God I hate the internet. I really do. I’m so tired of going to a blog/website and while scrolling the screen pops into another location forcing a re-scroll. Things jut around without my permission. Every time the screen jumps a synapse in my brain fries and my senility arrives one hour earlier. The digital divide is the separation of the human race from its reasoning abilities, not some exclusionary social problem. This divide severs our brains right down the middle leaving us a single hemisphere as our cells burn out like newspapers in the metropolis. That’s the real digital divide, the division of our epileptic brains from our craniums. Now the ever insidious campaigners are force feeding us ads where killing the offensive intruder is not an option. If anyone can prove to me that one ad anywhere anytime has influenced a purchase I’m all ears. Until that proof is proffered (which will take longer than the solving of the Poincare Conjecture), all ads belong in the same locale as lawyers, at the bottom of the sea. And for Jehovah’s sake don’t even get me started on those sideline dancing dervishes that distract one into fits of nervous mania. More recent annoyances adding to the already undisputed champion of uber annoyances(Microsoft) are those that elevate the machine into the role of the iconic Hal 9000. ‘Updates are ready, click here’ or ‘if you don’t click here within 30 seconds your computer will restart’ or some other such crap that might completely reboot your machine against your will while sometimes breaking a significant train of thought. That’s the operative word, thought, and exactly what is in danger in subservience to these digital demons. The machine has taken on a mind of its own and quite frankly it’s a stupid and childish mind. Now just by dragging your cursor across the screen some garbage pops up because you passed over it inadvertently. Wow, what a sparkling new feature! For this I blame Bill Gates (god what I would give to get 15 minutes in a padded cell with that wimp), and I feel certain that this visual violation is having extremely deleterious effects on our meandering minds. How could it not? Our hunter-gatherer brains have been forged by millions of years of silently stalking the wildebeest or gathering for story hour around the fire and now this sudden onslaught of meaningless interruptions destroys our ability to get from point A to point B or to see an idea through to completion. Forget anything subtle like inductive or deductive reasoning. Needless to say, this unbridled attack is more dangerous than any Jihadists, peyos proud Jews or even Republicans hell bent on setting us back a thousand generations. We need to sit back and think people. Is this what we really want?
Recently I sat down with a newspaper and a wave of tranquility overcame me similar to floating on a raft in the Gulf of Mexico pre Oil spill. It was truly a wonderful experience not having ads jump in my face or requested software updates deflect my attention or have some hooters dancing girl gyrating on the sideline. I could feel my brain thanking me and I thought we’re throwing this away in favor of the cancerous cacophony called the Web. I know news is available on the internet but as a friend of mine succinctly put it, ‘it’s not the same’. Not only can I sprawl on the couch with my paper or take it on the subway or to the water closet but the organized and predictable structure trumps the disjointed hit or miss mixed media madness that is internet news. When I scrunch up with the sports page I know I will go from college football to pro football to pro baseball to tennis to golf to the box scores to on-the-air in a pleasing and predictable display contingent on the seasons. One perusal and I will be prepared to engage in the latest sports discussion regardless of the chosen topic. On the internet I might get an article on Tiger Wood’s latest struggles followed by a video inexplicably popping up hosted by an opulent Oriental then a back arrow to an article about a baseball riot then clicking another sub menu which brings up another irritating ad before allowing me 47 choices on golf news. It’s not the same and one can’t get the comprehensive overview that comes from generations of editorial experience. Even online newspapers leave out stuff and have conformed to the irritating interface or should it be in-your- face. And where are the funnies people?, I can’t find the comics! Try a newspaper or magazine kids and read it from cover to cover and tell me you don’t feel like a man or woman of the world armed with newfound knowledge and the clear mind refreshed and benefitted by that knowledge.
I once wrote a story called “Throw all the Computers into the Sea” and I meant it then and I mean it now. If I won the lottery tomorrow I would take every electronic device that has been reverse engineered from the aliens since 1980 and throw it out the window. Good riddance, I’ll return to the greatest decade in human history, the 1970’s, and strum guitar, hike, play tennis and generally live a quality life in the analog world. An amplifier and full stylus driven turntable are allowable but cell phone, laptops, desktops etc…. all out the window. This is what the world needs to do. Freeze everything when Led Zeppelin toured the states in the Fall of 1976.
