The Hex of a Text

The best thing about cell phones is that half the time when people (women) are on them it shifts the focus from me having to express what I’m thinking to whatever glowing occasion is emanating from their device.

Without random texting and distracting snaps I’d be cornered into an actual conversation, forced to focus on the present moment, having to pay attention and communicate instead of silently wandering around inside my head. Rather than thumb some extemporaneous and likely vacuous statement to someone across town or across the globe, I would be expected to verbally engage. Urged to reveal my emotions by sharing some quality or anecdote about myself to someone who surely won’t absorb or understand any of it since this particular interaction will not end with some video or emoji.

So we’ll just sit here beside each other but a million miles away and be absorbed by vapid words and rapid images that are astronomically less important than the human who’s actually in front of us.

Whew! (Wipes brow in relief). Thought I was going to have to say something to someone.

The Art of Penmanship (or Microchips and Bullchips)

The microchip has reduced me to a quivering little simp unable to read my own handwriting because very few things are written anymore since it’s all gone digital. That calligraphy lesson when I was a kid still sticks with me and I know how to scratch out a pretty nice lower case “a” but that’s about it. So if I’m not inputting or texting I can’t decipher whatever scratchy symbol my awful penmanship happened to produce.

The place where I used  to work had an old-timey cash register that pings and dings and has non-LCD lights and each time the keys are plunked, wet ink is typed onto tape that winds around a spool for evidence and reference. This old register weighs about 100 pounds purely of solid state machinery that chugs on elbow grease and constant commerce.

People who work in places that sell goods or services should know the prices of their product but chips in computers have made store clerks and bartenders ignorant and lazy. Convenience is a strange animal to pursue because the animal has no idea what costs what. Now this particular animal rapidly taps a touchscreen like a musician or savant.

Unrelated: I’ll tell you what’s convenient, a bullwhip hanging from my hip for whenever I see injustice occur at about 8 feet away.

China Diary: Beijing

Puffy, quilted jackets are on nearly every body during January in Beijing. Dumplings billow steam clouds over sidewalks and the chatter of pedestrians is like background music. The motorbikes have quilted arm covers, like sweaters on the handlebars. It’s a “clear” day which means the sky is cloudless but there is this hazy coat of smog that looms across the sky, making the sun look like a fuzzy orange ball hanging against grey gauze.

It’s noticeable how collected and driven most of the people are, places to go, things to do. The traffic is mostly composed of either shiny new cars mostly German, clean and free of dents, or dirty, industrial trucks, mostly Korean. My god, there’s a lot of people. Coming from a tucked-away American city with barely 600,000 people to brag about is hardly a city at all compared to this. The underground rail is one of the most advanced, easy to use and beautiful feats of engineering ever. To be so organized and efficient with so many bodies to accommodate is testimony that this country is so far ahead of the rest of the world which foreigners will never realize until they witness it for themselves.

How’s The Bootleg, Scorsese?

I paid money for this show. I worked last night so I could come see this band play live, not on TV, video or anywhere else. Live. So would it kill you people to put your damn phones down and not fill my field of vision of you recording part of the act that you can barely see, anyway? Unless you have a high definition professional video camera, no one is going to want to watch your fuzzy, garbled little snippet of a show that would have been so much better if half the crowd didn’t feel the need to have youtube parties afterward comparing different shaky angles.

Sometimes we forget the here and now as we try to preserve moments for posterity, and we just annoy the people who love live performance more than they like watching a hundred drones pretending their cell phones are video cameras.

Mobile Phones, Foibles and Moans

Is it wrong to want to smash a cell phone into a million little bits that sparkle and gleam in the sun’s rays through a west kitchen window? When does destruction become art and healthy creation, when do small moments of violence become something wonderful and beautiful? Are these questions that will inevitably land me in hot water with the landlord or detained by authorities for medical evaluation?

I dunno, I’m a pretty quick little rabbit to catch. Hoppity hoppity hoppity.

It’s equally important to find those who act reprehensible responsible for their transgressions, as it is to administer rehabilitation for receptive reprobates. Whew.

Regardless, it’s time for a new phone.

Video Games and Crack Cocaine

“Video Games Ruined My Life. Luckily I Have Two Extra Lives.”

