2006: The Advent of the Analog Man in a Digital World
After casually observing my futile attempt to decipher the mysteries of the television remote control, pushing button after button in unsuccessful attempts to change channels and adjust the sound on Miss Mary’s complex, multiplex mega-system, Uncle Bubbel was heard to mutter under his breath as he got up from his comfy chair, shaking his head as he left the room to grab himself another Carib, “Day-vit, you really jes’ a analog man in a digital worl’, ain’tcha.”
Do you recall the Luddites - those 19th century British Isle cottage-industry wool weavers, who, when threatened by the advent of the Industrial Revolution and steam-powered looms, rioted, breaking into the newly constructed factories, violently smashing the demon looms in the futile hope of stopping progress dead in its tracks, thus ensuring that their old ways of life would continue unsullied for generations?
They failed. Miserably. And progress has been marching steadily onward ever since - "same as it ever was!"
I’m not a Luddite, but will accept that I am somewhat ‘old school’ at best and a curmudgeon at worst. However, Uncle Bubbel’s less than candid observations - though generally pointless and porous as a sieve - may hold a modicum of truth in this particular instance. I prefer the slower, more evolutionary pace of a more natural, analog world over the frenetic pace of the mostly sense-less, virtual world. To paraphrase writer Michael Ventura, “Sure, you can take a pretty good virtual tour of, say, Rome on your computer. But can you hear the traffic, taste the food, have a pigeon shit on your head?”
I don’t know about that last part about the pigeons, but I question whether our brains and biology can adapt as quickly as technology seems to be forcing us to. I’ve found that shiny-new digital devices (henceforth referred to as DD’s) like cellular phones, notebook computers and other screen-faced thingies, while hyped as dynamic, time-saving contrivances that promise to make me more connected, cool & hip, and purport to make my life way more convenient, efficient (and even fun?) seem to have missed their mark on me. And they also possess a darker, potentially more insidious Shadow side. I shall try to explain.
My observation is that the impact of the DD’s on many of us who are older than Generation-X - does that make them X-Men? - paradoxically bring about opposite qualities from which they are alleged to provide. Take, for example, ‘text-messaging’ or 'Tweeting', both mediums in which truncated phrases, laden with abbreviations and acronyms, are entered into one's cell phone by pushing miniature keys and transmitted via satellite to another's cell phone. Texting, in spite of all its speed and immediacy, clearly lacks the richness and depth of the spoken or well-written word, not to mention the total absence of the unconscious communication transmitted by facial expressions and body language. We see folks walking (and - gasp! - driving!) around entranced, pushing the miniature buttons on their cell phones and staring at the tiny screens with hypnotic, zombie-like intention as they key-in what I suspect is mostly banal stuff to others who respond with equal banality:
Boy: u r 2 cool
Boy: c u @ 9 2nite?
Girl: IDK. 4 what?
Boy: W8 I cant
Boy: OMG! have to wrk. FML!
Girl: LOL STFU!
This may be communicating, but is it not dehumanizing, devoid of any soul-satisfying connection? Does that even matter? Not so much, because it is convenient. And immediate.
But is this ‘communication’ really all that urgent that it requires one’s immediate attention, so much that you are temporarily interrupted and disconnected from the reality your present environment or situation, perhaps driving your vehicle over onto the sidewalk or into my lane? 4 all I know, I’m betting that txting ain’t going away 2 soon and I could be SOL.
I wonder about the long-range impact ‘virtual life’ might have upon the nature of human relationships as they become electronically abbreviated, compressed at warp speed into digital bytes. What becomes of relationships founded and maintained in digital constructs of time? Are ‘speed dating’ events and websites such as eHarmony and Match.com that seek to digitally hook people up quickly becoming the preferred way to meet your mate?
What’s the hurry anyway? Do we not, in fact, exist in real time? You know, sun comes up, sun goes down, repeat. Forever. Doesn’t it take a protracted amount of real time to actually get to know another, not the illusion of who he or she may have portrayed themselves to be online? (Don’t get me started about the implications and ramifications this sort of projection has upon the concept of identity as I have experienced the consternation and woe of ‘identity theft’ firsthand). I suppose it will be interesting to see how this all evolves. Over the span of real time, of course!
