Thursday, May 13, 2010

my wife has an i-pad, which means that all these i.t. guys that i know often ask me if she's had any problems lately that they could possibly help her out with, could i please tell her they are dying to take a look at it and solve whatever issues might have come up. in fact it's behaving quite well, unlike this little dell mini that has already lost some little foot on its mouse. but i'm actually afraid of the ipad, since i can never figure out how to turn it off or change its modes, and it's so rubbery that i'm afraid i'll use it as a frisbee, just to see if the screen can turn itself around that fast. i'm also afraid i'll break it, so i tend to avoid it, but i've noticed that part of its lure is its apps store and one of the free, or cheap, apps involved this goldfish that is kind of like a digital pet; you feed it, you give it attention, put gravel in its aquarium, etc. and then this is a kind of relaxing way to kill a few minutes, or maybe hours, i suppose.

so this virtual fish kind of draws a person away from a very political academic situation, and becomes like a real fish: the bubbles glide up toward the surface and mesmerize you, getting you to put yet more attention into a little square computer box that is rather like a fishtank anyway, the way its screen tilts like water depending on which direction is up. now meanwhile it's gotten hot or rather humid outside, and this increases the pressure and forces you to put on the air-con even if you are just driving around town, because just windows-open is not enough to deal with such situations. and i've got a little poison oak, a bad sign but one i should have seen coming when i went out back to clear a little brush for a little pine tree that's coming up out of nowhere. the weather, the end of the term, the lack of swimming pool, and the poison oak have all combined to leave me an itchy bundle of nerves but this somehow does not get alleviated by a virtual fish; somehow the fish seems to make it worse, like google news, or the information-stealing on facebook. i was playing fiddle the other night and all the horse-hairs on my bow suddenly started falling out until they were all gone and i had to simply stop playing. glad it didn't happen at a gig, but nevertheless i was a little miffed to have all these musicians hanging around, with guitars, and me, mute from lack of horsehair.

so it's graduation season, one-year anniversary of the derecho, and that particular storm reminded me that what they call "graduation" is in fact a string of about eight or nine separate ones; the storm wiped out maybe the first one or two, then quite a few of them got moved to the stadium, then finally they got a generator organized and had the last couple of them in an indoor ballroom, especially since everyone was now nervous because of all the fallen trees, lack of power, roads closed, etc. so this incredibly humid weather and all the graduation stuff- guests in town, pomp and circumstance, etc., is all very stressful, and one night i was walking on campus to find a pack of four or five boys in a car methodically running over all the standing "state law" signs that warn you to give pedestrians and bicyclists the right of way. these guys were very drunk; this clearly wasn't the first time they'd done it either; they were pretty good at it. it reminded me, a little, of that other carbondale- the hard drinking, washed out, not-gonna-make-it-to=-raduation carbondale. drinking problems come their final conclusion. it's a small-town thing.

many years back, my daughter wanted me to go to her graduation, and i packed young boys and a tent into a car and drove up to iowa to go to it. we camped, but the sky opened up and totally drenched us, and we had to find shelter which fortunately wasn't impossible. at her party her mother accused her of slouching across the stage and i was reminded that i slouch almost all the time, wherever i go, due to some problem i was born with, that just makes standing up straight slightly painful. somewhere deep inside me i know there's a solution to this problem; yet, i haven't found it yet and am still basically wondering about it. i have two graduations in the coming week, one college (univ. of kansas) and one high school (carbondale) and i'm wondering if my sons got the same problem as i seem to have gotten. when the pool is open, and i'm in as good a shape as i can get, i still have a crooked back and look kind of bent. and that's when i'm feeling good. life continues to be stressful, and of course i'm not swimming at the moment, and walking does absolutely nothing for all the various parts of me that need some breathing. but, as i watch these graduations, i won't care. the point is, they made it as far as they could; they got to where they were going; they're ready for the next step.

the virtual fish likes it when you push on the virtual water, and make virtual bubbles. this in a way, is kind of like the world of academia, protected from reality, yet having its own cause-and-effect, push-and-pull virtual kind of dazzly environment. her i-pad is from her work- yet one more reason for me not to touch it- yet in some ways it doesn't function like your average computer, it's more of a cross between a kindle and an iphone, except of course i have no idea how either of those work, except that with a kindlish reader you can read whole books and turn pages with a whiff of your hand; with an iphone you can sit anywhere and occupy yourself endlessly playing some kinds of games, perhaps texting or whatever; you see it all the time. some of these students may graduate, or they may not, but here they are, trapped in time, as it were, in a virtual fishbowl. i wouldn't bother them of course; i'm invisible anyway, more or less; they look into their little machines, and seem to be absorbed, yet respond to whatever somebody is doing at the other end of them, as if they're getting gravel in their tank. such is the world these days. the weather is a little chancy anyway; it's better, maybe, to build your reality around that virtual stuff, that's not likely to be so messy when the big winds come.

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