As thick as a Brick

July 3, 2012

In my family’s archives, there is a short video clip that an enterprising junior member has also posted to their Facebook page. There is no sound but the images clearly show my then-teenage daughter using a cellphone while she leans against my Buick Regal.

The video dates from the mid-’90s. I know this for a fact because the cellphone is bigger than my daughter’s head. In fact, it’s almost bigger than the Buick.

Those phones were called Bricks and you need no imagination whatsoever to understand why. They were massive and they were bulky and you could lose an eye to the fixed antenna and they came in any colour you desired just as long as that colour was grey.

But there were advantages to this i-sore, including the fact you could never misplace them because they were the size of a small dog and when was the last time your dog fell between the couch cushions. Plus you never had to worry about pocket-calling Uruguay because, let’s face it, no way was that monster going to fit in your pocket. They were also simplicity itself when it came to use. On, dial, off. No texting, no internet, no camera. Mainly because those gremlins had yet to be invented.

I miss my Brick and never more so than right now when, if I’ve interpreted the Telecom propaganda correctly, my wee Nokia is about to become obsolete. Something about format change or network change or something or other I have no hope of understanding because I’m not 12 years old.

I only bought the phone in the first place in case of an emergency. Except I already know, should I find myself dangling upside down from the seatbelt in an overturned car in a deep ditch, that will be the precise moment the battery will die.

“Just text me,” people tell me. And my first thought is not “good as gold” but, rather, “I have no idea how to do that” and then “I have no idea where my teeny, tiny phone is”.

I don’t want a new phone. I’ve had the Nokia for five years and have yet to figure out how it works, so why would I want a new one with upgraded features. At one time, such gadgets came with manuals which, being a man, I quickly shoved into a drawer and forgot about. Now those manuals are online, making them easier to ignore but adding an extra layer of technology should I actually have a question along the lines of “How do I turn this darn thing on?”.

Face it, this dog is too old for new tricks. I can barely function in this new hi-tech world of ours. I’ve seen youngsters text while riding a bike; a friend reports he once saw someone with a cellphone in each hand, texting on both of them. I used to think being able to chew gum and walk at the same time was an admirable skill. No more.

So how do these kids do it? How do they know to operate all these contrary contraptions? Do they have more time to figure them out because their lives aren’t taken up with such trivial pursuits as, say, working for a living or paying bills or keeping pirates from selling off the country’s assets? Is there something in the beef hormones that make them more tech-savvy? If I eat more burgers will that make me smarter or just fatter?

My guess is they’re born with the knowledge. I imagine little i-babies, tucked up in the womb, clutching a notebook or an i-Pad or a mobile phone. That’s not kicking, that’s an embryo using a Nintendo Wii.

I imagine an expectant mother receiving a text one evening after dinner and turning to her husband, her eyes wide in disbelief.

“It’s from the baby,” she’ll say, holding up her cellphone to show her partner.

“What’s he want now?”

“He says if I don’t stop eating spicy food, he’s going to pop out in middle of the game and teach us both a lesson.”

That scenario would never have happened in the ’90s, of course. Because there isn’t room inside the uterus for both a baby and a Brick.

A version of this blog posting appeared in the July 4, 2012 Napier (New Zealand) Courier.

I need to buy a raincoat.

That thought was prompted not so much by the fact winter is now stalking Napier but, rather, by the news that porn films are about to be released in 3D.

Most people, at least publicly, denounce porn (aka “adult entertainment”) as the devil’s cinema, despite the fact that, from what I can see, there is very little evidence of idle hands. Most hands – and other assorted appendages – always appear to be quite busy, in fact.

I know, I know: Porn is disgusting and perverted and just plain dirty. Porn – like Barbie dolls – makes us feel inadequate about our own bodies.

OK, that last part I do agree with. I can imagine some poor bastard staring at the screen of his laptop then looking down into his own lap and doing a lot of heavy sighing and shaking of his head.

In reality, porn has been a friend to technology. A friend with benefits, mind you, but a friend nonetheless.

In the early days of home video machines, there were millions of naysayers who could not see the sense in buying an expensive VHS player and all those bulky tapes when you could simply trot off to your neighbourhood cinema if you wanted to watch a film. A movie collection? Why bother when they’re all on TV.

And then porn was released on video and suddenly home entertainment took on a whole new meaning.

The same with the Internet.

“You want information, sonny? Buy a newspaper or go to the library. You wanna talk to your friends? That’s why they invented the telephone, fer cryin’ out loud. What’s that you say? You can watch nekkid people doing what? You’d better show me this filth you’ve been looking at. And don’t tell your mother.”

And now, because the adult film industry has never been known to just lie there and let others take advantage of it, the decision to flog its wares in 3D was only natural.

In a time when nearly every movie being screened at a theatre near you is in 3D, I have to admit to not having a lot of experience with the format. I tend to watch most of my movies these days via DVD and, until they perfect 3D TV (and make them a whole lot cheaper), I will remain firmly rooted in the old-school world of two dimensions.

Years ago, however, I did view one of the Friday the 13th movies (I’m going to take a wild stab and say it was Part 3) while wearing those silly cardboard glasses. And I’ve sat through a couple of Imax films where I was amazed to find myself RIGHT THERE.

Some of those movies have gone beyond the visual and actually added the physical aspect to the experience. If a villain shoved a gun in the hero’s back, something in my seat jabbed me at the same time. If the cameras took me down a river on a rubber raft, I too was sprayed with water so I felt I was right there running those same rapids.

Some object or another was always poking straight out of the screen and threatening to impale me.

Which brings me back to 3D porn. You see where I’m going with this, right? Because I’m thinking the term “coming attraction” is about to take on a whole new meaning.

That’s why I’m signing off now and heading to The Warehouse. I hear there’s a sale on raincoats. I may just buy two.