5 Things We Need to Stop Feeling Nostalgic For
People love to mourn the passing of trivial things that, deep down, everyone knows nobody really cares about. Take Hostess, for example. That company just went under like three days ago, and already people are eulogizing the Twinkie as if they actually continued to eat them once the very earliest stages of childhood passed. And besides, it's not like some company won't just buy Hostess and keep poisoning schoolkids themselves.
But any excuse to act as if they've lost something dear is a good one for the public at large. So now Ho Hos and Ding Dongs are a thing that we all have to pretend we miss for the next few days.
Here are a few more things we've been pretending we miss for a lot longer than that ...
Mom and Pop Stores
Any (well-deserved) discussion about the evils of big box department stores like Walmart will inevitably veer off into a soliloquy about the good old days when tiny mom and pop stores ruled the consumer landscape. Before all of the union busting and forced overtime and other famous atrocities came to light, the biggest complaint about the big chain stores was that they put the little guy out of business. How is a small operation supposed to compete when the competition can afford to sell bucket-sized versions of the same items you sell one at a time for the exact same price?
What They Aren't Thinking About
You know, mom and pop stores are still a thing. Even if a lot of them have gone under over the years, you can still find them. Provided you live in a city with a decent-sized population, you don't have to buy your albums at Best Buy. You can seek out your local independent record store and make the exact same purchase. So let me ask you this ... how often do you do it?
For everyone's constant bitching about how the Walmarts of the world destroyed small businesses, you sure as hell don't see a lot of that outrage translating into patronage of the smaller shops and stores that are still trying to stay afloat in the face of the Big Blue Machine. If you did, things like Record Store Day wouldn't be necessary.
Reminder: Steve Jobs did not invent the music industry.
What's that, you ask? It's a day when major and independent record labels alike put out releases by big name artists that are only available that day and only at participating independent record stores. It's intended to compel consumers to ignore the allure of $8.99 CDs at the large retail chains, even if for just one day.
And that's the thing -- it usually is just one day. Needless to say, most of the clientele at this yearly effort to help keep a CD section in the head shops of America consists of enterprising eBay sellers hoping to turn a quick profit.
The Foo Fighters doing a bunch of cover songs can be yours for just $229.99!
But why does this day even exist? Aren't music fans the ones who automatically rally around the little guy and fight against corporate power? Why do people need to be reminded to visit independent record stores each year like some kind of dementia-addled relative?
Simple: Because mom and pop stores just aren't that convenient. With very few exceptions, the selection is dick and the service becomes nonexistent as soon as two or more customers arrive to monopolize the sole cashier's attention, leaving you plenty of time to write your 1,500-word Yelp review about "how charming and retro this place is" while silently cursing yourself for being too much of a working-class hero to take a bus to Target like a normal person.
And it's just a sad fact of business that smaller stores can't afford to sell you things at the same low prices the larger stores can. Especially in an economy like this, you shouldn't feel bad about making your purchasing decisions based on what makes the most sense for you financially. The smaller stores are going to lose that battle every time.
I'm not saying that big chain stores are objectively superior to smaller stores or that the mom and pops are at fault for not being able to provide the same amenities that a plush, luxurious Walmart can, but I am definitely saying that if you're going to bitch about the big guys putting small businesses under, you should at least make it a point to support the ones that haven't been taken down yet. If you don't, you really don't have anything to complain about.
Violence in the NFL
Watch an NFL game in the company of a large group of people and you could probably set your watch by the regular intervals at which someone is going to complain about how they long for the days when "the refs just let 'em play out there." Translation: "Rules be damned, if Ray Lewis wants to stab an opposing quarterback on the field, he should be allowed to do so. It's a game for men, after all. And defense wins championships!"
What They Aren't Thinking About
Here's the thing. Defense does indeed win championships, but offense sells tickets. Offense makes the fronts of Wheaties boxes. Offense gets shoe contracts. Offense is able to do all of that because it's fun to watch. A New England Patriots game is a whole lot less interesting if Tom Brady isn't under center. I mean, you do actually want to watch football, correct? You want to have the option to do that in your life? I ask because, without the Peyton Mannings of the world, the NFL probably wouldn't exist, so that career-ending knee injury you've been praying for (because that's how God and sports work) probably isn't the best thing. And besides, if you think allowing more violence is going to make the game more interesting, I'd like to remind you that we tried that, and it was a failure of spectacular proportions.
That cocky grin lasted about three weeks.
In 2001, Vince McMahon had the bright idea to launch the XFL, a bastard version of the NFL that added the gimmicks and unmitigated violence of professional wrestling to the usual mix of play-action passes and halfback dives and such. It was like regular football, but ... manlier. Unfortunately, it was also painfully boring to watch.
How could this be? For one thing, they allowed what's called bump and run coverage. That means a defensive back can hit a wide receiver any time at all before the quarterback releases the ball. And that, in turn, means the chances of anyone catching a pass are slim to none. Without a passing game, offense slows to a screeching halt. When that happens, which it totally did with the XFL, you're basically watching soccer. And as we all know, America collectively sighed and said "Man, fuck soccer" like a hundred years ago. We don't like it when the players are running around in spikes with exposed thighs, so we certainly aren't buying into it when everyone is padded to the hilt.
