Thursday, February 26, 2009

Faded Words

Talking with a friend late last night, the topic turned to talk itself. We're roughly the same age, and share many of the same cultural references, which in these frantic days is tonic enough.

I'd been watching John Huston and Orson Welles on Dick Cavett's old ABC show, melting into the smooth, stimulating conversation. It seems that people my age tend to turn to Cavett when desiring intelligent chat, however pedantic or pretentious it sometimes was, and here I was doing just that. I lamented the lack of similar talk today, at least the kind projected on screens. My friend acknowledged this, but insisted that smart stuff still exists, you just have to dig for it. Plus, back in Cavett's day, there weren't as many distractions as now, so people didn't get edgy during a 20 minute exchange, checking their text messages every 20 seconds. That factors in.

Communication technology has freed and connected us in unprecedented ways, something I don't think younger people truly understand and appreciate. Which is fine. The next phase and the phase after that shouldn't arrive with obvious fanfare. But this technology has also shattered our perceptions, and I don't think we've quite caught up to it. Perhaps we never will, as "improved" forms constantly hit us, forcing us to continually readjust. Then again, I may be in that part of life where older forms please and inspire, and help me make sense of the surrounding change. And I'm not talking about you-know-who's "change." That's the same old shit repackaged for mass consumption.

Another thing about Cavett: my late Uncle Don was a big fan, preferring Cavett to Johnny Carson and his "beady eyes." Don was also the one person in my family who had actual bookshelves bearing actual books. He noticed some raw intelligence inside my pimply head, encouraged me to read, think, develop ideas. When I lived with Don and his long-time partner Gene, he gave me my own typewriter, on which I wrote horrible, tortured comic essays and bits. But at least I was doing it, failing over and over again, having the time to fail and learning from it.

Anyway, here are a few clips of Welles and Cavett chatting. If there are two contemporary types who talk like this, please alert me. I'd love to see what the kids are into.