for 5 February 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.
WAP, Bam, No Thank You, Ma'am
THAT is how prose is supposed to be. If I was a verizon or sprint pcs share holder with enough clout I would make those donkey-loving infrastructure-wasting service-wrecking fools read your article every time they even considered a new service initiative on their cells.
One thing you did forget to savagely dehumanize is the constant drumbeat of yammering that flows from media outlets about how Japan and Finland are so ahead of us on the wireless internet curve, reported in the tone of "Well, Finland has the aids vaccine and we don't even have a proper box of kleenex here in America. This is Jenny Bumsticker from Helsinki." I hope we never catch up. Just like Japan was going to finish our economy in the 80s and the Europeans were going to teach the world just how flawlessly socialism would overcome the human condition.
Hurrah for suck!!!
It's a question of national priorities, I think. For instance, while Japan has "video-capable cell phones," we have "an economy." While Finland has "a vibrant, wired youth culture," we have "the complete lack of awareness of what lutefisk is, save on 'A Prairie Home Companion.'" Each nation picks what it finds important.
For instance, five years ago, I went to Greece on my honeymoon and was astonished to discover that not only did every pay phone in the country have a digital display that could be toggled between Greek and English, but they all took rechargeable smart cards. This, in the same nation that had signs in its sadly comical "international airport" asking visitors to deposit their used toilet paper in the trash, so as not to fill up the septic tank. This is clearly a different sent of priorities than in the US, where toilets take precedence over a modern communications infrastructure. And rightly so, if you ask me.
you had a rant about WAP...what about imode...another useless web-on-phone protocol..used by almost no one...totally impractical..except to tens of millions of japanese...
Not, personally, being tens of millions of Japanese, I'm not qualified to comment on i-Mode. But its technology could consist entirely of little characters painted on a block of wood and be better than WAP.
Well, someone had to point out the threadbare condition of the emperor's wardrobe, and you did it quite well. I especially liked the barb about the letters not even kerning well.
Given the pointlessness and general idiocy of this particular technology's intended uses, one is forced to ask why all this money is being spent. The obvious answer, I fear, is the same reason that a dog licks his balls: because he can. To a man with a hammer, it all looks like a nail; to a man with bandwidth, it all looks like an Internet.
My favorite example is the Scandinavian usage in which one can pay for a soda from a vending machine with your cell phone. And indeed you can...just as you can use your cell phone to open walnuts. It's just not the ideal tool. A better tool for getting soda from a machine is a credit card, a debit card, an value- storage smart card (great technology that may forever be just around the corner), or even tahdah! money. But yumpin yimminy we've got all these phones and we'll use them, we will.
I fear you're exactly right. Just every conceivable business appeared in some Web-based incarnation a few years ago, simply because they could Furniture? Over the Net? No, seriously, did somebody actually try that? so it will go with WAP. Sensible or not, you'll soon find people trying to do things with their phones that violate both the laws of God and man, simply because they can. And a few years after that, these people will start awake, look embarrassed and move on to the next shiny, techy thing that distracts them. Invest now.
Thanks for another good Suck column. I think I read in a profile of you (Comics Journal? can't find it again) that you have a novel coming out in November. Is that 2000 or 2001? Amazon didn't list anything by you, as far as I could see.
You did indeed read that piece of information in the place of my former full-time employment, the Comics Journal. I'm not sure what my editorial successors were thinking when they wrote that contributor bio, particularly at that time, but it was probably a reference to my first attempt at writing something longer than 1400 words: an unreadable story about small-town drug dealers called "Playing Ricky Morton." Fortunately for the cause of literacy, I've never even submitted that monstrosity anywhere. Right now someone is trying to place a book based on the "Kiss My Grits" breakfast essay Suck ran last Fall, which I'd love to do if only for the field research.
Thanks for asking.
40th Street Black
Well for Lord's sake why does Amtrak have to be profitable anyway? Too bad there's no mandate to shut down the interstate highway system unless it becomes profitable by 2002.
Steven M. O'Neill
That's a very good point. As I recall, Amtrak was started in large part because the various lines that provided passenger service were bailing because it was unprofitable. And ironically, if Amtrak had gone deeper in the red initially keeping certain corridors alive in the '70s and '80s, they'd be in much better shape for some sort of rally now. Given that Americans love their cars so much they've stopped making sidewalks that go anywhere, the Amtrak situation may be hopeless. Still, Amtrak service has in the past seemed so willfully crummy that anything to light a fire under its butt has to be considered a good thing. I just hope we don't end up in a re-run of the downside to Amtrak's first couple of decades, with decent rail service being provided in politically and economically profitable corridors and track coming up everywhere else.
40th Street Black
excellent story, as usual, which goes without saying. however, one factor you didn't mention was one big piece of machinery working against the future of rail: the airtight power vacuum of automakers and oil companies.
these were the entities, after all, who were behind the huge highway-construction bills that forever changed small-town america and the nation's downtowns in the middle of the past century. and they also put the tongs to the consumer bus travel industry, buying bus companies and dismembering them and/or keeping them inefficient ("downtown: cities back from the edge," by roberta brandes gratz and norman mintz, 1998).
it's hard to believe that industries with virtual monopolies on overland travel (who constant acquaint cars with freedom ... which should come as news to gridlocked commuters) would idly stand by and let the train movement get on track. unless they don't believe it has a chance in the first place ... and the rail industry does have its share of doubters, to be sure.
anyway, thanks once again for the excellent work!
The process by which auto companies purchased public transport companies and ran them so that people would buy cars they also switched trolley systems into bus lines where they could is one of the funnier "I can't believe they could be so evil" true-life stories of the 20th Century. And you're right, if trains were revitalized in any significant way, they'd probably be the first to step up to the plate and mess with them. At this point (and forgive me for the Super Bowl weekend sports metaphors) my guess would be we're talking about National Football League/Arena Football League relationship where improvements in rail could be ignored as largely insignificant to the auto industry bottom line. But that's just a guess; for all I know Texas oil concerns made Bush get Tommy Thompson the hell away from Amtrak and into his cabinet.
40th Street Black
Although offered as support for the most recent rather witty dissertation, the following extract may cause consternation in some circles: "... the direct cause for victory in the last war fought on American soil". It is not at all clear what war you are referring to and perhaps more importantly is there a war held on 'American soil' that has been won by the legitimate inhabitants/residents? Help.
I think we're fine as long as we agree all of these wars were fought so that writers like myself can indulge in obscure rhetorical points and lousy sentence construction. Sorry about that.
I believe that rail played a direct role in helping the U.S. preserve its union in the American Civil War. Further, and because a relative asked me on the phone, I think the important thing about the way rail was used in WWII was not only as a way to keep resources moving throughout the country to various international and military dispersal points but as a way to help cement the economic revitalization of the southern states, a sometimes-ignored key to U.S. worldwide economic dominance in the '40s and '50s.
40th Street Black
Re: "Ditzy bankteller squeeze"
I'm sorry; I've been out of town and I'm still out of touch. I haven't even seen this movie. But surely you're not referring to *Rebecca West*?
I think the answer is "sort of," but it's the film that provides the sort-of reference, not me. The movie ends with Steenburgen's character, "Amy Robbins," the woman who exchanges his Victorian money for devalued Carter-era cash, joining Wells in the past. This character's subsequent iconoclastic contributions are asserted in the film's happily ever after text wrap-up. This is, of course, much more potentially insulting than saying H.G. Wells lacked the imagination to project future events in his writing without having seen them first.
40th Street Black