Today I had to reach back into my old bag of tricks for my technological wizardry. Juice wasn't going to help me here. I wanted to show Faulkner's "Barn Burning" in my American Literature class, a good film version of the classic story, one made as part of PBS's American Short Story series back 30 years ago, almost. But lo, it wasn't on VHS. It was on 16mm in our library! Gadzooks! So I checked the video stores in town to no avail, then humped my hinder over to the library and dragged the film, a takeup reel, and the two-ton Elmo projector across campus to the classroom. I tried it out. Fine. But Mr. R. came by and asked, "You had any trouble yet?" "No," I said, "things are working fine!" Smile! Then the bulb burned out. A phone call, a trip back to the library. A hunt through dusty boxes. A trip in the elevator, more boxes. But then, there it was!
So, back to the classroom, a few moments putting the light in, a trial run, and students filtering in, some of them about to watch their first ever 16mm film. It all went without a hitch, and many of them, watching a very young Tommy Lee Jones, forgot about the clatter and rattle of the old projector. And, even though I didn't run it backward to give them what the wife says is the best part of watching old films, I think it was good.