And Gutenberg Lived Here: Of Tarzan, La Brea, And The New Mastadons.

This week all the hoopla started for the release of the new Tarzan film.

With champagne dinner and gala premiere.

I assume in white tie and loin cloth.

And since it is school vacation here,

the kids,

privy to such info faster than we are,

are sitting in the trees

and practicing the Tarzan yell.

This had already had me wondering,

since most kids in this  area spend their time at museum-or-church organized camps or treasure hunts,

or playing football

or shooting self-made bows and arrows,

but no.

We are definitely in a Tarzan age.

Not that this really surprises me.

The original Tarzan,

stories of self-sacrificing pureness of soul,

of killer territory-guarding king apes,

and loving apes who raise small children as their own,

was written in 1912.

Time of too much industry,

too much dog-eat-dog,

and the ever-closer approaching first world war.

The writer?

Edgar Rice Burroughs,

one of the great story-tellers of all time.

And apparently the most villified for incorrect writing talents ever.

His books are the most often filmed, except for Dracula, in film history.

And continued to be written

at regular intervals,

until his death in 1950.

Tales of the world,

of the conflicts between nations,

of the beauty

and survivability

of the natural soul when left alone.

Unfortunately artificially embellished,

to make it more acceptable,

by secretly being Lord Greystoke,

heir to a fortune,

which obviously made him more noble than most.

But these were the times.

And, if you read the MIT professor of technology,

and literature critic,

Leo Marx,

he wasn’t alone in his beliefs.

In “The Machine In The Garden,”

Marx writes a fascinating  1964 study of the literature of the Tarzan time,

and earlier.

The time of yearning for back to the Garden.

It is too voluminous to discuss here,

but there are fascinating discussions of the sound of the train at Walden Pond,

the primitve and  unspoiled lands of the Tempest,

and our desperate need to return to them,

Emerson, Thoreau, Melville,


one of the great believers in nature as healer,

and first investors in the typewriter-

and, of course, Fitzgerald,

famous for his use of the,

often found on barns in the Amish country,

or as a guard against evil,


in this case technology promoting,

optomotrist’s billboard eye,

watching the goings on in Gatsby.

Which leads us to what Leo Marx considers is the basis for the discussion we must have,

and haven’t ever really had yet:

the middle landscape-

poised between the old belief in the dangers inherent in, nature and the need to tame them, versus the dangers of technological destruction.

This new belief  walked the middle way between the healing powers of the bucolic pastoral and the  powers of developing technology.

With special emphasis on what this does to the human  psyche.

We were a nation with large natural resources.

Large areas where you could get away.

The founding fathers’ concept of nature as refuge.

A place to move to for a new start.

A place for ideals.

And then?

The degredation of the individual nature of small towns by means of their connection through the railways.

The dark satanic mills that cast their shadow.

Why does this remind me of The Lord Of The Rings?

Or a modern election.

With too much talking, too much technology.

Even Mary Shelly’s use of galvanization techniques for the most noble of purposes shows the problem of the machine in the garden.

Men are men,

and God knows better.

So why all the Tarzan suddenly?

Why now?

Have we reached a stage where there is not only too much technology,

there is now nearly no garden left?

Brexit or Eu,

Hillary or Donald,

computer hacking,

TTip for tat.

I held my breath when the chunnel was made.

In fact, I am still amazed no one has made one of those airport style disaster movies about it.

And now we are talking about putting up an artificial environment around planets, and moving there.

Perhaps we could start with the politicians.

And some of the IT people?

Which brings me back to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

He bought land a few miles from Los Angeles,

in the hills,

and named it Rancho Tarzana,

now the home of the city of Tarzana.

Only a few miles from the famous La Brea Tar Pits.

A place where they discovered the remains of large numbers of mastadons

and saber-toothed tigers.

Now in a museum.

Full circle?

copyright 2016

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