Monday, September 29, 2014

Fly Day

Eleven years ago, my mother saw an ad in the paper, on my 12th birthday, of a 'Fly Day' going on at the Ottawa Flying Club, at the international airport. Knowing how insanely excited and hopeful to want to do something like that, my mother took me and my then-friend Jahdel on a couple of bus rides to the flying club on Huntclub Road.

Being three people, it was a wait of at least an hour.
When we did get on a plane, it was a tiny thing - apparently the small ones are called Cessnas. The pilot explained things, and then we taxied to the runway and took off.

It was my first time flying. I'd never seen any of the city from that perspective before - by that time I'd seen and become obsessed with aerial photos of it, but I'd never been up there before. All the aerial photos I'd seen were taken looking straight-down. Looking out the window, you could look out at the distance and landscape as well.
Looking east over South Keys.

It was extremely exhilarating for me. I'd never seen so much at once before. Places and settings I'd always viewed as large or all-around from the ground - such as a road like Merivale or big trees, or malls - appeared either remarkably small or just tiny. Tiny cars sluggishly moved along the roads. I saw a lot of familiar places, although not the neighbourhood in which I lived at the time (the tour went in a circle around the city rather than through it).
Passing Arlington Woods in the west end.

My mother took all the photos with her Kodak film point and shoot. I couldn't wait for the photos to be developed. Most of them were of areas I didn't recognize that well, or of downtown, but they were still pretty neat.

Back then, I only knew that that was the only time that the Flying Club did this sort of thing. I thought it was a once-only event. The best birthday. Until yesterday, when a friend of mine on Facebook posted about it, having just been. What?!

Within half an hour I was above Ottawa again, sitting up front this time, with a mother and her son in the back. I drove to the airport in fifteen minutes, paid $40, registered the ticket, and because I was on my own, instead of waiting an hour, I was on the plane in five minutes with two strangers. This time I had my Canon 7D dSLR camera, with a wide-angle lens on it. This would be much clearer and brilliant compared to the little 4x6 point and shoot photos.

We set off in the opposite direction than in 2003. We went straight northwest instead of northeast. I was ready.
The woods just by Grenfell Glen, during the ascent to 2,000 feet. Sept. 27.

I took up to one-hundred images. We flew towards Bayshore, and then arced so we were flying alongside the Ottawa River.
I've always thought that the round curve of Centrepointe made it look like a burlap sack. The obviousness of the grey Merivale Road commercial strip is evident in the background.
West Huntclub snakes through the land. For some reason this image is squeezed.

Like the last time, we went in a large circle, going the opposite direction this time around. We started over the communities of Pine Glen and Merivale Gardens, etc., passed west across Woodroffe Ave. and Craig Henry, and eventually headed by Bayshore. We arced to fly over Gatineau alongside the Ottawa River.
The amazing thing about flying at this height is the distance you can see. You can virtually see Woodroffe Avenue in its whole entirety in this image - beginning at the Ottawa River Parkway near the bottom and fading away into the distance - whereupon it terminates at Prince of Whales Drive at the Rideau River past Barrhaven. Places like Algonquin College's campus and Baseline Station are tiny, narrow points along the road. Baseline station, when you zoom into the image at the maximum pixel density, is about an inch long. The big pedestrian bridge between Algonquin's B building and the new-ish construction building is hardly visible, as well as the rail bridge further down.

2,000 feet is a very good balance for height because while you can see so far looking ahead, you can also look straight down and see people and smaller objects like poles or stop signs, or even birds and seagulls flying much lower below. You get a vivid amount of detail as well as visibility in all directions, going very far.

This entire flight was an extremely big deal for me. For one thing, I hadn't done this in eleven years. For another, the very feeling of being up in the air, over everything - it's something I long for and feel completely at home in. I feel free in a way - you're going very fast, virtually gliding through the air in any direction you want, nothing in your way. You don't have to follow a road or a path, or walk around buildings or trees or fences. You're above it all. And you can see virtually everything - it's an entirely new perspective. I can look at these photos I took and marvel at how many familiar buildings I shot in this perspective, as well as how far away I can see them from (if you know where to look, in the above image, the roof of the Merivale Centennial Arena (or Tom Brown Arena) is easily visible in the far distance. Why? It's a tiny, insignificant building. Because the grey-white roof reflects sunlight extremely well, so it's easy to pick out even across the Ottawa River).

