Last night, I found myself watching an episode of Sliders on the tube. This time, Our Heroes found themselves in a world where the commercial aspects of Christmas had taken over, and people were enticed by subliminal advertising into a lifetime of literal debt peonage.
The episode aired for the first time in 1996: not that long ago, but the world has changed so much since then! We don’t have literal debt peonage, but we’ve come awfully close. The desperate characters that stood out in the 1990s seem to reflect all of our lives now. And while subliminal advertising is still illegal (at least I think it is), that’s hardly a problem as we have so much overt advertising coming at us nonstop. In 1996, the Internet was still mostly a curiosity, something that you experienced while sitting at a designated machine, typically over a telephone line. (Remember them?) Today, we have Web sites and blogs and e-mail, all laden with the message to buy! buy! buy!!!!
I had missed the first part of the episode and wanted to watch it again. It’s available, on Hulu Plus, for the low low price of $8/month, along with piles of other videos. I know the racket: yes, you can cancel any time, but somehow you never get around to it. And I have little enough time to watch videos in any case.
I mostly missed Christmas this year, trying to meet deadlines in the face of constant interruptions. The decorations are up in my office building and in the lobby of my apartment building, but I didn’t have time to clear out the junk and set up a Christmas tree. The weather hasn’t helped: with lows in the 40s for most of December, it hasn’t felt like Christmas. And last week I had a nasty head cold.
Still, I should count my blessings: I’m employed, able to keep the lights on and a roof over our heads, and fix a nice Christmas dinner. My wife keeps me company and puts up with my bad moods. Tonight, she insisted that we go out for a walk: it felt good to get the blood moving.
Is this what I thought my life would be like in 1996?
In any case, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night….