My wife and I saw Hugo in 3D yesterday and we loved it. It is a flawless blend of computer animation and live action that Walt Disney would have been proud of if he had been involved in the production. The story revolves around an orphan boy living in the walls of a Paristrain station and his friendship with a young girl his age or a little older. The movie is set in winter in the 1930s. The villain is a slender, wounded veteran of WW1 and his dog who patrol the train station looking for malefactors and orphans to be sent to an orphanage. It is a heart-warming story suitable for everyone but the youngest. It evolves into a movie about magic and early movie making. It is very suitable for holiday viewing, and I predict that it is destined to become a classic.
The most useful human learning tool is the question. Children naturally use it constantly at a certain age to query adults. Later in life students and adults learn by asking questions. The internet is the most recent invention that allows us to ask questions and get answers. For some of us, it has replaced books and libraries. One application on the internet that I find to be especially useful is Google Earth. Whenever I encounter a geographical term in my reading or elsewhere, I like to visit it on Google Earth. I have activated the “Photos” layer so that most inhabited places have dozens, if not hundreds, of pictures uploaded by private citizens. There are fewer pictures in places where the population is very poor or forbidden by their government to use the internet.
Some examples of my recent use. I am currently reading Ashenden by Somerset Maugham which takes place partially in Switzerland, which I have never visited in person. After viewing Lake Geneva and its environs on Google Earth, I feel more connected to the story.
Joseph Conrad began his maritime career in Marseille, France which is the principal setting for The Arrow of Gold. The Rover takes place mostly on a peninsula east of Marseille between Toulon and Hyeres. Several of Conrad’s stories take place among and between the many islands of Indonesia and the Philippines. All the information is more vivid and more easily retained if I am able to associate it with the information I can find using Google Earth
Today on Wall Street, Americans are demonstrating against the financial firms that oppress us, charging exorbitant interest and additional new fees on money that the taxpayers are supplying to them at essentially no cost, that is interest free. Some of the employees of the financial firms stood on a balcony overlooking the protests and laughingly mocked the protesters by ostentatiously drinking champagne.
That was a heartless gesture and utterly stupid on their part. I believe that the video that I saw will be incorporated into countless campaign commercials from now to Election Day, November, 2012. I fervently hope that the video will collectively influence millions of votes. When Congress will not respond to the wishes and needs of the American people, then the only alternative we have left is to take to the streets to demonstrate. That demonstration has begun on Wall Street.
Early in the book, the doctor is called to amputate the leg of a poor workman injured in an industrial accident. I found his thoughts after the surgery to be striking:
“Where there were no parlors and no factories, I supposed there was not the same disparity between the opulent and the miserable. And yet, I thought, in perfect keeping with the logic of my culture, was it not better to have the potential to acquire luxury than to guarantee the comfort of all? Equality, as de Tocqueville has noted, can result in a deadening mediocrity, a dull and unprogressive society of bumpkins. But there seemed to be something brutally stubborn in using one’s intelligence to manufacture profit but not to obliterate poverty.”