lovehate: Monotasking

There's an old insult that still get thrown at people who are either clumsy or obsessive: you couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. As the world turns more wired and media streams at us from all angles, I'm starting to wonder if the insult will soon be turned around to say "you can't just walk" anymore. After all, how many people when walking aren't a) en route, b) plugged in (earbuds or otherwise), or c) waiting to pick up their dog's stool sample?

When I sit in front of the computer, I almost always have the TV on. Sometimes the TV is on (muted) while I'm streaming web radio. Last night I caught myself blogging while watching a podcast in the corner of the screen while the TV was muted and I was involved in two games of online poker. I can multitask with the best of them... I don't know that I can monotask anymore.

While going to sleep, I always have a podcast, music, or TV playing in the background. While walkin' down the street I always queue up my "walkin' 'round" playlist on my Nano, and I wish I could say I was just walkin' 'round to walk 'round, but I'm usually going somewhere instead of just walkin'.

It's the reason I can't live with a browser that doesn't have tabs. A hotel I recently stayed at was still running IE6 and I kept wondering why my clickthroughs weren't showing up in my active window. It's the same reason I have at least two dozen add-ons running in Firefox; I must know as much as possible in the smallest amount of screen real estate possible.

I feel lucky that I'm old enough to still sit through a film without restlessly twitching around. I feel sorry for the 16 year old that compulsively texts during films and then feels it's necessary to discuss the conversations with her friends during the part where Bruce Willis takes out a helicopter with a police car!

I am thrilled that, while enjoying a concert, I don't have to be viewing it through a two-inch digital camera or cell phone screen. That I don't need to shuffle through 50 yards of death march-like meandering for overpriced beer in order to enjoy listening to live music.

I suppose that what Windows was all about though, the burgeoning dawn of multitasking. We've moved into an age of snippet efficiency where the majority of us don't only find it tempting to allow our minds to hop, skip and jump from job to job and back again, we will soon be to the point where we can't do anything but.

I remember, through university, sitting down in front of an archaic PC where the concept of doing anything while typing up an essay was just as impossible as it was impractical - after all, it took hours to download even a few songs from an FTP server on a 28.8 or 56.6 modem as long as the three other people in my house didn't get a phone call. There was certainly no way you were going to be listening to streaming web radio... because, quite simply, there wasn't web radio. And if I tried to burn a CD, I'd was better to even move the mouse around for fear of causing a buffer underrun error.

Technology has allowed us to centralize our multitasking, because, let's face it, ask any parent who's been a primary caregiver and they can tell you all about the history of multitasking, but they put a crapload of miles on every day. My PC's sedentary interface allows me to communicate in real time (and by mail), listen to music, watch video, and then turn around to record and produce my own content. I read, critique, mashup, digg, stumbleupon. I can buy and sell anything while negotiating a home mortgage and investing in an RSP at tax time. I can research any topic and aggregate information, catalogue, hyperlink and blog to my heart's content. And I can do this ALL at the same time while sitting in a chair.

So am I doing more or less? From the micro perspective, there's a lot of stuff going on. From the macro perspective, I'm sitting at a computer, occasionally clicking or keying and really embodying what an outsider would call monotasking. I've become the living metaphor for Jamiroquai's "Travelling Without Moving".

I just wish I could fall asleep without aural and visual wallpaper.

Why can't we just enjoy chewing gum for its own sake?

Cell Show

thinglets: Tangerine Frankenstein

Tangerine Frankenstein

I am a paradigm.
Sense scores by a nose.
Blue sails sucking up the sun.
I am the iconographer reduced to stick figures - crass acrobat underneath the gun.

Circus freak columbine pumped by the multi-facet ball.
Ecstasy Clementine spooned by the grease monkey alcohol.

Holiday, do you care I been waiting for his call?
An’ til he’s had his toast and jam, make a beeline for Havana singing songs of Old Susanna.

I am semiotic, symbolic signifier, verbal ectoplasmagraphic goo.
I am syntheseismic, tectonic normalizer, cabalistic paranormal stew.

Couture chic valentine, runway-pathic optioneering slim.
Tangerine Frankenstein, autostatic flailing seraphim.

I seek the cosmic rototiller foraging through the underbrush.
Undiscovered tangleweed pulling at my boots.
I leak orgasmic motor oil and I’m OHC/FI.
Son uncovered creator’s creed grasping for my roots.

Reykjavik I’m coming home, back to the land of the ice and snow.
Reykjavik I’m coming home.
I’ll be on Friday’s floe.

I am cyberotic. 
Infested technocratic literal command structure chew.
I’m phantasmagoric, dense rationalizer, exodermal jigsaw puzzle brew.

Couture chic valentine, runway-pathic optioneering slim.
Tangerine Frankenstein, autostatic flailing seraphim.

Systematic peel.

lovehate: Languages's bold tagline claims that it catalogues 6912 of the world's living languages. While the claim is surely impressive, it makes one wonder at the freak happenstances of history that have allowed us to become so messed up as a species that we couldn't unify some of our communication. Even body language is radically different between adjacent regions.

