Column: Technological advances? Bah! Humbug!

05/05/2011 6:53 AM |

Do you know what a Luddite is? (No, it’s not a miracle product specially formulated to erase pesky stains from your kitchen sink.)

According to that know-it-all and sometimes reliable source, Wikipedia, “In modern usage, ‘Luddite’ is a term describing those opposed to industrialization, automation, computerisation or new technologies in general.”

So, I suppose that would make me a Luddite. I’ve come to that conclusion recently in response to technological overload from such varied sources as voice mail, smartphones and those most insipid and alarming of all technological advances, Facebook and Twitter.

Why doth the lad so loathe Facebook and Twitter? Let him count the ways.

1. They suck the time right out of your life. I know people who visit their Facebook page even before they urinate in the morning, then check it again every hour on the hour during the day, then cuddle up with their friends at their fingertips all night, every night.

2. They both foster annoying communiques and, in some cases, annoying stalking by former lovers, former creditors and former classmates whose names and faces you would be much better off forgetting.

3. They encourage and enable “friends” — and, in some cases, enemies — to share the most egocentric and banal aspects of their lives. Do we really need (or want) to know what you had for breakfast, or why your child has broken the world age group record for potty training? With all this self-absorbed chatter going on, no wonder the Tea Party types and we wild-eyed liberals aren’t hearing one another.

4. Finally, they further enrich techie nerds like Mark Zuckerberg, who are filthy rich enough already.

What ever happened to the simplicities of life — like email or text messaging or phone calls or snail mail or, heaven forbid, face-to-face conversation?

• News arrived here this week that singer/songwriter Willie Nininger, son of former (and late) Greenport residents Gene and Fern Nininger, will sing the national anthem at Citi Field in Queens before the Sunday, June 5, game between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets.

It will not be the first time Willie has performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a Mets game, and it probably won’t be the last. He’s a huge Mets fan, which is why he has never forgiven me for a prank I pulled on him more than 20 years ago.

Here’s the setup: Willie and his brother, Jim, had advanced to the men’s doubles finals in the Bob Wall Summer Tennis Tournament, which back then was played on the Stern family’s private court in Orient. Their opponents in the finals were none other than former Greenport mayor Joe Townsend Jr. and his partner, moi.

The night before the final match, I convinced the former Joan Giger Walker that it would be fun to pull a goof on Willie, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t, which we realized almost immediately after she called him on the phone, pretending to be a representative of the Mets, informing him that his long-standing bid to sing the anthem at a Mets game had been approved.

The only hitch was that the game in question would be played the next day, forcing him to choose between singing there or playing in his big tennis match here. And for Willie, that was a no-brainer; he was psyched to sing at Shea Stadium.

It didn’t take long for Ms. Walker and me to realize we’d made a huge mistake. As Willie was whooping it up on the other end of the line, joyfully oblivious to our subterfuge, Joan quickly broke the spell by identifying herself (he hadn’t recognized her voice) and informing him that it was all a big joke. But Willie wasn’t laughing.

And, with the benefit of hindsight, I certainly couldn’t blame him, particularly after the next day’s tennis match, in which Willie’s repeated attempts to drill me with the ball (again, who could blame him?) failed to deter the team of Townsend and Gustavson from winning the match.

Most thankfully, Willie recovered to sing for the Mets a few years later, and now he’s scheduled to make a return appearance next month. (A few years after that most unfortunate phone call, Willie was named the top country music performer in all of Switzerland, but that’s a story for another day.)

And one thing is for sure: We’ll not be calling the night before to tell him he has a big tennis match scheduled for June 5.

• Did you see Donald Trump’s face during the White House correspondents dinner Saturday night? He was doing a slow burn as the master of ceremonies, “Saturday Night Live” comedian Seth Meyers, skewered him mercilessly. Clearly, Mr. Trump can’t take a joke. Ergo, he can’t take himself. Which is logically good news for the growing legions of Americans who think his presidential candidacy is nothing but a joke.

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