Meet The Jetsons

jetsonslogo

My friend Matt Novak of Paleofuture was on CBS Sunday Morning today (here’s the video), talking about The Jetsons and what came true (or didn’t come true) in their predictions of the future. Back in 2011 I wrote a piece for the print Paleofuture about the food on the show. I don’t think the issue is still available so I figured I’d post the article here.

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Meet The Jetsons

I’ve often wondered which time I’d like to live in more, the rock house and dinosaur-filled Stone Age of The Flintstones or the whiz-bang, computerized future of The Jetsons. I used to think it was The Jetsons. Flying cars! Robots! 3D TV! Moving sidewalks! Those are things that make a boy raised on science fiction magazines very excited. But if you include food? I’d have to go with The Flintstones.

In the first episode of The Jetsons (titled “Rosey The Robot” – yup, with a “y,” not an “ie”), Jane (who is 33 years old, which seems rather odd since daughter Judy is 15 – I wonder what she and George were doing in high school?) is in a panic because the Foodarackacycle, the machine that creates food at the press of a button or two, is on the blink. Coffee tastes like tea, hot fudge pizza comes out instead of scrambled eggs, and the whole thing eventually just explodes because it’s so old. They need a new one, so George has a plan to ask his boss Mr. Spacely for a raise.

Conveniently, Spacely’s wife can’t cook dinner for him that night and he longs for a home-cooked meal (which doesn’t really make sense when so much of the food appears instantly from a machine he could probably do it himself), so he invites himself to the Jetsons apartment for some home cookin’. If George can give Spacely that home-cooked meal he’ll get the raise. Rosey saves the day by making a roast out of leftovers. Spacely loves it. In fact, Rosey’s pineapple upside down cake secures George’s job and raise.

By the second episode, “A Date with Jet Screamer,” the Jetsons have a brand new Foodarackacyle. Though I’m not sure if it’s “new,” exactly. Where the one they had before was simply push button, this new one needs punch cards inserted into it. But the result is the same: instant meals that the wife (or Rosey) don’t even have to prepare. While Rosey shows that she *can* cook, she really doesn’t have to. And that’s why there’s no food joy in the future. The Jetsons shows us that it’s all push-button insta-meals and flavored pills. It’s hard to picture a man or woman cooking all day to make a Thanksgiving meal: basting the turkey every once in a while, trying to get a pie crust just right, mixing the perfect martini (the Jetsons have a machine for that too). There’s something intoxicating about a home filled with the smells of food cooking, something beautiful in the process of learning a recipe and trying to create a meal from ingredients. Something we can share and pass down to our family members and friends. In the future, it all seems to be done behind a giant gray wall filled with buttons and lights.

I haven’t watched all of the episodes of The Jetsons in quite some time, and I wonder if cookbooks are going to be a thing of the past if the food world depicted by the show ever comes to be. As it is, this Foodarackacyle contraption isn’t made very well. By the second season the Jetsons need yet another new one, which they win on a game show. Maybe Foodarackacyles, like computers, have a built-in obsolescence. Maybe in the future Foodarackacyles are made by Microsoft.

So for the food, give me The Flintstones. They might have to power their cars with their feet, but at least they have Brontasaurus ribs.

What time is it?

I don’t understand people who don’t wear watches.

Oh, I “understand” them. It’s not as if I hear Klingon or the Peanuts “wha-wha-wha” when words come out of their mouths. I mean I don’t understand why they don’t wear watches. Yes, it’s a generational thing. People under the age of, oh, 33 or so just use their cell phones to tell time (and communicate with other people and surf the web and keep track of addresses, etc, etc, etc). Maybe I’d understand the no-watch thing if I used a cell phone.

There it is! The truth comes out! Luddite! Luddite! Luddite! No. I own a cell (not a smart phone, a dumb one) but I choose not to use it because I was probably using it a grand total of two minutes a month when I did use it. And I have a laptop and I’ve been using computers since the early 80s and I Skype and I’m on Twitter and I design web sites, but I also wear an old-fashioned analog watch.

I have one foot in 1959 and one foot in 2013, and it suits me just fine.

But back to the cell vs. watch thing: what happens if you misplace your cell? Or it dies? Or it’s stolen? Or it falls into a toilet? It seems odd to carry around this rather bulky item in your pocket to tell the time when you could just strap a light watch to your wrist, which is out of the way until you need it. You don’t have to turn on a watch to see what time it is or press a button to make the time light up. You twist your wrist and you see what time it is. Total time it takes: 1.2 seconds.

I wonder how many people are growing up these days not even knowing how to read an analog clock. (Don’t laugh – I actually know a twentysomething who has a hard time.)

I’m the same way when it comes to address books. I still keep a paper address book on my desk. If I need to find a number, I just open the page via the alpha listing and find it. I have friends who keep their entire lives on their phones. If they want to find a number for someone they have to turn on their phones (if it’s not on already) and scroll through a list of “contacts” (we used to call them “phone numbers” or “friends” or “family members”). And because our brains are getting rearranged and no one even memorizes phone numbers anymore (I still remember my childhood phone number and the phone number of the pizza place I worked at 27 years ago), these people will have to look at the contacts in their cells again a few days later when they need the same number.

I have a friend who does this. He refuses to have a piece of paper next to his phone with a list of four or five numbers that he might need. He actually refuses to do this, because he thinks it’s “easier” or maybe “more modern” to have everything on your phone. Meanwhile, when he has to find his phone and look up something he gets irritated and sighs heavily.

