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Thursday, January 28, 2010
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I was thinking about my first visit to
Then the walls of the tunnel closed in tighter and a rush of cool, dank air wafted through. My uncle told me were under the
A few years later I lived in
My car would fly blindly forward, trusting that the car ahead knew where it was going, like elephants in the circus parade, trunk to tail. The headlights and taillights were dark but intimately close. The endplates of the two cars would gyrate in a crazed dance, never quite on the same level, lurching back and forth, up and down. The chains between the cars would swing and jump erratically.
In a car far forward the lights would go out for a moment. Then the next car. The momentary blackout would work its way back through the train and as it passed into my car, I would turn to watch it continue its journey towards the end of the train.
I used to wish that ride would never end. But I left
I’m glad I had a chance to ride the trains as a kid when life’s responsibilities didn’t prevent one from the sheer joy of just going for a ride. Maybe that's why an aging man came back to
Friday, January 15, 2010
I’m old enough to remember when people didn’t care what their phone looked like. Wouldn’t have mattered if we did; they all looked the same. As long as we could make and receive calls and hear each other well enough to communicate, we were happy. If someone told you that their phone was better than yours, you’d most likely keep a safe distance from them. They probably also thought they’d seen an alien space ship. Of course, we were very naïve. We thought it was just a phone. We didn’t realize that it was technology.
How things have changed. Now 48% of Americans believe UFO’s are real. And if I tell someone my cell phone is better than theirs, then I better keep a safe distance because they may well attack me – verbally for sure and maybe even physically. People seem to take their technology gadgets very seriously.
I used to think that this phenomenon was exclusively the domain of people who buy Apple Computer products. Ever since that woman ran down the aisle and threw a sledgehammer at Big Brother, Apple has represented to its faithful not so much a technology maker as a counter-cultural movement. It alone stands up against the forces of evil (other technology manufacturers) to protect you, the little guy. Apple doesn’t sell products; it sells religion. People seem to forget that the Apple Corporation is a multi-billion dollar organization very interested in that most traditional of business aspirations – making a big profit.
I’m not saying they don’t make great products. I don’t happen to think they make the best products, but I’ll let others decide that. Besides, it’s folly to say what product is the best at the moment because tomorrow everything will be different once again. Apple’s real genius is that it gets its consumers to be it’s most vehement advocates. Other companies have tried this, of course. Saturn wasn’t just a car company, it was… well, who remembers?
So when I finally upgraded my cell phone to a new smart phone I was happy to find a product which was even better than the iPhone and, best of all, it wasn’t made by Apple. I told myself that I am a smart consumer. I am buying a product on it’s actual merits and not out of blind faith in a bogus cult. Little did I know that I was walking right into the front lines of the ultimate Armageddon.
It turns out that the Android Army is every bit as crazy as the Steve Jobs-walks-on-water whackos. The two sides square off against each other and begin attacking and counter attacking. The Droid can multi-task, eat your hearts out Kool-Aid drinkers. So what, the iPhone has multi-touch, you morons. You can’t talk and surf the net at the same time Droidheads; you can’t talk at all on the blue network. We have over one hundred thousand apps; we have the same one hundred apps that any of you have ever actually downloaded. Check it out Apple Assholes, we have a real keyboard; Screw you, Nouveau Tech, our design has 45 more units of cool than yours. iDon’t; I won’t.
Up in the board rooms in
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I keep forgetting that other people have to go to work. Friends get irritated when I call them up during the week to ask if they want to hang out in the museum with me for the afternoon. They think I’m being disingenuous, just rubbing in the fact that I’m free all day while they are trapped in the office. Like people calling from their vacation in the tropics and asking how’s the weather back home. Each time I’m reminded that most people spend the majority of their waking hours on the job, I feel a twinge of guilt. Why am I sitting around doing nothing when I should be at the office? Then I remember that I’m retired. No, not exactly retired, permanently unemployed. Even without a recession, who is going to hire a 62 year old who hasn’t had a full-time job in ten years?
Don’t get me wrong, I love not working. Of course without a paycheck I have to live a fairly Spartan life but when I listen to my friends talk about their jobs, I don’t envy them. Most of them are so concerned about holding on to their jobs that they do anything to keep their bosses happy. Long hours, take home work, conference calls while on vacation -- if they dare to use their vacation time. They all seem stressed and very tired. None of them get eight hours of sleep. I’m not a great fan of unions – I think they are responsible for driving manufacturing out of the country and for saddling public services such as transit with huge, unnecessary expenses – but if any group of workers ever needed a powerful union, it has to be today’s white collar workers.
Of course it’s not all bad for my working friends; most of them make a lot of money. More than I ever made. Even so, they don’t seem to get proportionally more from their big bucks than I get from my embarrassingly small budget. I stay at home and brew a pot of whatever coffee is on sale at the supermarket; they grab a three dollar cup at Starbucks. I sleep in late and have instant oatmeal for lunch; they have a 30 dollar lunch at one of the over-priced restaurants near the office. I lounge around in sweatpants and a sweatshirt; they pick up their designer suits at the dry cleaners. I’ve learned to be comfortable in my small apartment in unfashionable Queens; they pay three times as much for an even smaller apartment in
Even though I wouldn’t want to trade my life for that of any of my working friends, I still feel like something is missing. I feel it every time I am introduced to somebody new and one of the first things they ask me is “what do you do?” I’ve tried dozens of different answers to that awkward question. What I’d like to say is “What do I do about what?” but that would be taken as a rude rejection. So I’m between jobs, I’m unemployed, I’m retired, I’m an unpublished writer, I’m a trust fund baby… always the same reaction. Oh, you don’t do anything. And if you don’t do anything, they you can’t be anybody.
Oh well. Let me try the next number on my list. There must be somebody who will spend an afternoon in the museum with nobody.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Americans become hysterical whenever the subject of race comes up. Take the current media frenzy over Senator Reid’s so-called racist remarks. I do not believe that Reid was saying that because Obama has light skin he is an acceptable person; I believe he said that because Obama has light skin he was more electable. Reid said pretty much the same thing that hundreds of media analysts were broadcasting during the election. Maybe it isn’t a good reflection on the American voter, but, until recently, it’s probable that the darker a candidate’s skin or the more ethnic his speech, the less likely he was to get elected President. That’s a political observation, not a racist remark.
I am not a fan of Harry Reid. In fact, I think the combination of Reid and Pelosi as the face of the Democratic Party has done more to alienate the public than anything the party has done lately. Having an aversion to one’s personality, however, is not grounds for calling for his resignation. True to their hypocritical nature, the Republicans have done just that. So now we have the comic juxtaposition of white Republicans denouncing a man for alleged racism while black Democrats defend him.