Waiting for the Apple Tablet, with Joel Johnson

by Joel Johnson

Say Goodbye

So the first thing you should know about the Apple Tablet is that I just bought a van. It’s creepy. Mary HK Choi hadn’t even seen a picture yet before she called me “shady.” This dashed my hopes of driving to New York and taking her from Maine to Florida, eating things covered in mayonnaise all the way.

The reason I bought the van is that even when I am in the process of wanting to drop out of society, “get back to nature,” etc., I can’t do it without spending $5K on a fuel-snorting machine. It’s what tech dorks do when we look at the world: try to find a thing to purchase through which to realize our fantasies.

With that in mind, consider what it’s like to be a technology writer, especially on the consumer side of the business. It’s not like we sit around trying to get people to buy things that they don’t need, but we’re sort of fundamentally part of the problem. I mean, we take some comfort in the fact that we ostensibly are steering people toward the best items for purchase, but, isn’t the world shaking itself apart? Aren’t we running out of oil and rare earth metals and kids in Liberia are smoking heroin and raping their neighbors and the entire civilization is ready to collapse?

Isn’t that happening? Or is it not? I don’t even know how to spell “tourniquet” without a computer.

But then there’s Apple, which, in the balance, is kind of a miracle. They don’t just make good products, but with the iPhone they actually pushed the whole industry ahead in profound ways. When you’re a tech writer that’s what you live for. It’s like if you were a fashion writer and there were really only one designer nailing it year after year. Maybe that’s what it is like in the fashion world now. I pretty much wear puffy vests and bib overalls now.

Has it been three years since the iPhone? Amazing. And in the interim what has been the facefuckingly awesome justification from the electronics industry for the use of all that oil and energy and natural resources? Some decent products, sure, but nothing amazing. Android phones? Okay, sure. The Kindle? I guess.

We all know deep down that this civilization is doomed. Or even if it isn’t, it should be from the way we abuse it. And since we all fundamentally believe in the myth of progress-which I hope to Christ is not a myth-just by dint of our Western upbringing, it’s the easiest thing in the world for us to project our hopes onto this upcoming Apple tablet. Because it doesn’t just represent the latest distracting widget, but at this moment in time, with no space program, with an auto industry that refuses to advance, with no cure for cancer, a lot of us are transposing our belief that science and technology will actually save our species from disease and hunger and death onto this literal blank slate.

It’s kind of beautiful, metaphorically.

Anyway, that’s why the tech dorks keep going on and on about it-and we just embody an extreme quality of a material culture. We wouldn’t have a job if no one cared. And I’m not even sure I even feel that guilty about it. We’re on this train together. Nobody is changing anything, apparently. We’re going to suck this planet dry like the bratty, brilliant teenagers we are. So if it takes a stupid computer company to inspire our scientists and show other companies how much money can be made from old fashioned competence then so be it. Meanwhile I will be figuring out how to tie half-hitch knots and playing crappy guitar covers in my van.

The van’s pretty awesome, by the way. I spent the night Saturday in a gully somewhere in the Siuslaw National Forest with my bulldog. Watching his genetically-ruined form gambol through the mud, like the back halves of two rhinos welded together with a manatee face loosely stapled to one end-that made it worth every penny.


Joel Johnson will totally give you a ride.