Saturday, October 09, 2010
My magic box . . . in search of magic
You want to hear some heavy metal?
Try going back to the fall of 1935. You'll find some heavy metal nestled inside the art-deco wooden case of the Zenith 5-S-29.
This heavy metal, though, was made to fill a room with dance-band remote broadcasts. With soap operas and farm reports. With news, and with exotic broadcasts from across the sea.
Today, an iPod will give you music. Yesterday, this old Zenith filled your house with magic.
I know. I sound like a broken record (another lost metaphor only fossils like me get). But if you ask me -- and you didn't . . . tough -- one of the tragedies of our age is the absence of magic.
Where is the magic in an iPod? Where is the magic in YouTube? Sure, YouTube is a great tool . . . and, in some cases, a forum for all manner of tools.
And sure, You Tube can offer up stuff you never could have imagined -- or perhaps imagined that you'd never see again.
But it's not magic.
Kind of like the iPod, a zillion websites, Facebook, Twitter and whatever they'll think of next. All useful. All interesting. All with the potential to while away countless hours.
But magic? No, not magic.
MAGIC IS a multicolored dial glowing in the dark. Magic is the five tubes inside an old Zenith tombstone radio casting a backlight glow, silhouetting the angles and curves of a wood-veneer case.
Magic is the rich sound of a six-inch speaker fed by heavy metal and hot filaments.
Magic is the smell of ozone wafting through the room
Magic is sitting by yourself, listing to mellifluous voices on distinguished radio stations in distant cities, each with its own distinctive "sound." Each beaming the life of a far away place, a distinct local culture into the ionosphere and then back to earth, into a long-wire aerial, through the circuitry and out the cone speaker of a 1936 model-year Zenith radio set.
Made in the U.S.A.
Sitting in a darkened room. Singing into your ear and speaking to your soul.
Your soul -- where the magic lies.
Messages from the souls of men and women of the mellifluous voices in far-away cities speaking into microphones and putting turntable needles into the grooves of discs filled with music. Wonderful music.
Once, there was music in the air. Once, real people played it. Once, real radio stations communicated to "radio neighbors."
Once, magic ruled the air. Once, magic came to you on a Zenith "long distance" radio.
Once. Once there be magic. Now . . . "T'aint so, McGee."
Now, my old Zenith searches for ethereal magic in the still of the night. It searches in vain.