Stan on the good, bad, and ugly of technology

Every so often we hear about an artist stopping midway through a show because someone in the audience forgot to silence his cellphone. The ringing interrupts the show and annoys everyone. We saw this happen last year at a Paul Anka concert. Anka, the consummate performer that he is, brought the house down when he approached the woman talking to her friend on the phone. He politely took the phone and began a conversation.

“Hello. This is me. Yes. I am Paul Anka. You don’t believe that you are talking to Paul? I’ll prove it to you.”

He then sang to her, returned the phone to the woman in the audience, and received a great big standing ovation. Now that’s class.

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Last month, conductor Alan Gilbert stopped a performance by the New York Philharmonic because a phone kept ringing and ringing with a Latin beat ringtone.

After the boos directed at the phone’s owner died down, Mr. Gilbert added his own heckle, “Are you finished?”

Another standing-o.

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A very different kind of reply came from Billy Crystal during his one man show on Broadway several years ago. One night, after the curtain rose for bows, Crystal walked out on stage and said the following to the hushed listeners:

“Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been a great audience except we had 12 cellphones go off. So, for the 12 of you who may have ruined it for these other people, when you go to the theater, you should turn off your cellphone, leave it at home, or stick it up your a–.”

This was met with cheers and whistles and the biggest standing ovation the star has ever received.

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I can’t remember the last time I heard a cellphone ringing in a movie theatre. I hear babies crying, yentas jabbering away as if they were sitting in their own living rooms, and the cracking, snapping sounds of chewing gum, but no cellphones. Are theatres using cellphone jammers? It is against the law to operate, manufacture, import, or offer these devices for sale and breaking the law is punishable by a fine of up to $11,000 and imprisonment of up to a year in the can?

So are the theatres doing what they shouldn’t do, or are moviegoers become better mannered? What do you think?

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Forget the iPhone and iPad, the two most useful inventions are caller ID and the back scratcher. The caller ID goes way back to when my roommate’s identity was stolen — and identity theft is as bad as everyone says it is. After several weeks of notifying everyone we’ve ever done business with, the collection agencies entered our lives. They start with polite letters. Then come threatening letters. Then telephone calls. That’s where caller ID comes in. If Carol or I do not recognize the name on the tiny screen, we don’t pick up. God bless the inventor.

Now to the back scratcher: that 15- to 18-inch piece of wood with the small hand at one end. Right, now you are asking “Why does Gershbein consider that one of the best inventions of all time?”

I am StanGershbein@Bellsouth.net answering, if you ever had an itch on your back in a spot that you couldn’t reach, you would know why.

Read Stanley Gershbein's column every Monday on BrooklynDaily.com.

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