Correct turnout for iSight and matter
We live in such technologically advanced times, do we not? I hear you’ve
been having job interviews by video-conference (which frankly sounds like
trying to buy your wife via the internet and probably has a similar chance
of long term happiness). I too, in my small way, have been experimenting.
I have purchased something called an iSight and declare it the Wonder
of the Age.
Of course, I, like any reasonably educated human being, loathe with every
fibre of my being, this bizzarre affectation of fiddling with the natural
order of capitalisation in the titles of computer devices ExCel, iPods,
WordPerfect etc., but, in the case of this particular appliance I’m
prepared to forgive messrs Apple. The iSight is a WebCam that actually
works. There is a human voice and a picture, moving, at a reasonable frame
rate. I’m awed.
I immediately hooked the thing up with my brother in Sydney and spent
a pleasant hour in conversation. It was lovely to see him with his adorable
family leaping around in the background in their jammies. And therein
hangs the double-edged curse of technology.
George Eliot bemoaned the benefits of the technological advances of her
age in this aside from Adam Bede (1857):
“Ingenious philosophers tell you, perhaps, that the great
work of the steam engine is to create leisure for mankind. Do not believe
them; it only creates a vacuum for eager thought to rush in. Even idleness
is eager now – eager for amusement, prone to excursion trains,
art-museums, periodical literature, and exciting novels; prone even
to scientific theorising and cursory peeps through microscopes.”
I now have an array of splendid friends lurking in a corner of my screen
every time I sit down to work. Now, every time these people flash, or
bleep or whatever God forsaken thing they do, I’m on bloody stage.
There is no space for artifice. When you and I began to write to each
other we loved crafting mannered, spectularly artificial personae for
our mutual amusement. We worked with devilish glee at monumental structures
of parody and great looming arcs of fatuous fictional bollocks.
No we have brutal visual truth.
When I used to work in TV we were given a special manual containing all
the procedures to be followed in the event of war, disaster or the death
of a member of the Royal Family. In cases of total nuclear oblivion there
were a couple of secret locations outside of the metropolis, buried deep
in hardened bunkers, where the last epilogue could be read to the last
few piles of radioactive dust. It was heartening to be reassured that
each studio contained a locked wardrobe with a dinner jacket, shirt and
black tie and a sober dark frock.
There’s a certain sense of appropriateness in that which I feel
we should replicate if we are going to do this whole video bollocks
“Lady Agatha has pinged you, Sir. Will you receive her at the
“I shall, Jeeves, and right readily. She requires our attendance
at Bisham Parva in re geese, a cow creamer and several nephews”.
“I shall lay out your brocade telecommunicating jacket and the
velvet smoking cap, Sir”.
“Splendid, Jeeves. A spot of the cup that cheers and my yellowest
gloves would also not go askance”.
“I shall arrange them directly, Sir”.
Amidst the ludicrous technology that infests my study I will now be forced
to maintain a small wardrobe for video conferencing featuring jackets,
made-up dickies of the sort used by corpses and an array of expressive
On an entirely different note, diligent research has revealed that Bruce
Robinson wrote ‘Withnail and I’ on the very street where I
now reside; though he has been very cagey about the exact house where
he forged those deathless lines on his battered Olivetti. There’s
a blue plaque for Dylan Thomas a hundred yards up the street and Beryl
Bainbridge lives round the corner but it’s the spirit of Withnail
coursing through me as I pound this thin nonsense into my device.
Must go. I fear there may be matter in the sink.