Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 8, No. 6, 2009
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
Sylvain Richard
David Solway
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Serge Gamache
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Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
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Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


Josh Freed


In both 2002 and 1997, Josh Freed won the National Newspaper Award for best Canadian columnist, while a collection of his columns also won the Leacock Prize for humor.

Between columns, Josh is an award-winning documentary-maker whose films have taken him from Mongolia and Russia to the North Pole. He has also written several best-selling books. Josh is directionally-disabled, calligraphy-challenged and hair-impaired, as his regular readers know. But he believes that he who laughs, lasts. This article orginally appeared in the Montreal Gazette, where he is a regular columnist.

I was at a lecture recently but no one in the crowd was listening to the speaker:

They were too busy staring at their iPhones, BlackBerries and other portable Internet screens. They were checking their emails and stock portfolios, or the latest weather – or just text-messaging, twittering, Face-booking, Myspacing, or consulting their hourly online horoscope.

Welcome to the dawn of the small screen era – a new world of miniature machines that lures us onto the Internet wherever we are.

We are going so screen-crazy that we are screening out real life. You can already see many small screen addicts walking the streets hunched over, so engrossed in the virtual world they’d walk right over their own mother.

Other “screen fiends” drive their cars with one hand while typing text messages with the other; convinced they’re not breaking the law.

“But officer, -- I wasn’t talking on my cellphone. I was just sending an email to my barber to say I’d be seven minutes late.”

Many small screen addicts consult the Internet after every 15 seconds of conversation. You casually mention that it’s supposed to be a nice weekend, then they say it’s supposed to rain – and seconds later they are pulling out their little screen to Google the five-day forecasts on seven different weather sites.

They’ll find any excuse to use their screen because they secretly prefer its company to yours.

Why settle for a one-to-one conversation when the whole cyberworld is at their fingertips? Many teenagers now prefer on-screen life to the real thing, especially since the arrival of the iTouch, a hot new portable gadget that connects them to a million sites and games.

Talk to kids while they’re iTouching and they don’t even know you’re there – they are lost in an alternative universe playing games like Penguin Catapult, where you catapult endless penguins into infinite herds of elephants.

Yet we are only at the barest start of this big small-screen revolution, which will overwhelm us with endless amounts of tempting information we don’t really need to know.

There are new biofeedback programs on the way to let you monitor your blood pressure, breathing rate and calories burned per minute – so you can give yourself a medical checkup as you chat with friends.

“Hey! How are things, Peter?”

“Not so good. My blood pressure has risen from 133/105 to 143/115 in the last half hour and my cholesterol count is peaking at over 6 LDL. I better put on my earphones and listen to some Om and Ocean Surf on my iPhone Mind Wave meditation program.”

Soon they will invent special glasses that make our little handheld screens look bigger than movie screens – and everyone will be immersed in their own private cyber-surround world.

We will have every fact, figure and film in the world available to us in an instant on our portable cyber-brains screens.

We will constantly be interconnected to each other online, like a colony of ants who act as a single being.

The downside is that studies show people who spend too much time communicating via screens aren’t good at reading people’s faces or body language. They are more comfortable on Facebook than in face-to-face contact.

It won’t be long before someone invents a way to let us see the person in front of us through our hand-held screen. That way we can stand right next to each other chatting into our screens – and avoid exhausting face-to-face contact.

In a few years, you’ll hear comments like: “My screen broke down yesterday and I had to talk to my wife face to face. Man! It was so intense – just like HD, only more vivid. You wouldn’t believe the colour.”

Our growing screen mania will also fit well with our growing phobia of terms, which is becoming its own epidemic in society.

We will avoid germy face-to-face encounters and choose screen-to-screen contact over eye-to-eye contact.

We will prefer small-screen romances over real ones and go dancing screen-to-screen because it’s far more sanitary than cheek-to-cheek. We will replace smooching with smoogling, and marriage with cyber-mating – and your baby will be delivered to your door by instead of the stork.

The truth is that screen relations are safer, less complex, less intense, less allergic and less messy than real ones – and the screen doesn’t argue back.

Will we humans finally find true happiness when life is just a screen?

I dunno, but the MSO performance I’ve been sitting through while writing this column has just ended – and I guess I should applaud the conductor. = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices
Film Ratings Page of Sylvain Richard, film critic at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 10-21st, (514) 844-2172
Montreal World Film Festival
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