Is Idiocracy En Route?

Is Idiocracy En Route? - The Blogging Musician @ adamharkus.com

Is Idiocracy En Route? – The Blogging Musician @ adamharkus.com

Adam Harkus wrote a great blog recently:

Is the Human Race going backwards?

This exact thought has shot through my head countless times over recent years. There was a film in 2006 by Mike Judge called Idiocracy. 400 years into the future, people turned into lazy, sloth-like nitwits. They threw garbage out of their windows and refused to drink water because they associated it with toilets. I have two views of the modern human in today’s world. There are those who are evolving, and those who are developing backward. The awake, and the sleeping. So many amazing things have popped up in our technological world that we can almost envision just about anything. We SHOULD have significant achievements in technology, medicine, education, industry, and more. The arts should be fantastic. Are they? No. Something has gone wrong or just halted.

Like Adam, I, too, was a child of the 80s. I was born in the 70s and grew up right on through the 80s with fond memories from every year. From spotting a famous UFO sighting up close and personal to watching some of the coolest technological inventions like video games and computers evolve into everyday household items. Adam jested, “Where’s my hoverboard?” Well, where is it? The darn things were featured in a film in ’89, yet here we are over 25 years later with nothing that hovers. In fact, the “hoverboards” on the market have wheels are nothing more than modified skateboards. Why should we be excited?

Update: The Hendo Hoverboard is a long overdue prototype tested by legendary greats like Tony Hawk. When will this take the title away from the fake hoverboards that run the market today?

Technology is a funny thing. Historically, we can look back to eras like World War II and see that everything was clunky and electrical. Thick wires powered technology, and not much tech was conveniently portable. Soldiers carried radios that were so large they were housed inside a decent-sized sack that they had to bring with them. In fact, the packs were designated to specific soldiers, the communications officers. Today, modern-day police walk around with reasonably small radios strapped to their belts and shoulders. This isn’t Definitely an improvement, but still clunky if you consider every citizen that’s walking around with a tiny wireless Bluetooth earpiece and microphone for their pocketed phones.

Come the late 1940s, something happened, and specific technologies were being explored. Tesla’s discoveries were being worked with behind closed doors. Years later, seemingly magical discoveries like fiberoptics started showing up. I remember being a kid and having fiberoptic toys that my mother purchased for me while we were at the circus. The toy was a short-lived novelty that eventually wound up in the garbage. Today, that tech has proven to be fantastic for audio, video, and internet signals.

We saw leaps and bounds in technological achievements. Accomplishments that were bringing dreams to life. Yet here we are today, 2017, and we don’t have hoverboards everywhere, no flying cars, no household robots, etc. Sure, automated vehicles are around the corner, but only just. Elon Musk is pushing for them to show up sooner than later. Google is also on the move in the automated vehicle market. I believe they’ll put the rush on that technology. Though I do dread what it will do. Will self-driving cars be safe? I think they will be as long as 3 things don’t happen:

1. They aren’t on dangerous roads like highways with man-driven cars. Can you imagine relaxing in your self-driving car and suddenly you’re slammed by some idiot who can’t drive?
2. Their computers aren’t hackable.
3. Companies run by imbeciles, such as Uber, don’t succeed.

In the 80s, space missions were a big deal. As Star Trek put it, space was indeed the final frontier. Now, it seems like we barely hear anything about space. Astronauts only pop out there to fix up a few satellites and space stations and return home. NASA tossed out about 2.5 billion dollars for a rover, cutely named Curiosity, to zip around at a slow pace on Mars collecting rocks and photos. So? We hear so little that space seems like a frontier that’s not even worth exploring unless you’re either a genius-level physicist or an avid dreamer.

Update: You may not believe it, and I’m not out to convince anyone who doubts, but there have been many space missions many of which have involved moon missions. We just aren’t hearing about it.

So why don’t we hear about things? Because the media, social media included, is utter crap. A cesspool of garbage that has no intention of improving society in any way.

