On the Table: Late to the Party

Parachute PantsRemember parachute pants? Man, I hated those things and everyone that wore them irritated me–until the day I bought a pair and realized what I was missing out on and just how glorious it is to have thirty-seven pockets on a pair of pants that are too tight to bend over and tie your shoes in (that’s why they make Vans loafers.) So the question is: What cultural phenomenon, whether technology, music, fashion, art, or anything else, did you miss out on until the last possible minute and then finally give into?

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Russ Ramsey – I was late for the Facebook party. Now of course I’ve always had email and web access—so its not like I’m technologically obtuse (I am, after all, part of an online community. But Xenga came along and I laughed to myself, “This will never catch on.” Then MySpace really turned up the pressure. But it was cumbersome, the music was usually unwelcome and most people seemed to use fake names making it very confusing to know who was who. And don’t even get me started on the whole “thanks for the add” thing. Who are these people? But Facebook check-mated me in just three moves. Move one: my friend says, “You’ve gotta see this picture on “other friends” Facebook page.” Move Two, “I says to the guy, ‘Email me the link.’” Move three, he does, I click on it and am informed that I can’t see said picture until I join and become my friend’s friend again. Over a barrel. So I join. Immediately it was like a hundred people from my past and present were all waiting online for the moment I joined. Everyone in the world wanted to be my friend. That day! I couldn’t turn anyone away. It was quite possibly the best 36 hours of my life. I was someone. I was Russ Ramsey. And I was on Facebook.

But then, things began to change. I kept getting emails whenever one of my 100 best friends became friends with another one of my 100 best friends—and for some reason I cannot explain Facebook thought I should know. Then a young lady in our church invited me to her graduation party which I was unable to attend due to travel. Long story short, I had no idea how to work the “application” she sent for a yes, no or maybe. So I told her no two times in a row without any kind of comment. Rudest pastor ever. I felt like I replied, “No. Didn’t you hear me, I said NO!” Now I’m hoping there’s a Facebook application for people struggling with the emotional roller coaster ride the first few weeks with Facebook takes you on.

At present, I’m building up a nice list of friendship requests, and I’m mulling them over. But these things, it turns out, are not to be entered into lightly. So I’m at the party, but I’m the guy over by the wall nursing a diet coke wondering if its time to call it a night. Word on the street is this party is definitely an all-nighter.

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eric-peters-thumb.gif Eric Peters – 1. Joining Myspace.com.

2. Joining Facebook.com.

3. Joining the forthcoming greatest social networking website.

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jason-gray-thumb.gif Jason Gray – I’m generally a late-comer to most things. I’m a bit of a contrarian, which means that if everybody’s doing it, then it’s the last thing I want to be a part of. I’m curmudgeonly that way. I resisted email, cell phones, ipods, and Macs for that reason. Since then, I’ve embraced all of those things and am grateful for them (especially my Mac!). I do the same with music, books, movies, etc.

I’m afraid that much of my reluctance probably comes from a desire to foster my identity as a non-joiner. Thankfully, though, I’m learning to get over myself.

But another part of it is that with every new sensation that comes along, I’m afraid of losing the good I’ve known of my time. I read that dead authors don’t sell very well, which is a shame since some of the best minds (and hearts) that Christianity has produced are now dead and gone. But we still have so much to learn from them. Augustine, Lewis, Chesterton, Bonhoeffer – today’s church needs to hear their words now more than ever. The same for music. There is still much good to be gleaned from even contemporary artists like Rich Mullins and Mark Heard not to mention more classic works by Robert Robinson, John Newton, and others. Because of our culture’s profane disregard of the old things, I’m usually suspicious of the new things.

Besides, I’m waiting for the iPhone to come out with an 80 gig version.

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ron-block-thumb.gif Ron Block – In high school in the 1980s I listened mostly to bluegrass and old country music from the 1930s through the 1960s; I was retro before retro was cool. And believe me, retro was most definitely not cool. Banjo belt buckles, a staple in modern American society, weren’t hip back then. I did get a lot of eye-rolling at my Dad’s rock and roll music store at the time.

So aside from being way ahead of pop culture trends, what phenomenon did I miss out on until the last moment? I was a little slow on the iPod, I think, though I’ve had several in the past few years. I still like records. CDs are on the way out and I dislike mp3 sound quality. But now iPods and external hard drives are big enough to accomodate dumping the cds straight in as wavs with no loss of quality.

