Marty and Doc would be bored to death in the real 2015


I really couldn’t resist publishing this diary today.  It’s my weekly column from the local paper.  Enjoy.

“I wish I could go back to the beginning of the season, and put some money on the Cubbies.”

How could I not say that line, given that today is October 21, 2015: the date to which Marty McFly, “Doc” Brown and Jennifer Parker time-travel in their fusion-powered DeLorean?

If you grew up in the 1980’s, Back to the Future (affectionately known as “BTTF”) has to be part of your childhood.  The time-travel trilogy practically defined the decade, propelling young actor Michael J. Fox from geeky conservative sitcom star to leading man heartthrob.  Today we’ve inherited so many cultural references from those movies that we practically can’t go a week without encountering one—“butthead!”

BTTF fever has returned with a passion, and along with it, a sense of “there’s something very familiar about all this,” especially with the perennially awful Chicago Cubs playing in the National League Championship Series.  In fact, BTTF Part II is playing tonight at the Amstar 16 theater in Macon, because, appropriately, we should immerse ourselves in all things past and future.  Or is it days of future past?  No, that’s a Moody Blues song. Now I’m confused.

In any case, art imitates life, which imitates art—with BTTF, we have both.  Actor Christopher Lloyd, at 77, says he’d gladly do BTTF Part IV, if such a thing were possible.  In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lloyd also said it would be fun to throw out the first pitch if the Cubs make it to the World Series.

“Maybe it’ll happen. We’ll see,” he says. “They got to get there first.”  But if “Doc” does make the first pitch, he should ride out to the mound on a hoverboard accompanied by a sheepdog named “Einstein.”

A hoverboard?

If you don’t follow Internet trends, find a computer and enter “huvrtech” in Google.  Then watch the YouTube video of Lloyd introducing celebrity skateboard genius Tony Hawk, who, along with a group of skating newbies, rides a real, floating, gravity-defying honest-to-God hoverboard. It really happened!

Except, unhappily, it didn’t.  I have to say it was one of the finest hoaxes I’ve ever seen.  In fact, I believed it: they had me at “DeLorean”.

These days, a company called Hendo is developing a real hoverboard, which operates on the firm scientific principles of magnetic force—or compressed air, or something real—instead of anti-gravity pods (or dilitheum crystals, or whatever powers the hoverboards in BTTF’s version of 2015).  But Hendo’s product is far from store shelves, although Tony Hawk did (for real) ride one.

Other things BTTF’s writers predicted that we don’t have in real-world 2015: time machines (Then again, maybe we do and don’t know it.  Seriously, why would they tell us?), hover cars, self-drying jackets, instant food rehydrators, and Mr. Fusion.  And it’s weird that the hover cars from Marty McFly’s 2015 still have to be manually driven, while today we’re a lot closer to self-driving cars, of the non-hover variety, thanks to Google.

Still more surprising are predictions from BTTF that we actually do have in real life 2015:  home automation, complete with talking doorbells; 500 channel cable and satellite TV with wall-size screens and multiple picture-in-picture (just watch DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket); and 3D movies (although not projected in the air).  We also have self-service ordering kiosks at restaurants, sadly without Ronald Reagan and 1980’s Michael Jackson.

And no movie could have predicted the social media craze coupled with anytime, anywhere mobile devices and tablets.  But if you watch BTTF Part II closely, in the same scene where the Cubs win the World Series, you’ll see the man collecting money to save the clock tower has something resembling an iPad mini—your fingerprints are all you need to charge your card.  Perhaps Steve Jobs saw this (and hit his head on a toilet) when he came up with the idea for Apple Pay?  We may never know.

One thing is certain: if a movie made in the 1980’s accurately depicted the world of today, it would be insufferably boring.  Crowded gourmet coffee shops offering free WiFi, with every single individual having his or her head down, earbuds applied, buried in a private world of “social interaction” would be terribly painful to watch, never mind coming up with a suitable plot. (“You’ve Got Friends”?)

It’s better to dream of hoverboards, flying cars, and the Cubs winning the World Series.  At least one of those has a chance of happening.

(Published in the Houston Home Journal)