Lately I feel out of breath standing still. Like I'm living in the most exhilarating moment possible, yet am perched on quicksand. The 21st century has thus far thrown the world into the craziest reinvention mode imaginable, and I love it. I've always been a radical at heart and a fan of change, so I feel lucky to be alive during this great pivot. And I feel even luckier to have straddled in my lifetime two vastly different centuries -- an evolution from analog to digital that has triggered a thrilling and dramatic wave of fallout. Huge industries, from publishing to retail, have gone topsy-turvy before my eyes. Hell, who needs drugs? It's a rush just to witness the shift -- where everything that used to be true isn't anymore, and those who used to be powerful have become irrelevant faster than you can say WTF.
As a member of what I call the "straddle generation," I've lived in both worlds. It seems like yesterday (although it was actually 25 years ago!) when I was typing up stories for those early issues of Paper on my chic green '70s HermÃ¨s typewriter. Only five years later, I began to dial up every day with a new little slowpoke device called a "modem" (that plugged into my telephone). This enabled me to connect to the mysterious "World Wide Web," where I'd enter complicated "DOS" code to log onto pre-browser bulletin boards so I'd be able to communicate with like-minded people about stuff going on in our alternative universe.
Yup, I've straddled. Big time. I've traveled Europe with lire, pounds and francs (and euros after that) in my pocket, yet just last week I learned how to download a bitcoin wallet (although I still don't understand how to "mine" for them). Early in my career, I used to develop rolls of film in canisters by shaking them back and forth, then printing photos from the negatives in a dark closet redolent with chemical fumes. A few months ago I scanned my own face and printed a 3D bust of myself that now sits on my desk as a paperweight! I learned to take my own photo when I was in art school by using a time-release on my Nikon camera, running in front of the lens before the shutter clicked. Meanwhile, I've just now finally figured out how to take a semi-flattering phone selfie (from above). Speaking of phones, I remember them with dials on them. Oh yes, and the technological miracle of fax machines, which many of my creative friends used obsessively as a substitute for leaving voicemails in order to pass along information. Then came the cell phone. Russell Simmons, of all people, was the one who taught me how to use this contraption. He was the early cell phone adopter in our crowd and always had his big clunky telephone glued to his ear everywhere he went, talking incessantly whether in restaurants during dinner or front row at fashion shows as he eyed the supermodels walking by.
Technology didn't just affect our devices. As the digital age took over, I was thrilled by the democratization that these new tools offered indie types like me. After all, I'd built my early career as an independent, rebelling against the big business model -- which I felt was outdated -- by creating a business based more on community, creativity and innovation than process. Once the Web was juiced up, innovators crawled out of the woodwork with compelling ideas and began to grab the spotlight using the power of the Internet to attract gigantic audiences. I secretly loved that it blindsided the corporate status quo, panicking the old-school big guys who used to run the show, forcing them to acknowledge the "power of small" and indie and try to pivot fast in order to survive and succeed in this new paradigm. (Not easy.) I love that real opportunity in the 21st century is available to anyone with an amazing idea, a great voice and the guts to throw it out there.
Everything may have changed from where I sit, but so much is really still the same. In this futuristic era of bitcoins, drones, glassholes, cyberterrorism, Klout and fantasies of romances with operating systems, it's so interesting to see that hand-cranked coffee grinders, slingshots, heirloom marijuana seeds, sign painting, axes and artisanal bread-making are trending. Change is all around us, moving faster than a speeding bullet, but the urge remains to slow down. The reach of the Internet is vaster and bigger than anyone could have ever imagined, but the power of small is at the forefront of this revolution. So whether Siri is transcribing your ideas through voice recognition or you're pounding out thoughts on an old typewriter, this straddler is here to cheer on the wild ride and remind you that this brave new world is still the same. Just different.