Sometimes, technology seems contradictory. Cell phones originated as sizeable clunky satellite phones in the early 90s. Well, perhaps earlier, the military had them first. Come to think of it, the military had everything first. You know that nifty camera on your phone? Spies had them first. Now we all have them, and they’ve only gotten better. Imagine how great your phone camera is today. Now imagine how great the cameras are in modern spy cameras, and satellite cameras. We don’t get the good stuff, boys, and girls. We’re just at hand-me-down rung of the technological ladder. Still, we saw advancement in phones. The phones became smaller and smaller to become more and more portable. This increased need and desire, making them commonplace. Soon, companies like Apple brought the touchscreen to the telephone and things changed dramatically. We were officially in The Jetsons complete with video phones and our own spy cams. Then the touch screens defied what their predecessors did first. They didn’t get smaller and smaller, they got larger and larger. Fashion companies started making oversized pockets! People were walking around with telephones that sported 7-inch screens. I watched a woman making a call on what seemed to be a tablet she had pressed against her head. Nope, it was a phone. Most of us are avoiding those and going after the more portable units. Still, there seems to be a market for large phones. Why? Wearable computers may take those phones back down to reasonable sizes one day.

I blame the film industry for mass suicides. What are they thinking? These reboots, prequels, sequels, etc. are showing nothing but template-based regurgitation that stands over a grave with a shovel tossing dirt on top of purebred imagination. I have mixed emotions but favor the old school above all else. I love that technology has helped make some classics better. Spider-Man, in the 80s, was filmed with an actor crawling on a wall that was laying on the floor. Placing the camera sideways created the illusion that he was actually wallcrawling. Today, we either see a CGI Spidey scaling a CGI wall, or we see the same actor on a green screen that turns into a wall via CGI and artificially automated camera angles to give the illusion that he’s actually up on the building. At times, the special effects have birthed some pretty amazing things. However, I do miss the days of real physical art. The original Star Wars sported actual things. Sure, they were toys and models, but they were elaborate and handmade.

What is a prequel? Well, it’s merely defined it’s a backstory. Why should we have one? I can understand prequels in the case of Star Wars. They started episode IV, so why shouldn’t we eventually see episodes I, II, and III? However, sometimes prequels are abused. They are used to reimagine origins to lay down a new foundation for a newly rebooted story. How many times will Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman be reborn with a new version? Christopher Reeve’s Superman lived in a crystal palace that resembled his homeworld. A fantastic cavern of awesome that only an alien could safely and comfortably traverse and enjoy. Today’s Man of Steel? Ya, his giant ship crashed undetected in a massive mountain, and he returned to it when he was all grown up.

The market and mighty dollar has also birthed some pretty horrendous garbage.

G.I. Joe was the king of the 80s. The toys, the cartoons, the comic books. Ohhh, the comic books. I have nearly every copy of the original series in a box tucked away safely in my home. The cartoons were made to be kid-friendly, but their characters were based on the comic books. The toys were loosely based off of a combination of the cartoons and the comic books. They favored the comic books while featuring really great little collectible filecards on the back of the packaging that housed the action figures which resided on our favorite toy store shelves. The comic book was authentic in theme and design. People were wounded, killed, etc. They bled. They suffered. There was some humor, too. Every good story encompasses a bit of every emotion. We saw characters like Billy, the nearly orphaned son of the mighty Cobra Commander who wound up in a terrible car accident which cost him an eye and a leg. The boy acquired a space-age artificial leg and learned martial arts to strengthen himself back to (and beyond) his original self. Then there’s one of our favorite leading characters and heroes: Snake-Eyes.

Brief background.

