Sunday, March 28, 2010

28 March 1956 “Technology and the Modern Time Machine”


There is something to the limited capacity of the technology of ‘old’. I have often come to consider, since 1955, what if our continued research and gains in technology were put only to science and the environment. If all the money available and brain power went into keeping us healthy, curing disease, lengthening our lives and helping to solve our dependence on oil and other negative affects on the environment, would it be so bad if we didn’t have new cell phones every 6 months?
I jokingly said to a friend a week ago, that sometime in the future all our data will probably be made to just be in our sight somehow. I said, maybe a pair of glasses or contacts. Then last night hubby showed me an article in a science magazine that showed just that: developing contacts one would wear that would put all your data and internet etc in you field of view. Then you could walk about and have advertising specifically geared towards your spending habits playing in front of you all the time. Scary thought, indeed, but it is coming.

When I see old movies like this one: no sound, a bit grainy, everyone a little jerky, it touches me. There is no confusing it with real life. HDTV wants us to see every nook and cranny of the human face, while the magazines air brush the heck out of everyone so they are thinner and smoother than could be possible in real life?

There is an almost artful quality to the old films. In their soundless movements, the discoloration leaves open an element of our own imagination to add to the movements;put a story or our own hopes into them. With sound and high tech, the more it becomes easy to record everything, does it make what is recorded less valuable, or less precious? Does the fact that we can text, talk or connect with people literally all the time anywhere make what we say less worth hearing? Once, an awaited letter contained a week or months worth of news, often put in ways much like we enjoy reading a novel or story. Today, we simply say, “uh, huh…yep…AWESOME…nope, nothing new” of course what could have happened since the 10 minutes prior you talked to one another. Does ease and constancy breed intellectual decline? Would those kids who met at summer camp and write and send photos to each other as friends be more inclined to learn the written language and improve their social skills then simply texting “i h8 u ;)” ?

On some level it is nice, I suppose, that we can communicate easier and distance have become smaller by technology and even easier travel with highways and jets. Yet, is there something loss to is as well? What if we had quick travel for emergency to save lives, but for personal travel we had to use old 1910 cars that you crank and only go about 30 mph? Would our approach to work be different? Would our visiting and shopping be changed in a way that would make us look around and become involved in our community more, because we have to stay there or it is easier to walk? Would our Need to depend on one another more increase our human bond and realtionships? Maybe even affecting our language skills and what we think of as ‘entertainment’? Could a solution  to our incessant need for oil be reduced by such measures? Possibly, but I know it would never happen. But, ponder that your car only travels 35mph top speed. You have to crank it. There are no heaters in them. Now, how does that affect where you choose to work, shop, be?

It is true the ease and speed of the modern world makes it possible for us to get places faster to find jobs that make more money outside of our area, but because of the roads and the need to ‘upgrade’ the community controlled parts of our life, we all pay more taxes into that. There is not simply living easily on a farm and having a 10 mile radius be your life, without having to pay for the pleasure of highways to ship items to stores that you have to drive further to shop and their need to ship things from China and India and your need to go further and more often to make the money to buy those things and then to pay for the roads that allow you to…Well, you get the idea.

Again, I am not bemoaning the modern world and crying out, “Oh, the good ole’ days…” but, I am wondering, do we ever question or wonder, do we need it? We seem, as a people, to blindly accept every new gadget and take it into our lives at breakneck speed. Hubby just showed me (in the same article) that they have also developed a 3-D TV that you wear special glasses that receives the TV signal at  a particular  refresh rate to each eye, so the programs (which have to be filmed that way) come out of the TV. So, we are just trying to create a more real world? We can have that world for free, walk outside or look around you are already living in a 3-d world! Yet, these things will just come along and there will be ads for them and then the box stores will have them on sale and we will all NEED them, setting aside what we just NEEDED last year, now worth nothing after spending thousands on it and it can go to the piles of other old electronics in the landfills.

Does it stop? Will it stop?

When I was marketing yesterday, I had to go to our local chain grocery to get the few things I cannot get at my local market. The place, since my change to shopping more ‘locally’ has become as alien and as abhorrent as the Mall to me. As I was wondering the endless aisles filled to the brim with product, I saw a girl, maybe 11-12, following her mother about. She held her little flip phone with full keyboard and was texting away. She was so practiced at it that I saw she could walk along, missing other shoppers, without taking her eyes off the screen. Though she was in a busy store full of people, she was living on that little grey screen filled with simple little characters. I felt so sad. I almost wished for an ill behaved child that was knocking things about, as at least they would be THERE  in the moment. Yet, the little girl, face as blank as a mask, eyes in a strange stare, and fingers moving at an almost unrealistic speed, maneuvering her way through the aisles. Is this our future? Is it bad good indifferent?

Sometimes I wonder if I would have been better leaving Pandora’s box closed and never traveling back in time. I always have felt ‘out of time’ but not until my year in 1955 have I felt so concerned for our future. Yet, I know all that I have come to be and to know is thanks to just being aware. By going back I would look forward with the ‘seer stone’ and see what was to become of the world in the past 50 years. Now, I am afraid of the next 10!

