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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, February 05, 2007

Down Under

(Welcome Stubbornfacts readers!)

Mobile/cell phone use is so ubiquitous in the Western world, and many areas besides, that I'd bet you a fair amount of us couldn't LIVE without our handy Handy (as Germans call it).

In fact, a study conducted recently confirms my suspicions, by claiming that overall, 45% of us responded no, are you crazy, we couldn't live without our mobiles!, 'ssamatter you.

(It depends where you are from though, with an astounding 87% of Saudi Arabians polled saying cell phones are vital to their existences, whereas 65% of Romanians thought the same, and a mere 52% of Canadians agreed. Must be the mooseburgers and the snow)



I know for sure that I'm addicted to having my cell phone around, at any moment, though I blame my parents for that -- unlike many people who got cellphones a mere decade ago, since they're physicians, they've been "connected" whether by cellphone or bleeper, going on over 30 years now.

Having a dinner where some technological gadget DIDN'T go off, was the rarity, not the norm in my family, and we won't even speak of nighttime...

Still, I mean, just ten years ago, people could actually go through a date or dinner without needing to have that life-affirming apparatus in their pockets or purses. But now?

"The idea of being out of touch, even just for a 90-minute movie, is enough to induce anxiety" says Lisa Merlo, a psychologist at the University of Florida.

Even on mount Kilimanjaro, you can text message now, (presumably "Made it, didnt die of hypothermia, I luv u!!"), which of course is the best by-product of cell phone usage.

Not for nothing are Blackberries known as "crackberries" for their addictive natures.

But NOTHING prepared me for this story, of people pondering what to take with them, to the afterlife, a choice I thought had more or less gone out of fashion after Cleopatra got it on her asp.

As fellow blogger Patricio Lopez wrote, in a recent study 1 in 5 Britons want to have a mobile inside their coffins, when they die...

...just like the Vikings of old who were cremated with their horns, swords and shields inside a ship-pyre.

Oh my God, people, seriously?

Not just their cell phones, though, you'll be happy to know. Amongst the various tschoki designated for co-burial, are:

1. Wedding ring/other jewelry (39%)
2. Photographs of loved ones (24%)
3. Mobile phones (17%)
4. Favourite clothing or shoes (7%)
5. Teddy bear(3%)
6. Other (10%)

Photographs, clothes, and jewelry, I can relate to. And if your childhood teddy survived after 70 odd years, it should be ready for the rubbish heap, never mind a pine coffin.

But mobile phones are just too macabre for words.

Who the heck are you going to call?

I mean air time minutes are already a bitch, without adding roaming charges from heaven, or Purgatory (presumably your phone will have disintegrated in Hell if you were too naughty a person).

And speaking of disintegration...

Why do I think that this fad, if indeed it is that, would resonate most with people who are all New-Agey, with their crystals, their energy bracelets and Julia "Butterfly" Hill causes?

Fear not!

If you're concerned that your cellphone will contribute to the ozone layer depletion, or the ice caps melting, or baby seals being cudgeled to death, by its very unbiodegradability, scientists are way ahead of you.
Britain's Warwick University, [have] developed a partly biodegradable mobile phone implanted with sunflower seeds.

The idea is that when the phone's no longer wanted, it can be buried in the garden, where it will slowly decompose — and bloom.

Wow, just wow.

We might have to alter the funeral rites.

Dust to dust
Ashes to ashes
Nokia to Nokia...


Two stories do come to mind, about this topic, though:

Remember the Heaven's Gate cult, whose members all died with their cell phones, passports, and pristine Nike sneakers near them, since they thought they would need this after hopping a ride on the Hale-Bopp comet?



Please. It gave new meaning to fellow ET-phrase, "phone home".

And of course, there were several famous people who decided to be buried with ropes, or pulleys, or something inside their coffins, which they could then notify others in case they had somehow been buried alive.

Edgar Allen Poe, Hans Christian Andersen, and if memory serves, Charles Darwin all suffered from perhaps this ultimate phobia.

