Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Online Chatter

Yogi, our African gray parrot, has chosen this moment to warm up, literally, like an opera singer.  His full-throated bellow lacks the timbre of William Warfield or Samuel Ramey, but his rendition turns a key in my brain, sending me to YouTube, where you can find multiple performances of almost any music you desire.  I plugged in those singers' names and off I went to Porgy and Bess, Man of LaMancha and Tosca.  Before the Arrowhead Trio chose music for its November 2009 concert of twentieth century trios, we turned to YouTube to preview most of our candidates.

I'm reminded of Yogi's one-time greeting in North Carolina when Karen returned from grocery shopping, "Mommy's home!"  He hasn't repeated it, not because we don't leave home, which is a possibility these days.  We can order anything we need, or want, on-line.

I'd like to think the Internet has renewed interest in the written word.  As a result, almost everyone reads.  The reading may be limited to little snippets with abbreviations that are as Greek as shorthand to me, but for many people it's more than they'd otherwise read.  I wonder if peer pressure has reduced our illiteracy rate.

When I was in my twenties, I empathized with women who refused to learn to type because they didn't want to be stuck in jobs traditionally held by women.  I'm sure they've changed course.  Now we all type, even if we've never banged away "asdfasdf"  or "qwerty" to a droning teacher or recording.  I learned after my father received a package in the mail -- an electronic typewriter on approval that arrived with a learner's guide.  During the 30 days before he returned it, I managed to learn enough to last a lifetime.  If I remember correctly, he preferred his manual Remington.

I suppose some young people don't know what a secretary is.  When I started working in a bank law department, each of the two lawyers had a secretary.  We got to know "ours" pretty well, in part because we spent a couple hours together each day while she took wisdom down in shorthand.  Mine, a former "executive secretary," mentored me, editing my memos and suggesting other improvements. Dictaphones came along, which were substantial timesavers although my boss resisted for quite a while.  Twenty years later, my department of 12 lawyers shared two "administrative assistants."  I now operate as an integrated secretary-lawyer-writer-administrative assistant-and-everything-else and if I need help I can Google or email.

"Eh-ee-ah-oh-oo."  It's not Yogi, it's Virginia warming up.

"You're sounding marvelous, as usual," I say.

"Thank you, what would you like to hear?" says Virginia.

"You pick," I say. "Whatever you choose, it definitely will beat anything on YouTube.  I'm for 'live and in person' any day."

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