Un-numbered wordatlas: what to tell your grandchildren when you don't have any, another tangential appeal to the imagination & why i quit twitter
When i was writing the last post about numbers & optimizing sunlight, amongst other things, i started rummaging through my old notebooks to find a certain series or obscure mathematical conjecture that i remember jotting down & possibly 'discovering'. I have lots of notebooks & journals full of such things (don't we all?), mixed in with musings, travelogues, song lyrics & dream entries ... things that i've always hoped to, at least in part, transcribe here. While i couldn't locate the particular mathematical series i was looking for, i came across some loose pages labeled "Diary meditation by David Harold Peery," written March 6, 1931 in Nice, France.
I'm not up to snuff on my family genealogy much, but i think David Harold Peery is my great uncle (i'm sure my mom, who sometimes reads this, will correct me if not). Of course you can google around on the internet, but typically (unless they are 'famous' or have a 'web presence') you just get names & the dates & places of where these people were born & died. Imagine that, in the end your life reduced to just that.
With a little further googling (if you care, which likely you don't, unless you are a Peery) you could discover that the surname Peery is: "Irish: variant of Perry, taken to Ireland at the time of the Plantation of Ulster and in the Cromwellian period" & that once they got to America, it seems they became mormons. From what i vaguely remember my mom saying, David Harold Peery was the childless creative-type. That's about all i know about him, I don't think i ever met him or even know what he looks like, even through photos. How his diary meditation came to be in my possession, i don't remember ... perhaps my mother handed it to me one day & i just slipped it into my journal. I do recall glancing at it once before though, as i remember it odd that he was in Nice working on a film & my brother & i were in Nice working on a film at the time of his death.
The diary meditation starts with him lamenting over the frustrations of trying to scout out a location for a film in Juan-les-Pins, on the French riviera. And even though it was written over 80 years ago, it's funny how some things never change, in regards to the day-to-day difficulties & unspoken burdens that consume us, the mass of us living out our lives in 'silent desperation,' as Thoreau put it. Or as my great uncle put it, before he went 'to the grave with the song still in him':
Yes, these are not unique thoughts. People all over the world have been thinking these thoughts for thousands of years, whether they wrote them down or not. Perhaps this is only of interest to me, since this man is 'related' to me, but sometimes you need to read such things to remind yourself of where we come from & that we all suffer this burden of being human, of being alone.
Of course it is always nice when you can go through life & only do things that appeal to the imagination. My brother (the 'creative type,' that i went to Nice with & who has since died) definitely inherited this gene, or meme, that our great uncle also carried. He had no interest in compromising himself for anything that didn't appeal directly to the imagination, that was not done in the name of fine art, not even working on shitty films, or making art for commercial gain. Besides my journals, there are also his writings & notebooks which remain in the unseen darkness of dust-gathering shelves—texts & images that i hope to, at least in part, one day transcribe here or even publish in a book. Especially the journals from his last days in & out of rehab, that could possibly be of consolation to anyone coping with addiction or dependency.
I perhaps inherited bits of this gene, at least recessively, with a bit of luck or common sense enough to override my pride & take a day job when i need to (like this morning, i just accepted a 'job' offer, fortunately flexible enough to work from anywhere). And i also married well, which is a secret loophole that can allow you to exclusively do things that 'appeal to the imagination' ... at least for the time being, perhaps wherever we resurface next our roles will shift. But even for the workhorse bread-winners like j, there is perhaps inspiration or consolation to be found in my great uncle's words, at least in knowing we are not alone in our thinking:
Not that j needs the inspiration, as she already summonsed the punk courage to quit her day job with nothing else lined up (the first time in her life she ever has). The irony is that the day after i wrote that last post about our days being numbered & all that, it seems her employer has 'rejected' her resignation ... whatever that means, except to say that our days in caput mundi may be back to being unnumbered. And if i said before that everyone's days are numbered, i'll say now that everyone's days are also always unnumbered. That life is what you make of it, or in the words of my great uncle (paraphrasing someone named 'Holmes,' perhaps Ernest Holmes?):
And speaking of an "Appeal to the Imagination," there's this, by Poem Rocket.
Just like how there are lots of great uncles with great minds that have died quiet deaths, taking their songs to their graves & leaving nothing behind for us to remember them by, there are many great living artists that no one knows about because these artists lack the skills of self-promotion or a 'web presence'. In this day & age you are dead unless you are on facebook & twitter constantly reminding people of your existence. Michael Peters of Poem Rocket is one of these people, dead to the zombies of social networking. Christian Peet, who seeded my last post, is another, self-exiled as he is in a log cabin in Vermont. Or this guy Themba that lives up in Lucerne. For whatever reason these people are not on facebook or twitter, that i know of (Xtian might be by way of Tarpaulin Sky). There are many more that at least i know about ... take that number and multiply by ten million.
