6/16/2011

Confessions of an Unashamed Old-timer

I am compelled to admit that, a decade after the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, I do not find much to enjoy in the realms of music, films, television, and books. The current age of collective stupor in which we are living, with its relentless overflow of undisguised greed and its constant outpouring of lowbrow gimmicks, does not suit me at all. As I steer a wary course through my late fifties, advancing uneasily toward my sixties, I am spending more and more of my time seeking out the sights and sounds of the "old days," and less time looking toward the future.

Over the years, I have watched in frustration and dismay as nearly everything around me has steadily declined in value and in meaning, descending into a crude lifestyle of foul shallowness. Nowadays it seems that most forms of casual entertainment, particularly those offerings aimed directly at a mass audience, are merely cheap products, quite openly intended to be mindless, and therefore regarded as being utterly disposable. Few things last, or actually are meant to last, for more than a short period. Everything is done only for the expedient purpose of fleecing brainless consumers and making a sizable pile of quick money, with absolutely no concern for quality.

I understand that I am no longer eligible to be a member of the in crowd. I am regraded as being too old, and I refuse to be taken in by the capitalist trickery that commonly is referred to as "progress." My own priorities are deeply rooted in the distant days of my youth. I know that marks me as one who is woefully behind the times, but I am not afraid of appearing to be out of touch. The new world undoubtedly is much faster, much louder, and much bigger, but I do not believe that it is, necessarily, much better. I choose to step away from the ongoing rush toward total madness and be left to my own devices. I freely declare my allegiance to the authentic glories of the past.

I prefer the artful vigor of true rock'n'roll (Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Sex Pistols) to the grating assault of rap and hip-hop. I prefer the stars of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s (Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck) to the so-called stars of today. I prefer City Lights, Swing Time, The Philadelphia Story, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Some Like It Hot, and Vertigo to any of the flashy blockbusters that have come out of Hollywood during the last several decades.

I prefer watching old shows, such as I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone, Route 66, The Outer Limits, The Saint, The Avengers, Star Trek, Monty Python's Flying Circus, and The Muppet Show, to viewing any of the annoying rubbish that currently fills up endless hours on countless channels of cable TV. I prefer the great works of Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, and Somerset Maugham to any of the silly bestsellers that now are in favor, and I abhor books that promote the superficial realm of self-help, supposedly teaching dimwitted readers how to be happy, how to find romance, or how to become rich.

Current music, in particular, holds no interest for me. When I was only twelve years old, I already was listening to the groundbreaking songs of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and James Brown, along with the superlative hits of Motown. Those songs were played daily on the airwaves of AM radio during the 1960s, and as a result, I became accustomed to hearing music of a high standard. I now find that I am unable to listen to any music that is lacking in skill, taste, or imagination, which means that most of the tunes currently being dumped on the undiscerning public are excluded from my life. In general, the music that is heard in the mainstream today serves primarily as a technological commodity, and rarely amounts to anything more than graceless noise.

In addition to my avowed disdain for current styles of music, I also object to the current means by which new music is recorded and delivered. Music now is digitally processed on computers, rather than being recorded on reels of magnetic tape, and the difference, to me, is thoroughly appalling. Digital sound is highly compressed, with most of the dynamic range having been removed, resulting in stale recordings that strike my ears as false and flat. As far as my own experience as a listener is concerned, I have been forced, along with millions of other hapless listeners, to exchange LPs for cassettes, and then cassettes for CDs, but after that I chose to draw the line. I do not download music from the Internet, I have never owned an iPod, and I have no use for playlists that contain thousands of random tracks.

Aside from the world of entertainment, my values, my beliefs, and my convictions also have started to show their years. I prefer thrift to debt. I prefer honesty to avarice. I prefer humility to ostentation. I prefer freedom to conformity. I prefer truth to marketing. I prefer human rights to corporate power. I prefer peacemaking to warmongering. I prefer the bold truth of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the weak deceit of Barack Obama. If I am to be entirely forthright, then I must acknowledge that I would prefer nearly everything to be the way it used to be, as opposed to the way it is now. The world has never been perfect (and is not likely to be perfect anytime soon), but at least it used to be tolerable to a greater degree.

It appears that, after many years of being agreeably youthful and reasonably hip, I finally have become an unashamed old-timer. If choosing to live in the past is ever declared to be a punishable offense by the faceless authorities who seek to control what we see, what we hear, and what we think (and it is uncomfortably probable that, someday, such a thing will come to pass), then I am ready to plead guilty. What else can an honest person do? After all, there certainly is no use in pretending that things are not what I know them to be. I have seen the future, grimly revealing itself in all its shiny wretchedness, and it is full of junk.