Maxed out 

The PowerPoint of no return

By G.D. Maxwell

I don’t usually like to write about serious topics. They make my head hurt. They require facts and getting to the bottom of facts just slows down the process… and makes my head hurt. And, sadly, there isn’t really much a crank columnist in a smalltown newsmagazine can do about serious topics except lose readers whose heads also hurt whenever they turn to the last page and discover it’s been wasted on a serious topic and/or facts.

But this is different. Some things are just too ugly to turn away from, shrug your shoulders and move on to the next moment of silliness. Some injustices are simply too great to ignore. Some dangers cry out for, well, if not action than at least the withering discomfort of having the cold, hard light of scathing public criticism shined on them.

It’s becoming clear the world can stand the indignities heaped upon it by the likes of neoconservatives, evangelical Christians-Muslims-Jews, globalists, corporate polluters and yes, even Spongebob Squarepants. But I’m not certain how much longer the planet or any of its more delicate inhabitants can continue to deal with the soul-sapping, mind-numbing, eye-glazing, hyphen-inciting indignities visited upon us all by the ubiquitous and totally unnecessary ascendance of PowerPoint presentations.

Yes, the dirty little secret is out.

I’m pretty sure PowerPoint is the Armageddon we were all warned about when hysterical futurists issued their dire predictions about the societal dangers personal computers posed. It isn’t the crippling carpal-tunnel challenged generation spawned by addiction to first-person shooter games; it isn’t spam or porn or opportunities for extravagant riches offered by Nigerian princesses that flood out of the internet daily.

It is most definitely PowerPoint.

PowerPoint, or PP if you prefer, doesn’t make a bad presentation good. It just prolongs the agony, much like listening to a joke whose punchline is so obvious you saw it coming before the end of the first sentence. What PP does, is prove the link theorized so many years ago in a seminal study published in Toastmasters: The Journal of Public Speaking, which postulated that people who give bad presentations also read bad presentations poorly.

Now, instead of silently sitting in agony through a tedious speech, we can read the highlights – or lowlights – of a tedious speech long before the speaker ever actually gets to them. Is that progress or what?

Of course, to add a little zest, PP empowers the idea-challenged to inject such entertaining touches as animated arrows, sparkle fades and samples of Yanni tunes to an otherwise benign, if terminally dull, presentation, thus demonstrating for a whole generation of people who grew up never having to get dressed up to go to church on Sunday morning, the meaning of the phrase "adding insult to injury."

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