i am no luddite, far from it. i am astounded by the technological marvels that surround us on a daily basis and by the speed at which they develop and advance these days. when i think of what someone who is ninety today has seen in their lifetime, i almost can't adequately process it. i love the infinite possibility of discovery and am endlessly fascinated by the intersection of those ideas with people. my "if i had a time machine" list begins with the world's columbian exposition in chicago, illinois in 1893. one, i have an abiding affection for chicago. if i were a city, that's the one i would be. two, can you imagine encountering so many sights, sounds and experiences for the first time, all in one place? i know it wouldn't be new to me but to get to see so many people experience tesla's alternating current, the ferris wheel, the electrotachyscope, neon lights, indonesian music, the hamburger, quaker oats, and on and on for the first time would be amazing. i would go back there just to see their faces, the future exploding in their brains and twenty-six million people leaving the white city in twenty-six million different directions, their hearts and minds on fire, wondering "what's next?".
i would choose to go there most of all because i also love the outmoded and archaic. it would be the best of both worlds, to see these ideas, now seemingly ancient, at their inception. i have such a fondness for the ideas we have discarded, outgrown. for me, it's akin to pulling for the underdog. the peculiar and particular charms of the things we have left behind hold more romance for me than maybe anything else. i think part of that stems from observing the care and craft it took to make those things. another part of it is just honoring the unique qualities of an object and its time and place. the general (1927) would not be the same if buster keaton was on a bullet train, rather than a steam locomotive. the idea of harold lloyd hanging from a jumbotron in safety last! (1923) just doesn't have the same appeal. but the thing i would hate to lose to the insistent march of time more than any other bit of cinema?
our old pal, and stalwart expository device, the newspaper.
man, i hope the newspaper in cinema never dies. i know at this point it is beyond hackneyed, but i do love it so. it's so much more than a method of delivering information to me. it's industry, it's danger, it's love. when i see a newspaper onscreen, i see an army of men and women scouring the city, unearthing stories, working into the wee hours in shitty newsrooms and at relentless printing presses, keeping the machinery moving, in lockstep with the weird rhythms of their town, getting into scrapes, sometimes getting killed, living and dying to tell, or manipulate, the truth. i see the other articles peripheral to the headline that truly make the difference, the little things in the margins that make it real. i see people gathering in the street to share information. i see a million front stoops and breakfast tables. i see empires rising and falling.
all of which are feelings i wouldn't get from seeing the same information pop up in a character's google reader. sorry, digital age. as much as i like what you have to offer, in this case, you lose. a "dewey defeats truman" mass text just isn't going to cut it. if the newspaper was good enough for orson welles, it is good enough for me. i like them in montages. i like them spinning. i like them in bundles thrown from trucks at 4 a.m. i like them in morning, afternoon and evening editions.
see that? that's terrifying. that guy could be anywhere! but you wouldn't know that if it came in a forward. you would have deleted that. then you'd be dead. good job, mobile device. thanks for nothing.