Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Living in New York City: Doing the New Age Tango

Abilene & Southern Railroad's #20 Baldwin 2-8-2 Steam Locomotive: sitting on a turntable--both railroad, loco, and turntable true "things of the NOW very distant past"--though in my memory I can still hear one of these old locomotives chugging up a slight grade on the old Texas & Pacific Railroad (long gone) tracks that ran behind our house when I was a kid in Dallas, Texas, after WWII.
Gone Are the Days
My ex-New Orleans sidekick and friend for many moons now, a master of the Big Board who now lives a double-whipped smoothie life out in California, passed on to me this E-mail of this rather sad list of "passing fancies." It's from one of my friend's Internet friends. We don't think of these things as "obsolete," but they are, because it's now a Future Shock world where technology is rapidly advancing faster than we mortal human monkeys can control it or even keep up with it. With the advent and takeover of nanotechnology and now this new "Cloud" concept of computing, we will have to upgrade every 6 months or be left behind in a "Cloud of dust" or with a tombstone (surely soon to be a thing of the past along with cemeteries) over our heads.

Check It Out:

Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on
how we adapt to them. But, ready or not, here they come

The Post Office. Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.

The Check. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.

3. The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with
Apple, Amazon and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.

The Book. You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.

The Land Line Telephone. Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes

Music. This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is
dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalog items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "
Before the Music Dies."

Television. Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it. It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.

The "Things" That You Own. Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?" Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.

Privacy. If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's been gone fora long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. And "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again.
Generational Leap Frog
In Economics 101, students learn the Law of Diminishing Returns. The example given in teaching this concept is that of the milk shake and one's hunger or thirst for one. It's like you go into the ice cream store craving a chocolate milk shake (my preference). Sure enough, the first shake is absolutely gratifying. But then you order a second shake. But this time this second shake goes down fast at first but by the end of it, you are beginning to be first of all feeling FULL and second of all you're getting a little tired of chocolate milk shakes. Then a third one is brought to you and you begin attacking it. This time it's close to impossible to drink this milk shake with much speed, finishing it perhaps with a great struggle and maybe a wee bit of being sick at your stomach. And THEN you are brought a FOURTH chocolate milk shake, which you reject--even the sight of it makes you sick. You see the principle of this Law of Diminishing Returns? And this principle can be applied to anything you do--even like the owning of a new car. At first we are proud of it--keep it cleaned up--keep the interior sparkling. But say a year later--the car's newness has worn off--there is less pride in it; you don't keep it so clean anymore; etc. This principle can even be applied to thinking--favorite concepts, designs, art, etc.

Human beings themselves become obsolete. Each new generation of young people set the trends, the fashions, the entertainment levels, the avant garde. In my lifetime I've seen radio as the most powerful media give way to at first black and white television. While in the movies, color film had finally become the norm while the industry technical folks experimented with wide-screen concepts like CinemaScope and Todd-A-O and futuristic concepts like 3-D (by the way, the next trend in television will be 3-D--and I'm sure there are some Techies, now called Geeks, who are working on 4-dimensional viewing concepts (like the holodecks on imaginary spaceships like the Star Trek Enterprise)...or integrated 4-D viewing with surround sound tracked onto it--or virtual movies in which the viewer can actually become one of the actors).

I am so obsolete. I lay out big bucks for some electronic toy (I'm into computers and recording equipment) only to see after enjoying it for say 6 months the announcement of an upgrade to it, a better and faster edition. Since 1985, look how computer operating systems have changed. Look how many new versions of Windows have come down the electronic pike (from Windows 85 to Vista). Apple is up to the Snow Leopard in terms of their OSX progressions--leaving behind their sometimes, I think, better extinct operating systems: Leopard, Tiger, Panther, Jaguar, and a long string of Classic OSs--and I loved 9.1 and still use it in the Classic mode with my obsolete Power Mac G4 running obsolete Panther 10.3. With my current obsolete set up, when I go on the Internet, Firefox warns me that my obsolete Firefox can no longer protect me from attacks. I am quite sure that Snow Leopard (OS 10.6) is soon to be obsolete and need to be upgraded (to Cloud computing).

My Youth and Nonconformity (a Page Out of MY Hi Story)
I'm so obsolete. I've already been a "youth" several times over. I've already led adults around by their noses getting my way. I've already set trends and been hip and put down old fogies and moldy fig ways of thinking. Now, I am admittedly, way past being able to pose as being even spiritually close to anything "youth." As a result, my "new" ideas--meaning I'm still thinking "youthfully"--come out under false pretenses as young in intentions but old in approach. Though I can cover my ancient ass by relating myself to root beer. The best root beer is "old-fashioned" root beer--but now I squandering analogies.