When i first started 'blogging,' i had hopes that the internet would be this vast inter-connected network of content. A meme bank of expressed genes hyper-linked to each other in an ever-expanding hyper-space of information. By 'content,' i mean original content, art, not link farms & post after post of people summarizing another post in a snarky way, telling you what you should be reading or eating or listening to or looking at. Where connections are formed based on relevant & critical cross-talk.
It pleases me to think that a stranger, a friend or relative of David Harold Peery, might stumble across this post & learn a little more about him than where & when he was born & died, and perhaps even more beyond that. Not that i'm using all the right tags or SEO-optimized tricks to make his name show up in search engines. When you write everything by hand there is no blogging software to take care of doing all these things for you. And i am not tweeting or telling anyone to read this, so likely it remains stored as machine code on a server somewhere, unless you happen to stumble upon this & activate the html.
I thought maybe blogs could be the new book objects of future, holding even more potential than bound books in that they were unbounded, unconstrained, ever morphing, and having the potential to link directly to any chapter of any other "blog object" without the reader having to go to a library or to a store to buy the referenced object. And to some extent this holds true ... if you know where to look. But it's the over-proliferation of content telling you where to look that is making it harder & harder to know where to look. That & the increasing trend of pac-man siloing. This morning, after marveling at Venus & Jupiter in the pre-dawn skies, i came across this map of the internet.
The way things are going, the big globs will get bigger & gobble up all of the little globs. Some of those bigger globs are facebook, twitter, wordpress, blogspot, etc. All becoming increasing larger & more siloed. The 'walled-garden approach,' as we used to call it when i worked for evil companies who deliberately tried to isolate their "consumers" from the rest of the internet, with the false illusion that they are still connected to the rest of the world wide web. I am happy to report that 5cense.com is not on this map. I have no interest in playing in walled gardens.
I always pictured the internet to look more like this:
... which used to be the background to my ex-twitter page. What's interesting to me is not globs, but connections. I remember reading once that we all have more brain cells than we need, that when you sneeze or whatever & kill hundreds of brain cells, it doesn't matter. The number of brain cells is not so important as the connections forged between brain cells. The activization of brain cells. The internet is no different than your brain, or a fractalized cluster of 6 billion brains. It was brains that modeled if after all, naturally in their own likeness.
The beauty of the internet is what is killing it. Everyone now has the ability to 'publish' instantly, to have a voice. Like this matatu driver in Nairobi .... my latest favorite blog. Templated blog software & facebook & twitter has enabled anyone (with internet access) to speak their minds. The problem is that most people don't have anything to say and are just saying something for the sake of saying something, or to be inciteful rather than insightful (the bane of open comments & message boards). And when you start throwing in bells & whistles to 'like' something or 'favorite' something or 'retweet' something, then all hell breaks loose, as these become the metrics of 'success'. In a sort of Pavlovian response, people write things and post things that will get them liked, favorited or retweeted. More often than not, since most people have nothing to say, they link to something else, that is more likely than not by someone else with nothing to say but perhaps they are famous or have a cute dog that does funny tricks or they said something nice about the person linking to them.
The most successful 'bloggers' are not authors, but curators, the ones with an eye for viral content that gives people instant gratification, something that they can like, or favorite, or tumble, or retweet with the click of a button to show how hip they are for hearing about it first. It's only human nature that the loudest & most annoying people get ahead, this has been true for thousands of years & now we are only seeing it played out on (& exacerbated by) the internet. And as always these popular shiny happy people are the same ones that cry themselves to sleep at night.
In theory, social networking is supposed to make you feel less alone, but in the end it makes you feel more alone than ever. Not the pensive & productive lonely feeling that my great uncle is talking about above, which we all inevitably feel inside in our darkest hours, but a pathetic sadness masked with emoticons, wherein you are revolted at the sight of your own real-time face reflected in that late-night computer glow, superimposed over that smiling instagrammed shot of you back when you had a life, before you became a commodity of yourself, wherein even once you step away from your computer your skin still glows with that facebook blue hue.
Funny how lately when i listen to iTunes on shuffle, appropriate songs seem to play at just the right moment. Like as i'm writing this, Fela Kuti is singing «Zombie no go think, unless you tell am to think.» Which pretty summarizes my suspicions about 99% of internet users. Zombies that have lost the ability to think for themselves, that need to be told what to like & think.
I'm been victimized by such foolishness as much as the next guy, driven by the vain desire to be validated or liked. I've tried all these things, from friendster to facebook. Facebook was a no-brainer to quit, do i even need to go into how stupid it is? Though i did quit & came back a year later as the assumed identity "Cal A. Mari," justifying it as a necessary evil to promote all things Calamari.
