Someone called ‘The Necromancer’ is on the line, and they say it’s really important

sauron-e1348474315182The smartphone moved with him from room to room as a torch in a dark and threatening castle, everything outside its light potentially harmful. And in public places where people otherwise had the chance to connect now they didn’t, they interacted instead with what or whomever else they chose, the opportunity for non-curated moments negated. The same at bars: how men bent into their screens in an almost sexual manner, thumbing the surface with the same blank-faced look as actors in pornographic films with no dialogue. He saw it in the kids, too. How they slipped out when they slipped in. But how much easier it was to parent them, it freed him up to do other things. And you could always threaten to take it away.

The smartphone got put back in his pocket for good measure and he was good about keeping it charged. In the car he took it out so it wouldn’t bend and put it between his legs, anchored by the inside of his thigh for quick access at stop lights and backups, to keep on top of things. He pre-scripted haiku-length notes he could crack off via SMS when stopped at intersections. No delays, every moment realized. He knew it wasn’t right and told himself to look away, but the scenes outside his car window would always be there and weren’t as interesting frankly as the news on his phone. Anything could happen out there, but rarely did.

The phone was like that magical portal in The Lord of the Rings the evil sorcerer Saruman used to communicate with the even more evil sorcerer Sauron, the portal that looked like a birdbath with a queer, greenish light that spun in sickly strands when Sauron came into view and barked orders. The kids looked like that too, the same eerie glow, awaiting commands. There was no resistance or self-consciousness in their absorption, how they held their phones at arm’s length and preened, vanity now made commercial, no longer private, cultural, in fact: the possibility anyone could be anything without much effort and it was all right there, in your hand. Self-made stars, reality TV. He sucked it in like an IV drip, it got faster and sweeter, made him feel illustrious, ebullient, insensate (but how queer and calming the sensation, how detached he seemed when finally, willfully, he put it down and silenced it).

How much like a king he could rule in small bursts by remote control.
How many followers he had, to listen.
They let you say whatever you want, take it right down the throat.

It would always be this way, only a matter of time. God favored the successful man. It was their charge now to lead, with cell phones and torches.

Image of Sauron the Necromancer, from One Wiki To Rule Them All.

Categories: musings, technology

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

22 replies

  1. Well, I don’t have a smart phone, but it’s a good thing as my laptop holds the same, hypnotic fascination, the blog performing that same, fooling trick, conning me into thinking I’m more successful, more popular than I am.
    Cutting and true, Bill


  2. That was a fun read and an apt comparison between the smart phones and the palantir (I think that’s what they were called). I’ve been talking with my students a lot about cell phone addiction (on youtube, check out “simon sinek millennials”… he’s a pretty brilliant guy, so any of his videos are worth a watch).

    Anyway, combining all of those recent thoughts and my own efforts toward reducing screen time (so proud of myself and so embarrassed at the same time) with my dread about an impending war, civil or otherwise, I dreamed last night that I was in a large house with my students. An air raid siren went off, and, even though there had been no mention of it previously in the dream, we all knew what it meant. I can’t describe the absolute frustration and rage that I felt as I screamed at my students to hurry into the basement, but they crawled to get there because they couldn’t stop looking at cell phones and iPads.

    I enjoy that my mind creates it’s own dystopian fiction. As if I didn’t have enough self-made forms of anxiety.

    Happy Monday, Bill. We’re alive.


    • We are alive. And man, we had a snow day here today (on a Monday): magic! No internet, but how good it felt to get it back. Darkness at the break of noon, shadows even the silver spoon, the handmade blade, the child’s balloon.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Scary, true, metaphorical, real. Poignant. Hits me where it hurts. This one felt more sculpted than some recent others. Interesting to watch you work and play and experiment. Good stuff, all of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Smartphone: the ultimate fidget toy. I use an interesting rock for the same thing.


  5. I have a cell phone, but it’s not very smart. It can only make/receive calls, send/receive texts. No web access, no camera, no flashlight. I wonder/worry whether cell phones have created an expectation of always being available. (Zounds! How did we survive when we couldn’t carry our phones with us constantly. How’d we keep up with everything/one?)

    I really wonder/worry about folks hanging out together, texting one another back and forth, rather than having face-to-face conversation. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Liked by 2 people

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