Readers of a certain age (old folks) and movie buffs will likely remember the scene early on in the 1967 film The Graduate (and in this context I’m more the film buff than the person of certain age) where a young Dustin Hoffman, playing Benjamin, just graduated from university and unsure of his future, meets Mr. McGuire (played by Walter Brooke – whose real name was Gustav William Tweer Jr.) at a party. Here, thanks to the magic of Google is that conversation: Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Benjamin: Yes, sir. Mr. McGuire: Are you listening? Benjamin: Yes, I am. Mr. McGuire: Plastics (and if you’re wondering, that one word last line is ranked #42 in the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema).
One of the reasons that I remember that line so clearly is because my father worked in plastics. Until I was 13 he was in the plastics division of a company called C.I.L. His first job after university was in the C.I.L. plant in Beloeil, a small town outside of Montreal. C.I.L. also had an explosives plant nearby in a town called McMasterville. That plant would end up in the news every so often because it had a tendency to blow up. Anyway, I remember one day my father came home from work with mock four page newspaper that was made of plastic. I don’t know whose idea this was but it was popular among the C.I.L. folks. There was a picture a week or two later in a company newsletter that showed someone poking his head out of the shower looking like he was reading the plastic paper as the water pelted down.
I think we can all agree that making newspapers out of plastic would have been a very bad idea. One reason it would have been a bad idea is that we now know that we have more than enough plastic in the world already, including the oceans. Although I suppose if we had made newspapers out of plastic we would have given the whales and dolphins something to read as we pushed them to extinction. The other reason plastic newspapers are a bad idea is that the point of taking a shower is not to read it’s to sing – because we all sound better singing in the shower than anywhere else – and also to think – because all sorts of ideas come to us in the shower that wouldn’t occur to us otherwise (and I guess the third reason, after singing and thinking is washing, but that’s clearly number three).
All sorts of good ideas come to us in the shower – the idea for this blurb for example. You can also get good ideas in the bath, too. Just ask Archimedes, who famously discovered the principle of buoyancy when he got into a bath. And in case you were wondering the word “Eureka” which Archimedes uttered after he sat in the bath displacing much of the water has nothing to do with the joy of discovering something but is Greek for “Oh my God, there’s water all over the floor.”
While singing is great in the shower, and not bad in the bath, neither the bath nor the shower are great places to play musical instruments, especially, and I cannot stress this enough, instruments that have to be plugged in. This is why Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room (you were wondering perhaps when the Living Room might make an appearance) has its rehearsals in a living room and plays most of its shows at the Free Times Café (on College west of Spadina). Our next show at the Free Times will be on Sunday July 14 (the second Sunday of the month rather than the third because every so often we feel the need to shake things up). For those who have not been to the Free Times, it is a cozy space that has very good acoustics. And while our massed voices might sound better in the shower there is really no way we could get 10 musicians and an audience into a shower to hear us and again, the water would be bad for the instruments, and fatal to some of the musicians. As a compromise I think the Free Times is pretty good. As always the show starts at 8 and this month, because it’s summer, there is no cover. Hope to see you there.
P.S. The exception to the rule about instruments and water are the bagpipes which sound much better immersed in lots of water, and preferably at the bottom of the ocean – although there is then the harm that befalls the sensitive hearing of the whales and dolphins – that really would be adding insult on top of injury.