What is the history of this light?


As I sit here at the Van Ripper-Hopper House Museum waiting for a chipmunk (though I suspect I’ve been stood up), I couldn’t help but notice this light here beside me.
I’m here with my wife and son because they have pumpkin painting (the safer alternative to carving, I guess), and a book signing for a children’s book Miles quite rudely said he wasn’t interested in.

Anyway, while they roam the grounds and his pumpkin dries, I saw a chipmunk sit – twice – on this fence, and thought perhaps if I also sit here for long enough, he might hop back on and let me take his picture. So far, he hasn’t obliged.

In the meanwhile, I saw this light and began wondering how it came to be so twisted.
Like the fence it sits beneath, it has become uprooted, and is on the verge of collapsing entirely. It has no lightbulb, and its exposed wires suggest it isn’t likely to work again. But why is it thus? I don’t imagine it was originally installed that way. The wires lead underground, so some careful thought and planning went into this light. There aren’t any others nearby. It was put in to light the area, and has since been neglected. I feel sorry for it.

Well, my wife is calling me to leave, and the chipmunks are teasing me with their chirps (did you know chipmunks chirp?), but won’t show themselves. At least I saw the light.

What’s in the Garbage?

I used to live in England. It isn’t where I’m from, but I’ve lived there longer than any other place in my life, so I might as well call it home. I appreciate the many ways in which the European influence has cultured the country, and enjoyed my time there.

There are, of course, some notable ways in which England is behind other countries in the world, and especially the United States. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, nearly twenty-five years ago now, I remember having several separate crates we filled each week with glass, plastic and paper. Each week, we would dutifully place these on the curb, and upon return find them empty, magically cleared by the mysterious and rarely-seen garbage men.

However, where I lived in Sheffield, curbside paper recycling has only taken hold in the past five years, and glass and other materials even more recently than that. It would be collected once a month.

I now live in New Jersey, and without going all the dubious benefits this entails, the garbage and recycling cycles have intrigued me. This stuff is collected all the time. I mean it. Household trash is collected on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Recycling is collected every two weeks on Monday. Needless to say, our family of three doesn’t come close to filling the requirements of these tailgating pickups; often we miss one or more pickups with no consequences to speak of.

What truly astonishes me, however, is our neighbors. Generally, every single garbage day, they have one (or more) garbage cans on the curb, often overflowing with trash. Same goes for recycling, so I can’t even say that they simply aren’t too green. Every day.

What are they throwing out? I can’t imagine that three days’ worth of table scraps – even for a large family – would fill a whole garbage can. Kitty litter? No cat shits that much. Do they, perhaps, cook an extra meal every night to feed the hungry kitchen bin?

Perhaps it’s all packaging from the prodigious number of toys, gadgets and other miscellany they buy every few days at Stop & Shop. If so, where do they get the money, and how can I get some? My job’s not that crappy, and even a gajillion dollars of credit card debt couldn’t really account for it.

So what’s in their garbage? Try as I might, I can’t fathom it. They are likely larger families than ours, but more mouths eat more, not trash more. Maybe they get disproportionately more junk mail than we do (which is already staggering). Perhaps I’m just unaware that we’re surrounded by the mafia, and these are simply their weekly body dumps (the black sacks the funeral home around the corner leaves on the street are decidedly suspicious).

Ultimately, there may no answer (other than to knock on their doors and politely ask, and I don’t fancy contributing to their trash). I’ll continue to notice and continue to wonder; perhaps the truth is only known to the mysterious garbagemen. What an insight into our lives they must have.

Why Isn’t The Phantom Tollbooth a Movie?

One of the great joys in my life is reading to my son before bed. I know there will only be so many years that this can continue, and I still have to get through Bridge to Terabitha, Great Expectations, all of the Harry Potters, and so many more. But of all the great books of my (and others’) youth, The Phantom Tollbooth (to my knowledge) has never been made into a live-action film.

Yes – there was the semi-live/animated version from 1970, and indeed I watched this endlessly growing up. But it was abridged, and the animation was second-rate.

What I’m talking about is a genuine, live-action epic that traces Milo’s adventures through the lands beyond. I read Lord of the Rings with Miles, and we then watched the superb movies. We read Treasure Island, and then watched (okay, I’ll admit it) Muppet Treasure Island (surprisingly accurate, actually). But why not The Phantom Tollbooth?

Should such an endeavor be attempted, here’s what it would need to be.

  1. A Tim Burton movie. There really is no discussion here.
  2. Live. This doesn’t mean no CGI, but certainly no cartoons.
  3. The complete story. Don’t chicken out at Dictionopolis and miss the whole point of the book. We need to see the Mountains of Ignorance, complete with Demons, and even some great flashback battles as the Prince of Wisdom first arrives in the Land of Null.
  4. Featuring a new child actor.
  5. Faithful to the dialogue of the book. Nearly every idiom in the English language appears somewhere in this book, and are the source of one of the main joys I got out of it. Only now, as an adult, do I understand the whimsical humor of Milo eating his own words.

It’s quite likely that if and when The Phantom Tollbooth is made into a movie, it will not be a good one. It will probably not be directed by Tim Burton, and it will probably not be faithful to the book. The trailer for Bridge to Terabitha looked so damningly awful I never went to see it. I would hate to see another of my childhood favorites butchered, but the sad truth is that it’s more than likely. Nonetheless, I will probably go to see it, and Miles and I at least will enjoy it.

Update: It turns out The Phantom Tollbooth may be made into a movie after all. Wikipedia says it will come out in 2013, though I can’t say I’ll be thrilled to see Gary Ross direct it. Eh.