Thursday, March 11, 2021

The End of Nostalgia

Can you make out the word hidden in the top TV's static? Source.


With how bad things in the present may be, we tend to look back particularly fondly on the past. That isn't such a terrible thing to do, especially when the modern world can seem like a hopeless and lonely place. For those who have nothing, it benefits them to remember a time when they had some semblance of comfort in their lives. Without a reminder of how good things can be, getting through the tough times can feel impossible. The alternative of having nothing to fall back on is not one I really wish to discuss here, since I've seen many times where it can lead people.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to touch on it a bit today.

The uncomfortable truth is that, for a lot of people, the past is all they have left. Call it pathetic if you will, it still doesn't change reality. This is the world they live in. Being abandoned by family who moved away for greener pastures, and friends who sought thrill in the emptiness of crowded outdated urban centers, as well as having nothing in common with their neighbors aside from shopping at the same supermarket or Walmart aisle, has left many westerners adrift in this world. 

It's easy to say that they should do X or Y to improve their lives, but that matters little when the main problem is on a level higher than what the individual can actually fix. Believe it or not, it isn't up to the individual to do everything. We live in a society that loves death and celebrates emptiness. Those who long for something better are constantly told to accept less than the bare minimum, and have no one to back them up or remind them that there is more than the here and now. Falling into your own head due to a lack of safety railing, is a very real possibility.


The only meaning mainstream culture will give you.


Not to get too personal, but a faint acquaintance recently committed suicide. I had only met him a few times, as he had driven a taxi I was riding in, but hearing that news didn't make that chasm in the relationship soften the blow much. You see, he didn't live in a poor place. There wasn't much in the way of poverty, in the financial sense, where he lived and yet he still somehow decided he couldn't go on. He had a job, he had a home, and he had a stable life. It seemingly came out of nowhere. 

He wasn't the first victim of our generation, and the rate of such losses has not improved over the last year, especially due to being forced into a dark, lonely space while others scream at you should you want to take a breath outside. This is what such a situation can lead to. I'm not saying it is what happened to my faint acquaintance, but it does happen nonetheless.

I also know another individual who has taken to drinking after years of no activity, taking isolation as a way to further hide from the world. His family has long since abandoned him, as has his neighborhood. He doesn't see much of anything good when he looks around. I'm glad he is still hanging in there, but that's not a situation anyone should be in, especially not in a supposed civilization.

If you can't trust those supposedly closest to you then how are you supposed to forge relationships that will carry you into the future? How are you supposed to build a family with nothing but experience in betrayal and abandonment? No, just "getting over it" and pretending reality doesn't exist is not an option. That isn't how human beings work. All it leads to is a generation of drifters.

What future is this supposed to create?


You can't ignore reality.


The fact of the matter is that self-harm comes from a place of self-hatred, and not always in an obvious way. Sometimes it just comes from the fact that the subject was simply taught their entire life that their very existence was meaningless. This means that when things get hard and only get worse with no clear way out, for years, they simply have no reason to wait for things to improve. you can't say "things will get better, don't give up" because you don't know that, and their reality shows differently. Plus, you aren't them and we're all unique individuals, remember? Celebrate individuality above all and you're left with a generation of people who can't relate with anyone on any level. How do you help people like this? This thought process has sabotaged an uncountable number of people and lives, and yet some wonks still push it as the solution to society's ills.

Alienation is a difficult subject to talk about for many reasons, but I just want to touch on it here before we move on to the true subject of today's post.

I'll sum it up for you:

When someone has nothing, no one, and nowhere to go, with no tools to fight what is happening, and has no hope for the future, there is little reason they have to keep that fight up. This is reality. And modern western culture reinforces all those things that would make someone give up while intentionally burying and torching anything that might lift them out of the dirt. Should you want to know why I might sound a bit mean when discussing the moral and spiritual vapidity of the modern world, it is because I have little charity to expend upon those who relish feeding baser appetites that harm others' very being. All for what? Why, the glorious world of 2021, of course.

While you scream about bootstraps and silly-billy basket weaving degrees or whatever myopic nonsense you heard from some rich ticket taker, it isn't getting any easier for the hopeless.


