Pixel Addicts

The Consumer Electronics Show invaded and besieged Las Vegas the first week of 2017. Over 175,000 industry people attended this Woodstock for geeks. An IT legionnaires’ event, anyone familiar with sunlight was denied entry.

CES always features next-gen products and devices intended to make pasty-complexioned, socially awkward tech lovers desire and drool. Of course what premiered that first week of January will be obsolete just in time for Christmas.

Such is the rapidity of technology.

Yet more than the speed of evolution is the manner by which the new and enslaving increasingly crowds out our humanity. Examples of this dehumanization, no, dependency, abound in our daily lives.

Who other than hermits haven’t seen the totally focused on the screens of their handheld devices? Not just engrossed but to the point of forsaking self-preservation. It’s become so common it’s ubiquitous.

Haven’t we all been astounded by the pedestrian so mesmerized he or she plods across intersections minus any glance in both directions beforehand? Jaywalking is one thing. To a certain degree even skylarking earns passes. Those people are at least cognizant of traffic. But the absurd level of distraction demanded – and given! – sleepwalkers who’ve erased all peripheral awareness at the utter peril of life and limb is crazy.

Besides, don’t such targets tempt malicious drivers?

Our restaurants are filled by legions of alleged diners who’ve forsaken the first courses and any cross-table banter that enlivens the experience for absorbing the latest mindlessness from sites with half-lives of fruit flies. It used to be galling while being escorted to a table seeing the faces of an already seated quartet not lively and bathed in the warmth of candlelight, but as spooky features illuminated by devices’ dull blue glows.

Not so much now because it’s become so ordinary.

In fact this acceptance of indifference violates what had been perhaps the best part of sharing a meal outside of the eating itself. The chatter. The good feelings enhanced by mouth-watering aromas and savories upon the palate further lighten moods which loosen tongues.

Since sensory pleasures are denied and conversation is stunted, why even visit a restaurant with real china and silverware? Why not just creep through a fast-food branch’s drive-thru lane then devour fare requiring the most meager involvement possible?

I broached this subject with a CES attendee. Surprised someone outside the field aware of our increasing disconnect among ourselves, he admitted segments of the industry were taking tentative steps towards addressing the problem I’d raised.

Apparently minds still sufficiently plugged into getting us outside our heads, people who leave the indoors frequently enough to realize that big yellow thing above in the daytime sky is the sun, work on theories they hope someday untether our brains-eyes-fingers-device links and restore our unique flesh and blood aspects. Or as I saw it, re-establish semblances of grace and civility.

Really, though, are there algorithms which can wean the devoted from the narcotizing effect of picayune pixels? Have we become so easy to program? To de-program? To, in effect, properly rewire? I had a quick vision of a roomful of earnest Poindexters whiteboarding our salvation through more than simply different arrays of ones and zeros.

Naturally human behavior can be modified. Edward Bernays, Joseph Goebbels, and any ad exec who’s padded his or her expense account have proven this time and again.

However, their appeals, those redirections caused, yanked the brain through the heart. While today’s hearts beat and brains function, the two organs are far less simpatico thanks to technological advances. In many cases they nearly verge on independence rather than interdependence.

Skeptical, I would’ve thought our re-immersion into humanity might require a cataclysmic event, say, a global blackout or a pulse burst that fried every circuit imaginable before heads craned up and sight resumed encompassing more than contents contained on palm-sized touchscreens. What my sounding board and his more mindful colleagues sought to engineer weren’t specific impulses (buy soap, subjugate Europe) but re-instill – or in some cases, finally instill – nebulous distinct traits that complete us as so-called humans.

Discount “nebulous”? Okay, swell.

Define “nice.” Does “nice” contain or expand into “genial”? “Amiable”? The last two are facades which grease perception and acceptance. But displaying either usually lowers a respondent’s natural initial resistance, easing hesitancy to engage thereby reducing distance between parties.

That’s nice.

My confidant and his associates grasped how our fascinations with gadgets blunt our contact with the world. The waking world. It’s no exaggeration stating that more and more of us are becoming willingly adhered to data. How soon, how many steps are we away from letting bytes decide for us? Deciding, not simply providing choices. How long until we completely accede our free will to such precursors of Skynet?

So, from a side room, okay, a suite, at CES the first glimmers of our collective salvation. Programs that wean us from the applications and shortcuts, and timesavers, conveniences rendering “practical shared knowledge” obsolete, begun as crutches and now have integrated themselves into our backbones.

In the future, our machines won’t usurp our intelligence unless we’ve consciously surrendered to them. If successful, we’ll need to reacquaint ourselves with serious thorough learning.

Maybe even teach cursive script in schools again, too.

Good Ether

Hear music as ether. Good ether.

With zero apologies to Marcel Proust, music not madeleines better allow ourselves to re-immerse ourselves in the past and fully revivify it. Not so much live music at that as tunes sound engineers have massaged down to their last notes. To me, too much concert music sounds ragged. Live performances allow bands license to mess with the perfection which either narcotized or motivated me in the first place.