Now I know you wiseacre’s out there are saying what a joker this guy is as he posts an article on a website and rags on modernity. Well, yes, I am doing just that but I’m tethered by necessity, I’m tied to the hive against my will. My livelihood demands it and if that ball and chain were severed, boom, off I’d go to never again appear in cyberspace. With that said, I’m not Luddite enough to be blind to some of the remarkable things the internet has wrought. I’m a member of a forum in which I can communicate with people from around the world and this is no doubt incredible. Certainly the search engine is amazing, providing us quickly with information from soup recipes to a history of the Persian Empire. Now naturally, 90% of what you get is crap, but if you’re good at wading through it you might find, now purse your Mick Jagger lips, ‘you get what you need’. As efficacious as Wikipedia is, it’s still unedited by a professional review board and subject to the errors inherent in cut and paste technology combined with the naiveté of the 24 year old males that are its overwhelming contributors. I consider Google maps to be nothing short of miraculous and Skype is a godsend, that is if you wish to communicate with people across the globe. So I’m aware of its upside, its virtues, and its attributes. But once you’ve met Mr. Ying you must greet his dark cousin the charming Mr. Yang. Unfortunately we know the internet is Camelot to perverts and pedophiles and to wacko terrorist/Nazi/militia monsters hell bent on destroying what’s left of civilization. The battle between positive and negative quarks continues and the sad fact is neither will win.
So let’s take a brief look at those things the internet cannot provide. How about serious research, if truly needed, it’s time to head to the old brick and mortar library. Millions of books from the dawn of the printing press will never be surpassed and don’t hold your breath while google tries to scan them in, I’ll be the first to salute them if they do as I enter the stacks to pick up and smell the books. Remember, one successful cyber attack and the internet goes the way of the Mayans, Greeks, Romans, Olmecs and the 8 track tape; done, see ya, gone, bye-bye.
Recently, I wanted to research the autumn of terror in East London 1888. I was pleased to find the New York Times 1888 on microfiche, good luck finding that on the internet, and proceeded to hook up that bad boy to the clunky analog reader. Scrolling through a newspaper isn’t that different from scrolling through a website except that things aren’t dancing and jumping around at the periphery like she devils. And trust me, the ads of 1888 are just as ridiculous and obnoxious as they are today but you can choose to view them, no one is forcing you. Amen brother. I also recently found myself doing some genealogical research, the majority of which is still offline and must be acquired the old fashioned way, via card catalog and book shelf. Again, the quiet peaceful nature of a trip to the archives is probably something many millions need today, forget the spa, go to the history center and look up your ancestors, forget the madness for awhile and you’ll step out a better person or at least a calmer person, that is, until you hit the Starbucks for the double latte on the way home but heck, at least you tried right!
Recent news indicates a power grab by monster corporations will tier the internet according to worthiness, in other words, like all human institutions, money talks and bull doo-doo walks. If you’ve got the cash you get what you want, others, so sorry. Well, the good news is that for most of us, perhaps Prince’s words are prescient, “the internet is dead”. Could this be the proverbial blessing in disguise? Once again everyone repeat the mantra, ‘throw all the computers into the sea’, ‘throw all the computers into the sea’, if we repeat it enough maybe it will come true. Kind of like a Peter Pan wish. Lest you think I’m the originator of such an obvious idea, I’d like to point you to a terrific book; it’s called “The Gutenberg Elegies” by Sven Birkerts. This book, at least some six to eight years old now, expands upon the idea that I’ve mentioned here in miniature. I think we humans should at least contemplate that which has overtaken us and try to determine the best path; my observations indicate that most people go through life somewhat like a hammerhead shark, led hither and yon by the nose. To paraphrase the eternal Ray Bradbury, who turned 90 recently and is an American treasure, “we have too many internets and too many cell phones”. Well, I don’t know how many internets we have but maybe one is one too many. And as for cell phones, well, perhaps I’ll mourn their demise the same day the talking heads officially announce the death of the internet. Now if we could only get rid of the talking heads.