remembering what life was like B.I. (before the internet)…

Although it may seem like ancient history now since it happened last month and we’re into the third week of 2018 (and Happy New Year, all!), but last month the FCC voted to roll back net neutrality protections despite very vocal public outcry. The fight is far from over though, so if you have been calling your representatives in Congress to voice your opposition to the FCC’s action, continue doing so; they are definitely feeling the heat. Just. Keep. Calling at 202-224-3121. #SaveNetNeutrality

Below are three articles that will provide some background about this issue and what to expect in the near future:

From the L.A. Times: http://beta.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-rosenworcel-fcc-net-neutrality-repeal-20171122-story.html

From Digital Music News: https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2017/12/19/comcast-cox-frontier-net-neutrality/

And the ACLU website: https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/internet-speech/trumps-fcc-nukes-network-neutrality-what-happens-now

My basic stance on this, on the price increases that are sure to follow in the months ahead is, “not one penny more to the ISPs”. We’ll get rid of cable first. But in the midst of all this, it got me thinking about a mythical time that once existed not too long ago… before there was an Internet. For you kiddos out there who’ve known the Internet for your entire lives, this may seem hard or even impossible to imagine, but really, it was only a short 25-26 years ago, the early 1990s… and yes, believe it or not, there really was life before the Internet.

So I wondered: what exactly did we do before we all connected to this web thing every day?

Specifically, what did I do on a typical morning before the Internet (B.I.)?

Well… that would have been coffee, breakfast at the house or out somewhere, on the way to work, and then go to work. There was no firing up the laptop first thing, no going out to Facebook, Twitter, no social media ’cause social media didn’t exist yet; no checking weather.com to see what the weather was going to be like that day. For that, you had to turn on the TV, if only briefly, and watch your local news for the weather. I know a lot of people would watch the mornings shows – The Today Show, et al. – but I never did, except for the local feed to check the weather or for snow closings. There was no checking of the e-mails.

If I went to a coffee shop back then, which I frequently did, I didn’t bring in a laptop to work on or surf the web. If I was writing there, it was either song lyrics, poetry, or a journal entry (I’ve been keeping a journal since 1986) and it was in a notebook, handwritten, not typed (thank you, Natalie Goldberg), and I wasn’t checking my cell phone for texts or later, looking at my smartphone every few minutes. There was this one place I used to go in Evergreen, CO – the River Sage restaurant on Bear Creek, and I’d get breakfast and after I had finished eating I’d sit over by the Franklin stove on cold mornings drinking a ton of coffee, writing away. Actually I miss those days.

Weekends were for getting out and about during the days, getting up to the high country and going hiking or skiing once I had moved to Colorado and I still do that now, so nothing much has changed there except now I have my wife Erin with me on those adventures which is a helluva lot better. A few other things…

Erin & me, first time out skiing in 2018 at A-Basin last week… We’re both wearing our Turtle Fur “brain shrouds” ’cause they’re the best inside the helmet…

When I was still back in Texas (and L.A. and Santa Fe) in the 1980s, usually I was working retail or bartending or some other service job on weekend days, sometimes nights; weekend nights, if I was in a band I was playing in a club somewhere and when we weren’t booked, I was going out to clubs listening to live music, checking out other bands, and certainly no one was recording a band’s performance with a smartphone to put a video with inferior sound quality up on YouTube – cell phones, smartphones, YouTube didn’t exist. I do not blame Chrissie Hynde and others one bit for not wanting concert-goers to record their live performances on video, in part because of the poor quality (usually) of these recordings… so respect the artist’s wishes! Always!

As an aside… Contrary to what you might think, you, as a ticket-holder, are not “entitled” to do that (e.g., think of those secret live “bootleg” recordings of concerts from the 1970s – essentially the same thing). Take pictures, sure, forego the video, but mostly just enjoy the show… like we did. Paradoxically, it will be more memorable and you’ll have a  much better time. Actually, everyone will.

In general, I know I went out a lot more back then and engaged with the actual, visceral (i.e. real, non-cyberspace) world a lot more than I do now, because… well, that’s all there was.

A lot of not going out as much now has to do in part with being older and remembering that “former” world (still real btw), but it also has to do with the way a lot of people are these days and just not wanting to be out in the “mass mind” (unconsciousness) very much.

For example… If my girlfriend and I went to a restaurant B.I., we just ate, we didn’t take pictures of our food when it arrived with a smartphone to put it online. I had a pretty decent Canon SLR camera in the late 80s/early 90s, during my grad school days; it was a film camera, it wasn’t digital. Could you imagine sitting in a restaurant and your meal arrives… and you whip out a camera like this and take a picture of… your food. People, rightfully, would’ve looked at you like you were nuts. Insane even. (Along those lines, Erin and I have a strict no food pic posts online – unless we happen to have our food stylist over for dinner that night).

