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Diatribe: GUEST POST – Banksy Calls Us Out: Do We Love Our Mobiles More Than Each Other?

shutterstock_227421814In the 1960s, Swiss novelist and playwright Max Frisch defined technology as “the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.” Although Frisch’s commentary is more than 50 years old and was before smartphones, video messaging and social media, his words echo loudly in the halls of modern philosophical debate.

More recently, the renowned and enigmatic U.K. graffiti artist Banksy graced the door of a Bristol pub with his latest piece entitled “Modern Love,” in which he portrays two lovers in an embrace, each looking at a cell phone over the other’s shoulder. The poignant piece has again raised some pensive questions: Has humanity lost touch with itself? Does technology hinder our ability to connect with other people offline? Have we in fact embraced technology so completely that we no longer experience the world around us?

What Is Nomophobia?

If there is any indication that the answer to these questions is a resounding “yes,” it would be the fact that nomophobia, or the fear of being without mobile communication, is a legitimate fear that is reportedly on the rise in all of the industrialized countries of the world, according to Psychology Today. College students have confessed to taking their cellphones into the shower with them, and 63 percent of adults have admitted that they would rather give up chocolate than their mobile devices, reports Business 2 Community. And, 33 percent said they would prefer to give up sex, says Telenav.

What, or Whom, Is to Blame?

GuestBloggerSo, what’s so wrong with that? Maybe contemporary tech is actually worth these sacrifices. The wonder, and most humanly significant aspect of mobile communication devices, is that no one ever has to feel alone again. No more standing by yourself looking conspicuously single at a crowded party when instead you can busy yourself with your Facebook friends. Why stare longingly at a beautiful sunset all alone when you can Instagram a photo of it and share it with the world? An issue arises, though, when we are not alone, when we are with loved ones, and yet still cannot bring ourselves to put our phones away. We would rather check-in, chat or text with someone somewhere else than pay attention to those standing right beside us. Can the faceless “LOL” of a text replace the sound of a friend’s laughter?

Is it really the technology, though, that is destroying our authentic communication skills? Cell phones are incredible tools that can enhance our lives, provide us with the answers to questions that used to take days of book research to find and can instantly put us in contact with the people, who are thousands of miles away, in an instant. The mobile device is a tool of unlimited promise and capability, but what happens when we value the tool more than we value the results of its work? What happens when we love the means of communication more than the meaning of it? What, or whom, is to blame?

It Is Us, Not Technology

Despite the many instances that suggest mobile technology and communication have caused a deterioration in the quality of human contact—that it causes complications in romantic relationships, that it has become something we depend on so completely that some have admitted they would rather lose a finger than be without it—still, we make no move to slow down its progression. Prolific writers and artists, like Fisch and Banksy, satirize our technology obsession, and yet we have accepted virtual communication as our actual reality.

Technology did not kill genuine, meaningful human communication. We did.

Jayme CookJayme Cook is a writer and English instructor living in Phoenix, Arizona.  She studied writing in Wales, UK, and teaches college composition.


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Copyright © 2014

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Ovation: Google Removes “Ass Hunters” From Its Play Store.

ass hunterLast Saturday, Cleveland police responded to a 911 call concerning a juvenile in a local playground who was on a swing set and pointing a pistol was “probably fake” and scaring everyone.  When police confronted the boy and instructed him to put his hands in the air he, instead, reached for his waistband where he was carrying an “airsoft” handgun which was lacking the orange safety indicator usually found on the muzzle.  The officers reacted and shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice who died from the injury on Sunday.

America’s fascination with guns continues to escalate.  Guns manufactured and sold with the intention of harmless play have become so realistic in appearance that law enforcement officials can’t tell them apart.  Yet, parents still buy them for their children and allow them to carry them to Ohio playgrounds.

Hunting and killing for sport and amusement appears to have become the status quo.

At least one online giant is trying to discourage shooting people for fun.  A game where players hunt and kill naked gay men for sport has been yanked from Google Play after multiple complaints.  The game, called “Ass Hunter”, has been playable online for several years but was only recently uploaded to Google’s Android app store.  It’s description reads:

Popular game hunting on gays is now on android! Play and do not be gay! Legendary game, where you are the hunter and your mission is to kill gays as much as you can or escape between them to the next level.  Gays may be hidden in bushes and inexpertly catch you.  Remember!  When they catch you they will do with you whatever they want ;)

ass-hunter-2In the game, the camouflage-wearing hunter walks through the woods looking for naked men hoping to shoot and kill as many as possible.  Once shot, their heads explode and their bloody naked bodies are displayed on the ground.  If the player doesn’t shoot them in time, they pin him down and rape him.