Have you ever actually read the manual(s) that come packaged with your cell phone, computer software, camera or palm pilot - a device, I am told, that is practically obsolete already? Do you feel like an idiot trying to decipher this alien gibberish? I do. The time it takes to wade through that techno-speak, attempting to grasp the thousands of functions I shall never use - nor did I want - seems to use up quite a chunk of that ‘convenient’ time I could be dedicating for friends, family and fun that I’m supposed to have saved by employing said DD. I’ve found that I require ready access to an adolescent kid - or other such learned techno-geek wizard - to bail me out of the electronic morass in which I inevitably find myself whenever I attempt to straddle the great digital divide.
Denied access to such a geek, my second preference is the knowing, compassionate presence of another analog who will soothe my shattered synapses and remind me to breathe before I rip that DD from its cute little ‘docking station’ and heave it through a window or from a swiftly moving vehicle.
I don’t think I’m the only one younger than Methuselah who feels this way. I understand that I’m becoming vastly outnumbered as our culture continues to careen wildly down the binary ‘information highway’, gathering up spiraling sequences of “0”s and “1”s. I also wonder if, like the dinosaurs, I am headed for extinction? Short Answer: Yes.
Does everything in life have to have a screen attached to it? It's looking like it. Hasn’t human evolution been thus far a slow process as we’ve crawled from the primordial ooze? And don’t we all likely know some folks - excluding you and me, of course - who haven’t evolved terribly far from the cave as it is? Yes, and yes. I seriously doubt that more touch-screens will help them.
All this having been said, I’ll begrudgingly admit that there are a small number of DD’s that have gradually entered my life as if by osmosis. I present a few of them to you now, along with what I’ve coined their ‘analog antidotes’ - ways that I have found to keep me (somewhat) sane. Maybe you’ll find them useful. If not, just hit the ‘delete’ button and go back to your regularly scheduled program. SMH & LOL
Microwave: While not exactly ‘digital’, I think of the microwave and its kissin’-cousins, the X-ray and laser beams, as pretty close relatives to the binary boxes.
Listen, this microwave thing just messes with your time-continuum construct. I’m an advocate of the ‘slow food’ movement and microwaves just have no business there. Despite the claims, it's just not possible to make a nice roast or bake delicious bread or cake in two minutes now is it? I don’t trust food items marketed as “Just heat and eat!” (No, thanks.) - “Ready when you are!” (I'm not ready yet.) – “A real meal in a jiffy!” - (Real? Um, I think not.). This stuff just can’t be too good for me. One has to be a chemist to understand what is in this microwaveable 'food'.
I prefer instead to use my oven, or even better, to use my wood stove for cooking in the winter. I make great soup, hot tea, even fry up some bacon & eggs on it. It’s especially handy when the power goes out. I can also dry my laundry and warm-up my boots near the wood stove…try that with your microwave. Wait...don't try that with your microwave. I’ve not devolved far enough back to use the wood stove in the summer. But I might.
UPDATE: 2022 – I have microwave. It came attached to the wall of the house. I use it to reheat coffee and tea. That is all. Claudia appreciates its timer. I don't know what she is timing.
Palm Pilot: Small may be beautiful, but I don’t have one of these gadgets. Never did, never will. They're simply way too small. But I do have two palms and a Pilot pen. I often write phone numbers and reminders to myself with my Pilot pen on my palms. Works fine and I’ve yet to have the urge to fling either of my palms or my Pilot from an open window or stomp them to bits. But I suppose there's still time.
UPDATE: 2022 - Palm Pilots are obsolete - replaced by tiny, desiccated computer-like things called “iPads” and now, the iWatch. I will not watch the iWatch.
Cell phone: I have one. My partner Miss Mary got my first one for me as part of her Family Plan a few years ago. It can do all kinds of things, like takes photos and movies, remind me to buy cat food and when my car payment is due. It can alert me to all sorts of stuff with its array of tinny, digital sounds. I’ve not figured out how to use these features, despite its voluminous User's Manual.
Yes, this phone is capable of text-messaging, but as you’ve probably surmised, this is a skill I have not, nor do I wish to, develop. I still have my version of “palm pilot”. I like to go to the movies, I don’t make them - why would I want to watch a tiny, two minute movie made with a telephone? My cat, with her incessant yowling, reminds me to buy food when her bowl is empty – don’t need a phone for that. If I want to write to somebody, I write a letter – with real words! OMG! LOL! STBM!
