Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The War Games Effect

     The generational gap between parents and children can be quite significant.  Personally, I feel very young, and sometimes I forget that I'm probably considered a fossil by my children and many of their friends.  Recently I found out just how substantial this gap truly is, and you could drive the proverbial semi truck through it.  My discovery occurred while I was enlightening my son through entertainment.  Movie watching to be exact.  The movie was the 80s classic War Games starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.  I've heard of various people analyzing movies for all kinds of reasons.  Case in point, The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon synchronized to form a magical mystery ride, so to speak, referred to as The Dark Side of the Rainbow.  In addition, recently I stumbled across a Netflix movie entitled Room 237 that provided all kinds of interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's classic film adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Shining.  My breakthrough moment came by complete accident, and didn't involve Pink Floyd or Stanley Kubrick but it was eye opening all the same.   

     Almost immediately the generation gap between my son, Jesse, and I could be felt.  The movie War Games begins in a nuclear bomb silo with the two military men and their fingers are on the button.  Well, to be more specific, fingers on the key to launch the bomb and start World War III.  This event perplexed young Jesse, and then it dawned on me that the movie came out in 1983-84.  I was 12 years old at that time, just like Jesse is 12 years old in the present day.  My son, needless to say, is not very familiar with the Cold War, and the less than cordial relationship with the former Soviet Union that the United States had during this time.  As a guy who really understands the importance of History and why it should be embraced, I sincerely hope that the events that occurred post WWII leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 are covered in high school history classes.  I'm sure they are, but the point is I had to give Jesse a history lesson about why we would be that close to launching a bomb that could quite possibly wipe out a majority of everything that was known at the time.  Great way to start off a movie viewing, huh?!?! 

     Then the video game and computer confusion began.  Matthew Broderick in a video arcade with nothing but console video games.  Pac Man, Asteroids, and my personal favorite Galaga.  Mr. Broderick plays quite a bit of Galaga in the movie too, but this type of activity vexed young Jesse.  "Dad, did everyone hang out at a video arcade?"  I answered, "Well, it was a popular pastime in the 80s, and I did spend a lot of time in quarter arcades."  I then tried to tell him that I was once a champion foosball player back in the day, but his attention drifted.  Then came the inevitable query, "Where are their phones?"  My response was, "In the house.  Attached to the wall."  The look of horror on the boy's face was comical.  I had to remind myself that at the time, this movie was cutting edge as far as technology was concerned.  Especially, when we arrived at the part of the movie where we first observe the computer system of the Matthew Broderick character, David Lightman.  Back in the day this was amazing.  Heck, a talking computer with a phone hook up to connect with other computers.  Who would have thunk it!!  Jesse lives in the world of Siri, Facebook, Instagram, and the World Wide Web, and he has more technology in his hand at any given time than was in the entire room of David Lightman.  This is profound on many levels, because where will we go in 30 more years, or even 50?  Exciting stuff to be sure.  Jesse was impressed by one thing in the early stages of the movie, however, the father of David Lightman used a slice of bread to butter a piece of corn by first buttering the bread and then placing the corn in the bread and rolling it around.  Jesse thought this was a stroke of genius.  Come to think of it, I did too.

     Speaking of phones.  One of the more famous scenes in the movie, and one I tried to emulate many times to no avail, involved David Lightman getting a free call on a pay phone with a drink pull tab or for you Jimmy Buffett fans, pop top.  He was MacGyver before MacGyver!  As this scene began I told Jesse to pay close attention, because this was really cool.  Almost immediately he asked, "What is that?"  It took me a moment, but I eventually realized that he was asking about the phone booth.  Then it dawned on me.  Jesse has no idea what a phone booth or a pay phone is or was.  I began to explain that a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away we did not have cell phones, and if you wanted to make a call on the go and you didn't have access to a land line you needed a quarter or a dime, depending on how far back you want to go, and a pay phone to make a call.  I got the you must have grown up in the medieval period look, but it paled in comparison to the next portion of this scene.  Lightman/Broderick leaves the phone booth to look for a tool to rig the phone and he finds a pop top.  He brings the pop top back into the phone booth removes the mouthpiece places the pop top inside and on the metal button thingy on the phone base making some sort of mystical connection and voila a free call. (Side note- I tried this technique dozens of times, but I was never successful.) It became immediately apparent that my son had no idea what a pop top was.  He undoubtedly never wore flip flops in Magaritaville, but I digress.  I explained that drink cans once came with a pull tabs or pop tops, and they were removed from the can before drinking. The space age bottles of whatever it is he drinks (Utopian Snapple Smart Water, Maybe?) don't have pop tops.  Man, all these history lessons were distracting from the movie.

     Well, we all know, well at least all of us of a certain age, know how the movie ends.  Joshua, the computer, plays out his quest for Globalthermonuclear War and realizes that like a game of Tic Tac Toe it can't be won.  Joshua never played Tic Tac Toe with me, because I had a system.  However, it all ended well and no one was blown up and Matthew Broderick got to kiss Ally Sheedy!   Which drew the normal rolling of the eyes from Jesse.  Ally Sheedy was hot back in the day.  I was partial to Diane Lane in the Outsiders and Demi Moore in St. Elmo's Fire, but that's just me.  Yep, Cherry Valance (Diane Lane) and Jules (Demi Moore.)  Sorry, stroll down memory lane there.  Bottom line is that it was fun to watch this movie with Jesse, and enlighten him on some of the things that I experienced at his exact age.  I would recommend it.  Nibbling on spongecake, watching the sun bake, all of those tourists covered with oil.....I can't believe he didn't know what a pop top was!  Strike that. I do know how, his mother always thought that the "pop top" part of the classic Margaritaville said "pop tart."  So in her mind poor Jimmy Buffett blew out his flip flop and stepped on a pop tart that cut his heel bad enough that he had to cruise on back home. It all makes sense now. Shall we play a game?