Apple’s 9/9/14 Superinfomercial and the New U2 Album, Track by Track

Songs of Innocence!

Ready and waiting for its future home on a Starbucks spinner rack.

I’m not a regular Apple customer. The last time I used one of their products was in college in 1991 when I took a “Statistical Psychology” class that was equipped with three rows of Macintosh units. In a time when DOS and BASIC had been the sole domains in my little computing world, the Macintosh was my introduction to the concept of the Graphic User Interface, which wasn’t a commonplace thing until the advent of Windows. Yes, I’m that old.

But I’ve never owned an Apple product, bearing in mind that digital downloads barely count as “ownership” in my mind, and my iTunes “library” so far is more like a Hot Wheels bookmobile. Apple’s ostentatious new-product announcements are usually outside my fields of interest. I’m not an early adopter in any tech-related areas. At all.

New iPhone? Pass. My phone is a Samsung S2 that accomplishes my simple daily needs as long as I remember to reboot once a week. (Longtime MCC readers may recall I was once staunchly anti-smartphone in general, until life gave me reasons not to be.) My phone isn’t broken, and once survived a ten-foot drop onto a metal catwalk with zero damage. I’m good for now.

New smartwatch with triple-digit price tag? Pass. I can’t function away from home without wearing a watch (see: “old”), but I rarely need to shop for a new one because any given fifteen-dollar waterproof department-store digital watch with a lithium battery will last me years. They’re arguably one of Walmart’s most durable products, and it’s faster for me to glance at my wrist than it is to pocket and unpocket any other time-telling gizmo, including my phone. And that lithium battery drains ten thousand times more slowly than any phone battery will.

But then Apple went in an unexpected direction with their third platform plank: a new U2 album. For free. Finally, a product in my price range and tangential to my personal interests. Sold!

Right this way for the listening results…

Seven Handy Tips for Winning at Live-Tweeting

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch...

If Twitter ever needs TV ads, its theme should be “Birdhouse in Your Soul”.

Thanks to the invention of the internet, the convenience of the smartphone, and the rise of Twitter as the premier social-media beachhead for You Are There instant commentary, now billions of internet users worldwide have the tools at their disposal to pay homage to Mystery Science Theater 3000 anytime they want. The process is simple: watch something on TV; type every single thought you have while watching; stand by for accolades.

Sadly, the number of Twitter users who’ve parlayed their live-tweeting habits into fame and fortune without benefit of preexisting conditions is in the single digits. You might ask, how can this be? You’re using the internet, you’re saying what you think everyone is really thinking, and tens of people told you how special you were when you were in elementary school. Why aren’t your witticisms slaying all the other viewers? Why aren’t entire cities retweeting or Favoriting your bon mots? Why aren’t agents sending you offers? Why even bother paying for internet access if no one will pay attention to everything you do?

Calm down. Don’t throw a tantrum for the paparazzi. Someone out there still loves you. But you can’t tweet everything that pops into your head. Wait, no: actually, you can tweet it all. Really bad idea, though.

This way for Twitter tips that will change your life! I’m guessing!

Smartphone Test Post Requires Light Backpedaling for Longtime Smartphone Hater

If you search the MCC archives for “no smartphones” you’ll find an old entry in which this author grouses about his issues with our world’s favorite communication tool and/or babysitter.  Since humans retain the enviable privilege to change their minds as circumstances warrant, I’m invoking that privilege to give WordPress’ QuickPress app a whirl on the new phone I bought last weekend.

For the record: with my son leaving for college in the fall, setting up a means of keeping in touch and/or sending emergency notifications seemed prudent.  This tiny, cracker-sized gizmo won’t be usurping our PC anytime soon, but eschewing it merely because of other users’ disagreeable behaviors is no longer an option on the table.  I’m proud to report that so far I’ve yet to succumb to any temptation to use this while driving, working, or having dinner with my family.  Knock on wood.

I don’t expect to use QuickPress too often, but it’s nice to have an option in case inspiration strikes at the oddest times.

Gonna need lots more practice typing on this dollhouse keyboard, though.  Seems to be a device better suited for shorter thoughts and much, much shorter words.  With the way I talk and think, AutoText is only getting me so far.  Argh.

[UPDATED, next morning via PC: added link to last year’s entry in question.]

My Geek Demerits #2: No Smartphone

My wife and I share a single cell phone between the two of us. It’s a dinky LG model 300G prepaid phone with no Internet access. Its special features include a very limited wallpaper selection, a paltry library of super-MIDI ringtones, and the ability to play Sudoku. Its texting capabilities are more primitive than a Speak-&-Spell. I have no interest in writing to someone on a device that requires four keypunches to generate a single “s”.

We didn’t even buy it for ourselves. It was an anniversary gift from a well-meaning relative. Neither of us is a fan of telephones. We keep it on hand for emergencies or rare moments of convenience. I let her carry it most of the time, out of a combination of chivalry and disdain for the thing. Thankfully the minutes roll over infinitely as long as I keep purchasing additional service days. So far through disuse we’ve stockpiled over 2,800 minutes. I could theoretically call Australia and stay on the line from midnight to midnight with no concern for cost.

