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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: What great things will future generations miss out on?

Polaroid camera

You’ve heard, I’m sure, about the Mindset List that Beloit College in Wisconsin distributes every year to clue in its professors about the assumptions and prejudices of the incoming freshmen for the new academic year. A few selections from this year’s list:

Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.

Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents.

The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.

Amazon has never been just a river in South America.

The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia.

Music has always been available via free downloads.

Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.

Women have always been Venusians; men, Martians.

“PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.

The list blows my mind every year. It blows my mind more every year, because each year I share less and less of my worldview, and the things that shaped me as a person, with these youngsters. The incoming freshman class of 2015 were mostly born in 1993. That’s like yesterday to me in many ways.


Meranda Watling at 10,000 Words is only a few years younger than the class of 2015, but already she’s starting to experience the same astonishing disconntect from the rising generation. She poignantly singles out a few things that she laments these kids have missed out on:

Waiting through the newscast for school closings/weather

Comics in print

The TV guide

Paper mâché and other paper crafts

Magazines arriving by mail/finding them on the newsstand

Think about your own childhood, and how the forces then shaped who you became, and then think about this:

What great things will future generations miss out on?

Here’s one of mine: The wonderful anticipation of film photography. Waiting for a roll film to be developed — for days or weeks! — and then that moment just before you open the envelope full of prints: it was like a little taste of Christmas. What would they look like? How many would have a thumb over the lens? Which would make you shriek with delight as you recalled the moment it was taken? Even relatively instantaneous Polaroids made you wait a few minutes, while you shook the print excitedly, before you got a look at the final result.

A couple of years ago, my niece and nephew, who are now eight and five, were eager to see the snapshots my mother, their grandmother, had just taken. So of course they asked to see the back of the camera, because that’s where you see photos right away, right after they’re taken. The kids were completely flummoxed by the fact that there was no screen on the back of the camera: it was one of those disposable cardboard jobbies that do still exist that use actual film. Their confusion was palpable and hilarious and made me realize just how damn old I’ve gotten, and how much the world has changed.


(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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