Tuesday, October 28, 2003

80's flashback weekend

I brought my Atari 10-in-1 game system to my cousin's first birthday. (Now you're thinking, how many cousins does she have? Too many, let's just leave it at that).

We hooked it up to the main tv, the teenagers were in the bedroom playing Tekken 4 on Playstation2. All the games were quite primitive compared to the 3D stylings and high bit pixelation that brings out he details of a single hair follicle. The Atari games were just blocks, you could use your imagination for the rest. The screen describing the game told you what to imagine. That block is you. Those pink blocks are mushrooms, the fast moving string of beads is a centipede, the thing with the wiggly legs is, no, it's not a crab, it's a spider and the snake thing that goes across the screen is a scorpion. Centipede had 4 directions to it at least. Pong has up and down.

The teenagers got bored and retreated to their room. It wasn't that exciting.

I can't really play the new games. My fingers are not coordinated to the numerous buttons. I can handle up, down, left, right and fire. Grant it, most of these games you can now find on cell phones instead of tv game consoles and even then they come in more colors.

For me and most of the people my age, the games were just as addicting as ever. I wonder what the teenagers will be telling their kids in 20 years.

As someone played Missile Command, we discussed how this was merely a reflection of Reagan's push for Star Wars, the counterattack project that would launch missiles against other missiles. We recalled the Cold War and the eminent threat of nuclear attack. All in a 4-bit game.

After we played Atari, we hooked up the karaoke. I never used to sing karaoke. I hated the sound of my voice and didn't think I could sing. Until I went to Hawaii and stopped in at a karaoke bar. Karaoke isn't about singing, it's about being silly and having fun performing. So, you don't sing like Mariah Carey, it still gives you a chance to sing at the top of your lungs or groove to a tune. And the karaoke audience is there to watch people have fun, and not necessarily sing well (ok, there are a few exceptions, like I wouldn't sing at a gay karaoke club less get heckled out the door.)

So now I sing karaoke. I figure I can sing just as badly as my drunk uncle, why should I care?

We sang a round of ABBA and Air Supply. Karaoke video backgrounds are either staged couples doing things that have nothing to do with the song, or they are essentially tourist videos of other countries that again have nothing to do with the song. This one VCD was filled with video from Danang as if you were watching a home movie.

So I'm singing Sting, "Roxanne" and the video is of Danang, Vietnam. It shows video of two white men swimming in the water, then pictures of Vietnamese men and women there. And somehow, while I'm singing, "Roxanne, you don't have to turn on the red light." my mind floods with the statistics regarding sex trade and trafficking in Southeast Asia which includes a great deal of women and children. And how many of the "buyers" are from the U.S. and Europe. Suddenly, karaoke became the soundtrack to larger global issues, gender and cultural power dynamics, and issues of sexual exploitation and abuse. I could barely look to read the words of the song anymore. We changed the VCD. There's a play in that somewhere.

Hey, even my SO who doesn't sing, even tried a song, though basically everyone had gone home by then.

The 1 year old, who was celebrating his birthday, sat quietly entranced by the words gliding by. All of his videos are sing-alongs. He's quite comforted by karaoke videos and starts to cry when the blue screen comes on or the words are no longer there.

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