Cry all you want about the NFL protecting quarterbacks and receivers, but it's never going to change, because the end result is a Super Bowl that ends with a score of 6-3, and nobody wants that shit.
The Days Before People Sent Text Messages
People love to reminisce about the days when folks talked in person or, at the very least, over the telephone instead of sending all of these obnoxious text messages. Everyone knows that one guy (always a guy, never a girl) who just flat-out refuses to send or reply to text messages. If you want to tell him you're on your way, you're going to have to make a phone call to do it. Even if this guy knows you're coming and to tell him is a mere formality, you must do it through the majesty of voice, he'll have it no other way.
What They Aren't Thinking About
You know what? Fuck that guy. Whether he realizes it or not, he's actively conspiring to make all of our lives a little bit more difficult. This is the technology equivalent of the old woman at the grocery store who steadfastly refuses to give up her decaying checkbook in favor of a newfangled debit card. And it's time for it to stop.
Above: A man wishing he was a real drug dealer.
I understand not wanting to carry on an entire conversation via text message. We can't hammer out our feelings 160 characters at a time. Some things require actual human contact. But asking me to pick up ice on the way to your party is not one of those things. These exchanges of mundane information and requests are in no way enhanced by me fumbling around to hit the green button fast enough to hear your sweet voice.
And besides, how fucking lonely are you that you miss the days when your dipshit cousin had to ask you if you know where to find weed in person? How deprived of human interaction have you become that exchanges like this now hold some kind of sentimental value for you?
Rest assured, if any of this applies to you, your problem isn't technology, it's depression. Buy a cat and start sending text messages like a normal person before everyone stops communicating with you altogether.
With the massive shift toward digital music files over the past decade or so, little niche movements have been popping up that embrace the superior sound quality of your parents' analog recordings. Translation: Sales of vinyl LPs have been steadily increasing, including 14 percent growth in 2010. It seems counterintuitive, but that growth can be attributed to the fact that music just sounds better on vinyl than it does in a digital file. There are a lot of reasons for that, and all of them are verifiable science-type things that I totally encourage you to look up, because I definitely am not going to do it. I'm trying to work here.
But now, another seemingly obsolete medium is trying to make a comeback, and for the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would ever let it happen. For some reason, people are trying to bring back the cassette.
What They Aren't Thinking About
Sure, from a portability standpoint, the cassette was great. And I have no doubts that for the artist, producing a batch of cassettes is a lot cheaper than manufacturing the same number of vinyl LPs or CDs. But that is absolutely where the benefits of the cassette end.
If you were lucky enough to not grow up during the heyday of the cassette and are perhaps considering buying yourself a pair of lensless Buddy Holly glasses and joining up with your local Silverlake-based cassette tape cooperative, let me give you a brief rundown of the magic that cassettes had to offer.
For one thing, you never knew when listening to your favorite album was going to turn into a "this message will self-destruct" type of event. That's because, seemingly with no rhyme or reason, cassette tapes and decks would just fail, and that failure wasn't minor.
You see that shit? It happened a lot with cassettes. You have to use a pen to fix it. A pen and Scotch tape if there's a break. And even then, the audio is going to sound wobbly and stupid once you've "fixed" the issue. Like you're listening to Prince underwater.
Also, here's a question: Do people still even use the phrase "fast forward" anymore as it relates to listening to music? When was the last time you had to do that? No, we skip songs. People did that with cassettes, too, the only difference was you just had to push the fast forward button and hope you stopped it at the precise moment where one song fades into the next. You never did. Ever.
And don't even get me started on how difficult cassettes were to steal compared to MP3s. It's not even a contest.
You normally hear this in relation to places like the Loop in Chicago or Times Square in New York. "Back when the city was the city" is one popular way to put it. Basically, it's a yearning for the days when the city was real. When things were "gritty" and "raw" and not so sanitary. It was dangerous. These were the days before Mayor Giuliani/Bloomberg/Daley came in and cleaned the area up and turned it into some sort of Disney World tourist trap. Before that, the area had personality, they say. It was a real place with real people. It was life, man.
Eventually, the hookers and drug dealers and strong armed robbery-ers are forced to flee the area. The streets are cleaned up and made safe for visiting tourists. For some reason, the locals take great offense to this.
What They Aren't Thinking About
Think about what these people are saying. Basically, they're waxing nostalgic for the days when walking alone after dark was an invitation to be knifed in the liver and relieved of your wallet. Who in the holy fuck misses that? I get that nothing says "my town has culture" like having 15 strip clubs in a two-city-block radius all staffed with people who want to hurt you standing out front, but doesn't putting a library or museum in that spot do the same thing? Maybe a coffee shop with a selection of blends from around the world? Is there a particular reason that your city's personality needs to come from a schizophrenic homeless person waving a broken beer bottle in the air? I guess I would argue that there is not.
But I think I'm in the minority there. If you need proof, check the TripAdvisor review of Times Square posted by this crotchety old goat:
Notice how he points out the word "safe" as if a dearth of people willing to rob you on a subway platform is one of the current problems plaguing New York City? That's not a unique thing. In pretty much any city that features an area of town that a crackdown on crime has rendered infinitely less terrifying, you'll find a pocket of the population that actually views this change as a bad thing.
If you ever encounter one of these people, hold a knife to his throat and request his wallet to make him feel at home. Apparently he'll appreciate it.