“Computers are useless. They only provide answers.” - Pablo Picasso
"Master/slave is a model of communication where one device or process has unidirectional control over one or more other devices. In some systems a master is elected from a group of eligible devices, with the other devices acting in the role of slaves." (Microsoft Knowledgebase)
“Hard Drives & Murder”
Electronic scales in his head sounds like the keys of a Korg shifting modes and settings. The banquet was there and he was supposed to be a willing guest.
But you’ve got to or no one will READ you, you’ve got to join in, log in, dial up and join so people can READ you.
But I can write as I’ve always done.
So every day after work Joelbird turns on the machine and writes. He pops the hood, presses the keyboard and spills his guts. At the end of every session, the computer says: “Thank you. Don’t forget to save your work!”
Which he does. Several times.
He even calls Rita from his job to make sure the document he saved the night before is still there.
One day the computer stops saving his work. Rita tells him it’s because he doesn't say “Your welcome” at the end of every session when the computer says “Thank you.”
She encourages Joelbird to stroke the keys and be gentle.
So he does.
Then one night after nonchalantly disposing of his hard worked prose, he jumps up and spits at the machine. He tries to kill it when it turns on him, devouring his stories instead of saving them. “You tryin’ to jook me eye out??” Fed up, he goes out and buys a hammer to smash the computer with, then – surprise! – the document he wrote reappears on the desktop.
Relieved, amazed, he bows and kisses the floor, knocks on wood, puts up pictures of Jesus again and resumes his masterpiece. “You’re crazy,” Rita says.
The next night Joelbird completes the second chapter – his best work ever and…the cursor freezes. “Cravages!” he shouts.
The MASTER-SLAVE blinks and the computer shuts off.
Joelbird is devastated. “You’re doing this to me on purpose, I gave you my paycheck, my wife’s birthday money, my insurance, what more do you want from me?”
White Man’s Magic, White Man’s Magic, he cries and slumps to the floor, writhing, tossing, turning, his guts in violent apprehension.
“I never should have given up my hands…the pen, at least the pen…!”
He smashes the keyboard. Then he calms down and peers hard into the computer screen.
“Silly,” Rita said. “That’s not the computer, that’s just the screen. You gotta go into the tower.”
Yes! Yes! Now it all made sense to him.
He called Sonny, Rita’s brother. Sonny was a computer wizard. “You need a hardware man. I’m a software man.”
They’re worse than auto-mechanics and speak an even stranger language.
Punch and plug, punch and plug, punch and plug.
The computer techies tell him that his document can’t be retrieved because it never existed. Translation: it never happened.
Joelbird held up his bloody hands as proof.
Drives home. Sharks.
He goes into the garage and dismembers the computer. He buries it in the backyard.
A week later, the story he lost turns up on another writer’s screen.
The writer gests published, receives an award, leaves his family and lives on a yacht. He says “It’s amazing, as if it was by osmosis that I was able to do this. The computer just gave it to me. Told me what to do, what to write. It was a gift from god!”
Joel writes a letter to God. It’s returned with a sticker: “Please email. Can’t read your handwriting.”
The unfinished masterpiece continues to haunt him. Eventually, he loses his job to a computerized train conductor and when he gets home the PALE-MOON-FACE smiles and blinks on a screen in his living room.
“Oh I couldn’t leave it out there, it seemed so lonely,” Rita said.
Jeena kicked me out and now I’ve got to spend my night roaming and searching for a human being in this pixilated jungle. Told me she couldn’t make love without her laptop. Fucking thing freaks me out, I told her.
The first time she came she told me she had recorded it on some microscopic camera that looked like a skin popper’s rejected spoon – it was silver and sloped and bent like a weary cobra. It was mounted on her computer. And she never took the damn thing down. In bed, I tried my best but I always felt I had to perform. And she would chide me for not showing more skin to the camera and for wanting her all to myself. She had made it clear – I could have the privilege of spreading her legs as long as the laptop had the privilege of recording them. Jeena was to be shared. I told her it was my first time with a computer, that I’d never been in a ménage-a-trois with an electronic device. She called me a prude.
