Friday

Jun. 6, 2014

No Problem

by Kevin McCaffrey

The problem is there is no problem and
the problem solvers have nothing to do
so they start creating problems out
of thin air, out of nothing. Then the problem
is not to see that there are big problems
everywhere and it is woe unto
him or her who cannot see or who will
not acknowledge the problems—they become
part of the problem, a big part of it,
their apathy or obstinacy holding
progress back until they are educated
to the fact that, one, there are big problems,
and, two, if you are not part of solving
them then you represent the problem
the problem solvers have been talking about
all along. So you see now how it is:
there is no problem worse than no problem.

"No Problem" by Kevin McCaffrey from Laughing Cult. © Four Winds Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1933 that the first drive-in movie theater opened, in Camden, New Jersey. The theater was the brainchild of a young man named Richard Hollingshead Jr., a manager at his father's Camden auto shop, Whiz Auto Products. He dreamed of creating something that would bring a little fun to the tough daily life of the Depression era. He was also thinking about his mother, who was a little bit overweight and wasn't comfortable in movie theater seats.

Once he had the idea for a drive-in theater, he got all the materials to try it out in his own backyard. He mounted a film projector on the hood of his car, and attached a screen to a couple of trees. Then he worked out a complicated system of parking spaces with various ramps and blocks to make sure that every car would have an equal view of the screen. Hollingshead even tried to test how well his system worked in adverse weather by turning on his sprinkler in place of rain. The sound was tougher to manage—in the early days of drive-ins, all the sound came through a speaker mounted by the screen, so it was hard to hear for cars parked in the back, and tinny-sounding for everyone. Eventually technology improved, and viewers were able to get the film's sound through the FM radio in their cars.

One of the big draws of the drive-in theater was that it gave families an activity to do together. There was a kids' play area and a stand that sold snacks. Hollingshead was quick to point out all the people who could suddenly enjoy going to a film: "Inveterate smokers rarely enjoy a movie because of the smoking prohibition. In the Drive-In theater one may smoke without offending others. People may chat or even partake of refreshments brought in their cars without disturbing those who prefer silence. The Drive-In theater idea virtually transforms an ordinary motor car into a private theater box. The younger children are not permitted in movie theaters and are frequently discouraged even when accompanied by parents or guardians. Here the whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are apt to be and parents are furthermore assured of the children's safety because youngsters remain in the car. The aged and infirm will find the Drive-In a boon because they will not be subjected to inconvenience such as getting up to let others pass in narrow aisles or the uncertainty of a seat."

Hollingsburg applied for a patent in May of 1933 and opened his first theater just three weeks later, on Crescent Boulevard in Camden. The film that played on this day was a comedy called Wives Beware, starring Adolph Menjou, which had come out in 1932. The cost was 25 cents per car, and 25 cents per person after that, with a cap at one dollar.

Today is the birthday of the man who said, "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." That's Thomas Mann (books by this author), born in Lübeck, Germany (1875). He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1929. His many novels include Buddenbrooks (1901), Mario and the Magician (1929), and Dr. Faustus (1947).

It's the birthday of the father of modern Russian literature: Aleksandr Pushkin (books by this author), born in Moscow (1799). He died at the age of 38, but in his brief life, he worked in nearly every literary form. His masterpiece was the verse novel Eugene Onegin (1833), about a man who kills his friend in a duel, and loses the one woman he loves.

Pushkin married Natalya Goncharova who was described at the time as the most beautiful woman in Russia. She had many admirers, including Czar Nicholas. One of her suitors was so persistent that Pushkin finally challenged him to a pistol duel in 1837. Pushkin died two days later.

The government initially tried to cover up the death, because Pushkin was so popular among common Russians that they thought his death might spark an uprising. When word of his death finally did get out, people all over the country went into mourning. One man, weeping openly in the street, was asked by a newspaper man if he had known Pushkin personally. He replied, "No, but I am a Russian."

The Great Seattle Fire destroyed downtown Seattle on this date in 1889. The fire started in the basement of a cabinet shop on the corner of Front and Madison. An employee had set a pot of glue on top of a lit stove, and the glue caught fire. Over the next 18 hours, the blaze wiped out the town's business district and waterfront. Miraculously, there were no human fatalities.

In a year's time, Seattle had nearly been rebuilt. All the construction jobs sparked a population boom, and Seattle grew from a town of 25,000 into a full-fledged city of more than 40,000.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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