This is one source, and the numbers are not improving. Emphasis above not mine.


And what alternatives do these people have? Any solutions from the supposed high intellect urban crowd?

No.



Not a whole lot of future here.

Please spare me the political posturing. Unless you have plans to address this, do not posit any solutions that will "fix" society. Stomping down on everyone equally, or continuing to ignore the situation, are both invalid approaches. And it's bad and has been getting worse for a while now.

This is also one area that I do not think the older among us, particularly those of the Baby Boomer generation, really understand. This isn't the same as play pretend rebel boomers saying dumb things about preferring to go to Hell so they can party with their hip friends. This is several generations of hopeless cases who literally don't even know what Hell is. It's sabotage to deny younger generations education and life advice your ancestors had because you feel you are above the past. I once heard a popular Millennial youtuber once mention that he didn't even know there were twelve apostles, something everyone in the poorly educated Gen Y even knows. How much do you want to bet there are many in Gen Z who don't even know what an apostle even is? What do you think the Last Generation currently coming up under them will learn?

I have heard tell from some of the more ignorant, yet luckier, among us that we shouldn't worry about these people because they are simply ignoring all the avenues to success they supposedly have, and should get over themselves. The irony of the fortunate calling the unfortunate lucky will never be lost on me, but this is also part of the problem. There is a clear disconnect between those suffering and those that are not that simply can't be bridged. That bridge was blown up decades ago. The modern world is simply too broken to allow any understanding between separate parties.

After everything this past year has shown, I am outright floored that there are still some who do not get this. Do you really think forcing your opponents do what you want will fix the issue? That only proves that you don't understand the issues at play.

The modern world is a dung heap because we're all atomized individuals floating around without any anchor to tether us together. There isn't any shared vision of the future that isn't delusional utopian nonsense pushed by people with more money than brains. Those who just want normality can never have it, therefore they have nothing in the present to hold on to, and no future to aim towards. Whether this was intentional or not is beside the point. It's still reality.

So what does all this have to do with the overwhelming nostalgia swarming the western world?

The answer is: Everything.




We've discussed before how Cultural Ground Zero was the last visage of the old world before it was replaced with the modern hellscape we live in now--1997: Part 24. Little has changed since those days. In fact, the only thing that has changed is that those same things have rotten down to their bones. Nostalgia is the only thing that keeps people moving, because everything else around them is already dead. Why not instead remember a time when not only were things alive, but there was also a future worth striving for? They weren't taught anything to hope for, so this is what they are left with. Hence the nostalgia loop we've been in since the '90s came to a close over two decades ago. We are endlessly reliving the same year, with diminishing returns. And by now that year has been worn into dust.

Very soon, it will end. Nostalgia can't last forever.

What this has also done is left those younger than Gen Y in a bit of a pickle. Millennials were taught specifically to reject the past and revile it. So when they look at the present they are taught to plow through it to create the perfect utopian future they were erroneously taught to believe was possible. But even they can't fool themselves forever and will eventually begin to wonder what it's all for. Without a past to look towards or a present worth living in, a good future is impossible to strive for. when the nostalgic fa├žade is gone, all that will remain is the ugly reality we've been ignoring for near a quarter of a century. The real world will eventually come tumbling through that wall like a bulldozer on a condemned building.

The problem comes with the fact that nostalgia is over with Gen Y. Generation Y more or less killed the concept of nostalgia worship due to their obsession over reliving those few fruitful early years of their life--years that came before Cultural Ground Zero existed. Younger generations not only have no context for those older eras they are swimming in, due to being taught not to have any, but also due to not even really understanding their own past. They won't carry on the nostalgic wave, because they have no nostalgia to carry with them.

In essence, nostalgia is over. There will never be another nostalgic movement, because there is no longer anything to be nostalgic for or anyone left to get nostalgic over it. There is no longer any younger generation who has a past of cultural connections that is worth reliving--all they have are personal memories and a handful of products that existed in a post-death world. There is no cultural mood or spirit left to revive, because its the same spirit and mood we have now. All that is left for younger generations to be nostalgic over is decades of the same interminable era that refuses to die. You can't be nostalgic for something that has never gone away. That's simply not enough to form a movement.

