Scott Ellington's Blog

Just another weblog

The Sisterhood of Man

On seventeen separate rooftops, this morning, in one small town in rural Kentucky, seventeen volunteer firemen sit with each of their laptop computers running the Google Earth application, and a good lensatic compass in hand.  They’re all engaged in the installation and orientation of digital television antennas that will prevent the loss of free television broadcast service to the residents beneath those seventeen rootops.

Google, the giant, progressive corporation, actually heard my request! (lodged about a month ago) that they update their Google Earth application to highlight the geographic location of all digital transmitters within the United States — and promote this update as a means to help homeowners and good Samaritans ease the digital transition:  Good for Google public relations, good for good Samaritans, good for the worst and dimmest, good for the sake of goodness.

The firemen benefit doubly by;

1)  honorably helping to free the analog spectrum for first-responder/emergency communications, and

2) by actively participating with members of their community whose infirmity, age or incompetence prevent them from reconfiguring their television hardware by and for themselves.

I don’t know that those three preceding paragraphs are entirely apocryphal.  It’s possible that the example of a president bent on transparency, hope, change and interpersonal civic engagement in service of public interests has, in fact, led to the opening of homes, hearts and roof-hatches to the purpose of our helping one another.  Maybe my cynical, cloistered view of the state of current events is simply too blinkered and blindered to appreciate the actual kindnesses transpiring between my fellow Americans, and I simply don’t see it happening from the tiny well of my abysmal isolation.  Too bad for me.

Spencer Tracy (Inherit the Wind) delivered a speech in the role of Clarence Darrow, in which he said that every advance in technological innovation is countered by a significant sacrifice; we gain the power of birds to fly, but scent the clouds with gasoline; we conquer the barrier of distance with the telephone and lose the charm of absence (which makes the heart grow fonder)…as though every step toward the future of human technology is a stride away from human nature.  Jerry Mander seconds this perspective by saying that the promoters of new (&/or haphazard) technology are always people whose fortunes improve with its adoption.  It’s as though a dedicated team of divine accountants were balancing a ledger:  A dark visionary model of innovation I personally dislike and mistrust, but it makes more sense than the 58½ years I’ve spent listening to hype and tripe about The Unlimited Potential of Humankind (which hasn’t entirely materialized much).  Where are the flying cars we were promised in the 50s that betokened the dawning of The Age of Aquarius, the Brotherhood of Man, and Tomorrowland?

Why does The Sisterhood of Man sound like salacious innuendo?

The Brotherhood of Man hasn’t worked very well as an iconic model to which we aspire.  It’s come to encompass brother-rape, -torture, -pillage and -slavery as a means to the preservation of Our domestic tranquility, usually at the cost of  Theirs.  So I propose The Sisterhood (big sister or little, your choice) as an alternative target, just to change the aspirational paradigm.  Sister-rape, -torture, -pillage and -slavery might provoke a little extra doublethink while preparing to victimize the next sucker, and if that doesn’t work any better than brotherhood, The Motherhood of Man comes next.

I tend to favor the poetic synthesis Richard Brautigan anticipated in Machines of Loving Grace, which envisioned the union of sophisticated technology with our natural humanity, and facilitated the evolution of both.

So seventeen firemen aren’t sitting on seventeen rooftops this morning?  Maybe they’ve been wisely and justly delayed by solid bureacratic reasoning and won’t begin the altruistic work at-hand until Juneteenth (June 13, 2009) when irate, analog broadcast television customer-complaints pour in concerning the absence of signal on a few million television sets, and the almost-forgotten American fondness for free broadcast TV will set big wheels in motion to preserve the equilibrium of squeeky little wheels in commotion.  Whatever works.

I guess I really want that flying car, still.

31 May 09 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Michael J. Copps, acting chairman of the FCC, said he’s having his own reception problems. When he upgraded his TV set in February, the picture was excellent. But now that the leaves have grown back on the trees surrounding his house, some stations don’t come in as well.

    “People will need to find the sweet spot for their antennas,” said David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, an industry trade group. “Don’t put it in a highly trafficked area of your home. As with any new technology, it will take time to work out the reception and interference issues.”

    Finding that sweet spot can be tricky. Herb Wong, an electrical engineer for Northrop Grumman, took a day off work last week to help seniors in Fairfax County set up converter boxes and adjust antennas. In one home, he had to prop an antenna on an empty tissue box taped to the top of the TV to angle the antenna for the best reception. In another, he attached the antenna to a window flowerpot.

    Washington Post Article exerpt. “Your Antenna’s Big Day”

    Comment by Scott Ellington | 08 Jun 09 | Reply

  2. […] The Sisterhood of Man […]

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  3. […] The Sisterhood of Man […]

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