More than 100 years ago, in the days before widespread electrical power, there was no such thing as an entertainment industry - at least, not as we know it today. Instead, entertainment took a little industry.
After a long day of work, folks would sit together and read books, or gather around the piano and sing, or swap stories. Some families would have spelling contests every night; others had (gasp!) conversations. Chautauquas were big, communitywide versions of this. Entertainment was participatory rather than passive - no sitting around just watching or listening. You had to make your own fun.
That tradition has largely disappeared in the last century thanks to radios and televisions and DVD players. Today, we have people to make our fun for us.
As you can probably gather, there are days I feel curmudgeonly about this.
On those days, I am exceedingly grateful for the Internet.
Hear me out on this. In the last few weeks, I have found myself richly entertained by the following, largely homemade offerings:
¢ A video made by students at Gordon College, who produced a live-action stage re-creation of the first level of the "Super Mario Bros." video game. If you have no idea what that means, you're probably a little older - I'm sorry - but if you've seen it and understand what's going on, you know it's brilliant.
¢ Another video, "The Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments," which features two young men creating a Las Vegas-style water fountain show - using the combustible combination of, well, Diet Coke and Mentos.
¢ A performance by Hurra Torpedo - they played Wakarusa over the weekend - singing Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" with percussion provided by a man destroying an oven with a sledgehammer.
If all these things sound impossibly weird, well, that's kind of the point. Hollywood would never produce a video of two geeks dropping 500 Mentos in 100 bottles of Diet Coke for the goofy joy of it. It took the two geeks to do it, and the pleasure I felt in five minutes of online video viewing far surpassed any 22-minute sitcom I've seen recently.
The Internet has made it possible for people all over the world to take their half-baked ideas and use them to entertain other people all over the world. Folks are making their own fun again - and you don't have to spend much time online to realize that more and more people are doing it.
It's fantastic. Just like the old days.