Thursday, June 17, 2010

K-kinda Busy

As usual, I have far too much to write about, and only two posts a week on which to write. That being said, I want to strike some sort of balance when it comes to the general tone of these posts. Seeing writing in colour, I don't want this to be a mass of dark grey- Hopefully I am maintaining some sort of equilibrium.

Living in the city I see a lot of phones. Phones being taken out of pockets, phones cradled between cheek and shoulder, phones being abused beneath overactive thumbs. Most of all, I see phones being a huge distraction.

Sitting on the subway a minimum of four days (and twice as many hours) a week, my eyes are constantly met with the sight of people hunched over, eyes glued to these tiny little screens. Every time I see them I am forced to ask myself (since I cannot ask them) the question Why?

I'm struck by the irony of the telephone, a device meant to bridge a gap between two people, to facilitate communication, instead being used as a gadget to keep oneself from having to interact with anyone. There isn't even any service underground (unless you're in Hong Kong), so you can't even use the phone to call or text.

I realize that I sound like an old man. To be more specific, an old man who is sick and tired of these newfangled gizmos and doohickeys and how they're complicating the world; who misses the good ol' days when he had to walk two hours through the snow to the closest internet, and where there wasn't no such thing as this wireless he hears young people complaining about these days.

Breaking it down, though, I wish people would look up a little more. People are always sitting there, tight-lipped, avoiding eye contact. If anyone is talking anywhere on the train, you can feel the general atmosphere sour if they're even a decibel louder than they need be, as if the general populace were cherishing the silence like some kind of vestal virgin, in danger of desecration.

Last week an old-ish black dude sat next to me on the subway and asked where I was from. After specifying that he meant where I was from ethnically, and hearing that I was half-Filipino, he started talking about the politics of the country. It turned out that he was in the know because he had worked for the CIA, and that he had retired due to old age and that he took the TTC because he could talk to people; because in a car you can't talk to anyone.

I don’t assume that he ever was with the CIA, or that they gave him a tidy sum of money to live comfortably in Canada. What I do know, however, is that it was refreshing to have someone to talk to. To know that some people share that freedom of being able to engage those around them. People who aren't afraid to ask you what you're reading, or who those flowers are for, or where you got that frozen pizza that you're balancing on your lap.

I'd like to be one of those people someday; maybe I'll even have to pull off a little bit of crazy to do it.


  1. I don't want this to turn into "TTC Stories," so I'm going to add more variety as this goes on.

    My grandmother was put in the hospital today because she passed out in an elevator. I am worried and hoping she arrives home safely.

  2. Yes, this post was titled using lyrics from a Lady Gaga song.

  3. This is another one of the many reasons I still haven't bought a cell phone for myself. I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty shy around most people, so I'm not all that likely to start a conversation with whomever might be sitting next to me. However, I will have a conversation with someone if they're willing to initiate it, and I have no interest in protecting myself from them with a shield made of plastic, silicon, and wifi signals.

  4. I thought that was Garret, because I barely glanced at the name and judged by the comment of what was written. But hey, that's you, Gareth. Neat.

    No phones for the win.

  5. "I'm struck by the irony of the telephone, a device meant to bridge a gap between two people, to facilitate communication, instead being used as a gadget to keep oneself from having to interact with anyone."

    What a profound observation, dude.

    We live in the age of "digimodernism," in the world of the "apparently real," according to cultural theorist Alan Kirby (see his book Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture.).

    I think a lot of Kirby's theories are nutty and far fetched, but after studying him in my postmodernism class I can't help but notice more and more that he was on to a few things. Telecommunication and internet are perhaps the two biggest sources of distraction and time-wasting ever invented, and now, the two have been brought together into one, portable, device. People walk around in "the real world" but they are actually living in an "aparently real world," that is, the digital world they carry in their pockets. Not to say that I am free from this prison, owning and cherishing my iPhone as I do, but I tend to live one foot in the real and one foot in the apparently real most of the time. I too wish I could have a conversation with a stranger from time to time, but its much easier to retreat into the apparently real where communication is more comfortable. Evan, props to you for consciously trying to live in the real.

    For sake of possibly stimulating further discussion here, I'll leave an excerpt from Kirby's book regarding the apparently real:

    By the way, for sake of possibly stimulating further discussion, according to Kirby blogs are exemplary of the digimodernist cultural text, because blogs exemplify several of digimodernism's characteristics. Characteristics such as "onwardness" - the endlessness of the content in a text via commentability (what I am doing to your text right now), "social authorship" - meaning many contribute to the creation of the text, and, most morbidly, "the death of competence" - meaning that some college kid can start a blog and people will inevitably go to him as a source even though he has no credentials proving he knows anything (=p). These are a few of the characteristics of digimodernist culture as a whole, according to Kirby.

    Ok, I'm done now =]


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