Saturday, March 23, 2013

THE FUTURE!


Spring is here folks. With Spring comes many exciting things: Warm weather, the color green, but most importantly the opening of Coney Island, much to the chagrin of Hurricane Sandy. As steadily approach this glorious opening in April, I am reminded for some of the 1939 Worlds fair which opened 74 years ago April 30th. This was the second largest of American’s world’s fair, exceeded only by St. Louis's Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. 44 million people from many different countries around the world attended this exposition. Remember, this was 1939, planes were not yet a widespread mode of transportation. They got there by boat, car, train, or more likely, horse.

The theme of this fair in particular was based on the future with the slogan of  “Dawn of a New Day”. The depression was entering its 10th year with a hopefully flicker of light at the end of the tunnel, our country had yet to enter The War, so all eyes were on the future of our nation.


The Future circa 1939.
One exhibit stood out amongst the rest in our history books, and that was “The City of the Future” or the Futurama. The exhibit, sponsored by General Motors and designed by Norman Bel Geddes, tried to show the world 20 years into the future:

 “Futurama is a large-scale model representing almost every type of terrain in America and illustrating how a motorway system may be laid down over the entire country – across mountains, over rivers and lakes, through cities and past towns – never deviating from a direct course and always adhering to the four basic principles of highway design: safety, comfort, speed and economy.” 

His ideas of what we consider basic essentials to transportation really struck a chord with the American audiences slowly recovering from the Great Depression and were longing for prosperity.

The Future circa 1964. Complete with Yellow Submarine.
Then in 1964 when the worlds fair came back to New York, An updated version of this exhibit, Futurama II, was created. This version depicted life 60 years into the future, this time 2024. Scenes showed a lunar base of operation, an Antarctic"Weather Central" climate forecasting center, underseas exploration and "Hotel Atlantis" for underseas vacationing, desert irrigation, and land reclamation, building roads in the jungle, and a City of the Future. Visitors rode through the dioramas in 3-abreast chairs on a ride train. The exhibit was again sponsored by General Motors and proved to be the most popular exhibit at the World's Fair with more than 26 million persons attending the show in the two 6-month seasons the Fair was open. Waiting lines were often two hours long and longer.

I think there is a deep-seeded human reason that people flocked to these two exhibits. The tantalizing idea of the future being cleaner, better, more efficient, and more convenient  is a wonderful and captivating thought. I mean who wouldn't want hover cars that don’t use gas and hotels that are 10,000 leagues under the sea, and lunar travel that’s as easy as flying to Chicago?

As I was loading my laundry into the brand-new Samsung washer that my landlords recently purchased I was reminded of the worlds fair and these two exhibits of the future. I pressed the start button and the washer told me it was “sensing the weight” of the load to detect the appropriate amount of water to use. The washer was weighing the load and then would guess at how much water to use. For some odd reason I was struck by that. The washer was guessing. It has enough of a semblance of thought to make a guess… The Washing machine… and it has yet to be wrong.

What struck me is that we are living in the future. The conveniences that the people of 1939 and 1964 dreamed of is here right now. Virgin mobile is about to embark on the very first lunar tourist space exhibition. Our world is intimately connected via radio waves and copper cables, I can and have talked with a person living in Japan, or Afghanistan, or even Canada. Yes. Canada.  Film Director James Cameron recently dove down to the bottom of the ocean by himself in a submersible that he paid for. We have eradicating diseases in the past 40 years that have claimed the lives of millions in the past millennium. There was even a case recently where a baby born with aids has been cured of all traces of the disease. The untouchable wall of death that is cancer is now starting to be torn down and controlled brick by brick with science and medicine. We have little black rectangles that connect us to the world and are controlled by touch. Gene Roddenberry dreamt that technology up in Star Trek 50 years ago and it is here today. 60 years ago you could only listen to music in your home on huge black vinyl records. Now the technology exists to store and play every song ever recorded on a little box that can fit in my backpack.

I dunno, maybe I’m in a nostalgic mood, or maybe its because I’m secretly a 60 year old man, but I am fascinated by the world I live in. We are living in a world that science fiction writers 100 years ago could only dream of.  We are living in the future.

In closing, take a listen to one of the most awesome sci-fi pop songs ever written. Until next time!




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