Sunday, July 23, 2006

The picture above was taken during an LDP campaign for by-election in Nakuru town..
Mercenary claims still linger in Kenyan is Narc-kenya a mercenary group???

Modern slavery comes via iPod and cellphone

Thank heavens the World Cup is over. Thierry Henry and Groucho Ronaldinho can now stop pretending to be such bosom buddies in those annoying Nike commercials.

In case you were wondering why, the reason you saw so much of the 15 companies below is that they paid Fifa very good money for the right to hound your television screen at every turn over the past eight weeks: Adidas, Anheuser-Busch, Avaya, Coca-Cola, Continental, Deutsche Telekom, Emirates, Fujifilm, Gillette, Hyundai, MasterCard, McDonald’s, Philips, Toshiba and Yahoo!

It’s not sour grapes either. After all, there is nothing that any of these companies is selling that is a life and death matter – say like oxygen, or basic nourishment.

They are all peddling ideas; the notion that their product or service is better than the other products or ideas on the market. No harm in that, of course, except that besides making us buy loads of stuff we want but don’t really need, advertising has turned watching television into the number one nightmare in the new millennium.

You cannot enjoy any bad TV these days (not even good old World Cup football) without some guy popping up in the corner or streaking across the bottom of your tube, cheerily egging you on to "try this!,'' "eat this,'' "use this,'' "pick me!'' It’s exhausting.

It’s not just television commercials, either. Modern existence is like a life-long diet of deep-fried chicken and French fries (yummy, great smell, but oh so dangerous to your health). So, while globalisation has brought the world closer – we’re all acutely aware of the civilian pain in the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict – it has also exposed its unpretty underbelly.

The Internet gave us unprecedented access to news, yet we’ve never been more inundated with garbage. Suddenly everyone (read anyone with a blog) is the designated town crier. In fact most people now prefer not to know what’s happening. The rich in every world capital have access to hundreds of television and digital radio channels, yet today’s most popular shows are of the voyeuristic kind where individuals compete for the right to be called the most shallow person on earth (The Bachelor; The Bachelorette; Big Brother; Fear Factor; WWE Smack-Down, The Apprentice; and what-not).

In the old days (feel free to imagine the 1970s or early/late 80s), music was stored on shiny black plates called vinyl. Anyone who cared about recorded music bought and kept vinyl. Today? You can only find vinyl in speciality museums, collectors’ homes or discotheques (where DJs scratch them against the stylus to create, well, new music.)

Today’s music comes in only one language – the iPod.

Apple’s digital music player is small enough to fit in most shirt pockets, but so funky it can store more music than was handed down through three generations of a family.

The larger ones hold up to 15,000 songs (or about 1,500 vinyl records) and have batteries that can play non-stop for a full day! So it is not enough that the iPod made vinyl, cassettes and compact discs obsolete. In today’s world, you must carry around all your music with you – apparently music is an essential ingredient of all life’s tasks.

Imagine then, a surgeon entering theatre (with your spouse on the operating table), with the iPod’s distinctly white earphones stuck into her ears and rhythm in her step. You’d be very distressed, no matter how highly recommended she comes. Nothing like a 50 Cent beat to make her harvest the wrong organ. So, the "music while you work'' motto is obviously not welcome in every work place. Correction, music is not welcome in most workplaces.

Who needs all that music on the go anyway? Really, you can only listen to one song at a time; so why 15,000?

But some of us (present company included) now pine for iPods; and Palmtop organisers; and wireless laptop computers; and digital cameras; and Skype on our computers so we can speak for free over the Internet; and cars with DVD players; and cellphones that have digital music players, organisers and cameras. Pray, when did it become fashionable to take pictures with a cellphone? What’s the up side of a phone that sends e-mail, takes pictures, plays music and is waterproof enough that it can go swimming with you? You know what that means of course. You must now have the little gizmo with you all the time. "See, I told you I was busy in the pool; I will talk to you later!" Just exhausting.

But it’s not all that bad though. Where snail-mail envelopes took months to travel from Africa to Europe or North America, all our friends and enemies (sorry, relatives) are a mere e-mail click away. So sometimes you’re in the middle of preparing the most boring report for the next boring board meeting when a friend sends an e-mail asking a mundane question. You gotta answer the question right away, right? Well, imagine seven friends asking you similarly mundane questions over the course of an eight-hour day.

It’s so much better to talk to your friends about football (men) or men (women), than to work a job you’re bored with. No wonder some companies have banned private e-mail.

Of course e-mail also has come with junk-mail, Nigerian scam artists and pornography. If your company doesn’t have a good enough firewall, you’re going to get a lot of inquiries about your penis size (with a view to increasing it), your sexual life (with a view to jazzing it up) and your bank balance (with a view to improving it).

But if you ever answer any of those inquiries, you’ll have started on a slippery road to hell. Penile enlargements are like those World Cup commercials – they are selling you an idea of a life that probably doesn’t exist.

The Nigerian scam artists who ask for your personal banking details after alleging that they fled Lagos or Kinshasa with a briefcase full of cash will definitely clear your account.

And the pornography that makes you wonder why wifey cannot get as freaky as the girls on your computer screen will be discovered by one of the two people you’re most afraid of – your boss; or your wife.

The thing to do is appreciate globalisation and all its trappings with a pinch of salt.

If you can afford the iPod, get it. But don’t throw out your vinyl. Sometimes, you can only truly reminisce with music from a record player that has a scratching noise. Get a cellphone by all means. But turn it off when you go to bathroom. And whatever you do, please don’t go swimming with it.

That’s just uncivilised.