Fast Internet

November 16, 2008

Over the past few years my friends have sent me many video attachments by email.  At first they caused me no end of trouble, as my dial-up Internet connection was too slow to download them and nothing else could come through until the huge lump of signal had worked its way through the narrow tube.  Students needing help and chatting friends had to cue up until somebody’s funny film about monkeys made its way to my screen, where it often would not run.  Polite requests eventually turned into snarling warnings not to send any more bandwith hogs my way.

Everyone quite reasonably asked why I didn’t get rid of my dial-up connection and get fast Internet like the rest of the world.  But I like my slow Internet connection.  It served me very well during my teaching career:  students enjoyed the benefit of rapid turn-around on assignments and requests for help.  Email allowed me to think about and edit my comments before sending them.  My computer’s inability to handle the hotter film meant that I had to focus on the cooler print medium, and I enjoyed my Internet as a refuge from the frantic world of television.

Then Charlie brought a Mac to the farm and it was time to install wireless Internet.  The usual teething pains occurred, but once the Westport Telephone Company had set the system up it proved astoundingly good.  All of a sudden we could see what our son does for a living at Insidermedicine.com, a medical news service operating out of the Hotel Dieu in Kingston.

My introduction to YouTube was a film which showed flying carp.  Silver carp in the Illinois River leap frantically into the air whenever they hear an outboard motor.  It makes for a hysterically funny vacation film when ten pound fish launch themselves into the air in front of your boat in a totally random fashion.

I moved on to a classic of viral marketing, Bride Has Massive Hair Wig Out, a YouTube film about a nervous bride who, distraught because she can’t get her hair just right, shears the whole mop off with scissors while her friends watch in dismay.  (Where do you think Britney Spears got the idea a year later?)  Like many YouTube films, Bride turned out to be a little less spontaneous than we thought.  The “bride” is a young Toronto actress who made the film for a cosmetics company to plant the phrase “wig out” in the language prior to a major advertising campaign for a hair product.

A couple of months later Alanis Morrissette announced to the world that she was back in the studio by quietly releasing a YouTube parody of a particularly mindless Fergie video.  The Internet buzz guaranteed millions of hits overnight, and the media-savy Alanis made her point.

The most astounding piece of film I have seen is thebestever.wmv.  It’s short, and it may or may not be fake, but I guarantee you won’t regret watching this one involving a stunt pilot.

When I bought a Polaris Ranger I wondered what its limits were, so I called up the many YouTube films of UTVs in extreme environments and was treated to an afternoon of drunken young men driving the things through ponds, down rivers, over logs, and somewhat less successfully, through snowbanks.  I also saw many Rangers, Rhinos and similar vehicles rolling over backwards when asked to climb steep banks.  Apparently a lot of people out there consider it high art to drive a fifteen thousand dollar vehicle down a creek with the water up to the seats in order to make a film to post on the Internet.

But some YouTube films truly inform.  I remember watching with interest as a nice old guy explained a flaw in the design of his front-loading washer which doomed it to early failure.  He had the whole thing apart in his living room, and he showed us how the conflict between dissimilar metals had led to premature corrosion and failure.

Today Bet found a film showing a guy with an angle grinder cutting a granite counter top in his driveway.  He did an excellent job of explaining how to rough out and finish the sink cavity.  We both agreed that this operation was within my skill level, so that puts marble back on the list of possible covers for the new bathroom vanity.

While on her roll, Bet further found a set of films from the Kohler company in Toronto which explain the basics of bathroom sinks to the uninformed.  The woman describing the products does an outstanding job of entertaining and informing her audience.  High-quality commercials to self-targeted audiences may be the new direction in advertising with the rise of streaming video.

Many articles trumpet that senior citizens are the newest Internet experts.  What are they doing online?  Getting medical information, that’s what.  Check out Insidermedicine.com if you want to look at a leader in the field.

At the farm I love my high speed Internet on a Macintosh.  I still write these columns, though, on an old PC and send them in by dial-up. Text remains king on PCs, and I’ll stick with mine as long as people take the time to read.

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