Rendered Fat Content


Talbot Master: the
'Talbot Shrewsbury book' -Alexander's knights killing elephants with spears (1444-1445)
"I poke out my work on my reliable old paving stone and showcase my eisenglass."

Modern times were predicated upon the ever-wider spread of and growing uncritical belief in serious misconceptions. We daily see clear evidence of this unsettling truth, as things do not quite seem to ever work precisely as anticipated. We discount some shortcomings as close enough for government work, and many, we seem to grow accustomed to and cease caring about. Streakless window cleaner leaves streaks. Seamless transactions demand contortions. Every point of sale interface operates a little differently such that each demands careful scrutiny from the clerk for whom it was supposed to lighten their workload. The crude little cheat sheet taped to the side reminds the customer that they'll need to slide their card in some utterly non-intuitive way, and few can translate the illustration into successful action, leaving the customer feeling like an idiot and the clerk present as if only to confirm each customer's self-assessment. We're adaptive, though, and remarkably forgiving. In pre-modern times the least of these insults would result in someone getting skewered on another's sword or at the very least, produce a heated exchange of discouraging words. But moderns expect inconvenience as the just reward of advanced civilization.

My new computer, gold-plated and light as eisenglass, underperforms my much older machine, which weighs as much as a paving stone and runs much slower, because I can't quite figure out how to properly configure it. Nobody can.
It seems the sum total of every prior near-improvement, with each inevitable shortcoming now having come into prominence. It cannot, for instance, reliable connect to the internet. Mail's now an intermittent, some days working and others not. My blog software apparently does not work on its newer release, neither can my expensive sound mixing equipment, I suspect because I failed to pass a phantom surprise PastWord test. The new machine loves pop quizzes. It asks for me to produce a PastWork at random times and without offering the slightest hint which PastWord it wants. It might as well ask me to name a king and respond, "No, not THAT king," for the prompts make no distinction, each system and application apparently designed to think of itself as the only one. It's polite enough, always remembering to preface each request with an insincere 'please,' but forgets to delineate precisely which component I'm being challenged to please. I consider my new computer to be a perpetual rock fetch machine. "No, not THAT rock …" forever and ever, amen.

My new machine sports an impressive battery life, which only seems right since it can accomplish little else. I praise it for its sleek design, stunning speed, and almost eternal battery life, but it exists primarily for looks because CONfiguring it seems beyond anyone. The tech support people won't respond to my emails anymore. I might have proven myself the perfectly ignorable idiot, for I tend to display my serious misconceptions most prominently when I call. I bring clear evidence, but I'm describing elephants as a mediaeval manuscript artist might have. I've imagined the system I have, or they have. It might well be that nobody understands the elephants with which we wrestle in abject earnest. Perhaps we run on myths, destined to misconstrue, fated to forever insert our credit card upside down and backward for the sake of progress. I'm reasonably confident that those requested PastWords never actually existed.

My life, too, beyond encounters with technology, seems similarly CONfigured. The boundaries I presumed existed apparently never did. Unthinkables large and small bushwhack me all day long. I probably should have anticipated this result, for back when I learned the dark art of project management, I came to understand that the whole damned profession had been constructed upon a foundation slightly less secure than sand. Each successive generation build upon what came before it, serious misconceptions producing ever more serious consequences as they fell out of conscious reconsideration. The presumed bedrock beneath the resulting structure made fools out of almost every certified professional, and those who questioned what prior gods had bequeathed them were shunned and expelled from the profession. The result became an inside joke which every sentient one understood could never work and each practitioner learned they dare not speak of lest they be perceived the fool. We pretended together instead, and approximately every decade or so a fresh-sounding guru would appear to tell how to avoid the prior road to Hell, producing precisely the same result. Forever and ever, amen.

Not only can we not imagine how it will be, we cannot seem to see how anything actually is, so we CONfigure for what we believe. Each successive revolution primarily focused upon entraining folks on what not to see and how to tolerate the difference between what they believe and what they experience, with the well-intended purpose of maintaining some scant sense of competence. I love my new machine. The fact that it can't do much doesn't diminish my ardor. I poke out my work on my reliable old paving stone and showcase my eisenglass.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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