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Are The Best of Times Behind Us?

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Are the Best of Times Behind Us
Last month I attended a soiree for the launch of a luxury magazine. A print publication.
Can you recall when you last went to such an event? Decades likely. (If you’re a millennial chances are you hardly ever turn a page. As in paper. Textural, touchy-feely, the scent of crisp.)
The mid-afternoon affair got us out of the house, into fancy threads, and straight to the spread of posh nosh.
Hob-nobbed with society’s tea ladies, and sent off with a tactile door gift.
Makes me shudder to think if it’d been a digital thingy via Zoom…gadzooks, there’d be no customised macarons, no rubbing elbows with the elite dresser-uppers, and, horrors, no exclusive door gift!
When you breast the tape at silver streak stage, you are quite forgiven for insisting that your past years were the best of times.
Our grandparents had the big novelty of radio. Our parents, the luxury of television (radio with pictures). In the time of lockdown me and my mobile phone and the Internet managed to network and Netflix.
They are the best of times, the worst of times.
A simplistic example.
I have been asked to talk about the 1970s, some film company is working a documentary on Singapore’s pop scene.
Here’s the thing. I used to be interviewed over an omakase in a Japanese joint of my choosing. Oh drats, what do I wear, my obi is at the dhobi….
Today they want to talk with me over Zoom.
There goes the free meal. But cool I get to keep on my pyjamas; well I’ll throw an overshirt on top.
You can’t win. So, just celebrate any small victory.
Do you miss pumping a fountain pen with ink, then gliding or scratching it across a pristine sheet of ivory paper?
Finally licking the back of a stamp to send off your snail mail?
Well, in actual fact, I do, but all around are instant people who know only to snap, WhatsApp me, can you WhatsApp me.
Distance no longer exists, thnx 2 watsap, and it appears correct spelling too has gone dinosaur.
Babyboomers are the best beneficiaries of the march of times. They have lived through the stone tablet (as in The Flintstones yabbadabbadoo) to the e-tablet. And they are now consuming tablets.
How lucky can you get?
To have first heard The Beach Boys on radio, seen them live at The Indoor Stadium here, and when waves of nostalgia overcome, find them on YouTube.
While I mourn the death of serendipity, the joy of discovery by accident, stroke of luck — damn you Google!— it is absurd to nix and fault search machines and AI.
How else to have every mother’s son a freakin’ expert on every movie ever made, every song ever composed, every sourdough loaf ever baked.
Besides, what do you do with the rest of your now available time, now that ChatGPT has done most of your work in record time?
Take up a hobby, do volunteer work, at long last read all the books you bought on Amazon and inadvertently caused bookshops to fold the world over?
On the one hand your day has never been fuller.
A Zoom meet, an online shopping delivery, catch-up episodes of The Diplomat, a Zoom exercise, The Coronation Concert, a recipe you saw on YouTube, 182 WhatsApp messages to trawl and 365 photos to delete from your phone.
A walk in the park. That’s what you need. Literally. After all the in-house activity of eating delivered food, solo line dancing through Zoom, speaking with friends and family abroad on video calls.
I for one believe YouTube to be the best of social media platforms for sharing global online videos. For the most pleb of reasons. Rediscovering old music and songs and movies and television. (Yes, yes, you can also easily access Bertrand Russell if you’re thus inclined.)
If I do have one gripe about the times we live in, it is in the movies. IT (Internet Technology) has put the kibosh on many a film’s plotline.
It has basically taken something Hitchcockian out of our lives, our imagination.
The old James Bond bests Jason Bourne. Because Bourne can be tracked by his phone, his computer, his watch, where once upon last time his wits put him two steps ahead of the enemy.
I think I’ll settle in with Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps on YouTube after my zoom-ba day.

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