From Smartphones to Biscuit Pants and Three Finger Brown

When Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski are transported to a parallel universe in The Eye-Dancers, they soon discover that the world in which they find themselves is devoid of computers, cell phones, and digital technology of any kind.  This was not an accident or the result of some spur-of-the-moment detail that manifested itself in the flow of a first draft.  It was something I had deliberately chosen to do.

parallelworldintro

 

At first, in the earliest conception of the story, I toyed with the idea of making the lack of digital technology a key element in the plot, perhaps elevating its importance right up there with swirling, hypnotic blue eyes and dreams and nightmares that seem to come to life.  But I eventually pocketed that notion, and the lack of PCs and cell phones became a smaller piece of the puzzle–still there, still relevant, but not paramount.  Through it all, though, I never once considered removing this detail from the novel.

dreamsandnightmares

 

The variant town of Colbyville, and the world that surrounds it, was always destined to be a place where smartphones do not exist and cannot function.

smartphonesbeforefirstbreak

 

******************

I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as anti-technology.  Far from it.  After all, how could I possibly rail against 21st-century digital innovation when I have published an e-book, readable on a handheld device, and have blogged for four years within the wonderful WordPress community, enjoying every minute of it?  No.  I am not opposed to the electronic wonders of our age.

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But I do fondly recall an earlier period–not so long ago on the one hand, millennia ago on the other.  I grew up in the 1980s, where at-home digital innovation consisted of the Commodore 64 my parents bought for us in 1984, complete with its DOS screens, ’80s-style video games, and pre-Windows platform.  At the time, of course, the old Commodore seemed a marvel, a technological triumph that represented the blossoming and realization of the robotic age.  Today, it is a relic, an artifact, an odd, cumbersome thing more an amusement than a tool of technology.  A twelve-year-old coming face-to-face with this ancient archaeopteryx of the computer world would likely stare at it in disbelief, wondering how such an antique ever worked at all.

archeopteryx

 

It’s not so much that I want us to return to the days of the Commodore 64 (though it’s hard to top such video-game classics as Jumpman, Donkey Kong, and Zork!), eschewing all the digital advancements of the past thirty years.  But sometimes I wonder.  Is there a price we’re paying in our Wi-Fi society, waist-deep as we are in hyper-convenience, where vast pieces of information or merchandise or virtually anything under the sun (and some things beyond) are available at the merest click?  In a world of endless apps, ubiquitous social media, prolific texting, and data overload–is there something missing?

donkeykong

 

It is, ultimately, a matter of perspective and opinion, of course.  But as I ponder it, I can’t seem to get away from the specter of Three Finger.

*********************

On a spring day in 1888, a young boy lost parts of two fingers in a farming accident.  As it turned out, though, the boy used the accident as a springboard to greatness.  He took up the game of baseball, learned to pitch, and for over a decade in the early years of the 20th century, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown baffled opposing hitters.  With two of his fingers on his pitching hand shortened and mangled due to his old accident, Brown was able to put mind-boggling spin on the ball, becoming one of the greatest pitchers of his era.  And the nickname “Three Finger” was a natural.  It stuck with Brown for the duration of his career, and beyond, following him right into Cooperstown, NY, and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

threefingerbrown

 

Indeed, there was a time when virtually ever ballplayer had a nickname–almost a personal brand, something acquired at a young age, never to be relinquished.  Some of the nicknames were original, some were inspired by admiration for the player’s skills, some were downright silly, but almost all were fun.  Here are a few:

Frankie Frisch–The Fordham Flash.

Willie Mays–The Say Hey Kid.

williemays

 

Charlie Gehringer–The Mechanical Man.

Burleigh Grimes–Ol’ Stubblebeard.

Gabby Hartnett–Old Tomato Face.

Ernie Banks–Mr. Sunshine.

Joe Jackson–Shoeless Joe.

shoelessjoe

 

Bris Lord–The Human Eyeball.

Chuck Klein–The Hoosier Hammerer.

Henry Aaron–Hammerin’ Hank.

Mickey Mantle–The Commerce Comet.

mickeymantle

 

Al Simmons–Bucketfoot Al.

Luke Appling–Old Aches and Pains.

And these represent just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.  There were hundreds of others, from Arkys to Rubes to Dazzys.  There were even Dizzys!

dizzydean

 

And of course Lou Gehrig’s famous nickname–The Iron Horse–was earned due to his remarkable streak of playing in 2,130 consecutive games, over a span of fifteen seasons.  But he was also known as Buster and Biscuit Pants.

