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Shady Illuminations

Easy Targets

by John Shade

Generic image illustrating the article
  John can’t resist the temptation to make fun of dumb laws, short attention spans among technology marketers, and Mark Zuckerberg.  

I realize that these are easy targets. But if these fish don’t want me shooting at them, what are they doing in that barrel?

Legal Follies

If in a democracy we get the laws we deserve, what do the laws we get say about us? One thing they say is that we seem particularly interested in where our fellow citizens are putting things. Our State legislatures have passed laws prohibiting putting ice cream cones in your back pocket, coins in your ears, a chicken on your head, a flamingo in a barber shop, a bicycle in a swimming pool, or a sleeping donkey in a bathtub. Personally, a sleeping donkey is the only kind of donkey I’d ever try to put in a bathtub.

Presumably these laws got written and voted on and passed because people were putting these things in these places, and it was causing problems. It’s humiliating to think that I need a law to keep me from putting an ice cream cone in my back pocket, but I have to say I haven’t found it any great hardship to live within that law. At least so far.

On any day of the week you can find a news story about some dumb law that got passed in some jurisdiction, from Washington to Wasilla. Increasingly these laws have to do with the free flow of information, and what can be done to stop it. But whether it’s the USA PATRIOT Act or PROTECT IP or some other law that sounds like Mother and acts like Big Brother, it seems like it’s still just us telling our neighbors where they can put it—and where they can’t.

And the law isn’t just what legislatures and judges say it is. It’s also what anybody with access to a lawyer can get away with saying it is. So if your doctor doesn’t want you blogging about his professional aptitude or bedside manner, he can just assert ownership over your words.

Or if The New York Stock Exchange doesn’t like its image, they can just threaten to sue anyone who uses its image.

Outrageous claims by corporations are nothing new, but I get the sense that in the wake of Citizens United they’re getting more outrageous and more common. Makes sense: when the Supreme Court gives corporate lawyers an inch, they’re going to see how far they can stretch it.

I ran across this somewhere online, but I can’t remember where: “In China, the government owns the corporations. In the US it’s the other way around.” I hope I don’t get sued by the person who said it. Or the corporation.

Reinventing the Wheel

The headline reads, “Solve Mac Startup Problems by Reseating RAM.” The article describes an Apple-documented technique for troubleshooting a seemingly dead Mac.

Well, it worked for the Apple ///, so why not? Back then, having to tell the user to pick up the computer and drop it onto the desk to reseat the RAM chips didn’t do a lot for Apple’s image, but it was an effective troubleshooting technique.

Maybe it still is.

Speaking of the Apple ///, another detail sort of jumps out from this description. That’s right: the chassis was made from one solid block of aluminum. Brilliant!

Looking back on Apple’s golden age, Scott Knaster said, “We all thought that the first time we did something was the first time it had ever been done.”

Maybe they still do.

The Twitter attention span is understandably much shorter. They repeat themselves every two years. Apparently.

It’s often said that humans are the only species to have invented the wheel. Maybe we’re the only species that thinks that inventing the wheel was a good idea. Richard Dawkins once said, “to a horse, a wheel is something that slows you down.” Meme-killing scientists say that it’s not really true, anyway. Other species have invented the wheel, mostly species lacking brains. But we must be the only species that feels the need to keep re-inventing it.

Zuckerberg’s Year of Living Lethally

We all now live in the FaceBook Era, like it or not. And you have to like it, because the FaceBook Era is the Summer of Like. What it means to like someone has been redefined by the central character of The Social Network. There’s a comforting thought.

In the Summer of Like, you don’t really like someone until you’ve pressed their Like Button. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg. What’s the next great idea you have to brighten our lives?

Oh, right. Killing animals and eating them. He’s certainly found a way to add drama to his tweets. What I killed today.

Since Zuckerberg’s Year of Learning Chinese took him to China, we can only imagine where The Year of Killing What I Eat will lead him. For now he’s just offing barnyard animals, but surely he’ll soon be out in the wilds of Alaska or canoeing down the Cahulawassee in camo dropping ducks and bucks. When the CEO says, “the buck stops here,” it could be a warning to wildlife.

John Shade was born under a cloud in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1962. Subsequent internment in a series of obscure institutions of ostensibly higher learning did nothing to brighten his outlook. For the entire year of 2011, he commits to eat only food killed by others. Send the author your feedback or discuss the article in the magazine forum.