Over at slate.com I found this absolutely fascinating article by Rachel Withers regarding Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and how this once proud icon of future thinking has become antiquated and even sold for its nostalgia rather than forward thinking, as originally envisioned by Walt Disney.
The article’s title is brief and apropo given the subject matter:
I know I’ve presented plenty of articles and their links before, but this is one truly worth checking out.
Even if you’re like me and not a huge fan of the Disney Parks (sorry, can’t handle the crowds, heat, and the considerable expense), this article offers an intriguing look at the thinking Walt Disney had behind Tomorrowland and, eventually, EPCOT, and how those visions have changed over time and following his passing in 1966.
At the risk of giving away too much, Ms. Withers’ thesis is a fascinating one, that it is impossible to have a park focused on forward technology. She rightly notes that the “future” is not really all that far away, and what can be viewed as futuristic when set up in year X becomes antiquated or even hopelessly wrong by year Y.
What’s even more fascinating is Ms. Withers’ analysis of the public’s changing views of the future. There was once an undeniable optimism regarding the future and the technologies to come. Though she doesn’t make the connection, the New York World’s Fair of 1939 and 1940 were a big influence on Walt Disney and his generation. Within that fair, which unfortunately had to be shut down because of the coming World War, the pavilions were odes to the fantastic… to the things that were to come and would make our lives so much better.
(An aside: I was never all that close to my wife’s Grandparents. Don’t get me wrong, they were very nice people but by the time I got to know them they were quite old and there didn’t seem to be much a youngster like me and them could relate to other than polite and often superficial conversation. The years passed, I married their granddaughter, and they got older and older. Soon enough they both passed away. Years afterwards, when her family had a get together, one of her cousins played a slideshow of photographs she created involving them. As I watched the images pass, first of them as children and then growing up and then their wedding, I was floored when the following few images showed the then youthful grandparents standing near the famous 1939/40 New York World’s Fair Trylon and Perisphere!
There were perhaps three or four photographs of them at different parts of the park, including -if memory serves- one of them next to a futuristic looking train. Until that moment I didn’t know they had spent their honeymoon at that World’s Fair and I was crushed by the fact that I could have gotten first hand accounts of something I consider one of the more fascinating things of the early 20th Century… that’s how much I love reading about the 1939/40 Worlds’ Fair! A lesson to the wise: Talk to people. Have conversations. You may be surprised by what you learn. And certainly do so before its too late)
Getting back to the Tomorrowland article and our current view of the future, Ms. Withers -correctly, I feel- argues that today we’re far more pessimistic regarding the future and view it in terms of dystopia rather than utopia and that, to some extent, may be why there is little interest in doing a more forward thinking Tomorrowland in line with what Mr. Disney had in mind.
From her article and excuse me for giving away it’s punchline:
Tech doesn’t exactly wow us like it used to—after all, it’s now in our homes, in our cars, even in our pockets. Touristing in a technological wonderland would probably feel underwhelming, considering we’re basically already in one. And why would anyone want to immerse themselves in the future? Popular imagination holds that today’s future will be a dystopia, not a utopia. In this age of climate-change doom and job-killing automation, of “unplugging” and “logging off,” perhaps the future is no longer a place we want to go, no longer the land of exciting promise, of “hopes and dreams.” In the 1950s, the future was an inviting fantasy, something to gaze towards, to marvel at, to reach for. Now Walt’s tomorrow is here … and well, we’re drowning in it.
Let me repeat that last, very sad line:
Now Walt’s tomorrow is here … and well, we’re drowning in it.
At one point in time I wanted to write a novel set in Miami. It was meant to be a first person… well… I won’t get into the plot because, frankly, there wasn’t much of one, though I was inclined to go towards it being a detective/mystery/thriller-type thing.
This was going to be the first line of the book:
I hate Miami in the summer.
Nothing earth-shattering, just a common complaint I have of being in Miami and having to live through its brutal summers.
First, you deal with the twin body slams of heat and humidity. It is awful to go outside. It’s awful to drive in your car even with your AC on full. Inevitably, I leave the car with my back all wet from sweat.
And then there’s hurricane season.
While people are very understandably concerned about what happened in Texas with Hurricane Harvey, we around these parts are keeping a weary eye on the next named storm, Irma, which is already very strong and projected to get far stronger.
But here’s the thing: The projections beyond three days are very much up in the air, something nervous people like myself have to repeat to ourselves constantly. After all, when watching the regular weather predictions, anything beyond two days from the current date, its been my experience, is a crap shoot (or, to put it another way, I recall many times seeing/hearing that in two/three days we would have plenty of rain and the day comes and its sunny and hot?! Hell, there have been predictions for the next day which have proven almost comically wrong).
