Sunday, March 05, 2006

Luddite Adventures

I have to have a phone. But if I have to have one, I want one that does not beep, whistle, ullulate, squeek like a cicada or play the opening bars of any piece of popular classical music.

I have the (mis)fortune to live near a string of antique and junk shops. I argue that I needed a real phone. I had a nasty cheapie plastic touchtone that was getting extremely difficult lately. Horrid piece of junk, the buttons would only work one time in three. When you picked up the receiver you had to push the clicker down several times to get the buttons to work. I needed a new one so I looked in the phone store for something I could afford and that would not offend my sensibilities too much.

And those two criteria proved far beyond the capacities of the electonics manufacturers of our times. You should have seen the confused look on the poor young fellow's face when I asked for a rotary dial phone. Bit like the time I scoured Toronto shops for a clock you have to wind up. (Imagine the fun I had trying to explain the notion of 'winding a clock' to some of the semi-literate savages they keep behind counters in posh Bloor street shops.)

"You know," I said to the poor blighter, "like your grandmother used to the olden days..." just then his shirt pocked started playing the opening bars of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro and we both were looking confused.

The poor kid tried to make me get a cell phone. Just think about that for a second. I'll type it again...

He. Tried. To. Make


get a


It's OK, I'm sure he's fine now, after a bit of rest in a darkened room.

I have long thought that today's cell phones were designed by people who grew up wanting to be Captain Kirk. Come on! Don't those things look EXACTLY like a communicator? You can even get one with a speaker so you don't have to hold it up to your ear, but can hold it in front of you like Kirk know it's true. Nokia's even got a line of phones/blackberries that they call "Communicators."

Anyway, the upshot was that once again, I found what I wanted in a junk shop.

(I hate to imagine what are the larger implications of that fact.)

I brought it home today and am very pleased. Now my 1936 Underwood typewriter has something to keep it company. It has been such a long time since I used a rotary dial telephone that I had forgotten how nice it was.

In fact, much nicer than I remembered. When I was a kid, the R.D. phones were the late model plastic ones and the quality of construction of most mechanical devices was sailing downhill on a rocket-powered bobsled.

This phone is metal, weighs around six pounds so I'll know just what to swing when the burglar breaks in to steal all my expensive electronics. The action of the dial has a lovely smooth machined feel to it that you can't find in these terrible times of i-pods and other horrible little tweaking and beeping plastic boxes.

And yes. It works. It has been adapted to have one of those standard phone jack thingies and I just plugged it in. The only problem I have is that after such a long time since I used a rotary dial phone, without realizing it, I have memorized most of the phone numbers I use not from a string of digits but from the pattern of the key pad.

* ~ * ~ *

It's not even that I hate the modern world so much. I use CD's and telephones. I have a blog after all!

I just argue that the aesthetics are all wrong. I don't think I ever wanted to live on the set of a late '60' science fiction show and if they were to give it a moment's thought, neither would anyone else.

I mean, really, which seems more homey to you? Where would you rather wake up tomorrow morning?


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Lenten Penances for Bibliophiles

Fr. _____ and I were discussing appropriate Lenten penitential practices. I thought Fr.'s definition of the kind of book one can legitimately buy during Lent, particularly helpful, ie: the sort of book one would need if one were aware of its existence.

We share a kind of mystical mind about bookbuying. There are books that are simply meant for you, and that are waiting in bookshops for you to come and retrieve them. The small matter of cash exchanging hands is beside the point. Of the little rectangular bits of coloured paper, there will always be more sooner or later, if one only waits long enough. Of that book, there is only the one, since it is (usually) at least 50 years out of print and you may never see it again.

It's a game really. God spends His free evenings placing these books, like easter eggs in the garden, onto the shelves of bookshops for us and watches chuckling indulgently as we blunder about hunting for them.


Fr. Underscore wrote:

What I am doing for Lent is walking briskly to Abelard and back every day, no matter how cold it is while saying the Jesus prayer. That much I have determined I can keep up, I think. What I am not sure about is going to Abelard and not making at least a token purchase.

Hilary wrote:

Not entirely convinced that daily book-shopping is a legitimate Lenten penance for such as we. I suppose taking a daily three mile walk in the freezing cold could qualify though.

Mine is much simpler. Go to Mass every day and do not give up the practise of the Faith or lapse into despair.

Fr. U wrote:

What I'm trying to decide is whether occasionally buying a book (only of course when it is something one has long wanted or needed or would have wanted or needed had one only known about it) might not be justifiable. I find for long nasty walks one should have some kind of temporal goal in mind, as well.


P.S. Maybe it's okay to get a book if one doesn't stop off at Second Cup for a latte?

As I was walking back from getting Ashed this morning, I was re-thinking my criticism of Father Underscore's pentitential plan. It was about -13 C. this morning and the fifteen minutes it takes to get from there back to the comfort of my eremetical stylos, was quite enough for me!

I am sure that God will understand the necessity of stopping off for a latte on the way home.