Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Technology

World of Tomorrow

I would love to travel back in time to the World of Tomorrow exhibit at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park. During this famous fair, the most popular exhibit was the Futurama at the General Motors pavilion. Futurama was a massive, 36,000 square-foot scale model of America in 1960, complete with futuristic homes, urban complexes, bridges, dams, surrounding landscape, and, most important, an advanced highway system which permitted speeds of 100 miles per hour.

If I traveled back in time, I imagine meeting some young boy, maybe from Brooklyn, jauntily wearing a baseball cap to the side, visiting the fair with his parents, dreaming of the amazing future in store for him. He would not know that this world seen in front of him in the model would never come to exist in 1960, or ever. This boy from Brooklyn would have little knowledge of Germany or Japan, or realize, that by next year, our country would be involved in a war. A barbaric war that was completely at odds with the positive, hopeful, advanced futuristic vision shown in the scale model in the GM pavilion.

I would not tell this boy the truth about his future. I would not want to ruin his wonderment. I would not want to tell any visitor to the World of Tomorrow that I am from the future, and I know that this vision of the future is dead on arrival. Inspiration is important, even if it overly idealistic. Who knows where this inspiration would later lead this boy? The space program fizzled out, but how many of us were inspired to be astronauts and see the universe, like Captain Kirk? Or live in a world like The Jetsons? Perhaps if more boys and girls had attended this Futurama exhibit in 1939, and took it seriously enough, this fantasy world would have been created in reality during the next generation.

Am I alone in viewing the internet as a modern marvel, or am I as naive and misguided as the boy at the World’s Fair of 1939? Most of us have started to take the internet for granted, just like we have done with television.

A few years after the World’s Fair, this boy, now a young man, probably bought his first television. Television was once a wonder. Images and voices broadcast into people’s homes! Neighbors would gather together to watch “I Love Lucy.” Now, we all have big screen TVs and hundreds of channels, and most of the content on TV is the same. In a very real way, television was a disappointment. Is the internet already as un-interesting as television? How quickly anything that changes our perception of the world becomes mostly about porn and selling ringtones!

As a writer, blogging a godsend. It is groundbreaking to be able to publish your own material and have others read it, even if you write nonsense, even if you have three readers. Sure, most of us don’t make a penny, but in the past, you had to prove yourself (or know someone) before you could be heard by anyone in the world. Now, that isn’t the case — for better or for worse. I know many of us crave to be known as “real” writers, but that is immaterial to the technological marvel right in front of us. The fact that we argue about who we follow on Twitter, and Integrity badges, and “best” mommyblogger lists, and advertising revenue, and which blogger is writing a book, doesn’t matter in the long run. We will always fight and complain, because it is human nature. The Israelites were kvetching five minutes after seeing God give Moses the Ten Commandments! (Who’s in charge? Why is he boss? Let’s build a golden calf and sell it to the highest bidder?)

We are also in the middle of a historic event as huge as the invention of the printing press. The internet is like an expanding star, growing at a rate faster and farther than any of can imagine, with the potential to break down barriers that have existed for centuries. I wanted to remind myself of that today. The online experience is not just about how we can exploit it to personal gain. It is force bigger than each of individually. It is changing the world, a place where writing, television, radio, journalism, consumerism, and sexting all converge!

Today, I received a blog comment from someone in Germany. I flirted on Twitter with a woman in the UK. I emailed someone in Wisconsin. I IM-ed with Sophia in California. I went on Skype on my iPhone and talked to someone’s computer in Nashville. I read a blog post written by someone living in a small town in Canada, and then I sent her a comment. I read the NY Times. I ordered sneakers online. And this was all in one hour’s time!

That is amazing!

Communication Through the Ages

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I usually work on my desktop in my upstairs office. Sophia works on her laptop in the downstairs living room in front of the TV. How do we communicate from such a distance? The medium keeps changing, but the message stays the same.