It's also just the way everything is so much smaller and low. Buildings look like little models. I'm used to virtually everything in the world being bigger or taller than me - now all of that is way below, smaller. These images have some impact, but not nearly as much as being up there does.

I strongly think that in the near future, I'll end up taking flying lessons. Find a way to capture aerial photos at the same time. When I get my real career started, it can be something I do on the weekends. That along with building my own recording studio. As long as I focus entirely on my homework and my studies now.
Bank Street/Alta Vista intersection.

We continued east until we banked towards the eastern side of the city and came back towards facing the runway; we flew over Olgilvie Road and St. Laurent, over Alta Vista, past South Keys, and eventually the runway, descending since just after Alta Vista. The plane ride really was only twenty minutes, but I got that rare, amazing, brilliant glimpse of the whole city as it was on that day. I love aerial photography because it really does capture a record of what the city, or a section of it, looks like on that day and time. Ottawa in September 2014. There's the old military base and its empty, houseless streets, there's the new apartment building under construction off of Merivale Road. One street in Centrepointe appears to have more yellow trees than the rest, having already turned their autumn colour. On Friday, I had lunch with my mother at Red Lobster in the plaza at Meadowlands and Merivale; Saturday, I got a picture of it - as well as the whole road itself, and everything around it.

Yeah, I'm definitely going to start frequenting the flying club and school. I talked to someone afterwards and heard that they're always interested in taking people up. Maybe next time I can get some real, direct pictures of Barrhaven and Parkwood Hills.
Sports field, South Keys.

I'm on my way to new highs. After all, if I was born to do anything, it's to get high.

Red Cloud

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Centenarian From Sweden

On Thursday, I picked up a novel from the bookstore while having some minor time to kill (I was taking my mother around to a few appointments). Intrigued, I read some of the first chapter.

As a result I ended up buying it and finishing it last night by half past one in the morning. The book was titled The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared.

It's a book that was published in Sweden, and written by a Swedish author, about a Swedish man who comes from said country. In my experience the novel isn't the first neat or interesting or nice thing to come from that place; in my childhood, although produced by a Canadian animation company, I enjoyed the adventures of Pippi Longstocking while at another point hearing 'The Sign' by Ace of Base playing in the background out in the yard. While I don't like all of ABBA's songs, they have talent and international recognition and presence, and that music video by Robyn is yet just another image/sound from my childhood. Even that silly-sounding 'Lovefool' song is Swedish. Roxette has the look as well as the sound. And finally, while I have never tried out the whole The Girl With...series, I have this work of literature under my belt as a fun, interesting, humorous read. The country is probably the next one after Canada, the UK, and the US to provide my life with good music, cartoons (perhaps Canadian-made but Swedish-originated/set) and literature.

The novel goes forward in two ways: One chapter details main character Allan Karlsson's life and activities in the present (which in the book is May 2005) just after his 100th birthday. The next chapter covers his life over several years in a prior decade, telling his life story from the beginning. This goes in a sort of present-past-present-past arrangement in chapters so you get a story of what's happening now combined with how he got to now since his birth in May 1905.

Spoiler alert below.

Allan Karlsson's life is pretty eventful. He is born to a father whose views are considered unconventional and unaccepted, and these outspoken views lead the family to become looked upon adversely. After his father dies in Russia near the same time Tsar Nicholas II and his family are killed, his mother goes to work providing firewood to a wholesaler who is suspicious of young Allan (thanks to his relation to his 'crazy' father), who himself goes to work in an explosives factory. This leads to the teenager creating his own company after his mother dies soon after. He combines different materials together to create different reactions and tests these new explosives in a pit behind the house, upon which the wholesaler who still feels nervous towards the young man accidentally crashes into it in his brand new car. Allan accidentally blows the man up, leading to his being put into an asylum and sterilized.

Having absolutely no political opinion or interest whatsoever, or any religious interests, Allan eventually gets released and befriends a Spanish man in a foundry he finds work at as a rare ignition specialist thanks to his background. They end up leaving together for Spain, where his friend, very political by contrast, ends up immediately killed in the civil war. With nothing better to do, he offers to blow up bridges for the socialist army his friend was in as long as he can wear his own jacket; near the end, having set up a custom where no one is killed in the explosions he detonates, he ends up saving General Franco from being killed when he crosses a bridge about to go; because he looks like a civilian, Franco ends up taking him to dinner (by this point Allan has learned Spanish) and he switches sides immediately in a war he has no opinion or knowledge or understanding of. The war ends the next day, and with the help of Franco (who gives him his unconditional protection) he sets out on a ship that ends up in New York.

