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Science fiction literacy and idiocy

I’ve to come the realization lately that I can’t understand old science fiction novels. It’s not like I’m reading foreign translations, but for all the sense they’re making to my brain, they might as well be.

I grew up on classic science fiction, as my father read piles of the stuff in college, and saved all of his books in an old cardboard box…which I subsequently raided as a kid. Those were my escapes back then, as I didn’t have many friends nor was I allowed to have any video games and such. Anyway, I read through the pantheon of the greats: Poul Anderson, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle…that list could go on and on all day. You get the idea.

Once in a while, I’ll nab a classic slab of literary scifi that I missed from the library. I’m not going to name specific titles; I already feel like enough of a moron without you people snickering at me for not understanding 200-page novels written in the 1960s. The point is that I’ll read some of this stuff, and I’ll feel completely lost. They’re not poorly written by any stretch; in fact, many authors’ command of literary devices is astonishing, resulting in rich worldbuilding and characterization.

Which, sadly, is apparently too much for my brain to handle. I don’t get it; I didn’t have a problem in the past. The only explanation I can think of is that maybe it’s because a lot of modern science fiction that I enjoy is written more like a dramatic television show or big-budget action movie. (Given how idiotic most blockbusters are nowadays, I’m probably not helping my case.)

Or, maybe I’m just growing dumber with age. (Don’t you dare patronize me.) All of the junk I’ve crammed into my mind over the years is probably overflowing, anyway, and stuff’s bound to slough off. I wish I could ditch the bad stuff rather than things I enjoy or other useful skills, though.

iPod, you can’t

Recently, it came to pass that the Apple iPod classic is gone. I’ve got one of those 160GB beasts, and the device is invaluable to me. I can load most of my music library on to it, and it’s a godsend at the gym, when I go for walks, on long car trips…all sorts of things.

But now, the only options left for buying a new iPod is the “older” iPod Touch, which tops out at only 64GB and runs $300. This is yet another way Apple is slowly pushing me out of their ecosystem; granted, iPod sales have been dropping, and Apple’s true aim is to consolidate everything into their insanely profitable iPhone line.

This makes sense to an extent, as most people just stream music or listen to bits of it on their phones. However, dedicated music fans and other audiophiles are a significant minority who require a lot more storage space. It’s also very important to note that iPhones are very expensive, don’t have anywhere near the storage capacity of a larger iPod, and are of course are locked to pricey cellphone service contracts. (If you buy the phone without a contract, it’s even more expensive.)

If worse came to worst, I’d hate to have to replace my iPod with a different brand of player; there’s not much out there, and I’ve been unable to find any that sync correctly with iTunes. Rebuilding my entire music library into another desktop player would be a colossal pain in the ass, as I have a ridiculous amount of playlists.

The good news is that the iPod community seems rather dedicated and vibrant, and there seem to be many options for repairs and replacement parts. I’m hoping I can hold out as long as possible, at least until a solid successor comes along. Expensive smartphones with limited memory and terrible streaming audio? No thanks. I’m not paying exorbitant data fees, and I’m sure as hell not renting my music.

I can’t eat anything

It’s getting really goddamned annoying that just about every foodstuff is “bad for you” in some way, shape, or form. I’m not even talking about overeating; I’m well aware of the fine concept of “everything in moderation.” But it seems that every other day, something else gets tacked on to the list of things I need to avoid. Excess sugar, fat, salt…fine. But it doesn’t stop there.

Lately, it’s artificial sweeteners. This is irritating because it results in a no-win scenario, and I ain’t Captain Kirk. Artificial sweeteners should be avoided, fine…but you’re supposed to avoid real sugar, too. So what the fuck option do you have left?!

I know there’s plenty of shady stuff wrapped up in dietary fads and the like. Unfortunately, given my history of medical problems, most food and additive warnings make me nervous by default. Worse, I can’t do too much about them, because it’s impossible to avoid everything; I cut down when necessary, but that tends to leave most meals unfulfilling. Food is one of the few things in life I can always enjoy, and our culture is fucking it up.

Nostalgia sucks

Far too often, something (like a photo) will trigger a college memory which will then in turn almost invariably make me feel like shit, even if the memory was a positive one. (It’s being reminded of the time period that’s bad; the memory itself hasn’t necessarily gone sour, though that’s been known to happen.) When it comes to the ol’ college days, my artistic failings both during and immediately following my higher education along with my countless social blunders and other errors have retroactively destroyed the entire experience for me. I know I screwed up and can never fix it. Thus, I often regret going to college in the first place.

The more I think about it, the more depressed I get. So the easy solution is to not think about it, right? Easier said than done. Unfortunately, being constantly reminded of this stuff is a side effect of the unavoidable 1990s nostalgia that is currently pervading the Internet. That era is a big part of retro pop culture right now even beyond the confines of the Internet, and since that era also happens to be when I attended college…there’s no escape!

