I’ve been living on a cultural island for some 25 years. But unlike Robinson Crusoe, I’ve no desire to leave it for what passes as the “civilized” cultural world. No, I chose this island and I’m convinced I live in paradise. A circumscribed paradise to be sure, but I don’t feel deprived or diminished in any way.
I’m regularly reminded of my status. The most recent reminder was just a few days ago when I checked out my blogging buddy and friend Nick Hardy’s blog (See link on my blogroll at right).
He had posted what is apparently the most recent version of the “Hitler” story lines. (If you’ve been living on an island, it is a clip from the film “Valkeyrie” where Hitler goes into a rage over the military situation in a meeting with officers. The dialogue is in German and comedic captions are added for a funny story that has nothing to do with what‘s happening in the film.) This version was about Hitler learning that the band Oasis was breaking up.
There was just one problem: I had no idea who Oasis is (was?). Never heard of them until I read Nick‘s blog. So I tracked down a video of them on YouTube but quit listening after less than a minute. Their music did nothing for me.
So it was back to my island, where there’s no music past about the mid-80’s and most is no later than the 70’s. One of my prize CDs is a collection of 104 Motown hits from 1959-71. My most treasured CD is a 4-disc collection of Phil Spector “wall of sound” hits from 1958-69…in full mono. (There’s something obscene about a mono recording that’s been artificially split into a faked “stereo” version.)
I’m just as isolated when it come to another mainstay of popular culture – TV. Short version: I hardly watch it. I didn’t even own a TV until I was about 33. And then only because I won a VCR in a drawing and it’s problematical to watch a tape (remember those?) with no TV.
What little TV I do watch are History, Discovery and Travel Channel shows. So when the office break chatter turns to what happened (or is about to happen) on “Lost” or “Dancing with the Stars” then I have nothing to contribute.
Then, there’s books. I read even less than I watch TV. And what little I do read is usually historical non-fiction. After college, I read very little. I do recall wading through Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago.” I doubt any fiction can match this true account of the Soviet prison labor system.
If you’ve been reading this blog since last year, you may recall that I did something I’ve never done before at the end of last year – make a New Year’s resolution. It was to read two specific books.
I did read the first one, the story of how an alum from my Manila high school, who was a child when Japan invaded the Philippines, survived with her family for about two years in the jungle before being rescued by an American submarine. That book was only about 250 pages (and had large letters with lots of line spacing).
I’m way behind on the other book: The Fall of Berlin. This 400-page book by Antony Beevor (whose “Stalingrad” won three awards in history, non-fiction and literature) has smaller print and less line spacing. I’ve only made it to page 100, so unless I start reading it at work during lunch, I’m not going to finish it before the end of the year. If I finish it, they’ll be the only two books I’ve read this year, excluding a Puerto Rico travel guide which I’m reading for our upcoming trip there in November.
Now it’s a completely different story when it comes to the fourth pillar of popular culture – film. (Notice I did not use “movies”? Similarly, a photographer will never say “picture”; it’s either “photograph” or “image.”) I’m definitely a film fan!
I previously published two posts here listing my favorite foreign films and my favorite non-foreign films by genre. I prefer foreign films because they tend to be more plot-oriented than typical American films.
(Sidebar: Don’t miss District 9, a South African science fiction film I saw yesterday that’s easily the best of its genre I’ve seen. About alien refugees but also a metaphor for segregation in South Africa or anywhere else. Not a formula film and not a formula ending.)
But I also enjoy the good old fashioned ‘”escape” of a formula action romp. I’m planning to catch Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” in the next two weeks. (I’m wondering if he can match the gore in my favorite: Kill Bill, which he also made.)
So I can probably discuss current films with you. Otherwise…