I was considering disconnecting my land-line phone (this is a relatively new term: ‘land-line’ – as opposed to what, my ‘sea-line’, my ‘time-space-continuum line’?), but I am not ready to do this. What cords would I then have to trip over?
I’ll admit, the cell phone is handy when I’m delayed on the road (“Need just one more cuppa coffee”, or “I was rear ended by a snow plow and will be late for rehearsal.”). The main problem is sometimes there’s just no cell service. Also the buttons are always way too small for me and I usually can’t see the damned things, nor the stupid screen. I’ve "fat-fingered" or "pocket-dialed" my way into more than one wrong number and frustrating situation. I often want to throw the damn cell phone. My next cell phone (if there is one) should be made of rubber. You know why.
Update 2015: I don't have the cell phone Miss Mary gave me and I am neither part of her family or her Plan. In its stead, I bought a $10/100 minute per month TracFone. It's the only phone that will work in the Caribbean. And I still use my land-line as my primary telephone. It does not take pictures or remind me of anything.
My new gal, Miss Claudia insisted upon putting me on her Family Plan for a new iPhone. I did it, but it was only 6 months old before it was obsolete. The iPhone does so much, but isway too complicated for me to comprehend beyond making a simple phone call. I rarely use it at all, for anything. However, it does have a tough, rubber case. Apparently I am not the only one prone to throwing these things. I am trying to get Miss Claudia to learn semaphore. So far, no luck.
Update 2022: I ditched the TracPhone. Since my Caribbean shack blew away in Hurricane Irma in 2017, I have nowhere to stay in the islands. Don't need the phone, nor the monthly bill! I ditched the land-line. Does that mean I am now untethered? Affirmative.
GPS Device: Nope, don’t have one. They seem pretty handy, if not a bit bossy at times with its exasperated woman's voice telling you where to go and that you essentially have messed everything up and now she has to “recalculate” your route and you better follow her instructions this time. I don't need another wife.
I might actually get a GPS someday - if they stop making maps. Even though I am a man, I will stop and ask for directions. But not often. For the most part, I usually know where I am and where I’m going. For the times I don’t, I have my compass…and maps. Reading a compass has become a lost art that I long ago learned in Boy Scouts, and while deciphering maps seems to be only for treasure-hunters and aliens these days, I love to look at maps and often do so recreationally. I could be an alien.
I can usually orient myself somewhat by locating the sun though this method is not terribly reliable at night And while the stars are lovely to look at, they are still just holes in the sky to me.
I had a kid riding with me once who asked, “What’s that thing stuck on your dashboard?”
“That's a compass,” I answered. “Always points to the North and I can use it to find my way.”
“Cool!” he said.
I think so too.
UPDATE: 2010 - I bought a GPS. Found a good one on sale for $79. It sits like a tiny TV on my dashboard and it's pretty cool in figuring things out like where to find an address, a restaurant or gas station (often needed) or hospital (thankfully not needed, yet) and for telling me about what time I'll arrive at my destination...wherever that might be. I've taken to placing it's language settings to “Italian – Female”. I figure I might learn a foreign language while I drive. I've named her Frangelica. I am finding that I like my GPS, except sometimes she unsticks herself from my dashboard and falls on the floor and frightens me. Italian temper, I guess?
UPDATE: 2022 - Frangelica died. I've replaced her with a larger GPS that I can actually see. It informs me how high I am. Altitude! – I know what you were thinking. It has a clock, tells me if I'm going too fast and the name of the upcoming road. I could have it talk to me, but I've decided I wanted it to just shut up, so I silenced that feature. Too much noise in the world anyway.
Computer: AKA ‘The Devil On My Desk’: I didn’t use or own one for years! Then back in the mid-90s, someone decided, rather than taking it to the dump, to give me their obsolete, early-90s vintage Macintosh II with a monitor as large as a Volkswagen. I used this green-glowing freak solely for a typewriter until about five years ago when Miss Mary - truly a hip and adventurous electronic GadgetGurl - dragged me kicking and screaming into the 20th century by presenting me with a dandy new, powerful iMac upon which I was to help her write her newest book. Until recently, I used this iMac simply for...a glorified typewriter. I can type much faster than I can write – my handwriting simulates prehistoric runes - and being left-handed I always smudge the ink dragging my hand across the page.
