NW Review of Marquees

The Pickwick Theater in Hillary's hometown, Park Ridge, IL

We drove into the night with the single purpose of getting you a nice photograph of the mighty Pickwick Movie Theater marquee, but failed. The photos, example to the right, were all blurry.

Oh well. The glory days of the marquee are gone anyhow. Not half the twinkling bulbs were on. The fan of glittering rays above the name was dark. Only the lights on the marquee’s underside glowed, and not all of them. I hope something of past majesty — the deco elevation, the proud spotlights — manifests itself, however dimly in the photo.

Below the marquee, lit in splendor, you see a crowd of Filipinos taking a cigarette break from the film A Very Special Love, a musical comedy in Tagalog. We had arrive too late to see the movie, so no NW movie review will be forthcoming to tell you how Sarah Geronimo acquits herself in her first starring role. We have no doubt she’s fabuloso.

The Tagalog angle, besides making us think of Girl Scout Cookies, reminded us of Robert A. Heinlein’s polemical novel from 1959, Starship Troopers.

This was another beat-up old paperback purchased at the mammoth AAUW used book sale. It blew my mind when I first read it years ago; so many years ago, one could still say “blew my mind,” albeit ironically. But a recent re-read failed to grip. The idea of requiring military service to obtain the franchise is still startling after almost half a century, and the futuristic battle scenes are peppy (“I am a thirty second bomb! I am a thirty second bomb! Twenty-nine. Twenty-eight…”), but Heinlein spends much too much time on his soapbox; also too much time showing off his encyclopedic knowledge of miltary organization. He invites the hasty flipping forward past page after page of his trademark huffery-puffery.

But that said, I still admire a memorable instance of the novelist’s scene-setting discipline that makes his sci-fi so convincing: Only in the last few pages do you learn — and even then only in an offhand remark — that the protagonist and narrator, Juan “Johnny” Rico, is Filipino and his primary language is Tagalog. Not one writer in ten thousand would have held back that kind of background information even past the first chapter, much less save it to drop casually in the last.

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