Casualties Of The Internet (Part 1)


I love the Internet, but here are a few casualties of our increasing dependence on technology.

Telephone Books — One of the first was the telephone book.  When I was a kid, everybody had a telephone book.  The first thing you did when you got a new one was find yourself in it.  It was an opportunity, as a little kid, to actually see that you had a place in the bigger world.  However, the best use of the telephone book was, on lazy afternoons, looking up people with funny names.  One year, Mrs. Cranston’s entire 4th grade class laughed for weeks when Marvin L. Ramsbottom moved to town.

Maps — Before the Internet, maps had the ability not only to place you in the world physically but to distinguish you from the billions of other humans occupying it –philosophically.  Back in the day, every kid knew this and to prove it they would eventually write their name, their address, their city, their county, their state or province, their country, their continent, their hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, The Milky Way, The Universe.  And it all started with a little finger pointing on a map.  Practically, however, maps were the exclusive property of dads and were notorious for being badly folded, badly drawn and just plain wrong.  Eventually, all maps ended in a parental argument over exactly when to abandon middle-class machismo, stop the car and ask for directions.

Money — Incredible as it may seem, before the Internet, money was a tangible object.  It had weight.  It made a noise.  It told us just exactly where we stood in the world — because it was finite.  We either had enough money or we didn’t, and after a few trial and error disappointments, we discovered that the world is full of choices.  When bus fare, movie and popcorn were beyond our financial capability — somebody was going to walk.  Of course, all kids knew money was important because their parents were constantly reminding them that a) they (the parents) weren’t made of money, b) it didn’t grow on trees and c) they weren’t going to throw good money away on that (whatever it was we thought we wanted.)

So, what have we learned?

1 — Smart phones have put us all in me-and-mine electronic ghettos.
2 — Technology doesn’t give a rat’s ass about our unique position in the world.
3 — The near infinite nature of digital money has destroyed our ability to make decisions.
4 — Technology can suck the fun out of life.


english7I wrote most of this two years ago and I can’t believe I’ve got to say it all again.

This week, I had another run-in with techies.  I realize they’re the high priests of contemporary society, Steve Jobs is the Messiah and if I don’t click the binary stations of the cross in the correct sequence, I’ll never get to heaven.  Big wow!  I’m a cyber-atheist.  For my money, I can wipe out your entire pseudo religion with a pencil and a piece of paper, so don’t get all high and mighty with me.  Look, you know-it-all nerds, I’ve had it with your oh-so-superior attitude.  I’m an English Major and I can do pompous ass better than you ever thought of.  (Yeah, that’s a preposition at the end of a sentence.  What are you going to do about it, tough guy?)  Just to set the record straight — English Majors were arrogant dicks centuries before you geeks ever had a squad.  We were looking down our noses at regular folk when technology was still a quill pen.  And as far as we’re concerned, you jerks are just digital messenger boys for our ironic mixed metaphors and satirical similes.  So, know your role and shut your mouth.

And never forget, back in high school, while you were playing Space Invaders and having auto-erotic experiences with the Yearbook cheerleaders, I was in the only guy in the Poetry Club. (Do the math!)

Apple: A Misguided Religion

Sometimes I think I’m the only person on this planet who’s fed up with Apple.  Yeah, yeah, yeah — I know!  They’re the uber coolest company of all time; they invented all the iCrap that nobody but your grandma uses anymore and oh (like I could ever forget) Stephen Jobs never wore a tie!  But for God sake’s, guys!  Get over yourselves!  You’re not a religion, no matter what your basement dwelling followers tell you.  In the real world, above ground, the only difference between Apple and every other Tom, Dick and Harry tech company is price.  Apple stuff is so wildly overpriced it’s a wonder anybody at the iStores, from manager to minion, can even look at themselves in a mirror in the morning.  Saying Apple is proud of their products is like saying Kim Kardashian is a media whore.  D’uh!

Normally, I leave Apple alone.  Way back in the day, I had a Mac — I loved it – but I grew up and outgrew my burning need to “share” odd photographs, soft core porn and my particular taste in music that week.  However, yesterday (believe me, the date doesn’t matter) Apple introduced yet another new iSomething and I wondered what it was.  Then, like a perpetual old fool, I took a gander.  Apparently, this most recent Galileo moment in electronic history is a new iPad, which looks so strikingly similar (inside and out) to the old iPad as to be the same machine.  In fact, aside from a memory tweak, it is the same machine.  Yet, despite this obvious sleight of hand, the reviewers were going onapple5 as if the da Vincis down at Cupertino, CA had just revolutionized computering in the 21st century.  According to them, this was the greatest human achievement since triple bypass surgeon — at merely twice the price.  Nor were they done!  After singing iPad 4’s (4.5? 5? 29?) praises until they got writer’s cramp, they went on for seven or eight more paragraphs in speculative hallelujahs about what Apple was going to come up with next.  It was like listening to Tom Cruise talk about L. Ron Hubbard.

I’m not very tech savvy, and I don’t want to go all Dennis Miller on the thing, but let’s stop for a minute and take a look at what we’re dealing with here.  Essentially, the iPad, in whatever number sequence Apple wants to give it, is an oversized, overpriced smart phone that doesn’t make telephone calls.  It’s as big as a turkey platter with more memory than any average human being can possibly use, a camera that can pick out nasal hair at 50 paces and solid walls of Benny and the Jets sound, if that’s what you’re into.  However, with a price tag that would bankrupt a Mexican drug lord, it doesn’t give you anymore battery life or connectivity than my $49.00 Samsung – which, BTW, fits in my back pocket.  iPads are so conspicuously large you can’t manipulate them with fewer than three hands.  Plus, even though they weigh less than lunch at Taco Bell, their side to side size dictates they don’t actually fit anywhere.  This sheer unbendable volume makes a mockery of their primary purpose – portability – and there are no other redeeming features, like a workable keyboard, to compensate for that.  In a reasonable world, iPads would be the new Betamax — with a commensurate consumer shelf life.  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a reasonable world.

apple3I’m not dissing Apple just for the hell of it.  I’m not a committed Android, Microsoft, Blackberry or anything else, user.  Honestly, I don’t know enough about what makes what work electronically even to have a choice.  However, I do know a con job when I see one.  For my money, when you have two items that look the same, act the same and were probably made in the same factory, but one costs more than three times as much as the other one…well…B. T. Barnum was definitely right.

It’s obvious; the real thing Apple is selling is “cool.”  So be it.  If you can sell the sizzle off a bad cut of meat, you’re a crooked jerk, but all the more power to you.  My problem is the boys down at the Apple clubhouse think they don’t put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us.  And every time I mention it, I get the Stephen Jobs/Johannes Gutenberg lecture.  I agree; the guy was a genius, but that doesn’t give him (or his post-mortem company) the arrogant right to gouge everybody.  But what really burns my bacon is that even though most people outside the Apple cabal realize it’s not the one true path to enlightenment nobody is willing to admit it – except, maybe, me.