When I got to college in 1980, the movie version of Hair was just a year old. I, of course, had not seen it, but the album made its way to my turntable. Eventually, I saw the movie, and it’s one of those that I rewatch every so often. Today, I will watch it once again in honor of Treat Williams who became the hippie George Berger and brought us all along for the freewheeling journey. Williams died in an accident yesterday while riding his motorcycle.
I love every bit of the movie, but my favorite scene comes when the hippies infiltrate the garden party. Williams sings “I’ve Got Life” as he dances along the dinner table, kicking aside the flowers and swinging from the chandelier. It is fun, upbeat but also, on a larger level, speaks to the way change happens as those on the outside come inside and often laugh at the things that seem so important to those claiming the table.
If you haven’t watched the movie, I encourage you to take a look For now, I leave you with Treat Williams:
I started this blog post last Thursday and then abandoned it. I know how problematic Thanksgiving is…after all, I grew up with the Peanuts version of happy Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down together, a national myth that glosses over the facts as well as the history of colonization.
However, taking a day to express gratitude seems a positive practice. This year, we spent the evening with a group of new friends, and I watched The Last Waltz while I made sweet potato pie and lemon bars. I tear up every time when Bob Dylan starts his set with “Forever Young”. This, for the reader(s) of this blog, is my wish for you and know that I am grateful for you.
I don’t reread books. But, I do rewatch movies. I have about ten or so that I sink into when I need a break from the world.
Yesterday, I ended up with True Stories, David Byrne’s 1986 satire of small town life with the soundtrack mostly written by Byrne and performed by his band The Talking Heads and various cast members. Once again, I was reminded that, within his satire, Byrne mostly got the future right, from sprawling suburbs to burgeoning conspiracy theories to emptying downtowns. At its heart, the film is the story of human beings struggling to maintain some semblance of control in an increasingly chaotic world.
As with most prophecies, we don’t always understand them at the time. I remember loving the movie and the music but missing the larger message when I first saw it on the big screen all those years ago. At the time, I was living in Los Angeles and going to graduate school at UCLA, and there were plenty of examples of Byrne’s vision for Virgil, Texas, already coming true throughout California. But, in 1986, I think the sense of the power of progress outweighed the potential downsides presented by the doomsayers.
My modern literature professor at the time made a comment that has stuck with me. He observed that modern and contemporary writers often lament the loss of innocence and fundamental disconnect from natures that seem to come with progress. He went on to comment that he had trouble helping his undergraduates understand this point of view. After all, living in the concrete sprawl of Los Angeles, they saw parking lots not as eyesores but as a place to park their sports cars.
If you haven’t ever watched True Stories, it is available at various streaming outlets. Two clips, in particular, show Byrne’s prescience. One features the “perfect” family of the CEO of Varicorp, the town’s computer manufacturer. The parents do not speak directly to each other, instead using their son and daughter to communicate. In the clip, the CEO played by Spalding Gray, uses the dinner table to envision the new world order:
The second clip features John Ingle as an evangelical preacher with a brief appearance of Jo Harvey Allen, simply known as the lying woman. We wade into the world of religious prophecy and conspiracy theory, underscored by the Talking Heads’ song, “Puzzlin’ Evidence”. (I can’t embed so click the song title to access.)
These two clips give a good idea of the tone of the film and I hope they entice you to watch the whole thing. According to Wikipedia (although it needs a citation), the film was not commercially successful but has become a cult classic.
And it made me think of other great video speeches of resistance:
The opening speech from The Newsroom where Will McAvoy riffs on the question of why America is the greatest country in the world. (Hint: he doesn’t necessarily agree.)
Jedediah Bartlett’s biblical soliloquy from The West Wing. I found this series belatedly and this was my first episode. I knew I had found my television home.
And, finally, just to show my age…the classic from Network..
I was just entering high school when this movie premiered, so it gives you a sense of why I may have a somewhat cynical world view. Every so often, I fight the temptation to open my window and lean out…
I would like to start by saying that I love my job. Right now, I am preparing for a digital storytelling workshop that I’ll provide over the next two weeks. It is Windows based so I fired up the Dell laptop I’ve got and have spent the last few days playing with PhotoStory and MovieMaker. I’ll post both video sonce they’re uploaded to YouTube. (I’ve got them on TeacherTube but didn’t have any luck with embedding them.) First, I’ll reflect a little bit on the process.
I should start by confessing up front that I use Mac computers exclusively and have even managed to avoid Backpack. I had done a little work with MovieMaker but had only every seen demos of PhotoStory. I was prepared to like the latter program but was sure I would be unimpressed with MovieMaker. I was wrong.
First, I should say that I did like PhotoStory. I drew from digital photos that I already had available and it took about three hours to put together a fully narrated story with a music soundtrack. The only problem I ran into was in using the built-in music creator. I really liked the idea, but it crashed my computer each and every time I tried to save the movie file. I finally resorted to a public domain song I already had and the export worked just fine. Editing was easy, and I’m very happy with the final results.
This morning, I was up early prepared to tackle MovieMaker. I drew on the only material I’ve got: my yard. I shot all the video with my Flip Camera since that’s what my workshop participants will have available. I’ve used the Flip with my macintosh and had only so so results. It seemed much easier with MovieMaker. I just imported the files I had saved from the camera, renamed them, then did some basic editing. A few titles and then I needed some music.