I really don’t know why I got involved with Jeena. Or why I tried to get involved with her. Jeena was clearly involved in some other region of the mind. I disliked holding her hands – her fingers were always hot and calloused from working on the computer – but her heart had some softness in it every now and then…and well, it was still better than being alone. But I was getting anxious in bed. She always seem pre-occupied, obsessed with the eye of the laptop. I could kiss her only on the sides of her face and could never mount her for fear of blocking her view of the computer and its camera. “Baptiste” she named it. And wherever she went, Baptiste focused. I hadn’t known Jeena that long, but I suppose that’s what you get for hooking up with strange women online. But Jeena would certainly not consider herself strange. No, I was the strange one – I did not own a computer, didn’t have a blackberry, didn’t have a credit card, and did not have a Facebook account. When we met, I owned a black neon car – but she would never ride in it with me. “Who would see me with my blackberry?” she asked. She said everything had to be on foot and if we were in a cab – at least the driver could look in his rear-view mirror and see her with her blackberry. I was afraid to ask what her blackberry’s name was.
I never knew what Jeena saw in me. She was the type of girl who would have hated me in college. If I had gone to college. She thought I was cute in a shaggy dog sort of way and she would make a man out of me, she said, but that she should have known something was wrong with me when she saw “that cheap-ass phone” I carry, in case of emergencies. She was embarrassed when we were in public and I’d use my pre-paid phone to call a car-service. I should have known then that the relationship was doomed but it had been such a long time before her and…a man gets lonely spending his days thinking aloud to himself…sometimes its nice to hear the sound of your own voice clash with someone else’s.
Tonight was different, however. Tonight, I saw Jeena as she really is. They say technology brings out your true personality. The same way alcohol speaks sober thoughts. Seeing her earlier it was as if I had looked at the portrait of Dorian Gray.
She had been anxious all evening to show me her new purchase. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew I wouldn’t like it – for every time she pressed her blackberry to check the time I felt we were entering a lower defcon number. It was incredible how that tiny device controlled the boundaries of our existence together. She worshipped clocks, always had to be precise and have everything planned out. It was her birthday, so I was to meet her in the lobby of her building at 8:00PM, we’d walk two blocks to the train station, depending on where we went – we would spend an hour at the bar and fifteen minutes exactly “loitering” (she considered talking to be loitering) and we’d have to be back at her place by 10:00 -- earlier if she planned for us to have sex, and by midnight every day on the dot she’d spend time with Baptiste.
For Valentine’s Day, I gave her a pocket watch. It was a 1930’s art nouveau-type of pocket watch. Very classy, a lost glamour shimmered from its edges and I thought it might be the perfect gift for someone who deserved to be considered sophisticated. She hated it. She said if it didn’t have a warranty what was the point. What was even more disturbing is that she asked me what it was when she first saw it. She had never seen an analog watch, but even more shocking – she could not read it! No, numbers were her specialty and she was a true devotee of the decimal point. Riding in the taxi back to her apartment, I began to think about what we were losing as a couple, as souls consumed with time. To Jeena, there was nothing lost – she was determined to be a winner. And winners don’t lose. Not when her God was a mathematician.
I told her my apprehension about clock-watching and monitoring our dates like a military drill. She told me without clocks there would be no order. I told her without clocks there would have been no capitalism. She said “Capitalists created the watch, stupid. So they could keep track of all the money they could make.”
We got back to her place and the beast was unleashed. She pulled out a large golden shopping bag. At first, I thought she might have bought me an outfit – she was always complaining I didn’t look “bummy” enough and once even made additional holes in my jeans so I would look “cooler.” However, when I saw the rectangular object she removed from the bag, I became a lot calmer. I thought maybe she had bought me a laptop. She said if I didn’t carry a blackberry, I should at least have a computer so she could contact me at any time of the day. I told her she could call me and she said “You are sooo old-school. No one calls anybody anymore.”
She unzipped the computer bag and revealed the most hideous object I have ever seen.
