September 28, 2013

Googling in the theater.

Remember when Pee Wee Herman got arrested for masturbating in a movie theater? That was long ago. It must have been before home video, because why go to a theater to masturbate? Exposure? The thrill of potential discovery? A need for just the right degree of intimacy with others? Because once pornography is subject only to boring disapproval from bland people, one must look for another way to feel that you're doing something titillatingly wrong?

But today, the transgression is Googling in the theater. Googling, long ago, could have been a slang term for masturbating. (Are you googling again?!) But those days are past. Googling is research, and research in the theater is a subversive activity.

From Professor Meltsner's essay about the play "Arguendo," discussed in the previous post:
[The play] is replete with jargon and enough insider's free expression law that even many lawyers in the audience were grabbing smart phones to do some instant Googling.
Do they Google during the performance or wait until intermission? It happens that I was using my iPhone during intermissions at a play last night. We saw "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" at the American Players Theatre, and since we hadn't taken the opportunity the theatre offers this summer to freshen up our knowledge of "Hamlet," there were passages of "Hamlet" I wanted to read to go along with "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern," which is a play that has 2 minor characters from "Hamlet" dealing with their situation in that larger story that they witness only in fragments.

While others went off to pee or to sip a glass of wine, I stayed put and read. (To be honest, I wasn't doing research on the internet. Reception was bad where we were in the woods, and I have a Shakespeare app on my iPhone.)

More from Meltsner's essay:
What did I expect from a play based not so much on the story of an important law case but on the particularized verbal event that is a Court argument in such a case? Plainly the Company wasn't interested in turning out teaching materials for those like me who train advocates but, then, Collins was advised by all-star legal journalist Emily Bazelon and law professor and Broadway producer Nicholas Rosenkranz...
There's a name: Rosenkranz. Pure coincidence that I should trip over that this morning. No meaning.

I'm Googling and searching in the text of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern," looking for "meaning." Literally. I'm searching on the word "meaning" to get some snappy way to bring this post in for a landing.

Aha! Guildenstern is talking about "the meaning of order" and how if we "happened to discover, or even suspect, that our spontaneity was part of their order, we'd know we be lost." He refers to the Chinese philosopher who "dreamed he was a butterfly, and from that moment he was never quite sure that he was not a butterfly dreaming it was a Chinese philosopher." There's a pause and then Rosencrantz jumps up and shouts "Fire!"

Well, that's convenient for bringing this post in for a landing — a joke about a Supreme Court text about shouting fire in a crowded theater. Here, let me Google that for you.

Guildenstern says "Where?" and Rosencrantz says: "It's all right — I'm demonstrating the misuse of free speech. To prove it exists." He looks at us, the audience, and obviously we are sitting there, unreacting, the suspension of disbelief having secured our disbelief in the possibility of a fire. Rosencrantz says: "Not a move. They should burn to death in their shoes."

11 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

I'm sure I've heard the story of an actor pleading with an audience to leave because there really is a fire, and they don't leave and they do die.

I tried Googling that, but apparently not hard enough.

I don't know if it was a true story. I doubt it. I feel that there's a little speech in some movie where some actor tells that story (true only within the fiction of that movie).

YoungHegelian said...

Paul Reubens (AKA Pee-Wee Herman) was out whacking off in a "public" adult theater because he was staying at his parents' home in Florida at the time, and thought that whacking off to a porn film in a theater dedicated to that purpose was the lesser evil compared to whacking off to a porn film in front of his parents.

He should have realized what a risk he was taking as a public figure in children's entertainment. He should have done the responsible, adult, thing & gone for an incall hooker.

Ann Althouse said...

"... and thought that whacking off to a porn film in a theater dedicated to that purpose was the lesser evil compared to whacking off to a porn film in front of his parents."

1. Like there were only 2 options.

2. That's an explanation after the fact. It's spin. Why is it more believable than the alternatives I came up with?

YoungHegelian said...

That's an explanation after the fact. It's spin.

Well, there's certainly nothing in your alternatives that make them impossible. But, since PR was in the best situation to know what was the state of his penis at the time, unless there is some compelling reason to think otherwise, his explanation is the simplest.

While the simplest explanations may not mirror well the true complexity of human motivations, that very complexity should give spectators to human action pause as to their capabilities to assign motivations to others.

Emil Blatz said...

Not long ago the great Fred
Willard
was found doing the same thing in an adult theatre in LA. I'm really impressed that there are any adult theaters anywhere these days.

traditionalguy said...

Before I go into an SEC Football induced coma ending with the Ohio State (with a former SEC coach) v. Wisconsin (whose former coach left for the SEC), I say that Googling in public has fast passed that tipping point of acceptability that so much else has past so quickly of late.

We used to go to a restaurant with a piano player who stumped the audience with musical bars asking what song and who wrote it and who sung it, etc. and we all had a blast....and then the iphone and Google entered our world a guy with one in the back started answering everything before we had any fun guessing.

Why even the Church lady crowd that once agreed one seen using an iphone in their presence was a sinner against the commandment, "Thou shalt not be SO RUDE", has now accepted it like so what.

I suspect Jesus would have used it if it was available in 30AD. The scriptures say in Daniel 12 prophecies that in the last days when the Messiah returns with judgement that peoples knowledge shall increase.

surfed said...

I carry one of these in theaters, restaurants and use it in my classroom. All problems solved. And, as an added plus, the absolute look of befuddlement on the users face is wonderful to behold. Sorry, you can't get these through the Althouse Amazon Portal. I tried.

http://www.thesignaljammer.com/categories/Portable/

Michael K said...

I remember reading in a psychology journal about a young man arrested for molesting a girl in a theater. He confessed to hundreds of such incidents but the police could find only a few complaints and he related that he was successful in getting the victim to cooperate about once in five tries.

Craig said...

Rosenkranz is a Catholic name. Guildenstern is Jewish. They're unknowingly in cahoots against Hamlet, who is a graduate of Wittenberg and was raised Protestant. It's the Thirty Years War in a nutshell.

Craig said...

The real issue is the prostate. The exposed penis is simply an outward manifestation of the prostate's inner fullness. And why are men's jackets these days designed to make us all look like PeeWee Herman?

Peter said...

Everyone really needs to get used to the reality that no one will ever again be tethered to merely exist in the Here and Now.

Cellphones began degrading public space almost as soon as they became a mass commodity. And now they frequently degrade private space as well (ever notice how many couples waiting for food at a restaurant are involved not with each other, but with their screens)?

Perhaps its an acceptable price for the freedom of always-available connectivity. But acceptable or no, the degradation is pervasive and unavoidable and the Old Days (good or otherwise) will not be returning.