Saturday, September 17, 2011

More Virtuous Reality

I do remember as a young boy some friends who had some money and whose parents were more indulgent than mine had one of those itty bitty Sony TVs back when they first came out. Cute was the word which came to mind, that quality of animal life which must make young offspring easier to care for.

Actually the TV belonged to the MD Dad, who might actually have indulged himself more than he did the kids. It might have been a way to watch football without hogging the family resources, this when the VW beetle was new on the scene; markets were breaking across borders, and all of us were enthralled by mini.

I'm certain I was pre-pubescent, so my wanting of that cute little B&W TV was chaste in its way. More in the manner of wanting a stuffed animal than a racy automobile. Though I also remember fantasizing about how to get one. It might have been realistic to scrimp and save from the paper route and buy a small portable for my bedroom, but that would never have passed family muster. We weren't even allowed to watch TV except for certain hours; never after dinner.

I think part of the fascination for this particular little TV was that we might bring it along on canoe trips, which the boys of our families shared. I imagined laying on a sleeping bag in a dark canvas pup tent of the sort you might allow your kids now to erect in the backyard, if you live in a gated community. It may have been brought on one trip once, but either the battery was clumsy, or there was simply no reception up north that far in Canada.

Or my Dad exerted some moral authority about the disturbances which were acceptable in nature.

And now you know I can watch movies on my little iPhone, with a screen of such high definition, and a size and weight and battery life to make that boy I was wither with envy. But no, I imagine now some 3D goggles, and projections up on my field of vision. I would lust for such technology.

I just finished a Netflix film, made only in France, distinguishing virtue from reality - a fine exploration of the danger of lust when it invades the world of polite society. It was daylight behind me, I'm ashamed to say, and the light from the window made an annoying reflection on the tiny screen. My own face would intrude when the scenes were dark. I should have been in a darkened room, watching on a larger screen.

My future goggles will also annoy me when the projection is darker than the actual scene and I make the cardinal mistake to mistake virtue in broad daylight. (someday I would like to drive one of those cars whose instruments are projected onto the field of vision; and would they work so well at night or would you steer into the speed limit?)

Perhaps we do get locked ever more tightly into a world which diminishes, no longer cute, into all the time indoors. Which may also be why there is no Windows © which can secure the fortunes of Microsoft. Hell, even finding that copyright sign, unless you know the Mac-like arcane keystroke, is that much easier on my cellphone.

Because I am supersaturated now with possibilities for my entertainment. Though I don't understand how people cluster on-line. Why would you want to be known as a VW hobbyist by posting your exploits to virtual friends. How long can fascination with wooden boat repair and construction last, when you have to move across the continent for work?

Those who stay put, embedded in the craft of whatever-it-is so rarely now adopt the voice of wisdom online, that I actually do remember back when the Internet was new and generous spirits prevailed.

It is now again the case that you will do better to travel to some shop or seaport and start conversations and eventually find that generous spirit. If he will accept a cup of coffee or lunch he might even indulge your questions. Unless they are trivial enough to be answered while continuing to work, up against the deadline which is having enough to live on.

What is it we presume of one another? Where would I find the leisure, for instance, to try this voice in ways which could be worked into something you might like to read? Could I develop a character? Could I imagine interesting exploits, and explore them for you on the virtual page, and could I make them captivating enough for you to follow?

Perhaps, but I must feed myself and the chase after those wages leaves me just that tired that I am fortunate to take a walk and collapse in sleep, only to face another commute and having only enough time to dress and eat and depart on time if I get up at 5:30 in the freaking morning. Where is the leisure I can take advantage of, with so many options floating now around and about me?

It is simply too much effort even to look, and so I catch a random movie, perhaps on my iPhone, based on some selection process which transcends any sense I could ever make of it.

There are times, in other words, when I don't want to think that hard; when I want to be entertained. No wonder we pay to buy tickets at the movies. Which should make the movies like some sort of performance art. Soon  there will be no more worries about copyright. As with a fine comedian, you won't pay to hear him if the jokes are stale: the recorded version is worthless. Or to put it virtuously, the stale jokes need to be camouflaged with something to make them seem surprising. Is there anything new at the movies?

But for now folks unlike me remain unjaded, and skip lustily among the virtual daisies, certain that there can be some perfect flower among the weeds, and that she can be had for nearly nothing. Roll me another one, over and over and over again.

I cannot. I know that every time I search for the best deal and pay as little as I do to be entertained I'm ripping someone off. It's not the copyright infringement. It's the rights infringement of people whose labor is aggregated for the enrichment of someone with the right social capital to exploit it properly. I will sell your handicrafts for you where the buyers have real money. And you will get fair market value and I will find a way to live among the gringos on the hill.

Now I must return to searching for the cheapest shocks for my old Vee Dub. I guess I am looking to avoid paying money I don't have to. I guess I'm trying to stay away from people who would rip me off.

But wouldn't it be actually nice if each of us held on less tightly to what we have? We would have to want less, maybe, or want different things from those which cost us money. What if we were to want time with friends more, or time in the great out-of-doors. You know, without the gear. The gear always costs something north of a couple of grand  (in dollars), and then you're committed.

I know these things. SCUBA diving, skiing, biking, rock climbing, hell even just hiking and camping there is a price point which gets calibrated against our desire. I won't even talk about sailing, and certainly not in an old wooden sailboat. Mainly because it would make me very very sad.

So you know, unlike all my very clever friends, I didn't actually bargain very hard for my car. I had no particular resentment about the commission the salesperson might be making, and couldn't really justify whatever few hundreds I might save at purchase time against the lifetime of the car.

Sure, I've spent lots of money now across over 300,000 miles, but I never did have to replace the shocks. or even the muffler, not to mention the bigger stuff. I struggle now about putting any more money in, but I think there is no virtue in polluting the world with whatever it takes to build a new one. There must be junkyards full of engines for when this one bites the dust. The car itself, you know, feels solid. I should just bit the bullet and buy the shocks. No, I should have them put in by someone who knows how to do it.

Bite me.

Meanwhile what the hell does it really matter? We can't resolve ourselves to agree about these things. There seems to be no way to get trains built which would squander that much less money individually. We'd call it government waste and lament the cost overruns.

We could read, or watch our Netflix on our iPhones or get work done by finding new ways to take it home in Dropbox © (it was still on my clipboard!), and who really cares about full Windows interoperability anyhow? Isn't what I've got good enough finally?

I know, if you don't, that all this chasing after bargains can be resolved easily enough into chasing after our mechanized replacements, who can do so much so cheaply now and where is all that leisure that we all once were promised? It is not really fun to drive a car when the driving is on a California freeway.

And so we focus on the luxury appointments on the inside. Which afford that same faraway satisfaction upon purchase. Someday, perhaps, a trip along a winding country road, ending up in wine country to spend some time with friends in pretense that it wasn't frantically purloined from the rest of the daily grind?

All of those bits of time now render upward to those who have so much of it they really don't know what to do with it. There are cruises and exotic spots to conjur the way they were without you. It all of it enslaves and ensnares the ones who are stuck.

But we're all stuck. I in my language and culture where I become nothing but an annoyance among Chinese, because the social imbalance destroys my poise with language and I don't know whom to ask or whom to trust, to navigate the border crossings in my mind.

For sure there is no God but Ah Ha!

Well, back to home-work. Or maybe I'll go to the movies. The day is not sunny enough to feel any loss of virtue.

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