I have just endured that increasingly worrisome annual event, my birthday. Worrisome because as one gets older, one doesn’t always enjoy a day specifically put aside for the sole purpose of reminding you that you are getting older. (Actually I had a great celebration with my wonderful family and friends spoiling me!)
In fact it was a birthday gift that is the cause for this week’s musings. I received a gift of such earth shattering significance – (it is the defining innovation of this decade) – it caused me to ponder the other landmark technologies that have occurred during my lifetime. Our grandparents lived through a period of seemingly unequalled innovation – the motorcar, television, and air travel, and Australia’s great contribution, the stump-jump plough.
If I may, let me side-track for a moment for a brief rant. Back then getting on an ‘airplane’ was a big deal, people wore their best suits and the ladies wore hats and gloves. Family and friends would gather to see you off and welcome you back. Sadly there was no Facebook back then to ‘check in’ from, to tell all your friends how frightfully important you are. But there is today, yet air travel today is as commonplace as stupid drawings on the top of a cup of coffee. So why these days do so many people need to tell us every time they are at an airport? Is it to let us know that they are continuing their glamourous life of seemingly being permanently on holidays, or to remind us that they are so important that they have to fly to meet other, equally as important, people. Can’t these people use a telephone? So to all my Facebook airport friends, get over yourselves. The only person who cares you are getting on a plane is you! Now back to my musings…
So what has been invented in my life? What are the advancements that have changed our world and defined each generation? In the 1960’s it would have to have been space travel, particularly a man called Armstrong. No not Lance, Neil. Putting a man on the moon was the greatest demonstration of how far man had come in a few hundred years. Mankind was master of the universe and anything was possible. In reality it was completely pointless. I mean what did it prove? That it wasn’t made of cheese? No, mankind went to the moon because we could, and so that the US could poke the Soviet Union in the eye. A defining moment never the less.
In the 70’s it was the invention of video games and VCR’S, changing forever the idea that we had to interact with other human beings to be entertained. Watching TV had up to then been a communal event, with the family gathering around the TV to share the experience of watching a ‘programme’ together. But whilst video didn’t kill the radio star, it did cause people to make watching screens a greater part of their day to day life. Same can be said of video games. Playing ‘Pinny’ was a social event when we were younger, almost a spectator sport, unlike ‘Pub Pong’ or space invaders. These signalled the beginning of the end of life as we knew it. You know, when we talked to each other.
The 80’s biggest innovation was the global apocalypse of the mobile phone. Not only could we now be just like Maxwell Smart talking on the phone in our car, nothing impressed a client more than placing your mobile phone the size of a car battery on the conference table. It’s very presence said that you were successful, in demand and terribly, terribly important. You were needed. No longer did we perch in the hallway to talk to our friends, we could have entirely pointless conversations anytime we liked – most of which was telling each other where we were.
The 90’s was the introduction of the Interwebs. Enough said. Whilst back then it was more of a novelty than the conduit to life that is now (it was mainly sites by people who collected things, or had conspiracy theories or enjoyed sharing pornography). But things have changed and there aren’t nearly as many stamp collecting websites these days.
The 00’s was the decade of the portable device. We no longer needed an office, a computer, a phone, a camera or a street directory. We were free to roam about and our lives were to become so much simpler. We need never speak to or interact with another person in the flesh again. The entire urban scene has changed before our eyes. Just look on any bus, train or public place and try and find anyone who isn’t playing with their phone. Most teenagers seem to breathe through them.
Which brings me back to this decade and my birthday present. Just as the past innovations defined each decade, it spoke particularly to the youth of that time. The gift I received is the technology that defines this generation. It is a ‘selfie stick’. Many of you may ask “what is a selfie stick?” I myself had no idea a few months ago. It is a device that holds your phone up in the air so you can take photos of yourself – in a group, by yourself, in front of the leaning tower of Pisa, wherever you like. Yes folks it was not enough that you could snap a quick picture of yourself in the bathroom mirror and up load it to a dating site, a new, greater perspective was required by the devoted attention whore to put on Facebook. Now let me tell you, even if I was interested in taking photos of myself, when you reach my age the top of your head is not your best side! I tried looking up at it but then it exposes the other end of the spectrum of follicle issues we get as we grow older – nostril hair. It was mildly entertaining taking photos of the people’s meals on the table behind me, and on video mode you can sneak up on people and record what they are saying over their shoulder. Sort of like a drone for very underfunded secret agents. But since I have little enough want to look at my own head, I would suspect that every other person on earth would have even less. If I was, then the idea of a stick to move the camera further away is a good one. I might have converted an old surf rod I have under the house. But selfies are not really my thing.
But it sums up and defines this generation and the future of mankind – a self-obsessed tide of narcissism that sees people uploading increasingly complicated (and so less real) images of themselves for others to like. It is a great pity young Mark Z didn’t think a ‘dislike ‘button would work. It would probably meltdown Facebook.
Now at the risk of sounding like the grumpy old man who yells at kids for playing on his lawn, let me say I don’t understand this generation. Just have a look at the ‘look’ of today. Each of the previous decades had a ‘look’ – often in hindsight quite tragic. The 80’s shoulder pads for instance. Thankfully the decade I grew up in, the 70’s, didn’t really have a look. We didn’t really grow our hair long. We just stop having it cut.
Growing would smack of some kind of styling or planning, but we just grew it down to our shoulders and got around in jeans and t-shirts. Indeed it was often hard to pick the girls from the boys when viewed from astern.
But look at young blokes today. I believe the term is ‘Hipster’. They sport a bushy beard, more suggestive of a chap who cuts down trees in northern Canada for a living than of some student slurping lattes in Newstead. Above the beard sits a pair of black rimmed ‘Buddy Holly’ glasses and a short back and side’s haircut, with bits sticking out at the top. Next comes a paisley shirt like your sleazy uncle wore to weddings, with ‘skinny’ black jeans hanging down so you can read 007’s surname on the waistband of their ‘Reg Grundy’s’. It is like they are setting out to look deliberately stupid. So, kids of today, if you are reading this, go easy on the selfies. Like a puppy, the Interwebs aren’t just for Xmas, they are for life.
In years to come you may not want to be reminded that you got around looking like an undernourished, effeminate, short-sighted lumberjack. And for God’s sake pull your pants up!
Naturally people are more than welcome to bring your selfie sticks along on any weekend or 5 day practical course. Places have been filling fast and we still have spots available: 11 & 12 April for a weekend course and 27 April for a 5-day course.
That’s all for this edition, until next time, snap away!
Cheers Mike Job

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