For example, one of the biggest contributors to this problem is music. As you know, music is a huge part of my life, especially metal. I listen to other stuff beyond that genre, too, and expanded my musical horizons in college as I met students from all walks of life. Of course, even if I didn’t actively listen to other folks’ music choices, radios and such were always playing in the dorms and across campus. One way or another, I heard everything. That means that nowadays, I’ll hear some ’90s pop or alternative rock song (which are slowly starting to edge into “classic rock” territory due to their age…ugh!), and it’ll send me into a funk.

With some of these songs, I did enjoy them at that point in time, and obviously I have a lot of metal albums I love from that era. I’m not going to just throw those out, but often when I listen to them, they make me feel depressed due to memories while simultaneously enjoying the music. Being pulled in two opposite directions like that is very unpleasant. There have been times where I’ve ignored favorite albums for years because of this. Though more often, I practically punish myself by forcing myself to listen to them, as I shouldn’t let bad memories ruin things I once enjoyed. Plus, I figure if my brain is constantly yelling “YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT” at me, then I can least try to Shōryūken it with an “ENJOY IT MOTHERFUCKER”.

Making matters worse is that this “musical depression” has begun bleeding backwards and forwards in time; that is, into both my high school years as well as that strange period immediately following my college graduation. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. High school is something I don’t miss, as it was a sucky time for me (and most folks, to be honest; it’s part of life). Yet I’ve always been able to enjoy my music from that time without any problems. Why is it creeping into depression territory now? Hopefully this is just a brief, passing issue.

As for the early 2000s stuff, I guess I can ascribe that to the fact that I’m just getting old. Trust me, I’m very aware of my own mortality, as it haunts me on a constant basis. Or perhaps because the early 2000s was still somewhat connected to college — my graduation was only a few years past at most during that time — and thus all of its associated regrets. Now that I think about it, the signs were already there back then. After I graduated, I’d visit a few friends who were still on campus the following semester…and they acted a bit strangely around me, as if I no longer “belonged.” I guess that was true in some sense, but it’s not like graduation was some sort of black mark. Perhaps this was more of a big red flag regarding my crappy attitude and behavior, and as usual, I was too stupid to see it at the time.

But I digress.

Beyond music, other aspects of ’90s retro pop culture, like films, video games, and even some televion shows can trigger sadness, all for the same reasons listed above. Before you interject, yes, I’ve entertained the possibility that I’m just subconsciously missing the college experience, often referred to as “the best years of your life.” (Which sounds shitty, if you think about it; who wants to peak that early?) Perhaps unbeknownst to my conscious self, I must feel depressed because I can’t go back to when the sky was the limit, I was truly driven to succeed, I enjoyed creating artwork, I had a future to build, and so on. Even if that is the case…time travel doesn’t exist, so I need to suck it up and find another way to fix my brain.

I really hate this. Fortunately, this is why I write, to find some semblance of release for these feelings of despair. (Sure beats drinking.) They’re fucking annoying, and I want them to stop. I guess I’ll just have to suffer through it for another few years…until the inevitable 2000s nostalgia hits.

Does this even happen to anyone else?

Ruining your childhood

As time rolls on, I’ve been hearing more and more people loudly complaining — with ever-increasing amounts of vitriol — that the various reboots, sequels, and other updated takes on beloved movies, television shows, comics, and other media of yore are somehow “ruining your childhood.” (Or, for the truly angsty, the more offensive “raping your childhood.”)

I used to understand this behavior, as I was certainly guilty of it myself. The biggest offender, and the genesis of the modern usage of the term, was the Star Wars prequels. I don’t think a new movie had ever been that hyped…and then we got The Phantom Menace. Foolishly thinking the next films couldn’t possibly be that bad, we got two more prequels that, yes, were that bad. Sure, there were some cool bits in there, but overall, the movies were awful.

I freely admit that the sucky prequels “ruined” Star Wars for me for years. I couldn’t even watch the classic trilogy anymore, as it only reminded me of how Darth Vader was really a whiny brat. But after a while…I got over it. I can easily enjoy the original films now and just forget that the prequels ever happened. Darth Vader and the Empire are badass and timeless, and Jedi are a rare, respected and effective breed. Same deal with modern Green Lantern comics. Geoff Johns’ massive retconning of the series wasn’t very good, and it led me to stop reading the books for years. Then I got back into it, and I later got rid of all of the “Johnsverse” stuff except for a few things here and there. I’m not going to read his works again, because I just don’t care. All of the stuff before it that I enjoy? I can read those old Green Lantern comics again and enjoy them just as much. For all intents and purposes, the pre-2004 era never left.

Which brings me to the real point: the new Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies and such can’t “ruin your childhood,” because from a logical standpoint, they didn’t exist during your childhood…and that era is untouchable. I understand that the new crap will automatically link itself to your old memories, but it’s possible to eventually just move on and laugh if off. So what if the new stories suck? Just ignore ‘em, and focus on the aspects of the franchise that you do like. It’s a bummer that you won’t get any more stories in the “universe” that you prefer, but nothing can take the old ones away from you. If the old stuff still holds up to repeated viewings or readings, then just keep enjoying it. I know I will.