by Mike Shea on 9 July 2004
"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity"
I have four monitors on my desk at home. One is my Everquest monitor, two of them hydra off of my Internet / Multimedia box and help me check my Google email, IM worthless URLs, and watch kids collapse during spelling bees on Ebaum's World. The fourth is for my beloved Tivo, the device I love and hate and the muse for the title of this article.
I do somewhere between three and five things at once in front of my hydra. I talk on the phone, play Everquest, chat with friends on IM, chat with friends in EQ, surf the web, and watch episodes of Deep Space 9 and The Daily Show. I do none of these well. My friends, whether voice, IM, or EQ, are neglected for the others. My EQ game suffers, people die because I was laughing at Bush saying "Abu Garef" and then staring vacantly into the camera, his mind undecided if he is really as much of an idiot as the rest of us know he is. I miss that one key moment where the young Japanese girl gets crushed between two huge rollers in Most Extreme Elimination Challenge because I was fighting a Rujarkian Orc and surfing for the loot he may drop.
I do six things at the same time for five hours a night and I do none of them well. Like Guy Montag's wife in Farenheit 451, I practically sleep with a tiny bud in my ear whispering nonsense to help prevent me from having my own coherent thought. My new yuppy Swedish Poang chair sits unused except for my cat who has made it her second home. Instead of reading an hour or so a night, I stay up until 12:30am pontificating bullshit, surfing through chaos, watching crap, and going after that one last kill.
Before I even get into my car the next morning I plant a tiny black beetle into my ear and call my friend Ben. Sure our conversations are smart and witty and fun but why must I have the constant chatter? What makes cell-phones, a device I loathed to get a year ago, so fucking addictive? Why must I be in constant communication with someone somewhere? Why can I not focus? Why can I not sit and read a book for an hour without wondering whats happening on the EQ forums or whether I am missing a re-run of The Shield? Why can I not write for more than 15 minutes at a sitting unless I physically remove myself from my apartment? Why has my escape, my fortress of solitude, become a place I must escape from?
On my way into work I plug a set of headphones in my ear, my ear spends most of my conscious time with something plugged into it, and listen to a book on MP3. At least its a form of reading although I "read" all of Return of the King and besides Sarumon's death I cannot remember a single thing about it. While I had far more success with The Dark Tower books and The Talisman, God bless Stephen King's ability to keep a reader reading, noise is noise and many days the book on MP3 is nothing but a distraction from my own scattered thoughts.
As soon as I am done with this whiny pompous article I shall pull my iPod out of my Dockers stain-resistant cargo pants and shatter the quiet gray display on the corner of this fake gray-marble desk. I shall walk to my car silently and serenely, my murderous plan building in my mind. I will take out the heavy plastic cell phone between two fingers like a plastic bag of doggy poo and drop it onto the asphalt street before crushing it under my boot and kicking it under one tire of my car. My car will hop up in satisfaction as I hear the further crunch of plastic and glass and silicone from the destroyed phone.
I will return home with a smile, the four hydra heads of my desk staring blankly at me, unsure of that evil glint in my eye. They scream in sparks of pain and horror that sound like shattering glass and exploding vacuum tubes as they hit the steel walls of the dumpster outside my apartment. Perhaps one of the yuppies in my gated terror-free apartment complex, her own hand daintly holding a bag of doggy poo, will wonder why this crazy overweight khaki-laden madman is throwing out three computer monitors.
I will tear out the off-white tiny tower of Babel that was once a Comcast cable-modem. I will watch its four tiny vertical eyes flash and blink thousands of times a second, begging for continued life, begging to continue filling my apartment like a flowing sewer with the pornography of CNN, and Fox News, and MSN, and Disney. I will rip it hard and the four eyes go dark. It will die sixty seconds later when I hurl it hard enough to make my shoulder sore for a week against the rusted wall inside the dumpster. I will see its eggshell body crack open and spill a yoke of twisted wire and green circuit boards.
The Tivo I will save for last. I will take the hammer; the underused and most wonderful of tools, a tool meant to smash to crush and to ... hammer; and spin it 180 degrees, the head looking at me like a flat silver fish eye. The claw, an iron raptor talon, will beg to plant itself in the charcoal plastic top of the undefended Tivo. It will smash down, digging deep into the plastic skin. A second crash and it will tear deep, leaving mortal wounds in the mind controlling beast. Three, four, five, six, each crash will dig deeper and harder, cutting into plastic PCBs and punching holes through shining metal hard drive cases. The tiny mascot on the front of the flat device, a smiling TV with tiny legs, will smile and wave its antennae, asking all who look to ignore the twisted carnage of plastic and metal over the top of its head. "Move along, there is nothing to see here. Keep watching your Friends and Sinfield re-runs. May I recommend the third season of American Idol?". No you fucking may not. A final smash will break through the Orwellian Bradburian box and hit the carpeted floor. I will extract the hammer, that most useful of my tools, and carry the eviscerated demonic Tivo out by its cord to sit in the pile of wreckage that was my beloved Hydra.
Then I turn, knowing I have much more work to do. Seven speakers, a receiver, a DVD player, a 55" TV, and two game systems, all witnesses to the murderous destruction I inflicted upon the poor Hydra, the four headed beast that sedated me and filled me with fantasy and fiction and the chaos of a thin buzzing line that makes it impossible to think. The hammer feels wonderful in my hand. Heavy and powerful. Begging to do what it always wanted to do, what it was born to do - to hammer.
A nice dream, but hardly accurate. I will continue to let the lines of noise feed into my brain. I will continue to live in the worlds I built for myself. Worlds that keep me from remembering just how bad things can get. I will talk on my goddamn cellphone. I will listen to my goddamn iPoD. I will watch my goddamn Tivo. I will be a good consumer and continue to consume, growing fat on the noise without substance that is our internet, our television, our cellular network.
But I will walk. I will walk a few times a week for an hour with no iPod. With a cell phone only used in cases of emergency ("Help! I saw a man without a job and saw no difference between he and I"), a pen, and a notebook as my only companions, I will walk and I will think. I will sit in that yuppy swedish chair and read a little Robert Howard or Stephen King or Ray Bradbury. I will write 500 words of fiction a day. I will put myself to sleep not by rerunning episodes of ER in my head but by dreaming up characters and backgrounds and lives not ever lived.
And maybe one day I will have the courage I need to murder my Tivo.
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