Friday, March 24, 2006

Elmo, Barn Burning, and a Bright Light

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.


Michael said...

Sounds like it was a fun class. Wish I could have participated

P. Block said...

Memories of second-grade, all of the classes filing into one classroom that had been cleared of desks, 75, or 100 children sitting knee to knee on the floor waiting to watch whatever film the teachers had chosen. It was early in the school year and the old part of the school had no air conditioning, and when the projector started up, the temp rose to an almost unbearable point. I still remember the black-out curtains being unable to shield all of the sunlight from entering and in the light from the projector, dancing to the rhythmic clack of the reels turning, were millions of dust motes. When the film finally was through and flap, flap, flapped around the take up reel woke up the teachers, I looked around to see the dazed expressions on my class-mates faces. "Did monkeys really do that!?"