You can't be nostalgic for a time exactly like the one you are in now. It would be like being in a war for 25 years and missing the tenth year of the war because things hadn't quite been so ravaged as they are now. It makes no sense.

For example, this recent greentext showed up on 4Chan, a Millennial's attempt to cultivate nostalgia among his peers. This went about as well as you would expect it did. It would be funny if it wasn't depressing.

This is what nostalgia is to a Millennial:




For those unaware, a greentext is post where one sums up their thoughts in choppy green points. It's internet shorthand attempting to mimic old chat rooms and ICQ. Yes, it's a relic of an older time, again. And in this case, it is meant to sum up why 1998-2008 was the best decade of all time. I'm sure those who lived through those years are already cocking their brows.

Before we go further, I just need to make it clear what a nostalgia movement is, and how it differs from an individual simply being nostalgic. There is a clear difference between the two, and it would make conversation about the subject easier.

A nostalgic movement is one where an entire generation of people reflect on the current times and, being unsatisfied with them, begin to revisit the past and bring elements of it to the modern day. You can see elements of the 1950s in a lot of 1980s entertainment, and it even peeked a bit into the '90s. Perhaps more infamously, you can see '90s and '80s nostalgia begin to show up as soon as the early '00s with things such as Retrojunk, early YouTube, Newgrounds, and most online entertainment forums. No matter where you went, someone was trying to take you back to better times. The '00s had nostalgic for the older decades faster than any generation before ever had.

Why did those nostalgia movements happen? For the 1980s, it was the revelation that the smaller, more compact communities and comfort of extended families was rapidly disappearing after the fractious 1960s and the despairing 1970s (two decades that have never had real nostalgic movements, I might add), which also dovetailed into the rising economies and hope for the future that we might have finally gotten past the worst of it. That ended up not being the case, but that one moment of optimism is still one entire generations cling to today, mostly due to not having anything better to look towards. A lot of the context for that 1980s mood is lost on anyone younger than a Gen Xer.

The 1990s had already fizzled out by the completely unremarkable year of 1999 after the events of Cultural Ground Zero, and by 2001, the West was changed forever. This period of malaise followed by despair was when the mood shifted permanently, and never shifted again.

If you do not remember what the mood was like in the '00s was like then you were either too young to compare it to what came before, or you are simply clueless. It was a fairly miserable time for culture and for many who had to deal with the cultural changes. 

Let me dissect the above attempt at Millennial nostalgia and tell you just how off base, and even insidious, it is. I will take it point by point.




1. The internet already existed, but the majority had no access.


Wrong. Not only was it accessible, but the number of users exploded into the mainstream by the mid-90s. The internet was a punchline in mainstream television and in movies. Even music had bands like Blink 182 and The Vandals writing songs about online dating. Then there was that early internet meme of the dancing baby that even showed up on Ally McBeal.

Beyond that, from the above post:

"Cost of a new PC from HP and Compaq dropped below $1000 for the first time

"One of the first steps for computers being affordable for the common man, prices fell to affordable levels in 1997. It might not have mattered much at the time, since the internet was still not quite there, but for the first time it felt like anyone could own one of these things."

"56k modems became standard

"Then again, the internet was there. 56k was the standard for the time and though now looked at as a joke today was the first instance of easy connectivity online for the common person. It made a difference. The internet was made easy in 1997."


"Facebook, Netflix.com, and Craigslist come online

"Once again, as the internet and computers become affordable for normal people, so too do the things that would take most their online activity in years to come. 1997 was a big year for computers and the internet. It all began here."

Remember this piece of nostalgia?




I apologize for the overload on this point, but I am not quite the fan of revisionism, especially when it seeks to blame normal people for the problems of the world. Especially, when it is wrong.

The internet became mainstream in the 1990s after increased growth in the 1980s. The only way you wouldn't know that is if you didn't live through it.




2. 1980s movies and music widely available
Disc rot


How in the world is the 1980s a point in the 2000's favor?

