(PUBLISHED IN THE DOMINION POST AND THE PRESS, JULY 22)
I have been busy working on my Curmudgeon’s Concise Dictionary. Here are some of the latest entries:
Phone. Handy device for speaking to people who are somewhere else.
Cellphone. As above, but even more ingenious because it enables you to conduct loud conversations to the annoyance of those around you in buses, cafes, movie theatres etc. Handy additional features include ability to ring chirpily to tune of William Tell Overture or Star Wars theme during tearful eulogies at funeral services.
Dementia. Mental disorder characterised by irrational behaviour.
Dementia technologica. Particularly virulent form of the above that, unlike other variants of the disease, mainly strikes the young. Symptoms include queuing for days outside Vodafone stores for the latest model cellphone.
Gladwell, Jonny. Congenial, media-friendly young chap who generated a blizzard of publicity by queuing for 55 hours in Queen St, Auckland, so he could be the first person in New Zealand to buy the new 3G Apple iPhone. Tentatively diagnosed as having an extreme case of dementia technologica (see above), he was subsequently revealed to be a shill.
Shill (colloquial, US). Person paid to act as a decoy or plant; one whose job is to entice others into buying something.
Hype. Carefully orchestrated crescendo of promotional blather designed to maximise hysteria (see below).
Hysteria. Little-understood mob phenomenon that causes people to indulge in bizarre and potentially self-harming behaviour, such as queuing all night to buy something that they don’t need and could get by walking straight up to the counter if only they left it a few more hours. Highly contagious disorder; young people chewing gum and wearing headphones particularly susceptible.
Apple iPhone. Phantasmagorically ingenious device that can play all 26 episodes of the original 1963 Doctor Who, mix a perfect vodka martini, accurately predict the first three placegetters in the next 10 Melbourne Cups, perform an emergency tracheotomy, serve a six-course meal prepared by Gordon Ramsay, fold out to make a surfboard, provide an instant translation of Parekura Horomia’s parliamentary speeches, teach you to dance the pasa doble in three easy steps, convert into a superking-size bed complete with a recumbent Maria Sharapova wearing the lingerie of your choice (or Dan Carter in his jockeys, if you buy the pink ladies’ model), tell the time in 156 world capitals, download the Complete Works of Shakespeare (Latvian translation) in 3.7 seconds and take X-ray pictures showing your boss naked. You can even use it to make phone calls.
Vodafone. Telecommunications firm that ramps up customers’ expectations with feverish marketing campaign (see hype) in advance of product launch but very thoughtfully decides not to bother people with extraneous minor details, such as what it’s going to cost.
Consumerism. Little-understood social malady of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, also known as affluenza or status anxiety. Main symptom: panic-inducing fear that life won’t be worth living without the latest/smartest/biggest/smallest/most advanced car/TV/phone/computer/camera/videogame/whatever.
Tragic. Versatile adjective, applicable to much of the above.
Early adopter. Person who can’t wait to try out the latest of everything. The marketer’s dream.
Late adopter. Person still coming to grips with phones that don’t require the user to crank a handle before getting through to someone who asks “Number please”. Constantly at loggerheads with everything from digital cameras to microwave ovens, DVD remotes and CD players. Regularly flies into insane rage trying to contact help desks. Compiles Curmudgeon’s Concise Dictionary for relaxation.
WHERE would we be without television and radio journalists? If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t have learned that a strike by Ear Nelson pilots had stranded passengers in Wullington and their representatives were in negoshayshuns. We would have been blissfully unaware that alactricity supplies were vunnerable because of low rainfall and that health experts were knowen to be worried about an obesity epidemic among chooldren. We would still be ignorant of the fact that a little Chinese girl was kidnapped while playeen outside her house and that no one reconnised her abductor, and we would have been denied that exciting jewel at Wimbledon between Federer and Nadal. It’s damned reassuring that when everything else around us is disintegrating, our broadcasters are at least maintaining impeccable standards of pronunciation.
SPEAKING of broadcasters, I am deeply worried about Mike Hosking. I happened to see his mugshot on the Newstalk ZB website recently and formed the conclusion that he has been sleeping rough – under the Grafton Bridge, perhaps? – and may be seriously undernourished, despite rumours of him being seen in expensive restaurants with Kate Hawkesby. In fact – and I don’t want to sound alarmist here – the expression on Mr Hosking’s face suggests that he is – how can I put this delicately? – in a state of some bewilderment.
If someone wishes to start a collection on Mr Hosking’s behalf, I will gladly make a donation. It’s a disgrace that a respected media figure should have come to this.