Thereafter he sits in a US prison for several years while immigration tries to figure out what to do with a Franco supporter; by 1943, thanks to his explosives expertise, he ends up in Los Alamos, where he serves coffee to people like Oppenheimer. Researching the atom on his own in his free time (while learning English) he ends up figuring out how to split the atom himself, which he explains to Oppenheimer while filling his coffee mug; thereafter he spends dinner with vice president Truman, upon which Roosevelt passes away at the same time, in 1945. When Truman becomes president, he asks Allan to work with a woman called Soong Mei-ling, the wife of the anti-communist leader of the Koumintang in China. His intended job is to once again explode bridges to stop the mobile movement of the Communist contingent led by Mao Tse-tung in the Chinese civil war. While there, all he witnesses are the soldiers getting drunk and chasing after local women in every harbour they stop at. Eventually they capture Mao Tse-tung's wife, which they intend to rape repeatedly while captured, so with the ship cook (who had converted to communism through observing what Allan also sees), Allan simply escapes with her and runs away, not interested in hanging around while still not interested in any side of the war. They return Mao's wife to him in the mountains, upon which Allan decides to go home - except the only possible way, from his perspective, is to walk.

The months go by as he treks across the Himalayas, often going in the wrong direction, until he comes across a couple of strangers on camels and befriends them. They make their way to Iran, with the men trying to make Allan into a Marxist and failing completely. By 1947 they reach Iran, wherein the two men are immediately shot for their political leanings and Allan is taken to Tehran and imprisoned in a secret police headquarters. A year later he manages to escape by thwarting the police chief's plan to murder Winston Churchill (who had made him feel put-upon after the handling of an assistant-secretary at the British Embassy). He simply causes his coffee cup to explode, which causes the explosive under the armoured car to explode, making the whole building collapse and letting Allan and a crazy Anglican priest (bent on converting the entire country) to escape. At the Swedish Embassy, Allan calls the White House to ask Truman to ask the Swedish Prime Minister to tell the embassy official to give Allan a passport and a way home, and he ends up in the same plane as Winston Churchill en route.

Back in Stockholm, the Prime Minister, having heard from Truman Allan's contribution to the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, tries to set him up with the Swedish atomic program, but the director's way of interview and questioning fails towards Allan in highlighting his actual skills and experience, so after returning to Stockholm, he is approached by a Russian physicist with a similar personality and interests, and thereafter joins him on a submarine to Moscow. They drink a little too much together, causing Allan to slip a bit of info on atomic energy (but not being too explicit); they end up having dinner with Stalin, which fails after Allan quotes a poem by an author that Stalin knows is anti-communist. Between 1947 and 1953 he does time at a working prison camp at Vladivostock with who turns out to be Einstein's younger half-brother Herbert, who also turns out to be extremely dimwitted.

After an escape from the compound (the sobriety had finally gotten to him) Allan and Herbert end up in Bali in Indonesia, after running into Mao Tse-tung in North Korea while impersonating Russian Marshal Meretskov (while the Marshal and his aid were trying to get a better view of the burning Vladivostock in the distance, Allan and Herbert managed to sneak up on their car, take their weapons, and ask them to remove their uniforms). They stay there for fifteen years, Allan mainly just for vacation time. Herbert falls in love with the hotel waitress (equally dumb) and with the money provided by Mao, he has his wife become elected governor of the island through political bribery and other schemes; vacation ends for Allan when "Amanda" (Herbert's wife's new name thanks to Herbert not being able to pronounce or remember her actual name) asks him to be her interpreter in France thanks to a new diplomatic position in the embassy there. While there, Allan recognizes the assistant to the French Interior minister as the Russian interpreter from his dinner with Stalin, realizes he's a spy, and notifies the French President, impressing American President Lyndon Johnson, also there for the diplomatic lunch. Having dinner together, Allan admits that he indirectly gave Stalin 'the bomb' as he did for the US (thanks to saying too much to his recruiting friend on the submarine over vodka) and as a result Johnson has him become a spy and puts him back in Moscow.