And I should add that 1980s wasn't any more available in the the 2000s than it was in the 1990s or 2010s. In fact, it was more available in those years because 1980s vinyls, VHS, CDs, and cassette tapes, were still around in full force in the 1990s, and 2010 Blu-ray rereleases made old '80s movies more readily available than they had been since their original release as well as still offering most older music used on online stores and sites like bandcamp or soundcloud. 

What did the 2000s offer? Badly encoded DVDs in cruddy cardboard boxes that currently sell for hundreds of dollars? By the middle of the decade, VHS was discontinued and an uncountable number of old movies were lost. Most were never repressed to DVD, and if they were they had been compressed or hacked in the process. Early DVD was a bad time for home video, especially considering the disc rot problem that has gotten worse over time.

If anything, despite the weird play at making the '80s a point in it's favor, the 2000s failed the most at doing anything to preserve things from that era.




3. Peace, Stability, and a Good Economy
The DC snipers


This one is just depressing. Without context of better times, this Millennial has somehow thought the 2000s were any more peaceful than the 2010s. In fact, it was a lot rougher because this decade shattered any illusion of peace we thought might have been achieved by the 1990s. It was all gone in record time, and never came back.

September 11th, 2001, the resulting 20 years of wars, and the housing market crash, alone, make this fail compared to what just happened a mere decade earlier. And those are just three examples. The 2000s had nothing in the way of comfort for anyone who wasn't a kid who was shielded from all of this. It was a very hopeless time.

But that's what most of this list is. It is written by someone who does not understand trends, or how one thing leads to another.

Heck, let's just skip the homosexual entry, because it completely misses how the snowball effect works, much like this entry did.




4. Illegal downloading gave you everything you could ever want


Not only did it do that, but it caused the music industry to create its own services like the iTunes store that added all kinds of DRM to your music, and the movie industry raised the prices. At the same time, considering the site this was posted on, the user should know how silly something like this is to include here.

The resulting crashed killed independent movie and music stores, relegating them into chains that were eventually absorbed into big box corporate stores. Not everyone used those download services to discover out of print and old material or to archive anything, most just used it to get stuff for free. And now here we are in a world of megacorps ruling the world, guarding your entertainment from customer ownership. Ain't it grand.

I also don't know how you can be nostalgic for piracy, because this still exists. It might be harder to find since pirates got incredibly lazy by the early '10s for whatever reason, but you still can find just about anything if you look hard enough. That hasn't changed in any way.

Nothing in this list has gone away. Though to be honest, being nostalgic for petty theft is bizarre enough.




5. Independent Porn Studios Existed
Integrity!


Oh yes, the human trafficking industry. Boy, do I miss being able to support them on their noble endeavors. If you're jonesing for better eras of pornography, then you just might be insane since the #1 issue with the internet remains that you can search for anything and pornography will still pop up. That's not even an exaggeration.

This might be the dumbest inclusion here, and that's saying something.




6. ICQ was a Thing







7. Facebook was not a Thing


This is just shooting fish in a drained basket at this point. Facebook launched on February 4th 2004. There's that 2000s legacy at work again.





8. Myspace Began to be a Thing


I don't know what this means. Myspace was Facebook before Facebook took off a mere handful of years later. It actually started a year after Facebook did and was still popular for a good chunk of its run. But people abandoned it because it just wasn't that good.

It was just more social media, all of which came to prominence in the 2000s.





9. Michael Jackson was still alive
His last megahit album. Release date: 1991.


A lot of people I knew were still alive in the 2000s. I'm not sure how a 1980s/90s pop artist being alive changes anything either way or another. Especially one whose last album came out in 2001 and was pretty much forgotten after release.

Nonetheless, he wasn't exactly on his A-game anymore in the 2000s, nowhere near where he was for nearly three decades before it. He spent most of it in court battles or being sick. I'm sure if he were still alive it would be the decade of his life he'd want to remember the least.

This isn't a point in the 2000s favor. All it does is remind readers how inferior entertainment of the time was to the decades before.





10. The Simpsons was still funny


Maybe it was still funny if you don't have a sense of humor. 1998 is literally the year the Simpsons stopped being funny.

1998 was the year of season 10, the season the original staff all left for Futurama and King of the Hill. By the end of season 10, all the old writers were gone and replaced with the same people who have been in charge since. I'm not even joking, you can look and compare the names for yourself. All Simpsons episodes after 1998 are interchangeable because it's all written by the same unfunny people and has been ever since.

