I dreamed I was playing what I thought was a video game but which turned out to be a real-life intercontinental remote control, piloting a super-fast speedboat as it coursed down a river in Europe, while watching on my living-room TV. The object was to beat the clock and to avoid obstacles, especially canoes and kayaks. For the most part, my “game” was going well, as my speedboat only occasionally veered too close to the unpowered craft, swamping them and spilling their passengers into the drink.
The remote system was preposterous: a Playstation 2 controller for steering, which I had to operate entirely with my left hand; and a sphygmomanometer bulb for my right hand, to control speed. The turning point of the game came between rounds, when I set the controller down for a moment and accidently pressed a button that selected an alternate subject vehicle without changing the video feed. When I resumed play, I was still watching my speedboat on the Danube but actually driving an 18-wheeler on the New Jersey Turnpike. Without understanding what had happened, I grew desperate at the controls, looking on in panicked impotence as my river-skimming meteor careened into clusters of kayaks and canoes, launching them skyward in cartwheeling comets of cedar, fiberglass, aluminum, paddles, and people.
God knows what havoc I wreaked on the New Jersey Turnpike.
I’m in a state of the art movie theater. The screen is three stories high. The patrons sit in swivel chairs, like Captain Kirk’s, on several broad tiers, each rising above the one in front. Confusingly for me, every chair has a little screen mounted on its right arm, for watching the movie or (presumably) something else.
Also, why should it be a swivel chair? Does it mean that I’m supposed to face a different direction?
I pivot about 120⁰ to the left, away from the big screen, until I am facing the aisle and the door in the left rear corner. Now I can see if my friends are coming. While I wait for them, I can also watch the movie on the little arm-mounted screen.
Julie Schumacher’s The Shakespeare Requirement is a spot-on spoof of academia and its many indignities and absurdities. I most enjoyed Schumacher’s passing but poignant satire of the gratuitous, labor-multiplying technology that has come to dominate professors’ lives. At Payne University, where the book is set, one vexation of this sort is the finicky P-Cal scheduling system, which never seems to work for the protagonist, Jason Fitger, who is chair of the English Department. At one point, when Fitger is trying to track down his nemesis, Econ chair Roland Gladwell, the latter’s secretary, rather than simply telling Fitger where Gladwell is, refers him to P-Cal. As is usually the case, Fitger’s only recourse is sarcasm:
“Here we are…two human beings, inches apart, and yet what you’re telling me is that I need to go back downstairs to my own office, to my computer – except that I don’t have a working computer – and spend thirty minutes searching for a website that will allow me to send a message that you could simply write down with a pencil on a piece of paper, right there on your desk. Do you find that strange?” (p. 64)
Of course, it’s not strange, or rather, it’s not unusual, and our only recourse, like Fitger’s, is sarcasm, or satire, of which this book is a fine primer.
Reading Norwegian Wood by the fountain on Fearnway,
I heard the beautiful church bells strike two;
Still, I pulled out my phone to check the time.
What an asshole.