Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Web Secret #367: the search for excellence

The Wizard of Oz is the best movie ever made.

The reasons for this belong in another post, probably another blog.

When I was a child, the Wizard of Oz was aired on television once a year. It was event television.

You and your family gathered around the single TV set your family owned, and someone wrapped some aluminum foil around the antennas in the vain hope of improving the grainy, staticky reception. Then you watched, transfixed, desperately trying to memorize every moment, every song, every line of dialogue. Because, poof! it would be gone - not to be seen again for another year.

Those days are long gone, along with nightly family dinners, and other such ephemera.

To make up for those losses, the gods of media gave us excellence.

Courtesy of the Internet. Anytime. At the click of the mouse.

In the 21st century, I can watch the Wizard of Oz whenever I want to. In fact I can watch it deconstructed into hundreds of HD clips, with better quality sound and visuals than I could have ever dreamed about in my youth. I won't even embed one in this post. You know those clips. I know them. We all know them.

The word in French for Internet user is "internaute." It literally means "astronaut exploring the Internet."

Accompany me, an internaute on an idiosyncratic expedition.

Arthur Rubinstein famously described the adagio from Schubert's String Quintet in C Major as "the entrance to heaven." I am not restricted to listening to a contemporary performance of this work. I can access any rendition ever publicly recorded. So for me, it's the 1941 performance by the legendary Budapest String Quartet, accompanied by Jascha Heifetz, arguable the greatest violinist who ever lived.

The adagio can be heard at minute 14.01. It is a sublime performance, made more poignant by the fact that it was recorded during one of the darkest periods of human history.

It is mine to experience. Anytime.

Sporting glory? I can watch Torville and Dean ice dancing to Ravel's "Bolero" on their way to the 1984 Olympic gold medal. To this day, it is widely considered to be the greatest ice dance ever performed.

Missed Laurence Olivier performing the lead in Shakespeare's Richard III on the stage of the Old Vic in 1946? No problem, catch him sneering his way through "Now is the winter of our discontent" in the 1955 movie:

You can find surprising pockets of perfectionism. In the UK, Magnus Macdonald machine tools impeccably crafted items out of Titanium. Pens, pill pots, and the like.

Excellence is not only the search for athletic, artistic, scientific and cultural achievement. It is also embodied by the human spirit.

When I feel like the world is going to hell in a hand basket, I watch the youth of the world dancing to Pharrell's Happy:

You too can become an "internaute" and launch your own expedition.


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