Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 Waylon Jennings “Good Ol’ Boy”
 Heart “Crazy On You”
 Adamski “I Love Teknology”
 Timbuk 3 “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”
 Blondie “Call Me”
 T-Rex “20th Century Boy”
 Pet Shop Boys “Shopping”
 Shannon “Let The Music Play”
 LCD Soundsystem “All My Friends”
 Hazel O’Connor “Decadent Days”
Things were so much different in the good old days. Just saying the words makes me feel like I’ve committed treason. You see, one of the things we say as children, when having this little nugget of sour-grapes wisdom imparted on us by our elders while their finger wags, is that we will never end up the same way. Yet it seems inevitable that time will eventually take its toll as we struggle in vain to keep up with just how much the world we live in has transmogrified since childhood. Change is generally regarded as a positive thing as technology continues to open new doors and simplify our everyday lives. However, it isn’t always beneficial and that’s the precise reason why retro is so appealing. Take vinyl for example. When it was announced that 33s and 45s were to become defunct and compact discs were to take their place, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in my disenchantment. Granted, this new format was more durable and had the capacity to hold far more data, but what of the glorious crackle that resulted from our styluses touching down for the first time? It’s ironic that vinyl is now making something of a comeback as twenty years back it was seen as undesirable and now it is edgy and cool once more.
Time for some facts and figures that may well raise a smile or two. Back in the sixties, space exploration was all the rage and regarded as one giant leap for mankind. Funny then that the Apollo Space Modules had 4KB of memory in their guidance computers which is less now than the size of a photo of a rocket ship. That’s nothing, a 256GB thumb drive possesses the same capacity as over 200,000 floppy disks which, placed side-by-side, would stretch for over seventeen miles. Then we have the most bog standard kindle on the market which holds around 1400 books. That’s over a ton of literature right there. One more for you, back in 1946, we were introduced to ENIAC, one of the first ever computers. It was 30-tonnes in weight, made up of over 17,000 vacuum tubes, 70,000 resistors, and 10,000 capacitors. Sounds like a fairly complex piece of kit right? Not as much as you would think. Nowadays it is better known as a pocket calculator. You getting my drift?
I reiterate, things were so so much different in the good old days. However, I have no intention of sitting here spouting masses of bitter old man drivel as I type this up on my Intel Pentium Laptop. Crusading against technology doesn’t interest me greatly as I’m all for progression and would be a hypocrite to bite the hand that feeds me. Instead, I plan to make a few harmless comparisons and see where that leads us. That means administering credit where due and not denouncing things that I openly subscribe just to suck retro’s pixellated dick for the sake of it. I’m little more than a casual bystander, the wide-eyed whippersnapper in knee-length shorts gazing up in awe as though I’ve just snuck into a XXX peep show for the first time. Whether that mean flying the flag for all things retro or embracing the future for all it’s worth will be anything but pre-determined. So I guess the best thing to do would be to take us all back to my humble beginnings and take it from there right?
While my short-term memory is borderline appalling, I recall my childhood with great clarity. This includes my very first optical seduction and, while it may appear I’m about to lower the tone in the customary fashion, there’s actually nothing untoward about this particular defloration. You see, while most kids my age received their shits and grins through amassing huge piles of trading cards and choking on the rancid chewing gum that accompanied them, I soon grew tired of waiting patiently for the one card that manufacturers only printed a bare minimum of in order to rinse their target audience for every last cent. Thus, my desire was of a different nature entirely and far less soul-destroying I might add. Every day after last bell chimed, I would shuffle off like clockwork to a place that closely resembled nirvana. There I was greeted with a warm smile and the comforting aroma of hand-rolled cigarettes and weathered oak. I’m talking, of course, about my local video rental store.
With my nostrils still flared, the next pleasure involved bulging peepers as I drank in the glorious vista before me. Wall to wall VHS cassettes were my prize and, while many considered Betamax to be the superior format, they had to be content with occupying the dark recesses as the end was already nigh by that point. Of course, being the sick puppy in training that I was, the Family section held no great allure to me and, instead, it was all about those forbidden delights tucked away like dirty little secrets at the ass end of the store. Once I reached the horror troves, voluntary arousal soon followed as I scanned my proximity for the most grotesque imagery I could lock into my crosshairs, each tantalizing my retinas in a manner that I had never before been familiar with.
Meanwhile, the crème de la crème shone like beacons of unholy light from amidst the optical banquet prepared seemingly in my honor. The Howling – with incisors and talons literally clawing their way out of the surrounding joinery. The Thing – with its teasing pictorial of a sorry subject in mid-transformation appearing to lengthen its case as though pulled taut on its perching place. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – presenting rows upon rows of metal teeth that flailed wildly in the hands of a hulking figure advancing menacingly towards me. All I could do was to stand motionless, gaze adoringly, and drool like a pig in a pie shop.
