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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Electric, And Electrifying, Edwardians

Jamaica Street, Glasgow, 1901.

I can’t stop looking at these movies. They’re from a collection called Electric Edwardians. Two fellows, Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon, were hired by the equivalent of a circus to take movies of mundane activities in Great Britain. The promoters would then show the movies to the locals, who were mostly there just to see themselves, or people like themselves, for the sheer wonder of life captured on film. Getting amusement from the mundane to make a few quid. The ICANHASCHEEZBURGER of their day.

The films were ignored and lost for nearly a century, mouldering in a basement. They were only rediscovered because the building was going to be demolished. The British Film Institute restored them as best they could, and they’ve been shown as a television show, and now are available as a DVD.

I rarely watch television, read newspapers, or listen to the radio. I read books by dead persons, pretty much. I have little use for 99.9 percent of the Internet, because it’s just people telling me that they can watch TV and read the newspaper harder than me. The average intellectual’s head is full of tapioca. On the Intertunnel, it’s rancid tapioca.

You cannot tell what’s going on by what people say. You’re past daft if you think you can tell what’s going on by listening to a third party tell you what people say. You can only tell what’s going on by looking at what people are doing.

People say they want a time machine. But then again: Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do on a rainy afternoon. They sit in mom’s basement watching reruns of remakes of a crummy space opera and fantasize about what they’d do with their holodeck, if only they could live with the wonders of the future and access to the past. Unaware that this is the future, and by the way, here is the actual, unvarnished past, they’d turn the channel if this video came on — a real life time machine.

I wouldn’t. Look, there, on the screen. It’s not Tutankhamun’s tomb. It’s Tutankhamun.

6 Responses

  1. These are absolutely wonderful and fascinating – as are your comments.

    "You're past daft if you think you can tell what's going on by listening to a third party tell you what people say. You can only tell what's going on by looking at what people are doing." Always true, and now more than ever.

    "You're not looking at Tutankhamen's tomb. You're looking at Tutankhamen." The thing itself.

    Brilliant, and thanks for these.

  2. This reminds me of the Impressionists, who pre-date this by a little, placing the focus on the everyday. But, now the everyday is worse than banal. The tapioca is in the bilge.

    Who can understand the passing of time? This film is about that to me.

  3. "Millions long for eternity who do not know what to do on a rainy afternoon." That, Gregory, is one of the most brilliant observations I've read in ages.

  4. For reasons of convenience I get my information from podcasts one week after they are new. The podcasts I hear are the ones where the host or guest has paid experience on the topic. It's like watching a carpenter build versus furniture critics describe furniture.

    Anyway, since my shows are one week delayed, and I eschew the daily media hysteria, I get deeper knowledge on fewer topics. I usually know the outcome of the story and can tell immediately which expert is on the mark and which is just extending conventional wisdom in the safe direction.

    You will know and understand the world much better by knowing history, math, and science than by reading all of the newspapers.

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