In 2016, there are certainly still some amusing baseball nicknames, but they are much fewer and farther between than they used to be.  There just aren’t any Sparkys or Scooters or Slugs anymore.  In their place, we have analytics and digital trends and statistics galore.  If you want to know a player’s batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, or ERA, all you have to do is pull out your mobile device, click on a link or two, and voila.  There you have it.  Some of my friends have apps installed so when their favorite team scores a run, their phone dings to let them know.  We have so much data and knowledge at our fingertips in any given moment, it would surely make “The Georgia Peach’s” head spin.

datacobbheadspin

 

And again, this is a great thing.  I am not knocking it.  But then I wonder–would there even be a place for a Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown in our world today?  Or would such a moniker be deemed inappropriate somehow?  Maybe he’d just be called Mordy for short, and leave it at that.  Even if he did play, and thrive, and win, would the majority of fans be enthralled solely by his virtually unhittable pitches, or would his exploits too often be relegated to the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately real-time scoring apps of fantasy baseball leagues?

fantasybaseball

 

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for WHIPs or DIPs or dERAs or any of the other sabermetric markers that are all the rage today in baseball.  We live in a world of constantly evolving digital technology, where last week’s app is suddenly outdated and last year’s Windows update is a dried-out and decaying fossil.  Technological advancement is an ever-changing phenomenon.

sabermetrics

 

But through it all, I hope we can sometimes take a step back, take a deep breath, and reflect.  Even in this age of smartphones and Twitter, and soon-t0-be driverless cars, there is always a place for Biscuit Pants.

biscuitpantsend

 

Thanks so much for reading!

Mike

33 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John W. Howell
    Jul 17, 2016 @ 22:58:13

    Nice trip, Mike. I too was dazzled by my first Apple IIe. I thought I had the world on my fingertips. That was in 1984 and I couldn’t imagine anything more advanced.

    Reply

  2. joannerambling
    Jul 17, 2016 @ 23:31:14

    Yeah what can I say way back when the introduction of technology was amazing we couldn’t believe what we could do and look at what we can do now.

    Reply

  3. jjspina
    Jul 18, 2016 @ 03:43:06

    You got this right, Mike. The world is moving too fast into the techno field. We can’t keep up with it and sometimes don’t want to. It was nice to step back in time and reminisce. I had a Commodore too! I remember typewriters in high school and college. No computers back then. I am much older than you and remember when we had to share phone lines (called party lines) with other people and had only one TV back in 1953. Feeling old now! LOL! Nice post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 😘

    Reply

  4. ritaroberts
    Jul 18, 2016 @ 07:23:32

    Hi Mike ,Re your previous comment from jjspina above. We come from the same time. I too remember having to share phone lines (Party lines) and always wondered if the other party could tap in and listen to our conversations. Our small screen T.V. had a magnifying glass screen strapped to the front in order to enlarge the picture but all it did was make it blurred. .However I do think we have made progress technology wise, far too fast .I dread to think if everything shut down, what on earth would happen. ! Your post makes us all think. PS Thanks for likes on my blog Mike.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 19, 2016 @ 18:56:14

      Thanks so much, Rita! I agree. While I applaud the advances in technology, I think we are moving too fast. I also think too many people are addicted to their handheld devices.:(

      Reply

  5. Thehungryballer
    Jul 18, 2016 @ 08:40:39

    So true !!
    Although I am a modern era kid, but growing up during 90s was way different than in the current generation…not totally devoid of technology, yet growing up, technology (especially digital) was only ever an extra amusement during an otherwise awesome childhood ! (I set hands on a personal computer for the first time in 2004 !) Today, watching my 8-9 years old siblings toying with their gadgets, I feel old ! But still ,Mike, you’ve hit the bull’s eye,i.e., sometimes, we do need to slow down and experience life as a tech teetotaler – if nothing else, it does surely help in building patience LOL !
    Have a good day 🙂

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 19, 2016 @ 18:59:12

      These are great points! I think that’s very true–in the ’80s and ’90s, technology was advancing, and so many new things were cropping up all the time. But at no time did technology totally take over. As you say, it was a supplement, an amusement, an addition to everyday life. Today it is all-encompassing! And the expression “tech teetotaler” is great!

      Reply

  6. Karina Pinella
    Jul 19, 2016 @ 04:15:54

    What a great post. I like how you weaved in the obsolete tech. Memories . . .

    Reply

  7. carolineturriff
    Jul 22, 2016 @ 18:10:02

    I had an Amstrad Wordprocessor in 1989 while I was at Oxford. It was so large and heavy that when my printer broke down it took three people to carry the computer into my tutors room! I know nothing about baseball, being English, but this three fingered guy certainly sounds very interesting! It would be as if the fastest man in the world was not Usain Bolt but a paralympian…

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 24, 2016 @ 18:45:04

      Wow! Now that is a great analogy!:) And yes–they just don’t build ’em the way they used to, now do they?:) Clunky and cumbersome though they were, I will always have a soft spot for ’80s PCs and word processors!

      Reply

  8. Anna Waldherr
    Jul 22, 2016 @ 20:44:48

    Thanks from those of us still clinging to the 20th Century. I can be flummoxed by a toaster (LOL).

