Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Movies: Summer Rituals Revisited

I like summer in the Midwest...mostly.  I like bonfires and camping (in tents. like a man. do it right.) and being a river rat with my dad.  The days when the weather is unbearably hot, wet, and sauna-like?...not so much.

Coincidentally, my last few summers at home have kind of sucked.  Last summer started with the tragic funeral of my favorite teacher from high school and wrapped up with a final summer funeral count of 4, including my cat.  The summer before was a balance between my part-time job and spending 40 hours a week (including my 20th birthday) in a hospital room waiting for my grandma's death...which never came, oddly enough.

Something about my mindset formed by the events of summers past led to the formation of my annual summer tradition: watch weird movies.  I guess weird/unpredictable movies that forced me to pay attention were a sufficient distraction from reality.  I think it started with A Clockwork Orange and snowballed from there.  I leeched ideas from user-created weird films lists I found online and rented movies (in a real, live movie store!) in bundles.

Not including some of weird films that I had already experienced beforehand, this is the list of films I made it through (that I can remember off the top of my head):
Waking Life
2001: A Space Odyssey
Rosemary's Baby
Being John Malkovich
Synecdoche, New York
Requiem for a Dream
Jesus Camp
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
...and then somewhere along the way Sleeper, Manhattan and Blade Runner fell into place.
and I've always loved Howl's Moving Castle.

...Wow, that's a sad little list when it's down on paper.

Since I suspect I'll be moderately bummed about this "next chapter" of life beginning after graduation, I've been mentally building my list of things to watch while sitting in my parents' basement consuming pints of Ben & Jerry's.  I have a few things I left to check off my Stanley Kubrick list that I'll begin with, follow by a much needed re-watching of the Star Wars Trilogy...on VHS.

Dear summer that may very well suck like so many others have: bring it on.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012

Rant: Technology

1. This is the first post on this blog for which I'm earning no college credit.  I like to write, so I figured maybe I'd keep it up.
2. This post was inspired by my first-day-of-finals Stanley Kubrick film marathon.  It had been awhile since I'd really sat down and watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, so I guess it just got me thinking.  Clearly not focused on my finals.

Anyone who has spent any time in the same room as me knows that sometimes I tend to get angry at things.  And in most cases, it isn't necessarily things but people.  And in all fairness it isn't so much anger is it is frustration and general disgust that I have a difficult time keeping under wraps.  To put it simply: I am disgusted by the stupidity of some people.

Here's the bigger issue: people seem to be getting stupider and stupider as time progresses.  When I combine my frustration with the human race with a movie released in 1968, I come to this conclusion: technology is making us dumber.  But it isn't only dumber... it's a general sucky-ness at life that our reliance on technology has led to.

So as not to discriminate against your current place in the age spectrum, and so I don't get myself thrown under the bus with discussion of "kids these days," let's all just take a moment to separate ourselves from ourselves and think about the future.  Even if modern technology remains at a standstill, I suggest the following things will take over the human race (well, the human race in Western society, to be specific):

1. No one will know how to read a map.  Hell, I bet most people today couldn't navigate an unfamiliar area without some sort of GPS step-by-step instruction.  Many prefer the robot voice type...because reading is wicked hard.

2. Cursive (or "handwriting," if you're over the age of 60) will no longer be taught in schools and will therefore eventually cease to exist.  I suspect this has already started to happen in schools.  The time and effort spent helping children perfect these skills will have their place taken by typing and computer skills.  I don't really have a legitimate argument about why this trade-off is bad, it just makes me a little sad.  My grandma would be disappointed.  I love my grandma.

3. The meaning of the word "privacy" will be lost completely.  People will be unaware of how much value was once placed on having time to yourself and not having to share any information about where you are, what you're doing, who you're with, and what you feel.  Instead, lack of sharing and response from a pseudo-social community will make you an outcast. (I'll stop my rant against social media before it begins.)

4. (more ranting about how social media and text messaging is ruining true communication)

5. This is the part in which I am a hypocrite.  Remember when people actually balanced their bank accounts occasionally?  In all fairness, I know how to do it, and even though I don't, I still watch my bank account transactions like a crazy person.  Still, it's good practice, and if nothing more, it's a reason to practice your math skills.  This leads me to a side note:
All that stuff our parents and grandparents said about how calculators are ruining our math skills is absolutely true.  I'm good at math because I like math.  The general population has the math skills of a 2nd grader.  Examples of questions I was asked regularly by customers during my 5 year retail career:
  • What's 50% off of $9.99?
  • How many yards in a foot?
  • How many feet is 2 yards?
  • How many feet is 60 inches?
  • If this is $3.99 and I buy 2, about how much is that?

If you've ever wanted proof that the technology we've created is becoming smarter than we are, sit down and have a chat with one of my Best Buy employee friends or just Google some numbers.  The percentage of electronic items that are returned and reported as "broken" because users think they're smart enough to figure them out but fail to do so is astronomical.

A very small number of super smart people have visions of crazy awesome technology that could change our lives and do amazing things, and then when these technologies come to fruition and are marketed to "everyday" users, things go bad.  Users don't understand how to use the technologies that surround them, and if they do, they still fail to comprehend the power their devices hold over them.  The technological literacy gap is ever-growing, yet it isn't often that anyone on either side stop to look at the consequences of any of the innovations.  It's new, shiny, and exciting, and that's all that matters.

And so someday SIRI will become the HAL9000 that Stanley Kubrick warned us about in 1968.  She will kill us in our sleep or hurl us into outer space... unless we figure out how to disable her memory and logic and make it back to that creepy room where we age really fast and die and become a fetus.  Monolith.