What happened to cap guns and other toy pistols that were clearly meant for children’s’ play?  We played with spring-loaded dart guns that would barely shoot a dart across a room with enough force to make its rubber plunger stick to anything at all.  Whatever happened to Nurf?!

Is it any wonder that kids bring realistic toy guns to playgrounds nowadays?  When they’re incorporated into playtime children often stop seeing them as weapons.  I firmly believe that guns should not be marketed and sold as toys and that parents should never encourage their children to play with guns.

Take your kid hunting with you if you must, but don’t give him a toy gun and teach him that it’s ok to bring it to a playground.  Because it’s not.

Kudos to Google for removing the despicable, ignorant, hateful, disgusting and violent “Ass Hunters” from its app store.  Hopefully, toys stores will soon begin to think twice about selling lifelike weapons to the nation’s children.


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Copyright © 2014

Diatribe: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Sues The Government On Behalf Of All Americans.

Maricopa, Arizona Country Sheriff Joe ArpaioWe’ve all gotten a chuckle or, at the very least, shaken our heads in disbelief at some of the ridiculously frivolous lawsuits that we read about in the news.  In our increasingly litigious society, we’ve grown to expect people to sue just because they can.  They want to be paid when they cut themselves with knives claiming the knife’s manufacturer should have warned them that the product was sharp.  It’s hard to tell who’s conniving, vindictive or just outright stupid.

It’s one thing when a silly nincompoop sues Walmart because their plastic bags break, but in recent months we’ve seen governors defy the White House by instituting their own state-sanctioned Ebola quarantines and ignore the Supreme Court by refusing to acknowledge same-sex marriages.  It’s as if  law enforcement officers suddenly have the authority to pick and choose which laws they enforce.

Yesterday, Maricopa, Arizona County Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a lawsuit to stop the enforcement of new immigration laws before they were even announced by President Barack Obama last night alleging that the President and other defendants acted outside their constitutional authority by not going through Congress.  Arpaio’s suit asks the court to block changes that include making an estimated five million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally eligible for work permits and for protection from deportation.  Arpaio, who has tangled with the Obama administration in the courts before, says he’s going to court on behalf of himself and all Americans.

“I am not seeking to myself enforce the immigration laws as this is the province of the federal government.  Rather, I am seeking to have the president and the other defendants obey the U.S. Constitution.” – Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Surely, I’m not the only one who finds it amusing that an Arizona sheriff thinks he has a better understanding of constitutional law than does the President of the United States of America and his administration.

Sheriff Arpaio is being represented by Larry Klayman, a conservative activist known as a public interest lawyer who has filed hundred of lawsuits against the federal government and, just last month, requested that the Department of Homeland Security initiate deportation proceedings against the President.

Did it ever occur to you that you could sue the federal government on behalf of yourself and all Americans when you didn’t agree with a law?  I can think of a few that I’d like to challenge.

Ovation: The End Of NOM Appears To Be Imminent.

NOMFormed in 2007 specifically to pass California’s Proposition 8 prohibiting same-sex marriage in the state, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has spent the last seven years and millions of dollars opposing civil rights for LGBT Americans at every turn.  While the group has always claimed to have a wide base of “grassroots support”, the majority of its funding comes from very few large anonymous donors.  In 2009, for example, five donations made up 75% of NOM’s contributions and grants income.

“A secretive player in anti-gay politics, which is posing as an offshore company for anti-gay religious money.” – Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Michael Cole describing NOM.

Yesterday, NOM finally released its 2013 tax filings … two days late and in direct violation of federal law … disclosing that the organization had reported only half as much in “earnings” as the year before.  Two donors accounted for more than half of that money.  The group’s “Education Fund”, which manufactures anti-gay propaganda and homophobic stupidity at alarming rates, raised less than $1.7 million, a seventy-percent decline from 2012.  The tax filing showed that NOM ended 2013 more than $2.5 million in debt.

The end of NOM appears to be imminent.