    Reply

  9. imaginenewdesigns12
    Jul 24, 2016 @ 23:20:25

    Thank you for liking “Happy First Day of Summer” and some of my recent posts. I enjoyed reading this thoughtful post. I am also not against technology, but I am concerned about how dependent we are on it in our everyday lives. For example, there have been a few times when stores I usually go to could not accept electronic payments because the “system was down.” People literally had to leave carts of items in the stores because they did not have a way to pay for the items besides debit, credit, or EBT cards.

    Another related and potentially serious problem is our dependence on the electricity that runs the technology. Recently, I went to a pet store and was about to get in line to pay for some items when the power went out. Apparently there was an accident, and a car hit a nearby utility pole and cut off the electricity not only to the pet store but to all the stores in the shopping center. I had to leave the store empty-handed because the cash registers were not working due to the power outage. There was no backup way for the store employees to accept payments. Small technological glitches or short-term power outages are an inconvenience, but it is sort of scary to think what would happen if Internet access and the power grid were down for a long period of time.

    Your post also made me think about my young nieces and my nephew. All of them are under ten years old, and they are very attached to their tablets and smartphones. My brother is trying to find some other games and activities for them to do this summer because he is worried that they spend too much time on those electronic devices. He told me one of my nieces is addicted to some of those game apps. I do hope children these days still have a way to use their imagination and creativity constructively instead of relying on technology to do all of the thinking and imagining for them.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 26, 2016 @ 18:31:43

      Hi Arlene! You raise some great points here, and you’re right about the lack of a backup plan when technology breaks down. It’s frustrating being at a store when this happens. Because the computers and the network are in such “control,” the cashiers can’t even take orders by hand, even temporarily. And I couldn’t agree more about children! You said it perfectly, I fear the app-world we live in does indeed encourage kids (and adults) not to think. The apps do all the “thinking” for them.

      Reply

      • imaginenewdesigns12
        Jul 29, 2016 @ 03:04:58

        Hi Mike! 🙂 Thank you for responding to my reply. I think most of us take technology for granted until it breaks down. I do hope that places like power plants and utilities have some backup plans to handle various dangers such as natural disasters or computer hacker threats because social order would probably break down rather quickly if people had to live without electricity, running water, and food from the grocery store for more than a few weeks. I know these places may not want to share these plans with the rest of the world for security reasons, but I hope they have them even if the public does not know all of the details.

        Yes, I hope people don’t become mindless slaves to the app-world. Apps can be helpful, but I would not want to rely on apps as a substitute for developing problem-solving skills in the real world.

      • The Eye-Dancers
        Jul 29, 2016 @ 17:18:19

        Hello again.:) Yes, I hope they have them, too. It really would be a disaster, wouldn’t it? And yes–apps.:) I definitely think we as a society are a bit too app-heavy, and I hope it doesn’t come at the expense of problem-solving and thinking skills long-term. I’m a little worried about it, though.:(

      • imaginenewdesigns12
        Jul 31, 2016 @ 06:05:16

        I agree that it would be a disaster. I hope we don’t ever have to find out what it is like to live in such distressing conditions. And I can understand your concern about apps and the other virtual reality distractions we have now. People can be controlled more easily by others if they are not capable of critical analysis and independent thought (thinking for themselves).

  10. natuurfreak
    Aug 08, 2016 @ 22:38:35

    Technologie is niet te stoppen

    Reply

  11. kelihasablog
    Aug 12, 2016 @ 22:38:38

    Loved this post Mike 😊. Ok, so have you finished another book while I’ve been off dawdling with other aspects of my life? If so, you need to email me so I can read it. 😊

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Aug 13, 2016 @ 17:49:55

      Hi Kat! Great hearing from you.:) No–not finished yet.:( But getting closer! The aim is to have the sequel “out there” and ready by early 2017. It’s been quite the challenging project, but hopefully it will all be worth it! I still worry that it might be an epic failure.:( But I will definitely let you know when it’s ready.:)

      Reply

  12. fortyandeverythingafter
    Sep 01, 2016 @ 11:08:58

    I love this post. I too have fond memories of the 80s and a life without all the digital distractions and ‘at your fingertips’ information we now have. Nostalgic maybe, but there was something treasured about information gathered through effort, contacts made through real life connection and the creativity and inspiration gleaned from thoughtful contemplation and imagination. I am glad I didn’t have the technology now available when I was a kid if I’m honest, happy to have it now for convenience sake and keeping in touch with people, but my childhood I think was blessed by being attached to my own imagination and actual flesh and blood friends, not attached to a screen and digital people the whole time, like my niece and nephews now are. I’m a bit old school, what can I say.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Sep 02, 2016 @ 01:12:58

      You and me both.:) I don’t even own a smartphone! I am glad I grew up in the ’80s–I just missed growing up in the Internet era, and missed smartphones by two decades. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.:)

      Reply

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