So what’s changed now? Well, gone are the days when you can marvel at these regimented cases with pieces of card poking from their sleeves denoting their availability. By the time the rental trade was on its last legs, entering such an establishment would entail being greeted with a blank stare, before scratching my head in bemusement as half the store consisted of video games and, the other half, popcorn. Talk about a soulless pursuit. Things have only gotten more disheartening since as nowadays it is all about streaming movies from the internet and, while this may be convenient, it’s also a far less personal pursuit. I miss the smell of unwashed armpits and slow decaying mahogany that a video rental store supplied. I’m not suggesting it is all bad as there is something to be said for having whatever movie your heart desires available at the touch of a button. But I do believe it is Retro 1 Hereafter 0.
As I was eager to point out at the offset, I choose my battles wisely. While it would be all too easy bashing future technology for all it’s worth, doing so would make me little more than a creeping Jesus as I just so happen to subscribe to it on a daily basis. Back when I was young, writing was very much a “for your eyes only” affair and there was no available channel to place my prose in the public domain. I scribbled my words into numerous jotter pads and that was where they remained. Should I spill my hot beverage, then all my hard work could be undone in a heartbeat, and there was no way to share my achievements. Thanks to scientific advancements, I now have a personal blog at my disposal and various social networks to exploit in the name of providing the necessary signposting. Moreover, Google has been my friend on occasions too numerous to mention and there are few questions it objects to being posed as I continue to learn on the go. Thesaurus is a glorious tool and has enabled me to broaden my vocabulary tenfold, while learning the precise meaning of words I was previously unfamiliar with.
This network is vital to pushing my art as far as I possibly can and a smorgasbord of audio and visual stimuli is accessible just by digging around some. How could I possibly come down hard on such an incalculable gift? No more do I have to deal with the repetitive strain injuries that result from putting pen to paper. Granted, the dreaded system crash is always a threat and there have been times when 3000 words have disappeared into the void, never to be seen again, due to forgetting to save my progress. My office is a tool shed and, needless to say, the bleak midwinter comes with its own set of perils. Thus I fight off Jack Frost by firing up a small fan heater and recently made the grave error of leaving a can of soda in its direct proximity. My punishment was an almighty explosion and, as 330 ml of carbonated citrus adhesive found a new home on my keyboard, it was straight back to the drawing board for me. Fizzy drinks may be refreshing but they have a tendency to wreak havoc with one’s qwerty. That said, the benefits far outweigh the negatives and I do believe that makes it Retro 1 Hereafter 1.
Next up is video games and, while my days as a hardcore gamer are now in my slipstream, I’m still not immune to their cybernetic charm. In their infancy, simplicity was the key and arcade marvels such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man involved little more than short-burst reflex tests. While their graphics may seem woefully primitive by modern standards, ignorance was bliss back then, and it all felt wonderfully fresh and exciting. In exchange for one silver coin, I was provided with up to three minutes of intense frustration as my joystick refused to play ball resulting in the all too familiar GAME OVER screen just as I was approaching my high score. Sure I may have felt a tad demoralized but that didn’t stop me putting my hand back in my pocket for another swift dose of moreish vexation. Videogames were the ultimate source of escapism and I remember reasoning that things would never get better than this. They did of course and to the power of 007 no less.
Home consoles arrived soon after and my time with Goldeneye on the N64 soon put being chased round mazes by persistent spooks firmly in the shade as I now had proximity mines at my disposal and up to three friends to obliterate in the name of bragging rights. Again, I considered this the very peak of videogame technology and, again, was woefully misguided in my estimations. Fast forward twenty years and we can now play alongside fellow rocket pilots from all corners of the globe. Moreover, intricate dialogue is delivered by bona fide celebrities, and visuals are fast approaching photo-realism as these virtual worlds become increasingly more rich and defined. It’s marvellous when you think about it, escapism has never been quite as all-encompassing as it is now. However, what about poor old Pac-Man? While Master Chief is saving the planet from the constant threat of alien invasion, this jaundiced sprite is rifling through dumpsters for discarded cherries and wondering where it all went wrong. Meanwhile, Frogger still hasn’t made it across the freeway. However, for as much as I sympathize with these hopeless has-beens, I’d rather be riddling extraterrestrials with armor-piercing shrapnel than having my ass repeatedly handed to me by passing traffic any day. Thus, it’s Retro 1 Hereafter 2.
