Monday, July 4, 2016

notes on a July the 4th

It has been awhile since I've scribbled any meandering thoughts in this particular back road of cloudy cyber-space. Life has just been too busy for this aging semi recluse. I haven't even posted my weekly radio shows for awhile, and am somewhat disappointed with myself in this regard. That project has gotten so far behind that I am not going to bother to catch it up. Instead, here's a link to my account on the show's web-stream service provider, SoundCloud, where the last year and a half of my humble weekly efforts of musical exploration are available. My current shows are mostly done in a jukebox format, songbook style interspersed with a few clips I've made from old music and variety radio shows.

One of my old real camera pictures, a few miles up the road outside of Grafton, VT, probably July 4th, c 1993- 1994

I've also disappointed myself by failing to make notes on the movies I've watched recently. When I used to screen movies in 16mm, I kept a list of titles I'd shown, mainly as a method of counting bulb hours. As the hours of use added up, I'd be sure to purchase a standby bulb to have at the ready just in case. I don't quite remember how many hours I used to get per bulb - was it 40? Did it stay the same when bulbs changed from incandescent filament to halogens? My cheap little video projector advertised its bulb life at "up to 50,000 hours". Figuring average running times of the movies and occasional tv programs I watch on it, that's well over 20,000 movies. At this point I don't think I need to keep a bulb check. When I last looked at the list from the halcyon days of my 16mm screenings, there were a number of movies I can't recall watching. There were also a number of movies I can remember watching, but that doesn't imply that I remember anything about them. In our current era of instant internet info, it only takes a moment to look up one such title, Dario Argento's "Four Flies on Grey Velvet" from 1971. There are plot synopsis, reviews, "making of" info, as well as the entire movie itself all for free at the click of a mouse. Such access still amazes me. I only got to see it because I worked for the company that had the 16mm rental rights. When it gets right down to it, when I look up movies I remember quite well from watching dozens of times, I often find errors in online materials. Sometimes I wish I had made notes on some titles so I could check my impressions and reactions all these years later; kind of like re-reading a favorite book and noticing how some parts no longer affect you while others now have great consequence and import.

Another of my old 35mm film camera pics, at the Grafton cheese company c July 1993 - 1994
Oh, no! Oops, sorry about that, we've undergone a sudden shift in subject matter, and I just got a bit of a shock. It's the Fourth of July. Our local Independence Day parade should be stepping off at the south end of town just about now. I didn't get any sleep at all last night, and am in a snitty cantankerous mood. My feelings for my fellow human beings over the course of this past year are best summarized by that old Charles Bukowski quote, "I don't hate people. I just feel better when they aren't around." So I am staying home today as my personal sacrifice for the betterment of humankind. I just turned on our local cable access station (also available via webstream when the gods of electronica smile upon us). The first visual was of the retail portion of downtown. It's the main part of Main Street. Even though the parade won't get there for a bit, it was quite a shock to see so few people that huge portions of the street and curb sitting space are empty. When I moved here, it would be difficult to find a decent parade watching spot at this point in the morning. And that would be on the sunny side of the street. Now there are huge empty spots even on the shady side. (Being that this is Brattleboro in the age of Social Media, an age of constant umbrage, I feel I should point out that the use of the word "shady" was not a reflection on local businesses or their practices, but a reference to that side and portion of sidewalk which is not in full direct sun.) 

The parade - not my picture, taken from a website which credited it to "Kristopher Radder/Brattleboro Reformer Staff"
Many years back (stop me if I've noted this before), our 4th of July parade was one of the biggest around, drawing state politicians as well as those from the county and local towns, bands from all the area high schools, synchronized snowmobile spectaculars from the Shriners, and so on and so forth. This being Brattleboro, protest groups were an integral part of our July 4th parade. A few such groups would participate while protesting the local and problematic nuclear power plant. The Chamber of Commerce used to stage the parade; when a good bit of funding began to come from the power plant company, the rules were changed to forbid protests. Parade participation and attendance dropped over such heavy handed attempts at censorship in a event celebrating our country's freedoms. Not long after all of that occurred, a new parade and festival started on the first Saturday in June. When first proposed by someone who moved here from the cities, the proposal was for a parade of bovines down Main Street so that tourists could see the animals from which their milk originated. We used to refer to the idea as "the running of the cows".

All I remember about taking this was that it was off of a back road about a half hour west of Brattleboro, July c1993 - 1994

For the first few years of this new extravaganza, sponsorship was provided by corporate agribusinesses in an area known for localism, small family farms, and organic and natural foods. The first year or so, at the once little festival at the parade's end, free samples of ice cream (the kind with bovine growth hormones) were given out, as well as bottled water whose origin was suspect. The organizers learned quickly and by year three the only available refreshments cost a good bit of money. Over the next several years, the parade folks began to acknowledge their localism faux pas, and the sponsors began to change to concerns which didn't seem to be the diametric opposite of everything our local farms stood for. It is now the big event of the year, and not meant for local folks as much as their relatives who come to visit that weekend, as well as the standard tourist crowd. Their success has helped to kill off the annual parade of the High School alumni and the current year's graduating class, the Winter Carnival parade, and a couple of others I can't quite recall at the moment, The kiddie Halloween parade is a shadow of its former self when it happens at all. Seeing empty sidewalks where people used to stand four to five deep on July the 4th is truly sad. As I write, the parade has already ended, and another tradition has been broken. The official end of most local parades has, for several years now, featured Alfred, our local black celebrity drag queen "debuting his annual top-secret ensemble". Now there is a parade unit after him, while he sits in a car and is seldom in full regalia. During the years I've watched or participated in the various parades, all of the local dairy farms have vanished, their herds sold off. The changes, from local to corporate, to 'localism' as supplied to tourists by corporations which bought most of the organic companies, the killing off of local traditions in favor of corporate sponsored, branded and promoted tourism designed to separate the remains of the middle class from their money, is a reflection of the changes in the country during the same years. The meaning of the day seems to have been lost to the empty calorie glitz of pandering to the tourist dollar. Sic transit Gloria mundi.

Alfred - not my photo, and, sorry, but I don't know who to credit.

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