Monday, April 17, 2006

"Sorry, I have to take this call ..."

The end of the story about the bear and cellphone - or at least the end as far as I was concerned, because only one of my numbers involves the pianist in California: While 30 young tap dancers, a bassplayer, a drummer, and I stood around and watched with some fascination and also some impatience, Gene fiddled with his devices, producing a lot of squeaking and hissing, and finally some distorted piano-playing which sounded like it was being piped in from the moon. Or at least the space shuttle ("Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?").

Which is actually how a lot of people act when they're on their cellphones every day.

For my last number, I asked sweetly if we three musicians who were actually in the studio could play for the tappers without the cellphone, and Gene said yes, so I was soon done.

As I left I felt sorry for everybody else in the room, being subjected to waves of feedback and static, also the terrible-sounding racket coming out of the sound system - Scott in California actually couldn't hear anything at all, since his cellphone was lying on his piano!

No actual tapping had taken place since the cellphone was put in the bear's lap by the time I left. I would say this was not a successful experiment.

The incident reminded me of this post from Laudator Temporis Acti. Michael wrote:

I'm a Luddite at heart, but I wouldn't go quite as far as Samuel Butler, who wrote in a letter to the "Editor of the Press, Christchurch, New Zealand--13 June, 1863" (also published in Butler's Notebooks):

Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life.

The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a moment question.

Our opinion is that war to the death should be instantly proclaimed against them. Every machine of every sort should be destroyed by the well-wisher of his species. Let there be no exceptions made, no quarter shown; let us at once go back to the primeval condition of the race.

If it be urged that this is impossible under the present condition of human affairs, this at once proves that the mischief is already done, that our servitude has commenced in good earnest, that we have raised a race of beings whom it is beyond our power to destroy and that we are not only enslaved but are absolutely acquiescent in our bondage.

Michael continued: If we do this, let's start with cell phones.

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