Being nostalgic for a show's downfall is a very weird thing to be nostalgic for. The Simpsons was awful in the 2000s. If you were paying attention you would have found many discussions about it at the time. There is a reason DVD sales of the show sharply declined after season 10, eventually ceasing before they caught up. People stopped buying it.

This was a horrible point.






This isn't cultural nostalgia, it's just youthful nostalgia. It's pining for days of (relative) innocence. Not that there isn't anything particularly wrong with that. The present not working out and the future looking bleak is a reason enough to pine for better times. However, it's not enough to start any sort of wider cultural movement.

The fact of the matter is that the 2000s were an awful time culturally, and not one that offers us anything for the present. Every present thing we are suffering from existed back then and has only metastasized into being what it is now. Aside from missing things from when you were younger, what is there to be nostalgic for? The poison not yet numbing your muscles?

This is why nostalgia as a drug is quickly wearing out its welcome. Gen Y's passing of the torch will see to the end of the last traces of that old world. Just as we have reached the end of pop culture, so too have we reached the end of nostalgia. Very soon all that will be left is the reality we've fallen into and are unable to escape.

When that end comes, what will you have built in its place? This is the best chance you will ever have to positively create art and entertainment as an escape from the bile the mainstream is excreting. As they flail to understand just why they are failing, you have the advantage.

Nostalgia doesn't last forever, but Truth does. Spread it as far as you can and eventually the clouds will finally part.

The past will always be there. One day, so will the future.







Learn to navigate this burgeoning landscape with a Pulp Mindset!

15 comments:

  1. The fascinating thing that emerges is how we saw Hell World coming.

    You went to Catholic school. How many times did someone say, "The family is the basic building block of society, and contraception and divorce are destroying it"? Right-thinking people all agreed that something had to be done, but in retrospect, no one actually got around to doing anything.

    I admit to having been naive. I expected people to realize they were nearing the edge of the cliff and turn back. Turns out I was wrong. They drove right off the precipice, and we're along for the ride.

    What's really odd to someone who grew up during the fleeting period of post-Cold War optimism and internalized the doom and gloom pronouncements that followed is that for the first time in living memory, we're in uncharted territory. Nobody really knows what will come next.

    It's liberating if you think about it. We lived for decades under a prophecy of doom. Now that it's nearing fulfillment, perhaps we'll be able to write our own future.

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    1. In such uncertain times, having a faith in deeper things than the newest Disney Plus addition would do wonders. Now is the worst absolute time to not be religious, because I don't see how you would get by otherwise.

      Only one thing can possibly turn this around, and it isn't people.

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    2. I grew up Catholic, but with a strong influence from Evangelical culture and end-times fever, as well as a fascination from childhood with things like the Ragnarok myth and The Last Battle. So I've been living most of my life with at least some expectation of the downfall of the Apostate West. :)

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  2. I have vague memories of 60s nostalgia in the late 80s and early 90s, but I couldn't say if it was something organic or something driven by the elites who actually swallowed the Boomer self-mythologizing.

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    1. There was Woodstock '94 followed by the disaster that was Woodstock '98. I remember '60s nostalgia in the '90s, but it wasn't very strong.

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    2. I also have vague memories of 60’s Nostalgia during the 80’s but I can only recall The Wonder Years, and the various Viet Nam shows and movies (China Beach, Tour of Duty, Born on the Fourth of July, etc... oh and the Kiefer Sutherland/Robert Downey Jr. film 1969)

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    3. Boomers getting old, trying to relive the time when they were young and hot.

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    4. Oh, I also just remembered a heavily advertised compilation album from the late 80’s

      Hippie 1: “Hey man, is that Freedom Rock?”

      Hippie 2: “Yeah man”

      Hippie 1: “Well turn it up!”

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    5. Woodstock 99 was the disastrous one.

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  3. I think the worst part is the modern misunderstanding of nostalgia. Things were objectively better when I was younger. I could go out all day and play with the neighbor kids. Most of my friends had two parents. The entertainment was generally better. People were kinder and generally healthier. Even video games were better except for the technology they ran on.

