The Parking Lot Movie

I’m into obscure documentaries. Actually, anything biographical or anthropological intruiges me. So when NetFlix popped up with the suggestion of The Parking Lot Movie I was sold in about 8 seconds. Well, actually I pay $9.99 a month, so I guess I was already sold.

What happens when you put a bunch of philosophy, anthropology, and religion students in charge of a job marked primarily by hours of introspective inducing boredom interrupted with terse moments of anger from people in fancy cars?

That’s the 25 year question embarked upon by the owner of the Corner Parking Lot near the University of Virginia. To say that the job is cerebral is an understatement. Yet the owner of the lot is fascinated by the impact of tiny interactions with the general public. Instead of hiring people who would consider it “just a job” he has hired a cast of characters who try to find a deeper meaning in the mundane. Some of the attendants turn the experience into something fun and memorable. Others try to get patrons to think with witty philosophical quips. All of them get angry when people driving $50,000 cars try to talk them out of paying $2 for parking. And all of them teeter-totter between rage and zen-like peace with their lot in life.

All of which makes this documentary completely fascinating and fun.

The film raises interesting questions about entitlement, happiness, and the relationship between the stuff that we have and the people we are.

What does that have to do with people in ministry? Just about everything.

Fair warning: The film has plenty of foul language. Not intended as a recommendation for children or adults afraid of the f-word.

Bonus: Here’s a music video from the filmmaker. This was buried in the credits unfairly.

hmm... thoughts

Comedy and the Human Condition

Last night I was watching a PBS piece of the history of comedy on television in our country. While the documentary itself wasn’t all that interesting or funny there was a cultural parallel there which caught my attention.

In times of peace, comedy is introspective and makes fun of the human condition. In times of war, comedy is external to the self and makes fun of politicians and the enemy.

This explains why the video I posted yesterday isn’t as funny today for its content as it was 15 years ago. The piece pointed to Will Rogers as being hilarious in the 1920s-1930s [Seen above mocking FDR to his face!] but immediately falling out of “funny” when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Likewise, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert would seem out-of-place if we were not at war in the Middle East.

But I wonder how much that the condition or war and peace effects how we think of ourselves? I wonder if times of peace make us introspective while times of war make us look at external things to ourselves?

As the culture gets more individualistic I wonder if we can take it a step further. (This is where it gets purely hypothetical) I wonder if what’s funny to you or I is dependent upon war or peace in our own lives?

If I’m depressed, is my sense of humor darker?

If I’m generally happy, is my sense of humor jovial?

I’m probably reading way too much into this. But it does have me thinking about what is funny to whom and when.