Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Remembering Forgotten Things

In time, every technological progression is usually met with some sort of retro backlash. A techno-grouchy counterrevolution if you will. For those who drool over the prospect of 3-D TV (and the the migraines to go with it), there is a camp of people searching through junk shops looking for a still watchable VHS copy of Hondo and a pair of cardboard glasses with red and blue lenses. For someone who is stoked that they can get a phone to function like a computer, there is another who is ecstatic about the beige rotary phone now functioning as her land line (an equally antiquated concept).

One of these anachronistic enthusiasts would be Lesley Blume, author of Let's Bring Back. She's written an encyclopedia of once trendy, now tragic products and fashions. As the owner of 3 manual typewriters (pg. 228), daguerreotypes (pg. 55), numerous books with gilt-edging (pg. 97), a beard (pg. 20), and a fondness for napping (pg. 156), this makes me very giddy (sadly, giddiness is not listed). Technology has enough cheerleaders. It's nice to see someone celebrate the dusty old attic items and arcane standards of behavior.

However, somethings are perhaps better left to the past. Phone books for instance. I get at least three a year and use not a single one. With the advent of Google and the rise of unlisted numbers, they aren't all that helpful anymore. Plus, the amount of paper used to manufacture them is practically criminal. Her promotion of "glamorous" smoking accessories (cigarette cases and holders) and furry clothing is also something of a misstep. And I personally cannot abide organ grinders since I find monkeys acting like people highly disturbing.

Despite the heavy hand of kitsch in this book, there is an underlying sense of loss. Tellingly, Blume includes listings for such "outdated" things like attention spans, service (as in customer), fresh air, plans/punctuality, journalism, the nighttime (lost to light pollution), hobbies for children, and pacifism. I realize that all sounds like an older generation railing against the current, but by the look of the author photo in the back, Blume is not much over thirty. This isn't the writing of an old technophobic crank, but rather a modern person who thinks we may have chucked out some interesting (maybe even relevant) stuff in order to get where we are.

My personal favorite entry is for the concept of impracticality because "being practical about everything gets in the way of fun." Sometimes you just need to waste a little bit of time on something with no merit. Kind of like what you've just done. You're welcome.
posted by jw