Until 1982, with the help of turning his old submarine friend Yuri Borisovich (who did figure out how to split the atom thanks to that and became medal-honoured under Kruschev and Brushnev) both of them act as spies for the CIA, sending out information that ranges between fact and fiction, and therefore directing how each president reacts in turn. Allan meets Nixon early on while presenting information, and the two share a coffee together; Nixon asks how Indonesian politics work thanks to his ties with Amanda and his experience down there, and Allan's explanation inspires the president, suggested in the novel to have inspired his actions in the Watergate Scandal. Thanks to Reagan's anti-communistic personality, Yuri and Allan present information that suggests the Soviet Union is gaining strength in its resources, leading to the eventual ending of the cold war. They both decide to stop in 1982, with Yuri and his wife dying a year later in New York, happy, and Allan returning, finally, to Sweden, with an overdue salary from the CIA. Throughout all this he's become fluent in, other than his native tongue of Swedish, English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Indonesian.

His life from then on to the present becomes boring and his only companion is a kitten that grows into an old cat that is eventually killed by a persistent fox. Allan, now 99 and angry and sad for the first time ever, decides to use explosives to kill it. He accidentally detonates his entire collection, destroying his property and sending him to the old folk's home. Decided to die that first night (he hates having no control in the home) he doesn't and instead just waits for his 100th birthday in the months to come.

His actual birthday is when the novel's present setting begins; an hour prior to the celebration (which includes the Mayor of Malmkoping) he decides to start life all over, exits through the window, waits at a bus station, steals a suitcase while the owner is in the bathroom, boards a bus, and begins the whole adventure that includes a criminal organization, a petty prosecutor, a hotdog stand owner, an elephant, and a yellow bus, and which finally ends back in Bali.

The entire story is very much like a constant adventure mixed with extensive travels. The only continents Allan has never set foot in are South America, Africa and Australia. In the present he decides to sort of go on the run (from the home, anyway) and this turns into an escape that creates a growing entourage of new friends and accidental deaths. Allan Karlsson has dinner or meetings with no fewer than eleven political leaders or notable people, ranging from General Franco, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Mao Tse-tung, Richard Nixon, Robert Oppenheimer, Charles de Gaul, and Lyndon Johnson. At the same time, he has absolutely no political ideas or opinions, or leanings. He literally just goes where the action, bed, food, and vodka is. He instantly switches sides throughout the wars or conflicts of the 20th century several times simply because he could care less about what ideologies were apparent and more about whether he'll get dinner. Or a good drink.

At the same time, the novel is pretty funny, specifically how the author will return to scenes involving people Karlsson has screwed up - for instance, "Bolt," whose suitcase Allan stole (the scene that got me to buy the novel), or Russian Marshal Kiril Meretskov, whom Allan single-handedly steals a medal-covered uniform and car from. As a result he has to spend several hours with his aid walking to the burning remains of Vladivostock in a prison uniform, and thereafter five days to get a new uniform and car in order to pursuit Allan. There are moments or actions or time-coincidences in the novel that hang almost on the absurd. It's quite imaginative.

I would recommend reading it (if you didn't simply just read the hastily-written, badly-worded synopsis I wrote above) as it's funny, inspiring, and interesting. It lightly covers a lot of world-changing events throughout the last 109 years in a good style that is easy to read and often simple and funny. Allan Karlsson is portrayed as an extremely mild-mannered individual who has endless positivity but at the same time does what he wants regardless of what might keep him somewhere. To get Yuri Borisovich's attention, a friend he hadn't seen for over twenty years, he stands outside an opera house in Moscow that he knows he'll be attending with a giant sign that says "I am Allan Emanuel Karlsson" despite the KGB officers also leaving the building (they of course think that such blatant obviousness would be idiotic and dismiss the person with the sign).

