Friday, November 23, 2007

The number one reason I'm glad high school was twenty years ago


My blood runs cold...My memory has just been sold...

As the paparazzi (aka parents and grandparents) attacked the children yesterday---forcing them to freeze mid-bite, smile and pose, interrupting play to reposition the actors for the better video camera angle or asking them to do a scene over again for the camera, demanding cuteness on cue, and clamoring for poses of momentarily false affection---it occurred to me how much of my life is not documented on any sort of media.

And I added a new number one "I'm thankful for..." thing.

I'm thankful that very little of my youth is captured on film.

I'm thankful there is only one photo of me in a lime green polyester "Sunday go to meetin'" two piece suit.

I'm thankful there is no film footage of the great Bicentennial Fourth of July show that I wrote, produced and directed for the parents, using all of the neighborhood kids. I'm especially thankful there are no photos of my outfit from that day: cutoff blue jean shorts and a red bandanna top.

I'm thankful the photos of my gawky years are limited to a few stills. The skinny white legs and Nair-touted short shorts...not a good match.

There's a few embarrassing videos from the mid-80s when my uncle went out on a limb and got a new fangled personal video camera. Used to movie cameras that didn't record sound and couldn't capture movement very well, we all sat still, with only slow waves, and no talking. When it struck us that this camera was like a real camera, we decided to stage a production.

Pause.

Key phrase from my childhood: stage a production

I genuflect in gratitude for the lack of documentation of this. It's so much better in my head.

However, thanks to a rainy day with four kids trapped inside and my uncle's video camera, we do have one staged production caught on tape. (That would be a big old heavy video camera with a gigantic VHS tape, for you young'uns.) We did spoofs of commercials a la Monty Python, which our cousin Michael had gotten us hooked on a few years previously. Back then we listened to things on records---that's vinyl for you young'uns---and that one Christmas when Michael and his family joined us, he asked if we had a record player to listen to something. My younger boy cousin, trying hard to impress Michael, pulled out his Mickey Mouse Club turntable and put on the Chipmunks Rock album. Even I knew that was Not Cool. Michael was nice, though, and simply pulled out his Monty Python record and put it on. The younger kids laughed but I am sure they didn't quite get it, other than perhaps the bookstore sketch and the bit about A Sale of Two Titties. I think we replayed that part 8000 times and roared every single time.

I'm grateful that's not on a video.

As for the spoofed "commercials" our sense of the ridiculous and admiration of Monty Python spawned a little later, eh, we had a good laugh watching it one year as adults. A single sampling of something we did all the time was plenty. I think the video vanished because it was never seen again (I suspect the boy cousin). So now it's just a memory too.

Luckily the Blue Brothers re-enactments, complete with karaoke-style singing along (with the record, on the turntable) with our favorite, Rubber Biscuit, is merely a wisp caught only in our minds.

I'm glad my junior high orchestra years weren't captured on anything other than a few photographs. In my head, we sound really, really great, and had a lot of fun. Also, I shudder to think what might have been recorded on any of our field trips.

High school is best left as undocumented as it was. I prefer what I have left of it, which is largely sanitized with a happy wash. Although by then the infant stages of the technology we have now had begun, it certainly wasn't common. When my theater class assigned a movie as our final project, we had to all team up because not everyone in the class had access to a video camera. If you read my high school meme two-part series---How I made it out of high school in one piece (remains a mystery not unlike any miracle of life) Part 1 and Part 2---you know the many reasons why lack of filmography is a very good thing.

College. Wow. College could totally have ruled out any future in politics for me had there been cell phones and cameras in said cell phones.

Poor kids of today. They will not be able to get up on any moral high horses and allege "pot smoker" to a President, who would not be able to allege he never inhaled.

It would all be caught on film. And put up on YouTube, to be accessed twenty years later during a local city council race, which would have stopped most current leaders dead before their political careers even got going.

I prefer my dusty, blurry-edged memories. I not only recall things as I want to, but I only recall that which I prefer.

What a lucky choice to make.

No boys snapped cell phone photos of girls in the locker room. Thank goodness.

