I understand fanaticism.
As a kid, it was a footy team – my beloved Subiaco. In those days, the WAFL was all-consuming in Perth. The match of the day would draw 25,000+. A grand final 50,000 – these were the days of the outer, where you’d have to stand all day, wedged vertical like pencils in a quiver case because it was too packed to sit down. Subi games didn’t often draw big crowds, though. The Mighty Maroons, as they were known then, customarily languished at, or near, the bottom of the ladder. But my father, brother and I, and perhaps a mate or two as we got older, would religiously attend week after week and barrack ourselves hoarse, and when a win came it was joyous – it would make your week.
It was the losses, though, that were the real measure of supporter character. Year after year, there’d be that game – the long trip out to Bassendean Oval where the Swan Districts supporters occupied their covered home stand on the wing, and ne’er a more one-eyed pack of footy terrorists has scorched God’s earth.
We’d sit on the weathered grey wooden benching on the opposite wing, feeble straws leaning into the roaring hurricane of cheers, cries, rebukes and admonitions that were unleashed with every kick, mark, handball, tackle, shirtfront (them were the days). More often than not, it wasn’t only a metaphorical hurricane we braved on those bleak winter trials at Bassendean. It was uncanny how often those afternoons were the dirtiest a Perth winter could chuck up. Only a Subi supporter of that era understands what it took to front up at Bassendean year after year with the rain squalling into your face, infiltrating your raincoat so you were wet through by quarter time and shivering in the chill for the rest of the game, urging on the Mighty Maroons as Swans tore them apart and their rampant tribe stamped and hooted and radiated mayhem and murder from their stand, baying for more blood, more, more!
As a teenager, my fanaticism switched to rock music. And Jeanette. She was my first date. Far more than that, she was my Catherine (Wuthering Heights was another of my obsessions), the unwitting object of my ludicrously extreme romantic fantasies for two years before I found the guts to issue her a stammering phone invitation to the school social, which she foolishly accepted.
I bored her fine arse off all night discussing the Top 40. Well, not discussing. Shouting in her ear (and inhaling the scent of her hair, as it tingled against my cheek). The band – Aquarius – was loud. Gloriously loud. I assumed poor Jeanette would be as enthralled as I over analysing why Three Dog Night had moved up 15 places in a week with a shithouse song while Creedence hadn’t budged. Or determining whether Aquarius’s drummer had inserted an extra roll in the chorus of the 1910 Fruitgum Company’s One Two Three Red Light. Actually, did you know, Jeanette, that the 1910 Fruitgum Company has gone heavy? There’s only one original member left, and he was never into bubblegum and…she wasn’t enthralled.
Thankfully, my social sensibilities and musical taste developed (although my relationship with Jeanette did not – at least, not outside my cranium). I saw almost every international and Eastern States rock act that made it to Perth – including many I didn’t much care for (eg: Elton John, Santana, Rick Wakeman). My first concert – in 1971, on my 16th birthday – was thrilling: Deep Purple, Free, Manfred Mann, Chain on the same bill at Beatty Park. 9 months later, the legendary Led Zeppelin concert at Subi Oval that was so loud it drew complaints from City Beach. Disappointing Creedence the week after. Garry Glitter, Lou Reed, Blackfeather, Suzi Quatro, Focus, Supernaught, Donovan, Captain Matchbox, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC with Bon Scott at the Sandgroper pub in Leederville, the marvellous first incarnation of Split Enz, who blew Zappa away at the WACA…
I spent all my money on concerts, records, hi-fi, and guzzling beer at the rock barns that were youth meccas in Perth in the 70s. Oh, and dope. Needless to say.
I was there at the beginning of punk in Perth, an initiate, and an inspirational time that was – see www.perthpunk.com for the full story in obsessive detail. This was when my rock fanaticism peaked. I would have camped outside the Entertainment Centre overnight – over two or three nights, whatever it took – to see Patti Smith, or The Ramones, or Iggy, or Television. None of them made it to Perth during that time. But The Ramones gigged in Adelaide. A small group of Perth devotees drove across the Nullarbor to see them. I found out after the event. Otherwise, I would have joined them.
So yes, I understand fanaticism.