I saw that on a t-shirt in Vietnam and almost bought it but wasn’t sure if every other schmuck in America already had one so I passed. There is little difference between crack cocaine and today’s video games. Except maybe for participants having no weight control and their overall lack of proper hygeine. Wait. No, there is no difference. One makes you skinny and the other most likely won’t.

If people could hit a dirty crack pipe with any sense of moderation, then said narcotic could beinternet-kidsconsidered a recreational activity much like bocce ball or bass fishing. If people could just control their input of desired poisons they could have a daily and relaxing Miller time instead of skittering around street corners and alleyways at all hours of the night. If kids could just limit their time in front of the Atari (or whatever they call it nowadays) and still make time for activities within the realm of reality, then our glazed-over and bloodshot youth might not be heading for the devastating discovery of how life isn’t measured by how many levels you reach or how many kills you have. Not in typical social and employment circles, anyway.

I can only imagine the amount of hours children (and grownups) squandered in front of the computer or console just wasting away trying to beat a bunch of flashing lights. Where is the satisfaction in knowing a computer has been challenged or some kid in Iowa is owned in some interstallar war? What kind of accomplishment is there when the only real prize is showing a prepubescent in Des Moines who’s boss? But it’s just a hobby, right? Like blogging? Then I video-game2see kids who win loads of money in video game tournaments. Those conventions might as well be organized crack-lympics, ceremonies that enable using instead of scheduling interventions. They should line up crackheads and have them compete in who can hork down the most amount of rock and still complete tasks like balancing a checkbook, cooking a meal, changing a diaper, etc. That would be much more entertaining than watching these little nerds break a sweat and high-five each other because they just slew some 5-headed dragon or reaped vengeance on a faction of terrorists in brown skin.

(video game box courtesy kNeil)

Wired

I used to be a hater. An absolute hater of cellular telephones. It took me nearly 10 years to be sucked into the world of carrying a mobile phone everywhere I went. If it weren’t for my girlfriend, I’d still be a land-line having “check out my badass rotary phone” kinda person.

I don’t particularly like devices that abuse my freedom. Alarm clocks, electronic ankle bracelets, computers, cell phones. Technology has become so second nature that we don’t even realize the utter control it has over our everyday actions. In fact we’re quite happy to be led around or chased down by instantaneous information and commumication. I love the Internet but sometimes I’ll geek out so hard I won’t know what day it is. But I’ll know things like free throw percentages, the foiled coup in Sri Lanka and the hoarder of 96 cats in suburban Chicago. Problem is I’ll forget all of it by the time Dancing With The Stars is on. Good thing I got my 5 favorite friends calling plan.

It’s an old story that everyone hates having to listen to one-sided conversations from people on their cell phones but it’s a way of life in the new millennium. Or having to answer calls from friends you just saw 10 minutes ago, or having such useless inane conversations that say nothing at all and would never take up your time if it weren’t for the sheer convenience of your BFF hitting you up on the celly. Telephones should be used for 1) making a date or meeting place with lovers and/or friends, 2) finding a friend to bail you out of jail, 3) calling 911 because your house is burning down. And of course, 4) calling the date you had last night to let them know you’re not a complete schlub. There really is no other reason to call people and if you call more than twice in a day it becomes incessant.

There is a phenomenal tragedy that ensues when we lose our phone. Or break it. Or drop it in the toilet, or leave it somewhere far, far away. That sickly feeling we get in our bellies, the morbid sense of loss of everything tangible and real. As if everyday life itself was dependent on a sleek little gadget as you realize that you don’t know anyone’s phone number by heart.

I remember when only drug dealers and stock brokers had cell phones. And I suppose in a way nothing has really changed except that small children and even the most destitute of people now have mobile phones. Might not have a car or a house but they sure got a phone. Not old enough to go to an R-rated movie or ride a roller coaster but they have a phone. Soon an everyday face-to-face conversation will be reserved for weddings, funerals and court appearances.

I have to wrap this up, I’m blowing up. My ringtone is either 50 Cent, Kanye or Disturbed, depending on who’s calling but you’d never know because it’s got too much treble so it sounds so washed out it might as well be white noise.

But when I call myself it’s always Britney.