Maybe I'm being too harsh, though. It's not just yesteryear that we had these concerns.

"Voice From The Grave is Ireland's Latest Fad," headlined a report from Dublin in The Independent. [...] Others, he said, "may be terrified they'll wake up in the coffin, so they take along a mobile to ring for help to get them out."

Now, the land of the leprechaun and the pixie-dust might be considered a bit fey to begin with, but it sounds a reasonable enough excuse, I suppose.

But this, I draw the line on.

A cellphone-shaped GRAVE (and is that a solar panel on the phone, I see?? Christ on a bike).



Yes.

This is mausoleum kitsch even King Tut would have been embarrassed about.

What makes this new-fangled, post-modern phenomenon even more cringe-worthy, is that you know, YOU JUST KNOW, that people today won't just stop with their freaking cellphones, inside or outside their coffins.

Oh, no.

So, one day, when you're reading about the latest fad to hit the mortuaries, remember, you saw it here first.



Bank on it.

Labels: , ,

19 Comments:

  • My problem (as a college math professor) is that people take their cell phones into class. It really disrupts the class, especially during a test. I've considered putting on the syllabus a line like, "All cell phones that ring in class will be crushed," or "All cell phones that ring during tests will be hit with a rather large mallet," or some such statement.

    It's really irritating.

    By Blogger Eli Blake, at Mon Feb 05, 02:08:00 am GMT-5  

  • My problem (as a college math professor)

    Oh, cool, I didn't know that Eli.

    Of course, you always seemed very left-brained. ;)

    is that people take their cell phones into class. It really disrupts the class, especially during a test.

    Guilty, Yer Honour.

    In fact, way before mobiles were common in Britain, I had one, and I'll never forget the expression of "ooh, get 'er" on the faces of my classmates and don, when it rang during a tutorial.

    Of course, they had this expression anyway about it, but I mean, it was MORE pronounced. :)

    I've considered putting on the syllabus a line like, "All cell phones that ring in class will be crushed," or "All cell phones that ring during tests will be hit with a rather large mallet," or some such statement.

    I like it!

    My syllabi were usually boring, and white bread, but this is the kind of syllabus you never forget.

    It's really irritating.

    Yeah, I know, there's no excuse really, for not being able to mute it during a performance, or in a cinema, etc.

    (My mother hasn't a clue how to do so, so of course, she's one of those annoying people in a movie theatre, which has to be told, "Who do you think you are, turn that thing off, you dimwit!" when it rings. Trust me, I've told her how to do, and still she doesn't know how to)

    But your sentiments about cellphones going off, Eli, reminds me of Richard Llewellyn's breaking of the fourth wall during the play, "The History Boys".

    He would stop, midstream, even during a touching scene, go to the footlights, and ask the person whose mobile was ringing, to leave.

    Invariably, the person was escorted out by security, to a different kind of ringing.

    That of audience applause. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 05, 02:36:00 am GMT-5  

  • You could institute automatic grade-docking for offenses.

    By Blogger JSU, at Mon Feb 05, 03:01:00 am GMT-5  

  • 1.) the possibility of a good Stephen King-esque (or Lovecraftian!) story arising from a call from the grave is a good one!

    2.) there is a clandestine way to turn on a phone such that the listener doesn't hear that it is on, thus acting as a "spy device" on them! Let's not think of the horror story in reverse there! Brrrr...

    3.) Why not have your headstone be a weatherized flat panel monitor? You get your life story displayed there via a motion sensor,like a... big YouTube clip!

    4.) Hell is not other people, just ALL roaming minutes!

    5.) If you can't be out of touch for 90 minutes...something is truly wrong.

    6.) I have never owned a cell phone.


    YAY Colts!

    By Blogger Ron, at Mon Feb 05, 03:05:00 am GMT-5  

  • You could institute automatic grade-docking for offenses.

    Oh, sure, gang up on the poor rich kids, whydontcha.

    I mean, don't you people understand that your shiatsu therapist cancelling your appointment is something which SIMPLY cannot wait?

