Monday, August 1, 2011

Dad and American Idol

My Dad died in 1984.  I often wonder what it would be like if he could suddenly be transported into our time, even if just for one day, to see what it is like to live in our present time.  What would someone whose last earthly memories were of the year 1984 think of our time today?  He would have to get used to personal computers, cell phones, CDs, the Internet, Reality TV.  One show I know he'd love for sure is "American Idol."  I personally refuse to watch the show.  Based on the clips I've seen, I can totally picture the producers auditioning these really bad singers and buttering them up, telling them what great voices they have, only to have them sing for Simon and immediately have their dreams crushed in front of millions of people.  All of us, growing up, have sang alone in our bedrooms to records we've loved and thought that our voices sounded amazing, and the producers prey on this fact of human nature. I don't have any proof of this, but the stunned expressions on the contestants' faces after he tells them how much they suck is all I need to know that they didn't get a spot on the show knowing that the producers warned them ahead of time that they were taking a risk by singing on TV and embarrassing themselves on live television.

But my Dad would have been willing to overlook this.  He was a singer himself.  He was the type of singer that only had to study for a year or so then just opened his mouth and out came melodies sung as beautiful and effortlessly as a bird.  He was very critical of other singers, so he would have loved a show like "American Idol."  I can't imagine him watching any other Reality TV.  He always enjoyed scripted shows like "All in the Family" and "Soap." If he really did come back to life in our present time, I believe he would still be watching those shows in syndication.  He was a creature of habit and not particularly technologically-minded.  I remember when VCRs came out, I BEGGED my parents to get one so I could tape my favorite shows and watch them over and over again.  My Dad thought VCRs were silly and was completely against the idea of us getting one. My Mom finally talked him into renting one.  Believe it or not, back in the 80's, if you didn't want to make a "commitment" to getting a VCR, you could just rent one for a while, then give it back. 

After we had our rented VCR for several months, my Dad warmed up to the idea.  He even wanted me to teach him how to program his shows so he wouldn't miss them while he was out.  Programming VCRs in the 80's practically required a special course, and I was the only one in the family who bothered to learn how to do it. You couldn't just enter "7:59 to 9:01," because measurements of time were not labeled in numbers but rather in sections of a pie chart, i.e., half-moon for 30 minutes, three quarters of the pie chart for 45, etc.  But he wanted me to teach him so I did.  I don't remember him ever actually programming anything though.  Like I said, he wasn't really excited about advances in technology, he could either take it or leave it. If he did come back today, he would find absolutely no need for cell phones, computers or the Internet.  And don't even get me started on Auto-Tune!


  1. I often think of my younger self being transported from the early 80s to today. I would have this little thing the size of a deck of cards that i could play a video game on. No more arcades for me. Oh, and wonder of wonders, I could also make phone calls with it!

  2. Yes, and remember, you were the first person I ever knew who actually had a word processor!

  3. YES! I remember that. It took the 3.5" floppy disks. I loved that thing! I paid $400 for it, and sold it in a yard sale for $20.

  4. That's so funny! I didn't even know a word processor existed until you got yours! At least you got some cash for it!