Computers and the YouTube

In addition to spending time with our sons and their families during Christmas 2017, my wife and I enjoyed watching videos of flash Mobs (where people sing songs in a shopping mall or in an airport) on YouTube. Our favorite by far was the Hallelujah Chorus. Then I discovered that YouTube has a great deal to offer in terms of documentaries and favorite songs in Broadway musicals.

I’ve come a long way when it comes to using a computer. Before we moved from Egypt to America (at the age of 50) in January 1991, I was completely computer illiterate. We had a home computer in Egypt, but I never used it. I did not know how to type, therefore I had two part-time secretaries who typed my documents and correspondence—one secretary for English and the other for Arabic from her home. My secretary in the English language was the only one to use our computer. For my doctorate, I literally used scissors to cut paragraphs from certain pages and pasted them with glue on other pages, so my secretary could type my dissertation. Can you imagine the joy I had years later when I found that I could cut and paste on my computer without having to use scissors and glue! Upon coming to America, a friend gave me a new computer and encouraged me to overcome my irrational fear that I might make a mistake that could cause the computer to malfunction. Using a computer program, I taught myself how to type using all my fingers, and a new world slowly and gradually started opening for me.

On one of my trips to New Zealand in the 1990s, a friend showed me how to use the internet. It took me a long time to learn how to use the internet as a valuable resource for articles and information. Then came Kindle and reading books on my tablet, and then the iPhone. Our granddaughter showed me how to text on the phone using dictation rather than having to learn (at my old age) how to type with my thumbs like young people do.

Anyway, during this past Christmas break I especially enjoyed many of the resources available on YouTube. It is amazing how I could access the best parts of movies that we have watched over the years, such as the segment “You can’t handle truth”  in the movie “A Few Good Men,” Al Pacino’s speech in “Scent of a Woman,” the beautiful polka dance in “The King and I,” the song “All I Ask of You” in the musical “Phantom of the Opera” and many of the songs from the movie “The Sound of Music.”

When it comes to musicals, “Les Misérables andEvitaare two of my favorites.

Evita is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. It concentrates on the life of Eva Peron, an Argentine political leader and the second wife of Argentine president Juan Peron. The story follows the early life of Eva, or Evita, her rise to power, her charity work and her death at a relatively young age. I first watched “Evita” on stage in London, England, and later I watched the movie. In the movie, Evita is played by Madonna, and Antonio Banderas costars. I loved watching “Evita” more as a movie than in the theater.  One of my favorite songs in that musical is “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” which has been sung over the years by various artists.  

Les Misérables” is set in early 19th-century France. It is the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant who was imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. After Jean Valjean’s release from prison, a Christlike bishop treated him with a great deal of mercy and grace after he had stolen silver from the bishop’s house. Jean Valjean was arrested by the police with a bag full of the stolen silver. Instead of sending him back to jail, the bishop pleaded on his behalf, and spurred him to live for God and turn over a new leaf. Shortly thereafter, Jean Valjean broke his parole, took up a new name and ended up becoming mayor of a town in France and an owner of a factory. He was relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert. Jean Valjean found out that a certain criminal was arrested by mistake and confessed under torture that he was Jean Valjean. This was Jean Valjean’s golden opportunity to, once and for all, stop Javert’s relentless pursuit and live as a free man—free from fear of being caught. Jean Valjean faced an important crossroads: Should he confess to the fact that he is Jean Valjean or should he let the criminal take the punishment in his place. My favorite song in that musical is “Who Am I?” where Jean Valjean states his agony as he considers his two options: “If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent I am damned.” Jean Valjean chose to live with a clear conscience. Les Misérables started out as a stage play and continued for many years. It was eventually made into a movie, but this one I loved watching it far more on the stage than as a movie.

Back to our Christmas break. At the end, my wife and I and I had a huge learning experience. We started out by listening to the music and reading the lyrics of the musical “Hamilton.” We could not see the actors because the screen was blank with easy-to-read lyrics. Because we moved to the states at an older age, we had not studied the history of America in our childhood. So, as we followed along, we found ourselves repeatedly pausing the video and reading about George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. We look forward to watching “Hamilton” again and seeing the characters now that we have some background and know some of the history of Hamilton and his time.

I will never forget this particular Christmas time and all that YouTube had to offer.  

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