If you’re wondering where I’ve been the last couple of months, I was caught up in dark, inevitable family issues, culminating in Pammy throwing me out (again) while muttering, “You’re still not a tech billionaire, so I’m with Slerma now.” Never mind it was my apartment; to her credit, she tossed me a few bucks to forget her number.
Depressed and lonely, I hopped a plane for the West Coast and spent two months in a biker gang founded by Larry Ellison during his gun-running outlaw days back in the '70s before he settled down with overpriced databases and regatta cheating. A good dose of two-wheeled, high-speed adrenalin temporarily cured me of my depression and situational misogyny, but alas, real life beckoned once again.
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Now I'm back, fluffing up a yuppie nest in an eastern commuter town/Manhattan real estate refuge, and I've blown the rest of Pammy’s largesse on an Italian motorcycle that looks like Batman’s baby carriage and seems intent on killing us both. Now I tear around the suburbs, terrifying nuns and schoolchildren.
Granted, the rest of the world sees a nutty, fedora-topped nerd with an iPad in his tank bag and two cellphones on his belt, wobbling around on a suicidal midlife toy that’ll probably send him careening into a billboard or a gaggle of Prada-clad 20-somethings. The bike is also the only vehicle I can afford right now, so trips to the grocery store will become a little spicy once the snow starts falling.
I console myself with the notion that no one knows what the future will bring and maybe life will get better. Hell, in this neighborhood, I might be able to charm a rich, yacht-owning sugar mamma with a weakness for geek gonzo. You never know.
From "All the President's Men" to this?
In stark contrast sit the people working at the Washington Post, who should have predicted their future and probably did since they’re widely considered the brain trust of American journalism. For some reason, Jeff Bezos is being hailed as innovative for finally pulling this legendary paper, which he tragically acquired during a delirious spending spree in 2013, into the hellish inner circle of Amazon greed and privacy pirating. Instead of letting the Post continue to eke by on its own, mostly unpolluted by Internet boom capitalism, it will now be sucked closer to Bezos’ bread-and-butter businesses.
It'll probably be profitable for Jeff in the long run -- or not -- but I’m not sure why the move is characterized as “genius.” In essence, the Purdue clone is developing a Kindle-friendly version that’ll run in app format, provide “curated” content, and give users some control over what kind of news they want to read. Of course, it’ll also come pre-installed on future Kindles, so you’ll have no chance of avoiding it (and, I’m assuming, the cross-platform Kindle apps, though perhaps not if the rain-in-the-brain-soaked goof thinks this’ll actually spur hardware sales).
While the various articles about this overhyped phenom don’t mention it, you can bet your last desperate shekels the app will be loaded with spy bits that match everything you’re reading with an appropriate, near-appropriate, or plain annoying random Amazon product or service, probably via a screen-blocking pop-up ad, as you reach the middle of an article. Such is the age we live in.
How is that innovative? Everyone predicted he’d do it eventually -- why else buy the thing? Content plus e-reader equals … well, this.
Following the privacy poachers
Bezos had to do it, especially since Google’s been at it for a decade now, albeit with more source choices and no hardware prison. Even the Zuck is trying his sticky hand at it and, frankly, with a more innovative approach that integrates algorithm-infected news into Facebook's ever-changing, migraine-inducing newsfeed/app midden. Since it's Zuck, you know his version is also more annoying than Justin Bieber and more invasive than the Marine’s Third Division WWII foray into Guam (ask the Imperial Japanese Army).
I’m only wondering why it took Bezos so long. Maybe his attention was diverted while he was dropping $126 million into the toilet building the Amazon Fire phone or when tying small animals to his pre-production drones, so he could test their new skeet-jamming firmware while swilling 100-year-old brandy from a sippy cup.
But there is a potential upside in this digital devolution. Bezos is breathing a little life into a bastion of American journalism that might eventually, even probably, have died, considering how badly digital technology has broken the publishing industry.
The Washington Post may be a single news source, but it’s written by professionals and edited by folks who know what they’re doing -- unlike Google News, which draws zero distinction between well-researched and polished news and hazy midnight blog posts penned by raging schizophrenics with meth in their veins and froth on their lips who have no idea what they're talking about and couldn’t care less. Let’s hope Amazon’s flawless track record of incestuous greed doesn’t eventually spoil it all.