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Peeks and Piques!


ART TIMES November 2008

LET’S FACE IT! We of the older generations are being lost in a sea of computerese that defines so many gadgets that it makes our heads swim! Youngsters, when they are not crouched in front of their computer screens at home or school, walk around with things stuffed in their ears as they stare into their palms. Whatever worlds they are living in, they seem to be comfortable there. Me?  I’m still bumbling along, trying to navigate my way through the maze of natural phenomena that has plagued me from birth, as unsure now of where my place is amongst it all as I was when still a teen-ager. Maybe cyberspace is the answer; those youngsters all seem so cock-sure and purposeful in their actions! Sadly, however, I seem to bumble even more when I am confronted by these new gadgets — truth to tell (and my friends know it) I have still to make peace with the telephone. I’m not talking here cell phones — I’m talking the ones that sit on a desk, stand or table (but, so far, not in my study!). All and sundry know that I do not answer telephone calls, will not even pick one up if it is ringing while I am the only one to hear it, and, under no circumstances, will I “call someone back”. Until recently, in fact, the only way one could communicate with me was through regular mail — they had to write a note or letter to me and I would answer them in like manner. Slowly, however — and I emphasize “slowly” — I have been pushed, shoved, pressed, dragged, urged, elbowed, nudged, and bullied to make some tentative steps into the world of “Now”. Actually, the process began over 20 years ago — and, I happily admit, has not progressed very far since then. I had just interviewed Will Barnet for a profile in our July 1987 issue and, with a laptop in my briefcase, decided to write my piece on my way home by Amtrak. The laptop was brand-new, tucked in amongst my papers by Cornelia, who insisted that I make the leap from my trusty Underwood to the “Apple” (even the name was a turn-off for me!). Since everything I wrote had to eventually go into the main computer, she patiently pointed out — several times — that by doing my writing on the laptop, it would save her the step of having to re-type my stuff from typewritten sheets. So, my plunge began with that profile on Will — I managed to complete my piece before my train got to Rhinecliff but, somewhere in between shutting the “top” of my laptop and getting home, it went off somewhere into space. I can still hear Cornelia exasperatedly asking, “Didn’t you save it? I told you to save it every paragraph or so.” I guess I didn’t — but who could think of such things while in the throes of creativity? Twenty years later, I’m still no great shakes on the thing (even on the updated versions that have replaced that first one) and use it primarily as a typewriter (Boy, do I miss that Underwood!). I am aware that my shiny new one can do all sorts of things — like have religious arguments, clean windows, and I don’t know what all — but I still only use it to write my stuff. Oh, yes — I can now transfer what I write to a “thumb-drive” and carry this tiny thing over to the office where my article magically comes to life on whatever page is assigned to me in the upcoming issue. I know that I ought to be pleased with all this progress, but (alas) I am not. I still forget to “save” now and then and I am not a happy camper when I have to try and recall whatever words of wisdom divinely came to mind in that first rush. Like my Will Barnet piece (which we never reclaimed from cyberspace and which I had to rewrite), the “second time around” — Sinatra’s assurance notwithstanding — is definitely not “lovelier”. I’m sure that my reluctant foot-dragging is keeping me from not only reaping the full benefits of all this shiny gadgetry, but also holding me back from enjoying it. I know that we now have ART TIMES “online” — in full color! — for all the world to see, that people can e-mail me, that I even have a bona fide “website” that exposes me to whomever wishes to “log on” — hell, they can even “Google” me (although I should think such “googling” out to be somehow a more titillatingly pleasant experience) — that we will soon have a “blog” up and running, and even some more stuff that Cornelia is wisely keeping from me for fear that I might bolt the premises. At seventy-five I already shuffle along, for God’s sake! I don’t have to do it with things jammed in my ears as I stare at my palm. Cyberspace! Fie on’t! We are trucking with the devil, I tell you…!

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