The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Friday, June 22, 2007

DIGITAL GENESIS: I suppose it does not matter to you one way or the other, but yes, I have, in fact bought myself a brand-spanking new digital camera. That’s right: yours truly, one of the few remaining photographic Luddites still extant here in this our Great Republic, now has a digital camera. I haven’t figured out how the damn thing works yet, but I have one and here in America it is always more important to have the goodies than to actually use them. Nor should anyone believe for a second that this small cession to the digital cause means that I will be getting rid of my film cameras any time soon, nor will such a cession in this particular case ever, ever, mean that I will be buying a cell phone any time in the immediate or not so immediate future. Any number of well-meaning friends have explained to me, usually in the most intricate and tedious of detail, the benefits of owing such a device, and then, having made no purchase on my recalcitrance, often employ the most apocalyptic of scenarios in order to frighten me into purchasing a cell phone and a plan—the plan, I’ve noticed, is almost always their plan, for reasons I am not sure I fathom. I am not sure if part of the contract the unsuspecting cell phone buyer signs with a phone company for cellular service demands that they proselytize vigorously amongst the unwashed noncellular heathen or whether, having committed some portion of their hard-earned largesse to the phone and the plan, these friends now feel the urge to have their own telephonic choices validated, a phenomenon familiar to people over the age of thirty or so whose married friends are always after them to get married. It doesn’t matter who you marry, just so long as you get married and are just as happy as they are. The problem here, insofar as I can tell that there is a problem, is that none of these friends who want me to buy a cell phone has, as yet, come up with a satisfying explanation for why I would want to make it easier for people I don’t want to talk to in the first place to get a hold of me whenever they take a notion to.

I think I can say, without too much fear of contradiction, that the world would be a much better place today if Mr. Watson had not heeded Alexander Graham Bell’s poignant plea of “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you,” and had gone out for pizza instead. The acid Bell spilled on his trousers that night would have eaten through his leg and come out the other side, and then Bell could have lavished his inventive genius on building a new and better wooden leg, which is something the world can actually use, as opposed to that infernal squawk box that makes it technologically possible for my relatives to hound me for money at all hours of the day and night. I suppose it is too late at this point in time to go back to some civilized form of communication, like smoke signals, for example, or running signal flags up the yardarm like Nelson did at Trafalgar, although, in the interests of fairness, I should point out that in Nelson’s case, he didn’t read all that legal boilerplate that came with the flags and wound up dead as a result.

As far as I can tell, the only practical use of the cell phone is that it allows you to call in an order for an Italian combo on a hero and some macaroni salad to your local deli from your car. The thing of it is, though, I wouldn’t order anything from my local deli if my life depended on it. Now that I think of it, my life does depend on not ordering anything from them. I do not know if the people who own and operate this establishment are familiar with the concept of ptomaine poisoning and I have no intention of finding out. I am sure that there must be swarms of people interested in having a near death culinary experience; I, however, am not one of them. There are no thrill seekers here, thank you very much.

In any case, there is something about an establishment that sells food and also advertises that it sells live bait above its entrance that makes for some queasiness on my part. Live bait, for those of you who are entirely urban in your day to day life, means exactly that: the earthworms, nightcrawlers, and other invertebrates sold to the local fishing fanatics are all alive and sufficiently yummy to attract the attention of even the most finicky of fish. Obviously, there are many places in this country where such a sign is so utterly commonplace it would cause absolutely no head to turn at all. In almost any Southern state you care to mention, for instance, not only is it possible to buy live bait, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, a six pack of Budweiser and a Slim Jim in your local deli, you can also get yourself a couple of boxes of ammunition for your shotguns or pistols if you feel the need to shoot something before going home for the night. It’s just that I’ve been in this deli on more than one occasion and I know they keep the live bait back near the cold cuts, and I like knowing that my salami, tomato, and provolone hero is pig, plant, and cheese, and in no way, shape, or form includes a nightcrawler busting out of this lousy joint and making a run for it. I am in no way a vegetarian; I have no moral qualms about consuming meat and I think that most of the animals human beings consume have it coming; but I draw the line at live bait, or even dead bait, for that matter. It’s just a personal quirk, I guess.

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