Monday, December 11 2006
We saw the final episode of this season's The Wire, which had been recorded last night by our Tivo. The final episode of a season of The Wire follows a different formula from the usual. It starts with the usual pacing, but then it accelerates into a montage of what seems like the near-future, with our various characters going off on their various trajectories. Mostly they avoid death, but they don't exactly live happily ever after. (Sometimes Gretchen and I hope for our heroes - such as Bubbles - to die just becauses their lives are so miserable.) This accelerated montage is accompanied by a mood-neutral musical score, the only music one ever hears in The Wire aside from incidental stuff playing on stereos that happen to be in the scenes. I didn't realize the absence of soundtrack music in The Wire until a few episodes ago. I'd always been impressed by how unmanipulated the violent scenes left me feeling, but until then I'd never really understood why.
Today as I prepared myself a bath, I found myself wondering if the set I was in was what I expected for the world of 2006 back when I was a kid. Might I have expected rooms to look more like those inside, say, the Starship Enterprise? Might I have expected all doors to now be pocket doors opening half from above and half from below, automatically at my approach? As I lay in the bathtub looking up at the ceiling and walls, none of which existed prior to 1994, it occurred to me that the only difference between the details of these surfaces and those of the 70s amounted to subtle matters of style. Nothing had been improved since then whatsoever. The most recent innovation I could see as I scanned the objects around me was the plastic bottles holding shampoo. Plastic for use as a product container predates my time, but probably only goes back to the 1950s or so. Obviously that five-bladed Gillette Fusion razor on the edge of the tub dated the scene to sometime after 2005, but I couldn't really see it from my angle. What was most-indicated of a time post-1994 was the sheet of paper in my hands. It was a laser-printed copy of a random webpage. I've been reading such print outs in bathtubs for over ten years now. Before the web, my reading material was restricted to books or magazines. I never had printouts to satisfy a particular narrow interest at a particular time. Looking at that printout today in my hands, I thought of the advances it represented, advances that went mostly unpredicted by the futurists of the 50s and 60s. Prior to rise of the Macintosh in the late 1980s, printouts came from crude dot-matrix printers and could never be of anything beyond what happened to be on your computer at the time. First we got desktop publishing software and better printers. Then we got the internet. And now we can look at perfectly-formatted documents about anything from anywhere in the world. And we can print them out in a few minutes before taking our baths or getting into a subway.
My interest today, by the way, moved to the idea of perhaps making a composting toilet. I have an idea of maybe making a little outhouse off the east deck. It would be perched high above an ærobic decomposition chamber, producing valuable "soil" for use in a garden further down the slope.
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