Tag Archives: Peanuts

How the rabbit ears died

Nothing ages faster than a vision of the future. Re-read A Clockwork Orange today and you’re reminded of the Cold War, Harold Macmillan, and B.F. Skinner. Re-watch 2001: A Space Odyssey and you wonder whatever happened to Pan-Am airlines. Re-read Fahrenheit 451 and you find yourself explaining the concept of rabbit ears. 

Yeah, rabbit ears. Fahrenheit 451 was part of the summer reading list Dances With Mermaids brought home from school, so I got her a copy along with The October Country. Since she more or less lives with earbuds pumping dubstep directly into her brain, I derived some small amusement from mentioning Ray Bradbury’s image of people walling themselves off from the world with tiny “seashells” jammed into their ears. Then I remembered the scene in which Montag notices that the only house in his neighborhood where people are laughing and talking to each other is the one without a television antenna on the roof. And I found myself explaining to this child of the digital age how TV was once delivered into the living room through a roof antenna that looked like a deranged Erector Set project, or a pair of rabbit ears on top of the TV set, and that television reception was often a very iffy thing, apt to dissolve into a blizzard of static if the rabbit ears were improperly adjusted, or if somebody stepped back from the television after tweaking the controls like a safecracker. Even the way you sat affected reception on certain days. No wonder cable caught on so fast. I didn’t know from tai chi when I was a kid, but later on I instantly understood its purpose — an ancient Chinese technique for improving television reception.

I rattled on about all this, even throwing in a mention of the Peanuts comic strip sequence in which Charlie Brown has Snoopy stand on his TV and move his ears to clear up the picture. Then I caught the distant look in her eye, the look of a teenager who knows that if she waits long enough, Daddy will run out of oxygen and she will be able to leap free of the Old School Time Machine Tour. I do go on sometimes.

I was thinking of showing her some episodes of The Outer Limits, but I wonder what she would make of the intro, and the idea of someone else controlling the sacred vertical and the sanctified horizontal. The course of one’s evening TV viewing used to hang on those two pegs.

Maybe I just won’t worry about it. One of those tempus fugit things.

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Friday finds

This interesting New Yorker essay about the continuing appeal of vampire stories came along just as I watched the new DVD edition of  Let the Right One In, one of the most original horror movies I’ve seen in years. I’ve already sung the praises of John Lindqvist’s novel, and I was happy to see the movie more than does it justice. The essay mentions it on the way to a lengthy discussion of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which obviously deserves pride of place in the history of the genre, but which has been surpassed many times by writers following in Stoker’s train. One novel that’s overdue for reappraisal is George R.R. Martin’s Fevre Dream, which ingeniously blended a variation on the classic vampire tale with a lovingly researched historical novel set on the Mississippi River in the mid-19th century.           

Famed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris has directed movies about the ease with which an innocent man can be convicted of murder (The Thin Blue Line), the delusions of the powerful (Robert McNamara: The Fog of War) and the future of robotics (Fast, Cheap & Out of Control). He’s also directed a series of commercials for Miller Beer, and you can find all of them here.

Lemony Snicket reveals the formula for the perfect bedtime story. I particularly like the first point (Ask your child what the title should be. This stalls for time and spreads the blame if the story’s no good.) and the third (When you get stuck, remember Raymond Chandler’s advice: “When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns.” The bedtime equivalent is a clumsy talking animal holding a tray of cream pies).

Timothy Lim blends Charles Schulz’s Peanuts with Frank Miller’s Sin City to arrive at — Schulz City.

Hey — New Jersey just got listed as one of the “Eastern Edens” for birdwatchers in Audobon magazine.

The Grim Sleeper is a prolific serial killer thought to be responsible for nearly a dozen murders in Los Angeles. If you’ve never heard about this one, maybe there’s a reason.

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