I live in the woods - in more ways than one apparently - and there was no high-speed internet service available. I hooked the iMac up to my dial-up telephone service. The time it took to send or retrieve information with dial-up was, well, underwhelming. I could have written a letter and had the US Postal Service - or the Pony Express for that matter! - deliver it in a more timely manner. I would have to wait years before any cable service arrived to my house. And that was not my fault.
Despite the wonders of a newfangled research tool named Google that would have allowed for access to worldwide information, I was stuck with my glacial-speed dial-up service. I could have gone to a library and looked up whatever it was that I was researching quicker with the Dewey Decimal System. That is, if Dewey is still in business. I supposedly have an Encylopedia Brittanica on a disc that gives me byte-sized mini-morsels of semi-useful information, but I haven't figured out how to use it.
So why didn't I just go to my local library? Because using the computer would save me time. Right? Wrong. Do you see how my relationship to the construct of time has been challenged, mutated with the introduction of this damn computer?
Nonetheless, I've slowly accepted that computers are here to stay and can be useful beyond the scope of simple typewriting. Besides, one can hardly find a decent typewriter anymore.
I am truly amazed at how much smarter my computer is than me. For instance, it knows what I want before I do and tries to help me get it. With its ads for, say: pharmaceuticals without a prescription (now what's Li'l Def Bootsie down on the corner gonna do for a living?); a larger penis (all this time I was buying into the whole small-is-beautiful thing!); bigger boobs (missed the boat on that one, Bubby!); and tons of cash from my old friend, Abdul al Kabaz, the exiled Nigerian prince - all I have to do is send him my bank account numbers (and the $150.00 'processing fee') so he can safely deposit the princely sum directly into my account!
My computer wants me to unconditionally trust it and then blindly leap into the virtual void with it. But I did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday and I know what's happening; I remain content to crawl along the slow lane of the information-highway. And I’ll use my own maps and compass, thank you very much.
UPDATE: 2010 - Still have my iMac, but it's pissing me off. It regularly reminds me that my "browser" (what is this, really?) is obsolete and needs to be updated. When I attempt to do this, I am told my "operating system" won't allow further updating. Attempts to see if my OS (got jargon?) can be updated/modified lead me to conclude that it would be easier and more beneficial to get a new computer! How's that for a marketing ploy to get you to buy a new one and boost their stock dividends? Five years old and ready for the boneyard!
UPDATE: 2012 - I replaced my iMac desktop with a MacBook Pro laptop. It will always know more than I do, but I've enjoyed fooling around with its on-board recording software called GarageBand and am learning to negotiate the wide world of the web and the 'book of faces'. It can take my picture while I'm staring at it. I don't like it when it does that. I am easily seduced into the digital hole of no return and time just goes slip slidin' away.
UPDATE: 2017 – The MacBook Pro crapped out. Apparently its memory imploded and replacing it would be quite expensive. So I replaced the MacBook Pro with . . . another MacBook Pro – the 2017 version. It is similar to my 2012 version except you can't plug anything into it without buying some sort of adaptor to accommodate. I was persuaded at the same time to also purchase an iPad, ostensibly so that if (more likely when) the MacBook Pro wonks out on me I'll have a backup. This will allegedly deprive me the joy of throwing the MacBook Pro out the window in frustration because I'll still be able to do whatever it is I do with the computer with my iPad. Almost. The only new thing I noticed was that I now had to climb yet another steep learning iPad curve. Shoulda stayed with the chalkboard and abacus.
Update 2022: The MacBook Pro is still working although it needed a new battery and some internal tweaking that I can not explain. In fact, I am working on it right now. The iPad iPooped and had to be replaced with a new one. I hated trying to type on this tiny fellow's screen so I got an external keyboard that doubles as a folding case, thus making it a much more miniature MacBook Pro. I find that I primarily use the iPad to read books and amaze myself that I actually have amassed quite the digital library on it!
Guitars: Nothing but genuine, wooden acoustic guitars in these hands. They sound warmer, more natural, and they help me create the music I love. They don't have screens. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite fond of electric guitars, too. I own, but rarely play, a Fender Stratocaster.
Electric guitars have surely have earned their place in the pantheon of rock ‘n roll. But remember, I’m an analog man. I guess I’d say the difference is sort of like choosing to spend a comfortable moment sitting in the sun at the beach or along a shady, peaceful country lane, enjoying the view from a perch upon a dune, an old log or a rocking chair on a funky wooden porch, refreshing drink in hand - or attempting to do the same from atop an electric fence. Both have their pros and cons, I guess.