Twitter is a bit more complicated. I was somewhat intrigued by twitter in the early days, but quit it because i didn't like the entourage aspect of it & the precedent it was setting by measuring your worth by the number of followers you have, as if we were all trying to prophetize ourselves. So when i went back to twitter (again, reset as Cal A. Mari), the commie in me made a concerted effort to follow anyone that followed me, at least at first. Problem is, i actually read all the tweets. So then your twitter feed gets inundated with annoying people who tweet incessantly, vying for attention, all shouting at the same time, confessing with unsustainable urgency, like the scene in Almost Famous where the plane is going down. Or there's the people who follow you because they just want to be followed back. So then you have to start making decisions about who to "unfollow," & who will be offended if you unfollow them, which is pretty dumb when you think about it. In 20 years, as you you are trying to describe what twitter or facebook was to your kids or grandkids, you will be wondering what we were ever thinking.
The guy in the above photo with my brother, Wil Wheaton, has 2,061,323 followers on twitter. Actually, it was supposed to be me in the photo (being as i was Wil Wheaton's double), that was gonna shave my body & paint it white for an extra €800 'hazard pay'. But to his credit, Wil Wheaton mustered the balls to shave his entire body (including his eyebrows) & allow himself to be painted by none other than Tom Savini. While i was "standing in" for Wil Wheaton, i remember having some reasonably interesting conversations with him about quantum mechanics & William Burroughs. But there are 2 million minds out there as equally interesting as Wil Wheaton. Granted he is a true nerd that has been blogging since 2001. And of course it helps to be famous to begin with, because then people, complete strangers, will 'like' or favorite or retweet anything you say, even if its just about what you ate for dinner.
There's lots of other reasons to leave the likes of twitter, like the desire to not be tethered or constrained to any system that treats you as a user or a commodity. Or there's the dubious questions regarding ownership of content & artistic integrity & privacy & what unknown entities are doing with your personal information, inevitably to profit at your expense. But mostly i don't like what it's done to my thinking & my writing. Yes, there's obviously the fragmentation induced by the arbitrary constraint of 140 characters, of this need to be witty & viral, in so many words. But worse is the nagging preoccupation with audience, that you are writing not your true thoughts, but writing, self-editing, only to illicit a response. Gone is objectivity & critical thinking. This is not to say i won't be 'tweeting' here, which is essentially what i have been doing all along in my quotidians, since before there was twitter. Except it is not tethered to the robotizing entourage of twitter. In fact, more often than not i just copied & pasted from these quotidians to twitter, which is redundantly silly. And context is lost in twitter (not that this stops people from having one-sided conversations for the whole world to hear).
Circling back to why I started this post, or at least the original distraction, to me blogging is an extension of journaling. When you keep a journal, you write for yourself. Who knows who my great uncle had in mind when he wrote the diary meditation which i excerpted above. Likely he had no one in mind, which is probably why i find it interesting. The best writing is done when you don't give a shit what other people think. But lately there is a certain self-conscious tone that is becoming embedded in all our writings that is likely due to social networked micro-blogging, group blogs, blog circles, etc. Where the writing becomes a promotion for itself in a self-feeding vicious cycle. There's the tit for tat, you (publicly) pat my back & i'll pat yours (or jerk yours). The instant gratification & lack of vetting & the single-click metrics of popularity only serve to inevitably corrupt our writing & art. Which is all fascinating to me as a phenomena, but at the end of the day i don't like how it makes me feel when i am a part of such a system.
In an ideal world it shouldn't matter who the author is. Information interacts with information. We all become bees & the web is a vast hive of sweet ego-less honey for all to partake equally.
And of course there is the time-wasting aspect of it. Even talking about it now seems ridiculous when i could be talking about something else. Like in the last post i forgot to mention that in the last month i've published two books ... one is the untitled book where birds are the words, which although i haven't laid my own eyes on it, is now stocked at SPD (if you are a friend of mine, expect a copy in a few weeks when i get back my grubby hands on it). The other is a little chapbook (only available in Italy, unless you want to pay extra for postage) with texts by Luca Arnaudo & art by Aldo Bandinelli (two more real-time friends, with a lot to say, who are not on facebook nor twitter).
When i first met Aldo & asked him what he did, he said he was a painter. So then i asked what types of stuff he painted, and he said he painted with white paint on off-white surfaces. That's pretty much the idea of it.
Here's a piece from the book entitled "Fermo restando", or 'Remaining still,' (for lack of better translation, but as Luca points out in the book this is a "curious Italian expression hanging between metaphysics and bureaucracy" & is used to describe the perhaps self-contradicting state of an active standstill, with wheels spinning, whereby not only are you still, but you are actively having to let it be known that you are still (sound familiar?):
If you are in the U.S. & want a copy of this book let me know & i can bring you one when i am stateside in a few weeks, thus forgoing the expensive & unreliable postage. Or the dbook version is available for free (the first half in english & the second half in italian, though the art is unique throughout). Or if you are interested in acquiring any original art by Aldo let me know & i can put you in touch with him.
As usual, i reach the end of a post & don't even touch upon what i set out to originally write about, which is where i have been lately & what i have been reading. And now, unnumbered & unencumbered as i am, i can put the cork in the bottle & throw it out to sea... >>>