All together now

The Chris Ware cover for this week's issue of The New Yorker is fantastic. Having just attended my niece and nephew's holiday shows while in Chicago, I can't match this with 10,000 words.

This is the first cover of The New Yorker for 2014. Ware also drew the first cover of 2013 for the magazine, and he wrote about his inspiration for both.

Steve Jobs, along with whatever else we’re crediting to him, should be granted the patent on converting the universal human gesture for trying to remember something from looking above one’s head to fumbling in one’s pants pocket. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that most pre-industrial composers could creditably reproduce an entire symphony after hearing it only once, not because they were autistic but simply because they had to. We’ve all heard Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos hundreds of times more than Bach ever did, and where our ancestors might have had only one or two images by which to remember their consumptive forebears, we have hours of footage of ours circling the luxury-cruise midnight buffet tables.

Sometimes, I’ve noticed with horror that the memories I have of things like my daughter’s birthday parties or the trips we’ve taken together are actually memories of the photographs I took, not of the events themselves, and together, the two somehow become ever more worn and overwrought, like lines gone over too many times in a drawing. The more we give over of ourselves to these devices, the less of our own minds it appears we exercise, and worse, perhaps even concomitantly, the more we coddle and covet the devices themselves. The gestures necessary to operate our new touch-sensitive generation of technology are disturbingly similar to caresses.