I wonder, too, is this phenomena of ‘longing for days of old’ a modern concept? I know many generations of artist at various times have looked to the past with a romantic view, but in 1950’s were there groups of people in their 20’s longing or romanticizing 1900? I just don’t think so. Yet, since my blog and now my site and forum, there are many people, even in their 20’s, who have a very real yearn and attraction to the ‘old ways’. Even if this is a romanticized view, it is an interesting development. Is it a subconscious backlash to increasing technology? Does the ease and rapid change of the modern world frighten us or repel us on some base level? Is it an almost animalistic warning? Who can know?

It is tough to strike the balance between reviving the good things from the past while remaining in the present. But, it is a challenge I think worth doing. It allows one to not be ‘lulled’ by the modern world. One doesn’t have the ‘wool pulled over one’s eyes’ so to speak. You are more aware of what is happening and changing and what is meant to just be ‘normal’ in the modern world when you can look at it from the past from time to time. It puts you more in control over your life and let’s you say, “You know, I don’t NEED that technology. I am happy with what I have or maybe I will even reduce what I do have and find myself happier with less and my need for less”.

I have been planning my kitchen redo on paper for sometime. Every time I add more here and there, changing thinking I need this and that. Yet, the more I live in our little home the more I wonder if I am not still being lured by the money need to have more. I did a little experiment last week. I took all but two pans from my kitchen. I had a sauce pan and a small fry pan. I also have a girdle built into my old stove as well. I even removed some of my extra utensils. So wooden spoons instead of rubber spatulas etc. What did I find? That after a day, I did not even miss them. I even didn’t use my old 50’s mixer and instead used my hand crank mixer and was fine. I began to look at my tiny 10’ by 10’ kitchen differently. Do I need to add on? Do I need more space a bigger pantry? I wasn’t sure. And as I began to think no, I also began to feel less stress. As if not NEEDING to enlarge the space was a relief, like someone said, ‘No, you don’t have to do that hard job for me’.

So, as my project is getting under way into its SECOND year, I am finding the opposite of the beginning of 1955. Then, in my still very modern mindset, I was on a vigilant search to buy and source as many authentic 1950’s things as possible on eBay and etc. Now, I realize that I still do want to mostly use and have old items/appliances, as they are 1)cheaper 2)built to last 3)rather stylish. But, that my need to have MORE of things is beginning to lessen. Traveling to the very root the very core of our modern consumer world, the 1950’s, maybe has made me look back another 50 years and wonder “Well, what did they have? What did they use? What did they need?”

Of course you can say, rightly so, aren’t we glad we have more freedom, better medicine, less racial hatred and more rights for women and minorities? Yes, we are glad of that, but just because we live in a time that has more ,does not mean that we have to HAVE More? We should be happy to have and take advantage of modern medicine and better freedoms, but that does not mean we have to buy into the need to have all the latest gadgets and technology that serve only to ‘entertain’ us. An entertainment that might actually be lulling us into a sort of comatose state. We don’t have to have our children mindlessly wandering the halls of malls, eyes glued to little screens, endlessly texting. We can take the good of today AND the good of the past and make our own unique wonderful future. We can enjoy the rights and medicines of today, but dress in Victorian costume and cook over a wood stove if we like! We can take TV and computers out of our life even, if we so choose. Or we can use the computer as a tool or as a ‘special’ time entertainment or as a way to have a community, as we do here, but still realize that we can do many things the ‘old way’. It is our life and we do NOT have to do what the TV and adverts tell us to do.

Often, when I begin a morning with a melancholy feeling towards the past, or a ‘Gee, I wish I could go back”, after some real thought;some real dissection of my feelings, I often end up feeling better. Because I realize we CAN relive the good of the past, even make our lives as much like the decade we might covet. We can even use this technology to realize we are not alone in these thoughts for ‘longing for the past’. Those of us who long for the old or simply have an inner desire we cannot really explain away can find one another and say, “Ah, yes…I am not alone.”

Sometimes I wonder where our passions and joy of the ‘past times’ might lead us. Maybe there will be a day when some of us will come together and ‘make a neighborhood’ stuck in 1955. Or a group of us will live in an area recapturing the pasts aspects of community from the past. Who knows? I do know that I am glad for the technology of the computer for allowing me to share what I have so far and to find and meet so many other wonderful people who also feel a little ‘out of time’. We can make the life we want. We can live in a world of our own making. We just have to get up from the tv and say, “This is what I want, This is what I would like to try” and get to it! We can make our own modern time machine and rather than travel to the past bring it forward around us. We can use the ‘technology’ of hard work, imagination, and determination. I know, though I am always tinkering with the settings on my time machine, I am glad I have ‘built’ it. And, I am glad that many of you have come along for the ride.

Who needs Wii Fit when you have your own imagination?

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