Anyway, so too it is with Hurricane predictions, though clearly one needs to pay far more attention to them as they represent a threat not only to property, but also to one’s life. Nonetheless, the early models took the storm north and then east, potentially threatening the Carolinas or, best case scenario, nobody at all.
This was only two days ago.
Now, these same predictions are taking the storm, potentially, over Cuba before making a northwardly turn which will either take it straight up Florida’s center, perhaps a little to the west (hugging the coast) and maybe even a little to the east.
Again, that’s this moment’s view.
Only tonight will Florida fall into the far ends of the -as we sardonically call it- “cone of death”. By then, the track might be even more southern/westernly, which seems to be the way the track has been adjusting itself over the past couple of days.
And who knows, the track might turn again, heading more north and to the east and we might well be in the target.
It’s maddening. It’s heart-stopping.
And there’s nothing anyone living here can do about it.
The past few days I’ve had Batman on my mind, or should I say a couple of the people around him…
First up is Heath Ledger’s Joker from the 2008 Christopher Nolan directed film The Dark Knight, the second film of his Batman trilogy and the film many consider the best of the lot…
I thought that came out pretty good, though I impressed myself even more with my follow-up…
Back in 1997 director Joel Schumacher followed up his Batman Forever with the much lambasted Batman and Robin. I found it so curious people essentially gave Batman Forever (featuring Val Kilmer in the Bruce Wayne/Batman role) a pass and hated, hated, hatedBatman and Robin (George Clooney’s sole outing as the Dark Knight) so much.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe Batman and Robin is a great film by any stretch of the imagination. But it was, IMHO, roughly on the same level of Batman Forever… a theatrical big budget version of the 1960’s campy Batman TV show. As such, it fascinates me how much people can hate one and essentially have little to no strong opinion of the other.
Anyway, Batman and Robin featured the introduction of the character of Batgirl and they picked a mighty fine actress to play the role in Alicia Silverstone. After wowing audiences with her sexy -and sometimes deadly!- youthful characters both in film and music videos, Batman and Robin would be perhaps her last big hurrah in terms of youthful movie roles.
In a way its too bad… I thought she made a smashing Batgirl, even if the film around her wasn’t very good.
So here’s to you. Alicia Silverstone as Barbara Wilson (yeah, yeah, in the comics its Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Commissioner Gordon)… aka The Batgirl!
We’re at the (gulp) 40th Anniversary of the release of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a new, cleaned up version of the film is about to be released in honor of that anniversary to theatres.
CEOT3K was Mr. Spielberg’s follow up to the incredible hit Jaws (1975). It was another hit movie and further cemented his reputation as a director whose works audiences were eager to see.
I haven’t seen the film in full since probably some time in the late 1970’s or very early 1980’s, but while I appreciate the way Mr. Spielberg so skillfully told his story and the hopeful tone the movie had at the end regarding our first encounter with aliens… there was always something about it that turned me off.
That something is the main character of the film, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss, returning to Mr. Spielberg’s world after Jaws).
Neary is a character who, after chasing a UFO down a highway, finds he has some kind of strange, never quite explained psychic link to the aliens. Following this “close encounter” with them, he becomes so focused on actually meeting them that he does increasingly strange and odd -and destructive- things around his house (I won’t go into too many spoilers for those who haven’t seen the film). These actions draw the ire and bewilderment of his wife, who eventually cannot take his bizarre actions and grabs their three children and leaves him.
That’s right: The good guy of the movie is a man who becomes so self-involved in his mania that he allows his wife to take his three children and abandon him.
Mr. Spielberg himself, again if memory serves, stated that when he made CEOT3K, he was a young, single man without kids and that later on, after having children of his own, realized the perspective presented with regard to Neary would likely have been very different had he made the film later on versus in 1977.
But the facts are the facts and we have the Neary we’ve got and for me, his character is really hard to root for.
One can (and I did) look at Neary as a pathetic person who couldn’t accept being an adult, a Peter Pan-like figure who wanted so desperately to escape into his fantasy world of aliens while the ordinary, grinding “real world” brought him down. But he kept fighting for that fantasy world and eventually does enough stupid shit to unload all those who keep him down, including his wife and children, so that he can (selfishly) escape to the stars.
Even though I myself was a very young man when I originally saw the film (certainly younger than Mr. Spielberg), I found his character weird and, frankly, more than a little disturbing, especially given how he loses his wife and kids. Especially his poor kids!
Again, I haven’t seen the film in full since way back near the time it was originally released but do have it on BluRay.
Maybe seeing it again I might change my opinion of Neary and what I feel is the selfish nature of his character.