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October 30, 2007

I Am Ignoring You (or at least people like you)

In the process of apologizing for light posting at his blog, Ross Douthat tells a story about not understanding a friend's excitement about some new technology:

Today a friend walked into my office, all abuzz over some new online service or gizmo - let's call it "Z." He tried to describe to me what it does, failed, and said: "Oh, it's like a much slicker version of Y." I responded, "What's Y?" He said - "Oh, well, it's the newer, more popular version of X." I said: "What's X?" Which suggests that I'm well on my way to crossing the Teachout threshold.

The "Teachout threshold" takes its name from this blog post by arts critic Terry Teachout where he writes:

I suppose we all reach a moment in our lives when we lose interest in the new, and I suspect that moment comes sooner for technology than for art. For now I seem to be staying fairly open to new things--my experience as a blogger suggests as much--but I have yet to send my first text message, nor does my somewhat superannuated cellphone contain a digital camera. On the increasingly rare occasions when I feel the need to take a picture of something, I buy a disposable film camera, the postmodern equivalent of a Brownie, at the corner drugstore.

I know what he means. Much to my surprise, I recently realized that I had crossed the Teachout threshold a while back. I say "much to my surprise" because I've been an avid early adopter of A/V technology for a long time. But I still don't own a cell phone, can make neither heads nor tails of things like Facebook, and blog because, frankly, people expect me to -- it's not something I would do otherwise.

iPhone commercials, instead of making me want an iPhone, fill me with a kind of dread. The people in the ads seem terribly busy. I get exhausted listening to them describe their lives -- living them seems out of the question. Getting so many phone-mail messages that its way of handling them makes you as happy as the guy in the ad seems like Hell to me.

Even the A/V world has lost much of its charm -- much of the "new" is new only in a way intended to make interior decorators happy. The rest of the "upgrades" amount to a few new LEDs lighting up on your receiver when you watch a movie. I used to look forward to the latest issue of Sound & Vision or The Perfect Vision -- now, I wonder when the subscription will finally lapse.

This is especially true because consumer electronic companies have convinced themselves that what I really want is for my television, my computer and even my phone to be intimates. They're working overtime to blur the line between my (home) office and my living room. But, I don't want the line blurred -- I want the [blankety-blank] Berlin Wall between them! I want snipers shooting at any effort by my computer or my phone to breach the sanctuary that is baseball, Supernatural, and Heroes in HDTV.

Man, I am old.

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Tom Gilson

Your comment on the iPhone reminds me of an advertising slogan one cell phone company in the South used for a while: "Never Slow Down."

What on earth should we consider attractive about that?


I think it is kind of like the heliopause boundary shock - it doesn't happen all at once, or at the same place at the same time.

I'm in the midst of crossing it, I think. Some things I still really like the new - because of capability, and others, like mp3 players, just don't interest me. I'd rather hear birdsong when I'm outdoors, and my stereo is better than mp3. I don't learn all the intricacies of Windows anymore, and I like it when Ubuntu "just works" And I'm not a gamer.

I wonder what it would be like to plow with a team?

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