No friend, only slightly less drunk, thought a quick snap of me worshiping the porcelain god would be FREAKING HILARIOUS to broadcast to every email address stored on her cell phone. Hallelujah.

Nobody filmed that horrible moment when, on stage, for the first time I completely forgot the dance choreography and just winged it. I can imagine, to appease myself, that it wasn't that bad. And without film footage of it, there is no Internet broadcast of the humiliating moment for all the world to laugh at.

Without the access to instant availability of film and camera, we simply lived life, instead of documenting its every minute, and we never had moral quandaries about "to record, or not to record, that is the question," much less, "share or broadcast, or keep private...that is the other question."

I don't think growing up with the technology makes it any easier for people to figure out how to use it instead of abuse it. I see a lot of abuse. Consider, for example, the (true? false?) snippet of a bride losing her marbles over her hair that probably broke records for email forwarding. I confess: I watched, total fascination with the train wreck.

Out there are a lot of snippets of people's lives. Moments they might enjoy having captured by camera, but more than likely, more moments they'd rather forget or simply allow to be rose-tinted by selective memory.

It's these moments that I feel very grateful to have grown up when I did. I'm grateful for the modern conveniences we had then, and grateful, too, for the ones we did not.

***Bonus points and bragging rights (of a dubious nature) to those who get the photo caption.***

Edited to add: I have many photos and a few movies from my past of me, my family, special events, and so forth. I'm glad to have those. I feel like we have a good documentation that I enjoy pulling out to laugh and smile over with my family and friends. So I don't feel like I am missing anything important, as some who lost or lacked photos might. I understand that.

The point I mean to make is two-fold: Back in my youth, I'm glad people weren't armed with cameras all the time everywhere, as they are now, and I'm glad the photos and movies from my past were taken when I expected a camera to be there and by people I knew and trusted.

It's not so these days, in this time when too many people always have a camera and think nothing of snapping a photo of anyone, any time, any place. Further, too many people think little to nothing of sharing that visual with the world at large.

That's the real part---not the joking part---that makes my blood run cold.

With privilege (of technology) comes responsibility. We must use this wisely, with careful consideration, and teach our children the same. As wonderful as it is to have barriers come down for a potentially more unified and inclusive society, the downside is that the easily identified and culturally reinforced natural and reasonable barriers for privacy also come down. Therefore, we must be even more cognizant of respect of self and others, particularly when it comes to privacy.

Also, a photo or movie isn't per se indicative of reality or the whole story.

So, again, I have to say I am very glad that I am able to recall things as I will for many occasions, and there is something to be said about that; plus, the way I remember things is very reflective of what it meant to me, more so than a photo could be.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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21 comments:

thordora said...

I wish I had memories on film. I have about 20 pictures from when I was a kid, and that's it. And a father who remembers little, or at least pretends he remembers little.

Sometimes having those memories on film is a good thing, within reason. I'd pay a lot of money to hear my mother's voice, see her with me. I have 1 picture of her and I, and that's it. Reading your memories of what you're glad you don't have makes me sad for what I don't have.

But there are some outfits I'm REALLY glad I don't have documented.

another good thing said...

From the CLASS OF 1981-- the kids who had more fun-- or something like that. thanks for the trip down memory lane and now, the song stuck in my head.

Linda

Julie Pippert said...

Thordora, I wish you had as much recorded as you wanted.

For me it's that I have *just enough* recorded on film of some sort. We have a sampling of events and occasions, portraits every year, and so forth. There are tons of albums of photos. My family enjoys reminiscing, as well. I do appreciate what I've got just as much as I appreciate what hasn't been documented. :)

So I totally agree with the idea that memories on film are a good thing *within reason.*

Unfortunately, I think a lot of reason got left behind with some new technology.

Some of those forwards...and news stories about escalating cell phone camera wars among students in schools...those make me sad.

Suz said...

my angel is the centerfold.

J Giels band.

My very first self-purchased album ever.

My childhood was documented on film, but it was all in slide form and hasn't been seen in years and years and years. There are a lot of photos of me, but even then there was no way of taking pictures the way that we do now.

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

Suz beat me to it - of course Angel is a centerfold!! So were you actually going for "Freeze Frame"?

