A vinyl guy needling a digital world

Column by Jim Bishop

Negotiating heavy traffic on Interstate 81, heading south from Pennsylvania to Harrisonburg after a too brief holiday visit with extended family, I’m thinking how fortunate that my happiness doesn’t depend on acquiring more “stuff” at this heavily-commercialized time of year.

Indeed, I survived the non-stop barrage of radio, TV and print ads for the latest high-tech electronic gadgets. I didn’t get a single item along this line for Christmas -not that any appeared on my wish list. My daughters gave me my first Old Navy pullover shirts as part of an ongoing largely futile effort to drag Dad into the 21st century. If Anna didn’t insist on an annual safari to the Valley Mall, I’d probably still be wearing madras shirts and double-knit polyester slacks with flared cuffs – groovy, man!

I recognize that I am getting more predictable and boring with each passing year.

I saw two movies in a commercial theater over the course of 2007, the last being “The Simpsons,” a somewhat disappointing big-screen take on those well-meaning but largely dysfunctional denizens of Springfield. I prefer to wait until a film I want to see is available on video, yet am disgruntled because we own a perfectly-good VCR that is rarely used with titles now released on DVD.

Along the same line, finding cassette tapes has become increasingly difficult, even blank ones for recording. The dual-cassette player on my home stereo system has quickly become a relic – like me.

I’ve yet to obtain an iPhone, iPod or BlackBerry and have little inclination to purchase any of these devices.

In fact, I don’t carry a cell phone, even though I’m feeling pressure at work to obtain one. I try to steer away from people carrying on conversations in public places – restaurants, grocery stores, parking lots – a well-nigh impossible task these days. I relish standing in line and hearing the person next to me saying, “Hello? Yuh, I’m here at McDonald;s, and I’m gonna soon order something to eat” and similar scintillating comments.

I dare say that nearly half percent of all cellular phone conversations going on at any given time could wait until the persons are at work or at home. I especially like talking to someone, and they stop mid-sentence to answer an incoming call. I cringe while watching persons swiveling their heads back and forth, trying to pull out on to a busy roadway and yakking away on their phone at the same time. Be assured I won’t be engaged in text-messaging anytime soon, either.

Many business persons rely heavily on their cell phones, and that’s fine, and I’m all for emergency-service personnel having them readily available, but I have issues with people walking virtually everywhere with one hand permanently glued to their ear.

It’s my hang-up; I’ll deal with it.

I don’t own a wide-screen, high definition television or home-entertainment center or subscribe to a cable service offering some 200 channels or more. What’s the point – most of us are capable of watching just one program at a time, and to me much of what’s being served up as entertainment fare these days isn’t worth watching anyway.

I’m quickly reaching the point where I could manage without a TV. The only show I watch regularly these days is “The Simpsons” (when it’s not pre-empted on Sunday night), “The Daily Show” on occasion, local newscasts and the Weather Channel. Exciting, yes?

I don’t download music from iTunes. All the music I could ever hope to listen to I already have on CD or have transferred favorites from vinyl to CD to listen to in the car because I can’t find anything I like on the radio. I don’t expect to invest in satellite radio, either.

I politely decline invitations to social network via Facebook, become a “friend” on MySpace, respond to other person’s blogs and rarely check out YouTube. I can’t keep up with my e-mail messages as it is and have too many other regular commitments to get involved with these addictive pursuits.

I’ve yet to spend good money on a single container of bottled water, make any purchases on eBay or navigate my way through unexplored territory with the aid of a global positioning system. Man, I’m just not with the program.

I am, however, currently reading Dave Barry’s “History of the Millennium (So Far)” and Andy Rooney’s “Years of Minutes,” playing music of the ’50s every week on WEMC-FM, attending Leather and Lace dances, enjoying our grandchildren, driving a Miata and being spiritually nourished by worship services at church.

And, guess what – I ‘m happy, content and looking forward to whatever’s ahead – as long as it doesn’t involve hip-hop music, reality TV, periodontal maintenance, standing in long lines or losing files on my computer.

Jim Bishop is the public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted, believe it or not, at bishopj@emu.edu.


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