Tech gadgets put live shows on death bed
THANKS to state-of-the-art time-shifting tools like TiVos, iPods and daydreams that cast Jessica Alba in various tropical settings, Digital Slobs have almost eradicated the concept of living "in the now."
Historically, the lure of live events has been that "anything can happen," but more often than not, "anything" includes large doses of "nothing." And if there was one thing that didn't come across that bridge to the 21st century, it was patience.
Besides, in the "highlight reel" Digital Age, the only possible way anything remotely entertaining can be lost forever is if it ends up on UPN.
There's been a subtle, but key pivot in office watercooler talk, from "Did you see Johnny Carson last night?" to "Did you see 'The Daily Show' yet?"
In the early 1990s, I could've earned a master's degree in the time I wasted waiting for Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" video to come on MTV. Luckily, I got the degree anyway (it's amazing the things that qualify for "independent study").
But now I could never muster up the determination required to pan for "Wicked Game" video gold in real time. Sadly, that more whimsical phase of my life is over. So, I've got it bookmarked on my Web browser.
From taped-delayed halftime shows to "encore" airings of popular TV dramas, the entertainment industry is in full "live retreat." Even on "Saturday Night Live," the best segments are either overtly recorded ("The Chronicles of Narnia" rap video) or covertly (Ashlee Simpson performances). In the last 10 years, the only person I've seen enjoying "SNL" in real time is Jimmy Fallon as he laughed at his own jokes.
No doubt, this time-shifting wave also has satellite radio shaking in its hip new boots, wondering how long we'll keep paying $150 a year to suspend our own lives and listen to Howard Stern's instead.
Still, most people listen to radio in the car, arguably the last safe haven for passive media. After all, if you're not tempted to pause, fast-forward or rewind, you're freed up to gauge other things, like the brake, the steering wheel and level of hostility on the face of the guy you just cut off. Few have scrolled through an iPod looking for U2's "Elevation" while simultaneously attempting to turn left against the light and lived to tell about it.
Time-shifting has other cons as well. Last Thursday there was a Flash Flood Watch and I didn't know about it until Sunday night when it scrolled under my TiVo's recorded episode of "My Name is Earl." In this case, being in tune with tech left me deaf to actual winds of change. To be fair to TiVo, however, I also live on the 14th floor and generally get my food delivered.
And, as my grandmother said, investing time in something can be its own reward (she was talking about reading a book, but let's not get crazy). Still, you can spend five hours driving to the ballpark, parking, standing in line, getting beer and pretzels, urinating in a trough and suffering the small talk of strangers just to see a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth -- or you can watch it on SportsCenter in about six seconds flat.
Only one method will stick in your mind forever. The other will be recorded over tomorrow with a "Yes, Dear" rerun.
Let's just hope the game's not canceled due to severe weather. In the Digital Age, Slobs would be the last to know.