Friday, March 1, 2013

Interchangeable Parts the Revolutionary War times, cotton-gin inventor Eli Whitney was commissioned to build a large number of rifles. He returned after the allotted time with only one.

Where are the rest of the guns, and what have you done with our money? I’m sure they asked. And then he showed them; the one gun he’d spent months making was a master copy. It was fitted together from interchangeable parts, which could be manufactured separately. Interchangeable parts revolutionized the industry. Good news for the American Revolution. Bad news for peace time, but I digress.

If Eli Whitney were alive today and watching modern television, I wonder (after he got over about seven layers of shock) if he would recognize his own invention at work?

Case-in-point, Thursday evening, I’m watching TV. We only get a few channels, so my choices for drama were Scandal, Person of Interest, and, I think, Beauty and the Beast (the series, not the Disney movie). Unimpressed but feeling too lazy to find my book (I claim sinus infection), I casually started watching Person of Interest. A poorly written mob boss was threatening to kill people for reasons known only to him, and the good guys on surveillance had to determine who the good guys were (a pretty young widow included) and save them.

Then baby wakes up, and I go in to change a soiled diaper. When I return 10 minutes later, I ask my husband, who is mostly attending to his computer, what I missed. He says, “the guy everyone thought was dead is actually alive. He was a CIA agent working under cover.” How contrived, I think, assuming he’s referring to the widow’s mob-guy husband. I turn to the TV, where there’s an awkward reunion going on. The widow’s face looks a little different, but she has the same beautiful dark hair.

And then I realize that it’s a different show. I’d channel surfed at the commercial, before I got up.

When the exciting plot twist could fit any one of three prime-time dramas, aired at the same hour, Oh dear. Oh Hollywood, what have you done with the art of storytelling?

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