But what the hell is all this iPhone 3G shit about? Queuing for days to see an artist or band, I can get. Or overnight to get good Grand Final seats. A great concert stays with you for life. As does the enveloping fragrance of your first love’s hair. A Grand Final win is the culmination of years of hope and yearning, the realisation of a cherished dream, glorious and transient (and therein lies its preciousness). But a phone? One that will still be available the next day, next week, next month? And superseded the month after that! WTF?
Maybe this iPhone 3G is something special, unique in the history of phones? So in an effort to understand, I researched it. It plays music and videos. Uh huh. So it replaces that terribly inconvenient MP3 player that is so light and tiny it will fit on your key ring. And what a bonus it must be to squint at videos on a miniscule LCD screen on yer mobile. But there’s more.
It’s internet and email capable. Uh huh. Just like your computer, but not as good, then? And forgive me, but PDAs have been around a while now, haven’t they? Oh, but this one, you can phone people on. Which you can already do on your $50 mobile.
Wait…it’s got a camera – by all accounts a crappy one, just like on any number of cheap mobiles that have been around forever.
So, let’s make sure we’ve got this right. The iPhone 3G doesn’t do anything new. It simply combines features that have been in common use on other devices for years, and as with any all-in-one setup, with compromised quality. And has the Apple spunk appeal. THAT’S IT?!
So is this an Apple thing?
My first puter was a Mac. I bought into that Mac cult hoohah for a while. Then it dawned on me that Macs were far less convenient than PCs because of all the file compatibility issues.
My next computer was a PC. No more problems opening files. And that stuff you hear from Macphiles about the Windows OS being so much more difficult to find your way around – well, maybe with Windows 95, but not now. Mac OS’s are not better than Windows. They both work fine; one is as simple (or difficult) as the other. It’s simply a matter of what you’re used to.
Mac maniacs are usually, in my experience at least, music recording buffs, artists or academics. Understandable. Mac was once state of the art for graphics and music. Now though, the gap has narrowed to, oh, around zero. As for the academics…well, Mac cornered the academic market computer-eons ago – little wonder the eggheads have remained loyal when they’ve known nothing else. They’ve always been a bit dozey and staid. Besides, they like to think of themselves as beings of superior taste, and Apple has positioned itself adroitly to pamper the egos of snobs, cultivating an image of sophistication, innovation, aesthetic flair, radicalism. And their oh-so-sophisticated devotees have chomped down on that juicy bait campaign after campaign. And still they blame PCs when they can’t open those pesky files that somehow still undermine Apple’s 100% compatibility guarantees.
So are the mobs huddled outside Telstra and Optus in the early hours waiting to grab an iPhone 3G all musos, artists and academics? Nope. Mac computer fanatics are cultists. This iPhone movement is way too mainstream for them.
So what is it? Apart from a marketing coup and fucking stupid?
Who knows? A symptom of communal emptiness, perhaps? People seeking something to look forward to? To belong to? (Ye shall know me by my iPhone).
Is it some badge of social standing, like designer clothes and lux cars and living in a hip suburb?
Or is it simply brilliant hype at its most potent in an environment of compulsive brainless consumerism? Merely another symptom of the affluenza epidemic?
Well, I dunno, but I couldn’t avoid the sense that something’s really rotten in the state of Denmark when I read an online report of some fuckwit 3rd in the queue outside Optus’ Sydney store booking a room at the nearby Four Seasons hotel, so she could belt back there to be alone with her new iPhone as soon as she bought it. And she’s not some geeky kid. This cotcase is a 38 year old manager.
The guy at the head of the same parade of marketing victims – a 36 year old business analyst – intended to delay gratification: “The first thing I’m going to do when I get it is go home and put it on charge and go to bed. It will wait until the morning – all that matters is that I’ve got the phone.”
Is this a bloody phone they’re referring to, or a sex toy? Jaisus!
When these bozos’ batteries run low and they review their dial tone of a life, are they going to look back on that moment when they first took possession of their iPhone 3G as revelatory? As their mortal coil begins to slip away like a thief in the night of eternity, are they going to feel for a final time the sweet touch of those buttons as they made their first call on their new iPhone, hear again the voice of the privileged friend at the other end full of the false cheer of camouflaged envy at the news of their purchasing triumph?
Or are they already scanning the future for the next big THING?
The downside of this constant veneration of the trivial is that the void will always be there. The upside is there’ll always be something to fill it. Like this breaking news headline that greeted me first thing when I booted up the computer this morning: “World Waits For Brangelina Twins Photos”. O still my beating heart…