(Host) How is a movie like a wristwatch? And how will Northeast Kingdom cheapness save the nation? Commentator Jules Older explains.
(Older) There’s a new film out of Quebec. It’s “The Barbarian Invasion,” and it’s a sequel, nearly 20 years later, to one of my favorites, “The Decline of the American Empire.”
If you need proof that the empire is in decline, or at least in a state of deep decadence, look no further than the quarter-page ad in the June 8 Sunday New York Times. The picture is of a square-sided, old-fashioned looking men’s watch. The copy… I’ll read it to you:
“The Tiffany Mark Hand-Wound Watch.
Inspiration: 19th Century Tiffany pocket watches
Movement: Pure Swiss Pedigree
Architecture: Unique 4-piece Tiffany casement
The Tiffany Mark Hand-Wound Mechanical in 18 karat gold, $3,950.”
There is something about buying a $4,000 watch that I find… unappealing. To me, it’s like hanging a sign on your wrist, a sign that says:
Inspiration: Pure narcissism
Movement: No movement. Unmoved to do anything useful or charitable with your excess of assets
Architecture: Too much money, too little imagination
Metal: Base. Dross. Ignoble.
But that’s not the mark of this particular decline of the American Empire; $4,000 watches, $40,000 watches, and for all I know, $400,000 watches have been around a long time. They’re a dime a dozen in Las Vegas, and Palm Beach and Rodeo Drive.
No, the thing that shouts, “Decadence!” in this brief ad is the fact that this $4,000 watch is a mechanical watch. Which means you have to wind it by hand every night, and pay $4000 for the priviledge. Which also means it doesn’t keep time as well as that $5.98 special you bought from Discounts-R-Us. Which means that you have just paid more much, much more for a watch that doesn’t work too well, and, by the way, doesn’t look like anything special, either.
Why, I’m wearing a better-looking one, right now. It’s architecture is cheap and reliable.
Movement: Poor Japanese pedigree.
Metal: Stuff that looks like gold
Inspiration: Telling time without mortgaging the farm.
My watch tells time with perfect accuracy, gives the day and date, too. Unlike the Tiffany, it has a sweep second-hand, and it’s water-resistant to 100 feet. Cost me $15, slightly used but lookin’ new, down in Morrisville.
I wear it with pride, for I know that if the country’s going to hell in an 18-karat handbasket, then Yankee practicality – and the Kingdom’s proud tradition of tight-fistedness – may just help pull it through.
This is Jules Older, tighter than bark on a birch tree, in Albany, Vermont, the Soul of the Kingdom.
Jules Older is the author of more than 20 books for children and adults. His latest book for kids is “Ice Cream.”