The book almost makes me want to be able to do that sort of thing in my life, travel, learn several languages, have some sort of influence. That would be pretty neat, at least to see the world anyway. I have very little issue with anything in the novel but for Allan's hugely uneventful life between 1982 and 2005; it's like the novel wanted to focus on world events from the first half of the 20th century rather than the latter, with Allan merely spending fifteen years starting from the 1950s on vacation in Bali. There's that, a minor meeting and lunch in Paris, and then a little more than a decade of spying before he returns home to look after a cat for the next twenty-three years. Nothing at all is mentioned during that time, at least in terms of world events, and I would have thought it interesting if Allan had somehow, one way or another, participated in the fall of the Berlin Wall perhaps, or the Tiananmen Square protests around the same time. Perhaps he could have decided to visit Cambodia in 1991 before helping/causing trouble for Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia in the latter half of the 90s. Maybe he could have decided to go for a hotdog at a stand across the street from one of those two giant grey buildings in Manhattan a minute before an airliner suddenly tore through the upper half of the skyscraper. Personally I think he would have had a better time of it, but I guess the author did have to give Allan a feeling of starting over again from the nursing home by having made his life rather empty in the last few years. And then again, he would have been eighty by 1985; the main character is portrayed as someone who never really noticed his age or realized he was getting old, but perhaps by that time he was starting to get a little tired. Then again, that doesn't seem to be the case at all when he instantly decides to miss his party, climb through a window, and steal someone's suitcase at one-hundred.

It was a good novel though. It did its job because I had difficulty putting it down (I always tend to binge-read if I like something). I think the author did a good job describing and putting together all the personalities, as well as pinpointing the smallest of events or coincidences in which to insert his main character. The novel mentioned on the back that it was similar to Forrest Gump - had Gump been an explosives expert. Yes, and if Gump had done the majority of his meetings and actions in the first half of the 20th century, not the middle of the second half. That's kind of a funny parallel, because in the movie, Forrest Gump happens to be the reason the Watergate Scandal became the scandal it was, while Allan on the other hand indirectly inspired it. In the movie, right after Gump calls the guard about men with flashlights keeping him up, it cuts to an interview of Nixon on TV announcing that he's resigning two years later. In the novel, the scandal is referenced in summary briefly before Allan says to Nixon's photograph in the paper that he "should have gone in for a career in Indonesia instead. [You] would have gone far there" implying that their conversation (over cognac) inspired Nixon's subsequent actions.

If you want a story with adventure, travel, humour, famous/infamous people, and absurdity, I'd recommend this. As a result I almost want to get out there myself. Maybe go to Gaza. Or the Eastern half of Ukraine. Or Syria.

Nah, I don't know how to explode things.

Red Cloud

Monday, September 15, 2014

'I Cry'

One afternoon, while driving, I heard a song on Boom that had a tone and nostalgic sound to me. A lot of the time, my synesthesia will mesh what I see of one thing with something else. In this case, how I synesthetically perceive the 1990s, and the sound of the song.

The 90s, looking back generically, look aqua blue to me. This isn't based on personal memory as it is on media as well as my synesthetic perceptions and alterations of them all combined. It's a mixture of pale blue, white, and some yellow mixed about based on context. This blue colour originated with a Loony Tunes introduction I used to watch on TV as a child, where Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck strut in front of a blue stage curtain. Music videos by artists like Seal (Kiss From a Rose), Hanson (Where's the Love), Oasis ('D'You Know What I Mean?'), The Verve ('Bittersweet Symphony'), as well as media artwork like the cover of The Philosopher Kings' debut album or the movie posters for Space Jam or Matilda or Reality Bites all have a large blue or white colour scheme in/on them. I can even top it off with Eiffel 65's one-hit wonder 'I'm Blue (Dabadee).' Or that silly pop band called Aqua. The majority of stuff from that decade are just blue and white, in artwork or video or whatever.

This song was like the epitome of 90s pale blue/white, including yellow.

It gives me a scene and context that is exactly how I'd look at the 90s: Dreary, cold out, maybe winter with white cloudy skies or a meek sunny day with a dreary overtone to it. All covered in a shade of pale blue. People were just getting along and hoping they'd make it through the day or month, no worry of AIDs or HIV or whatever. For some reason I put on the lens of a twenty-something who is worried about all this stuff at the time, young and inexperienced but adult. Maybe the perspective of someone in that Reality Bites movie (though I've never seen it - I've only read up on it on Wikipedia out of interest). Maybe from the perspective of my parents, who were both in their late twenties in the early 1990s. I was only five when this song came out, and had no dreary perspective whatsoever (considering I was finishing junior kindergarten, or starting senior kindergarten, at the time).