Let's face it, if there remain 7000 different interpretations of words as common as "water", we are always going to have destructive global conflicts around the world. I know this sounds like quite a leap, but when a mesh-backed cap wearer in Mississippi will turn around and crack someone over the skull with a beer bottle because he misheard someone complimenting him as a "flag lover", the variations of language have proven their destructive powers. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy a tall cool glass of wasser,  agua, uma, su, wossa, ondou, ji, akvo, banyu or H2O.

While the Esperanto experience was noble in its conception, and small groups have adopted the constructed language to varying degrees, it certainly was never the over-riding success that would change the face of world communication. That said, technology has radically changed the ability to communicate across borders, continents and oceans. While trying to propagate a language through print would be cumbersome at best, involving drawn out exchanges by letter on usage, failures and successes, the current state of connectivity allows for everything from a text file dictionary e-mail attachment to live video-on-demand tutorials. There are, however, problems that would tax any attempt to resurrect Esperanto or some other existing or constructed language.

The sociological impact of a newly-learned language distributed throughout humanity sounds tempting, but consider the risk. As knowledge is power, so is language. While certain countries may endorse, adopt, perhaps even legislate the language's education to its populace, those falling behind would not only put themselves at a disadvantage with regard to simple understanding but, moreso, on the precipice of an economic sinkhole. Clear language is essential in business and is the reason so many MBA sycophants pick up Japanese or Chinese as a second language; there's always a job for someone that can bridge the verbal and written gap between world languages.

Those who, for any reason, could not maintain the pace of the language's growth would start to suffer implicit economic sanctions as trade would become scarce. Third world countries would hardly stand a chance as the technology that would allow for ease of assimilation is beyond them.

I suppose that half of the problem could be alleviated by eliminating the written language altogether. If books become e-books, letters remain e-mail, and business can be validated digitally, does an a/v language become the standard of correspondence? I'd wager that ascii emoticons reach cross-culturally far more effectively than the words "smile" or "wink".  Will broadband lead the way for the constructed language of the future? Maybe the tight head shot of a webcam will prompt a serious re-examination of strictly face language instead of body language. A new business crops up of web notaries that will witness and certify verbal contracts completed via Skype. All chat, journalism, blogging, becomes aural or visual. All poetry, short stories and novels become spoken word recordings. The death of the written word - as Sanskrit became increasingly divorced from a verbal component, the new "Visaural" language would evolve without a written component.

I know it sounds far-fetched, but could we at least start with proper names? I think we need to evolve to the point where we can respect the language of the place that spawned the name of the place. Would it really be that difficult for us to pronounce Rome as Roma or Paris as "Pa-ree"? Couldn't we say Espana for Spain or Deutschland for Germany? It really wouldn't be that hard, because while I honestly don't see a way to avoid history's diverse explosion of languages, I really hate it.


lovehate: Mornings on the Road

Sitting in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Centre in Richmond Hill, Ontario for four days of conference and training, I awoke at 4am and could not get back to sleep even after listening to a full CD's worth of 80's progressive rock and begrudgingly watching some Olympic coverage because my only other choice was an infomercial about an exercise machine that doesn't look nearly as fun as some of the well-toned automatons seem to indicate.

Normally, at such events, I'm loathe to be startled by a wake-up call that rattles through my skull like the demented cross between the bells of St. Mary's and a Nine Inch Nails B-side. On this morning at least, I was not subjected to such an ordeal.

Being lucky enough to have found employment in a career that affords me a long summer vacation (and being a nighthawk by nature) I usually find myself, by the second week of July, waking no earlier than the crack of noon and often getting to sleep after dawn's break. While this morning, as I occasionally glance up past the horizon that is the top of the monitor at the early-risers in their caffeine-induced wanderlust, I am content to live with novelty of having become conscious at a time where, for the past six weeks, I had often remained up to see. In the summer I'm wont to ask friends, "you mean there's a 10am?"

Morning is just wrong in so many ways.

I drift around in a semi-conscious haze and am annoyed by people that are way too happy and energetic for their own good. I would much rather see the stragglers from an all-night run at a club come staggering through the lobby - at least they look how I feel. They've done their best to try and make me comfortable in the Hilton lobby. They've provided me with a complimentary PC to bang away my thoughts (although using IE6 again is a painful experience). They've gone through great pains to create this crazy open feng shui environment that runs an unbroken stretch incorporating the front desk, TV lounge, internet stations, bar, coffee shop and restaurant. But for the restaurant it kind of looks like an upscale Barnes & Noble. I feel so damn cosmopolitan I might just throw up. If I see one more light fixture that looks like it belongs at the MOMA or one piece of smoked glass I may just need a bucket.

If you awake early in the mornings while travelling, it can never be a good thing. It usually means you have stuff you HAVE to do (and nobody wants to HAVE to do anything), or you evidently didn't try hard enough to have fun the night before.

And as the TV in the lounge shows sports highlights and the overhead cascade of piped-in music plays Aerosmith's "Dream On" (and oh, I so wish I could have dreamed on from 4-8am) , and a Peewee baseball team from Whoknowswheresville tramps in to kill time in front of the TV until they're allowed to check in (it's 7:30 am!), and I frame my vision with a print of a elephant with the title "Kenya" behind the coffee stand barrista, and the lamp beside my monitor screams to be reunited with its Ikea brethren, and most people are dressed WAY better than I am with my "I'm what Willis was talkin' 'bout" tee, I take some solace in looking at the gentleman two PCs over, who, by his body language, seems to get it.