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 05, 03:12:00 am GMT-5  

  • 1.) the possibility of a good Stephen King-esque (or Lovecraftian!) story arising from a call from the grave is a good one!

    Or...thinking on me feet here, maybe the cell phone can turn on you inside the grave, like a T-Mobile version of Christine.

    2.) there is a clandestine way to turn on a phone such that the listener doesn't hear that it is on, thus acting as a "spy device" on them! Let's not think of the horror story in reverse there! Brrrr...

    Well, yeah, but when you're being kidnapped, that's a blessing.

    BTW, I have my GPS emergency thingie activated on my phone, just in case.

    Who cares if the government can track my whereabouts to within a city block?

    You think I'm ashamed of shopping at Target?

    3.) Why not have your headstone be a weatherized flat panel monitor? You get your life story displayed there via a motion sensor,like a... big YouTube clip!

    Uh, okay.

    4.) Hell is not other people, just ALL roaming minutes!

    Ooh, Orwell's Room 101 suddenly doesn't seem all that scary.

    5.) If you can't be out of touch for 90 minutes...something is truly wrong.

    Or you're a doctor...

    6.) I have never owned a cell phone.

    Heathen.

    YAY Colts!

    Yay!! America's NFL Crown Prince just got crowned.

    And speaking of royalty, yay Prince!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 05, 03:16:00 am GMT-5  

  • I can see why cellphones are more essential in the 3rd world than in Canada. When I lived in Chile ('93-'95), it cost $450 or so to get a land line hooked up to one's house. The phone company didn't pay for that infrastructure; the customer did. Considering the low rate of home ownership and the fact that the average income was only about $500/month, cellphones were a far better choice for phone communication.

    I still remember the first time I saw someone talking while driving -- on his bicycle!

    (Word verification: igger, as in the "The wonderful thing about 'iggirs is 'iggirs are wonderful things...")

    By Anonymous Class factotum, at Mon Feb 05, 08:25:00 am GMT-5  

  • oooh, what about the guy who's buried alive with his cell, but when he goes to use to escape, he's told he's roaming, and can't complete his call?

    The irony!

    By Blogger Ron, at Mon Feb 05, 08:28:00 am GMT-5  

  • I seem to remember that thereare some places where video-on-demand is already available on headstones. You press the button and the dead talk about themselves or whatever. I could see this becoming an iPod selling feature.

    I draw the line, however, at webcams inside the casket allowing visitors to see the change as it happens over time.

    (Your new Neo-counter feature is neat, BTW! First one I've seen that correctly identified where I am. I am suitably impressed.)

    By Blogger Internet Ronin, at Mon Feb 05, 11:39:00 am GMT-5  

  • I can see why cellphones are more essential in the 3rd world than in Canada.

    Oh! Awesome point there, Class Factotum. What a great "addition" you are to Sundries, with this perspective.

    (Sorry about making you sound like sheetrock :)

    When I lived in Chile ('93-'95), it cost $450 or so to get a land line hooked up to one's house.

    Wow, although that's almost dirt cheap compared to Brazil, Argentin and Peru.

    In Brazil, it was $2000 on the dot.

    And the wait list is about 2 years to get a land line, because one actually BUYS the telephone number, as you know (but for the benefit of those who don't, I explain a wee bit).

    Jeez, it's like frikkin' Soviet Russia, where you waited 5 years for a fridge.

    That's why one of the most sold items in Brazil is not a car, or in newspapers, the section everyone goes to is not the Wanted Job ads.

    It's the telephone number being sold privately, from citizen to citizen.

    There are many other countries who do this, including a lot of Europe -- although even Belgacom have privatised themselves...at last.

    The phone company didn't pay for that infrastructure; the customer did.

    Right!

    Considering the low rate of home ownership and the fact that the average income was only about $500/month, cellphones were a far better choice for phone communication.

    That is also the case in the favelas of Brazil. The pay-as-you-go cellphone plan allows people who have no teeth, can't read or write, and work as maids, to own cellphones.