2003 —

Sophia (screaming at the top of her lungs, as if she was Alice on the Honeymooners): “Neil, did you throw out the garbage yet?!”

2005 —

Sophia (typing on Yahoo Internet Messenger, interrupting my blog reading): “Neil, did you throw out the garbage yet?!”

2007 —

Sophia (ringing me on Skype, interrupting my blog reading): “Neil, did you throw out the garbage yet?!”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Tis the Season for More Male Insecurity

Sophia’s Favorite New Technology

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I haven’t written too much about it, but I’m pretty nervous about what happens when Sophia returns. Living apart, we were able to live in limbo land. Now that I’m here at her place, it is closer to “make it or break it” time.

Sometimes I wonder if we had kids, whether it would all be easier. We would have some external force keeping us together besides just “love.” Or even if we had some beloved pet that we dote on. The closest we have to a “third party” that we share in is watching “All My Children.”

I’ve written about “All My Children” in the past — about how Sophia turned me onto it. One of our special rituals at home is to take off our clothes, jump into bed together — and watch that day’s AMC on the Tivo.  Of course, as in most things, Sophia controls the remote control.  (editor’s note:  This does not mean sex — we started watching AMC in bed, so it became a tradition.  And the taking off of the clothes is mostly for practical reasons.  Who gets into bed in their dirty clothes?)

Even when we separated, we still spoke every day about the latest dumb plot twist, or just how bad Susan Lucci is as an actress.

While I’m stuck woman-less here in LA, Sophia has a bigger dilemma — how does she keep up with AMC? Her TV has bad reception and she has no access to a VCR.

At first, I tried to describe each episode over the phone, even doing dramatic reenactments of Tad and Dixie.

Tad: Tell me, Dixie, do you kill Doctor Madden?

Dixie: How can you ask me that, Tad? Don’t all the years we were married mean anything to you?

Tad: What about your affair with David Hayward?

Dixie: You drove me into his arms. If only you would have trusted me.

Tad: Blah blah blah (as we see David Hayward standing in the doorway, listening in as every soap opera character always does)

Obviously, my reenactment just wasn’t good enough for Sophia, especially with my New Yawk accent. So, I tried something new to please my demanding wife, much as I used to do in the bedroom a long long time ago. This time, I transferred each episode to my computer then uploaded them to Sophia via the internet. It was a OK idea, but the daily four hour process was not very efficient, and wrecked havoc on my blog reading.

Luckily, modern technology came to the rescue!

Sophia convinced me to get a Hava ($249 online). As they say on their website:

“HAVA is the New Wireless solution for high quality home viewing, multicasting and remote viewing. Watch your TV on a PC anywhere in your house up to 300 feet from your HAVA Box or transmit and watch video anywhere in the world via the internet.”

Basically, you take this small box and plug it it into your TV or Tivo. It then wirelessly sends your TV signal to the internet. The only other thing I had to buy was a faster “G” routers for forty dollars, because my older “B” router couldn’t handle the streaming.

Once it was set-up, Sophia could watch her TV at Redondo Beach on her laptop in Manhattan. All she needed was a password to get access. Even better, she has a virtual “remote control” to do everything she can do here — pause, delete, record, etc.  I can actually sit in Redondo Beach and watch her change the channels from NY!

Sophia must have been so excited playing with the TV because this morning I suddenly saw it jumping by itself from channel to channel, I saw every button on Tivo pressed.  For a second, I forgot about the Hava and thought that a ghost had taken over!

Pretty cool. Does this mean we’re all soon going to be watching “American Idol” in our local Starbucks? Or watching that Yankees game on our TV in Brookyn while in Paris?

After I returned home last night, I called Sophia and was happy to hear that she hadn’t watched “All My Children” yet.  Sophia put on her Hava, then we both took off our clothes, got into our respective beds in different cities, and watched yesterday’s “All My Children” at the exact same time. It was just like being together. Sophia even controlled the remote control.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Dr. Phil’s Son Engaged to Playboy Triplet

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