Commentary

Comment of the Week

  • by , January 15, 2007

Greetings and Salutations! Welcome to the first in a series of what I hope will be, if nothing else, entertaining sojourns through the glittering world of amateur media criticism. Presumably I have some level of media expertise that assigns my musings a value greater than narcissism and voyeurism, the two real powerhouses behind the Internet revolution, so I’m feeling pretty important. That said, let’s get to it…

I began writing with the intention of discussing Saddam Hussein’s execution - media coverage of it, the ethics of televising someone’s death, and all that. For research purposes, I watched it. I was neither incensed nor elated, not offended or enlightened. It was pretty much what I imagined. I was a little disappointed by the low production values – just a grainy cell phone video – but I suppose it would be harder to claim it was an unauthorized recording if the whole thing had been shot in HD. On a side note, I find it interesting that the Iraqi justice system can be so efficient when they don’t even have a functioning legislature. Political rambling aside, a pretty unpopular guy is no longer around. Moving on.

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I decided, instead, to focus on the real news story of the year thus far: the iPhone. If you haven’t already been bombarded by the onslaught of strategic media coverage, the iPhone is the latest unimaginatively-named product from Apple. It does…pretty much what you think it does, and so much more.

Interjection: there are some things you should know about my media habits before I proceed. I do not own a television. I may watch a grand total of 2-3 hours of TV per week when I’m with friends who are, in fact, real. Lest you think me a troglodyte, I get my entertainment from DVD’s and music. I am a music technologist – recording engineering, composition, and such – with web and journalistic background, so I spend most of the day using a computer in some capacity. Technology is generally my friend. However, I have real issues with gizmos created solely for the purpose of consumption that then feeds further consumption. Maybe I’ve seen “Fight Club” one too many times…

Back to the matter at hand: the iPhone. Ooo…so shiny! And look at all these capabilities! It plays music and videos, checks email, navigates with Google maps, and yes, even makes phone calls. Is it cool? Absolutely. Will I ever purchase one? I think not.

I’m not anti-Apple. I plan to by a MacBook Pro in the near future. However, I have some real problems with the iPhone. My first big issue is the price. Am I the only one who thinks that paying $500 (or $600 for the 8GB model) for a phone is absolutely ludicrous? I remember a happier time when they would throw in the phone to get you to buy the plan. Now they’ve figured out that all they have to do is add a ridiculous number of unneeded features so they can jack up the price and make you buy it separately. My phone was free, and I can call all of the same people as my friends with more expensive phones. Then again, I don’t TXT or PIX or any of that crap, because it’s really just as easy to call and speak to a real, live person.

I suppose part of the justification is that it plays music. I don’t have an iPod, and will probably never get one. I love music; I turn it on as soon as I get up in the morning, as soon as I get back from class, or any other time it’s possible for me to be listening. While I’m sure there are some people out there who use it as a tool, the iPod is a frightening example of the social retardation that seems to be gripping our culture. Oh, the Pod People, they’re terrifying. You’ve seen them everywhere; “I don’t have to meet new people. I have no interest in hearing the birds. I don’t have to listen to you, Mom and Dad, I’ve got my earbuds in. Jam on!” Those earbuds that are so terrible for your hearing that the EU required Apple to limit their maximum volume. Capable in some cases of reaching 120 dB, a typical iPod at 80% volume is safe for only 23 minutes, according to Harvard Researcher Brian Fligor. I actually find it amazing that no one has sued them over this. Then there’s the whole video-on-a-3-inch-screen idea. Sounds cool, and it is for about 2 days. Once the novelty wears off, you realize you could watch the same video at twice the resolution – for free – on your computer.

My other problem is that I just don’t like all-in-one devices. In my experience, the more complicated something gets, the more likely it is to fail. Not only that, but the next time you drop your phone in an amaretto sour – not that such a thing could ever happen to anyone – you’ve also blown up your iPod and a fully-functional computer. I have a phone and Palm Handheld, and I don’t really mind that they are two separate devices. When I go out at night – and I occasionally do, I swear – I ditch the Palm. What kind of nerd would carry this thing around all the time?

Despite the fact that it is completely unnecessary, the iPhone will be a commercial hit, because it’s from Apple, it’s what the people want, and it’s cool. Technology devices are replacing cars and clothes as the status symbol of our time – our new consumerist methadone. I’ll pass, thanks.

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