Got the world on a screen

Nice iPhone, sucker.

Nice iPhone, sucker.

I didn’t exhibit any withdrawal symptoms when, a few weeks back, I went without a cell phone for nearly a week. This was no brave feat, but polls show that people are absolutely stupid about phones so, if anything, I was a touch proud of my breakout.

And then I went and forked over for an iPhone.

Did you know the California state Legislature cut a deal with the telecommunications industry so that they can tax the full retail price of an iPhone (upward of $600), and not the advertised, or what they call “subsidized,” cost (between $99-$199)? Is this a bait-and-switch or just business as usual? Hell, I didn’t care. I owned an iPhone, buddy.

When I had a normal phone, I was one of those dumbasses who’d constantly grab at it in my pocket for no reason, look for texts even though none had arrived, and imagine hearing it ring even when my phone wasn’t in the same room (what was it doing so far away, all alone?)

But now I have a screen—sophistication, multimodality, pictures of my dog. And for some reason the ringing in my head is gone (yikes!).

On the flip side, I’ve become more sensitive to screens. This perceptiveness actually began earlier in the month, when a colleague remarked about the omnipresence of screens in our lives—physical, tangible screens that facilitate what French philosopher Jean Baudrillard called the “satellization of the real,” or simulation of everyday reality on monitors, displays, televisions, etc.

(Hey, Baudrillard’s not too high-brow for these pages; he inspired Larry and Andy Wachowski to write The Matrix. That flick was lame, and those bros went on to film two dumb-as-hell Matrix sequels. Maybe when reality is no longer a mental projection—when you live the world disproportionately via screen and not your innate senses—you start making terrible decisions. Like remaking Speed Racer.)

Anyway, this is my problem: The iPhone has me acting like a moron.

For instance, I’ll watch anything on a screen nowadays, whereas I used to discriminate, if not skip things like TV altogether. I took in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay—and actually liked it.

This had me worried that screens were impacting my better judgment. But then I caught the Oakland Raiders game, which was agonizing, like watching someone pop an infected zit on your own butt, so I knew I was OK. For now.

But in the end, life prevails as the most entertaining, frustrating screen of all. Consider: I finally finish building my new bike and take it for a spin. On 20th Street, a silver Scion heads my way and the driver, who spots me through his “screen,” or windshield, suddenly pops his head out the window. “Nice bike, queer,” he snarls. The three other dudes in the car snicker.

Maybe screens aren’t so bad after all?