LB: Live! From Paradise #233 – “Cyberwar in Paradise?!”

(The Intro above is from this column's previous web incarnation)

by Larry Brody


I’m under attack.

As the superheroes in Marvel Comics put it when the forces of evil close in:

“…Mind reeling…can hardly function…must find a way to break free….”

I’m not talking about a physical threat. No one’s got The Mountain surrounded.

Not a super villain in sight.

Instead, it’s even worse.

This attack is in cyberspace. The attacker is a computer virus, the victim my beloved new Dell XPS quad core super fast, super cool, red-and-brushed-aluminum-cased baby, which until now was as healthy and powerful as only a top of the line computer can be.

Two days ago, all was well. When I pushed the power button my XPS hummed to life, blue LEDs flashing around its fascia, Windows Vista booting up as quickly as Vista can boot.

All my start-up applications came on in the order in which they always came on. All my desktop icons appeared where they were supposed to. When I clicked on my browser it opened and took me to my start page. Clicking on my bookmarks took me where I wanted to go. My todo list appeared at Google Office.

All was right with the world.

When you get down to it, how could anything be wrong as long as my Big Mean Gaming and Word Processing and Gossip Hunting Machine was racing like a finely tuned sports car?

Back when I cared about finely tuned sports cars and even could afford one (with some help from the bank), my emotional well-being in many ways was tied to my car. It was a macho thing, pure and simple, a man and his vehicle, masculinity overflowing within me as long as the spark plugs sparked and the 5-speed gearshift moved smoothly, and the engine growled and howled like a mountain lion crossed with a banshee.

Back when I cared about finely tuned sports cars, my well-being would be crushed, ground into the dirt, as soon as the spark plugs clogged or the shifter started grinding or the engine began gasping and skipping like a sick prairie dog.

When the day came that I no longer could indulge my obsessive love and compulsive need for a Porsche or an Alfa Romeo or a Corvette, I knew what I should do. I knew it was time to stop hiding from reality by throwing my soul into mechanisms that were nothing more than conveyances. People movers. Transporters.

Did I rise to the occasion? Did I embrace my newfound awareness? Throw myself metaphorically naked and unprotected into the world as I knew I should?

Of course not.

I’m a guy.

And macho is as macho does.

Or, more specifically, as macho owns.

I looked around, and there it was. The perfect sports car substitute. Not only for me but for hundreds of thousand, maybe millions of other men.

The computer.

Why do PCs outsell Macs by 9 to 1 even though Macs are more efficient and reliable machines?

Because Macs come fully set up as they’re supposed to be and then stay that way.

But PCs! Ah, PCs are infinitely configurable. You can change the case. You can change the innards. You can soup up the ram and the video card. Add monitors. (I use two.) Fancy sound systems. (I’ve got 5 speakers. Front. Rear. Middle.)

A man can make his PC into just about anything he has the time and patience and funds to create, and even the most extreme and expensive computer costs a mere fraction of the price of an average, totally unexceptional car.

Now computers accomplish the same thing.

Together, we roll.

Except right now we’re tumbling and bumping instead. Half my applications won’t apply themselves. My hard drive creeps. My icons keep vanishing. My browser opens at random intervals and shows me web sites that would make Larry Flynt blush, while refusing to budge when I type in my own home page.

“…Must disconnect…take PC to Don the Computer Repair Genius…admit I’m not the man I thought I was….”


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