    However, everyone younger than Gen Y seems to genuinely believe that the past sucked at least as much as the present, and that nostalgia is just some rose colored glasses making me think otherwise. I first started seeing this among fans of the Star Wars prequels and modern movie sequels/reboots. It's even crept into pop culture depictions as any past time period portrayed 'realistically' shows it being just as depraved and awful as the modern day, but with more isms the writers can virtue signal against.

    It's all gaslighting. I would trade it all for a world where my children could trust their neighbors and their teachers.

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    1. I had me "It's not me, it's you" moment when I began to see countless portrayals of the 1990s to be like the modern day except with flannel clothing and better music.

      It's an attempt to trick people into thinking things have always been as bad as they are now, so you might as well get used to it.

      It's safe to say it hasn't worked since the nostalgia remains as strong as ever, even among younger generations who never lived it. But what they want is something more than store bought products can offer.

      Hopefully they figure out what that is before it's too late.

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  4. One of the things that you touched on is that a lot of the hopelessness that people are facing is coming from our disconnected nature in 2021.

    If 2020 should have taught us anything, it's that Zoom meetings, social media "friends" and online gaming buddies are a poor substitute for real, in-person contacts. But what you see in almost every organization is a steady decline in participation, starting with Gen X and moving down the line.

    It's hardly a new trend either. Bowling Alone was written twenty years ago, and it's only gotten worse since then.

    I'm involved locally in a Harley-Davidson riders club, my church, and my local Civil Air Patrol squadron. At my Harley club, I'm probably one of the three youngest guys present at any meeting. My church has a solid core of young families who attend, but there seems to be a big gap (not true for everyone, I realize) where the kids leave to start their own lives, and most don't come back to the church until they have families of their own.

    Same goes for CAP, actually, where we've got a lot of enthusiastic teenage cadets, very few Gen X/Y/Millennials just here on their own, then a good number of parents who've gotten involved because of their cadets, and a cadre of slowly fading boomers who've been with the organization for decades.

    I’ve heard from people who are members of the VFW and American Legion that it’s the same story even in veteran’s organizations – there’s the old guard, but most of the younger vets from the perpetual war on global terror aren’t joining.

    What’s the cure? Obviously the only real cure would be a revival that sees hearts and minds changed and back into strong churches, but even just getting people more plugged in would be a start. One of the points of Bowling Alone is that the social pressure to be part of a group isn’t there anymore. Well, twenty years later, it’s even less there, and in fact, we’ve spent a year now socially pressuring people to stay home and isolate themselves.

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    1. The cultish obsession with individuality naturally lead to people thinking they would be better off on their own. What we're seeing now is the end result of that radical push.

      If there's one thing those of us in the Gen X and younger camp can do it is to convince the younger generations what a mistake it has been. But that also requires getting out there and going against our own experience. It's a tough situation.

      The next decade, I think, is going to be the breaking point for the status quo. It's going to be a different sort of roaring '20s. I just hope we'll be able to surmount that hurdle.

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    2. On the encouraging side, I do think that a lot of people had the realization in 2020 that they really want more human interaction. I'll give social media props for one thing: it is a great way to find groups with similar interest to go do things with. Facebook knows this, why else is all of their TV advertising promoting various groups centered around activities best done in-person?

      Granted a knitting group or motorcycle club isn't going to feed the spiritual hunger inside, but it's a start maybe?

      One thing I do find encouraging - the teenagers I work with in Civil Air Patrol all seem much more excited about in-person activates than any kind of online thing. That's not to say that most of them don't also play Fortnite and TikTok accounts, but they seem to understand that being involved with something is vitally important.

      Or maybe they're the exception. I don't really know. I just know I'm doing my best to lead by example, even when I'd much rather be inside, away from everyone except my family, hiding behind a screen like the introvert I really am.

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  5. I like your point about youthful innocence being confused for a better world. My childhood was pretty great - lots of cool movies and shows and music and toys and ... it was the mid-to-late 1970's! In truth, there's always some good stuff out there, and lots of garbage, and the definition of which is which is pretty individual and even changes over time for that individual.

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