So there I was, doing what so many of us do these days: half-watching television and browsing on the internet, toggling between three windows and watching (like some kind of slo-mo po-mo horse-race) the taskbars on the three downloads run past each other.
But it was the television that was really grabbing my attention: a documentary on Prader- Willi syndrome, which is nothing to do with acquiring an over-priced designer penis and everything to do with a chromosomal disorder that tricks your brain into thinking you’re starving. Left to their own devices, people who suffer from Prader-Willi will eat themselves to death. Yeah, real nice.
Hovering between the cover of NW, the food ads in the commercial break during the broadcast of The Biggest Loser and the open door (and locked pantries) of the eating-disorder clinic stand you and I: born in a country of hyper-abundance, the ultimate badge of mastery is the slender figure. It’s a sign that indicates (with pleasing sinew and long, lean muscle mass) a mastery of consumption, the one thing that those poor Prader-Willi sufferers (with their tricky, dicky hypothalamus) or those poor kids (with their icky, sticky sweatshop) who stay skinny stitching ‘big and tall’ size blue collars for export can't manage.
So I was thinking as I looked back at my laptop (itself part of some drive to be ‘skinny’)… but things had gone pear-shaped. Dear god no! The taskbars (not the taskbars!), which only moments earlier were stumbling over each other in an effort to be the first to offer me (the hungry, hungry data hippo), his total data dump delivery, were practically stalled.
I recalled the echo of a comment over my shoulder from five days previous: ‘We’re at 80% of our data limit”, said she. I think I was too busy downloading to notice. But now it had finally happened – what Telstra used to do to me every month as punishment for doing the one thing that broadband is for, my current provider had now done for the first time ever. My broadband had been given lapband: they’d pinched my tap; the’d kinked my hose – I’d been ‘shaped’.
‘Shaping’ is the internet equivalent of what’s called (in Newspeak) ‘an intervention’: the benevolent internet provider, who formerly allowed the data to flow like sweet milk from the endlessly pink teat of novelty, is now withholding love (until ‘further notice’, ‘you pay us’ or, if you’re lucky, ‘the end of the month’). Those of you who’ve worked in customer service call-centres might have been on the other end of this complaint. Yes, I too have heard a man of 50 reduced to blubbering whimpers (and not being able to see the man, I always imagined Harold from Neighbours’ quivering jowls) after being told that his service had been suspended. ‘But… but you… you can’t…’ ‘Oh yes Mr Popinfresh, I think you’ll find that we CAN!
‘Maybe you should learn to CONTROL YOURSELF!’
Etc, etc… by this stage, the documentary on Prader-Willi was almost over: one of the people the doco followed had been institutionalised, and had lost weight. For the other, the one trying to live his own life, things weren’t looking good…
…Three days later, and I’m in my neighbour’s pantry, stealing sweeties. Like a lot of people who live in units, many of our neighbours have wireless. And, as I’m sure the guilty among you would know too well, many of these networks are unsecured. I started off by logging in furtively, ‘just to check my email’. A day later I was reading the paper. Then, on Thursday, I cracked like an overladen plate… and downloaded three DJs sets off a blog. I was violating my neighbour in the quintessentially 2008 way – in fact, stealing wireless may be the perfect crime of the rich world’s 21st century: it’s anonymous and mostly undetectable, but still underhandedly cunty in a sneaky, snaky way, especially because the kind of people who would have left their network unsecured are the kind of people who are good, kind, sharing people who too good-hearted (or even just naïve) to suspect their neighbours of anything so dastardly. Not only that, but it puts you into this weird intimacy with the person who’s allotted share of the bandwidth you’re munching into: I mean, it’s hardly fucking their spouse, but there’s something sordid and naked about the fact that you can easily get into their hard drive; go through their photos; pinch their mp3s; even watch their porn collection. You’re right in there, and they’re lying on the bed in a kimono, just letting you… or even… I start thinking… maybe it’s a trap? Maybe they’re weirdos and they’ve been stuffing with my broadband, then just left this wireless ‘open’ like it’s a backdoor to a cooling pie in an empty kitchen, I’m the Prader-Willi sufferer from next door, and they’re waiting, breathing heavily in the cupboard, kimono gaping, with a hard-on and (improbably) a pair of binoculars…
In reality, I only made it half way through this train of thought before my binge was over: all 278 megs-worth of DJ set had downloaded. I logged off my neighbour’s LAN, feeling disgusting and disgusted, both for feeling unable to control myself and for effectively consuming the set through the data equivalent of another person’s digestive system. Then, later that afternoon when I’d listened to and been underwhelmed by the DJ set, the empties came along to hollow out the yuckies, and suddenly I felt dirty, void, and in need of new music… do I need to tell you what I did next?
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
- ▼ February (4)
- ► 2007 (53)