So I'm on my fancy-schmancy "smart phone" the other day, talking to my older brother, Michael.
"Y'know," I say, "I'm not sure I'm all that comfortable having a telephone smarter than I am."
"Sam," he says, "a string between two paper cups is smarter than you are."
I don't speak to my brother anymore.
Truth be known, the only reasons I'm toting this genius phone around is because my publisher insists upon it (presumably so I'm always available to listen to his thoughtful suggestions) ... and the newspaper pays for it.
It's quite the gadget, and I'm sure I haven't even scratched the surface of its wondrous abilities.
It can receive and send emails, give me access to the Internet, calculate how much I should tip a waitress, provide me weather forecasts, take photos and videos, tell me what time it is, and for all I know, make popcorn.
You would think that some satellite orbiting our planet has far better things to do than have stuff from my cell phone bouncing off of it all the time.
I really don't need all the bells and whistles. My needs are simple. I mean, I'm thrilled just to be able to call my wife from a supermarket and ask if we need eggs.
I don't know about you, but all the ads on TV for this gizmo or that one _ without which life is just not worth living _ make me want to say: "What's the use?" and buy a shawl and rocking chair.
Oh, the excruciating competitive disadvantage I shall be suffering if I don't have latest permutation of the iPad or iMac or Droid doohickey.
Who am I, George Jetson?
I am apparently the only person in America who is not on Facebook. I don't tweet on Twitter, and when I read a book, I want to actually turn paper pages rather than look at some computer device.
So is there anything that a Luddite who believes technology reached its apex with the invention of the TV remote control can contribute to today's society?
I'd like to think there is.
Perhaps there is something beneficial about bearing witness to a time when kids played stickball in the street instead of "Resident Evil" survivor horror games all alone in their rooms.
Maybe there is some value in recalling a time when people in my industry spent more time and effort making sure they got the story right rather than being first to post something they hope is right on a website.
Not that the urge to be first is anything new. Many years ago I had an interview with one of the New York City tabloids in which I was informed: "We don't want to get beat on any rumors. It's not important if it turns out to be true or not, we just want to be the first one out with the rumor."
It would seem that philosophy may still exist with newspapers' tabloid bottom-feeders. The New York Post is being sued for libel by the hotel maid who accused former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault.
The Post called her a hooker. She says she isn't. Prosecutors and police say they have found no evidence that she has been a prostitute.
Almost any other newspaper would be far more careful, but the time when responsible people in newsrooms could serve as gatekeepers separating real news from fake news, fact from rumor, has sadly come to an end _ mostly because of computers.
With today's social media, any loser with a laptop can spew information that may or may not be true, reveal personal things about anybody that are nobody's business, and generally end any reasonable expectation folks should have of privacy.
On a national level, this bile often works its way from a blog to the National Enquirers to the Drudge Reports to the New York tabloids to the cable networks that have agendas. Then, too many times, I've heard newspaper people say, "Well, the story was 'out there,' so we had to do something with it."
"Out there" is nowhere, but that isn't important anymore. The result is a far more coarse, more ignorant and more suspicious population of young people who are absolute whizzes on a computer but can't tell the difference between a supermarket tabloid and The New York Times.
I'm fighting a losing battle, of course. The future will see more and more gadgets, less and less time devoted to discerning evaluation ... and me, still trying to figure out how to work this fancy-schmancy cell phone.
Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.
So I'm on my fancy-schmancy "smart phone" the other day, talking to my older brother, Michael.
- Big Chuck D'Imperio
There was just no telling about snow days
Winters get harder as we get older. Things change. It snows more. It snows less. It gets colder. It's a lot milder. It all changes as our knees start to creak and the thought of shoveling a foot of snow seems positively daunting.Continued ...
- And the music goes round and round
- When did pranks turn into vandalism?
- Happy and sad memories of Jan. 7, 1966
- Lesser known greats that passed away in 2013
- There was just no telling about snow days
- Cary Brunswick
It's time for warmer relations with Cuba
It has been 55 years since Fidel Castro and his bands of nationalist fighters and supporters took over the government of Cuba. The United States immediately took issue with that regime change, and ever since has had serious problems with the tiny nation just south of the Florida Keys.Continued ...
- Unconventional events changed my outlook
- Keystone XL pipeline is still a terrible idea
- We shouldn't trade privacy for security
- I'm pleasantly surprised by Pope Francis
- It's time for warmer relations with Cuba
- Chuck Pinkey
- Guest Column
State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
Recently, the Margaretville and Roxbury boards of education joined their colleagues across the region and throughout the state in adopting a resolution calling on the state legislature to end the so-called "gap elimination adjustment."Continued ...
- The state Board of Regents deserves a shakeup
- It's no wonder businesses avoid us
- How to bridge a widening wealth gap
- Nimbys, shills and celebs: A morality play for our times
- State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
- Lisa Miller
A view from above
Fire towers in the Catskill Mountains have always been destination points, built to capture some of the region’s best views. These sentinel stations served an important role for the earliest possible sightings of forest fires in the remote mountain ranges. But the fire towers and those who manned them fulfilled a multitude of other roles as well.Continued ...
- Being a parent is a constant learning process
- Healthy doesn't have to mean expensive
- A family era ends with close of Potter series
- Independent stores make up for loss of Borders
- A view from above
- Mark Simonson
Beauty, grooming took center stage in Oneonta in March 1964
Good grooming, beauty and style seemed to be a recurring theme in the news around Oneonta during the month of March 1964.Continued ...
- Local news, opinion often mixed in 1889 newspapers
- Gasoline, demons and baseball were 'trending' locally in 1974
- Early efforts to halt Silver Creek were slow going
- Effort to establish Oneonta historic district began in 1970s
- Beauty, grooming took center stage in Oneonta in March 1964
- Rick Brockway
It's cold, but there's still plenty to do
This has been a tough winter. In fact, it has been one of the coldest winters on record. Now don't get me wrong, I love winter and I always have. I've always believed that people who don't like winter don't have anything to do when the snow flies and temperatures drop below freezing. But I've never had that problem.
- Animals' behavior a sign of wild winter
- Opossum is unique in many ways
- It can be too cold sometimes
- It's tough to say what you really did see
- It's cold, but there's still plenty to do
- Sam Pollak
Religion should be a comfort, not a weapon
Discuss politics or religion in any establishment that specializes in dispensing alcohol, and -- proprietors warn -- the discussion is highly likely to result in you waking up on the tavern floor and spitting out teeth, probably your own.Continued ...
- The world must think we're nuts
- Mistakes easy to take ... if they're not yours
- Celebrate 2013 with the annual 'Sammy Awards'
- The feds still aren't coming for your guns
- Religion should be a comfort, not a weapon
- William Masters
Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues
As the time to vote draws near, we need to remember how money can run politics more than we can. Raising funds is a prominent (if not the dominant) task of getting elected. Raising issues is also crucial, but those efforts are subject to distortion and fear-mongering.
Republicans feelentitled to allthey can garner
An entitlement is a legal benefit available from the government to individuals who are within a defined category of recipients, such as needing insurance for unemployment or health services.
Romney focuses on self; Obama emphasizes unity
Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama for saying a person's success is rooted in his community, and is not all his alone. Romney belittles this with his belief in individual initiative. He is better at the put-down than the push-up.
Romney shows little regard for common man
The Republicans in Congress have voted over and over, 33 times, redundantly and uselessly, to rescind what they call Obamacare.
Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists
The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.
- Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues