Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - December 29, 2017

One constant in a world of change

Looking at my “Kansas Snapshots” logo, I thought it might be time to replace my photo with a more-recent one. I don’t wear glasses now, and I’ve also added some gray hairs.

And as for the filmstrip under the title, many young people might not even know what it is. Digital photography is now so ubiquitous that very few people still get film “developed” and prints made. Eastman Kodak - at one time synonymous with film photography and one of the largest corporations in the world - filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.

That prompted me to think about other things that have happened since the year I started writing my column. That was 2001, the same year the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on 9/11. Since then, thousands of our military personnel have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight in the War on Terror. And we all have experienced tighter security at airports, government buildings and large public gatherings.

In the 16 years that followed, we elected our first black president, and one of our major political parties selected the first woman candidate as its choice for president.

In the natural world, I, along with millions of other Americans, had the joy of witnessing a total solar eclipse this year - the first in the U.S. since 1979. But we’ve also experienced more hurricanes, floods and fires because of global climate change.

Cultural shifts have occurred, too. Same-sex couples now can get married anywhere in this country. Before 2004, none could legally wed in the United States.

The “Harry Potter” books and movies have influenced a whole generation of children, encouraging them to read and to be concerned about social justice issues. Daughter Mariya now teaches a college class that delves into the sociology of the “Harry Potter” franchise.

We’ve long been familiar with special effects in “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings” and other fantasy movies. But advancements in CGI - computer-generated imagery - mean they’re also now widely used in traditional reality-based movies, such as “Sully.”

In the music world, compact discs (CDs) are becoming a thing of the past. Most people buy music online from iTunes or Spotify in the form of computer files to later be played on a variety of electronic players.

Video storage has changed, too - from VHS tapes to DVDs to Blu-rays to no “storage” at all. Mariya, her sister Katie and their friends don’t even watch “traditional” TV and don’t use DVD or Blu-ray players much. The popularity of YouTube, introduced in 2005, led to video-on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu.

When I wrote my first column, what we now call social media didn’t really exist. Yet at our recent holiday get-together, I was struck by how much we used it. In the few hours we were together, people snapped pictures with their smart phones. They then quickly posted them to Facebook and Instagram or sent them to far-away friends using Snapchat and WhatsApp. We also had a “face-to-face” Skype conversation with Uncle Stan, 94, and Aunt Kay, 95, who live in California.

All our photos were taken under LED lights strung across the ceiling. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are taking over from Thomas Edison’s incandescent lamps and use far less energy. They are now used in stage and room lighting, stop lights, car tail lights and Christmas displays in homes and stores.

Going Christmas shopping used to mean people had to drive to those stores. But online retailers, such as Amazon, have hurt brick-and-mortar stores, including K-Mart, Sears, Penney’s and others. Shopping malls, including ours, have seen a tremendous drop in customer traffic. Our food court now has only a couple of options, and several shops, including Gap and a local business, will close in early 2018.

And like Christmas shopping, doing family history used to mean driving. Trips were required to courthouses, archives, libraries and cemeteries. Now, people can do most research from the comfort of their homes. Using websites such as Ancestry.com and Findagrave.com, husband Art can obtain information on births, marriages and deaths and read deeds, wills, news articles and cemetery records.

Katie jumped into the family history “game” this past Christmas using recent publicly-available technology. She ordered DNA testing kits for her and her new hubby, which will show where their ancestors came from.

Looking back over the past 16 years, I am a bit amazed to see how many changes have taken place. When I add personal events, such as births, marriages and deaths of family and friends, I wonder if I should leave my “Kansas Snapshots” logo alone. It is one of the few constants in my life.

Left: sister Gaila and brother Dave in Kansas use Skype to chat with Uncle Stan and Aunt Kay in Califonia;
right: Gaila shows Stan and Kay some of the Freeland family who gathered to celebrate Christmas in Manhattan.

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Other columns from 2017 may be found at: 2017 Index.
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