Saturday, May 8, 2010

Personal Pastimes That Prove I Live in Past Times: Why I Suffer From Culture-Blog Writer’s Block

grandpa-simpson-yelling-at-cloudA recent introspection leading up to this week’s post directed my attention to the frequency with which I bitterly complain about things moving too fast. I never have any interesting news to break or unique reviews to share because I always seem to be behind the times, and so naturally I compensate by musing [whining] about it. Oh, there’s a new Iron Man movie out? I still haven’t seen the first one. New video games my friends are looking forward to? It took me almost four months to beat my latest PS2 title originally released in 2003 (is that really seven years ago?). Did you hear the latest news, Stephanie? No, I was too busy watching the history channel.

I started to reflect on why this was the case, but daunted by deep revelations that I wasn’t comfortable facing, I did the only American thing to do: I embraced it. I decided instead to count and celebrate the ways in which I am failing to keep up with the modern world, justifying and exploring the advantages of my backwards-looking, crotchety-old-woman ways.

Example number one: I always watch TV shows long after they’ve premiered.

Maybe I miss out on some current gossip, but if I’m not living in the present then what does it matter? I just turn a blind ear. In this way, I absorb the judgments of hundreds of critics that come before me, filtering out all the garbage and conserving precious time.  I can stream these shows on Netflix, rent them on DVD (how archaic!), or even better, borrow them for free from my friends. They come commercial free, and I don’t have any wait-time between episodes. Since everyone is already familiar with the show, I have plenty of people to talk about it with. It’s like being the last one in your group of friends to turn 21 – everyone will be there buying drinks for you.

Example number two: I play hand-me-down video games.

I can’t count the number of times a friend has beaten a game and immediately tossed aside after paying upwards of $60.00 for it. So frugal little me looks for opportunities to collect on their dime. In this way I have acquired and played -- without ever purchasing -- titles such as Final Fantasy 10/12, Fable 1/2, a collection of every Legend of Zelda game ever made, Super Smash Bros, a host of DS games, Assassin’s Creed, Kingdom Hearts 1/2 and a couple of Guitar Hero titles. Someday I might even enjoy a small yet free trade-in value on some of these games.

Example number three: I choose to watch Science and Discovery Channel specials such as Life and Planet Earth … frequently … instead of current TV

I justify this preference to myself by defending the value of trivial knowledge. Barring a global disaster that I will likely fail to be informed about, there will always be a pebble toad, and it will always be neat to tell people about.

I suppose I could make a few academic arguments in favor of this behavior as well, such as calling attention to the expanded access that modern human beings have to a large and beautiful natural world through global technology. I’m very likely never going to go deep-sea diving in the arctic, but the wonders high-speed cameras can bring me stunning images and valuable scientific understanding through someone else’s efforts. This exposure to the majesty of the planet is something that a far less globalized, technologically-bereft world would never have, and therefore it is almost my duty as a human being to appreciate these shows properly. Additionally, showing support for educational-entertainment such as historical documentaries and scientific specials feels like an important gesture for me to make in our society of weekly American Idol updates and celebrity sightings that worm their way into current events.

Example number four: I am usually two weeks behind on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on my DVR.

In all fairness, this started because I was out of town every weekend for a month and refused to delete any episodes I hadn’t watched. So what if I was watching Olympic coverage in March? And maybe it was strange to hear about updates on the pending health care bill after it had already cleared congress. If I’m going to be hopelessly out of touch with the pace of the modern world and missing major news stories anyway, I might as well get my information from non-peak hour cable TV like the majority of Americans do. Its still good comedy even if it’s slightly out of date.

Example number five: I refuse to own anything new.

…because I will break it within the first few months of owning it. I bought my laptop refurbished from Dell because I have a tendency to spill stuff. I’ve dropped my cell phone over three feet at least 300 times since owning it, so it’s a good thing it cost me only $20. No matter how hard I’ve tried not too (I even bought a case for it!) I’ve scratched the screen of my off-brand mp3 player. I can’t have nice things. I embrace this. Not only is the money-saving a huge kickback, not only do I protect myself from breaker’s guilt, but I never have to feel bad about how my shiny new model will be updated within six months or less. Once you’re 10 years behind modern technology, those newer models don’t sting as much.

Example number six: I discover new music through my friends.

This is probably out of sheer laziness and a refusal to break out of my comfort zone. One advantage, however, has been the development of relationships through a mutual appreciation of art. Who doesn’t enjoy the opportunity to make a friend a CD or introduce them to a favorite band? It’s an opportunity to share something personal, exposing a part of you that has been touched by some resonance between you and the music. My sister and I have the Dave Matthews Band together (and occasionally we cry a little bit when we hear the song Sister). I have explored new bands based CDs created for me by my college friends, and to this day they serve as a nostalgic reminder of people that I miss dearly. All of this feels much more satisfying that discovering music on my own. Also I’m inept and impatient when it comes to internet radio.

I am comfortable with my slow pace forward through the mires of culture and technology. I am not a trail blazer; I’m an analytic. While this can be a disadvantage when it comes to culture blogging – I don’t really think most people want read my dissection of decade-old movies that almost everyone has seen already – I do believe it has advantages beyond the fun of existentially whining about the iPhone. Today, I took advantage of one of the gifts of having an analytical mind – I wrote a whole post about why I couldn’t think of something to post about.