Monday, September 13, 2010

It's a whole new world...

Back in the late eighties and early nineties, my father taught high school science. One of the bonus questions (which he would occasionally include on his tests) was this: "How many grooves are there on a phonograph record?" It's an interesting question, because the answer is simple but not immediately obvious.*

He finally quit using the question when one of his students responded with this: "What's a phonograph record?"

* * *

I've mentioned before that my son is a huge fan of Transformers. Apparently, if you're a boy, anything that turns into a giant robot is cool. His first exposure was the live action movie, which he watched until my wife and I were both completely sick of it.** So, to salvage our sanity, I purchased some of the original Transformers cartoons on DVD. This was at least partly successful; while he still occasionally asks for the live action movie ("the one with the helicopter"), he also loves the cartooons.

One of his favorite characters in the cartoon version is the Decepticon called Soundwave. Soundwave transforms from a rather large robot into the sort of portable stereo system that we used to call a Boom Box.*** What's cool about Soundwave is that he has a set of at least four smaller robots who transform into tape cassettes - so, when he needs them, he opens the cassette deck on his chest, and other robots come out. ("Rumble! Ravage! Operation: destruction! Eject! Eject!")

This remains completely cool in spite of the fact that my son has never seen a boom box, or even a tape player, let alone a cassette tape.

* * *

One of my co-workers has a daughter who's... I don't know... eighteen or nineteen now. This particular co-worker shares my love of Bad Horror Movies, and zombie flicks in particular. At one point, she realized that her daughter had never seen the original Terminator, and set out to rectify this tragic oversight in her daughter's cultural education.

So they're watching the movie, and they come to the scene where Sarah Connor is walking down a city a street. She's afraid that someone might want to kill her, and she's looking for help. Finally, she ducks into a club to use the pay phone and call her roommate. Co-worker's daughter has been watching this with a faintly puzzled expression, and finally she turns to her mother and asks: "Why didn't she just use her cell phone?"

The thing is, she at least knew what a pay phone was. Theron probably won't - and if he does, they'll be a curious, antiquated concept. With the easy availablity of mobile devices, pay phones are rapidly disappearing from the landscape.

* * *

My son is growing up in a very different world from the one I grew up in. I'm not sure it's particularly better or worse, but it's changing fast enough to actually create some culture shock. Technology is the most dramatic example, but there are plenty of others; public acceptance of homosexuality, for example. Opposition to gay marriage correlates heavily with age: the older you are, the more likely you are to oppose it. The younger generation, by and large, just doesn't see what the big deal is.

Time was when you had to travel in order to really get that sense that They Do Things Differently Here. Now you can get that just by hanging out with someone significantly older or younger than yourself.

Oops. I'd better get back to work. I didn't realize it was this late; I forgot to wind my watch...

* The answer is two - one for each side of the record.
** This did not take long at all, actually. Despite a certain amount of spectacle, it isn't a very good movie.
*** Apparently conservation of mass doesn't really apply to hyperadvanced alien robots.

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