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March, 2003

MAYBE IT'S ME, but I'm just not all that thrilled with our much-touted "information age." Not that I spend much time at the computer, mind you. I limit myself to writing my pieces on a laptop and do that only to save extra work for my partner who would have to re-type them into the main computer. However, I do go to check the email from time to time and invariably I find myself instantly overloaded with unwanted stuff -I believe the proper name is "spam," but whatever you call it, a great deal of it of it is irrelevant if not offensive. Even this negligible contact with the computer, however, can squelch any bit of well being or creative energy I might have stored up and needed for the day. No, I do not want my "pinis" enlarged, or see teenage "sults", or meet "lonly" housewives, and wouldn't dream of contacting someone who offered me "finanical" advice. I have little money as it is and would be wary of turning it over to someone who cannot even spell the subject of his (or her) expertise. Of the daily flood that comes into our office, I wonder if even 20% of it is art-related. And why is it that almost everyone who resorts to using e-mail thinks itıs all right to misspell words? I am in contact with friends abroad who display more competence with the English language than the average American e-mail sender. Is speed more important than content? Over 150 years ago, Henry David Thoreau warned us in his essay on "Economy" (Walden) that there 'is an illusion' about "modern improvements," and that they are "not always a positive advance." For his part, most inventions were "but improved means to an unimproved end." How he would writhe if he had access to the world-wide-web and cyber-space! On the subject of receiving information, he says in the same essay, "We are in a great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicateŝAs if the main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly. We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough." (!!!) Oh, how poor Henry David would have hung on every word on the life, loves, and death of Princess Di and the ongoing saga of Englandıs royal family! Thoreau may have been a crotchety and cantankerous misanthrope a good part of the time (as some have said of me), but he certainly had his finger on the human propensity to hoodwink itself. As worldly wise and technically advanced as we (think) we may be, we have grossly confused 'information" with "knowledge," fooling ourselves into believing that if we only had all the data available at our fingertips, then we might then be, "like, totally in the know." Well, weıve got it all at the beck and call of our keyboards now and I defy you to show me anyone who has had his or her intelligence quotient boosted by even one point for the privilege. People who want me to buy things, or sign things, or join things, or see things, or protest against things, or hear things, or laugh or cry at things, ought to first have some idea as to what kinds of things might interest me before flooding my in-box. And people who are demanding my time, my money or my attention should at least have the courtesy to address me by my correct name - and have at the minimum a fifth-grade competency at spelling words in the English language. Let me admit that I have found information that I have sought - and quickly - but, by and large, this old dinosaur sure has a hankering sometimes to emulate that old New England hermit and build myself a shack alongside of a pond, plant a few acres of beans, and stay far enough away from any electric outlets that might tempt me to log-on to attempt that occasional mail-check.


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