Monday, April 19, 2010

Damned Near Freedom: San Francisco, 1906

A friend sent the following video and description of San Francisco, 1906. I call it "Damned near freedom." I see from this movie why I like spending my time in what we today call the Third World. There, rather than in the Modernity most of us call home, I find freedom to come and go, to be and do, to act or not, according to my own tastes. Freedom. It's not some irresponsible meanness on the part of the anti-social man: it's the freedom to make and do and earn and spend and keep as one will by ones own designs. Third World police states are too disorganized to piss me off. I might be privileged in some of them because I have enough money to do as I please; but so what? It's my money, my life, and ultimately, my freedom. I could very happily have lived in San Francisco 100 years ago. No traffic cops, not a sign of a nanny State obama-drones, no Death Hippies I can see in the following film. I can't go to San Francisco today and find any personal freedom. That is a highly organised police state. I have to go to the Third World for freedom now. But then, 1906? It was damned near freedom!

My friend writes:

This is the first 35mm film ever. It was taken by camera mounted on the front of a cable car. It was filmed only four days before the quake and shipped by train to NY for processing. This film was "lost" for many years.

This film was long thought to be from 1905 until David Kiehn with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum figured out exactly when it was shot. The dates was figured from New York trade papers announcing the film showing, to the wet streets from recent heavy rainfall, & shadows indicating time of year & actual weather and conditions on historical record, even when the cars were registered (they even know who owned them and when the plates were issued!)

The clock tower at the end of Market Street at the Embarcadero wharf is still there. The number of automobiles is staggering for 1906. (I'm also wondering... How many "street cleaning" people were employed to pick up after the horses?* Talk about going green!) I can’t believe how disorganized the street scene is – cars, horses, horses and buggies, horses and wagons, street cars, pedestrians (notice all the men in suits) – all going every which way! Good thing they are moving at a slow pace! Also bicycles....

Freedom. Too bad San Francisco has lost it today.

*When horse-shit in the city used to be the real thing, please await my latest work (in progress,) A Genealogy of Left Dhimmi Fascism, which has notes on comparable figures from London c.1906. Will include them here when I see them next. Meanwhiles, c.f. Peter Hall, Cities in Civilization; Paul Johnson, Modern Times, and Simon Winchester, A Crack in the Edge of the World.

1 comment:

Dag said...

There's a music track to this video which I didn't realise till a friend left word of it. I play it as it was. I like the music, but one might try it too as a quiet vision of the past.