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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Digital Age involves more work

By David Shapiro

I was at a movie suffering through the pre-show countdown of repeating ads, bad music, stupid trivia, corny jokes and racing soda bottles.

I craved a sugar rush and wondered if I had time to hit the snack bar. I couldn't remember the film's exact start time.

A person with any common sense would have gone to look at the start time posted at the theater door and then proceeded to the refreshment stand if time allowed.

But this is the Digital Age, and I'm way too tech savvy for that. Why expend my own energy when electronic gadgets can do my work?

I smugly pulled out my cellular phone, dialed my wireless Internet service and visited a popular search engine to find out when my movie began.

Alas, the screen on my phone is barely larger than a postage stamp, not exactly optimum for Web browsing.

It took about 47 screen changes to get to the information I wanted, each separated by scrolling messages that said "... sending ... receiving ... waiting ..." Mostly waiting.

I barely noticed that the theater had become dark and the coming attractions were playing.

When I got to the schedules for the theater where I sat, the little screen froze. No start times appeared, but I did catch the phone number for the movie house and dialed it up from my seat. A recorded voice told me the movie started at 2:20, just as the clock on my phone flashed 2:34. I looked up and saw the film was well under way and I had missed the opening credits.

It drives me crazy when I can't remember the names of actors whose faces I recognize, and several of them stared at me from the screen.

I started to dial back into the Internet to find out who they were, but by then I had used up half of my monthly cellular minutes and my battery alarm was beeping to the annoyance of my neighbors.

I put the phone away, rationalizing that technology had delivered me enough information to justify my wisdom in subscribing to this service for $29.95 a month.

I try to stay on top of things digital to keep up with the younger generation, particularly my 7-year-old grandson Corwin, who already owns his own personal computer, two gaming systems that attach to the TV and two handhelds he uses to carry games around with him.

But a funny thing is starting to happen with Corwin. He's suddenly more interested in going outside to ride his bicycle around and kick around a ball. For Christmas, he wants an 'ukulele and lessons.

"Computers are boring," he pronounced when I asked him about it.

His game of choice these days is a fantasy card game called "Magic: The Gathering." He collects game cards like I used to collect baseball cards.

The game seems like a new-age takeoff on trumps, but the complex rules and strategies he's mastered take it closer to chess in intricacy. I seldom last five minutes before he whips me.

That may have something to do with Corwin's preparation of the decks, which always seemed stacked against me. His hand is full of attacking creatures named "Zephyr Falcon" and "Vulshok Berserker," while I'm stuck with a bunch of defenseless trees.

But it's OK. He's cute and has his uses — like running to the snack bar in the middle of a movie to get his grandfather a box of Sour Gummi Bears.

David Shapiro can be reached at dave@volcanicash.net.