The organization has been linked to such anti-LGBT (not just anti-same-sex marriage) organizations as the Church of Latter-Day Saints, the Catholic Church, Opus Dei, the Knights of Columbus and Focus on the Family.  They’ve altered photos, advocated strategies pitting African-American and LGBT communities against each other, and threw money at seemingly any political candidate who would get their name in the papers.

It seems that any real “grassroots support” they organization might have once had has evaporated.  Perhaps they’re tired of donating money to fight a losing battle … with same-sex marriage now legal in thirty-five states, it’s clear that NOM is waging a war against the inevitable.  Maybe they grew tired of being associated with the outright hatefulness of NOM.  (Even if you don’t like gay people, you don’t want to be associated with these creeps!)  Or, more likely, their attitudes about their LGBT friends and neighbors have changed as more same-sex couples across the nation get married without catastrophic repercussions.

Good riddance.

Too bad you didn’t spend all that time, energy and money doing something respectable like helping the homeless or feeding the hungry.


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Diatribe: Pope Francis’ Offensive Words To Single Parents And Their Children.

PopeThis week, during a Complementarity of Man and Woman conference in Rome, a gathering of global religious conservatives, Pope Francis declared that

“children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.” 

Almost immediately, the media erupted with speculation surrounding the meaning of his statement and “religious leaders” in the United States twisted his words on social media to suit their anti-marriage-equality agenda.

While the Pope was probably, and not surprisingly, expressing support for traditional families, his statement may have further alienate the growing number of non-traditional families and those individuals raised in such households.

According to Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2011, a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau every two years (most recently in October 2013), an estimated 14.4 million parents lived with 23.4 million children under 21 years of age while the other parent(s) lived somewhere else.  That’s a lot of single parents raising a lot of children.

And the vast majority of them turn out just fine.

To infer that any child who isn’t raised in a home with a father and a mother is being deprived of a human “right” is not only dangerously out of touch with reality but extraordinarily insulting to parents in non-traditional families the world over.

I would think that Pope Francis would want to strengthen ALL families regardless of their composition.  As they leader of the Catholic Church he has a history of creating confusion about his opinions but, to me, this takes the cake.  Why not just tell all the children with no dad, two moms or parents who were killed in car accidents “You suck, you’ve been cheated and your life isn’t as good as the other kids’?”

Sometimes I wonder, should Jesus appear today, if “religious leaders” wouldn’t crucify him again.  Despite his teaching, it often seems that far too many spend more time hating than loving.

Do you think the Pope’s statement was offensive to single parents and their children?


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Ovation: LinkNYC.

LinkNYCWhen our youngest was quite young he was riding in the passenger’s seat of his grandfather’s pickup truck when we saw him poking the armrest with his fingertip.  When we asked him what he was doing, he said he was trying to roll down the window.  He’d never been in a vehicle that required him to physically “roll down” the window and honestly didn’t realize the purpose of the knob on the door.

Similarly, it has recently been pointed out to me that today’s youngsters have never encountered a pay phone!

Beginning next year, children in New York City will never again have an opportunity to see a pay phone but they will have free access to the internet.  At a press conference yesterday, city officials unveiled an ambitious plan to roll out a free city-wide municipal Wi-Fi network that could be the fastest and most wide-reaching network of its kind in the world relying on thousands of kiosks that will be deployed at as many as 10,000 locations currently occupied by pay phones.

The concept was created by a group of companies collectively known as CityBridge who hope to transform the physical streetscape, New Yorkers’ access to information, and create jobs using the network of kiosks supported by as much as $500 million in advertising revenue over twelve years at no cost to taxpayers.  Each of the kiosks, called Links, will include state-of-the-art wireless technology, interactive systems and digital advertising displays and provide the following services:

  • Free 24/7 public Wi-Fi for a 150-foot radius.
  • Free phone calls anywhere in the United States
  • A touchscreen tablet interface to access City services, directions and more
  • Easy access to 911 and 311
  • Free charging stations for mobile devices
  • Digital displays for advertising and public service announcements

Officials estimate that as many as one in five New Yorkers currently rely on mobile phones for internet access, which can be quite costly, so there is a great deal of excitement surrounding the fact that the first of the kiosks could be in service by late 2015.

I’m always amazed by the speed at which technology changes.  While today’s kids might not know how to roll down a window or recognize a pay phone, in the blink of an eye their grandchildren may actually find New York City’s Links to be quaint antiques replaced by something we can’t even yet imagine.

Would you welcome free Wi-Fi into your city?


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Copyright © 2014


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