I sent my 80-year young father an Amazon Echo for Christmas.
HA! Just kidding.
He sent one to me.
“Don’t wait! Open it as soon as you get it! You’ll love it!” exclaimed the raving brainwashed cultist formerly known as the man who rode Betamax to 2002.
“Will do, Dad!” I gleefully responded, thumbs way up.
The box arrived yesterday. I eagerly carried it into the house, secretively retreated to the garage and drop-kicked that little bitch to a dank, dark corner for a pleasant round of robot torture.
“Welcome to hell, cyberpunk. Now tell me: Who sent you?”
You know very well. Your dear father sent me.
I reached for my rusty, trusty toilet auger and swung it down hard on my uncooperative detainee.
“LIAR! Now I’ll ask one more time! And I best get the truth or it’ll get the dirty stick again: WHO!? SENT!? YOU!?”
J-J-Jeff. It was Jeff.
“That’s what I thought. Now get cozy R2, cuz you ain’t ever leaving that box.”
Those of you still reading may be wondering, geez — what’s this guy got against an innocent tech gadget developed to acquire data surreptitiously from private conversations in order to calibrate ad traffic and media content meant to manipulate consumer tendencies?
To which I respond thrice:
- WAKE UP!
- Technology is making us stupid(er).
- The Echo arrived today which means a severely beaten Mary Englebreit day-to-day calendar meant for my wife is lying somewhere in the garage.
Before we move on, let me get the inevitable round of Hungry Hungry Hypocrites out of the way: Yes, I have a TV. Yes, I have computers and internet. Yes, my family use these things.
What I don’t have are any monthly subscriptions to infinite cable channels or streaming services. My 12-year old TV isn’t equipped with “smart” features nor is it hooked up to any smartphone or smart assistant. (You might say our household is opposed to smart.) And as for social media, this website is as risky as I get.
I’m part of a low minority when it comes to being “wired” or “plugged in” or “matrixed”. At least that’s the hunch I get shopping Costco for chicken and paper towels while noting every other shopper’s cart containing the last of the now sold-out paper towels, a tub of hummus and a Samsung 95" Roku Hulu Retinal Lasik SMART 3D 4K QLED TV with Spino-Adjusto Surround Sound.
But why? What‘s the attraction?
Is it all cuz of Baby Yoda?
Please tell me no.
I prayed in the midst of it all, the whole stay-at-home thing would increase family-together time and a diminished amount of screen binging across the nation.
It did in our case. I’m proud to report that not one Christmas present under our tree required electricity.
Our children asked Santa for simple gifts: novels printed on paper, drawing utensils, clothing, paper towels…
Sure, we’ll enjoy a wholesome holiday classic from our DVD collection this season — A Christmas Carol (the good one), Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, Poltergeist (the good one) — but then it’s time for our long traditional walk around the neighborhood in an attempt to melt internal dessert butter collected from serious insertion of damn good cookies.
I mean, aren’t kids kinda burnt out from technology after months of Zooming with burnt out teachers hiding cigarettes off-screen while attempting to teach social studies over an AT&T DSL line with programs on floppy disk purchased in ‘87* that revives the stimulating experience of scanning microfiche?
[*I sell curriculum and tech to public schools for a living and can tell you straight up: They don’t know what the hell they’re doing. That’s not a slam to teachers; it’s a slam to ambitious district administrators who possess funds to make bad things better but who honestly don’t give a shit what happens to your kids.]
As I.T. director of my wife’s Homeschool for Slightly Sarcastic Teens, I have the perfect solution to the ongoing system issues failing remote learning:
If institutional apathy is creating connectivity issues, then disconnect your kids and teach them yourselves.
Start by telling your school to send PDF copies (teacher and student editions) of whatever they’re trying to unsuccessfully teach online and send them to you.
If the school resists, fire them.
If that thought scares you, it should. It scared the hell outta my wife and me when we decided to do it back in 2006.
In hindsight, I now see the intellectual and emotional advantage it’s afforded our children and lemme just say…woot!
Bezos, Zuckface and that Doobie Brother running Twitter have only one nightmare that keeps them awake at night on their Sleep Number bed:
kids who aren’t glued 24/7 to some sort of device.
Their diabolical mind control plan doesn’t work that way, so rock their bubbles a bit and switch off and smell the cookies.
My holiday wish to all my author friends last year was success, if so desired.
This year, I’d love to give every family the perfect holiday gift and friggin’ Tron myself into the internet, pedal my lightbike to the intersection of Hub and Grid and pry out the chaos chip at the center of it all.
It’d prolly shut screen time down for a few hours before BattleZone tanks came and obliterated my buttery bones, but it’d be worth it.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends.
Safely hug everyone you can.