I like the guitar parts in the song. They sound bright, which I like, and give me that yellow-white. Like a pick-me-up in that dreary landscape, or someone who is reassuring you in troubled times. Which makes sense considering the song seems to be about someone empathizing or sympathizing with the subject.

What I learned about the song was that it came out in 1996 and was (as I expected) by a Canadian band called Bass is Base. Two guys and a woman out of Toronto. This is an example of a song in which, as soon as I heard it, thanks to my synesthetic perceptions meshing together, I expected it to be 90s and Canadian (to me, the song sounds somewhat similar to 'Love Song' by fellow 90s Canadian band Sky.

That does give me a somewhat similar blue colour.

Anyway, if I were to grade 'I Cry' as a review, I'd give it a B+ on both counts. I like the imagery it gives me. Maybe I should go on a 90s Canadian music discovery or something, considering I've covered the 80s in Canadian music, and here I am finding some good nostalgic gems from the 90s that are Canadian as well. More to add to that list, of course.

Bring on the pale blue. I do enjoy perceiving all of it.

Red Cloud

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A 'B' in Angst

Recently I've come to now and then play 'Walk Like an Egyptian' by the Bangles. It was in that list of songs I put together in June - I'd listen to it, basically. When I realized the song was in B, though, my interest rose and I started playing it now and then.

I first saw it on TV somewhere. It was probably that old Video on Trial show on MuchMusic. It used to be kind of funny to watch as comedians picked apart a song's music video (and usually the song itself). They had an 80s version that included this song.

There are only two songs by that band I'm familiar with, this song as well as 'Manic Monday,' which I originally thought was by 10,000 Maniacs due to the voice sounding almost exactly like Natalie Merchant's. That's just me of course - their voices aren't exactly the same, but I thought that was how Merchant sounded if she sung in a higher register. I hear 'Manic Monday' a lot more often than I ever hear 'Walk Like an Egyptian' both at Wal-Mart as well as on my radio. It doesn't sound anything in my opinion like the other song.

The lyrics weren't written by The Bangles apparently, but by someone else who also decided who sang the lead lyrics. This caused some resentment from the drummer who was pushed to the background vocals and further had her drums filled in by a drum machine. I wonder why they did it that way?

Lyric-wise, the song seems to simply just be about people walking like an Egyptian; the music video intersperses footage of the band playing with images of people actually walking that way on the streets or pictures of celebrities and notable people animated to move that way through visual effects.

The gem for me here is the slightly dark tone of the music itself. The majority of the song is in B major. On its own, played on the piano, the chord is a lime green/aqua blue colour. In this song, this context, and on the guitar, it's a bright yellow. I tend to view it synesthetically in a westward direction, and the way its played - just lazily strummed over and over - gives me quite an atmosphere, personality, ideal and context.

It gives me a sullen teenage girl who is bored, restless, and has a sort of anger, perhaps even bitterness. Of course, being B, the girl is my type. Maybe she's into motorcycles. I can visualize her with a black leather jacket. She doesn't listen to anyone, makes her own rules, moves about on her own. This is all through how the guitar plays, and helped by the accompanying bass line. Not interested in beating around the bush. The end of the song is joined by this riff that plays along with the guitar, which makes me imagine that this girl and her friend(s), riding along, are joined by their boyfriends who make it interesting. They're more light-hearted and comedic than sullen or bored and pick the rest up. This idea is created by how silly or clownish the riff sounds.

The song is good to me when it causes my synesthesia to very directly create a personality or face and character that I find attractive and then put it in a light that accentuates this more. Blunt. No-nonsense. The 'B' in a sort of late teenage angst. The backing voices that make the 'whoa' parts can be alluded to me as a sort of imagination of great adventure, through the eyes of this bored girl.

To finish, the song is straightforward, and if I were to try to listen to all the fast-paced lyrics, probably interesting as well, and it gives me an appealing image, so it does its job for me.

I'm pretty sure the person who uploaded that wrote in mis-heard lyrics.

Music: A-
Lyrics: B

The lazy way that guitar's quite effective.

Red Cloud

Monday, September 1, 2014

70s VS 10s, The

In several books and other references, I've read that the 1970s is retrospectively thought of as the 'Me' decade. In double-checking, it was writer Tom Wolfe who coined it. Then I ended up looking at each Wikipedia article on the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and 10s, and now here I am, two hours later, finally completing this sentence.

