"It used to be that the classical bartender was the professor of the people, the expert on all things debated and discussed across the mahogany," says beverage expert Derek Brown at The Atlantic. Now, smart phones provide barflies with instant access to the internet's infinite array of facts and figures. These ubiquitous gadgets have usurped the bartender's role as public house arbiter and killed the time-honored pastime of barroom debate. "All of this is fine for knowledge's sake," he says, "but it does little for our public life." Here, an excerpt:
One of my heroes of the stick, and a man who exemplified this trait, was Rickey-inventor George Williamson. He tended bar at the legendary Shoomaker's in Washington, D.C. — a stone's throw from the White House — and was known for both his drink-making and bar-side manner. His 1915 obituary from the Washington Evening Star states, "Many a great question of national politics has been thrashed out, if not settled, in [Williamson's] presence and himself participating in the discussion."
That was then. Last week I bought the new iPhone 4 — so you know that I'm not a Luddite — but I have to admit, while staring down at this little devil of a device, that it has all but obliterated the role of arbiter for the bartender. If you want to know how many yards John Riggins rushed for the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVII, you just whip out your smart phone and "Google it." (The answer: 166 yards.) If you want to know who was the 26th president of the United States, a quick visit to Wikipedia will do the trick. (For the record, it's Teddy Roosevelt.)
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- As deadly skin cancer rates keep climbing, surgeon general says to stop tanning and wear sunscreen
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
Subscribe to the Week