I'm stuck in the ruts of the road of life I so immaturely and adolescently created when I was a road-building youth--that road that has led me now through several decades of, I'll admit it, smooth-sailing life. As a road builder, I am a nonconformist. I like twists and turns though I like making them at modern angles. I find the way the crow flies not my method of aviation. The fastest way--the shortest way--never impressed me.

I remember the first time I traversed the Salt River Canyon in Arizona. I was in my beat-up rather Beat Chevrolet that had once been owned by a rich girl who when she outgrew it, her daddy sold it to me for $300. And I was so impressed with that Salt River Canyon and the highway that scaled it and descended on it, that magnificent canyon, and then at that time that highway was narrow, stretches of it unpaved, full of runaway offshoots in case your brakes went out coming down.
Salt River Canyon, Arizona. From Travelog.com.
And I lived my life by jumping from coincidence to coincidence--because coincidentally, my mother's brother, the Filmmaker, had rigged up a movie camera mounted on a tripod mounted on a wood platform in the back seat of his 1921 Maxwell touring car and had taken his mother, my grandmother, and his new movie-star wife, my aunt Celebrity, off out west filming--and one of the places he filmed was in the Salt River Canyon--with my grandmother driving the Maxwell while my aunt that I never knew (she died of cancer shortly after this trip) rode shotgun recording the event in terms of directing and scripting the scenes. I'll never forget seeing those films one time when I was a mere tad in swaddling clothes--how scary those black and white canyon shots were to me--those shots off the rims of that snaking-river-cut-deep canyon and in those days the scary narrow winding looping unpaved road that led travelers headed out toward the Golden State from one side of that deep pit in the earth to the other side and escape up onto the flatlands that then lead through the desert over to Phoenix. And from there it was easy to slingshot oneself out across the borax-white Mojave desert to eventually tumble down into Los Angeles off the San Bernadinos.

My uncle's intention on that trip was to film his entrance into that new beckoning wonderland for those dabbling in this new art form called the cinema--his adventure from the flat prairies of his home in West Texas out into the wild lands of the west to open up new highways in New Mexico--the Red River Canyon highway (that I would later visit many times myself when I lived in New Mexico)--and then in Arizona--and finally going out across the wide desert to come glorifiedly rolling into Hollywood in that big Maxwell touring car with that big hand-cranked movie camera mounted on the back seat--mounted where it could be busted down and encased in case of a rain storm or snow storm or earthquake--my uncle was an early filmmaker, except he called himself a movie maker--EXCEPT on this trip, he failed to get further than just east of Phoenix when his money and film ran out and his wife and mother were by then driving him to cursing them to the point where in a pouting state, he turned that Maxwell around in Phoenix and drove it straight back to West Texas without saying a word and without filming a lick and without doing anything but driving as fast as he could back so he could dump the two haranguing uncomfortable women he'd brought along with him on his advent upon the Hollywood movie scene.

I am slothful. OK, I admit it. I move slow, though ironically I can move fast, too. It's not that I'm slow in the "he's slow" mental categorization--oh no, I'm quick when it comes to wit and punditry and sloganeering and correcting others. I would have made a great debater--except for my shyness. I suffer from a great timidity. And that is the explanation behind my slowness. I would have been a great teacher--except for this timidity--which I now discern as caused by my having no confidence in myself until I could prove myself perfect. The renaissance-man syndrome was a propellant I used to cruise through LEARNing as much KNOWLEDGE as I could gather and utilize. As a result, I became a little wiseass whizkid--though, here my timidity gave me my cool.

It's all so complicated due to our childhoods being so complicated. Many a writer has attempted a volume imagining what a society formed and ruled over by children would be like--Lord of the Flies is the ultimate effort in this genre, although I'd throw the Harry Potter books into this grave genre, too, though I shouldn't comment on Harry since I've never even read one word of a Harry Potter book. They are too British (Gothic) for me. Kiddy book writers, too, try and give kids mature powers through their respect of the rules of kings and queens, princes and princesses, and even in their anthropomorphic tales, it's the ruler types followers who are taught to follow European traditions if they want to succeed. Trouble with kids and rule--their form of rule is the cruel form--the natural form--the instinctual form of rule. I was not a kid ruler. I never read kiddy books as a kid. Nor have I ever read a kiddy book to a kid. Hell, I couldn't be a ruler because I was a natural-born disrespecter of RULE and rules.

The Golden Rule--hogwash. The ruler and yardstick to me were tools of punishment. "Grab the yardstick, Big Wolf, Wolfie's pissing me off in here with his obstinacy," thus spaketh my mother. Roberts' Rules of Order? I never knew them. Emily Post's book of etiquette?--fuck it, I was crude, interfering, annoying...timid out in public but a wrathful little wretched anarchist within the confines of my home ground. And I blamed the reason for rules and rulers on my parents.
The Pacific Electric Car to Watts (Los Angeles), 1944, foto by H. I. Kelso


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