Let me explain. When I was a kid, something like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was what you would call special, meaning that it aired once a year - on CBS, if I recall - and that was it. If you had the school Christmas concert (back when there were such things) or a CYO basketball game that night, then it was “Wait ‘til next year” (a mantra that would come in quite handy in the life of a Mets fan). But the absence of DVDs and digital downloads and all things “4G”, meant that there was such a thing as special. Of course, I sound like a curmudgeonly old man in saying all this, but I heard a U2 song on the local “Oldies” station the other day and I’m pretty sure Turner Classic Movies recently aired “The Breakfast Club”, for cryin’ out loud. So allow me this rant before I’m put on the ice floe and set adrift once and for all.Things that used to be seasonal are less and less so in these days of hyper-convenience. Walk into any supermarket and you can have practically anything you want at any time of year…whatever fruit or vegetable you want, shipped in from halfway around the globe where they actually are in season. Want to see any movie, listen to any piece of music? It’s just a download away. Wait a few minutes (seconds if you’ve got 4G!!), and there it is. You can watch “Dances with Wolves” right there on your three-inch phone screen. Or listen to Mozart’s 40th Symphony on the very same device…hell, make it your ringtone while you’re at it! I suppose the convenience of it is meant to make up for any of the artistic splendor that might be lost in translation.
As a kid, I remember seeing my father reading a book and coming upon a word with which he was unfamiliar. So he put the book down, walked over to the bookshelves, pulled out this massive unabridged dictionary we had, and proceeded to flip through its pages until he found the word in question. Then he wrote the definition down on a scrap of paper and inserted it into the book he was reading before resuming. I guarantee you my father remembered that definition…maybe for the rest of his life. There was something in the attaining of it that made it a true acquisition. But such a simple action is already a thing of the past. And in this Age of Everything, with all the information we could ever want and a thousand times more at the touch of an “app”, what is lost is the very essence of exploration, of learning, of process. Of special. And that’s too bad.
For the record, I once saw “Dances with Wolves” at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C….70 mm of wide-screen magnificence enveloping the audience. And I once heard Mozart’s 40th performed at the Kennedy Center. Special. Like an apple pie in the fall. Or a peach in summer. Or “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, once a year. If you didn’t have a basketball game instead.