Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
To get from Milwaukee to the Holy Land a week ago, it took nearly an act of Congress to complete. Alarm clock beep-beep-beeping at 7 a.m.
Taking 20 minutes for the "Triple S:" (shampoo (a.k.a. #2); shower (which also included shampooing, but in the literal sense, not the euphemistic way, even though the thought of the latter would be a pretty sweet to greet the morning, but I'm getting off the point here, aren't I?); and a shave.
An 8:10 cab to the train station, where I had to catch the 8:20 bus to O'Hare Airport for my 11:30 connector to Cincinnati.
The 11:30 connector was cancelled, on account of one or two of the engines on the Canadair RegionalJet weren't working. (glad to know that on the ground prior to takeoff rather than in the air after...)
So luckily, the good folks at Delta were able to get me on the next flight that took off at...11:30. Huh? How? A wha? Well, the 11:30 flight that I was switched to was actually the 9:55 that was late, so, yeah, whatever. I got on the 11:30...
I was supposed to have a 2:30 connector in Cincinnati (which isn't actually in Cincinnati, Ohio but rather in Any Town, Kentucky so...) but due to weather or engines-not-working or the fact that it was a day that ended in "Y," it was delayed 90 minutes.
The 2:30 was supposed to get me in at a quarter to 5...the newly minted 4:00 made it more like a 6:15 arrival into Logan. After collecting my bags, I hopped onto the Silver Line, which is the MBTA's express route to/from the airport. It is more like what happens when mass transit takes part in incest...some weird sort of bus shaped train that rides on electric in tunnels and with an internal combustion engine on the outside. Remember the "liger" in Napoleon Dynamite? Well, this is a trus. Or a brain.
The Silver Line is Boston's first successful crack at efficiency, but it was delayed heavily due to a tragic tunnel collapse in the Big Dig...the $13.7 billion dollar public works project that took the Hub's highways underground. Unfortunately, some nitwit contractor thought that three-ton concrete ceiling tiles would stay fastened with a little glue and a few bolts.
But I digress. Logan traffic through the tunnels was a mess. Finally, after an hour, the Silver Line arrived at South Station at 7:15 - Boston's terminal for Amtrak Northeast Corridor traffic, as well as commuter rail service to Providence. I had a ticket on the 8:30 train out of Beantown, which meant I had to wait more than an hour to see the light at the end of the (train) tunnel, and then sit idly for another hour before the T pulled into Exchange Plaza.
(disclosure: the two frosty pints of Samuel Adams Summer Ale I enjoyed at Clarke's bar in the terminal made this segment go by much faster and much better. In fact, it flew by. *Burp*)
Wake at 7:00 a.m. Arrive at destination at 9:20 p.m. A 14 hour, 20 minute journey. Not quite Ulysses, but you do know it's about a 16 hour drive from MKE to PVD, right? (you know it costs a first-born for a gallon of gas, right?)
Welcome to the Modern World, so sez Damon Albarn. Huxley's the doorman greeting you. Kubrick will be your waiter.
I had to go back to New England for a wedding of a good friend (more on that later). I was a groomsman. And getting to it, as Richard M. Nixon was fond of saying, was a "pigshampoo."
I've been reading a lot lately. Some of it due to my insatiable quest for knowledge. But most of it is due to my severe lack of a social life. Several of the articles and essays I've come across lately tackle modernity and society - whether it be technology, travel, computers, etc.
One person claimed there are more depressed - clinically, manically, slightly - folks out there as technology has made people more self-absorbed. Not, not necessarily in an egoisticalway, but because of iPods, portable DVD's, DVR's, on-demand cable, cell phones, sidekicks, blackberries, etc. People have everything, seemingly, at their fingertips and have very little need to rely on other people to get their info.
Remember 1983? Cal Ripken had played like 22 games and was a promising rookie? Yeah, well, when the phone rang in your house or apartment, and you wanted to know who it was, you had to pick it up and say "Hello?" Not anymore. You can screen your calls, by listening to who it is on the answering machine and then decide whether to hit stop and pick it up, or leave the caller to leave a message at the beep (oh, that's SO 1998).
Or you can look at the caller ID, decide whether or not to press the "kill" button and send it to voicemail or pick it up. Or you could even recognize the caller by the type of ring.
Or you can text message or email something to someone, which might be quick and convenient, but is certainly devoid of the subtle devices of conversation (like sarcasm or cynicism, the two main tenets of my verbiage).
But this particular writer - I don't recall his name, but he has degrees, so he has to got smarts up there in his head, ya know - says that all this is leading to socially inept people. People that can't hold a conversation...can't handle a situation like public speaking...or answering a question...et cetera. Socially inept people tend to be a little more self-conscious or lack self-confidence in public situations, hence, the spike in cases of social anxiety disorder, depression, and substance abuse. Makes sense.
I'm not depressed. At least, no one has texted or IM'ed me to tell me so (with an emoticon to boot). But I do fit the bill on just about every category the author used as examples. And, well, that made me depressed.
Yes, the modern world and all its conveniences...darling, you send me...on a wild goose chase. Modern technology brings folks and fools and felons altogether on a happy ship sailing the high seas of the information age.