UPDATE: 2009 - I have a new acoustic guitar. It is not wooden. It is 100% carbon graphite fibre “Cargo”. And...I love it! It is nearly indestructible. It is impervious to any and all fluctuation of temperature and humidity...it is nearly always in tune. It fits well and feels great in my hands. And it sounds awesome! What is happening to me?
UPDATE: 2013 – I have a 2nd new 100% carbon graphite fibre “Cargo” acoustic guitar. Just like the other one, except it is red. I like red.
UPDATE: 2022 – I have a 3rd new 100% carbon graphite fibre “Cargo” acoustic guitar. It's just like the other two, except it's white. I like white, too. A lot. But my go-to guitar these days is a 15 year old hand-made koa and cedar parlor guitar. It suits my style perfectly.
Camera (See Cell Phone): I bought a 4-pixel camera a few years ago for just under $400. I guess that's around $100 per pixel? It was pretty cool and did way more technical, photographic things than I’ll ever understand. It’ll take 3-minute movies - perfect for those with ADHD and the attention-span of a gnat. Again I am struggling with yet another Owner’s Manual, and have to look at my photos on a computer screen without the satisfaction of holding a print in my hands or creating an album book. I’m told I can do all this, but I’ll have to translate more digital mumbo-jumbo and buy a decent printer. I have a program called Photoshop on my iMac, too. It can do crazy-wild things to photos. I may even learn to use it, but not today.
UPDATE: 2010 - Miss Mary and my sister presented me for my birthday gift a new Canon camera with 12 pixels, a 4" viewing screen, a 12x zoom lens that shoots 10 minute movies for $279. And it's half the size of my old one, which I thought was pretty small - about the size of a pack of cigarettes. The manual is much larger than the camera. Figures.
UPDATE: 2017 – My cell phone and iPad take just as good, if not better, pictures than the Canon camera and they are very small. I hardly take any pictures anyway; Claudia is a fabulous photographer so I don't bother. The Canon is lying in its case. But I might use it again. Some day.
UPDATE: 2022 – I use my Canon camera to take photos of my cigar box guitars. I prefer it to my iPhone with its three trillion pixels et al. I never use the iPad for photos, and only rarely the iPhone. Claudia remains the photographer of note. I am relieved.
Motor vehicles: It would be nice to be able to live and work in a community where there was adequate public transportation, or you could walk or ride your bike wherever you wanted to go. Maybe like they do in Italy, Ireland and most other places in Europe and Asia? But I don’t live there. I need a car, and my car is way more digital than I’d like.
I used to be able to work on my own vehicles with the wrenches and screwdrivers I already owned. And if I couldn’t, it was a snap to find someone who could. Not so today. The car needs to be hooked up to a computer to analyze and diagnose it. I do not have this kind of computer, nor do I want psychotherapy for my car. I just want to be able to repair it without having to shell out $90+ an hour for an ‘automotive technical specialist’ - formerly known as a ‘mechanic’ - to do so.
That’s why I also own and ride a 1968 Triumph Bonneville motorcycle. It’s loud, fun, economical and I can usually fix it myself. Usually. At nearly 50 years of age, the Triumph remains quite nimble and sexy, while I do not.
UPDATE: 2022 – Whether I like it or not, I have to have car. I haul all kinds of musical gear to my shows. I like to take trips with Claudia, who won't ride on a motorcycle. She doesn't have to worry about that now because I gave my Triumph to my son and sold my 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster. At something over 70 years old, I no longer enjoy nor feel the need to be riding powerful motorcycles the same as I used to. I have a Subaru wagon and get my thrills driving a Mazda Miata.
I also have a really cool electric bicycle with seriously chubby tires. I can go almost anywhere with it and it can go almost 25 mph – over 30 mph downhill. On a bicycle, that feels wicked fast! And, I no longer pay $90 an hour for an automotive technical specialist. I pay $125.
Clocks: I prefer a wind-up kind. They can be difficult to find today, but I still have my Dad’s watch that I wear sometimes, and when I wind it up, I think of him. I have a couple of wind-up pocket watches that I use when I’m feeling particularly anachronistic.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to resort to wearing those cheap, battery-powered timepieces because I’m pretty hard on watches and don’t want to ruin Dad’s vintage Bulova. Too bad I can’t wear a sun dial. Unless I'm gigging, I don't usually need to know what time it is at night. If it's dark, it's probably bedtime.
