Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Charge Aught!!!: The Stuff You’ll Tell Your Grandchildren About

lg_47lg75_lcd_tv Yesterday, we talked about the stuff that didn’t define the decade. Now, in the last of our three collaborative pieces, listen to us talk about what will.

netflix Rob: In the event that some imprudent female agrees to bear my spawn (and she, in turn, finds someplace damp and secluded to lay her eggs), I'll tell them about the year their great-grandparents disconnected the cable. Up until that day in November 2009, their grandpappy hadn't lived a day without a connection to cable television. When the screen went blue, he thought: Now, everything will change.

Except it didn't. Instead of camping on the couch, they gathered computer chairs to stream Survivor on their desktop computer. House used to come courtesy of Fox 5 - now, it came courtesy of, with a brief plug for Fox in the beginning.

Netflix DVDs fluttered in and out of their mailbox. And in between red envelopes, they booted up their son's Xbox 360 and streamed movies directly to their television.

They unplugged cable, and not a damn thing changed. As a matter of fact, I can hear them watching Survivior right now.

bling1233607244 Craig: I wonder if we'll have figured out the Economy of Free by the time I have grandkids.  We're mired in the transition right now, though some people think there's a way to work it all out. Will we all be paying premium subscriptions for our true interests while consuming everything else like so many supermarket free samples?  Or will the availability of media lead to a depreciation of value until everything is ultimately worth nothing?  "Mooooommm, Grampa's moaning about the death of culture again," I can hear them say.

I'm sure I'll have to explain why Napster was a big deal.  And why a band staked their reputation on bringing it down.  Peer-to-peer file sharing spurred an economic revolution that's been slowly slipping arsenic into the music industry's (among others) drinking water for years now. But my grandkids might not even know what a record company or its assassin - the p2p client - looks like. "Where's Pirate Bay?  What is a 'lime' wire?" they'll ask.   By the time my offspring procreate, "peer-to-peer" will probably be the name of a bizarre bedroom maneuver.

sony-ps2-update Andrew: For any gamer, the Playstation 2 and the 2000s go hand in hand. It had, literally, something for everybody - the "casual" gamer, the "hardcore" gamer, people stuck in the 90s with their platformers or people who couldn't get enough of the then-new console first-person shooter. It had puzzle games, it had beat-em-ups, it had sandbox games, it had racing games (both infuriatingly and boringly realistic and arcade), it had high-octane action games, it had retro ports, it had rhythm games, it had epic works of art, it had some of the weirdest, most unclassifiable shit anyone had ever played, and it had RPGs in spades - any gamer who can't find something to play on the PS2 just wasn't trying hard enough.

Even the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo DS, its heirs apparent in terms of gameplay variety (to say nothing of its actual heir), can't approach it in terms of the sheer volume of experiences present. It was the right system for the right time like no system had been before or has been since, and when my grandkids start talking to me about the virtues of the Xbox 3.14159, I'm going to give them a good slap in the mouth and tell them that in my day we played games in standard definition with wired controllers, and we liked it.

dial-up-PC Chris: My grandchildren are going to be born with a 10G network already streaming into their skulls, and I'm guessing they're not going to understand how much of a hassle the Internet was back at the beginning of the millennium. My family didn't get broadband until 2005, which meant that for the first half of the decade I was forced to squeeze my Web browsing through the constrictive conduit of a 56k modem.

In particular, I intend to bore my grandchildren with tales of the obnoxious ritual of "signing on" to the Internet. The sounds of a dial-up modem might be some of the most wretchedly ear-piercing noises on the planet. (And God help you if you accidentally picked up the phone while someone else was logged in!) In the Dark Ages of Dial-up, this cacophony was a sacrifice you had to be willing to make; without it, it's almost too easy to take the Internet for granted.

