Norman Lear’s work was an integral part of American life in the second half of the 20th Century. Television programs like Maude, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons dragged television out of the 1950s and into the real world. As Variety states: “Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, the Vietnam war – by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula. No subject was taboo: Two 1977 episodes of All in the Family revolved around the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith.”
All in the Family, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1979, typified the clash of generations. Middle-aged bigot Archie Bunker – played by Carrol O’Connor – was a right-wing King Lear in Queens, raging at the radical changes in society. Archie didn’t let ignorance get in the way of his opinions; once he argued that people who lived in communes were communists. The thing is, the old dog was actually capable of learning new tricks. Archie never evolved into any kind of saint. But over the nine seasons "Family" aired, experience taught Archie the benefits of listening to (and respecting) viewpoints far different from his own.
All in the Family was the jewel in Lear’s crown, but don’t forget the highly popular shows One Day at a Time (which featured Bonnie Franklin as a divorcee raising two daughters in the Midwest) and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (with Louise Lasser as the titular figure in a parody of soap opera conventions). Good or bad, Lear’s work was never indifferent.
More recently, you may have heard about Lear’s lively activism. His TV shows were themselves arguments for free and unfettered speech, and Lear supported a slate of liberal causes. In 1981 he founded People for the American Way. The organization’s website describes the ways that PFAW has “engaged cultural and community leaders and individual activists in campaigns promoting freedom of expression, civic engagement, fair courts, and legal and lived equality for LGBTQ people.”
Lear’s life was a long and fulfilling one. In 1978 he was given the first of two Peabody Awards, the most prestigious award in television. “To Norman Lear,” it reads, “...for giving us comedy with a social conscience. He uses humor to give us a better understanding of social issues. He lets us laugh at our own shortcomings and prejudices, and while doing this, maintains the highest entertainment standards.”
A pioneer, a gadfly of the state, a mensch. To paraphrase a lyric from All in the Family’s theme song, “Mister, we could use a guy like Norman Lear again.”
Since the beginning of time, technology has never been stagnant – it’s constantly evolving. Most of us are used to these fleeting technology trends and apps. We first started virtually communicating on MySpace and then ventured into the world of avatars with Snapchat's snappy 10-second stories.
We – or should I say Millenials and Gen Zers – are used to new ideas. But even we couldn’t conceive of a virtual world where people can live, interact, and earn money until . . . the Metaverse was born.
October 28th 2021 will go down in history. That’s when the company formerly known as Facebook rebranded as Meta fully committing to a 3D version of the internet know as the Metaverse.
Metaverse-Metaverse-Metaverse it’s all over the place. But what is it exactly? Simply put, it’s a virtual world that blurs the lines between online and offline communication.
Hold on! Virtual reality? My grandparents are only just getting used to taking my video calls, and now I have to introduce them to the Metaverse – a world where their avatar can walk, talk, and even get married?
During the last few years when people couldn’t interact IRL, a virtual world was ideal. People – or should I say Avatars – could meet and engage in a rocking virtual party. That wasn’t too extreme, but then people started buying property !?! This resembled a piece of land you can own and do with whatever you please. I cannot imagine living in a Metamansion – unless it’s in a game of Sims.
Then came NFTs – or did they come before? – it’s super hard to keep track of. But NFTs are Non-fungible tokens – digital assets like art, music, videos are bought and sold online through cryptocurrency. Oh-yeah, then there’s cryptocurrency. It’s a digital or virtual currency that’s secured by cryptography, which makes it close to impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. Cryptocurrency revolutionized the finance world with people making a ton of money through bitcoin.
Slowly, the fashion industry moved into the Metaverse as well. A Gucci - Roblox bag recently went for 350,000 Robux (close to $4000) on Roblox – a site where you can purchase upgrades for your avatars. I mean, your Avatar can’t be roaming the Metaverse in just jeans and a sweater, they need high-end fashion.
Obviously, with so many items moving into the Metaverse, it made sense for people to secure virtual insurance. I cannot believe this – Virtual insurance! So if you break or lose, or your artwork gets stolen, it makes sense to have a cover. Soon enough, educational institutions imagine digital classrooms, and medical professionals visualize a world where junior doctors practice medicine digitally.
There doesn’t seem to be a limit.
Since we cannot physically inhabit the virtual world, most of these ties make sense until Coke-Cola recently announced a limited edition Coca-Cola® Zero Sugar Byte.
Coke promises that it tastes just like pixels. “The drink’s bright, upfront taste is reminiscent of powering up a game. And its refreshing finish makes for a perfect gaming companion.”
Personally, I don’t understand the concept of creating a beverage for the Metaverse. And I’m so not interested in tasting pixels – I anticipate something chalky and salty. But if you pick up a Zero Sugar Byte before they hop back into the Metaverse, you are one brave individual.
In addition to this drink, Coke is hosting an immense digital experience that includes an original, augmented reality game. Then there’s Pixel Point, an island designed by Coca-Cola where fortnight players can experience this refreshing soda and enjoy a few mini-games.
Now that beverages are being created for the Metaverse, the big question is what next? Will our Avatar’s start grocery shopping in a virtual Target to survive?