Sorry I’ve been away for awhile folks. To be honest, I’ve been in a good old fashioned funk. Thanks to “The Great Recession”, I’m probably going to be job hunting again (anyone need a slightly used, fully trained and housebroken male librarian?) and I hate that with a purple passion, but, as the Spanish say so eloquently que sera, sera. Anyway, just as I was on the verge on swearing off blogging (and most of the rest of the real world), throwing my laptop into the creek, and taking to my bed in the fetal position complete with thumb in mouth, one of my two readers besides Mama and Budge asked me to post again and I can’t disappoint someone who thinks what I have to say is important. So, with no further ado.
I was listening to NPR’s “Whad Ya Know” with Michael Feldman and he was interviewing the curator of Rowan Oak House in Oxford, MS. Of course, as every good grit eating Southern boy and every burger flipping English major knows, Rowan Oak is the former home of one William “I can’t write a short sentence if my soul depends on it” Faulkner. The curator was describing the tour he’d recently given a group of fifth graders. He related that they seemed sufficently awed by the experience so he took them into Faulkner’s bedroom / study / studio where he’d done most of his writing. On the antique hardwood desk sat the very Underwood manual typewriter that had tapped out The Sound and the Fury, Go Down, Moses and my personal favorite, the deliciously macabre “A Rose for Emily” among others. The curator noted he was quite pleased with the hushed restraint that the youngsters showed. It was the hush in the room that allowed him to hear one young lad lean over and whisper to his comrade, “Dude, check out Faulkner’s laptop! Where’s the screen?”
Predictably, the audience laughed, but when you stop to think about it, the young boy was simply using what he knew to apply to the situation. He saw a keyboard and assumed “laptop”. Why shouldn’t he? When was the last time anyone of us seriously used a typewriter? I remember well writing my last theme in Senior English for Ms. Howell with a Brother portable correcting typewriter that had a newfangled ribbon that “melted” type onto the paper. All through college, I used a series of brand new Apple IIes and Macs and when a new product called Windows 3.1 hit the big time, we started using PCs.
What technology we now take for granted will be unrecognizable to the next generation or at least the one that follows it?
Being a huge music lover, I thought back over my four decades at the dizzying advance of audio technology. When I was born, it was no Baby Einstein for me. I listened to Janis Joplin LPs played on Mama’s console stereo. AM radio was king of the hill. I could lay awake at night and listen to stations in another STATE on our AM receiver Daddy had attached to the TV antenna. By the time I was six, Daddy had put an 8-Track with bass boost in his Camaro. Now that was a useless piece of equipment. Anyone who ever complained about programming a vcr should have had to try to “fast forward” to a chosen song on an 8-Track. It was an exercise in futility.
Cassettes were king of the Eighties as I started riding around in my ’79 Mustang and then Marilyn, my ’69 SS Chevelle. I had a cassette case full of Southern Rock and Metal. I must have had 300 cassettes in that thing. It stayed in the car because it would have necessitated a forklift to transport it to the house. I remember clearly the night at American Legion Boys’ State when I heard “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” by Lynard Skynard in the clearest register I’d ever heard. I followed the sound to a counselor’s truck and a new format called the Compact Disc. He had one of the first car mounted CD players in the state. Of course, he still depended on the radio for music while driving because 2X oversampling didn’t go well with the local roads. Skipping was a nightmare and no one wanted to risk ruining a $50 dollar CD!!
Now, we have iPods. I’ve got a little black iPod Classic that fits in the palm of my hand with room left over and that little device can hold every song on every one of those 300 cassettes that used to accompany me on my midnight rambles and still have memory left for a season of my favorite TV show . . . if I watched that much TV. We also have satellite radio, if it survives the current economic downturn. I can lay awake at night now and listen to music from another COAST, forget the next state over. No more long rides through places like the Plains with no station to listen to. Just tune in the old XM and let it rock.
It’s been a long and fast ride for us audiophiles, but not everything has been for the best . . . at least in my mind. For one thing, I miss browsing at the local record store. Anyone remember “The Record Bar” chain of stores? iPods have great sound, but where are the liner notes with the band thanking everyone from their nanny on down for the success of this one shot wonder album? Somehow, I don’t forsee an iPod with a recording of “The White Album” by the Beatles going for five figures like an original vinyl LP recently sold for.
Most of all, iPods have taken all the fun out of new music releases. Anyone ever stand in line outside a record store waiting for a midnight release? Guns and Roses Use Your Illusion I and II, baby. Remember it like yesterday . . . rocking out in the parking lot with the local rock station. Man, those were the days. Of course, the ULTIMATE irony is that the real hardcore audio junkies who listen to Classical and such rely not on iPod downloads or even CDs. The REAL DEAL setup? Vinyl LPs played on a turntable worth more than my house. It’s a crazy world. What’s next? Maybe we’ll get direct implants to beam the sound into our brains? Never say never . . . remember, the future is now, and since it’s here I WANT MY FLYING CAR!!! I was promised a flying car and I want it NOW!
Of course, if I had a flying car, it’d be hard to work up a good case of GSF, now wouldn’t it :)
Rock on, y’all . . . and don’t forget to wash your feet.