What may have just appeared to be a Macbook to the untrained eye, was a shiny garish laptop smothered in 12,000 diamond-like studs. It gave me a headache just looking at the damn thing.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
“…What is it?”
“It’s a Macbook Air. Golden Age.”
“…What is all that stuff?”
“That stuff ain’t a what. It’s 12,000 Swarovksi crystals!”
Gaudy, graceless, twinkling like disco ball. I got up closer to have a better look. I still couldn’t believe it. “BLING MY THING” was engraved on the cover.
“Where did you get this from?”
“Isn’t it amazing?”
“It’s putrid. It looks like an MTV video exploded onto your computer…”
“Show’s how much you know. It cost $40,000.00.”
“Forty-!? Who gave it to you?”
“Gave it? What the fuck I look like to you? I don’t need no one to give me nothing. Them days are over, baby. I gave it to myself. For my birthday.”
“You spent…forty thousand…Where did you get all that money from?”
“My savings, my 401K, my --"
“Do you know what you could do with $40,000.00? Especially in this economy? All the people you could help…”
“Oh, please – I donate online, I give enough money to the children in Mumbai --"
“Forget about India! What about the people right here?”
“What about them?”
“You have neighbors who’ve lost their jobs, lost their homes – don’t you think that you could have helped them?”
“Help them?? Do I look like someone’s mother to you? I ain’t giving no handout to these lazy ass people!”
“I can’t allow this. There’s no way I can allow this. You should be ashamed of yourself. Return it at once!”
“Can’t return this. It came all the way from the British. And I got a dozen people already waiting to see this baby! This is better than having a Louis Vuitton! I’m naming him Nathaniel.”
I said “It’s him or me.”
It wasn’t hard for her to make a decision. Computer addicts never have a problem telling you to back off at the stroke of midnight. The quick burst of adrenaline they get when using a digital device makes them feel omnipotent. Brains have been…rewired.
I went to shower, when I got out there was an SMS message on my phone:
“Leave or I will text the police.”
“Visigoth!” I muttered and stepped out into the rain.
The streets were hysterical, but desolate, from the torrential rain – it seems no one will go out anymore when the showers roll down. Not until they create special umbrellas to protect their electronic gear. The entire city is one large battery afraid of short-circuiting or becoming electrocuted. I welcomed the rain – God’s spit falling down on us in an attempt to baptize our digitally-funk-infested-minds. Lightning struck and thunder rolled like a pair of tom-toms signaling the end. I dove under a doorway with a deep façade and parapet above my head. I was drenched now. I looked at my pocket watch and all I could see was Jeena’s beady eyes. It was just a little after twelve. My own internal clock was breaking down into seconds…I felt like a deck of card shuffled out of order. I had been made into a commodity for Jeena. I was just another one of her computers.
There are days when we all feel like Joelbird, anxious to take a final stab at the peculiar blinking box hidden inside a matrix of wire and chips beneath the stern metallic sheen hoping to find that angry bleeding heart pumping away all the megabytes and passwords and commands and pin numbers swirling into the every day sun.
Any way you look at it – Darth Vader has won.
The Dr. Frankensteins have taken the private and made it public.
‘To prostitute’ is derived from two Latin words: pro (the preposition) and statuere (the verb). It means ‘to expose’, ‘to place up front’.
We’ve all become prostitutes. A fitting resolution, I suppose, for a society obsessed with “pimps” and “ho’s.” Along with the clock, perhaps the purest symbols of capitalism.
We go to the bathroom in public and it makes me sick. As I made my way through the rain-drenched streets, I could detect cellular conversations muffled in the vestibules of apartment buildings, brownstones, or even from apartment windows above. Sometimes I’d overhear the most atrocious dialogue or sentiments being spouted.
Once when Jeena and I were arguing, this wretched fool outside her apartment shouted “Loose lips sink ships!”
At first I thought he was referring to us being too loud but when I rushed to look out the window, I saw him screaming into a cell phone. He was having an argument with someone through his cell phone. He was foaming at the mouth and could put my own rage to my shame. “Well, you shouldn’t have been there in the first place!” he cried. “You tell that heifer she could keep the boots and the shoes. I got ‘em at El Mundo’s anyway. Don’t mean shit to me!”