I have a cell. I have a laptop and it's wireless, high-speed internet capable. No blackberry yet. But even still, anyone can get me anytime, anywhere.
Yeah. Exactly. Let's examine those words. ANYONE. ANYTIME. ANYWHERE. And the scary thing is, it's vice versa. It's ridiculous. I'm not that important and do not do anything in my everyday life that is that pressing. And, while I love my friends, loyal loyal TLBR readers, co-workers, etc., guess what? Neither do you.
Monday (July 10) was, as Vertical Horizon sang, was a gray sky morning. At least it was, until I got a text message from my friend Sara. She was in Launceston and wanted to say hello and let me know that she was in a bar called Irish Murphy's (they fancy themselves as "drinking consultants" - like Accenture for sculling pints - I only wish I had brought a resume, although it would have ended up as a beer coaster.)
Right...moving along...next paragraph and topic...
Google "Launceston," and click on "maps" near the top of the results page. Go ahead. Do it now, I'll wait.
You can get a new window in one of two ways - go back to your desktop and double-click on your browser shortcut or go to file/new window (by the way, get in the DeLorean, punch in 1955 into the flux capacitor, and take it to 88 mph in the parking lot of Twin Pines Mall...and then recite those instructions to the first person you see. They'll probably vomit on your shoes.)
Launceston is in Tasmania, which is to the South of the Australian mainland. And the Australian mainland is, like, wicked far away. Tasmania is to the South Pole what New England is to New Jersey.
A text message from across the international date line...a 24 hour plane ride...and 12,000 miles away was sent and received in MKE to brighten the Brew City skies. But it also got me thinking.
One cellphone in Tassie to another in Cheeseland...both contraptions no bigger than matchbox cars (do kids play with those anymore, or are they virtual matchboxes?)...and I'm having a sort of conversation. Well, it passed for a conversation in modern times - definated as a conversation in that it's a two-way communique between two people.
At one point on the train ride from South Station to LaProv, John Fitzgerald Kennedy's inaugural address (Jan. 20, 1961) came on. I'd like to be as dramatic as to say it happened on the stretch of rails that pass by Boston Harbor where you can see the JFK Library, but it was probably somewhere in between Sharon and Stoughton...
What's the point you ask? One of the contributing factors that led to the election of JFK as President was technology. Modernity affected the American Presidency.
The 1960 Presidential debates between Kennedy and Nixon were televised for the first time. Folks who listened to the two candidates - and rhetorical experts - on the radio gave the "win" to Nixon. But those who watched it on the boobtube gave Kennedy the nod. Why? Because Kennedy was handsome, certainly moreso than Nixon. Also, Nixon was recovering from the flu and, under the lights, was sweating profusely, while his opponent across the aisle was calm, cool and collected.
The televised debate changed the way this country evaluated its candidates for the highest office in the land.
(on an aside, I have to be the only Kennedy Nixonite on the planet. Maybe Bill Clinton, I'm not sure...)
Yes, as technology advances from the Industrial Revolution to the Information Age, it all adapts. Call it technology's "elastic clause." Change is inevitable. The after-effects happen. Change is adapted further from those after-effects. From Washington to both Roosevelts, to both Bushes, it's a constant.
Heck, we got our National Anthem after the "embedded" Francis Scott Key penned a poem after a glorious battle in the War of 1812...ABC's Bob Woodruff was almost beheaded by a roadside bomb, as he was embedded in the second Iraq war.
Change is happening so fast that we can't adapt to it quick enough. Once we change, it is time to "upgrade," and change again. There is no settling or getting used to anything. It's launch, upgrade, relaunch, lather, rinse, repeat.
It's maddening. It's also exciting. Change has no boundaries. Change has no walls. Change has enabled you to read this blog - and me to update it. Sometimes change happens so fast we can not comprehend it, and instead choose to critique it or put it down. But by the tome is penned, the thought codified, or the thesis proven, *bam*, it has changed.
For those of us out there - the pre-internet folks that were introduced to it early enough as to still be net savvy - we need to continue to set the agenda. We need to try to govern the change, if that is possible, and guard it.
The folks who use iTunes for their podcasts need to remember making radio mix tapes - when you put a blank 45 min. cassette in your stereo, tuned to your favorite radio station, and pressed record, hoping that your favorite songs made the cut.
The folks who use Google to find everything from movie quotes to the criminal record(s) of potential girlfriends/boyfriends need to remember when they used the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature in the reference section of the library.
The folks who snap photos with their cellphones and text message the pics to friends, who remember what it was like to go on a trip and send people postcards through the mail.
I dub thee the Commodore 64 Mafia.
Back to Kennedy.
In that 1961 inaugural address, he stated the following, which is still very relevant today, especially to this rambling, incoherent blog post:
"Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science, instead of its terrors. Together, let's explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease,tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce."
It was true in 1961 - the New World Order as it was called then. All those things were true and continue to be.
Unlike everything else since then, it hasn't changed.
That's comforting, especially in this crazy mixed up Modern world.
Time for bed. Need to go set the iPod alarm clock.
Sleep tight wherever you are.