Snake-Eyes was given his code-name not by his commanding officers but by his unofficial uncle who said he had eyes like a serpent. His backstory was tragic. He survived the Vietnam war with terrible wounds. While waiting to be picked up at the airport, his entire family was killed in a car wreck on the way over. In the car were his parents and his twin sister. The bond between twins gave him an instinctive feeling that something terrible happened when his family hadn’t arrived at the airport hours later. Soon after, he started ninja training and continued his career in the military. He had nowhere else to go, really. So he lived part-time with the military, and for a while in a dojo in Japan with his newly adopted family, the Arashakage family. The heir to the family business and “brother” to Snake-Eyes was his friend, Tommy, who later turned into Storm-Shadow. (Arashakage actually translated to Storm-Shadow.) Tommy was the one that rescued a fallen Snake-Eyes back in Vietnam. They had a history of friendship. Storm-Shadow later joined into Cobra not because he was evil but because he sought after his uncle’s killer who was a Cobra spy. He played the role of an evil assassin until he found his uncle’s murderer and could avenge his death and one day rest. Snake-Eyes carried on with early Joe missions (before his classic black attire and mask, and prior the team being assembled.) He went on a special mission to save a significant person in his life when something went wrong. The choppers en route collided and Snake-Eyes went down in a flaming wreck. He suffered severe burns to his face and lost the ability to speak. He wore masks for the rest of his life to conceal his ruined face, which was a horrible sight. So horrific that the comic books never revealed his face entirely. We saw his face in silhouettes and through the eyes of the characters that viewed it face-to-face. Creative writing that left our imaginations in charge of that feature.

Today’s G.I. Joe? Rushed into the theatres with a fury by a director who was never a fan in the first place. Horrible! Storm-Shadow was an evil, heartless assassin who had some “thing” with Snake-Eyes that was never really understood fully because they still went after each other’s throats. The murder of the uncle was vague and placed on Storm-Shadow. Weak drama. Snake-Eyes’ lack of speech and ugly face? Never happened. He wore the mask because he was a top-secret ninja. He didn’t speak because he took a “vow of silence” when his ninja master, Stormy’s uncle, died. Really? Way to give the drama a complete enema and then urinate political correctness and wishy-washy nonsense all over it.

So you see, Hollyweird just takes an idea, chews on it briefly enough to lay down a foundation, and then spits it out as if it were an entirely different story. Remember when Spider-Man was played by Toby Maguire? He shot webs right from his wrists. Right through the skin, folks. He didn’t create the genius-level web-shooters that the comic-book Peter Parker made himself. WHY??

Rent. A modern-day classic rock opera. The brilliant young man who wrote the musical died tragically opening night. How sad! The show rose to superstardom, and on its 10-year anniversary, Hollywood decided to celebrate with a film adaptation. Don’t get me wrong, the film was good. However, much like our prequels, a principal character’s origin was stuffed under a rug in hopes that the fans wouldn’t notice. Roger, a starving artist, living in poverty as a squatter in New York City with his friends, is dying. He’s got AIDS. He’s sad, but there’s more to his sadness than a deadly disease. He was in love, and he arrived home one day to find his love dead in the bathroom. Her wrists slit, her suicide was due to her finding out that she had acquired HIV. She let Roger know that he, too, was likely infected via a note that was laying next to her. We assume the letter was covered in tears. A painful backstory for a tormented character. In the film version, April simply disappears from the story, and the audience just assumes she other overdosed from her drug-addition or died from the disease. This isn’t the same. This doesn’t define Roger’s character the way we know it. So Roger just comes off like a not-yet-sick moody bastard who only acts like a jerk because his life is going down the crapper. He’s made out to be a loser, rather than someone we feel sorry for in the story. Thank you, Chris Columbus, you ruined a classic.

As a guitar player, I agree with Adam on this one. Where are our guitar heroes? The guitar was a celebrated instrument. I was inspired by Vai, Satriani, May, Knopfler, Collen, and Van Hallen. The guitar wasn’t celebrated because of commercialism. Sure, today guitar is alive and well because it’s EVERYWHERE. We see guitars sold at department stores, not just music stores. (Those are toys, folks, don’t buy them for your soon-to-be-student.) We see guitars in ads that have nothing to do with music. They seem to be the perfect cool prop. We even see guitars in video games, Guitar Hero is precisely that. (No real guitars were harmed in the making of this game.)

As Adam stated very well – the 80s were the days of heroes. The technique was admired. Artistic talent was granted by how elaborate someone’s musical ideas seemed. A single song took students months to master. Students had heroes and dreams. Young guitarists went to concerts not just to see a show, but to see musicians perform. Spotlights were cast on each individual in the band.

Take, for example, the never-say-die band that defined the 80s while continuing to entertain the globe with new and old songs: Def Leppard.

