When smart goes stupid

Thank you, good and faithful servant.
Thank you, good and faithful servant.

Nearly four years ago I received (reluctantly) an iPhone, a model 4s.  It was my first venture into the world of smart phones, a world I had long resisted.

Well, there is nothing worse than a convert (to the smart phone – converts to Catholicism are just fine; I’m also one of those).  So it wasn’t long before I was checking email, sending messages, checking the weather, making flight plans, downloading podcasts and listening to music on the iPhone.

I became phone dependent, a frightening condition I had to come to grips this week when my smart phone went stupid.

What I mean by stupid is that it stopped being able to send or receive data.  In other words, no email, no functioning apps – all that was left was, well, a telephone.

I called our technical guru and he did a few tests and checked my account and determined that the problem wasn’t on his end.  I called the cellular provider and they did a couple tests and determined that it wasn’t on their end.  I took my iPhone 4s to the Apple Store and the clerk smirked at me for having such an old phone.

(An aside:  I was the only person in the store not wearing jeans, a t-shirt, grandpa’s Converse basketball shoes and earrings – and I’m talking about the guys.)

Anyone, the overbearing Apple associate poked around at the phone and said it was a hardware problem, my ancient phone wasn’t worth repairing and I should get a new one.

Thus, I’m awaiting the arrival of an iPhone 6, which is larger than my dying phone and likely will do many new things I don’t need but which will become necessities in a few weeks.

I’m not sure this is progress.

What an ugly excuse for political discourse

Goncharova_FightersI’m going to break a couple of my own rules for writing in this space today.  First, I’m going to be really critical of a specific organization:  CNN.  Second, I’m going to mention partisan politics, although neither for nor against anyone in particular.

What generates this rant is last night GOP presidential candidates debate on CNN.  I’m a political junkie, so I normally consume such things, but last night there were conflicts, so I missed parts.  (OK…I had to go to my ballroom dancing lesson in preparation for my daughter’s upcoming wedding.)

I listed for a few minutes on the radio and found it difficult to follow the discussion.  So, I turned on the television and wasn’t any happier when I realized the problem:  CNN was using a journalistic technique that most reporters abandon somewhere around age 10.  It is the “do you know what he said about you” approach, better fitted to the school playground.

The news media thrive on conflict.  And if there isn’t enough natural conflict to suit them, they try to stir it up.  Thus, last night you had the moderator go about his job something like this (I’m paraphrasing, but not much):

Question:  Candidate A, Candidate B said you are ugly.  What do you say to that?  Are you ugly?  Do you think Candidate A is ugly?

Question:  Candidate C, Candidate D said he would ban Easter Eggs from the White House?  What is your policy on Christmas Trees?  Do you think Candidate D believes in the tooth fairy?

It didn’t take long for the debate to devolve into a rancorous battle over who said what about whom.  The only people who looked smaller than the candidates were the commentators.

This is what political discourse has fallen to:  a playground argument over who has the toughest daddy or meanest mommy.

And it won’t stop here; I’m getting ready to be embarrassed by the questions the Holy Father gets from organizations like CNN when he is in the United States (very soon).

“Holy Father, do you agree with Cardinal X that priests should be required to bless cats and dogs that belong to gay parishioners?”

“Holy Father, you said that priests should smell like sheep, but Father Y smells like Chanel No. 5.”

“Holy Father, can you tell me what parts of The Da Vinci Code are not true and why?”

“How Father, can you explain to me the origin of the term ‘Holy Cow’ and why you don’t invoke it?

I know these questions are silly, but I seriously doubt they rise to the level of silliness of the actual questions the Holy Father will receive, if last night’s CNN-moderated “debate” is any indication of the level of American journalism.

My advice to the Pope:  no matter what question you get, just smile and say you like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.

My selfless act

My picture of the Pope -- captured without use of a selfie stick.
My picture of the Pope — captured without use of a selfie stick.