I have an LED alarm clock by my bed. Auspiciously quiet most of the time, I know that it surreptitiously lies in wait - bright, red LED lights innocuously glowing - to propel me disquietingly from my repose with its tinny but shrilly irritating beeping that provokes an unwanted blast of adrenaline. I’d prefer my grandfather’s wind-up alarm clock (circa 1910) with its comforting, measured ‘tick-tock’ and real, analog chime; but it is old and tired and loses time. Perhaps like someone else we may know? I like the ritual of winding things up, but these days it seems like the only thing getting wound up is me.
Let’s not overlook the problem with programming digital clocks: How many times do you push which miniature button in exactly what sequence to set which function? Quick, refer to the handy manual! Oh, so sorry, it’s been translated from Mandarin into Pidgin cuneiform by a demented orangutan and no strangely sense makes. I’d much rather twist-a-knob or flick-a-lever. Tactile. Intuitive. Easy. So why do I have the LED alarm clock? Just masochistic, I guess. Or maybe I like collecting manuals?
UPDATE: 2022 - All mechanical clocks and watches are now broken. Except for my grandfather's 1910 alarm clock. It still loses time, but maybe that's a good thing? All the original LED clocks have been relegated to the dump and grudgingly replaced. Why? Because you can't get a decent wind-up clock anymore!
Boat: I learned to sail in 1990 and now I have a small sailboat. I don’t think there’s a digital sailboat yet, and if there is, I don’t want to know. Perhaps my greatest antidote to the digital world, this sailboat is seventeen feet of pure, aquatic pleasure – combined with wind & sun, it is like a liquid tranquilizer. The little boat quietly asks that I seek balance, the perfect harmony that is achieved when wind, sail and hull are in synchronized calibration, rewarding me with an exhilarating run over the bounding main.
It's like the old ‘even-keel’ thing. It requires focus and concentration, often short commodities in our high-speed culture. If one loses focus and concentration upon weather and craft, things can sometimes go horribly wrong really quckly. I could tell you some stories…maybe another time.
With sailing, you can’t always simply go directly from Point A to Point B. Sometimes you have to tack back and forth, working with the wind towards your destination. It takes time. Analog-time, not digital-time. It lends great appreciation for the navigational skills of the ancient mariners like Odysseus, Magellan, Columbus, Hudson, St. Brendan (the Irish patron saint of sailors and travelers), et al.
My son, in many ways a chip off the ol’ analog block, is nevertheless more of a micro-chip man. He just cannot fathom why I sail. “You can’t ski or tube behind a sailboat!” Nope. And while I might occasionally race the craft with another, or try to best my own time circumventing a local lake, he finds such events as exciting as digging for worms or watching paint dry.
“Is this all you do?” I was asked as one fine day we were making a particularly long tack. Yes. Yes, it is. I like it that way. Now, walk the plank, meh-son!
UPDATE: 2017 – My poor sailboat has developed a mysterious leak that I can not locate so it has been in dry-dock in my yard for over 3 years. There is no one in my area that knows anything about fixing such things. I know because I've inquired. You'd think I possessed an ancient Babylonian warship or something; “Nope, we don't fool with sailboats here.” If I had a bass or ski boat or a pontoon party boat, I'd be fine. If I lived on the sea coast, I'd be fine too because they know from sailboats. I'm thinking of moving to the coast. But it might be cheaper to buy a new, slightly smaller sailboat. Without the leak.
UPDATE: 2022 – After several years in the dry-dock of my yard, I tried to sell the boat – cheap! Finally I gave it away to a fellow who confidently told me he can fix things. I drove by his place last month. The boat sits at dry-dock, untouched, in his yard now.
Television: I once had a TV. It had a big, fat, cathode ray color picture tube and was as large as a steamer trunk. Tt got three channels routed through the huge wiry antenna up on my roof. After I found myself lost in a mindless stupor, reciting from memory the script from “The King of Queens” re-run I’d seen four times, it dawned on me that I really needed to be practicing my guitar. Or reading…washing my windows…knitting a couch. Anything! The next weekend, I took the TV to the dump.