    It's wonderful. My parents think it's one of the most important social advances in South America, since at least the 70s.

    I still remember the first time I saw someone talking while driving -- on his bicycle!

    Heh!

    (Word verification: igger, as in the "The wonderful thing about 'iggirs is 'iggirs are wonderful things...")

    I was going to write something like "iggir please", but even for my standards...

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 05, 01:23:00 pm GMT-5  

  • oooh, what about the guy who's buried alive with his cell, but when he goes to use to escape, he's told he's roaming, and can't complete his call?

    The irony!


    Hmmm. Will there be special plans for the undead, as it were?

    "Grave Roaming"

    Brave New World, people.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 05, 01:25:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I seem to remember that thereare some places where video-on-demand is already available on headstones.

    Wow, can you get a link maybe?

    You press the button and the dead talk about themselves or whatever. I could see this becoming an iPod selling feature.

    I just had the naughtiest thought about such a podcast or vblog...from someone you and I both know...

    I'm bad.

    I draw the line, however, at webcams inside the casket allowing visitors to see the change as it happens over time.

    Oh my Lord. :(

    (Internet Ronin, I did kinda think of your situation when I posted this, and I hope that you were not affected in any way. Believe me, I am very sensitive about that usually. I even postponed this travellogue blogpost about graves, for a little while longer)

    (Your new Neo-counter feature is neat, BTW! First one I've seen that correctly identified where I am. I am suitably impressed.)

    Nice!

    Frankly, I think it makes the blog look fussy (-ier)...and that's not elegant, as you know I like.

    But I just love looking at all the people's locations, being such a cosmopolitan person.

    However, it costs 19.99 p/a, after the two-week trial period ends.

    I like the feature, but is it worth it? You (all) decide.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 05, 01:29:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Jeez, it's like frikkin' Soviet Russia, where you waited 5 years for a fridge.

    Yes! I was at a conference the other day and two of the other attendees were from Habitat for Humanity. They, naturally, started talking about the awful poverty in the US and how materialistic Americans are.

    The reason Americans are materialistic is because we can be. Or, better said, we are no more materialistic than anyone else in the world, it's just that we can gratify those impulses. We don't have to wait five years for a fridge! We're not in a third-world country!

    And we're not poor! We do not have true poverty here. If I had a dime for every time I have tried to explain true poverty to someone who has never left this country, I would have enough to buy a lot of diet Coke. People just don't get it.

    By Anonymous Class factotum, at Mon Feb 05, 03:01:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Wow, can you get a link maybe?

    Not offhand. IIRC, it was something I read in a magazine years ago.

    I'm bad.

    Yes, you are! And you should be ashamed for even thinking of that. As should I, who also thought of it ;-)

    BTW, please don't give a second thought to such things as this story just because of my situation.

    About the only thing that disturbs me is focusing on my own behavior (things I did or didn't do) while taking care of my dad in his final weeks. As a friend (who is a psychiatrist) has pointed out, that is not particularly useful. (That has not stopped from doing it, however.)

    Far better to keep in mind the larger picture: he was home when my mom arrived back home from the hospital. His entire family was there. He passed away quietly without pain while asleep. Hard to imagine a better ending when thinking about it that way.

    We're celebrating his life in a couple of weeks. All of the folks in the Model A & Early Ford V-8 clubs will drive their cars to the celebration. He would really get a kick out of seeing all the cars surrounding the house.

    I like the feature, but is it worth it? You (all) decide.

    If YOU like it, then it is worth it. Maybe you should wait until just before the free ride ends to see if you still notice it.

    By Blogger Internet Ronin, at Mon Feb 05, 04:13:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Yes! I was at a conference the other day and two of the other attendees were from Habitat for Humanity.

    *cough*

    Maybe you can ask your H4H buddies if they concur. ;)

    They, naturally, started talking about the awful poverty in the US and how materialistic Americans are.

    Oh yeah, this place is a dump. How can anyone live here?

