Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Armageddon ain't just a movie with Ben Affleck

My father said to me the other day that he'd like to have a blog, but doesn't have the time.

Forget the time part. I mean, he's retired. I have a full-time job and I write a blog. I mean, he has time to read plenty of blogs - more than me, as my comments on week-old posts probably attest. But still, he keeps busy with such hardships as traveling with Mom. He's been retired for 13 years, and I'm pretty sure each year, I get a little more jealous. He retired at 58, with a son in college. I'm 31 and I'm thinking I'll be lucky to live long enough to retire.

But that wasn't really the astounding part, as far as I was concerned. The astounding part was that he was serious.

Not that I was astounded that he was serious. He's serious about a lot of things. Even though he's mellowed in retirement.

I was astounded that he really wants a blog. See, in those retirement years, my father has become something of a technophile. Both my parents, really.

Keep in mind, we were the last family of any of my friends to have a color TV. And I remember when my father stopped using the Commodore 64 and bought a Smith-Corona word processor because it was simpler to use than all that confounded technology, and he missed his typewriter to boot.

But that was before the Internet.

When Dad was a college professor, before he retired at 58, with a son in college and a house paid off (sense the inherent jealousy yet?), he taught a class that had something to do with research methods and bibliography. (I didn't take it; I didn't go to Bloom U., so pardon if I'm a little vague on the details.) And he likes to read. I'm talking about one of the most well-read people I know, and I'm surrounded by journalists.

So the Internet is right up his alley, including the various political blogs.

See, my parents are kind of strange, politically - they are pretty liberal in their stances, but pretty conservative in their lives, meaning you wouldn't know they're bleeding hearts by looking at them. Well, Mom, maybe. But not Dad. He looks like a college professor. I mean, how you'd expect one to look. He's even got one of those jackets with the patches on the elbows. And he was a scary professor, by reputation. The toughest grader in the English Department. I'm talking about the standard by which all other tough graders were measured (I'm not lying - one of my friends at Bloom called another professor the female version of Dad when lamenting her grading system).

And although they're somewhat politically active, it's not like they've ever been very public about it - the one time Mom helped somebody's campaign, someone egged their car and their little lawn sign got stolen. (Yeah, they live in a red part of a blue state, so being Democrats usually means backing the losers in the local elections.) It had to have been the supporters of the opposing candidate, though I don't think anyone ever got caught. I offered to egg the candidate's house or make damning statements to the local paper's anonymous call-in line. I've lived in Jersey too long. I believe in escalation.

Keep in mind, they still get occasionally befuddled by technology, such as DVD players and cell phones, but not nearly as much as they used to.

That all said, there sits my father in the restaurant on his 39th (!) anniversary, asking me about blogs and advertising and whether or not they really do make money and turn up in Google searches.

This is the man who called me at work almost every day after he got his first Mac, trying to get something to work.

This is the man who spent years wondering why his defective cell phone wouldn't ring, and still hasn't set up his voice mail, because only one person has the number. (Me.)

This is also the man who got an XM Radio and cheerfully pointed out I don't have one. Some things, I'm going to have to get used to.

Including my father's determined effort to win the family technology war.

That's partly my fault. I went to college (before he retired) and he bought me a computer after hearing how I was spending my wee hours of the morning in the computer clusters because that's the only time I could get in to write my papers.

I'm pretty sure freeing up my wee hours of the morning for beer and girls (well, girl) wasn't what he had in mind, but my grades did get better. At least, that first semester.

So at the end of the semester, me and my 4.0 (the one and only) moved home for winter break, since I was moving into a new place for the spring.

And he got a look at the Mac and laser printer he bought me - the one that was going to be the only printer I ever owned - and to his, and Apple's, credit, lasted about a decade - which rivals that first color TV, so Dad may be a little late to the races, but he knows how to pick 'em - and (what a hell of a sentence this turned into) he got a case of techno-envy.

It wasn't long before he had a Mac of his own - and a better one than mine.

