Thursday, September 14, 2006
The Hip Hop And The White Funk Just Blew Away My Puppy's Mind
Commercials I hear on the radio keep telling me that "sixty is the new forty," which I guess is good news for old people, but really bad news for those of us who are already not good at math. Reassigning values to numbers is clearly an attempt by the US adding machine industry ("Big Calculator") to force us all to trash our old standby 15-button solar-powered wallet calculators and upgrade to fancy new machines that can handle the new reckoning and will probably be powered by a 225-horsepower V8 gasoline engine.

"Sixty is the new forty" is supposed to relieve, I suppose, some of the existential panic radio listeners might feel as they edge uncomfortably close to the national life expectancy. And make them want to drink Sprite. After all, it is still just a commercial with something to sell. Right behind sex--and really, who doesn't notice sex from behind?--the next most popular bundle of ideas to wrap your product in is youth.

If sixty really is the new forty, then we're all getting retroactively younger. People are living longer and staying unseasonably spry well into late autumn.

I can already see the change in my kids. My oldest is seven, but he doesn't look a day over six and a half. That doesn't sound like much, but as a percentage, it's remarkable.

We're all supposed to be so young and able and ready to make decisions about where to spend our disposable income, but for me, at the relatively mid-summer age of 32, there are more and more aspects of modern youth culture that I am completely alienated from. Maybe I won't be "old" when I'm forty and barely getting there when I'm sixty, but that doesn't mean I won't give my kids ample reason to laugh at me. They already do of course, but really only because of my paralyzing stutter and club foot. But that's not generational, that's just because kids are assholes.

Although to be fair, what's funnier than an orthop-p-p-pedic sh-sh-shoe?

I think part of the problem is technology. The pace of change, innovation and the introduction of new products increases so that the stratification between generations is itself happening more quickly.

Technologically speaking, people my age (late GenX types) are tweeners. I grew up with the ubiquitous PC and digital music (in the form of compact discs) and cable TV and the internet. OK, not so much the internet as Prodigy, but it was still connectivity and the ability to tell people how much I thought Smashing Pumpkins sucked in bold anonymous text. The utter wired-ness (or, moving forward, wireless-ness) of the culture, however, hadn't quite taken hold. When I was in college a scant 10 years ago, there was no network connection in my dorm room. Luckily we did have a three-foot-wide ledge running outside our screenless windows, so we were able to send a guy out with some co-ax so we could play WarCraft II. Uphill. Both ways.

Like I said, this was only 10 years ago. Already the experience of college students and young people in general is fundamentally different, driven mostly by (though not entirely) technology.

There are already lots of things about the way those younger than myself live that are foreign to me.

Note we played WarCraft II and not the now-popular Worlds of WarCraft. We had no MMORPGs when I was growing up, so the concept of them, while interesting, is sort of foreign to me. Plus, as much as I like video games, I'm not really that excited about the opportunity to pay a monthly fee to play them. Also--and I think this is the clincher--I have at this point in my life had sexual contact with an actual living female. So I'm not even 100% sure I'd be allowed to play one of those type of games.

I have neither an iPod nor any other type of MP3 player. I'm comfortable with my desktop PC, so I do run iTunes and have a modest MP3 collection, so it's not as though I don't comprehend the technology. I guess the main stumbling block for me as far as the iPod goes is that I just don't need another goddamn thing to maintain. I elect to stick with what I know I will annoy me at predictable levels, like my PC. Sure, it's a little bulkier to carry when I'm on the go, but with a few harness attachments, it's not so bad. Once you solve the power-source problem it's actually quite handy. All the people on the bus are envious of my screen size.

My cellphone has no camera lens in it, nor do I want one. I guess in this respect I am just something of a fuddy-duddy. In my day we took badly lit, poorly focused, visually incomprehensible pictures using cameras devoted specifically to that purpose, dammit.

I've never had an energy drink. Part of this is probably because I don't drink coffee or any of its Starbucksian variants, so I don't have the stimulant-tolerance of an African bull elephant. I figure if I need anything more than I can get out of a Mountain Dew, well, that's why Jesus gave us meth.

My one concession to youth culture is that I do have a myspace presence. I don't actually use it or update it or... whatever it is you're supposed to do with a myspace page. I originally signed up just so I could creepily stalk other people I knew were myspace active. And to meet Tom. Both experiences I found to be deeply fulfilling and caused me to ask some serious personal questions about myself. But other than that, it hasn't brought me much. I really only keep it for the free porn solicitations.

When you get down to it, that's what technology is all about anyway, from the printing press to fiber optics: free porn solicitations. When you get there, you find out the porn itself isn't free, but just to be asked... well that's all we need to feel included, isn't it? I happily pass along my credit card number to the struggling actress degrading herself in front of her webcam because, dammit, she makes me feel like I'm part of the community. And I will not be left behind.

Plus... you know... her whole fist!

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.987



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