Being Here: Living Reconciled to Virtuality

Well, it has been two weeks since my last entry in the broadcastellan journal. I have been on trips to England’s two largest cities, London and Birmingham (pictured, in my rather futuristic snapshot), spending time with friends, taking in culture high and low. I rarely stay away that long from this virtual nook I call home. Whenever there is living to be done, I tend to fall behind with the chronicling of same; and when I finally catch up with myself in writing, the reporting seems pointless, the moment past. Perhaps it is this inability to reconcile actuality to virtuality that convinced me to keep a journal devoted to the presumably out-of-date.

Instead of summing up the fortnight that was, I am looking ahead, announcing the pieces I am going to share in the days to come. For what remains of the year (and of my time online), I shall file a few belated reports from the theaters, virtual and otherwise.

For the most part, it has been “otherwise” rather than otherwise. After my short trip to Birmingham, where I was introduced to Patrick Hughes’s mind-teasing “Superduperspective” (on view, free of charge, at the Waterhall until 17 February 2007), I went to see the aged Ron Moody as Scrooge in a touring production of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. While in London, I took in A Moon for the Misbegotten starring Kevin Spacey (whose career I have been following ever since I was introduced to his work by a mutual friend); an irreverent adaptation of Hitchcock’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, performed by a cast of four; and the musical Daddy Cool, based on the once hugely popular songs of Frank Farian (of Milli Vanilli infamy), many of which provided a soundtrack for my childhood in Germany. I am going to devote one essay each to these diverse stage entertainments, and am likely to toss in the occasional reference to American radio dramatics, the formerly free theater for the multitude.

There isn’t much “free” theater to be had these days; and, judging from the American accents I picked up only infrequently while in the UK capital, London is rather too expensive to attract many Western travelers, particularly at this time of year, when many forgo culture for commerce in their search of bargains. Although I moved from the US to Britain quite some time ago, I still think in dollars and convert pounds into US currency to assess costs. It is a habit that made the ticket prices at London’s movie theaters seem all the more outrageous. I guess we laughed more at our folly than at the penguin antics when we found ourselves paying $25 per person to see Happy Feet. Somewhat less pricey were screenings of Casino Royale (an antemeridian matinee at London’s premier movie house, the Odeon Leicester Square) and Stranger Than Fiction, playing at a much smaller venue.

Going to the pictures has gotten pricey; and that applies not only to those in motion: the current exhibition of paintings by Velasques at the National Gallery requires the forking over of an eyepopping £12. As price tags raise expectations, the paintings seemed to lose some of their lustre when considered in the light losing itself in empty pockets. No wonder I keep turning to the comparatively cheap thrills of old-time radio drama for my day-to-day amusement.

Though no longer free, there was much on offer at home, if only I had been listening to the radio. Still to be enjoyed are Sir Ian McKellen in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and a production of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, both aired on BBC radio The BBC makes programming available online for a week, and I am now trying to catch up with some of the outstanding or noteworthy dramas presented in recent days—from the gay wedding at The Archers to the five-part adaptation of A Room to Let, a story collaboratively conceived by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Elisabeth Gaskell—broadcasts I missed while wirelessly away in England.

Mind you, I could have enjoyed wireless access at our hotel—for the price of £15 a week; but, more than the cost itself, I resented being prompted to provide personal data in order to be granted a privilege that ought to be free like the air itself. Paying for air charged with the particles of commerce? Being charged yet again for exposing myself to a deluge of online advertising while depriving myself of an opportunity to recharge? Progress? Bah, humbug!

4 Replies to “Being Here: Living Reconciled to Virtuality”

  1. Just one question about something in this list. You referred to it as \”Alfred Hitchcock\’s 39 Steps.\” I know that Hitchcock changed the plot of his movie considerably from the novel, so is that basis for the version that is being presented in London? Otherwise it would surely be better to refer to it as John Buchan\’s 39 Steps. (Buchan died in Canada where he had been appointed Governor-General and for which he gained the title Lord Tweedsmuir. Unlike other Governors General he did not endow an award for sports. Rather he created a prize for Canadian writers known as the Governor General\’s Awards. An entirely useless bit of knowledge,)

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  2. An entirely appropriate comment, Brent. Patrick Barlow\’s adaptation is a farcical yet faithful shot-by-shot rendering of Hitchcock\’s version, a film that, as you point out, has little in common with the original novel (which Barlow nonetheless acknowledges by calling the production, however misleadingly, John Buchan\’s \”The 39 Steps\”). The Canadian angle was mentioned, but little was made of it. The playbill provided some interesting remarks on the various adaptations and remakes. More about that in a few days.

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  3. A belated, but happy welcome back, Harry. The end of the year was came in a vacuum without my regular read of Broadcastellan! Just catching up to your recent posts, but my you were certainly busy! Lots to digest.

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