Those smart phones are something else aren’t they? Back in the day, all we had was the trusty land line to communicate with and anticipating that call involved sitting patiently by our phones watching the clock with no opportunity to stretch our legs during the interim. That all changed when things went mobile and now we can travel the world (shamefully short battery life permitting) while awaiting any incoming transmissions. This one should be a no-brainer right? Actually no as I happen to have something of a bugbear for this particular invention. You see, I happen to be rather partial to escaping the white noise on occasion and, when my monthly contract expired two years ago, felt a massive weight lifted from my shoulders. The constant notifications soon wore thin and it seemed preposterous that all singing and dancing touch screen smart phones failed in one key area – that being obtaining any discernible signal whatsoever. Granted, there is a certain degree of short-lived shenanigans to be had pissing off those Angry Birds, but this is tempered by the fact that conversations comprise of constant interference and compromised connections.
Then we have text messaging and this is an aneurism just waiting to happen. We may think that we are making our point in a polite and jovial manner, but it is too easy for our words to be misconstrued and any irony overlooked entirely. Suddenly, text war beckons, friendships become irreversibly damaged, and we read too far into the fact that we only receive three parting kisses when we clearly donated four in our last communication. Have we stepped out of line? Perhaps that last message came across overly needy? And who the fuck invented LOL anyhoots? Does that actually translate to laughing out loud? Should I LMAO, then does that mean a trip to the emergency room is in order to fasten my buttocks back into place? Chances are, I won’t even have raised a smile. It all seems dreadfully dishonest to me and borderline lackadaisical to boot. I’m guessing you can see where this is headed but I ain’t even done yet. Not by a long chalk.
Making a purchase at our local grocery stores is all too often an exercise in absolute ignorance as a result of mobile technology. The entire transaction is made while engaging in frivolous small talk and often at the expense of even the vaguest eye contact. Worse still, clerks now give as good as they get and there is nothing more infuriating than waiting for some oblivious ignoramus to conclude their blathering so we can ask if they can break a twenty. Family meals are no longer sacred as adolescents seemingly cannot function without having their noses pressed against the screens of their smart phones. The art of conversation is dying and, in my mind, that makes the inventor of smart phones culpable of mass genocide. However, nothing is more befuddling to me than the app that allows you to pinpoint the coordinates of your chosen victim. Is it just me or is the word stalker applicable here? What could possibly possess a person to make their every last motion known and where does it end? Sooner or later, taking a dump will no longer be sacred as Google Earth will get in on the act and zoom in on our daily bowel movements. It’s insanity I tell you. Retro 2 Hereafter 2.
Are you familiar with the term “oldie but goodie”? Toys are the next topic up for discussion as you would expect much to have changed since I was a whippersnapper. I was more than satisfied with my pocketful of marbles and, though keeping a hula hoop above my hips was a fruitless endeavor, there were plenty of other playthings to marvel over. Stickle bricks and fuzzy felt provided endless hours of amusement, while scratch and sniff stickers simply never got old (for the month or so it took for them to get old). The Rubix Cube provided our grey matter with a rigorous workout, Speak & Spell was on hand to brush up on our dialogue, the 3D ViewMaster became our own static cinema, and Etch-a-Sketch encouraged us to let our artistic juices flow. Moreover, should we fuck up, then one twiddle of a knob and a blank canvas awaited. Genius! Don’t even get me started on finger monsters as they were ten digits of ghoulish glee and I’m astonished that toe monsters never took off.
Fast forward to present and, unless I’m mistaken, things haven’t moved on a great deal. The tactile treats of yesteryear seem to have been replaced by modern-day equivalents of the tactile treats from yesteryear. Where’s the progression? Technology has apparently come on great leaps and bounds since the eighties, but this doesn’t appear to extend to toys and I’m actually rather grateful for the lack of enterprise. My boy is six-years-old and, while his Etch-a-Sketch parades under a new guise, it still essentially revolves around twiddling a knob to clean the slate. The world may be changing around us but simple things will always entertain our simple minds and I take great comfort from that. Retro 3 Hereafter 2.
Meanwhile, making those purchases has altered considerably in recent times and my feelings here are decidedly mixed. Gone are the days of strolling into a second-hand store and perusing their wares for concealed treasures and, in its place, is internet shopping. Nowadays pretty much everything our hearts desire is available at the touch of a button and the words “add to basket” and “proceed to checkout” can acquire anything from our weekly groceries to elaborate household furnishings. This certainly has its benefits, particularly since next day delivery has become par for the course and I would be lying through my teeth if I suggested that I haven’t taken advantage on numerous occasions. However, I miss the feeling of gratification that comes from grasping a rare delight in my clammy hands, as the fun for me has always been in the chase. Thank the heavens then for bi-weekly boot sales and flea markets as they still supply such exclusive thrills to this very day. Had this not been the case then Retro would be about to notch another point but, love it or loathe it, internet shopping is a necessary evil and I’m not about to cut off my nose to spite my face and refuse to partake just to make a point. Retro 3 Hereafter 3.