Now, I did just buy a TV with a 52″ screen. Now that I’ve solidly established “Friday and Friday Night Alone Is Movie Night” in our family I felt safe going out and getting a flatscreen. The trend isn’t close to over, I realize, but our prior TV was about 20 inches and we got tired of squinting. This big ol’ TV will make its home downstairs, waiting every week, black and silent, for Friday night.

I still don’t have cable or satellite. That’s way too trendy.

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curt-mcley-thumb.gifCurt McLey – I am sometimes slow to embrace new things. A dash of cynicism, a shake or two of contrarianism, and a reluctance to let go of the past, probably all play a part. Once I do succumb to a trend, there’s a good chance I will retain it well past the time when good popular culture sense would suggest otherwise.

From the fashion world, my goatee is a perfect example. I can’t recall exactly when the goatee became ubiquitous, but as best I recall, it was somewhere in the mid 90s. I was sure it would die a quick death. Instead, like the Engergizer Bunny, it just went on and on and on. At least two or three years into the trend, I started to like the look and grew one myself, though I suspect its time probably passed at least five years ago.

Similar to the goatee, I totally underestimated rap music. Like the just under two year trend of disco music in the late 70s, I predicted rap music was a fad that would pass quickly. When the genre penetrated the world of mainstream music in the early 90s, I thought it would be gone within no more than two years. As it continues to infiltrate and often dominate popular music in the new century, I’m still surprised that it’s around. And I still don’t like it. It’s a bandwagon I contine to avoid.

Tatoos. That’s another piece of popular culture I’ve shunned, though it looks cool on Derek Webb. At one time, tattoos were the domain of sailors, bikers, and those that endured an unfortunate night of inebriation. Nowadays, grandma, your tax accountant, and the pope all probably have tattoos. Fine, for them, not for me. Regardless of how certain I am of a thing today, there’s a fair chance I might feel differently tomorrow. And I can shave a goatee if I don’t like it.

I have an iPod, I am a member of Facebook, I use nitrogen in my tires, and have a big-screen TV, so I’m not totally behind the pop culture curve. On the other hand, the woodwork in our house is stained, not painted white, my summer shorts are at at least two inches too high, our TV is not high definition, I don’t do the iPhone, and I still haven’t shaved my goatee. Yet.

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andrew-peterson-thumb.gif Andrew Peterson – I remember aching for parachute pants. And I mean aching. I also, unfortunately, ached for a rat tail. My mom, who cut my hair, refused, and for that I will be forever grateful.

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evie-coates-thumb.gif Evie Coates – It’s hard for me to imagine that there was ever life before e-mail, but I do faintly recall it. Right now I feel oddly like my grandpa Norberg when he said “I remember when there were no cars.” Or furthermore, like a Neanderthal saying “I remember when there were no wheels.” Just look how far we’ve come.

The year was 1996. It was my sophomore year at Auburn University (at least the football was good). I was an R.A. (that means Resident Assistant for all of you unlearnt folk). I enjoyed the perks of my own room, a window AC unit, and free room and board. All I had to endure was a week of ice breaker games and CPR training at the onset of the school year, drunk sorority girls banging on my door at all hours of the early morning asking for Advil (which of course, I was certified to administer), and being the dorm’s designated killer of flying roaches.

The computer lab was right across the street from our dorm (the name of which escapes me and this is making me feel ancient) on the quad, and I’ll never forget sitting at the front desk and watching girls file out the door in droves at all hours saying “wanna go check your e-mail?” “What? What’s this? What does this strange ‘e’ stand for? Well, I never…I’ll write letters by hand until Jesus returns. There’s no way I’ll start typing them. I hate to type. This is preposterous.”

Fast forward two years. The year was 1999. It was my second year at UT Chattanooga. My sister came to visit and I was showing her the design lab. “You know Evie, if you’d get an e-mail account, we could keep in touch much more easily.” And something in me snapped. I was suddenly ready for this gigantic step forward in technology. It had taken me awhile, but my hand was growing tired and Jesus sure was taking his sweet time, so we sat down, summoned the powers of hotmail, and here I’ve been ever since.