Nokia_5110 Pankin: I'll regale my grandchildren with the tale of my entry into high school when my folks presented me with my first cellular telephone. I'll try to describe its lumpy, gray shape, its little rubbery buttons, its extendable antenna that I always suspected didn't improve call quality at all. It was supposed to be for emergencies only, but as I lived a rather unexciting life back then, it spent most of its time sitting powered off in my backpack. But I couldn't have had much fun with that thing if I wanted to: it didn't even send text messages, let alone take pictures, browse the internet, or make my coffee in the morning.

My grandkids will probably struggle to envision any device that isn't voice-activated or that lacks a smart-board-esque touch screen. With the rise of bluetooth, they likely won't have ever experienced talking on the phone with something that's not attached to their ears (or surgically implanted into their ears at that point). Still less will they be able to appreciate the portability revolution that my new cell phone represented. But I think it will be important to educate them of the history of the gadgets upon which their lives will be based, in order for them to fully appreciate the subtleties of their generation.

frodo Steph: The first thing I'm going to do when I have grandchildren is read The Lord of the Rings to them, even if they're too young to understand it. After thus forcing them to re-live my own literary childhood, I'll withhold the blockbuster films from them until they're old enough to fully appreciate the sacrifice.

It's taken me this whole decade to come to grips with the movies released between 2001 and 2003. At first irrationally furious, I stampeded around for almost two years complaining about their imperfections. Someone had finally put together the technology necessary to tackle a serious fantasy novel, and yet I bitterly hated every shortcoming. These movies polarized viewers, some defending the purity of the original books while others gushed over the special effects and attractive male leads. I hated the latter group most of all.

Over time, I've realized that my frustration was primarily based not on the fact that there were errors, but that these movies came so close to perfection and only missed because of poor decisions. They really were impressive, and they left quite a cultural ripple. But I'll make sure my offspring understand how much we book-purists had to suffer before accepting them.

_wikipedia_commons_thumb_b_b1_Vinyl_record_LP_10inch.JPG_800px-Vinyl_record_LP_10inch Gene:  I have a bad feeling that I'll be recalling to my grandkids about how condos in Newark cost about a nickel in my day and that I could've been a very rich man after it became the gentrification capital of the metropolitan area.  By then, I'll just have a shabby brownstone in Williamsburg.  More likely, I'll be recounting the moment in time when consumers wanted their music to be simultaneously less and more difficult to listen to.

stewart_colbert Jordan:  I'll tell my kids about how truly daring journalism emerged in the unlikeliest of places:  Comedy Central.  How unexpected that the people speaking truth to power (or at least saying the stuff we were all thinking but were too afraid to say) turn out to be comedians who ended up on late night TV because their acting careers didn't work out.

But like 'em or not, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert play a huge role in our public discourse.  Politicians and pundits now have to watch their mouths for fear that The Daily Show or The Colbert Report will catch them with their pants down.  Dudes are thorough, too.  When they called out Glenn Beck for exhorting his viewers to invest in gold while being a paid spokesperson for a company that sells gold coins, I was truly impressed.  The dang New York Times picked up the story.

Objectivity has become something of a sacred cow in television journalism.  Broadcasters almost never call out the hypocrisy or sheer stupidity of politicians or fellow broadcasters for fear of appearing biased (or petty, in the latter case).  Colbert and The Daily Show concern themselves primarily with entertaining their viewers, and the best material turns out to be the stupidity of those in the public eye.  And while verbal gaffes make for great "Moments of Zen," the shows thankfully focus on more substantive issues.  It's no wonder so many young people look to Colbert and Stewart more than any other TV journalist.  They're never afraid to speak the truth, as long as it's funny.

Maybe, though, I won't have to tell my kids about these shows.  Hopefully they'll still be on.

tara-reid-drunk1 Boivin: I plan on constantly regaling my children with my account of where I was and what I was doing when I found out the United States had invaded Iraq. Me and three of my friends were in my basement and we were watching Van Wilder of all things. I don't say this because the Iraq War had this immense impact on me or anything, but rather I just want future generations of Americans to associate one of the most misguided military adventures in modern history with Tara Reid. Remember her? My grandchildren a warmonger.