Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Tribute To Gerald of Laszlo's on Lex

Like others I feared the worst but hoped for the best when Gerald's posts became less and less frequent. I've only just learned of his passing from Matthew's beautiful tribute to him, and can't quite find words to express the loss. Perhaps that's because I know that no one could write them better than Gerald himself.

I never met Gerald. I only knew him through his comments and his posts. To say I felt I knew the man at all is an achievement on his part, because really I only knew his words. He knew so much, and for any not familiar with his blog I encourage you now to read, enjoy, and celebrate.

The thing that strikes me about my too short communication with him is how often our conversations were turned to my own life. There have been occasions where my own set of doubts and frustrations have crept into this blog, and when these moments have happened and I haven't had the good sense to delete five seconds after publishing Gerald was always there to offer a kind, reassuring word. Once, simply, "I feel confident." And it meant a lot. It really meant a lot.

I can only leave the reader with


Random considerations from one who has been down a few roads. Consider or disregard as applicable. Best.


Gerald.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Making Chaplin Move

I generally walk right on through Disneyland’s Main Street. The turn of the century themed entrance to the original park has charm, but doesn’t provide the same thrill as a roller coaster. While I love any occasion to obnoxiously sing along to Oklahoma! or Hello Dolly, Main Street is not really the main attraction. Walt Disney described it as a "weenie," something to pull people in. By definition it is something you are meant to walk past, but if one looks closely it has hidden treasures for the film history fan.

I hadn’t walked into one of the area’s storefront arcades until a few weeks ago, or if I have it was at a time when ‘this tall to ride’ signs had meaning. I’d seen them as I passed, but never really taken note of the bank of Mutoscope machines lining the walls. I didn’t even know what they were until I took the time to walk up to one and read the manufacturing information.


Stop by and pay a penny. That seems to be the motto of the Mutoscope, and DL hasn’t changed the form. Except in Disneyland it’s more stop by, stand in line, have time to think about the exorbitant price you’re paying for a ticket, pay for the ticket, want to slap your crying five year old for not appreciating the vacation time and money spent to bring the whole family on this magical adventure, then say what’s an extra penny after all?

Note: “What’s an extra penny after all” was the original music pitch for the Small World ride. Ok no it wasn’t, but it should have been.

The machine itself operates on the old arcade model, with viewing meant for one individual at a time. The passerby pays a penny, turns the crank, and a series of images roll past on what looks like a giant rolodex. If the right rhythm is hit, the images move like a flipbook, creating fluid action. If you’re like me you’ve never been able to get a flipbook to operate properly, but the imagination fills in the jolts and small spasms of movement. Really there’s a reason these puppies went out of style.

Subjects for these machines varied, but one of the most popular topics was movies. One of the Disneyland Mutoscopes, simply called “Dough Fight,” features a scene from the Chaplin silent film Dough and Dynamite (1914).

As it’s a film I’ve seen before I couldn’t resist putting a penny into the slot to see what the experience would be like in a more personal, handheld environment. You speed up, Chaplin speeds up. You slow down, the chosen gag becomes a rickety mess. All that perfect tramp timing rested at my fingertips, and all of Chaplin’s precision came to naught in my inexperienced grip. In this scenario Chaplin became the Mario of the early 20th Century. It's now the norm for films to become video games and video games to become films, but the practice isn't without precedent.

A plaque at the entrance to Disneyland reads "Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy." Maybe yesterday and tomorrow are closer together than we might think.