Sticking With The Classics

There was an essay in the “Bookshelf” section of the most recent UU World that tried to be amusing, but ended up troubling me. W. Frederick Wooden’s essay entitled “Why I’m sticking with classics” while noble in defense and even promotion of classic literature, which as a long ago English literature major I love, seemed to go off course and strike a number of bad chords with me. I dislike sending negative feedback, but in this case I felt I must. UU World Magazine

The first problem is one that was mentioned in the piece itself. It seems he is doing a lot of his classic reading so that he can rub other people’s noses in it – not because he enjoys the reading or wants to gain the knowledge. He says that when people talk to him about reading the latest pot-boiler, he wants to be able to retort that he is reading great classics instead. Not only is that mighty arrogant, but it is downright obnoxious.

Second, and much more importantly, he basically states that only the classics are worth reading or writing, so no one should even try writing new works now. In fact Wooden says there are “too many bad books already, “ and that “they are driving out the good.” If that is not a defeatist attitude then I don’t know what is! Is this what we are supposed to be telling our children? “Sorry son, Babe Ruth was the greatest player in the game, there is no reason for you to play baseball,” or “sorry dear, Penicillin has already been invented, no reason for you to want to be a researcher.”

Finally, his attitude towards recent religious works is that the current books are “at least statistically likely to be about stuff I already agree with.” Again the hubris astounds me. Assuming that someone agrees with you is just as bad as assuming that people won’t agree with you because they are of a different background. Making assumptions without hearing the other side of the story is exactly what some critics do when they call for banning a movie they have never seen and have no intention of seeing. Ignorance goes both ways.

I do realize that Mr. Wooden’s piece was intended to be humorous – at least I hope that was the intention. But, unfortunately, there is just too much troubling rhetoric in it for me to get to the humor. I would dare say that very often humor is a tarp thrown over the truth, and when we pull back that tarp we uncover the real message. Please let that not be the case here.

Thanks for the great magazine, and sorry for the negative feedback.

Note: This was an email letter I sent to the editors of UU World magazine.

My Movies Are Getting Old

It happens to us all sometime. You know, the day you are singing along to a song you like on the radio only to hear the DJ then say, “well that was a blast from the past here on Oldies 102.5” or some such thing. Yes, the songs of you prime are now considered oldies. Sigh. Oh, but it gets worse. Much worse.Indiana Jones

Last night we watched Nicholas Cage in National Treasure. It was an OK movie, especially since it went to a lot of historic places that the family had visited while on vacation this last summer. So it was nice to hear the kids say, “Hey! We went there! I saw that.” But, truthfully the acting and story line were only mediocre. The kids thought it was fun though, so today we rented the classic Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc. That was one of my favorite movies and really set the stage for all the modern adventure flicks.

We had a good time watching Harrison Ford shoot, whip, and fight his way through Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece and then we turned to my son and asked him how he liked it. Bad move. He shrugged and said that it was OK. OK? Raiders of the Lost Arc OK?!

When pressed for why he had this reaction he gave a full discourse on how the effects looked fake, the explosions were staged, and maybe it would have been better if they had used computers to make everything look real. “Were those animatronic snakes?” he asked? Great, my son thinks real snakes are little robots and the only way to make life look real is to generate it with a computer. I shook my head and wondered what we are coming too.

“But how about the story?” I asked him. Yes, I place and emphasis on “story.” He said that it was fine, even kind of fun. My daughter, sensing my frustration told me that yes, the story was OK, but that they needed to explain things more. I stared at her blankly. She said that they didn’t explain enough of what was going on, where people came from, or why they were doing what they did. I told her that some of those questions were answered, but that you had to pay close attention. Or, that some of the questions were answered in other movies or maybe even left unanswered to add mystery. She didn’t like that. “I like movies that lay it out for you. Explain it all.” Another sigh from me.

I am not sure what to do about this. My kids think reality is fake, and that everything needs to be explained and laid out in the open. This from intelligent, inquiring minds. I have to wonder if it is just a difference in generations with the movies we choose, or if part of this is really a shift in the type of entertainment that a newer generation prefers. Movies were visuals and effects must be more real than reality. And where full information must be revealed, not hidden, and must be revealed quickly – say within the three minute span of a music video.

I don’t know the answers, but I do know this – they will be watching some more old movies. And I will go farther back. I think they need to see films like The Maltese Falcon and Casa Blanca. Science fiction films like The Forbidden Planet and Metropolis. And who knows, we just might work our way up to something like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!