A Digital Addiction We Need to Replace

The use of screens affects all ages. In our home, there are as many smartphones as residents in the household. Adding the iPads and computers in our house, and it’s probably just the pets that do not stare into the ever-rewarding light at least once in half-an-hour while we think we share the experience of a cozy family evening.

The screen is the first thing many of us see when we wake up in the morning and the last before we fall asleep in the evening. Never have the differences in attitudes and lifestyles been as big as between the previous generations, writes Jean M Twenge in her latest book i-Gen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy -and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us (Atria Books, 2017).

Being a family man, I have read it with great interest. The book offers insights in explaining the following phenomena:

Today’s young, don’t drink alcohol, as we did. Today’s young do homework with episode 76 of Friends on their iPad or cell phone, they also have an ongoing chat on Snapchat and are talking to at least one person on Facetime. At the same time, they read fewer books and do not answer “out” on the question “where are you going?” as we did.

They know that we can find out where they are. Today’s youth is more tolerant of different ways of thinking but does not help to clean the entire homestead as often as we were forced to, under various threats may be added. Those who read I-Gen can add that millennials have sex later in life, take less responsibility for their finances, are more emotionally fragile. In summary, they become adults later than we did. The smartphone has changed everything, writes Jean M Twenge.

The millennials remain young longer because the phone satisfies the needs they otherwise would have to find in the physical reality which has more uncontrollable dangers and stress levels.

It may sound like a good thing given that the teenage brain matures late when it comes to making overall decisions. On the other hand, the brain may develop slower because of the protected life that comes with the use of smartphones.

Nevertheless, it stings to observe young people’s cell phone dependency. What about if the cell phones are the cigarettes of our time? In 2068 we would look back at the early 2000s with a horror of how we let children sleep with the phones under their pillows. How could we allow them to have cell phones in class despite apparent lack of concentration and learning?

In the US, the average teenager spends 4.5 hours a day with a cell phone, and half of them describe that they are dependent on their phones. Just between 2009 and 2014, the proportion of Swedish schoolchildren who spent at least three hours or more on the internet every day, according to Statistics Sweden, doubled.

The Swedish psychiatrist Anders Hansen writes in his book Hjärnstark (Fitnessförlaget, 2016) that the person who spends more than ten hours a week in front of the screen experiences the least happiness. Young people also spend time with their friends far less, feel more alone, and have problems sleeping. This rather depressing development began in 2007, the year when the iPhone was launched. Jean M Twenge blames the dramatic deterioration of the mental health of youngsters entirely on the phones.

On the radio, I hear a voice that explains mental health problems, believing that we meet our needs satisfactorily through the cell phone, but we chew empty carbohydrates that provide fast energy but no nutrition.

It may be time to realize that there is another kind of reward in life for those who manage to put away the phone and train their stamina and concentration. We need to give young people a chance to develop that ability.

The Dystopian Future of The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale, now streaming on HBO, is very political. Even more so today considering the state of the world.

The story is set in America about a hundred years into the future and begins with a staged attack that kills the President and most of Congress. A Christian fundamentalist movement calling itself the Sons of Jacob launches a revolution and suspends the Constitution under the pretext of restoring law and order. A disease has made most women sterile, unable to procreate.

Things happen fast. The new, self-elected government take away women’s rights and freethinkers disappear without a trace. The new regime, the Republic of Gilead, moves quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society into a militarized, hierarchical government of Old Testament-inspired social and religious fanaticism, turning the country into a theocratic dictatorship. Human rights are severely limited, and women’s rights are even more curtailed. Women are forbidden to walk alone, forbidden to read, and the few fertile women that are not married live their lives being breeders.

The show speaks to us on many levels. Extremists are on the verge of gaining power in several countries, not mentioning the ones already in power. We see radical Islam being dealt with by more radicalism; Buddhism and Hinduism with questionable motives, often supported by nationalistic leaders; militant atheists speaking with voices filled with even more ignorance than the ones they’re trying to oppose.