That was nearly five years ago. I haven’t missed it, and my guitar playing has vastly improved. A good friend who felt sorry for me because I had nothing on which to view a movie (I go to the movies sometimes, remember?) gave me a discarded, though perfectly good, tiny B&W Sony TV that had once taken up residence in his daughter’s college dorm room. Not entirely ungrateful, I hooked it up. I still got only three channels and “The King of Queens” was still showing the same re-runs. I was afraid to watch it, because it would suck my brain out. Again.
Then in November ’08, just before the presidential election, my life changed. BIG time! The Cable came to my street and, well - I got ‘wired’! No more dial-up internet for me! I now had high-speed internet on my computer, thus catapulting me, eight years late, into the 21st century in all its high-tech digital splendor. I’ve gone crazy, losing HOURS researching stuff, designing my own website, emailing…I even created a mySpace music page. WHAT THE HELL WAS HAPPENING TO ME?
However, in order to receive this high-speed internet service, I had to subscribe to a cable-TV package. So, Tiny Sony and I got the minimal package with - whoa! - twenty-four channels!
For a few weeks, I was addicted. I watched all the Obama drama – from campaign to election to inauguration. I watched NatGeo, PBS, CNN, the Weather Channel, NESN (I usually hate sports!). I even watched never-before-seen-by-the-likes-of-me shows like Fox News (What a pack of psychopathicliars...I can't BELIEVE they BELIEVE that crap!), Dr. Phil ("Hows that workin' for ya?") and Family Guy (I find baby Stewie and Brian the dog particularly hilarious).
Once while aimlessly channel surfing, I wiped-out onto some crazy, voyeuristic ‘reality show’ - on a channel called 'Oxygen' - with the seductive moniker "Bad Girls Club". This narcissistic little gem tracked the seemingly endless, mindless and seamy misadventures of a house-full of cheap sluts. I mean, for crying out loud! Who watches this junk? I suppose I was. Did I mention mindless? I sure as hell don't know what kind of 'Oxygen' they were breathing. Probably carbon monoxide.
I found myself staying up really late creating darker circles under my eyes, the Sony's screen being the only light in the room. My guitar-finger calluses began to soften. I feared that I was going to need a 12-Step group.
Once again, I unplugged the TV. So far, so good. But wait! I hear prices are really coming down and they're practically giving away cool 42” flat-screen TVs at BestBuy that would work perfectly in my living room.
UPDATE: 2010 - I did it. I pulled the trigger and bought a flat-screen TV. A Sharp 36" HD (hi-def, mon!) that fits perfectly for my size room. It's going to be a long winter and I wanted to see some movies - that B&W Sony 12" screen really did suck - so I poked around, seeking a deal and found one.
My new TV was a demo without a box or remote control, marked down from $549 to $318. I asked the clerk if that was the best he could do? Took it down to $279. I had $75 Gift Card that I applied to the purchase, so I got this unit for $204. I bought a 'universal remote' for $12 that I presume allows me to operate my new TV from anywhere in the universe, although I don't know why I'd want to do that nor have I yen to try. Anyway, I am proud of myself. I actually get more channels now, though I don't understand why because my cable subscription did not change. It doesn't really matter. I still don't watch much TV. And I have picked up some pretty good VCR movies from my local library...for free! Thankfully, I haven't watched Oxygen again, no matter how bad them girls are!
UPDATE: 2017 – I still have cable because it's the only way I can receive internet and land-line phone/fax service. However, I've not watched the TV in nearly 3 years. Well, maybe a couple of times, like a “60 Minutes” episode...but that's all. I did discover something called NetFlix that allows me to watch movies on my computer. There are, however, very few movies on NetFlix that I find worth watching, so this has been a short-lived experience. My guitar playing is improving once again.
UPDATE: 2022: I replaced the 36” flat screen with a 52” flatscreen. Claudia and I enjoy watching the much-improved NetFlix selection from time to time – maybe a bit too much of the time. The sound that emits from the Bose SoundBar is incredible. I still have the basic cable subscription that gives me TV/internet/phone service for one (too high) rate. MySpace has fallen into a dark hole, replaced by faceBook, which is now called META. I have a website for my music that no one looks at.
I wonder how long it'll be before ALL this is OBSOLETE?
So, am I a Luddite? No! I am Analog Man In A Digital World! If you’ll please excuse me, I am going to put on my Analog Man cape, toss another log in the stove, make some tea and get back to practicing my acoustic guitar.