THE POOR MAN’S HOME THEATRE
This next contribution in our new Resilience Spotlight series, featuring stories from Peak Prosperity readers, comes from reader DaveyJones. It’s a story of transforming your life to align better with your values.
I discovered Chris Martenson and the Crash Course years ago. I probably came for many of the reasons so many others did – a growing sense that something is fundamentally wrong — and worse, that what we are being told by just about everyone in a position of power is wrong as well.
Although I always had an interest in economics, I came to it from an unusual perspective – as a prosecutor and now criminal defense attorney working in criminal and constitutional law for the last 26 years. I think this, more than any other experience, has helped me accept some of the ugly realties that are necessary to understanding why so many things are broken and getting worse.
What immediately drew me to this site is its comprehensive approach to “living economics,” from its fundamental respect for science, math, and the ever damaged physical world to a fundamental sense of right and wrong – a value that that has nothing to do with “right” or “left” or any other political direction and everything to do with our obligation as both parents and simply, as a living species, to stop all the theft, all the lying and most important, all the destruction.
Chris and Adam constantly remind us of another priority in the coming years – building your “community.” As we all know, community, and its combined strength is well, like all other healthy living structures, incredibly resilient. Our “modern” life has had some bizarre and destructive effect on our communities. From the stress of everything we discuss here, the ever growing work hours needed to survive, and the growing political tools used to divide all of us in these growing resource wars, community is increasingly weak at the very moment we desperately need it to stand strong.
And while I love some of my cyber communities, my physical community is my immediate reality, one I can not and should not ignore. I live in a suburb of Seattle, now one of the most ridiculously expensive real estate markets in the country. The homes were built in 1999 when builders were already cramming as many structures as they could to the literal legal setback calling fifteen feet to a fence a “backyard.” I picked this house because it was, well, small by modern means. 1700 square feet, but with it came an actual yard, nothing huge but nothing like the modern joke, a place I could actually grow a garden, or lay down a slip and slide, and actually enjoy the space. These were also the last of the meager homes in this insane suburb where starter home are nearing $1 million. Because of Microsoft, I slowly saw my “humble” neighborhood fill with folks from all over the world. Growing up in Los Angeles, I began to joke that it was just like LA except no smog, little crime and everyone had a Masters in Engineering.
Getting to know my neighbors and discussing many of the things we discuss here, I came to realize that the most important value to my neighborhood was indeed the people. These folks came from places, nations, cultures and governments that had been around for a long, long time. They had seen everything and then some – everything corrupt, everything poor, everything violent and everything in-between. Unlike the “average american,” they had long accepted the truth of corruption and how it almost inevitably can ruin just about anything in power…if you let it. They also understood the importance of family, the importance of living beneath your means and often did a great deal to live humbly to not only set something aside but to try and have a parent around.
The housing development has over 150 homes and I helped create an “international” 4th of July parade that is now 17 years old, a wide variety of vegetable greens to grow and trade, some greenhouse methods for year round eating, a gardening website to help ask and learn and finally, an outdoor movie system. I always loved films and wanted to be a film major before a lawyer. At first, the movies were limited to the summer months. I would use a digital projector, some decent outdoor sound monitors and a screen made from the white window sunblock material that was 12 by 6 feet. I would post the announcement to all the homes and depending on the film, would get 50 to 75 folks outside on the front driveway and lawn to watch the film. We also began to organize food themes and folks would participate in a potluck of treats and other food and drink. I would make homemade ice cream from blackberries and other fruits grown on site. I could also make salads from the garden and serve them fresh. Parents could bring food and drink of their choice. Everyone could get together and play and socialize and listen to music until “the lights go down.”
Over time, (I am now past a decade of neighborhood films) the movie choices online have become amazingly diverse. I am able to locate and play fantastic animated features both from Europe and beyond often hand drawn, a method almost dead in the US. I have also played many Miyazaki films, a Japanese genius in animation. More important, I will now often split the genres over the weekend playing one night to a smaller, younger crowd and one night to (the now) older children with non animation – adventure films and the like. The latest I just played were Rogue One and Hidden Figures. I have just begun to develop what I jokingly call the “adult movie night” where a teenager might help watch kids and the adults do a movie and dinner theme tied together.
