By Ken Bradbury
I think I may have stumbled onto something big. The world of high tech seems to produce a new “best ever” gadget every day, and although I don’t purchase the latest gizmo, I try to keep up on what’s being offered. Still, it came as a surprise to even me that I may have made a discovery that could sweep the world. It all started at a chorus concert.
I’d taken my backbreaking bleacher seat on the seventh row in the gymnasium and the musically gowned choristers had stepped carefully onto the chorus risers. They were a sharp-looking group, although the boys in the back row looked as if they wished they could be allowed to sing in t-shirts and shorts instead of the poorly ventilated gowns. I think it may have been a warm-up for the commencement outfits. The vocal director did an amazing job of walking across the newly varnished gym floor in her new heels and she addressed us all, hoping that we would enjoy the night’s concert. She turned to the choir, glanced to see that the accompanist was still alive, then raised her hands to prepare for the downbeat. And then is when it happened.
Ka-boom! No, not a terrorist incident or a school shooting, but something nearly as distracting … an entire ocean of cell phones popped up out of purses and pockets. The audience became a wavering sea of camera phones. It was like a scene from “Finding Nemo” as the bleachers suddenly became an underwater fantasy of green and blue screens, all floating back and forth for the best viewing position. Try as I might have, I could not concentrate for a moment on the singers. Imagine driving down the road with little rectangles flashing before your eyes. And of course I couldn’t help but wonder what all these people were going to do with these videos. Were they going to sit through a two-hour concert then rush home and watch the whole thing again with poor sound quality and a shaky screen? Did they actually think that someone would sift through this amateur photography on Facebook? Even dear Aunt Mildred in faraway Milwaukee would find this a tedious way to enjoy music.
That’s when I got thunderstruck by an idea for a new invention: The Human Eye with Memory included. Think of the joy of simply sitting and watching a ballgame, concert, play, bar mitzvah, wedding, circumcision or birthday party with nothing but a pair of eyes and a memory. The color is realistic, the sound is so totally real, and you can view the entire 360-degree range of action with simply the turn of your head. You can turn to the person next to you and murmur things like, “Nice,” and “Oh, I like that!” You’ll be surrounded by real people who have real eyeballs of their own, unencumbered by rectangular screens. It’s like … like it’s almost real, man!
And here’s an added bonus to this new gadget: your built-in memory will actually make the event better. I can remember the Perry High School Jazz Band of 1967. We were a rag-tag group of musicians who played for the annual alumni banquet and our showpiece number was Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.” On the final chorus, our three-man trumpet section would stand up and blare out the final triplets, providing that great dance number a glorious climax. But here’s the thing … it was likely only glorious in our memories. If Mom would have been standing in front of us with her cell phone, blocking the view of the rest of the audience, we’d have no doubt looked at the tape years later and thought, “Dear God, but we were awful.” Without the handicap of phone videos, our performance grows more melodic with each passing year. In eighth-grade basketball we were playing Pittsfield and the coach sent me in with these instructions, “Kenny, their center is killing us. Get in there and keep bumping him until you foul out.” I did. I bumped, I fouled, and I left the game. It was the proudest defensive moment of my young athletic life, and although we lost the game – we always lost the game – it was my moment of glory that’s only grown sweeter as the years have gone by. Were you to show me a video of that today, I’d no doubt crawl under the couch.