Luann Cartoonist Greg Evans and I are roughly of an age, and there is always, at the age we are roughly of, the nagging doubt about how much the world has changed and how much is just you getting old.
Some of it is the inevitable process of aging. There genuinely is a mosquito ring tone that only young people can hear.
Best comment in that linked 2010 article:
I graduated last spring from a Fairfax county high school. While I did see people texting in class, usually they just kept the phone on silent. These ring tones were not very common. However, there was a student with this ring tone in the audience at an orchestra concert one night; they didn't seem to realize that while adults couldn't hear them, the entire group of performers on stage were also students, and could. VERY annoying.
But I don't think the mumbling issue is one of age, but, as Luann's father suggests, one of style. I first noticed it in 1988, when I was still under 50.
The film was "Dangerous Liaisons," and I found John Malkovich's bland, affectless tone so distractingly divorced from the emotional content of the script that I ended up disliking the entire movie, and it was a choice, not a lack of talent: Malkovich's "Lenny" in the 1992 "Of Mice and Men" is the best reading of the character I've ever seen and better than what I had "heard" in the novel.
As a writer, I suppose I should be flattered that actors think the words are so powerful that they can sleepwalk through the script, but that's like suggesting that an artist's painting is so graphically striking that a gallery exhibiting it doesn't need to be well-lit.
Which brings us to the other level of faux-authenticity that drives me crazy in current movies, and this is not my fading vision, either, because I first picked up on it in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," and my vision was still reasonably acute in 1991.
Okay, I know medieval castles had very small windows and were lit by rush torches. But what the hell, huh?
If you want "authenticity," shouldn't Robin Hood be mumbling in a British accent? And the notion that a Moor not only became (heh) unmoored from Spain and North Africa and wound up in Jerusalem, but had also discovered Chinese gunpowder two centuries before Marco Polo ...
Please don't tell me the fact that I can't see what's going on is "authentic" in a movie so laughingly bogus on every other possible count.
You might as well try to convince me that Kevin Costner is the equivalent of John Malkovich and that his mumbling butchery of lines is conscious technique.
I may be old, but I'm only barely old enough to remember the great actor who invented mumbling. Costner can't hold a candle, much less a kleig light, to him.
But I am old enough to remember this:
Speaking of stupid trends that everyone accepts, as well as things that fly below adult radar, Rhymes With Orange hearkens back to the arcane social world of childhood.
In our town, the declaring of who had "cooties" was muted by the fact that most of the people charged with the offense were genuinely poor but had many cousins, so that I think the bullying factor became clear enough at an early age that it disappeared fairly soon, not by adult fiat but by some quiet peer acceptance that it wasn't very nice.
And for some reason, we never developed the brutal conventions I found when I headed off to Camp Lord O' The Flies in summer.
The city kids had an elaborate system of reasons to hit each other in the arm, and anybody not at the very pinnacle of the social pyramid would come home in August with two substantial bruises, one on each upper arm, inflicted by repeated hits with a fist, middle knuckle slightly extended.
One "game" -- if it hadn't been a game, after all, it would simply have been bullying -- was "Units." If you said a number without a word after it, you had to say "units" before someone else shouted it, or they got to hit you on the arm that many times.
This might come up in normal conversation, but the trick was to ask someone lower on the ladder a question that would likely evoke a plain number, for instance, "How old are you?" A veteran would say, "Twelve years old," because adding "years" would protect him, or he might even say "Twelve units" to show he was on to your tricks.
If he foolishly just said "Twelve," you would triumphantly cry, "Unitsnobacksies."
Similarly, if someone broke wind, they had to declare "Safety!" before someone else said "Plugsnobacksies." It didn't have to be audible: If the air became redolent, someone could shout "plugs" and the lowest person on the ladder would be forced to, literally, take the hit, unless he had incontrovertible proof that he had not dealt it.
The lower on the ladder, of course, the less likely any proof would be peer-reviewed and judged incontrovertible. It was based on the preponderance of evidence, with no role for reasonable doubt, and hearsay was not only admissable but highly regarded.
I seem to recall that calling "plugs" entitled you to hit the person three times.
And, if more than one person called "units" or "plugs," whoever was first got to administer the punishment, "first" of course, being also much based on social standing.
There was also an issue of social standing involved in judging whether the victim -- sorry, the perpetrator -- had managed to shout "Backsies!" and gained the right to return the hits, before the other had added "Nobacksies."
Or, as Hilary puts it, "tagbacks," which either means she lived in a gentler world or that they used the word "tag" in the context of "I'm gonna tag you right on the nose."
Before administering the hits, you were required to make an "X" on the person's arm with your finger, and, after the requisite number of hits had been given, you had to wipe off the spot with your hand. Any violation of either could be called and would then confer the right to return the hits.
You may suspect that a truly clever youngster could figure out ways avoid all this, but attempting to lawyer your way out was roughly the equivalent of Piggy declaring that he was holding the conch and therefore had the right to speak.
We all remember how that turned out, right?
On a lighter note, as it would be hard to see or hear a darker one ...
Sandra Bell Lundy often explores the concept of middle age, and today's Between Friends is well done, primarily because she sets it up as two sides of the same person, rather than posing successful, still-foxy Maeve as the organized one and more shall-we-say-average Susan as the schlump.
The every-hair-in-place, every-move-planned types like Maeve have their own issues, and even Maeve, for all her faults, isn't nearly as neurotic as the people who actually succeed in keeping every hair, every sticky note and every emotion just where it belongs.
Anyway, the competition is not to be perfect, but to be normal.
That's mostly an internal contest.