Lights Out

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Jay Leno used to have a joke about his parents, who were still alive at the time and whom he doted on, it sounded like. Apparently he bought them a new TV, and on a visit he asked where the remote control was. His father answered that he’d taken the batteries out and stored the remote in a drawer. He was concerned about starting a fire, he said, and Leno would say, “It’s a remote control, Dad! Not a phaser!”

I just think about that, now that I worry a little about lithium batteries exploding and all the things we’ve got plugged into a shaky local grid. My Roku streaming stick gets very hot and stays that way, and it worries me. I’ve been unplugging it. I need Jay.

I’m thinking about starting some sort of mission, although I’m having trouble nailing it down. I’m immersed in news and current events, always, and then for pleasure I’m still leaning towards nonfiction and longform journalism. Really, it’s all about pleasure, right? No one forces me to read.

I don’t listen to as many podcasts, and they’re piling up. I’m too stuck in my own head, in fact. I need stories. I need to explore other lives a bit, and not just the lives of those awaiting indictment.

I haven’t read fiction in years, decades really, and I think that ship has sailed. The classics I’ve never gotten around to are going to remain unread, I think, and so will the others. From time to time, someone lends me a novel, thinking I’ll appreciate, and sometimes I read it, but I can’t see devoting myself to this pursuit anymore. That was me, years ago, racing through three or four books a week, and now I’ve just turned my reading toward the screen, that’s all.

But stories. I need the stories.

As I’ve noted here before, I’ve become aware in the past year about my particular passion for movies. It’s worth acknowledging these things—there’s a difference between a casual reader of fiction, say, and someone who consumes 100-150 books every year. That’s a passion, I’d say.

And all those hours as a kid, glued to old movies late at night or during summer days. All those hours as a young adult, going to repertory movie houses to see film history, two titles at a time.

This is my thing, then. I know people who are much more passionate and committed, but I definitely lean toward cinophile. Now that I have this projector, too, and I’ve rediscovered my love of the aesthetics of film watching, the imagined flicker, the light streaming through the lens, the big picture, I’m intrigued by digging into this love. Just having a little trouble getting into gear.

A friend tagged me in a Facebook game. Post a still from a film that was influential in some way, one a day for 10 days, just the photo. This is dumb and meaningless (why no comments or explanation? And who cares what I think, besides me?), and also impossible. I’ve never been able to make lists of favorite anything. As far as movies, I could probably toss together a list of 100 or so favorites, but even then it’d be incomplete.

But I like this young woman who tagged me, who played an important role in our lives and our household for a brief time, and now I enjoy watching her life play out (on Facebook, of course). I didn’t want to blow her off, even though I usually do with these things.

It has me thinking, though. I’ve currently got a list of about 100 films, in fact, that I’m interested in, available for streaming. I’ve no intention of watching even a fraction of these; it’s just in case I want to watch something.

Now, I’m thinking I might wander around that list a bit on a regular basis, maybe one a day for a month, something. Normally I’d hesitate about planning an activity that involves me sitting a lot, but I do seem to be drawn to this. Some sort of routine. Maybe I’ll pledge to write a paragraph or two about each film I watch. Or record a two-minute podcast each day about them, something to keep me going. I’ll just fire up that red-hot Roku stick and get watching. Just a random selection of movies, some old favorites, some on my To Watch list forever.

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Tonight at our Movie Night, I’m showing My Favorite Year. Maybe I’ll start there. I’ll write something tomorrow and see where we go. You all are invited not to read this, too. Sometimes it’s just about a guy in a dark room, watching stories unfold. Waiting to see what happens. Story of my life, really.

Chuck Sigars1 Comment