Seriously, think about this. Why would anyone do this? Simply because it’s become popular nowadays?

And since I brought up dating… Well first of all, there was no online dating back then, obviously. There was no match-dot-com or craigslist, plentyoffish.com or other dating sites. If you were single and went that route, what you did have was a little thing called the personal ads, in newspapers or in a weekly paper like Denver Westword or the Dallas Observer and in other cities across the country. And if you did decide to meet – sight unseen with no profile pictures – it was pretty much a crap shoot. You never knew, exactly, what you were gonna get (but by the same token, you didn’t have people showing up, looking way different from the photo they posted that was taken 10-20 years ago). From my own experience, sometimes that worked out, most of the time it didn’t, but eventually the meetings made from both the personal ads and later online became mostly awkward job interviews for a position I could never possibly fill (too restrictive).

Call me old-fashioned, sentimental, an old fart or whatever, but the best hookups in an online world are still with those you meet offline, in real reality, in person, when least expected, and where you can see (almost immediately) if there’s any of that elusive chemistry people always talk about or not, or at the very least determine whether the other person is a psycho (always look at/in the eyes) and act accordingly (run!). Hey, sometimes you get lucky (cue Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers from 1986)…

As far as crap shoots go, unfamiliar restaurants were definitely one of those. You took your chances B.I. Now at least, we have Yelp and Google reviews…

And remember a time before there was Amazon… Amazon-dot-com. I’m surprised they don’t have as their slogan, that old slogan, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” (For those wondering why I’m putting in the “dot-com”, apparently WordPress adds the link automatically to popular websites. I don’t like that. Stop that, WordPress.)

Because Amazon has everything under the proverbial sun. When they first came online, it was cool because you could find anything on there, it was convenient, and it was kind of a novelty. So they got big. And eventually, i.e., now, they got too big. But before then, I used to go into bookstores and record stores all the time wherever I was, B.I…. used to spend hours in those places. On those days when I had hours to spend, there was nothing better than being in these stores, just looking through the bins of used vinyl (you did keep your turntable, right?) and all the shelves of books, both new and used. Which is why I’m sure I eventually incorporated both a record store and a bookstore in my art gallery in Empire, Colorado. How many bookstores and record stores did Amazon put out of business in the meantime? Like the local stores Wal-Mart put out of business?

I can hear the business people and entrepreneurs screaming that the stores that went out of business (I’m thinking of Blockbuster Videos here) didn’t evolve their business and change quickly enough, and yes, that is certainly true. They did not adapt to rapidly changing conditions and paid the price. But… the very fact that there are still small record stores and bookstores out there, locally, attests to the resiliency of the experience of going to those places because it is an experience you can’t get online. It also attests to the ubiquity of the all-pervasive Internet.

I remember I got online toward the end of 1996 and used a 56k external modem to connect to the Internet. I – like pretty much everybody else and their dog – used AOL initially. Back then there were the free ISPs – I remember Netzero and Juno. Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator were the de facto browsers. At first it was pretty cool to connect to all these different websites and connect with people, and it was something of a novelty as well, but it didn’t take long to figure out that although you could connect with this whole new online world and people you didn’t know, being connected to this new world also isolated you at the same time. Because you’re sitting in front of a computer monitor, not a real person or a real-world environment. One of the paradoxes of evolving technology.

I started out on a 286 computer, DOS, Microsoft OS that I bought from a used equipment sale at the company I worked for during the early 90s, then quickly moved up to a 486 and I could connect to the Internet. The company was very tech savvy at the time so even when I didn’t have the Internet at home, I had it at work. And then I started learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript markup languages and soon became a web designer/developer and worked in that position as an I.T. contractor for various companies and the government up until 2011. Further back, B.I., I got into computers through music – through MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboards and sequencers in the early 1980s, so this is also some of my background, when I wasn’t bartending and all those other odd jobs I mentioned earlier.

If you’ve read this far (thank you), where I’m going with all of this is that I am and have been seriously curtailing, cutting back on my Internet usage over the last 1-2 years and I urge everyone to do the same for the following reasons. First, because like anything else in real life, the Internet is subject to the fulfillment curve and the law of diminishing returns (see E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful… this book should be taught in all schools in the U.S., btw). The last couple of years I’ve noticed that with hackers, fake news and its sensationalistic headlines, all the freakin’ ads, and the general contentiousness of social media, the Internet is delivering less “satisfaction” and a lot more hassle. Certainly more hassle than it’s worth, i.e., diminishing returns.

