I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.
—Roy Batty, Blade Runner
My father’s day present arrived in a little box yesterday – Candy bought me a Roku box.
I remember when I was a kid, people had only one television. Now, our house, a family of two when the kids are in school, has five televisions set up, plus any number of laptops (I usually watch entertainment on my laptop). Once, I told my kids we didn’t have VCRs when I was a kid (this was when we were all still watching VHS tapes – which already seems a long time ago) and they said they couldn’t imagine how anyone could get through the day. I tried to tell them that when I was a small child we didn’t even have color TV and they only looked confused, with their eyes scrunched up.
In many ways, I miss the one TV days. There were only three channels so everyone watched television together and they watched the same thing. I had a friend with a large family and I used to like to go to his house where the living room would fill up with family, friends, and hangers-on. My favorite was Saturday Night at the Movies, where second-run films would be edited, chopped up and interspersed with commercials, then sent out over the ether in glorious blurry black-and-white.
In the middle of the extravaganza would always be a Coca-Cola commercial. My friends’ mother would immediately haul herself up from the couch and stride to the kitchen for a cold bottle of Coke – The Real Thang. It was like clockwork. We would laugh but she never figured out what we were laughing about. She never knew that the commercial was sending her out for a cold, sweating bottle, either. She actually thought she was thirsty.
Since everybody across the land watched the same thing every evening there was always a discussion of the evening’s entertainment around the water coolers the next day.
In 1964, I remember when the Beatles went back across the pond. That seemed to be a big deal back then, like it actually mattered where a rock band was physically located. It felt like we would never see or hear from the adorable mop-tops again. Though I was only seven years old, I was saddened by this – it felt like an era was passing.
It seemed like only a few days later (the exact chronology is very fuzzy – I was only seven years old) another British band appeared on Ed Sullivan. There was some buzz among the adults in the room that these kids would now replace the Beatles, so I watched and paid attention. This was almost fifty years ago, but I still remember I had a glass of milk in my hand when they came on.
Right away, I was mesmerized. They didn’t have the energy of the Beatles, but there was something…, something I couldn’t figure out, something that I knew a seven year old kid wasn’t privy to, but something, something special, something somehow unsavory yet seductive about these guys, especially the lead singer.
It was, of course, the Rolling Stones, and I was right – nothing would be the same again.
You can Watch it Here. You can’t imagine the effect this had on a seven year old kid in 1964.
So now, a half century later, in this best of all possible worlds, I spent a few seconds hooking up the Roku (they aren’t lying when they say that hooking it up is simple) and the rest of the evening running back and forth from the TV to my laptop in another room carrying a series of slips of paper with passwords and setup codes until I could get the channels working (they don’t tell you about this part).
So now, we can sit down with a small pile of remote controls in the darkened corner of a back bedroom (we’ll move it to Lee’s massive TV when he goes back to school) and stream the whole world into that little box.
It’s really cool, it really is, but it doesn’t have the effect of a blurry static-besmirched Mick Jagger wriggling beneath a pair of aluminum-draped rabbit ears. It’s not the television’s fault – it’s not the technology – it’s my eyes. They aren’t seven any more. They are worn out now. They have seen too much.