Monday, August 11, 2008

The Moving Finger

In the local galaxy, time's arrow seems to go one way. Or as Omar Khayyam has it:

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it ..."

The big events -- landing on the moon, wars, tsunamis, those generate much news and many reflective observations -- everybody notices those. But sometimes, it's the small things that pull you up short with a "Huh!" shake of the head.

Three of those little ones that stick in my mind:

Years ago, on the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson was interviewing the actor Jack Klugman. The subject turned to working out, and Klugman allowed, as I recall it, that he had gone back to the gym after a long lay-off. But things had changed -- there were guys in the dressing room, he said, with a scornful tone in his voice, guys with tattoos using hair dryers!

The audience laughed at such a silly idea. Those were the days when only sailors, bikers, or Yakuza had tattoos, and the notion that a tough guy like that would use a hair dryer? Downright laughable.

These days, depending on which study you like, close to one person in five has at least one tattoo, all ages, and one in three under the age of thirty does. Doctors, lawyers, fourteen-year-old girls have tattoos, and hair dryers are in every bathroom and gym in the land.

Fast forward a couple years: My family and I are on a road trip, outside San Francisco heading for Sacramento on I-80, somewhere around Vacaville. An outlaw biker in his colors blows past on his customized hog, raked, risers, chrome, and painted Tweety Bird yellow.

A bit later, we stop for gasoline -- back in the days when it was maybe a buck a gallon, and there is the biker, and he is using a cell phone! This was when the things were rare, and the sight of a biker with one was hard to wrap my mind around. A biker. On a cell phone. Amazing.

Now, six-year-olds carry them to school in their backpacks and text each other in class.

Couple years back, there was a TV commercial, dunno recall what it was for, but the set-up included a line like this: "And he is the kind of guy who checks his email on Sunday!" With the notion being: Can you even imagine somebody wound that tight?

This is not your father's civilization. Things have changed, and they are continuing to do so so fast that the cutting edge is way beyond anybody who is likely to be reading this. Fasten your seat belts ...

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