Monday, November 02, 2015
If You Make Things, You Are My Brother: Manny Avalos
I need you to get past the production values of this video.
Videos made in this fashion are manipulative. They become propaganda. The music is chosen to provoke sentiment without meaning. The slow tracking shots are meant to manufacture interest in mundane tableaus. A voice-over lends senatorial gravity to banal utterances. Put the method aside.
Manny is an interesting person. Manny is an interesting person whether or not there's a camera dolly involved. I can, however, assure you that you probably wouldn't think Manny was an interesting person unless he showed up in four minutes of pixels on your iThing. Manny could work in his garage for twenty years and not one of the neighbors or their kids would be the slightest bit interested in what he's doing. An invitation to see his workshop would be met with a slightly panic-stricken look and a dissembling, "I've got this thing in Van Nuys in a half an hour...". Manny probably wouldn't care. He isn't a docent in the museum of Manny. He wants to make guitars.
What Manny is talking about in the video is profound only because it should be quotidian, but isn't anymore. He's talking about being connected with other people. He wants to make a guitar so that other people can use it to make music to entertain and delight still more people. He feels connected to the world at large by his own solitary efforts. He admits he found the construction of the guitar interesting for its own sake, but he understands that his interest is pointless unless it serves others.
The bit of text appended to the video makes some bold claims about Manny that I don't want or need to investigate. They call him a "Renaissance man," incorrectly, I imagine. It's the sort of term people with ironic beards and stovepipe pants enjoy using, but don't really understand.
If I had to guess, I'd imagine that Manny is a retired schoolteacher of some sort, and has taken an interest in his fellow man every day of his 89-year-old life in one way or another. Not the sort of interest that takes the form of ruling them for their own good, either. He has been a productive and pleasant person for so long that he doesn't know how to be anything else.
The United States, in my lifetime, was chock-a-block full of people just like Manny. Now it's full of people with camera dollies and ring lights, hunting around for the last Manny on Earth so they can stuff him and display him.