Music may seem like it’s constantly evolving but, in truth, it’s merely travelling in circles. There is only so much reinvention to be had from ear candy and musicians invariably end up looking to the past for their inspiration. Granted, those Yamaha keyboards may appear a little long in the tooth by current standards, but John Carpenter still gives his a regular run-out. It’s all ultimately subjective as nostalgia plays an integral part in our musical preference as we relate each song to its corresponding memory. Eighties rappers were my audio pimps and I make no secret that the modern-day approximate leaves me cold. However, should I suffer from about of permanent insomnia and be left sporting the mind of a ten-year-old, then I’m assured that I’d dig it just fine. We’ve all listened to old-timers harp on about how Elvis Presley was a musical visionary the likes of whom will never be bettered and who are we to argue the toss as our vantage is bound to be different. Thirty years from now, the same will no doubt be said for Justin Bieber (perish the thought) and there ain’t a damn thing we can do about it.
That little phlegm tube aside, it would be short-sighted of me to suggest that music has taken a turn for the worse in recent times, although that doesn’t mean I’m about to condone what has happened to R&B since around the time that R-Kelly proposed he could fly. This presents something of a conundrum as it is hard to discount the Hereafter as worthless, regardless of my personal preference for Retro. That said, sitting on the fence is an open invitation for hemorrhoids, and there can be no denying the staying power of evocative chorus. The fact that Depeche Mode still sound fresh three decades on assists in me casting my deciding vote and, for the unforgivable crimes of modern R&B alone, there can therefore be only one victor in this particular phonic skirmish. Retro 4 Hereafter 3 and suck it Bieber, you stream of parasitic pelican piss.
I believe that one more round is in order just to afford Hereafter the chance to even the scores in the name of fair play and, having glanced across social networking at the offset, it feels most poetic to log in for the all-important crunch bout. This may appear a foregone conclusion as anyone who knows me will be aware of my grievances with this method of dissemination. Before Rivers of Grue came to fruition, I abhorred social media, and considered it pretty much inexcusable. Let’s begin with the negatives shall we? Friendships are compromised, truancy soundly rumbled, old childhood acquaintances afforded a spot on our friend lists even though they are just as hateful as they were back then, and engaging in a cup of tea and a biscuit somehow becomes an event worth sharing with the world. It’s beyond ludicrous when used in such context and fully deserving of the can of whoop I have prepared in its honor.
However, as the prostitute said to the premature ejaculator, “not so fast sonny boy”. While there can be no denying that this tool is wretched when activated without the necessary care and attention, used correctly there is much to be said in its favor. Facebook and Twitter are the prime candidates here as most of us subscribe to either one or both, regardless of whether or not we claim to do so reluctantly. Thanks to the latter, I can thank Kelli Maroney personally for providing me with my adolescent mental screen saver thanks to the short skirt she wore in Night of The Comet. Moreover, should I post a new article, then Twitter supplies me with an exclusive opportunity to allocate it to the worldwide web as opposed to a few select individuals. Granted, the blue bird has a tendency to defecate on me from a great height whenever it sees fit and the endless updates equate to constant migraine as the game is changed every time those wings flap. But I cannot bring myself to shoot it down in flames as I’d miss its friendly chirp in no time.
Meanwhile, Facebook is off the hook too as there are times when 140 characters just doesn’t suffice and it provides a more personal service. Some may say a touch too intimate and this can be true but ultimately it’s all about how we utilize it. There are times during the day when a cup of tea and biscuit is simply compulsory but that doesn’t mean I have to divulge every last detail. What it does do is allow a certain amount of freedom for expression and many of my favorite people knock about within its cosy confines. Say what you will about Facebook and suchlike databases but, when exploited to its strengths, there is much to be said for social networking. Besides, if you’re foolish enough to announce that you’re taking an impromptu day off from your mundane job when your boss is sitting in his office with a cup of tea and a biscuit checking his notifications, then you deserve every docked wage slip and disciplinary procedure coming to you. Retro 4 Hereafter 4.
Well who would’ve thought it? We have ourselves a stalemate. I have to admit, even I didn’t see that one coming as I’m all about those rose-tinted spectacles. However, time marches on relentless and technology waits for no man. On one hand, it seems tragic that the past is left behind and memories fade over time. That said, where would we be without a dash of science? Likely holed up in dingy caves, licking femurs, while wasting our time on finger flutings of shaggy bison. I guess what I’m driving at is that there is no reason that Retro and the Hereafter cannot co-exist peacefully enough. I’m not some backward hick, sniffing my fingertips each time I catch a fart on its exit. I’m a future sailor, on direct course towards scientific nirvana, and grateful for each bone tossed on my flight path. That said, I’d trade all the shiny chrome in the solar system, no matter how lustrous that may be, for just one more sniff of slow decaying mahogany.