We know we’re an extremist minority among our under-60 peers. Today’s average American considers their cell phone an essential part of everyday life that combines the usefulness of a few different appliances with several hundred useless distractions. Much discussion has already been held in various venues about smartphones displacing landlines from many homes. I’m sure the same holds true of PCs and laptops for those casual typists who don’t need word processing, spreadsheet capabilities, or CD/DVD-ROM drives.

We realize we could afford upgrading to a smartphone if we felt the urge, but forgo it for several reasons:

* No interest in haggling over pricing, contracts, or bandwidth usage. As long as we continue to underuse, our prepaid Fisher Price toy costs me $15 per month to keep active. If we decide to drop it at a moment’s notice, the financial damage would be negligible. If someone has invented a smartphone contract that’s month-to-month for the same approximate price with unlimited bandwidth, I could see an argument for upgrading. I’d prefer to avoid a long-term commitment to a plan that charges me dozens of extra dollars just because I exceeded my monthly bandwidth allotment after five rounds of Words with Friends.

* Itsy-bitsy keys. I have sausages for fingers. I need a manly keyboard for my manly typing. Even some laptops are uncooperative. I suspect a stylus would be easy to lose and would be an insufficient, frustrating substitute for my reflexive hunt-‘n’-peck keyboard method. I could live with extra typos if I had to, but I would pretty much die without my precious capitalization and punctuation.

* QR code-scanning holds no temptation for us. Oh, no, we’re missing out on extra advertising! Curse the fates!

* Our current appliances remain fully functional. My wife is very happy with her camera. Mine could be better, but it’s not nearly obsolete enough for me to be in the market for a replacement. Our PC serves all our Internet needs with the added advantage of a screen larger than an index card, all the better for viewing movie trailers and extended, heated Comments-section debates. We’re still old-fashioned enough to wear wristwatches, so our timekeeping needs are covered. Our cheap landline still keeps ticking, too, in case we need to dial 911 without worrying whether or not we remembered to charge the phone battery.

* I plan ahead without need for GPS. When we travel, I have all our directions prepared in advance. In the event of a wrong turn or bad directions, I also bring maps in case I need to navigate the old-fashioned way, the way our ancestors managed back in the dark, primeval twentieth century. So far we haven’t failed to return home yet.

* We’re discouraged by the behavior we’ve seen in other smartphone users. We realize millions of sane, collected users exist and conduct themselves just fine. Just the same, we’d rather not risk turning into one of today’s highly visible Stepford Callers. To wit:

— Eye contact no more. As a natural introvert, I already suck at making eye contact, even with people who want me to look at them. If I start carrying around something glowing and flashy to placate me like an audiovisual pacifier, I’ll never know anyone else’s eye color ever again, let alone acknowledge that they’re worth my personal, undivided attention. (Reminder to self: wife’s eyes are brown. Probably. Should double-check that.)

— “Ladies first” is more awkward than ever. When it’s time for crowd egress through a given doorway, it’s hard to be chivalrous when a lady’s mind is in a faraway place and unaware of her surroundings. My recently instated rule for elevator dismissal is, if she’s being hypnotized by her phone, she no longer counts as a “lady” for purposes of determining order of disembarkation. I’ll excuse myself first and let the doors shut on her. Far be it from me to be rude and interrupt her very important reading. I’m sure all those Facebook-shared unfunny Photoshop gags aren’t gonna Like themselves.

— Theaters as Internet cafes, even during the movie. Setting aside the massive distraction and rudeness it presents to the rest of the audience that was respectful enough to put away their toys, I fail to understand why anyone would focus on the tiny handheld screen they carry with them 24/7 while ignoring the large screen they paid an exorbitant fee to watch just this once. If you’re expecting an emergency, a vital communication, or a chat you just can’t miss because that one friend is so totally awesome to hear from, perhaps that two hours of your time would be better spent isolated at home, waiting for the DVD release and leaving the moviegoing to the rest of us stalwart, considerate lot.

— Apps are better than family. I will never forget the time I walked into a nephew’s birthday party and saw most of the adult “partygoers” sitting in a row in the living room, all silently engaged with their phones while the birthday boy spent quality time with the only loved ones not ignoring him — i.e., a few other tykes too small to own their own phones. Just imagine a future after someone invents Baby Einstein smartphones for all ages. With such scientific progress at hand, every family gathering could possess the warmth and charm of a deathly silent study-hall period.

I realize the entry qualifies more as “human demerits” in today’s society than mere geek demerits, but my lone moment of weakness in this area is the twinge of jealousy I feel whenever comic book conventions tout their schedule apps, QR codes for exclusive materials, and other handy on-site networking tools that offer no help for attendees like us who leave their ‘Net access at home. We can see merit in that, especially when it comes to last-minute event cancellations or celeb-sighting flashmobs.

All things considered, we’d still rather do without. Despite what Madison Avenue tells us, we firmly believe we don’t have to have everything. For the sake of some semblance of integrity, I accept my demerit and will continue to appreciate what meager service we’ve gotten out of our li’l plastic push-button knick-knack, even if it can’t access Angry Birds from a single corner of the continental U.S.

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