I generally prefer my ether unadulterated and exactly the way I’ve come to favor it. Continue reading Good Ether

It Can Be Said

Larry Flynt made a Las Vegas appearance recently. The Hustler publisher visited Southern Nevada for the grand opening of another of his adult novelties emporia.

Although I seldom bother glancing at Hustler – the magazine’s content is too artless for my taste – I nonetheless trekked over to Flynt’s new smut hut. Not because I’ve become more prurient, but in our encroaching Donald Trump times it just seemed proper to pay homage to Flynt, a man who rose to the forefront of defending and strengthening our First Amendment.

While he doesn’t suit any image Americans prefer of their heroes, the Hustler publisher has done much to preserve and expand our ability to opine without censure or censoring. Had Flynt lost his fight, the public’s room to dissent, to ridicule, to deflate, would’ve been circumscribed today.

Too many Americans misunderstand the First Amendment. A great many of us mistakenly believe it only pertains to them, what they believe is “good” and “decent.” The amendment doesn’t only provide protections for views we favor. It also secures much of what we may find objectionable. That is the measure’s greatest strength. Continue reading It Can Be Said

Ring’s the Thing

On a late November evening, Plush ignited a streak of spontaneous passion.

Certainly Las Vegas visitors are transfixed by the swarms of working girls so overtly advertising and plying their horizontal trade. Live here long enough, though, and the sight of so many intimate pleasure providers simply becomes tenderloin wallpaper.

Occasionally a standout presents herself. Plush is one of the notables. Continue reading Ring’s the Thing

Dissolute Figures

New Las Vegas residents need accustoming themselves to the local incongruities. Living in Nevada, a state on the fringes of the mind or amid the spatial void, the usual standards seldom seem to jibe.

Las Vegas is a community where those of us passing as solid citizenry mesh daily among what others elsewhere would regard as unconventional, unhinged, unmoored, and uninhibited.

Easy as it might be to ascribe the behaviors to weirdness or eccentricities, indifference is the apt word. Remoteness and the regional disposition conspire for perfect conditions which allow a good many individuals to flout or ignore recognized forms of comportment altogether.

Probably explains the locals’ mania to mar and disfigure themselves with tats and piercings as well as dye their hair in colors unseen in nature. On the upside, though, these deviations help tell the bags of shit apart. Continue reading Dissolute Figures

Mr. Charlie Empties His Mind

Likely a great many Donald Trump supporters are furious at the furor raised by their candidate’s long-ago intemperate remarks concerning the mating rituals of rich and crass males.

The rest of us are pleased seeing Mr. Free Association’s verbosity hoisting him by his balls. Also nice to hear his lack of impulse control isn’t a recent development. Continue reading Mr. Charlie Empties His Mind

Graceless Nevada

Suffered my first real pang of homesickness recently.

While New York offers plenty, or Nevada lacks a lot, I knew what I was leaving behind and venturing into three years ago.

In the 30-plus years before resettling West, I’d frequently visited the Southwest. And while visiting is never the same as living, these stays informed me. I wasn’t that tenderfoot or greenhorn who showed up in February who so beguiled by the gorgeous weather believed the Mojave Desert paradise only to discover it hell June through August.

Nor was I that New Yorker who bemoaned the region’s paucity of good pizzerias.

A woman tugged the old home heartstrings. One who wasn’t even from Metropolitan New York. She hailed from Boston. And unlike some longtime New York transplants who continue playing up their old neighborhood roots decades into living here, hers wasn’t some vocal caricature that should’ve been misheard as some kind of distaff Vaughn Meader. Continue reading Graceless Nevada

Modern Money Malady

Who thought it a wonderful idea that ours becomes a “cashless society”? So much can go wrong without the fungible stuff on hand. Greenbacks in pocket are reliable.

The myriad of ways we can buy items, make payments, and settle debts is astounding. Twenty years ago, the methods and devices we today take for granted to purchase and relieve would’ve smacked of science fiction.

At the rate we’re going, how soon until credit cards join currency in targeted obsolescence? If and when we become so advanced won’t we be opening ourselves to even more insidious financial mischief? Continue reading Modern Money Malady

Fractured Fairytales 2016

Don’t two fables form the weak backbone of Donald Trump’s presidential jihad?

Der Trump’s war against America borrows heavily from The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Scorpion and the Frog.

Unlike the first’s titled character, it is the Der Trump’s social media minions and the florid barking attendees at his rallies who are exposed. If the narcissus’ crusade actually holds any rational calculations, these only seem hell-bent on discovering the depths to which the candidate can drive his slanders. Dim enlightenment among his followers won’t occur until even the most convinced clod supporting him finally comprehends this fraud’s derangement has now also become their delusion. Continue reading Fractured Fairytales 2016

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