that the stereotypes filmed years ago were now no longer quite as prevalent (no one mentioned “Birth of a Nation,” so maybe the group wasn’t quite as left as I surmised).  At one point I did mention Seattle’s sordid history of “red lining.”  One person was surprised, another agreed that Seattle has been far less than “progressive” in its history.

But, as I sat here (days after the dinner party) watching Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in “Holiday Inn” (admittedly, one of my all-time faves at this time of year), I was struck by the “number” that Bing performed for the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  I’m sure I’ve seen that movie a dozen or more times; but this was the first time that I found that particular scene repugnant.

Of course this would be a fitting segue to other abominations in our nation’s history.  ‘Nuf said, there?

Having grown up in Indiana, and graduated from what I have always considered a very open-minded high school, I am almost as surprised at the history of the “Hoosier State” as I am at how little was taught – or at least, how little I learned.

Should Bing Crosby’s “black face” routine ever have been regarded as entertainment?  Hell, no.  However, it is history – it is an accurate, albeit repugnant, representation of what audiences found entertaining.  It is, as The History Guy on YouTube is so fond of saying: “History that deserves to be remembered.”  And, I might add, taught to my own children.  Just like the Buddha statues at Bamiyan, and the Taliban’s destruction.

Fun Fact: there is now a mosque at the site of the statues – just like a mosque at the remains of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  History does not, in and of itself, repeat.  However, people with very short memories make the same mistakes as their (our) ancestors.


Home Alone

Not really; just thought that was a catchy title – might make a great movie.  Actually, just the opposite is true: our 7-yr old Twins are home w the creeping crud; I am home because I’m retired and always home; “the wife” sounded terrible when she set off for work this morning and should be back anytime – no doubt to fall into bed.

But, what I find most significant about this morning is that all three of us are “on” our respective laptops.  Yeah: three people in the same family – albeit two very, very junior – each with their own laptop.

Last night I tried to explain to my 95-yr old mother what we were talking about when we said that our kids were taking a “coding” class.  Took me back to my Fortran 4 days, and IBM cards, and, well, that is too depressing.  Moving on.

My kids repeatedly ask about cell phones and internet and, yes, tvs – as in “Did you have ___ when you were our age?”  I have been asked about cars, too.  I didn’t know squat about “coding” until college, and my kids are learning it in second grade.  Of course, in the “good ol’ days” we actually had to understand what we were writing, or spend hours and hours in the basement of the math sciences building trying to “de-bug” our exercises (talk about exercises in futility!).

All this was initiated when my mom wondered about the rate of change and where things were going.  She of course grew up in a house where the closest phone was at the closest tavern.  I pointed out to her that no one less than 15 yrs old has ever known a world w/o so-called “smart phones.”  True, I have never known a world w/o tv.  I”m not sure who has the better deal.  Fer shur: I can’t imagine the next 30-40 years.  I don’t think I’ll worry about anything after that.

The one class I took in high school that I use every day is typing.  Then, it was on a manual typewriter, but the keyboard layout hasn’t changed since when?*  I do love “science fiction” movies, especially the ones where the characters half-a-century from now are still typing on keyboards.  The human beings themselves haven’t changed – they are still plagued by the same faults and foibles that we can read about every day (or see in the mirror if we care to look at what is there, not at what we want to be there).  Can’t run away from ourselves, I guess.

Still, to think of the tech that 7-yr olds have at their fingertips?  Truly, my mind is boggled.  And yes, “Oculus” is passé for these two.  I can only shake my head in wonder at what will be “real reality” for them (you know: as opposed to the “virtual” kind).


*Stamp, Jimmy, “Fact of Fiction? The Legend of the QWERTY Keyboard,” Smithsonian Magazine, 2013 May 3, “”