A lot of people seem to think that if they admit that paper still has a vital role to play in society then they will be considered old or slow or not with-it. A test: go for one week without using any paper at all. See how that works out to you. Come back here and leave a comment and let us know how it went.

What I’m trying to say – and I admit it might have gotten lost – I will always wear a watch. I like landline phones and old phone books and paper planners and pens too. So sue me (there’s an app for that).

I have no idea how I got into a rant about new tech vs. old, but there you go. Let me know what you think of the new site design (only the latest post on the front page, all the sidebar stuff on the bottom now, etc.) And have a great weekend!

(Oh yeah, an update to this: 2 and 3 completed, working on 1.)

Goals

I have three main goals this week:

1. Get the first issue of The Letter printed.

2. Get a haircut.

3. Buy Doritos.

These are not earth-shattering or groundbreaking ambitions, I know (except for that first one – it’s coming, I swear!), but it’s good to have small goals. Life is made up of the little things. Shopping, helping someone move, making dinner, saying thank you, haircuts.

As for the Doritos, I just have a massive craving for them today. Maybe when I’m at the store I’ll pick up a home pregnancy kit to see if there’s a reason for that craving.

This week

I was going to write about the events of the past week, but then I figured I don’t know if there’s anything I can add (or even want to add) to everything else that has already been said. It was a bad week in so many ways. Everyone needs a reboot.

I will talk about the passing of one of my former TV Squad colleagues, Allison Waldman. She passed away from cancer this week. I hadn’t talked to her in a while – she left a comment on this site several months ago – and I didn’t even realize she was going through all of that for so long.

She was a fine person, a positive person, and also the world’s biggest Barbra Streisand fan. So big that Streisand herself posted something about Allison’s passing on her site. Allison did a Kickstarter project for a Streisand book (her second) and I’m happy to report that she reached her goal (and then some), and it’s great that she got to see it get published.

Who’s on first?

I have a simple rule at the supermarket: if it has a handle, i don’t need a bag. If it doesn’t have a handle, put it in a bag.

For example, I don’t need gallons of milk or gallons of water in a bag, or if it’s a giant item like a Rubbermaid container. But cans of soup and chicken and small water bottles and toilet paper? Yes. Always.

Today I got both a gallon of water and a six-pack of small water bottles. The small bottles don’t have a handle, they just come encased in plastic wrap. The clerk asks me what kind of bag I want and I say plastic will be fine and the bagger starts to put them into plastic bags. She’s about to put the small water bottles into my cart without a bag, and I point to them and ask, “can I get those in a bag too? Thanks!” She does it, and then suddenly the entire transaction turns into an Abbott & Costello routine. The clerk hears this and asks the bagger, “do you need a bag?” She pulls out a paper bag from under the counter and hands it to the clerk. I say to the clerk I don’t need a paper bag I just asked the bagger to put the water bottles into a  plastic bag like all the other groceries. The clerk says “oh, I’m just so used to saying ‘paper or plastic.’

Don’t worry, I have no idea what she meant either. I will cover my mistake by saying phrases that this customer has heard in a supermarket before but don’t really make sense in this context and it will confuse him! Third base!

So the transaction is over and I push my cart and my groceries out the door to the car and I notice something: the bagger put the GALLON OF WATER INTO A PLASTIC BAG AS WELL, probably thinking that when I asked for the small water bottles to be put into a bag that I wanted all of my water-based grocery items put in bags. So now I have to carry a gallon of water, which has it’s own handle, inside a rather flimsy plastic bag, which also has its own handle. I felt stupid. I actually had to grab the handle of the jug anyway because I didn’t want to hold a gallon of water via the plastic and have it drop to the surface of the parking lot.

Sometimes I just…sometimes….

Monday

Hey, let’s talk about The Letter! Or, as subscribers have come to know it, “Hey jerk, where the hell is The Letter?!?” It’s coming. Things just got away from me, but it’s coming I swear. I haven’t run off to the Caribbean with the money (I’m not a beach person). I wish I had gotten it out in January like I had promised. Not only because I’m sorry it’s so late but because starting things in January just seems…..right. (And easier to keep track of.) But the seasons come and go, and they came and went. One day you’re turning the heat up in the house and shoveling show off the steps and a week later it’s 61 degrees and you’re wondering if you should put the screen in the front door.

I haven’t yet but I can feel it’s coming.

Why He Wrote

Everyone has a Roger Ebert story today. Here’s mine.

In 2002 I decided to start a web magazine called Professor Barnhardt’s Journal. It’s more of a blog now, but when it launched 11 years ago it was more of a magazine, with guest writers and longer pieces and theme issues. I wanted the first issue to not only be a theme issue (“Why I Write”), I wanted to get some big names to draw some attention to the mag. I didn’t know if I would succeed or not – I couldn’t pay anyone and it was the first issue of the mag so there was a good chance nobody would even know who I was or what this new publication was all about – but I sent out some e-mails to some well-known writers.

Roger was the first one to respond, and he jumped into it enthusiastically. It showed he not only got what I wanted to do, he wanted to pass on some words of wisdom about the writing life that others could learn from. His words will ring true to anyone who writes for a living (and a life).

Another reason I liked him: he knew who this “Professor Barnhardt” was before I even put the picture at the top of the mag to give everyone a hint. He sent me an e-mail with the words “Sam Jaffe!” The guy knew and loved movies to his core.

Here’s the piece he wrote for the first issue of PBJ (he wrote another piece for the mag a couple of years later). Also read his last journal entry. His last words are stunning in their perfection.

Have a good weekend.