Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Engage!

To help our freezing joints over the weekend, we sat on our comfy sofa on Friday night, ignited the heating, and watched the very last episode of Star Trek the Next Generation on laserdisc.
Laserdisc watching is a rarity these days; we probably do it less than five times a year. I think the last time we watched a laser was the day before we bought the Canyonero, when we watched Schindler's List (I remember that mostly because one of the car salespeople we met that next day told us his grandfather is a Schindler's List survivee; a typical sales people's reaction to hearing that I'm an Israeli).
This Friday night there was no particular reason for us watching Star Trek TNG other than the fact Jo was in sci-fi mood and we exhausted our sci-fi stocks (as in we watched it all relatively lately).
Anyway, it really got to us. We truly enjoyed the episode. We liked it so much that on the next day we watched another episode I have on laserdisc, the famous Borg one where Ryker separates the saucer and Picard becomes a Borg. We liked this one, too, and we are looking forward to watching more of them.
Thing is, I liked these episodes because they were good drama, but I like them even more because they remind me of a "lost" period. You see, I watched my TNG episodes between 1991 and 1994 on Sky 1, which at the time was available on cable in Israel. TNG was playing every night between 23:00 and midnight. I also did my military service between 1990 and 1993, which means that most of the episodes were watched when I got back home from my army base. I had lots of weekend TNG marathons during weekends, and watched many an episode late at night before waking up at 5:15am to catch the bus to the base again.
Most of the time I taped TNG. I had a program on the VCR that would tape every week night between 23:00 to 0:00, and I programmed the cable box to jump to Sky 1 every night at 23:00. Thing is, I had to be cunning there; I wasn't the only one interested in the cable box, so I had to program it to switch to Sky 1 at 23:55, 23:56, 23:57, 23:58 and 23:59 to counter selfish family members who intended on spoiling my TNG parties. I will never forget my sister's complaints about the "shit cable box" that "kept jumping between channels at night" and wouldn't allow her to watch whatever crap she wanted to watch. Ah, the power that comes from being able to program machinery! Feels almost like using the Force!
But it's not just that funny aspect I got to think of when we watched TNG again this weekend. It was more to do with how much I liked the program and how it was a part of me and my life at the time. And it's more to do with how that time was different to current times: yes, I was in the army, which was shitty, but I also had zero worries and no commitments; life just floated by carelessly, and my main worry was how quickly I could catch a ride to take me from my base to my parents' place. Today life is severely different and there's no one there to take care of me (other than Jo, who does a pretty good job at it); life 15 years ago seems like a foolish person's life, almost like the life of a cow that happily grazes grass - totally unfamiliar to the fact it is about to be butchered into a sausage.
These reflections made me think on how times have changed with regards to the way I consume my entertainment. Back in the early 90's, I didn't have much entertainment available; TNG was not something that I picked out of all that was available for me to enjoy, it was pretty much the only thing available that I could enjoy.
This craving for contents was the major reason for me getting into laserdiscs in the first place. Up until the late 90's most of my entertainment came from watching the same laserdiscs over and over again and again. It was actually even worse before that: as a kid, for example, I was so hungry for reading material that I read shit like the book the owner of Humus Picanti wrote as a revenge on the taxation officers that indicted him (if you don't know what Humus Picanti is, consider yourselves lucky). I read shit like Erich Von Denicken's Chariots of the Gods. I was hungry, and there wasn't much to pick from.
Today the scene is completely different. There is so much out there, so much contents to pick from, so much of it easily and cheaply available - off the air, off the internet, off the video store, off Amazon and Borders - and there's just not enough time for me to consume it.
The situation makes me ask myself: If TNG was to be broadcast today, as a new series, with Patrick Stewart et al, would I even notice it? Would I watch it? Would I care about it? It would just be another drop in the ocean; another thing I might watch once in a while or download for the sake of being able to download. It would not feel like it is a part of me.
And that, my friends, is what scares me so much. Today's world of consumerism has turned us into consuming addicts that just want to consume and consume to the point we don't notice and we don't appreciate what we consume. Because things are so easy to acquire, we don't give a shit about them and we dump them quickly to replace them with the next big thing.
Yet again I learn that the best things in life, the things you appreciate the most and that benefit you the most, are the things that are not easy to acquire.

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