Back to the Future

Uh oh. This technology thing is great when it works, but right now it’s not working well. I am having trouble with Google Chrome across the board — search engines, blog access, Drive — it all needs a shot of technological Ex-Lax as I write this. I am not sure if the problem is system-wide or if it’s a PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Computer) problem but we’ll keep plugging away. It’s ironic, because what I was going to discuss today is how much I love technology.

I am 61 years old. I feel for the most part like I am in my early 20s. I can remember my childhood, for better or worse, very well. When I was in grade school I, for a number of reasons, spent a lot of time sitting and waiting in the car. When I could anticipate these waits I brought a stack of comic books or a Hardy Boys book and spent the time reading. If I exhausted the reading material I wound up sitting and spinning, as it were.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been revisiting those times, sitting and waiting, usually in the car, as I have been chauffeuring my younger daughter around to acting rehearsals, voices lessons and the various la-da-da-da-dee that parents do before their children are old enough to drive. The distance from our house to the destination often precludes dropping off and going home and coming back later; it’s easier to stay and sit and wait. As long as I have my Kindle Fire, that is.

Did I mention at some point here that I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas? It’s taken me a little while but I have it up and running to the point where it is more than a really sharp e-reader, and the result is that it has become something that I cannot be or do without. I had to smack it a bit to accept Google Drive, but now that it has I can run my law practice from it; work on manuscripts; write book reviews; write blogs; answer e-mail; listen to music tracks; watch videos; keep track of that daughter of mine; and yes, read comic books. That stack of comic books is now theoretically inexhaustible. Oh, and if I want a Hardy Boy book? Yeah, I can get one of those, too.

I don’t want to turn this into a “when I was boy” essay, so I won’t. I read a lot of science fiction when I was younger, however, and to paraphrase Pogo I have seen the future, and it is us. We may have been promised jetpacks, but what we have is plenty good enough. I took my car in for service the other night and the friendly greeter/advisor who met me at the door no longer carries a clipboard. He’s got a tablet, and with a couple of taps he had my vehicle history all the way back to…well, back to when the only tablets were made of aspirin or paper.

Is there a question here? Sure! What technological development has directly changed your life or occupation the most? What new technological tool is indispensable to you?

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Why I Never Read Nancy Drew or The Power of Enid

By Clare Langley-Hawthorne
www.clarelangleyhawthorne.com

Perhaps Michelle’s blog post last week has put me in a confessional mood but I feel I ought to admit that I have never read a Nancy Drew book or a Hardy Boys’ mystery. Not one. Not ever. And you know what – I’m not going to either. Sure when I’m on a panel discussion I sometimes I feel a wee bit embarrassed by this perceived lack of education but to be honest, I don’t really care. I’m Australian. My parents are British. We read Enid Blyton. Deal with it.

But then of course I get the blank stares – who the hell is Enid Blyton? So I think it’s about time to celebrate the power of Enid.

Even when I started reading her books in the late 1970’s she was old fashioned – full of bizarre references to Tongue sandwiches, anchovy paste, macaroons and orangeade. I had little idea what these were and I certainly never had midnight feasts at boarding school or discovered German spies on an offshore island – but still I was hooked.

The Famous five were early favorites: Julian, Dick, George (the tomboy), Anne and Timothy the Dog – constantly finding themselves in trouble with gypsies, circus folk, mad scientists and smugglers. I was never very keen on the Secret Seven – they were ‘dags’ (Australian for nerds). My other favorites, however, included the ‘Secret Series’ (such as The Secret of Spiggy Holes and The Secret of Killmooin) and The ‘Mystery series’ (such as The Ring O’Bells Mystery, The Rubadub Mystery). But my all time favorite was the ‘Adventure’ series – The Island of Adventure, the Castle of Adventure, The River of Adventure – you get the picture. Enid was never what you’d call innovative with her titles.

What was the enduring power of these books? I think the Harry Potter phenomenon captures something very similar – the ‘derring-do’ of the British child. I’d even go as far to call it an archetype – and I fell for it hard. How I wanted to go for holidays in a horse drawn caravan and encounter circus folk, or have famous aviator parents who flew you to mythical lands. Why couldn’t I get mumps and recuperate in an English village full of mysteries? Why wasn’t I allowed to sail to my own secret island?!

Believe it or not I think kids are still reading Enid Blyton – despite the fact that they are a product of a bygone era in which racial stereotypes and British imperialism is rampant. Despite all this, however, I’m happy to stand proud by Enid – and I bet that George (really gender confused Georgina) and Timmy the dog would whip Nancy Drew’s butt any day of the week.

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