Ah, Rome.  The eternal city.  Center of my faith, where St. Paul stood – and died – in the face of the massive pagan empire.

What better place to find inspiration?  What a perfect place to make a commitment for one’s entire life.

And thus was my fate two days past when I stood in St Peter’s Square, one of tens of thousands in Pope Francis’ Wednesday audience.  My moment of truth came as I looked across the expanse of humanity…and I vowed:

“I will never own nor use a selfie stick.”

If for some inexplicable reason you do not know of this device, it is a stick-like device that holds your smart phone (with camera capability) beyond arm’s length, thereby enabling you to take a picture of yourself with a famous landmark or crowd of friends behind you.

The device has a secondary use of allowing you to hold your camera higher than you arm can reach, so you can get a picture of a passing dignitary – like the Pope.  (NOTE:  This secondary use is partially diminished when 20,000 other people are doing the same thing.)

These obnoxious sticks make for an odd crowd scene, suggesting a fleet of submarines with their periscopes raised, a flock of long-necked geese craning for a view or a misplaced herd of giraffe.

I call them obnoxious not only because they dehumanize a human scene, but because they show their users to be so thoroughly self-focused:  thousands of souls in St. Peter’s Square taking pictures of themselves.

There is nothing new about folks taking pictures in front of famous places.  But in the case of the selfie stick, the self is front and center, more important by far in the mind of the picture taker than the scene.  The selfie stick screams:  I. I am here.  I am the center.  I am so important.  I.

So, my vow is to forever reject the selfie stick.  I’m just not that important.

See no evil?

The_dangerous_arch_created_by_the_falling_beech_tree,_Ashridge_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1480195“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Ah…this is one of those philosophical questions that people have pondered for centuries.  But through the magic of modern recording techniques, we have definitely determined that sound is created independent of a human being present.

We have a new version:

“If there is a video of people dismembering babies at a Planned Parenthood clinic and you don’t watch the video did the dismembering really occur?

Struthio_camelus6Like the sound in the forest, the murder of innocents occurs even if you won’t watch.  But lots of folks in Washington are refusing to watch the videos recently released by the Center for Medical Progress.

Perhaps they believe the tapes are fakes.  Perhaps they really believe that if they don’t watch them they don’t exist (the tapes, I mean).  Perhaps they have a self-induced case of denial.

Perhaps they believe that if they put their heads in the sand like a frightened ostrich, the images will disappear.

They won’t. And by the way…ostriches don’t really do the head in the sand thing.

A mountain by any other name…

Mount McKinley
Mount McKinley

“My name is Raymond J. Johnson, Jr. Now you can call me Ray, or you can call me J, or you can call me Johnny, or you can call me Sonny, or you can call me Junie, or you can call me Junior; now you can call me Ray J, or you can call me RJ, or you can call me RJJ, or you can call me RJJ Jr.” ultimately ending with, “but you doesn’t hasta call me Johnson!” – comic Bill Saluga

Well, we seem to be making a mountain out of a mountain.  Since before I was born, the tallest mountain in North America was called Mount McKinley.  It seems it is being renamed Denali, which apparently is what some folks once called it, thought it ought to be called or want it to be called.

Denali is a Native American word meaning “The High One.”  It fits a really high mountain. (I seem to recall a guy in college who had Denali as a nickname, but it was a reference to a different sort of high.)

Changing the names of famous things causes a host of problems.  Someone is going to have to change maps, road signs and guide books.

Walter Harper was the first person to reach the summit of Mount McKinley, back in 1913.  Can we with moral certainty say that he was the first to scale Denali?  This might go all the way to the Supreme Court.

I don’t really care about the name of a mountain in Alaska.  But I think if we are going to rename something, we ought to make it profitable.  So…why not name the mountain for some company, the way to name sports arenas.  I figure it would be worth millions to somebody to have it named Mount Apple, Mount Lego, Mount McDonald’s or some such thing.

In the meantime, I’m not going to call it Mount McKinley or Denali.  I’m going with The High One.