By this time everyone on our block was peering through the window to see this man spew venom at the unseen party.
On his cell phone.
It would have been more comforting if we could have seen or at least heard the other party because the oddity of the scene was more appropriate for a traveling circus and, indeed, the cuckold soon became a sidewalk attraction. And an overnight sensation on You, Too (Can Be a Star!).
“But who cares, right? She called me up, I’m a tell this bitch what I think of her now!”
The man was completely oblivious to everything and everyone around him. Unlike Joelbird, he did not crack up and direct his anger at this little device which destroyed his reverie – no, he insisted on giving in to the device which gave in to the demands of the other caller. The man was in convulsions, stopping, going, shouting, screaming, spitting and spewing and then, the perfunctory: “Huh?? Can you hear me now? HUH?? Can you hear – I can’t hear you. Speak up!”
Peeping Tom-Babble culture. This is what I fought to be a part of. This is what I couldn’t wait to join? Fifteen years behind bars and white walls and funny rooms. And this is what I get?
I searched for an Internet café and eventually found one lodged in between a tiny side street and an all-night parking lot. I entered and since it didn’t look like a place where I might catch a disease – I paid for a terminal and logged on. I didn’t have any messages, but I could see that an old friend of mine was online trying to organize some people for what I assumed would be a demonstration against the armed forces. He wrote: “Defense Secretary Robert Gates requests the government to spend less money on obsolete technological warfare and ‘get up to date’ on our killing machines.”
I thought it was chilling. I typed back:
What exactly does this mean?
ONLINEACTIVIST: He wants military weapons to be ‘more attuned to today's unconventional wars.’ He wants to kill more practically and efficiently.
NOMADJUNKIE: Thank for sending this out. What’s the next step?
ONLINEACTIVIST: What do you mean?
NOMADJUNKIE: Well, what can we do about this?
ONLINEACTIVIST: Oh, nothing. I just wanted to let everyone know about it.
I was beginning to suspect that everyone had fallen prey to some kind of cultural AIDS. I was running out of time. I decided then and there that the clock is definitely against people like me and that I would always be a loser.
I emailed my brother, Kim. I begged him to let me sleep on his couch. He typed that his girlfriend wouldn’t allow it, but he knew “tons of friends” that would help me out. He had 2,700 friends on Facebook. He was trying to hit the 3,000 mark by Friday. He was an aspiring rap star. Or actor. Or some kind of entertainer who was trying to become a celebrity.
I hadn’t seen Kim in nearly a decade. Last time I saw him he was trading his beeper in for his first cell phone. He went into his bedroom one evening and never came back out. He was the male version of Jeena. He had a barcode tattooed on his neck.
“And you’re proud of this?” I asked.
“Proud? Pride’s got nothin’ to do with it, biggie. I mean you can’t control the clouds, right? Things are as they are. You gotta go with the flow. They owned you once, they can own you again, right? They can sell you any time they want. Might as well cut to the chase and tell ‘em my price, know what I mean?”
I did. In some fucked up way this nut-hatch made sense. I really felt as if I were losing my hand. There was no way I would make it out of this card game alive.
He drove us out of the downtown area all the while talking on his cell phone. “Alright, yeah…Uh-huh…Yeah. Yeah! Alright. Alright, yeah.”
He never said a word to me, his phone glued to his ear. He apologized: “Sorry, big, just trying to make moves.”
We stopped at McDonald’s. The golden arches were so bright they illuminated the midnight-hour sky with gleaming French Fry sparkle and a bright cape that would have made the fairies of Neverland jealous. In the neck of the cement forest it was as if we had come upon a bald spot, a rendezvous point for people who had no time to eat. It was so bright I had to put on my sunglasses. “What are we doing here?” I asked.
“You hungry, right?” He squinted back, still on the phone. “I thought we could break bread and talk – Nah, nah, nah, not you, Holmes. I’m talking to my big brother. Yeah, that one. Naw, he’s good. You know. Doing the do. Holmes says hi.”
