Monday, September 12, 2011

The Last Mystery


For almost thirty years, linoleum tiles have appeared in the streets of Philadelphia, reading:


Anybody seeing them had to wonder what they meant and who was behind them.  It was one of those small mysteries you always wondered about and knew that nobody would ever resolve for you.

Until now.

I saw Resurrect Dead, Jon Foy's documentary of gentle obsession yesterday.  It details the dogged, decade-long investigation of three young men to get to the root of this admittedly small mystery.  And it was a hoot and a delight.

Two things struck me about the movie:  First, that although Foy probably doesn't realize it, the movie is all about fandoms.  The community that forms around the mystery of the Toynbee tiles is one -- self-organizing, self-funding, and perfectly serious about a subject most other people don't give a second thought to.  And the material that ultimately solves the mystery comes from the Citizens Band community, another fandom which, though they're way skeptical about the whole project, recognize the obsession as being essentially benign.

And second, that while most of the movie is simply straightforward harmless fun, the ending, when the investigators decide they have learned enough and draw away from going any further, was both moving and profound.  It touches on the limits of understanding and the limits that morality place upon our actions.  So, ultimately, Resurrect Dead speaks to our times.

It also solves the last mystery left in an increasingly understood world.

Until the next mystery, of course.

And I saw a play . . .

It's over now, but Lady M. was one fabulous piece of theater.  It had its weaknesses, as any work that merges one of Shakespeare's best plays with added material must -- the new dialogue rarely lives up to Will's best.  But in the title role of Lady MacBeth, Catharine Slusar was just flat-out wonderful. I'd love to see her reprise the role in MacBeth.  But I'd be equally happy to see her in Lady M. again.

And I was mini-interviewed . . .

You can find a mini-interview of me (done as part of the publicity for my appearance last Saturday at The Spiral Bookcase) over at WHYY's online zine newsworks.  Reporter Jimmy Viola made it easy for me by doing his research first and then asking interesting questions.  You'd be amazed how rare that is.

You can find the interview here.



JJM said...

Good interview. Pity he misspelled your name. But at least he was consistent about it. [wry grin]--Mario

Michael Swanwick said...

I am so used to that it hardly bothers me anymore.