I don't have Siri. I have her younger and less glamorous sister, Prototype Gretchen, who came with my iPhone 4. I like the little wiki-doodle clinging to the cord of my Apple earbuds that allows me to talk to Gretchen. I like to command her to do tasks like “next (song)” and “call Steven Crabgrinder on mobile.” But there's one particular job that Gretchen can't – or won't – do, because there's no way to tell her how to do it. Interested as I am in the way the human voice wraps around words, I often find myself wanting to scan back several seconds, several times in order to hear a particular inflection or phrasing that just happened. I don't need the whole track over. Just the last few moments. There is no way I have figured out to express this desire to Gretchen. She's seems to be an all or nothing type of gal.
When the magicians at Apple address this (they may have already done so, but I don't know because, like I said, I'm no acquaintance of Siri's), I hope that they choose some method other than crass speech. Calling out fixed durations, like “repeat five seconds,” may be direct and efficient but it's also uninspired. More elegant, and publicly pleasing, would be for the listener to add her/his own voice as instruction to the world. So, for example, if one would like to plunge backwards into the present track twelve seconds: press the dangly-widget and sing out within a particular tonal range. Perhaps the lower the pitch, the faster in reverse you go; the higher the faster forward. Imagine the street scene, as our musical devices encourage a musical world. Because out of that insular feedback loop between human and machine, some song should spring.
I saw a middle-aged man today pressing down hard with his elbow on the edge of his car’s hood. He was wearing a brown shirt decorated with patches, like a boy scout, but too old for that. The car was long and angular and black. He probably bought it when he was in his thirties. Maybe that’s when he got the shirt, too. As my bike approached and then passed him and his car, I could see what he was trying to do. The hood had been somehow compressed, so that it buckled and pulled away from the frame. He was trying to straighten it out with his weight. It wasn’t working, and he gave up. I thought to stop and say, “I saw how that happened to your car.” But I didn’t. I never tell any fun lies like that anymore.
It’s not inconceivable that I eat too much mayonnaise. Especially when nobody is looking.
I don’t smoke. But once, in the middle of a run, I stopped and asked a smoker on a corner if I could bum a cigarette. He lit me up. I ran off down the street sucking on the cigarette and hacking. I was wearing tight red shorts with a yellow stripe down the side. Just like a Chinese Olympian.
People who hate their jobs should stay up much later at night than they do to read and watch movies and distill gin. They should write poetry in small apartment chambers, pretending that they are Emily Dickinson. They should think about how Edgar Allan Poe died, and imagine him coughing violently with his head next to the curb. They should work with tattoo artists to paint their walls as well as their bodies, despite the landlord’s prohibitions. They should rouse their sleeping friends, who do like their jobs, on the phone. And in person if it comes to that. Then give their worst energy to the daytime hours just to see if the American Dream comes true anyway.
If you have plantar warts, an x-acto blade is the way to go.