2017: It’s an alien world

By Terry Watada

It’s the end of 2016 and I find myself in an increasingly alien world. Everyone has a smart phone and developing neck pains from bending the head over to see the world on a tiny screen. Whenever I see someone walking and talking on a cell, I think to myself, “You’re not that busy!”

I live in a world where e-mail is passé (never mind letters posted in the mail or “snail mail”). Now it’s tinder, twitter, Facebook, instagram, snapchat, and others. Hell, a young Japanese woman wrote and continues to write her novel(s) on a cell phone. Which means books are obsolete. Those who do read fiction and other archaic forms of written creativity do so on the I-pad, kindle or kobo.

My heart sank when a local TV news reader wondered aloud why the crowd tossed their hats onto the field when Edwin Encarnacion hit his third homerun during a Jays game. She actually didn’t know what a hat-trick was (a Toronto hockey term). Sammy Taft, Toronto haberdasher, must’ve been spinning in his grave.

Writing and speaking in general has become a bastardized form of communication. Reporters and news anchors depend heavily on ungrammatical phrases and cliché words like “off of”, “awesome”, “epic”, “iconic”, and others too numerous to remember. The confusion between “further” and “farther” in particular drives me nuts. I blame Bob Dylan for the incorrect use of “lay” instead of “lie” as in “Lay lady lay”. Let me not forget the insolent “What e-va.” There is a language poverty that plagues modern society.

Look at music, something I used to celebrate, collect and extol. Trouble is, I know the genre pre-Paul McCartney and not much else. I know Macca is still around but you know what I mean. Really, are Drake, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift musical geniuses? I think not. I will admit there are some great acts out there. Take Black Mountain, an exuberant psychedelic band out of Vancouver (!). Their latest album IV is a cross between Pink Floyd and the Tea Party. And then there’s Run River North, a Korean American band, which labels itself an “indie alt folk” band. Tremendous tunes. I am also impressed with acts like Band of Horses, the Strumbellas and Leon Bridges. And I do buy a CD now and then, but what really excited me was the announcement that Carlos Santana reformed his original band and put out a new album, Santana IV. Which brings me to the CD, something that is so out-of-date, my son calls me “prehistoric”. Everyone downloads now. It might be a surprise to know that the CD is alive and well in Japan. In Shibuya, a section of Tokyo, Tower Records still thrives. There are seven storeys of CDs, vinyl, blu-rays and DVDs. I make it my mission to go to the store every trip. But the point is made, the younger generations love to visit i-tunes, Amazon and the like to get their music. And they listen to it on mp3 players, a woefully “un-highfidelic” device. Of course, vinyl is making a comeback with all the old and new titles appearing on record racks, if you can find a record store. As a result, manufacturers are making turntables again. So there is a market for used records and CDs but it is very small in comparison.

Movies: the DVD and blu-ray are fast going the way of the CD. They and TV series now appear on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Let me not forget live streaming. There are many other sources for the movie and/or TV. I don’t do any of these. I still rely on the DVD or blu-ray and the TV, now a gigantic screen. I have a modest (by today’s standards) 40 inch.

Shopping itself is an alien activity. Imagine, you can get anything you desire from Amazon.ca and at lower prices. I must say, the company has a delivery system that is highly efficient. And if you can’t find the item in Canada, you can also shop on Amazon.com, Amazon.uk, Amazon.jp or anywhere else in the world that has the service. I do not use Craig’s List or other shopping websites (too many scams and they can be dangerous), except e-bay, which does have many things I would like to buy. The shipping is costly and takes a while, but the items are available nowhere else.

I really mourn the loss of many, many favourite stores, like Sam the Record Man and A&As for example. And then there are Eaton’s, Simpson’s, Woolworth’s , and Kresge’s (its lunch counter was the best). Of course, it all comes down to the computer (laptop, desktop, the tablet or the smart phone). It has taken over our lives. It brings the world to us with games, movies, music, and TV. Facebook is particularly strange to me. Really, how many motorcyclists falling off their vehicles can you watch; never mind, the number of cats, dogs and babies featured? Woody Allen once said, “Gossip is the new pornography.” These days, I’d say, “Facebook is the new pornography.” Privacy has become a guilty pleasure.

But the computer allows us to communicate on a worldwide scale and at very little cost. Social media keeps us in touch. I still marvel at the fact that my son can talk in real time to his cousins in Hawaii from his room in Toronto without using a phone which piles up the long-distance charges (which have come down considerably as a result) and while playing some eviscerating game.

As Aldous Huxley coined the phrase, it’s a brave new world, I gaze wondrously at our “brave new world”. But I don’t have to like it. Too many sacrifices have been made, too many losses suffered. The newspaper is dead, long live Facebook! Analysis is paralysis!

Maybe it’s generational. When my father-in-law visited in the early 1990s, I put on a video (VHS tape!) and he began to object when on the screen the following words appeared, “Play loud!” It was the Band’s Last Waltz. We baby boomers have had it too good for too long. Now the age belongs to the Millennial.

If I feel alienated, how does my 92 year old father-in-law feel? When asked how he liked his new cell phone, he said wryly, “My smart phone too smart for me.”




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