I totally agree with you on being happy not to have some of my more embarrassing moments captured. I feel that way about blogging, too. Like, my poor kids who are having their lives and silly comments immortalized!

Do you ever wonder how many photos or, say, wedding videos you are in? And if other families are sitting around pointing you out going, "oh, that girl, the one who did that dance (said that thing, wore that outfit)"...?

Julie Pippert said...

Linda, you know, sorry about putting the song in your head. if it helps, I will probably have Centerfold stuck in my own head all day LOL.

Suz, first album, woo hoo. And yes, it's Centerfold LOL. Although as Lori points out I might have done better with Freeze Frame.

Lori, blogging is...well, my family is such a family for story-telling that my past is immortalized in stories anyway. My mom handed down three new ones to my kids last night (thanks Mom). So in a way, blogging is yes, sharing and recording in a way the kids might not appreciate later---and boy is that a can of worms to explore!---but I'm not sure they'd escape it anyway (LOL).

Now about me as "girl in photo" YES, OMG yes I wonder about that, especially as I look through my own photos. I have pictures posed of me with other people and I'm thinking, "Geez, who are these people?"

(That, BTW, adds on the I Ought To ScrapBook for My Kids guilt.)

It would, of course, be worse to have a crazy moment caught with people saying like you did LOL.

It could be a sign of my age or personality (or both) but I'm not comfortable with being on video. At one wedding the videographer went around forcing each member of the wedding party to Say Something Special. I'm like, doesn't my card count? I think I ended up with something slightly more eloquent than "Have a nice life," but only slightly so LOL.

bubandpie said...

I was just thinking the opposite, actually. One occupational hazard of my job is that I'm surrounded by microscopically skinny 20-year-olds. They come to my office and I look at them and wonder if I was ever that small. I probably was - but the photos wouldn't show it anyway, because I was still wearing all those big long '80s sweatshirts until around 1995, or whenever the tight-fitting shirts and boot-cut jeans finally established their dominance.

Kellan said...

As my brother was taking many pitures yesterday, some of me, I said, "I have never taken a good picture" - and it is true. I look back on pictures of my youth and I can't find many good ones - or of my now. This was a good post - hope you had a good Thanksgiving. See you soon. Kellan

thailandchani said...

I don't have much documentation of my past.. and I'm not terribly upset about that. It would be nice to remember what I looked like when I was thin though. LOL

Lawyer Mama said...

My angel is a centerfold. J Geils Band.

Dude! I have that 45!

You know, a few weeks ago (when I was not so discreetly videoing on of my former co-workers dancing around a bar while drunk) I had this same thought. Cell phones with video capabilities are evil.

We put on a little production that is also on film (actual FILM) and will blog about soon. Thankfully, my aunt has not yet thought to have it converted so she can stick it on YouTube. But I do have Polaroids scanned in. Yes, Polaroids. LOL!

slouching mom said...

I'm of two minds about this, as about many things, LOL!

I do think we abuse the privilege. Technology is a privilege, after all.

But I think our children will love seeing themselves as kids someday -- and I don't mean as teenagers. I mean as 8-and-under KIDS. Most parents I know have the sense not to videotape teenagers and college students, who make their desires not to be immortalized very clear in any event. (As for teenagers taping other teenagers, well, that strikes me as natural selection!)

Mary Alice said...

I can think of a classic 80's photo of myself, captured forever in the style of the day - big hair, mock white military jacket, cropped and replete with epaulets and shoulder pads. Sigh. What was I thinking? I guess, judging by the confident smile and the way I hold myself in that photo, I was thinking I looked wonderful!

Kyla said...

Even me (a young'un) knew Angel is a Centerfold. That's good stuff. Very catchy.

I grew up with technology. We were on the front edge, the budding chat rooms, personal web pages, and so on. Heck, it is how I met my husband. But the exposure level wasn't nearly what it has become 10 or so years later. Digital cameras and videos weren't everywhere, you had to SCAN in film photographs if you wanted to post them (GASP!) from your dial-up connection. I can still hear the modem sounds in the background. LOL. But it feels normal to me, because I grew up at the same time the technology was growing.

