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Why an app is not always apt

At the Academy Awards presentation the other night, it was noted that the last time 10 films had been nominated for best picture was in 1943, the year Casablanca won.

Ah, there was a movie. Just to hear its name puts that unforgettable song into the ear. You know how it goes:

You must remember this

A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh

The fundamental things apply

As time goes by.

Well, it is to be fervently hoped so, although lately I have had my doubts. This is a new age but, as the Henry Theorem of Life No. 43 warns us: "All progress isn't."

This subversive thought came to me again on the eve of the Oscars. We were in a restaurant, having earlier been to see Crazy Heart, as it happens, one of the movies that would win Oscars the following night.

In advance of the film, Mrs. H decided to demonstrate her new iPhone to the friends who came with us. This is a common scene now in America. People who have new technology cannot help showing it off to others who try to look politely interested as best they can.

She recently got the iPhone as part of a deal that gave me a new phone too, only mine is not so fancy. To be sure, it was fancier than my old one, which was a squat little affair. Still, in its own way, it was probably a marvel for its time, as it must have been hard to miniaturize the steam-driven turbine that made it go.

But I did not merit an iPhone because she presumably does not consider me an iHusband. I am not new. I have no bells and whistles. I am good for only one thing (the traditional taking out of the trash). Above all, I have no "apps."

Apps are applications, for those of you who don't know. I didn't know myself until recently. I knew what abs were, because I had tried to develop some in my youth by using dumbbells. This was not successful and my understanding of apps is also likely to remain underdeveloped.

But Mrs. H is off and running in acquiring apps for her new phone. By way of demonstration, she showed our friends the official Oscar iPhone app in which every film category was listed and we could vote on our choices to win and then she could e-mail the survey to herself. What fun! Just think: Back in the day, we would have had to resort to the primitive means of writing our choices on the back of a napkin and taking it home with us. That worked perfectly well unless someone dropped the chicken biryani on the napkin, although that would be much better than dropping the chicken biryani on the iPhone. That would be iExpensive.

By the time she got down to asking us about our choice for documentary (short subject), the app did not seem so apt for promoting a convivial dinner.

It was then that I foolishly asked: "Do you have an app for conversation?" Her look was such that I understood that while a kiss was still a kiss, I wouldn't be getting one anytime soon and a sigh would just be a sigh until further notice.

As one born late in the same decade that produced Casablanca, the modern world is a wonder to me. I have seen telegrams come and go. I have seen pay phones swallow their last quarter. Not a complete Luddite, I have come to regard cell phones as indispensable, if only for emergencies. I think the Internet is a great tool that can bring a world of facts to our fingertips. It can also bring an instant load of nonsense.

So I often wonder whether we are better off in this brave new world in which too many twits Twitter, too many bloggers bloviate, and it seems that the greatest technological access to information coexists with historic levels of human stupidity, from celebrity infatuation to absurd political claims.

Technology is a great gift but the fundamental things must apply. Text it again, Sam, and let no app replace a kiss.

Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry@post-gazette.com.

Why an app is not always apt 03/13/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 6:02pm]

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