Let’s put aside their (not one, but two) diamond level albums that only a small handful of bands have ever achieved in album sales. Heck, let’s pretend people still buy records and that there’s a chance for even talented musicians to match those sales. I mean, with the ease of the internet, shouldn’t the bar for diamond status be raised? Well, it doesn’t need to be raised because no one buys music. Piracy is alive and well, and fans don’t see a reason to put a price tag on regurgitated garbage.

Let’s put aside Leppard’s incredible personal history, their induction into the Guinness Book of World Records, or even their ever-lasting stage show. We’ll focus on why they are admired as musicians.

Like nearly every band from the 80s, dead or alive, the musicians were in the spotlight. Like guitarists time again, Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen will step forward in a concert to show their skills. No solo is played off in the background or off to the side of the stage. They head down the catwalk and let the fans see what’s in store for their attentive ears. Bassist Rick Savage isn’t a “beast” on bass, but he takes a moment to stand in the spotlight himself when doing openings to songs like Hysteria, or even their cover of Rock On. Singer Joe Elliott has stood center stage singing loud, powerful “yeah’s” and “oh’s” in a melodic sort of scream while maintaining pitch and note length. To this day, he’s ended the song Make Love Like a Man with a long exaggerated note that sends the girls into a loud frenzy.

Rock heroes are turning into “just the guys in the band” today. Who’s the blame? The artists who don’t have “it” but still make it in the industry? The industry for signing said, C-student songwriters and artists? Perhaps the fault goes to the fans for accepting it all? I blame the media. We live in a world where if it’s not on TV or the internet or social media, it’s old news and therefore worthless. What do you think would happen if the media everywhere (TV, radio, internet) were to suddenly drop the one-hit wonders off at the preschool doors and start highlighting the great musicians that are out there? Today, we have to find new guitar heroes by scoping out YouTube. Even then, what’s to gain? Someone like Anthony Vincent of the famed Ten Second Songs YouTube channel gets millions and millions of views. He directs his fans to check out his original band. They release some music, play some large shows, and … years after his YouTube debut (and millions of views) we don’t see him on The Late Show, MTV, VH1, the radio, etc. He’s just “another great guy on YouTube” that everyone has to check out once and say they did it. He’s the bungee jumping of music talent out there, and that’s sad. Anthony is a vocal expert and brilliant at the least. He’s overdue for grand opportunities.

In the meantime, the radio killed the guitar solo and *bam* most airtime for commercials (money, money, money) has been established. Even dead and gone two-hit wonders like Hinder had their short 16-bar guitar solo for their single, Lips of an Angel, abbreviated to 8-bars because that’s all the radio could tolerate. How rude, really. Who do broadcasting stations think they are to tell the artist how their song goes? I call it offensive, I call it disrespectful, and therefore I call the folks who participate in that nonsense, jackasses.

Video games in the 80s birthed originality. They birthed creative, fresh ideas. Sure, some games went down the tubes while others flourished, but they all had something unique about them. People were creating games from two basic BLANK templates: Coding and graphics. Sound and music were added to make things exciting, too. Today, video games like the WWE series of games appear to be quite the upgrade. The graphics are now 3D, frameless, and rich with shadows, light, and other realistic qualities. The music? Real songs. The sound effects? As real as the motion-capture animation. So why are the games being called crap? Because each WWE game from year to year is the same template with minor additions. Old issues aren’t remedied. The game makers rush to release dates with the idea that a simple update later can fix the bugs. Where’s the quality control? The testers are moot, though their names are listed in the credits. The real testers are the fans. The bug reports? Every online forum where fans rip one into the game for something that isn’t working correctly. Garbage.

The mobile world isn’t exempt either. I’m an iOS user. The App Store? Well, it got (an overdue) a brand new look. How is the quality? Crap. There are still games made by children, thriving hobbyists using templates, etc. How many “blocky” games are there? They seem to be part of a series, yet there is no patent on the name, and each game is made by a different developer. Countless matching puzzle games have been released with different themes – but they are all the same game. Remember Snood? Snood was the original bubble-popper from the turn of the millennium which was played online through earlier internet websites. Today, the game is alive and well in 100s of copycat Snood games that just feature different themes. And money? That’s the one thing each game has in common. The users aren’t buying a game with confidence that it’ll be worth owning. Hell, they can’t even hold it because it’s virtual. They are either renting the game for a few or downloading it for free only to be greeted by constant prompts to spend more money via ads and in-app purchases. The IAPs have made games nothing short of a pathetic joke. Use real money to buy more bullets that you can use up permanently? This isn’t Las Vegas, dear Apple, this is just … gaming. A game. A toy. Something fun to do to pass the time. People are starving in the world, and you want kids to beg their parents for money to buy virtual items with an expiration date on them? Screw off, you bastards.