And thus, the race began. Well, it really began when I got a new computer as a graduating senior. Now I had a better one than him. This was fine for a while, until I bought another one - well, Mom bought it for me, and I got a heckuva deal, trading it for my tax refund - she messed up the preliminary calculations, insisted I buy the machine then because she wanted mine, then did my taxes for real and found out I was getting about $200 back, not the $1,200 she was expecting.

So now I had the fastest machine, Mom the second-fastest, and there was Dad, bringing up the rear. Well, that wasn't going to work.

I'm vaguely reminded of Morgan, and all of the times I sat him down as a puppy, looked him in the eyes, and somberly informed him that I was the Alpha Dog, and he was the Beta Dog, and therefore, he must listen and obey. Michelle read in some book that this was how to get puppies to listen to you. It didn't work. Well, maybe it worked - Morgan did always have that sort of Beta Dog look about him, but he didn't stop peeing on the rug. Until he got to Mom and Dad, and either Dad showed him who the REAL Alpha Dog was, or walking him six times a day worked.

But as for the computers, well, Dad wasn't going to run third in his own household, so he bought the biggest, best machine on the market at the time.

(Bear in mind, he word-processes, writes e-mail and surfs the Web. He bought the kind of computer newspapers use to put out the paper, and at the time, probably the kind of thing programmers program on.)

Eventually, I got a new machine. And Mom did, too. Now Dad's in third again. That's going to last until fall, I suspect, when he buys one of those new Intel-based Macs. Because the importance of being able to run Windows on a Mac means to him... absolutely nothing.

But he'll once again be the techno-leader of the house.

I think this whole arms race just brings out the playful side of my father - the side I never saw before he retired, and the side I seldom see even now. This is a man who got an XM Radio and then rubbed it in that I don't have one - never mind that I don't really want one. (I have an iPod, and he doesn't... na-na-na-na-buncakes!) This is a man who got a cell phone because I got one, and because he got a kick out of walking down New York's streets on a cell phone like everybody else.

This is the man who, when I started signing my e-mails home "Love, me" after being told that I didn't have to sign them "Eric," since my parents have only one son, and his name is on the e-mail header, started signing his return e-mails "Love, ME."

I might point out, he doesn't want a blog because I have one - he doesn't read this one, which means on his list of online writers he follows, I rate somewhere beyond Arianna Huffington, who doesn't even speak English well. (Mom reads it, so at least I'm not a complete failure in the family.)

I want to say he wants a blog because they're trendy. But I'm pretty sure that's not quite true. Dad's not exactly trendy. In 31 years of life, I've never seen him wear shorts, drive a car or even RUN. He is a writer, and gets published regularly in academic and reference-type stuff. But I suspect part of him reads these blogs and finds them interesting, and therefore wants the challenge of creating an interesting one himself. I'm talking about a serious blog, like the political ones (but not on politics), not an online-journal type of blog like this. (Not to knock online journals in front of my eight readers, and you know who you are, and I love you for reading. But different people read different things. He reads the Huffington report online and the New York Times in print. Y'all know what I read.)

But in the end, the bottom line is, sitting there in the restaurant trying to explain how my Dad's future blog could get into Google searches (keeping in mind, I'm only on page 3 if you search for my name), and discussing things like counter statistics (which I barely understand), I found myself thinking, we're definitely one step closer to Armageddon. Dad, the last guy in town to buy a color TV and use an IBM typewriter, is thinking of writing a blog - he even knows Blogger by name. I'll bet he'll do it, too, eventually. And I hope the four guys on horses ride down a street where I can watch the parade from my window.

I wonder if he'll put me in his blogroll. After I tell him what a blogroll is.

The Huffington Post, to elevate the intellectual level of this blog
• Insert your favorite politics/think-tank blog here

And yes, I realize that one of the things that would gall my father the most about bringing about the End of Days in our lifetime is that this would mean he'd inadvertantly proved George W. Bush's religious dogma correct. But even if Dad blogs, I think we're still a Podcast away from trying to remember the Fourth Horseman ("Death, War, Famine and ... um ... Ringo?").

p.s. Yes, Dad, if by some chance you're reading this one, I know it's Pestilence.

1 Comment:

Stewie said...

I don't know your dad, but I know he has great taste in books.