Secondly, when you get right down to it, the Internet is just TV, the tele, a big all-pervasive TV (think Orwell) with innumerable channels on it, and I always tell people to “turn off the tele!

Erin would tell you that I watch the least amount of TV of almost anyone, 1 hour at the most on any given day, and that’s not even TV – we watch DVDs at dinnertime, maybe a movie so that might be 2-2 1/2 hours tops. That’s not even network programming so it’s not TV. That’s it. So why do I have the Internet, this big all-pervasive TV on all day at work and at home in the morning, and then later even at night? Would I leave the TV on all day? No. (Although we did have 24 hours of ‘Ralphie’ on in the background recently on Christmas Day.)

And speaking of ads, this is what the Internet of today has become:

Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ… from the late 1960s, early 70s

This picture is from the late 1960s I believe, Speedway Blvd. in Tucson, Arizona. Does this look even remotely appealing to you? It’s ugly, right? All the signage and billboarding is nothing but visual clutter. It’s an eyesore. Tucson eventually did the right thing and enacted a sign ordinance to rid themselves of this kind of just plain awful visual clutter. The Internet should do the same.

One of the best reasons to curtail your Internet usage is the proliferation and constant bombardment of all the advertisements we are all subjected to, particularly on Facebook, YouTube, and most news sites. Hey, your ad blocker might not be that effective after all – it can’t screen out everything. There was a time in web development when real estate, the visual canvas of the web page, had something more of an overall aesthetic as kind of an ideal, something to strive for to make pages actually look their best and be functional at the same time and that involved the use of negative space on the web page. Or, put another way, the judicious use of space for content. A lot of the development books back in the 1990s talked about not inundating visitors to your website with too many visuals, in most cases meaning advertisements. Most people don’t know about that, a lot of long-time I.T. project managers have forgotten that, and most of the current crop of developers don’t even care about that.

The big change in web development occurred back in 2010 with the implementation of the Web 2.0, so subsequently after that you’ve seen a lot more ads in your Facebook newsfeeds and elsewhere. I was there. After 2010, it has been all about ads, nothing else mattered; any kind of aesthetic sense or even how web pages worked – think of those long-running scripts that hang up your browser – has been tossed out the window. Seriously, the last couple of jobs I had as a GUI designer (Graphic User Interface… hey, new position title for me – feather in my cap), I worked with a few developers who couldn’t even relative path their way out of a paper bag so I would fix their code – basic stuff – but boy, they made sure those ads worked.

Another good reason to cut back on Internet usage is just simply the time factor involved. It’s for the same reason that I limit my time in front of the tube: it’s just another way to be distracted and waste time. We tend to act like we have all the time in the world and of course, we really don’t. If we all knew and realized this, would we spend so much time in front of the TV? Or the Internet? Would you spend that much time in a casino? There’s a reason they don’t have clocks in there.

Am I saying don’t get on or avoid the Internet? Of course not. That would be impossible at this point and not even desirable. It is an integral part of our lives, for better or worse, and besides, those Yelp and Google reviews can really come in handy sometimes. The same can be said for a lot of websites and much of my work takes place on the web anyway. It’s somewhat ironic that I’m currently in a re-design of the Nights on Venus website as I write this post.

But I would definitely cut back on spending too much time on the Internet, particularly on social media which is what I have been doing – regulating how much time, how many hours I spend on the platform each day, just as I do with TV. The point is to resist the ads. Resist the programming. Human beings exist for far greater purposes than just being told and/or programmed to buy all this stuff or just to be entertained/distracted. The order of the day on the web would seem to be mostly greed and narcissism. Steer clear of the narcissism, but shut down the greed. Please join me in this endeavor.

Album cover for “We Are All Haunted by Something”, released on July 23, 2017. This is the old abandoned Apache Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico – shot taken in 2009. The image of the night sky is from Justin Marsh, added with his permission.
The cover artwork for the new 3-song EP “Snow Day”, set to release on December 23rd

The most recent releases from NoV are the 3-song single/EP “Snow Day” and the full-length album, “We Are All Haunted by Something“, both from 2017. “We Are All Haunted…” includes the 2-song single “Speed of Life” and “Confirm Humanity (I’m Not a Robot)”. All are available on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD Baby, and Amazon MP3.

Speed of Life“,Unearthly, Santos and all previous Nights on Venus albums are available as MP3 digital downloads on Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, and also the NoV Website.

Cover artwork for “Unearthly”… photo/design by CCT
My two Reverends… “Goldenboy” on the left (a Rocco from 2002), and “Prince” (a Charger LE with the P-90 pickups from 2014) – not purple, but it came to me from Minnesota.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

“Everything popular is wrong.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

 

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Author: nightsonvenus

Musician and producer with the band Nights on Venus.

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