The parents and kids have noticed this outdoor, “community” experience is nothing like the theatre. Many of kids prefer it and never miss a show. Over time, I have continued the weekend shows into winter inside the garage, by doing some decent insulation and using a simple space heater. It gets people out and together. I almost prefer the winter films now because the whole space acts like one of those small artistic theatres and the sound system works great in the closed space. It of course is much more limited in number but can hold about 20. The “commute” saves some gas and time as well. Because it is Seattle, I have built a PVC cover system so we can even show the outdoor movies in the rain as the cover is mounted to the garage and extends out 15 feet of driveway. It can rain any month up here. This also helps darken the screen which is helpful in the Seattle Summer where the sun stays up a lot longer.
The community connection is nothing like the theatre, the “cost” is nothing like the theatre and the food and drink are limited only by the imagination. Not only do you not need to be rich or have a spare room to make this theatre, the very community design is superior to the mansion with a big screen.
This is awesome/genius!
Great ideas that are validated by your experience! They will help many of us who are working to develop community. Thanks for sharing!
DaveyJones – these are such great ideas for building community! On a shoestring budget! Sometimes we get caught up in thinking we need a facility, an organization, or a structure to "build" community. But community simply arises from people gathering and forming bonds. Many people don't want to JOIN another thing.
My mind is exploding with the possibilities for my own community. We have a local arts center that shows movies once a month for $10, but $10 per person is too much for some families. (We have free live concerts in the park on Sundays that are very well attended.) A free outdoor theater, with virtually no infrastructure, is a great way to attract neighbors.
How do you deal with royalties? Are you allowed to show any movie, since you're not charging fees? What did the sound system cost, and what recommendations do you have for outdoor sound?
What a great example!!!
I am going to see if I can pull this off here…the only limiting factor for us is that mosquitos come out after sun down….
But I absolutely love the idea of neighborhood movies.
The Microsofties can't afford a house at these prices, either! Sounds awesome–when can I come over? 🙂
Thanks for the comments. I use a pair of M-Audio speakers. I like the output for the size. Unless I'm playing "Spinal Tap," I don't need to go to 11. With a small crowd, within 10-20 feet, you just need something decent. I would pick my monitors like my politicians, quality over power. As we know, the digital projector prices have been dropping and you can get something pretty decent for not much. Mine is now over ten years old and I have not needed to replace the bulb yet! I did some homework and found that critics thought SHARP's quality was equal to others twice its price. I have a sharp and am pleased.
Like bankers, mosquitoes are a blood sucking problem here too. I have tried many methods. Some kids will spray on non-DEET products. I have also tried a number of organic methods which you can find on the web. Like everything else, different things have different effects on people…probably on different mosquitoes.
I am not a copyright lawyer and this is not copyright legal advice but… because the shows are free, small and most importantly, private by invite only to the immediate "small" group of friends, they appear to fall within the "fair use" portion of copyright land. The rules and numbers, of course, have no absolute hard rules (leave it to lawyers) but the small, non-"public" and contained are big factors. Hence the title "The Poor Mans Home Theater" The law was never meant to stop inviting some neighbors over for a movie. On average, I have 20-25 folks – less than most sports championships. And I, and my children, know all of these people well, as friends. Of course I suppose three hundred "neighbors" would be a different issue. I do think this is an interesting area where the growing technology has changed the expectation of what the "average" guy can do.
While it might go against the balanced ecosystem and non interventionist themes some of us care about, I say you should buy one of those propane/CO2 powered mosquito traps. They are like bug genocide. I had a friend on the water in Long Island whose back yard was uninhabitable due to mosquitos. He got one of these things and it completely solved the problem.
They are not cheap (or pretty), but they will completely clear two acres worth of mosquitos.
In ten plus years of movies, I have never had a neighbor complain of noise. I usually have the opposite problem with kids and parents asking me when I will play the next film. The shows usually end by 10 / 10:30 and are on the weekend. The winter films are a non issue, as not much noise makes it out the closed, insulted garage door and you need less volume in the enclosed space.