The Apocalypse and iPhone 4

06/11/2010 02:20 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Mark Morford Columnist, SFGate/San Francisco Chronicle; Author, 'The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism', ERYT yoga instructor

There I was, calmly ogling Steve Jobs' shiny-perfect new baby like a junkie rabbit at a carrot factory in SaladTown, happily swooning over its graceful industrial design and ever-stunned at the tiny slab's explicit lickability and amazing capabilities.

How easy to get caught up in the sheer madhouse magic of it all, the gyroscopes and voice activators, antennae and compasses, multiple cameras and 5,000 sensors designed to recognize when you might be hanging upside down from a banyan tree at midnight, suddenly needing to shoot high-definition video of a wild giraffe stampede whilst checking World Cup scores while live video-chatting with your wife in France while pricing out a flight to Singapore while doing, um, 2,000 other rather ridiculous things you could never have imagined in a million years back on the day you were born.

And I'm thinking, sweet insanity of life, what wonderful/nefarious creatures are we? How can we keep doing this in the face of all that? How is it that we can keep creating such beauty and cool wonder in the midst of meltdown and pain? What sort of desperate dance is this? Are we spinning faster and faster toward doom? Ecstasy? Both? Are they really the same thing? Aha.

I like cars. Particularly small European cars, particularly German ones, particularly those that are tight and refined and engineered like God's own Panerai, and in this personal fetish/incarnation I hungrily observe every new development in their technology, their engines, their design and capabilities and cockpits, especially all the astonishing concept cars that roll forth, how they keep getting better and weirder and wilder and usually somehow more gorgeous and fascinating, mostly.

Yet at the selfsame moment, as the best of the world's automotive tech evolves to new heights of power and sex, poetry and movement, the BP spill and global warming, Alberta's oilsands and various soul-crushing eco-disasters of the world scream louder and louder: Here is your price. Here is your deeper meaning. Are you sure you still like cars?

It's as though the further we push the edges of industrial beauty and refinement, invention and creation, the deeper we dive straight into hell, like a master chef creating the most delicious dish ever invented, using the last wild tuna on earth. Can this really be true? Is this our doomed equation?

I also like architecture. Modern, sleek, warm and open. I scan design blogs and sigh dreamily at countless mind-blowing, heart-expanding creations all over the world, soaring spaces of light and wood, glass and steel; I'm ever incredulous at the artistry and technology of home building, the fit and finish, form and function, the extraordinary human ability to carve out space of every size and dimension, along with our remarkable power to bend the most reluctant materials of the world to our imaginative will.

And I think, how can this be? How can we steal such exquisiteness from empty space? Have these people not seen the slums in Mumbai? The homeless and their filthy shopping carts? How can we build such beguiling poetry and simplicity when a billion people have no plumbing? In short: How can the same weird little human creature contain such extremes? And are these extremes not getting ... extremer?

I get a little lost in the raging dichotomies, you might say. On the one hand...

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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the SF Chronicle and SFGate. Get it at He recently wrote about the dark, magnificent horror of the BP oil spill, the KFC Double Down, and what it's like being part of the evil liberal conspiracy. His website is Join him on Facebook;, or email him. Not to mention...