• I recently skim-read a lengthy Paul Krugman editorial in the NY Times about so-called “rural rage.” I was about to comment on it when I saw that commenting was closed, after 4314 comments had been posted in less than 24 hours. I guess comment sections are like suitcases — there are only so many crumpled things you can stuff in there.
I was feeling left out, voiceless and resentful, ready to shake my pen-clutching fist at the media gods, but I reconsidered. The whole point of pundits taking controversial stances under provocative headlines is to rile people up, to keep readers engaged and make them come back for more — and read more ads. The “now you express your opinion” thing is just part of the reinforcement cycle. Your own opinion, if you do the math, is only about 1/4314 as weighty as that of the person who wrote the column.
So what do you think about this? Hey, feel free to leave a comment.
• I had a dream the other night that I invented a great app — cat-sharing. It’s for people who like the idea of having a cat but don’t want it to control their lives. You install the app on your phone and sign up to share your cat. Then, whenever you tire of plucking cat hair off your clothes, you open the app to find other users cruising your neighborhood looking for cats. You click on the nearest one and, within minutes, your bewhiskered burden is off your hands. You get your long-awaited chance to defelinate your house, and the cat’s new owner gets whatever benefit cats supposedly provide.
I’m going to call the app CatNap™. Looking for venture capital as we speak. Meow.
• I’m sorry if any cat-owners were offended by that item. That would be I’m sorry, as in my condolences, as opposed to my apologies.
• Defelinate. Remember you saw that neologism here first.
• I’ve never been able to figure out why the Jeopardy! audience applauds when one of the contestants happens to reveal a “Daily Double” answer. I mean, it’s not like there is any skill involved. It’s like clapping after you take some random item out of your dishwasher.
• The Oscars. Otherwise known as The Who-Cares. The Cultural Conformance Awards.
• The following thought is from Mr. K, the first person to call me Grandfather: “Why do they call it a building if it is already built?” I love seeing the sparks of human imagination start to fly every which way in young people — that must be why we call it humor.
• It reminds me of the time when my daughter Emily — still small enough to ride in the grocery cart seat — and I wheeled up to Wegmans’ whole-bean coffee station so I could grind a bag of Eight O’Clock. I no longer recall our exchange verbatim, but I do remember that Emily pointed out how kids “shouldn’t touch that machine or they will get grounded.” I was both charmed and impressed by her use of double-meanings — which I believe was intentional — at such a young age. How creative sparks fly!
• “Where are my flying cars?” is a well-worn trope lamenting unkept promises of the past. But it fails to capture the multitude of down-to-earth ways that The Future has managed to disappoint those who once believed in it. May I list just a few of those ways?
☆ In the old days, it took a handful of quarters to park your car on a city street or in a public lot. But now, it requires figuring out some app to download, linking the app to a credit card, then linking your space to the lot and finally your car to the space. Admit it (assuming you remember such times), wasn’t it easier to plan ahead and grab some quarters to take care of the meter? It’s just another example of how the burdens of commerce inexorably shift to the consumer, because service has become a luxury item. You serve their tech, it never serves you!
☆ If I may repeat: You serve their tech, it never serves you!
☆ In the same vein, so to speak, we were told that electronic medical records would result in high-tech, pinpoint-accurate health care, in whatever facility you happened to visit. The reality? Even when making an appointment with my own doctor, I have to trudge through a ten-screen questionnaire reiterating my (long-deceased) parents’ health histories, my own chronic conditions, and whether I have felt little pleasure in everyday activities lately. Maybe you can guess what I find little pleasure in!
☆ And then the nurse asks you the same questions you already answered online!
☆ In the old days, one didn’t have to remove one’s shoes in order to board a plane. Part of me still believes that shoe removal is mostly security theater (thanks a lot, Richard Reid) and that scanning shoes for explosives isn’t beyond the TSA. It grates on me that I have to get half-undressed (or fully, in the eyes of the TSA X-ray team) for the privilege of being seated on what is essentially an airborne Greyhound bus.
☆ Two decades ago, believe it or not, one didn’t need a cellphone number to make everyday transactions. But now, anyone you do business with insists upon sending your cellphone a text to make sure it’s really you. (Or to make sure you are really going to see their ads and promotions.) I for one am tired of having to provide both my cellphone number and my credit card to make a simple restaurant reservation which, if cancelled less than 24 hours in advance, triggers a $30-per-person charge to my credit card! The monopoly that RESY (which is owned by American Express) has established in the online restaurant reservation business is deplorable and worthy of legislative scrutiny before it gets to TicketMaster scale.
• Finally, we use “smart devices” to turn the lights off in our homes, monitor the status of our dishwashers, check the temperature in our barbecue grills, and count the steps we take every day, but even with this all-pervasive smartness, most people still don’t know their blood pressures. I hope that Generations X, Y, Z and beyond eventually decide to apply monitoring tech to something that benefits humanity rather than “as long as we’re putting a chip in this thing, we could also collect some user data.”
Some — maybe a lot more than some — of my photos defy categorization. But this did not stop me from creating a category for them, rather unimaginatively titled Odds & Ends. You are invited to head over to ART@CHC and have a look at this odd lot of images, taken over the last 20-plus years. Thanks for viewing.