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Stateside With Rosalea: Modern Life

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Modern Life

::Rectos and Roundies::

It's been almost a year now since I started commuting 77 minutes each way to work. That precise figure is taken from the length of the CD I often listen to, a CD I burned myself from the iTunes I'd downloaded to my Mac. So, why don't I have an iPod instead of a portable CD player?

In the process of answering that question, I’ve formulated the theory that there are two types of people in this world: Rectos and Roundies. Rectos are impressed by quantity, numbers, and surface appearances. Hence, iPods are favoured by people who want to indiscriminately load a gazillion songs onto a device that will make them look cool.

Roundies are more comfortable with quality, abstract concepts, and content. They would rather have 77 minutes of songs they actually like even if it makes them look sooooo last century. That makes me a shape snob, I suppose, but it also puts me in with the locals. During the school year, the bus I take to work is packed with that demographic the marketeers love--high school kids--and very, very few of them have an iPod.

Is that an economic thing, given as the bus travels from some of the poorest parts of Oakland? Well, those kids dress in clothes that must cost as much as an iPod and they're rarely seen in the same outfit twice, so they've made a spending choice that doesn't include the iPod.

Perhaps it's cultural then? I think that's getting a lot closer to it. There are other, much cheaper, MP3 players out there but even they are rejected in favor of CD players by my young fellow commuters.

Perhaps it's the ability to burn multiple CDs and give them to friends that make the CD player popular, especially here in Oakland, which is a creative hotbed for new music distributed on small local labels. A couple of local music promoters commute by bus, and I've seen kids go up to them and hand over their homemade CDs, hoping to pick up a recording deal some time.

But beyond all of that, I really think that there is a deeper force at work in the preferences people have for one shape over another. Industrial designers know this and use it to good effect. Ideas about shape are so deeply ingrained in us, that--for example--it's inconceivable that military vehicles would have curves even if it made them more aerodynamically efficient. Would a Hummer be a Hummer if it had the Beetle's lines?

Roundies of the world unite! So long as Rectos rule the roost, we'll never have a decent quality of life for all on this planet.

::Beam me up, Sony!::

One of the things I loved most about Star Trek were those little communicators the crew could tap on and speak into to communicate with folks back on the Enterprise when they were on-planet. Well, next month us regular folks will be one step closer to having that ability to get the kids in from the back yard for dinner without having to go out there and yell at them.

Not since a globe-trotting Kiwi friend turned up on my doorstep in 1979 with the Sony Walkman he'd bought overseas have I been this excited about a piece of consumer technology, and again it's from Sony. The Mylo (short for My Life Online) is not a phone; it's a communicator, which is just perfect for someone like me who can't justify paying a monthly charge to connect to a mobile phone network. It will likely be an adjunct for kids already hooked on cellphones but frustrated by their limitations.

Because the Mylo uses any accessible wireless network, it is a broadband device delivering content at much higher speeds than a cellular network can. You can use it for instant messaging, Skype internet voice calls, emails, and web browsing. It stores music, video and photos, which you can exchange as part of your real-life conversation with someone else in the vicinity who also has a Mylo. Like when you're with your friend in a coffee shop that has wi-fi.

The Mylo will be available here in the States in September, just in time for it to be this year's must-have item for students, since most university campuses have wireless networks. For the real significance of this product with respect to the telecommunications industry, read this commentary:

::Can I not get a restraining order against AT&T?::

I have an antique towel in my linen cupboard. It dates from just 2000, yet it is already a collectible item because it is emblazoned with the words “PacBell Park”. That is what San Francisco's baseball stadium was called when the Pacific Bell telephone company had the naming rights. Back then, PacBell supplied my phone service, although I also had a brief and violently unhappy relationship with AT&T as my long-distance provider.

Then PacBell became SBC and the park was renamed. And just recently new signage had to go up because SBC bought out AT&T and decided to use that name instead. Which means I am back to dealing with AT&T for any issues I have with my phone bill. Crikey! Do they still have what I said to that Customer Service Rep back in 2001 on my file? Is there no getting away from these behemoths?

::Bad Blair; Must be Punished::

Take note, world leaders! Just you try and bypass the Almighty Bush Administration and deal directly with some provincial potentate like Arnold Schwarzenegger to cooperate on R&D regarding rogue technologies and theories like stem cell research and global warming, and your economy will be in ruins within a month! For such could well be the outcome of the latest terror alert in Britain because of its effects of air travel.

::Was it something I said?::

Not that I'm a paranoid megalomaniac or anything, but I do have an instant attraction for the far-fetched, so you can imagine the connections my scriptwriter-mind made when I woke up to TV news footage of folks throwing their bottled water away at airline terminals, the very morning after I'd emailed my last column to Scoop.

So to test the theory that the combination of the phrases "World Trade Center" and "bottled water" in the same email somehow triggered this latest terror arrest sweep, I will now attempt to get cellphones banned on public transport / mobiles banned on public transit. For which, I am sure, the vast majority of train and bus commuters will erect a pedestal in my honour/honor.


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