Last week’s column about the Los Angeles Dodgers taking a dip in the Arizona Diamondbacks swimming pool after beating the local team to win their division elicited some backlash from a reader who thought I should be dealing with weightier subjects.
“With everything going on today, this is what you choose to complain about?” asked a reader with “lauraaz” as a screen name. “Frankly, I think you need to pull your head out of the sand and take a look around. Unemployment, a bad economy, mass shootings, useless Republican politicians trying to shut down the government…. Taking a dip in a pool hardly matters.”
Well, I have written about unemployment and the bad economy. But my attentive reader also needs to know that this is the local news section. If I talk about issues beyond the East Valley my task here is to give them a localized focus. (I also find examples of useless politicians of both major parties, thank you very much.)
National issues? I’ll leave all that to the New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters and the Associated Press. Besides, here in Localnewstown, U.S.A., the opportunities for real journalism are of a far more enticing quality.
One thing I’ve learned is that what some people regard as ephemeral, others find to be riveting major issues of the day. Once, years ago, and I am not making this up, the Tribune’s Vent column went for weeks — weeks! — on tangents that began with one Venter’s question: “Toilet paper: One ply or two?”
And so, my topic last week wasn’t, “Should Ballplayers be Better Behaved?” (as if many of them ever will) but rather about the messages adult behavior transmit to children who look to us — parents, teachers, community leaders, and yes, even celebrities and athletes — for guidance by our examples far more than our lectures.
Which brings me to another subject some will find equally lightweight: smartphones. You see, my mind has changed about them, and not because I wanted it to, and the release of the iPhone5c and 5s during the past several days provides a good opportunity to talk about it.
A few days’ shy of a year ago — Sept. 30, 2012 — this space was devoted to the topic, “Can you outsmart a smartphone?”, in which I talked about all the ways I could find out information quite easily without paying almost twice as much as I was paying for my old garden-variety, no-email, no-Internet phone.
Since then, the iPhone5 came out, and about that time, out of nowhere, the charger port on my old LG became bent, making me unable to insert the plug and charge it. So, with only about a day and a half of cell power left, I was forced to go to the phone store.
They had all the new 5’s, with their bigger screens and such. But I was fortunate to find a sympathetic young man who worked there. When I told him I was being dragged kicking and screaming by my old phone’s bent port into smartphone-land and I was not looking forward to paying $200 for the privilege, he replied with a few good questions:
Do I plan to watch lots of video? Do I plan to download a lot of music? Do I care whether a phone talks to me or not?
That was easy. The answers were, in order, no, no and no. He pulled out a box with the words “iPhone4” on it and told me it would do me just fine. The 4 didn’t talk, as it came out before the “birth” of Siri, and it downloads a song in about two or three minutes instead of the 30 seconds the 5 takes. And, yes, the screen is three inches, not four, but what I learned about that is that the screens on the new ones are bigger, yes, but the type isn’t, so you get to squint at more text is all.
And so, at least I saved the $200, because the 4 — not being the phone people will camp outside the Apple store for any longer — was free with my two-year contract. That money will go toward the higher monthly bill, which I’m getting used to, because I’m learning that something a dear friend told me a year ago, “You’ll love the convenience,” turned out to be completely true.
And when I use it for business could result in a very likely tax deduction. This is important because, as much as I admired Steve Jobs, I don’t regard his product or its competitors something you just have to be able to wave around in front of your friends or be uncool.
Still, I’m a smartphone guy now. See? Look! Yeah, I know.
Read Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here on Sundays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.