It's something I've been comparing with the present. People forty years ago were apparently more self-interested, more focused on what their wants and needs were, instead of what I read as the more communal dynamic of the 60s. To me I just get an image in my head of groups of counter-cultures and free-thinking university students. I'm grossly uninformed on the subject, but the general idea remains - people were more in tune with themselves than others back then, and I'm thinking about it because of today's social culture.

My generation may as well be very similar: We post about everything on Facebook; we have phones that are also cameras and digital video cameras. We spend probably half of our time on the Internet posting stuff to Tumblr or Instagram or Twitter. Can you believe how unendingly narcissistic this sounds? What do people take the most pictures of? What's the most photographed subject? The photographer's face. The whole 'selfie' phenomenon that everyone's into right now. People enjoy taking pictures of themselves regardless of the time or occasion and posting it online somewhere. We enjoy talking about interests in a forum like Facebook or Twitter, or painting our emotions or feelings or focuses on Tumblr or our own blogs. I'm no different - while I don't take five selfies per day or use Instagram, I'm on all the rest, as well as Flickr (though I hardly ever post anything at all on there anymore). Everyone has a YouTube channel; everyone has a Facebook profile.

I once had a Facebook friend who posted pictures of every meal he ate that was not at home. He wasn't a gourmet critic or anything, because it went way further than that, to the point he posted every single location he travelled to, provided additional comments, posted every single random thought that went through his head, and every video he shot of every video game he played. If you hung out with him anywhere at any time, your location would be checked-in, your name tagged, and the whole thing further commented on by him; this included pictures of you and a picture of the location, food if applicable. He had over a thousand friends because if you said hello to him he would add you. My newsfeed became his whole world for me to watch/read/comment/be amazed by, if that was his intention.

Of course, I'm not saying every person born between say, 1986 and 1995 are like that. My point is that technology has changed and advanced to our complete advantage when it comes to self-promoting ourselves or talking about ourselves. This is the Me Decade times ten, where everyone posts selfie pictures and tweets links to their favourite artists and reblogs gifs of their favourite TV show on Tumblr. It's all about Me. And let's not forget the celebrities that only enhance this and ultimately further the world of fandom and gossip by Instagramming their choice of dress or having infantile fights with each other over Twitter.

There's a good aspect to this and a bad one. Information sharing and communication is never an issue. It's just that simple saying where too much of a good thing isn't necessarily good. What are you doing if you spend all your time updating statuses on your smartphone? Every time I go on my break at Wal-Mart, the young adults in the breakroom almost say nothing to each other. They stare at their smartphones. They're texting or online. Not that the room is completely devoid of speech or socializing; the older people will easily talk to each other, and maybe, maybe, a couple of guys or girls my age will have a conversation (with a few interruptions with their phones once or twice). Does everyone live online or in person? Are you so obsessed with how you look and how many views/favourites your selfie will get that all you virtually care about is you?

We have to learn to find a middle ground. No doubt a lot of us have. But the whole social construct, in my experience anyway, seems to have shifted from talking to staring at phones and posting online. In general, anyway. When I re-added all those friends on Facebook, my newsfeed didn't change too much. I didn't get a huge jump in added posts from people. Obviously they're living their lives in the real world, which is good. I hardly post more than once a day, maybe. I used to post like crazy, but I've managed to stop relying on it so much. I think some people have the unhealthy idea that Facebook gives them friends or a social life when it's just a painting of selfies and irrelevant information you'd rather be a part of or the source of instead of just watching. I'm thankfully not as personal on here as much anymore than I used to be. My posts here tend to be very music-focused, or observation-based such as this one. It wasn't always like that (2010 was a horrible year for that) but I've managed to alter the dynamic a little.

All of this is here to stay - all the information-sharing and social networking that makes Web 2.0 Web 2.0 - and it's neat to have and all. We just need to stop being so obsessed with ourselves or how we're perceived, stop focusing inwards and being so relentlessly narcissistic, and live in the real world again where everyone talked and had conversations and learned about someone over dinner or lunch or in class or at work rather than through a Facebook profile. All of that without being tagged in a location check-in or photographed or otherwise exposed via social media.

Middle ground, moderation, that's the key. Again, it's a general observation of what I see in today's social construct, not intended to be specific, and not everyone my age applies to this. And I'm not immune or perfect either. It's something to maybe try and work on in my opinion.

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