H. G. Wells (YGtCTO Words #79)

The Food of the Gods

Book written by H. G. Wells

The way I picture it all starting is a bunch of early humans sitting around the fire at night feeling nervous and bored. No one particularly wanted to wander to far from the light and warmth. Language had evolved far enough that they could communicate concrete ideas pretty well plus enough abstractions that they could plan a hunt or a forage.

One of the people starts talking about the thing that they saw or that they did. Then, someone else makes a comment and even starts telling the story again, but this time they get a few laughs. People relax just a tiny bit. The next night, they ask the second person to tell the same story again. This teller of tales gets better at the story, but soon enough, people want a new story.

The storyteller works his way through his fellow tribes-people, making each the center of a tale. With practice, the storyteller realizes that they can control the way that people think about events. If someone behaved badly while out foraging, it only mattered if it made it into that night’s fireside chat.

H. G. Wells

Naturally, people develop all sorts of ways of recording stories- words, paint, music- technology allows all of these to be captured- technology impacts the way all of them are created.

Storytellers, somewhere long, long ago,

start embellishing the stories with details that are clearly fictitious. Sometimes the audience notices. Occasionally they care. Sometimes the author explicitly declares that they have made parts up.

The interesting discovery about fiction, if you are a storyteller, is that you can say some pretty outrageous things and people enjoy it. Powerful people behaving like buffoons turns out to provide a steady stream of income. Monsters that exist in faraway lands are always good for galvanizing an audience. Faraway lands become other planets, after a while.

Science opens up a whole new vista of fears that can be examined. What if things could be made invisible? What if you could sit in a machine that traveled through time?

Of course, any writer worth his salt isn’t going to take one idea and not examine a host of other matters. Thanks to Irwin Allen (The Towering Inferno) and the local television channel showing the same movies every couple months, I learned early on that Wells wrote more then classic science fiction.

Thanks to the movies, I tended to think of Wells as a master innovator more than a brilliant writer. I had forgotten how smooth his books read when I was young. I had also missed the social commentary, being far more interested in the adventure aspects.

Then, stumbling on The Food of the Gods– the man was funny. And he could wield a nasty sense of anger, too. Perhaps Irwin Allen was onto something casting the Marx Brothers in his all star spectacular.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 64 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

Bill Monroe (YGtCTO Music #79)

Molly and Tenbrooks


Song written by Bill Monroe and performed by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys

I knew this girl in college who told me that she couldn’t see me one Friday night because she was going off to a bluegrass festival for the weekend. I’m not sure what expression I made, but she took it upon herself to explain further. Her father and her took time off at least once each year to head off to hear bluegrass music. This was something that had stayed with them as a bonding experience through all the other trials and tribulations that had brought her to college. This was a young woman who had confessed to me that she had no idea what suggested to her that she might want to attend college in the Appalachian Mountains, far from her East Coast home. I had a possible explanation…

As far as I was concerned, bluegrass music was not appropriate for college ears. I mean, they wore ties and hats. Granted, the ties were thin, but no one mistook Bill Monroe for Elvis Costello.

Bill Monroe

A few years later,
near our apartment in Boston, a music store opened, Wood and Strings, which appears to be a going concern still. They were near the bus stop and it was a cool place to hang out. I had a guitar and took lessons. A mandolin and an auto-harp joined our household. Thanks to Rounder Records and the general vibe of the area and the times, folk music was doing well.

My future wife knew that Monroe was a master of the mandolin and he happened to be coming to one of the nearby towns. For the founding father of a fantastic form of music, he played everywhere. I knew enough to respect that then almost as much as I do now.

He didn’t have many years left at that point, but Monroe put on a fantastic show. I continue to find something amazing about the lineup of a bluegrass band- the way all the musicians usually stand in a straight line at the front of the stage. There is no standing behind anyone else. Your voice and your ability are fully on display- truly your heart is out there. Much of the artifice of production and self-promotion falls away and the song and the musicians remain.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 65 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

Sacha Wolff (YGtCTO #234)

Mercenary

Film written and directed by Sacha Wolff

Sports movies used to fit a pattern. You would see young men in the prime of health doing feats beyond the capabilities of those of us in the audience of more mundane physical talent. Then, one of them would be felled by a health issue and we would all weep together at the loss. Pride of the Yankees and Brian’s Song both fit the pattern.

A lot of reasons come to mind why this was the standard tale. It gave permission to masculine men to cry one or two tears, though no more than three. Of course, the traditional structure of tragedy requires a fall from a great height. Disease afflicting the already infirm is not nearly as devastating as when the incredibly vigorous suffer, according to traditional art criticism (very traditional, going back to Aristotle). Theoretically, the experience of the dramatized tragedy allows us to prepare for the tragedies in our own lives. If we want to be unkind to the public, then perhaps we see a bit of Schadenfreude when those people enjoy the misfortune of others. This idea falters when we realize that no one is enjoying the tragedy. (That doesn’t mean that some of the lesser lights in the sports death canon aren’t ripe for parody.)

Then, Ron Shelton and others changed the pattern with Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. We stopped focusing on the life of the athlete and began using sports as a metaphor for more than vitality. While I realize that those films were intensely character-driven, I would argue that the characters existed outside the baseball background. Previously, the characters needed to be athletes- that role was their defining characteristic.

Sacha Wolff

I haven’t had

that much experience with rugby, though it has cropped up a little more over recent years in my reading and viewing. My desire to have some basic understanding led me to watch a few matches on ESPN, but I can’t claim to understand it very well. Yet, I have watched and enjoyed movies about all sorts of things about which I know little.

Mercenary encapsulates much of what I outline above- almost a synthesis of the sport as background metaphor as well as sport provoking the tragedies portrayed. Surely, it held some fascination because much that was shown I had not seen before, but that’s the point of exposing ourselves to art, isn’t it?

As must be clear by now, I’m fascinated by the way we have moved from film as emotional purgative to film as social and economic commentary. Perhaps Fear Strikes Out was ahead of its time, but it still bore the trappings of illness taking down one of our greats. Wolff has stripped away those trappings for something that still strikes at my emotional core as well as the way I think about sports.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 66 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.