That being said, YES! It is kind of a horrifying time to be a teenager. It is a lot of power to control wisely and as a teen, you usually aren't making the wisest decisions. Something that is funny Saturday night when you are drunk might not be so funny Monday morning when you find yourself on YouTube.

I do love to document the kiddos though. Once day when they are all grown up, I'll be able to look through all the accumulated photos and videos of them at all these different ages and that will be priceless.

flutter said...

damn now that song is in my head. DAMN!!

Maddy said...

I know what you mean [ I think] but I also know that this generation seems to take technology in their stride. In some ways it's a shame that face to face communication seems less common but for some people with limited social skills that might be a blessing in disguise.

I think it also helps communication for some people [just think of blogging]

On the more photographic / video side of things, it certainly means that we can relive our children's childhoods when we're old and grey.

On the other hand watching people talk on their cell phones rather than to the children at their ankles I think it's always going to be a double edged sword.

Best wishes

Cathy said...

OK, given your topic, it's Freeze Frame that's now lodged in my brain.

(but i happen to like both that one and centerfold, so ... )

I don't own a cell phone. We have an old video camera, but haven't used it since our 2 1/2-year-old was born.

Still photos? We have those in abundance. I love each and every one, but after having just gone through everything stored on the computer ... head. is. still. reeling.

As for my childhood? I'm the oldest, so it's better documented than my sisters'. That was not, however, always such a good thing.

(especially during the unfortunate years of the pouf bang.)

Julie Pippert said...

Maddy, yes, I believe you understand. It is a double-edged sword but I don't think it needs to be.

With wisdom of use, they are simply good tools and give us nice mementos of this time in our (and our children's) lives.

In the past, tools were bulkier in size, use and results. It forced a bit of deliberation that the current ease of use and distribution doesn't. So we need to force ourselves to implement that as a step.

Cell phone rings...I'm at dinner with the family...do I really need to answer it?

KWIM?

Flutter...sorry babe. :)

Kyla, I think I moped for a full day after your Mad World post. LOL I realized, suddenly, I had gone to that concert the year before you were born. ACK! My age felt heavy for a short bit LOL.

And yes, I think you nailed my point, precisely.

Mary Alice, oh how lovely that you felt so wonderful about how you looked!

SM, see note to Maddy above. I think there isn't a mutual exclusivity here. I know I'm a big Luddite, but I'm not actually calling for a cease and desist of the technology, just care in its use, KWIM.

LM, yes! That is the case in point! LOL. And I appreciate your use of the present tense when confessing about your 45 (that's the little record, for the young'uns). ;)

Chani, you know...your comment began a few thoughts in my head. I will need to percolate a bit. :)

Kellan, ?? I have seen photos of you and they look great to my eye. You seem very photogenic I think.

B&P, do you think photos would overcome and create a suspension of disbelief? Not to say you shouldn't have the photos, just wondering because...when I saw my friend's tiny newborn I marveled at how little she was. Were my children ever that small? I looked at photos, and there was proof but it didn't seem quite real; they are so this big, now. And that stage was such a blip. KWIM?

slackermommy said...

There are some horribly embarrassing photos of me in the 80's out there. I'm just waiting for them to show up on Facebook.

melissa said...

I too have very little photographic evidence and I have mixed emotions about that.

And I knew the song, too.

And two asides...How is your other kitty? And it would have been awesome to meet up, but time would not have permitted. Maybe next time.

painted maypole said...

we have a video camera, and use it so rarely. I want to have some things videoed - but more slice of life things. not EVERY LAST THING MQ DOES or EVERY PRESENT SHE OPENS. In fact, it may have been a year since I've had it out. Probably worth getting it out again. but... well, i would rather live life.

I do take an awful lot of pictures, though. Always have.

Emily R said...

Are you kidding?! I read the post because I just knew you were a centerfold after reading the caption...

I am crazy when it comes to taking and saving pictures of my kids b/c there is only one of me as a child. BUT, I am with you -- it is a responsibility, and I do not share them lightly. I want to give my kids some privacy, since I do write about them so much (and not just on my blog...)