In the course of exercising with the TV set on, I’ve now watched all three Back to the Future movies at least twice, albeit in various-sized pieces. That’s the beauty of cable; you see your favorite films over and over and over again until they’re not even movies you like anymore.
You’ll recall the premise, which was that Marty McFly and Doctor Emmett Brown could travel around in time. However, by the third movie Marty and the Doc were somehow located in the Wild West of 1885 and in the year 1955 at either the same time or alternating times or… well, how could it possibly matter? Unless, like me, you’re experiencing something similar to the “Future” boys as we move on into the 21st century.
Once, while appearing in concert, singer/songwriter John Prine opined that drawings representing the “world of tomorrow” always looked like the Japan of today. Then he sang a song about living in the future with lyrics that concluded, “We’re all driving rocket ships and talking with our minds / wearing turquoise jewelry while standing in soup lines.” Prine saw a tomorrow in which we’d have wonderful things, but we’d all be begging for food. I think the jewelry reference meant we’d look fabulous (Facelift? Boob job?) while waiting for our soup.
Prine has not only won a Grammy since, he’s proven to be a bit prescient. Right now, as a new census study confirms that Americans are the fattest people on earth, children starve in other parts of the world. And hunger is still a problem in America. In fact, much in the new century suggests that progress must always wear an asterisk like those sports statistics involving drugs.
Where was the GPS and all of our other wonderful gadgets when James Kim and his family were stranded in the Oregon wilderness? Far from advising that you never leave home without nine devices strapped on, I’m noting that in a time when spy cameras in space can determine which enemy soldiers are chewing gum it’s still possible for a family to get lost in Oregon with tragic results.
We can create hot meals with microwave ovens in mere seconds, much like the Jetsons did on their cartoon show. But we’re having problems washing the feces off of our vegetables when they’re pulled from the ground. Speaking of water, we tend to invest more energy in protecting our retirement funds than we do ensuring that there will be clean water to drink when those golden years arrive. From the back seat of the family van, children can watch videos of cartoon rabbits and turtles romping in a forest that has not been affected by the global warming occurring right outside the window.
While there will always be a litany of things that were wrong in the past and are still wrong now in the “future,” the contradictions of our modern time are becoming more fantastic. YouTube allows the almost instantaneous global presentation of… what, exactly? An insecure egomaniac melting down in a comedy club. Pop stars sans underpants. Much of the rest of it has about the same impact as your dad’s old Super 8 vacation movies, but without anybody from your family waving to the camera.
In a recent film, a young art student disses another’s artwork by proclaiming it “so September 10th.” That’s a small fold in time compared to what we’re experiencing in other parts of the world, where beheadings seem to make things “so 11th century”… or earlier. We certainly can’t brag about progress if we’re discussing the overall amount of violence on the planet. In fact, there may be new benchmarks for genocide and death delivered as “liberation.”
But what about Marty’s friend Dr. Brown helping me with my own time bend, which is that I vigorously hammer away at the keypad of my modern computer believing that opinion pieces influence reader thinking at least as much as they did when newspaper circulation peaked back in 1984. Hmm, 1984. I remember a guy who wrote a novel about 1984 while he was located in 1948. I wonder what he’d make of that video of the cat flushing the toilet on YouTube…?