    I was reading today a Portuguese lady's blog called Gatochy, where she quoted an interview given by a Portuguese scientist, Claudia Pinto Correia:

    "Interviewer: You've seen what scientific investigation is like both in the States and in Portugal. Can you tell us how they differ?"

    "Clara Pinto Correia: Portugal has top notch investigators, it has lots of scientists who have just finished taking their degrees abroad, only they can get no financing for their quality projects in Portugal. I have never seen such a staleness in this country. There are people, especially among the young, who want to come over here and no one cares about them.

    At this point, whenever I want to do some serious investigative work I spend a few weeks in the USA, where I can get more work done in three weeks than I would here in a whole semester. The USA are a highly efficient and well organized country so that everything runs smoothly, whilst Portugal is a completely dysfunctional country, where everything seems to be organized in such a way as to make people feel totally exhausted and reach the end of the day without having achieved any of what they wanted to do.

    In the States I can get access to all the data I want and to all the interesting people whom I need to speak to."


    She goes on to add that she's moving back to her homeland because, (a) she misses it (b) in the US you lose your identity, because we're "massified" here.

    Fine, I'd rather these types of critiques, which do have a grain of truth in them, than those which are completely nonsensical like your H4H conventioneers, Class Factotum.

    The reason Americans are materialistic is because we can be.

    And guess what? It's FUN to be. That's the big dilemma -- before you worked like a pig, and got NO rewards to show for it, or very very little compared to others.

    But here in the States, you can treat yourselves to things which only the very rich can attain in other countries.

    Aquisitiveness IS a form of democracy, because it levels everyone's dreams, and this kills them.

    Or, better said, we are no more materialistic than anyone else in the world, it's just that we can gratify those impulses.

    And get stuff on credit! You try that in Bangkok at the scale we're used to.

    We don't have to wait five years for a fridge! We're not in a third-world country!

    We don't even wait for a custom-made fridge for 5 years, wtf! ;)

    And we're not poor! We do not have true poverty here.

    Not the kind as seen even in Romania, e.g.

    Sure, people can go to bed here badly clothed, badly fed, and badly housed, but a solution to get out of their bothers, is not that difficult to find.

    America is living proof that life is mind over matter and circumstance.

    If I had a dime for every time I have tried to explain true poverty to someone who has never left this country, I would have enough to buy a lot of diet Coke. People just don't get it.

    They won't, because they have an agenda or blinders on.

    Let them take that journey on their own, C-F, don't get bogged down by their arguments which you know first hand, are rubbish.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Feb 06, 12:40:00 am GMT-5  

  • Not offhand. IIRC, it was something I read in a magazine years ago.

    I'll look for it, fear not. :)

    Yes, you are! And you should be ashamed for even thinking of that. As should I, who also thought of it ;-)

    Yes, I feel guilty already. NOT.

    BTW, please don't give a second thought to such things as this story just because of my situation.

    About the only thing that disturbs me is focusing on my own behavior (things I did or didn't do) while taking care of my dad in his final weeks. As a friend (who is a psychiatrist) has pointed out, that is not particularly useful. (That has not stopped from doing it, however.)


    Oh darling, I feel so helpless in my replies to you about this. Suffice it to say that I can find it in me, to empathise...

    Far better to keep in mind the larger picture: he was home when my mom arrived back home from the hospital. His entire family was there. He passed away quietly without pain while asleep. Hard to imagine a better ending when thinking about it that way.

    That's how I'd like to go...

    We're celebrating his life in a couple of weeks. All of the folks in the Model A & Early Ford V-8 clubs will drive their cars to the celebration. He would really get a kick out of seeing all the cars surrounding the house.

    WOW! I hope you blog about that. Should you, I will certainly link to it. :)

    If YOU like it, then it is worth it. Maybe you should wait until just before the free ride ends to see if you still notice it.

    Good idea, IR.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Feb 06, 12:44:00 am GMT-5  

  • Victoria:

    I bet they did give you 'the look.'