This show is a frightening look at a future we have to prevent from becoming a reality.

The Steampunk Movement

What is Steampunk?

Steampunk can be described as science fiction in a Victorian setting. What began as a literary genre, has developed into a full creative boom that has become a subculture of clothing, art, film, and music.

Origins

During the 1970s three science fiction writers joined up to create something new. Authors James P. Blaylock, Tim Powers, and K. W. Jeter lived near each other and shared the same interest in the Victorian era. They used to hang out in pubs and discuss their writing and everything else under the sun. Encouraged by each other, they began to write stories adding science fiction elements in a Victorian setting. Examples of their creativeness can be found in K.W. Jeter’s Infernal Devices, Tim Powers’ Anubis Gates and James P Blaylocks’ Homunculus.

The three authors had no intention of starting a new sub-genre of science fiction. They only wrote what they thought was fun, inspired by early science fiction and adventure writers of the 1800s such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Robert Louise Stevenson.

In 1987 K.W. Jeter wrote a letter to Locus Magazine that would later become historic:

Personally, I think Victorian fantasies will become the next big thing as long as we can come up with a term that describes Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the technology of the future; ‘Steampunk’ might…

With this letter, he coined the term steampunk. As the term steampunk spread, many other contemporary science fiction writers suddenly got a genre to describe their fictional creations.

Other books close to the heart of steampunk fans are books written in the 1800s. The epic novels by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells fall into this category. Verne and Wells did not, however, label their work as steampunk since the term didn’t occur in their era.

What’s the Craze All About?

Steampunk literature encompasses everything from steam engines to clockwork robots and airships. Familiar protagonists are inventors, watchmakers, aristocrats and supernatural beings such as werewolves and vampires.

Some criticize steampunk for romanticizing 18th century England. It’s certainly is true that the steampunk genre exalts old design and use the aesthetic appeal of older technology. But in steampunk literature, one also finds some criticism of the Victorian society. Some steampunk stories also dwell into the darker sides of the era, i.e., women’s oppression, class differences, and racism.

I for one, hope steampunk books of the future will dare to tackle other topics and locations, thus adding more variety as the steampunk genre unfolds. Steampunk really can be applied to many different sites apart from Victorian London.

Movies and TV

One can find lots of films with steampunk references. Sherlock Holmes, Hellboy, Wild Wild West, and Hugo are good examples of movies influenced by steampunk. Anime uses steampunk characteristics in several films. The more renowned are Howl’s Moving Castle and Steamboy.

As for TV series, one can find strong steampunk tendencies in the Science Fiction adventure series Warehouse 13. In the cult series Doctor Who, one can also see some steampunk technology and aesthetics.

Courtesy of https://www.polyvore.com/

A Steampunkish Attire

When it comes to steampunk clothing, it’s all about using your creativity to come up with a steampunkish look. I’ve seen everything from strict Victorian clothing to mad scientists in white coats and dresses. Creativity is the foundation of steampunk, and also one of the best things about this subculture; you can let your imagination run free.

Some classical elements in the steampunk attire are necessary, though. The top hat, the mandatory goggles and the use of retro-futuristic technology are almost considered essential. Steampunk enthusiasts usually make their clothes themselves.

Music

Steampunk music has no specific sound. If a song is labeled as steampunk or not has more to do about the lyrics, atmosphere and the style of the band. This may sound superficial and confusing, but I think it’s fun. It makes steampunk music can play freely with different styles. Mix and mix at will, which usually creates the most enjoyable music. bands famous in steampunk circles are Abney Park, The Cog Is Dead and
Clockwork dolls, to mention a few.

Courtesy of http://steampunker.de/

All About Making

An essential aspect of steampunk is using your imagination to create stuff. The maker movement is omnipresent in the steampunk subculture. There is a lot of inspiration to gather from communities that build computers in the steampunk style, instruments, weapons and so on. Reinventing the Victorian era by using DIY is what it’s all about!