Tag Archives: entertainment

Road Trip Games

Context:

I asked my informant LP for these games in an in-person interview. She grew up in suburban Colorado in the late 20th century. These games are played with kids on long car rides. She learned these games from her parents when she was on road trips with her family as a kid. “They’re timeless, they last forever, they never get old,” She said that “they’re for alleviating boredom, but they’re word games so they’re focused on vocabulary and learning words as opposed to math and numbers games.” She always liked these word games more than number games.

Text:

LS: We would play the license plate game, where you try to get a license plate from every state. The alphabet game, we would spell out the alphabet on passing signs, whoever saw it first would just call it out.

Our favorite one was “I’m going to such-and-such and I’m bringing my such and such.” You keep building with words that start with the same letter as the place you’re going to and go around the car repeating the cycle and adding on one each time. Whoever can’t remember or does it wrong loses.

I spy with my little-eye, where we would say “I spy with my little eye, something…” and then you would say the name of a color. Everyone else would try to guess what the object was. You would have to do it with something that was really far away. (laughs)

Thoughts:

These games are techniques for parents to help their kids alleviate boredom in long road trips, where a group of people is sitting in the enclosed space of a car together for hours on end. As the informant said, “they’re timeless… but they never get old.” These games have unlimited replay value and can keep kids entertained, or sedated, for the long hours of fidgeting and restlessness. As my informant mentioned, these games have a pedagogical function, of teaching kids new words, the names of the states, the names of the colors. But these games keep car riders focused on fairly rote tasks to pass the time easier. This piece of car lore likely arose from the need to keep a family socially and mentally stimulated during the long road trips common in the vast American Midwest

The Fox and the Rooster

Context: The following is a story told by the informant, my grandmother, when recounting to me a story she had heard during childhood. 

Background: My grandmother heard this story from her older cousin when chatting after school. She remembers it because unlike most stories she heard, this one was from someone closer in age to her.

Main piece: 

Once there was a fox that lived in the forest. Seeing a rooster sitting in a tree, the fox was eager to sink her teeth into it. Thinking about what a nice meal it would make, the fox decided to come up with a plan to get the rooster out of the tree. After thinking long and hard, the fox approached the tree and called out to the rooster, “Rooster! How are you doing today?”

The rooster responded, “I’m doing just fine, thanks to your prayers.”

“Did you know that there has been a new change in the forest?” the fox asked sneakily. 

This was news to the rooster, who hadn’t heard anything, so he asked in return, “No, what do you mean?”

“A decision has been made that from now on, everyone in the forest will live in peace and harmony. You don’t have to be scared of me anymore. Come, get down from that tree and let’s just sit in the shade and chat,” said the fox, greedily eyeing the bird.

“Oh really?” replied the rooster. “That’s great! Actually, I see that someone is coming over quickly.” Hearing this, the fox became frightened and looked around cautiously.

“Someone is coming? Who? Tell me quickly!” the fox said, afraid a predator might be approaching.

Seeing her reaction, the rooster was confused and said, “It’s just some hunting dogs, and they’re closing in fast. Why are you so frightened? Now that everyone is living in peace and harmony, we can all sit together and relax. Come, let’s wait for them to get here.”

Knowing her plan had been foiled, the fox could only grit her teeth and mumble an excuse that she had somewhere else to be before darting off into the forest, stomach empty.

Analysis: This story has the common trait of a more “evil” character that wants to hurt, or in this case eat, the “innocent” character, but has their plans ruined, either by being outwitted or mere happenstance. In this case, the narrative is quite open to interpretation as to whether the rooster actually did see the hunting dogs coming, or was clever enough to conjure up that tale to scare the fox off. Also, knowing the age of the storyteller to be quite young, it is no surprise that this tale focuses more heavily on entertainment than teaching a lesson or moral, although this could also be due to the way it was retold, perhaps being told to the girl in a different manner or emphasizing different parts of the tale.

Army Movie Star Game

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (GK).