I scowled back at Kim. “I haven’t seen you in ten years, I need help, and you want to take me to McDonalds?”
“Why? You a vegetarian? They got fish here now. It’s all good. Besides, we’ll be done in under ten minutes.”
It was hopeless. The Pod People had won.
He was annoyed that I didn’t eat faster (You eat like an old person he said) and when I reminded him about his Facebook connections he said no one had gotten back to him. Out of 2,700 friends – not one person had gotten back to him. What is the point of having a virtual friend if they can not help you in the brick and mortar world?
As odd as it may sound, it was then that I began to miss being back on the inside. It was easier to communicate and I felt more human locked up than I did as a free man.
It was useless to argue, to agitate. I said goodbye and got out of the car. Still on his phone, he babbled, and nodded to me. I could not be sure, but I thought I saw a blinking light and a button pushed in on his bottom lip. He drove off and from that moment on, we were forever SPAM to each other…
“You can’t control the clouds.” That haunted me during my entire journey along the river, heading north. I wanted to get back on to the main strip – Broadway, anywhere central – where I might find an all night diner or bar.
I walked up to a toll-booth that divided the East side and West side and realized I did not have exact change. The toll would only except $3.25 in exact change. I searched for a booth operator. There was none to be found. Just a huge face and an outrageous hand that ejected a sinister greeting and an even more ominous “Thank You” when the fare was inserted into the cage. Above the cage in tiny blinking lights was an ad: Twitter your toll booth buddies!
Those kids who were Nintendo freaks in the ‘90’s – remember them? Well they have truly inherited the earth. It's gotten so bad we have traded our eyes for ears. Last year, a churchwoman talking on her cell phone while driving, accidentally killed a man in the street. It was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.
One drink was all I wanted. But then one became two, two became four. By 2:30 the bartender was shouting last call. My mind was buried in the swamp of mistakes, my tenuous relationships, and my disdain of the Pod People who I was convinced were quickly taking over.
The slave trade provided the capital for industrial growth and technological advancement – especially for Britain and the United States. I was at a party once and was very drunk and I was talking to a guy next to me about art, music, politics. Inevitably, this moved into history. I should have known better because the only other colored person was my date and she had left with someone else earlier in the night. And its extremely dangerous for a black man to get drunk with a bunch of white people he does not know. Well, we’re knocking off a bottle of Jack Daniels and this white boy is showing me how quickly he can burn a CD on his new laptop (this is when they first came out). He was a bit miffed that I wasn’t amazed. I told him I was never impressed with technology and he quipped: “Well, you should. If it wasn’t for the industrial revolution we’d still have slave labor. You should be thankful.”
On my way home from the bar, I saw a man try to fend off a single woman’s attacker. They wrestled, the man fell to the ground, a tiny black object fell to the ground and split in two. The attacker lunged back at the woman, who kneed him and smashed him over the head with her purse. I ran to help her. The attacker bolted when he saw me approaching... as our hero got caught up in trying to piece his blackberry back together again.
4:00AM, Times Square. I bought a Metrocard with my last remaining two dollars. I planned to take the train out to Coney Island where I would drown myself. I used my debit card to purchase my fare. I swipe the card to go through the turnstile, it doesn’t work. The turnstile commands me to swipe again. I do this three times, then realize I fell for the MTA’s biggest con. I go up to the clerk. She tells me I already used the fare. I tell her the card didn’t register, it wouldn’t let me through. She says “Of course it won’t let you through, you got no money on it.” I tell her I just bought the damn thing. I show her my receipt. “Okay, so?” she says.
“So, let me through. I paid the fare, but my card doesn’t work.”
“You swiped it, right?”
“It didn’t register. It wouldn’t let me through!”
“Sir, the machines don’t lie,” she said.
I understand how people don’t believe in God. But I can’t comprehend how they don’t believe in the devil. He’s everywhere.
Copyright 2002-2012 Writings of the Nomad Junkie. All rights reserved by Dennis Leroy Kangalee.