    I've actually had a student (an older student who was returning to school after 30 years) who was very smart and conscientious but had a real struggle with 'math phobia' come to me in tears complaining that she had studied harder than she ever had before a midterm and was actually focused and getting it and then completely lost it when someone's cell phone went off (and her test seemed to suggest that was the case-- the first two or three problems done very well and detailed, then drivel after that). Of course we had a rule that no one could take the midterm more than once (and once you bend such a rule then it has to be done for everyone-- which among other problems was a physical impossibility given the volume of work I had to do for all the students). So I told her she was stuck with her grade, and she ended up dropping the class. I've always felt badly about that, which is one reason I've talked to students about cell phones before we start tests.

    I've thought about a point deduction but I hesitate to take points away for anything other than actual math mistakes.

    Ron:

    I have never owned a cell phone.

    I used to think that way too (especially since so many traffic accidents are caused by people who don't pay attention because they are on the cell phone, or worse dialing the cell phone, and who don't have both hands on the wheel.) But I became sold on the need for a cell phone one very hot day when we spent several hours sitting on the side of the road in New Mexico. So now we have one and it's actually quite useful. But I still leave it at home when I go to work.

    There is actually a type of cellphone blocking technology (developed by the Israeli army) that some churches use in Mexico. Cell phones just 'mysteriously' don't work there. It is, however, illegal in the United States. But maybe that needs to be changed-- I could see the value of having it in schools, churches and a few other places-- and it would end outside the building so it wouldn't interfere with what went on outside.

    By Blogger Eli Blake, at Thu Feb 08, 02:24:00 am GMT-5  

  • Oh yes, Eli, I got 'the look' many many times.

    Of course, I always found it ironic that all it needs to not get looks, is for something to become popular.

    Then people don't feel as if you're putting on airs, or they feel less jealous about it. :)

    I've actually had a student (an older student who was returning to school after 30 years) who was very smart and conscientious but had a real struggle with 'math phobia' come to me in tears complaining that she had studied harder than she ever had before a midterm and was actually focused and getting it and then completely lost it when someone's cell phone went off (and her test seemed to suggest that was the case-- the first two or three problems done very well and detailed, then drivel after that). Of course we had a rule that no one could take the midterm more than once (and once you bend such a rule then it has to be done for everyone-- which among other problems was a physical impossibility given the volume of work I had to do for all the students). So I told her she was stuck with her grade, and she ended up dropping the class. I've always felt badly about that, which is one reason I've talked to students about cell phones before we start tests.

    Good stuff. You sound like an excellent prof, who puts his cards on the table, beforehand.

    Professors sometimes take a dislike to one, and all of a sudden, something you say or do crosses their line -- not because of any strongly-held ideal about it, but because they know they can "get you" using their criteria.

    That happened to a guy in my Med School class, with one lady prof. Oh, I felt so bad for him, and we all knew the real reason why he got bad reports...

    I've thought about a point deduction but I hesitate to take points away for anything other than actual math mistakes.

    Quite so.

    There is actually a type of cellphone blocking technology (developed by the Israeli army) that some churches use in Mexico. Cell phones just 'mysteriously' don't work there. It is, however, illegal in the United States. But maybe that needs to be changed-- I could see the value of having it in schools, churches and a few other places-- and it would end outside the building so it wouldn't interfere with what went on outside.

    I just feel very uncomfortable with government intrusion of that nature (perhaps the tiniest bit of a Libertarian that dwells inside me, because I normally cannot stand them).

    Interestingly, in one of those Sharper Image/Brookstone shops, there is a device which turns off the ubiquitous television sets you find everywhere.

    And another one, which lowers the reclining seats on airplanes (!), which you can then use when someone is crushing your legs.

    Both are passive-aggressive means of circumventing irritating situations.

    But at least it's not the government doing it...

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Feb 08, 01:47:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I could see your point about the schools, but the churches that use it in Mexico do so on their own nickel. All the government does is say it's legal.

    By Blogger Eli Blake, at Wed Feb 14, 02:22:00 am GMT-5  

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