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Get Off My Lawn: American Traditions That Used to Be Great and Now Suck

(Twenty-five bucks, and there’s no touching? Thanks, but I’ll take my business elsewhere.)

By Dustin Seibert

I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier last weekend, and because I felt inclined to see it in 3D IMAX, I had to drop $18.50 on a matinee ticket. And, since it was one of those days I felt like having nachos with cheese and a giant bucket of jalapeno peppers, I had to drop an extra $6.25.

It’s worth noting that the “IMAX” screen was one of those slightly bigger screens using the proprietary technology, which is nowhere near as cool or big as a stories-tall, proper IMAX screen; the 3D added virtually nothing to an otherwise decent film, I snuck my own damn drink in and the nachos were stale.

That’s a quarter shy of $25 for an experience that would have cost me less than $10 when I was a teenager. Hell, the ticket alone would’ve cost me less than the nachos back then. Sure, I’m only in my early 30s, but that’s old enough to recognize how much better some things were in the previous generation. I’m not like my dad, who just recently upgraded from a 56K modem and has been dragged into the cell phone age kicking and screaming, but I find myself becoming a little more like him every day when I look around at the teenagers who will never relate to the cool parts of my ’80s and ’90s childhood.

The things on this list have been relegated to fond memories that Millennials would probably laugh at. All my fellow 30-somethings, feel free to break out your handkerchiefs…

Phone conversations – My dad would tell me about the old days when they used a “party line” – one phone line shared by several neighbors. No one misses that I’m sure, but I definitely miss the days when a phone conversation was conducted strictly in the privacy of two people. The convenience and ubiquity cell phones was once awesome, but now you’re forced to listen to folks’ mundane-ass conversations everywhere you go. You can’t ride a train home from work without learning that Caitlin is bringing her boyfriend home an organic kale salad and a copy of Love Actually for Wednesday date night. You’re forced to hear every detail of how some complete stranger’s day at work went, all the way down to his decision to risk shooting a deuce during his 15-minute break. Every now and again you can eavesdrop on a conversation that might make for an interesting beer-time story for friends, but you’re almost never that lucky.

Arcades – My old barbershop in the 1980s had a Pac-Man machine. It was one quarter for a play, as was virtually every arcade made within 10 years of that time. Dusting 9-year-old fools in “Street Fighter II” at the Ground Round using Ken was an inexpensive affair, and only rarely did you have to make a serious decision to drop 50 cents on a machine, like that cool “After Burner” game that you sat in and moved around. Now, with the power of console and PC gaming, people stopped caring about arcades; the newest ones basically all have plastic guns and steering wheels and cost $1,539 in quarters for one play. The days of long lines to play Mortal Kombat are long gone; to play competitively in a halfway decent game these days, we have to suffer the indignity of getting cursed out by 12-year-olds on Xbox Live. Bonus: as an adult, it’s incredibly easy to make a 12-year-old boy feel bad about himself.

Movies – Man, going to the movies was awesome once upon a time. You could see big-budget films from many different genres, you could get a box of popcorn for three bucks (which was still too expensive) and trailers lasted 10 minutes tops. Everything fell apart when televisions got bigger and television shows got a hell of a lot better: Studios started leaning on big, tentpole franchises that are malignant warts on the ass of the cinematic culture at the expense of cheaper, more cerebral movies that only get released during Oscar season; ads got so long and ubiquitous that you might as well show up a half-hour after start time if you don’t wanna sit through a stupid fucking Fanta commercial; and tickets got STUPID expensive, with studios pointlessly converting movies to 3D to justify the inflated ticket price. The industry needs to get its shit together in a major way before everybody stops caring.

Music – I know every generation complains about how contemporary music sucks more than the music of their “time.” But as a highly eclectic music listener, I’m convinced that music has hit a nadir from which it may never be able to truly recover. Everything sucks now. Classic R&B – with its multi-part harmonies and emphasis on voice quality over looks – damn near doesn’t exist anymore. People born in the 1990s believe that Kanye West and Drake are hip-hop legends. Respectable music magazines dedicate loads of copy toward talentless, pale, waif-y artists whose songs I can’t name but I can tell you whether they had panties on when they got out of their limo last night. And ultra-lame hipster fuckboys resembling a pre-heroin Corey Feldman are getting paid meeelions and meelions of dollars to stand behind boards, hit buttons and call it “art.” It’s easy to blame the spread of piracy on the need for labels to throw money behind artists with the most mainstream sound, but I’m a firm believer that people will love what you give them; if you block out all the bleep-bleep-bloop, thin-voiced bullshit, talent will actually reign supreme.

Having to work for your porn – I’ll freely admit that I’m jealous of these young crumbsnatchers who have access to waves and waves of free porn anytime they wanna watch it on the devices they all carry in their pockets. When I was in grade school, resourcefulness was essential if I wanted but a glimpse of the hairy bush porn of the era: I had to break into my dad’s stash by jimmying the lock to his case with a kitchen fork, or search high and low for the key, and I had to leave everything exactly the way I found it, lest I got busted. When I got a little older, I enlisted the help of my 18-year-old buddies to rent porn tapes in stores for me. On top of everything else, I had to hide all of this physical media where it could never be uncovered. Today’s kids, who share it freely and liberally via Twitter and who frequent sites like PornHub, don’t have to bother with any of that shit. Assume that if your young one has a smartphone or any computer access, there’s no mystery whatsoever. Porn was a rite of passage — now that any sixth grader with an iPod Touch can access it, what’s left to sneak around for?

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