Can't program the VCR? Laugh

When we finished "1984," by George Orwell, I remember our high school English teacher handing out an essay on how to survive interrogation, torture, and solitary confinement. (Don't ask. Suffice it that the spy hadn't come in from the cold yet.)

The article said that the single most important thing an individual could do in such a situation was to laugh. Sound advice, but a little dramatic for most of us. It's not likely we'll be combatting Big Brother, but rather his thousands of little cousins technologically badgering us each and every day.

The New Yorker Book of Technology Cartoons, (edited and introduced by Robert Mankoff, Bloomberg Press, $24.95) offers 110 laughs to deal with answering machines and auditory menus that answer nothing; software upgrades that degrade everything else on a hard drive; passwords without which not only the cellphone but the refrigerator won't work.

The best defense against people more sophisticated than I am has always been a good laugh, either at myself, or the affectation of their sophistication. This is even more so when confronting the endless conveyor belt of high-tech gadgets meant to make life easier while they confuse, befuddle, and aggravate.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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