The Week Without a Computer was actually
a few weeks ago now, but I had to wait for Inauguration
to blow over before I could return to more mundane
personal themes. Perhaps you, too, have had to go without
your computer and experienced the humiliation of realizing
how pitifully dependent you have become on this one
object. It used to be, long ago, that you had a typewriter
and a stereo and a TV/VCR and a daily paper and a set
of encyclopedias and maybe a secret stash of Playboys.
Now all of these items are contained in one appliance,
which is great as a space-saver but proves to be something
of an Achilles’ heel when that appliance busts.
Then the music stops, there are no more movies or TV
episodes or videos of amateur milves, you can’t
communicate with anyone, and you realize, now that
the illusion of a life has been taken from you, that
you are just a guy sitting in an empty silent room
with a cat who hates you.
I am not what you'd call a luddite--I
am writing this on Dreamweaver software myself--but
I did eschew email and cell phones, carrying on correspondence
by U.S. Mail and using a rotary-dial phone, for much,
much longer than any of my contemporaries. I am reflexively
wary of and resistant to new Crap We Do Not Need, for
which most U.S. consumers seem so uncritically avid.
I also tend to think that technology is inevitably
limited by its weakest link, its users. As Douglas
Adams liked to say of the Internet, "it's
just us." Long-time Pain fans may recall a series
of cartoons in my earliest minicomics titled, "Another
Miracle of Modern Technology." One of these, split
into two panels, showed 1.) a stick-figure man stepping
on the another stick-figure man's foot, who said, "Hey" and
2.) the same stick-figure man now driving a complicated
steam engine with a gigantic foot mounted on a pile-driver
at the front, stomping on the second stick-figure man's
foot, who leapt, as best he could, into the air, screaming, "HEY!" And
there you pretty much have it. Computers enable us
to read messages from total strangers on the other
side of the world telling us that we suck, to exchange
thoughts and opinions with people we'd avoid eye contact
with at the bus stop, to see videos of fat kids falling
down and stoic models trying not to flinch as some
guy ejaculates into their eye.
The telepathic message I usually send
to my friend Carolyn is that it is 2:37, or that the
number 237 has come up in some other way. This number--which
is the number of the forbidden hotel room in the Overlook
in Kubrick’s film version of The Shining--is
an uncanny number that’s haunted both Carolyn
and myself ever since a road trip we took across the
country a few years ago. “Mahalo” is a
Hawaiian word that she and I both know well from our
years of habitual listening to the call-in radio show Loveline and
which did in fact appear in the New York Times
Saturday crossword some months ago.
Thanks to Sarah Glidden, who got “I’ve
Got a Golden Ticket” stuck in my head while we
were trapped in a vast immobile crowd on Inauguration
Day. She attempted to replace it with the equally unwelcome “O-ba-ma” song
sung by the inhabitants of Obama, Japan.
Panel #3: This is how it was in the
old days. Adam Carolla, formerly co-host of Loveline,
would periodically launch into a diatribe about how
The Kids Today Don’t Know How Good They Have
It, porn-wise, which would inevitably culminate in
his working himself into a towering apoplexy of self-pity
over the story of how he was forced to masturbate to
a photo of a girl in a swimsuit on the side of a cardboard
box for an inflatable pool raft. They were hard times.
That’s the Venus of Willendorf, one of the earliest
extant human artifacts. In art history tests it is
euphemistically referred to as a “fertility figure.”
RE Panel #4: For the record, Boyd is
totally correct. I would like to state that I did not
believe for one second that Danger: Diabolik was
made by José Marins, a.k.a. Joe Coffin, but
someone had to be wrong, and I did want to include
the amazing title This Night I Will Possess Your
Corpse, and I was, believe it or not, coming up
blank for dumb pop-cultural controversies. Boyd and
I just watched Danger: Diabolik, which I understand
was the subject of MST3000’s last episode,
but which is some sort of crazy apotheosis of 1960s
Italian comic-book mod design that deserves to be enjoyed
on its own batshit terms rather than hiply ridiculed.
It should be seen, if for nothing else, for Diabolik’s
gigantic circular rotating bed covered with money.
And for bombshell Marisa Mell, who plays Diabolik’s
faithful girlfriend/accomplice. They are crazy in love.
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