Sunday, 23 December 2012

The curse of the rose tinted spectacles

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be, as they say, and it's true.
So often we say things like "they don't write them like they used to", or "it wasn't like this back in my day", or "hey, I remember this film, it was great, let's watch it again".
Case in point was last night when I spotted 'The Philadelphia Experiment' on Lovefilm Instant and, harbouring fond and distant memories of when I watched it back in the days when I didn't know better, decided we should sit down and watch it. Oh dear. With its crappy 1984 special effects and decidedly dodgy acting it really had not stood the test of time. The other week I heard that they'd done a remake of Total Recall which initially brought up the predictable feelings of annoyance - "Why do they have to mess with things, what was wrong with the Schwarzenegger one?". The sad truth is that the answer to that is probably "lots".
There are many times when we look back through rose tinted specs. If I think back to my early days of video games I'll get all misty eyed over memories of Jet Set Willly on the Sinclair Spectrum or Elite on the BBC Micro. But try those games on a PC now running an emulator and you're reminded what makes Call Of Duty so damn good. Pole Position might have got us excited as kids, but I'm afraid it just can't compete with Forza 4.
And it's not just computer generated cars that suffer from the nostalgia bug - I have many terrific memories of  looning around in my Alfa Romeo Alfasud back in 1989. With its glorious flat four engine with its wonderful induction noise from its enormous Dellorto carbs, and its on-rails handling with its tendency to lift the inside rear wheel off the deck during hard cornering, it's a car I often search for in the classifieds in the hope of reliving those happy days. But I'm also painfully aware that the reality would involve spending every weekend under the bonnet fixing the bloody thing, and welding up whatever new rust hole has appeared over the last week. Seriously - Alfa put the rust in at the factory.
Criticising new music for its appalling lack of meaningful lyrics is a popular passtime for me, but if I think about it carefully there's always been dubious lyrics in music - 'Ob La Di Ob La Da' anyone? To be fair, popular music isn't worse it's just different, but as a paid-up moaning old git it's my job to get all pissy about anything that doesn't sound like Depeche Mode or Genesis.
The reality is that every generation believes that the golden age was many years before - during the industrial revolution there were probably plenty of old farts claiming the world was a much better place back when all people had to worry about was bubonic plague, and why do we need all these newfangled machines and steam engines anyway? Did dinosaurs dream of the good old days in the primordial soup?
It's a never-ending state - in thirty years time our kids will be moaning to their kids about the awful chart music, saying "Why can't you listen to decent classical music like Skrillex?".
The bottom line is that for the most part things DO get better, but we become so stuck in our ways that we're unable to see virtue in new things and so we become more and more detached from the world around us as we get older. I do try to keep up with new things, especially in technology because I need to because of what I do and because it's something I enjoy, but already I feel I'm getting left behind a bit. I know that there will come a time soon when I will regard some new innovation in the same way my father seems to consider the internet to be the terrifying bastard spawn of satan and the cause of everything that's wrong with the world.
So for now I'll sit back and carry on daydreaming of better times when a can of Coke cost 15p, sticking a piece of cardboard in the spokes of your bicycle wheel to make it sound like a motorbike was a fun thing to do, and every sweet shop sold Spangles.