CB: “Okay so, do you play any games”

GK: “There are a lot of different games that people in the armed services play to keep themselves entertained during long extended hours of boredom. So one is like you name a movie star, and then you would go back and forth naming someone they were in a movie with. So like if I said Angelina Joli, you could say Brad Pitt, and I would have to say Angelina Joli and someone else. And you just go back and forth until someone loses the game, for hours.”

CB: “Where did you hear about this game?”

GK: “We played it at basic.”

CB: “What do you think is the point of this game?”

GK: “To stay awake”

CB: “What does the game mean to you?”

GK: “That life can be very dull and that you should never take for granted the entertainments provided to you by modern technology.” 

Background:

My informant just graduated from basic training, and is now at a military base waiting to start further training and specialization. He grew up with an older brother in the army and has learned a lot about army culture from him, and then from his superiors at basic training. A lot of basic training is about preparing the soldiers for any possible situation. This calls for staying awake for hours on end while engaging in mind-numbing tasks. It was in these situations that games such as the one described would be played.

Context:

I called my informant to interview him over the phone, and recorded the interview on my laptop. I had often asked him about his experiences since enlisting, and so my questions were fairly normal for him. It was a casual comfortable conversation with the occasional input from his roommate.

Thoughts:

My first thought when I heard this game was that it sounded incredibly boring. But I guess that is also a part of the appeal. The game is meant to be just enough to keep the players awake and engaged, without being mentally or physically tiring. In the military, your fellow soldiers can come from all over the country with different life experiences and cultures. The game provides a way for the players to engage with one another without calling for too specific of cultural knowledge. Celebrities and pop culture is accepted to be known by nearly everyone, and so it acts as a way to bridge the cultural gaps between two people.

Theater Occupational Stereotype: Old Actress Versus Young Actress

Interview Extraction

Informant: “And then the last story is supposedly from Tallulah Bankhead who was in a play with a fairly snippy young actress who was basically telling her that she was old and irrelevant and that the world belonged to the young. At to which Mrs. Bankhead replied: ‘Honey, I can out act you and not even be on the stage.’ And the next night, in one of the scenes there was a party scene and prior to Mrs. Bankhead’s exit she was blocked* to put down a champagne glass on an end table as she exited. And she put her glass down and she set her glass so that it was like this, slightly more than half off the table and then she made her exit. And over the course of the scene the audience became aware miraculously balancing glass on the edge of the table and everyone was wondering when it would fall, and murmurs and rustlings were going through the audience. And then at the end of the scene when the stage crew struck* the glass they discovered a little piece of toupee tape under one edge of it to keep it from falling over.”

Analysis:

My informant’s story reflects an unfortunate custom that is prevalent in Hollywood, which is that the entertainment industry discriminates against people of an older age.  An aspect of the entertainment industry is escapism, and there is a desire to create a beautiful world in their films in which the audience can escape into and forget the troubles in their lives momentarily.  In the entertainment industry’s desire to do this, there has been too much emphasis put on young beauty and the sensuality that comes with it.  Therefore in this drive to create sensuality in films, older actors often have a harder time getting casted for production roles.  This has created a stereotype that older actors are not as important as their younger colleagues.

My informant heard this story from one of his colleagues at USC.  The popularity of this story suggests that the audience of this tale is revolting against the idea that only young actors are good actors.  This change in values of the entertainment industry can be seen in the currently popularity of actress Betty White who is 90 years old.  People today do not respond as well to the idea of a sensual Hollywood than they had in the past, which is part of a shift in cultural values that rejects the notion that beauty is only skin deep.  Thus the custom of shunning older actors is an idea that is currently changing, which reflects a more accepting Hollywood when it comes to age.

My informant was born in 1961, Connecticut.  He has more than 30 years of experience in theater and has worked on over hundreds of productions.  He continues to work on theater productions today, and serves as the associate professor of theater practice and technical direction at the University of Southern California. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

*Blocked: The past tense of a term used in theater which means that an action has been planned.  When an actor moves on stage, their actions have been rehearsed prior to the performance and planned or ‘blocked’ in rehearsal.

*Stuck: The past tense of a term used in theater which means that a prop or object is being removed from stage.  At the end of every performance or during intermission, stage hands remove or ‘strike’ props or furniture that has been left on stage in preparation for the next performance.