Cocooned in my brand new digital world

By Huang Hung (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-30 10:03

Cocooned in my brand new digital world

Last Christmas, my friend Bessie gave me a Kindle. It took me several hours to trick the Amazon computer into believing I actually live in America. I had to get a brand new gmail account, ask my friend's aunt permission to use her address in California - and send her several years of subscriptions to Playboy, and pay on my visa card from CITIC bank. After all that, my Kindle started to download properly and charge $1.99 for overseas downloads.

Although this attempt was successful, Amazon, much like the police in China before a major event, kept asking me on my gmail account: "Where are you?" "Are you traveling?" "You know its cheaper to download when you are home in the States" etc, etc.

I ignored all of this stupid, silly questioning like I ignore the local police trying to get me to re-register after a business trip.

Cocooned in my brand new digital world

So, my Kindle is all set and for the first time in 17 years after moving back to China in 1991, I can get my International Herald Tribune on time, not one day or two days late! And my New Yorker before it hits the newsstands in New York!

I am happy, disappearing for hours in the morning in my favorite reading chair. I have also downloaded at least 50 books. I can flip through all of them on a short flight to Shanghai, or even a car ride to the city - provided my husband is not using the Jingcheng expressway as a race track.

Ah, now that I felt totally connected to the world, I needed to upgrade the rest of my gadgetry. First, my phone; I had to get an iPhone. I bought one in Hong Kong but found it very difficult to use here. The real one offered by China Unicom is expensive, but I still shelled out 7,000 yuan ($1,025) plus to get the real McCoy.

I have to say 3G works like a charm, and I am racking up an incredible phone bill including a gazillion gigabytes of surfing on my sina micro-blog. But life is beautiful when everything is, literally, at my fingertips.

The next upgrade was the most expensive. Although Apple only has one plug and charger for iPhone, iTouch and iPod, the iPhone syncs best with an Apple computer. So I had to make that step - change from PC to Apple. A lot of people found it difficult to do their personal finances online. I can assure you that I am not one with that problem. After all these upgrades, my bank accounts, including the piggy bank, are all empty,

There is nothing to manage.

But still, I thought really hard before I made the investment in an Apple laptop. It took some time getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, it was like I had found the key to a magical kingdom.

I started to return emails at twice the speed, all my photos got organized by place, face recognition, and event timeline. And then I discovered Apps in itunes. I got hooked on Plants vs Zombies and finally found a common language with my 20-something staff.

"So boss, you still on the roof?"

"Yes, how do you kill the guys who steal plants by dropping down from the sky?"

"You got to plant the leafy plant that can be an umbrella to protect all plants."

"What leafy plant?"

"Oh, you don't have it yet."

Cocooned in my brand new digital world

I actually managed to talk their language and even impressed myself.

I also discovered iTune U and Professor John Merriman's lectures on European civilization. Now I fall asleep with his lecture echoing in my ears. Subconsciously, I now know all about European civilization.

Now that I am totally absorbed in my digital world, I hardly leave the house. I have finally accomplished the Chinese proverb: A scholar need not leave the house to know what is going on in the world.

Oh, by the way, China Daily is not on the Kindle, Shanghai Daily is. Please do something about that.

(Huang Hung is an opinionator on arts, lifestyle and show biz.)