Remember when Siskel & Ebert reined supreme with their well-educated summaries, reviews, and critiques of our beloved films? Those days are over. No one is a professional film critic. Much like professional photographers, videographers, and musicians … everyone is a critic today. They have a computer. They blog endlessly about how lametastic a film was, or how incredible it was. Either way, there are dozens of thousands of them out there, and few of them are in our hearts.

America is the king of drama today. People here are blaming everyone for everything. We have a victim society of crybabies who cannot stand for even a moment to deal with an ounce of criticism. Words, simple little sounds associated with definition and accompanied by a valid spelling are now being misspelled or excluded entirely because they are “naughty.” In the 80s, children’s movies like Monster Squad and Stand By Me featured that one curse word, and it was cute. In E.T., we all laughed when little Elliott shot down his older brother with a stabbing comeback of, “Penis-breath!!” Today, all of those would be considered disgusting by our prude citizens. But are they really so culturally sensitive? I think something is drastically wrong. The same people who call a lawyer when a product doesn’t sport a warning label to protect idiots from themselves are also the same people who are sitting at home surfing the web for nude photos and lewd sexual behavior in video form. The bottom line: People live under self-gain.

A society that’s selfish will inevitably crumble. Look at America’s current leader. He’s a businessman without a single background in the military or politics. He’s run companies but never governed so much as a town. Will America heal and grow, or fall and self-destruct?

Money is the root of all evil. It doesn’t have to be, but we’ve made it that way.

The internet has potential, too, or rather HAD potential. There’s no policing or quality control online, so most of us have to waste our personal time sifting through garbage just to find gold.

What’s next, humanity? Will Darwin be wrong or right? Will we see our flying cars, hoverboards, entirely AI-based talking computers that accomplish countless daily tasks through automation or the ultra-sensory perception of thought itself? Will food one day be 100% organic again? Will artificial colors and sweeteners become homeless in the world of foods and drinks? Will franchises be run over by family owned restaurants? Likewise, will the same happen to commercialized store chains by ever-growing “mom and pop” shops?

This might sound really odd, but I’m simultaneously excited for and terrified for the future of the world.

More From Niko Lalangas …

Tips For Cover Bands!

My Current Live Guitar Rig Rundown

3 Responses

  1. An interesting and thought-provoking commentary Niko. You raise a lot of good points, many of which I’m in agreement with. But on the subject of “policing or quality control online,” who would do the policing or decide what is quality and what is not? I agree that there’s way too much crap on the internet and social media, where everyone’s now a critic or pundit, but I don’t think I want some committee or board ruling on what’s good and what isn’t.

    What’s really needed is a better-educated society in which people can learn to distinguish what’s true, worthwhile and of quality from all the meaningless crap. It’s a daunting challenge in a culture that places more importance on Kim Kardashian’s latest outfit over new discoveries about a distant planet.

  2. Well, I agree. I don’t think we as a civilization know how to filter the internet. I wish we did, but we don’t. We’d need the internet to be run by a dictator with a big heart. (Is there such a person?)

    Education is a definite benefit for mankind. Unfortunately, it’s not abundant. Ignorance is everywhere. In America, ignorance is practically a product. I truly believe that America has a little patent somewhere on things like ignorance, whining, diabetes, and reality TV shows.

    I couldn’t agree more, I often feel like a minority in most general populations. I feel that way for many reasons, really, but on this subject it’s often because I don’t associate with much of “pop culture” – I grew up on things called books. Weird, right? 🙂

  1. October 19, 2017

    […] what my next blog post should be about, and what should turn up in my inbox but this post: https://adamharkus.com/idiocracy-en-route/  A small warning: if you are particularly sensitive about what you hear, like I am, you may want […]

%d bloggers like this: