As much as any medium can be swallowed up like analog TV, which entered the year on the verge of extinction, the whole idea of access to culture now depends on where you stand along the digital divide for this, the Great Recession of the 21st century.
Whatever you want to call it, a depression, a downturn, the fractures have called all concepts of modern lifestyle into question. Without a lot of expendable income around, the days of pleasantries come quite suddenly to close. Movies, DVDs, CDs, videos, downloads, even at micro-payments, forget going to concerts, all become guilty pleasures.
With low dough it’s simply difficult to make the show, more difficult, anyway, as we all adjust to new ports for entertainment media.
When you are faced with the choice of attending or, having enough to eat, there goes to the cable, so to speak. For millions now, it’s among the first of several obvious choices. Right up there with putting the old white Ford Bronco (or any SUV) up for sale and discontinuing swimming pool service.
In a world where new DVDs can be rented for a dollar a day from a dispenser in front of the all-day, all-night drug store, where there’s more free music and video content available online now than humanity can conceivably absorb, some of our best ideas now stream in now about how, exactly, we adjust and cope and remain entertained …
In a world where you finally realize, at 3 a.m. in the morning, and you forgot to turn that DVD in back to your friendly neighborhood vending machine, and right now the little sucker is still out there, in the dark, clicking off fees on your credit card …
In that world, once again, where you stand on the digital divide is everything..
When such fancies and conceits as concert and movie tickets, ball games, that kind of thing … become a distant dream.
Unless, of course, you are prepared to enter a kind of time machine of old tech. Yes, when it’s time to make damage assessments in just such a disaster, the depths into old media that you find yourself diving into may be a key indicator of how much financial trouble you are really in.
If you are simply hoping you will have any regular television next month, once the grand digital television conversion is complete, that’s one sign right there.
But, fortunately, you still have the ability to buy old VHS tapes at the pawn shop for 50 cents a piece, and 40 years of old cassettes from the ‘70s, ‘80s and 1990s that you have been ignoring, but stubbornly storing, for decades.
All of these things, pulled out of the garages, are being dusted off now. They are the new nuggets of free media. Once thought to be items for the dustbin of history, our throwback into our old album collections casts us further into a 1930s style of nostalgia. But as pastimes, after 40 years, I still can’t find anything better to listen than late 60s Three Dog Night, late-70s Pink Floyd, late 1980s Talking Heads, or a Stone Roses tape that makes the case that they were always far, far better than Oasis would eventually become … still found oh so beautiful, as you wait for your next boss to call, or try to ward away the Great Depression, too, blues.
~ Douglas McDaniel, publisher/editor of American Mythviille Literary Review and author of “Forty Days of Fire, Forty Days of Rain.”