Monthly Archives: July 2010

Where I Was Going

Aunt Judy and the boats

I was up late last night unable to watch TV, reading in bed. I was reading, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting,” by Jeffrey Rosen, about how what we post on the internet marks our identities indelibly, and it ran against my grain of thinking. Rosen brings up good points about how we all need to be careful how much of our lives we choose to share on the internet. To my mind, no different really than that we need to be careful how much of our lives we choose to share in meat space. Rosen proposes that the permanence of what we post remits our American right to re-invent our personas. To solve this problem he and others have in mind sunsetting the content – making it disappear after a few months. How does this make me feel?

While driving down to CT the other night after work I thought about my mother’s voice and tried to reproduce it in my head. I couldn’t do it. Today I was thinking about Allan Stagg, my favorite radio disc jockey of all time, and tried for an hour to find archives of his legendary radio show Sanctuary. I failed to find it anywhere on the web. His personal website and political blog have both lapsed and are gone. My other website, filthylemurs.com, is an embarrassment to me. Someone recently left a (real) comment that began, “This fucking bullshit is not funny seriously…” The site was up for renewal and a comment like that almost convinced me to let it slide into the sea… But that’s not me.

I put aside, “The End of Forgetting,” and picked up Joan Didion’s memoir, “Where I Was From,” which begins, “My great-great-great-great-great-grandmother…” Its the collective memory of her family and life recorded in a messy, fun memoir, from oral tradition, to the “old potato masher which the Cornwall family brought across the plains in 1846,” to the first lines of the speech Joan gave to her classmates at her eighth grade graduation (which I will re-publish here as a rebuke to “The End of Forgetting,” substituting the phrase “the internet” for “California”:

“They who came to [the internet] were not the self-satisfied, happy and content people, but the adventurous, the restless, and the daring. They were different… They didn’t come… for homes and security, but for adventure and money. They pushed in over the mountains and founded the biggest cities… Up in the Mother Lode they mined gold by day and danced by night. [The] population multiplied almost twenty times, until… it burned to the ground, and was built up again nearly as quickly as it had burned… [The internet] has accomplished much in the past years. It would be easy for us to sit back and enjoy the results of the past. But we can’t do this. We can’t stop and become satisfied and content. We must live up to our heritage, go on to better and greater things for [the internet].”

The internet, like Didion’s eighth grade California, is easy to idealize. Its a chaotic frontier, the last one left. To me, this California cannot be allowed to slide into the sea…

Further timely and informative summer reading: In This Weather, Even [the Mullens] Are in Peril… “It feels like a big fat duck is sitting on your face.”

Crushing Loneliness

I phoned my sister post work Saturday night. We discussed relationships, personal and professional. She says I am caught in the maw of love. Her recommendation was to read Chapter 14: Epilogue: Crushing Loneliness in Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software, a biography by Sam Williams. From which I share the following excerpt:

Chef takes a vacation

On the way over to the restaurant, I learned the circumstances of Sarah and Richard’s first meeting. Interestingly, the circumstances were very familiar. Working on her own fictional book, Sarah said she heard about Stallman and what an interesting character he was. She promptly decided to create a character in her book on Stallman and, in the interests of researching the character, set up an interview with Stallman. Things quickly went from there. The two had been dating since the beginning of 2001, she said.

“I really admired the way Richard built up an entire political movement to address an issue of profound personal concern,” Sarah said, explaining her attraction to Stallman.

My wife immediately threw back the question: “What was the issue?”

“Crushing loneliness.”

During dinner, I let the women do the talking and spent most of the time trying to detect clues as to whether the last 12 months had softened Stallman in any significant way. I didn’t see anything to suggest they had. Although more flirtatious than I remembered-a flirtatiousness spoiled somewhat by the number of times Stallman’s eyes seemed to fixate on my wife’s chest-Stallman retained the same general level of prickliness. At one point, my wife uttered an emphatic “God forbid” only to receive a typical Stallman rebuke.

“I hate to break it to you, but there is no God,” Stallman said.

Afterwards, when the dinner was complete and Sarah had departed, Stallman seemed to let his guard down a little. As we walked to a nearby bookstore, he admitted that the last 12 months had dramatically changed his outlook on life. “I thought I was going to be alone forever,” he said. “I’m glad I was wrong.”

Before parting, Stallman handed me his “pleasure card,” a business card listing Stallman’s address, phone number, and favorite pastimes (“sharing good books, good food and exotic music and dance”) so that I might set up a final interview.


Stallman’s “pleasure” card, handed to me the night of our dinner.

The next day, over another meal of dim sum, Stallman seemed even more lovestruck than the night before. Recalling his debates with Currier House dorm maters over the benefits and drawbacks of an immortality serum, Stallman expressed hope that scientists might some day come up with the key to immortality. “Now that I’m finally starting to have happiness in my life, I want to have more,” he said.

When I mentioned Sarah’s “crushing loneliness” comment, Stallman failed to see a connection between loneliness on a physical or spiritual level and loneliness on a hacker level. “The impulse to share code is about friendship but friendship at a much lower level,” he said. Later, however, when the subject came up again, Stallman did admit that loneliness, or the fear of perpetual loneliness, had played a major role in fueling his determination during the earliest days of the GNU Project.

“My fascination with computers was not a consequence of anything else,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been less fascinated with computers if I had been popular and all the women flocked to me. However, it’s certainly true the experience of feeling I didn’t have a home, finding one and losing it, finding another and having it destroyed, affected me deeply. The one I lost was the dorm. The one that was destroyed was the AI Lab. The precariousness of not having any kind of home or community was very powerful. It made me want to fight to get it back.”

No Hay Banda!

It is all an illusion

Bondar: No hay banda! There is no band! Il n’est pas de orquestra! This is all… a tape-recording. No hay banda! And yet we hear a band. If we want to hear a clarinette… listen… Un trombon “à coulisse”. Un trombon “con sordina”. Sient le son du trombon in sourdine. Hear le son… and mute it… drop it… It’s all recorded. No hay banda! It’s all a tape. Il n’est pas de orquestra. It is… an illusion. Listen… Senoras y senores… el club Silencio les presenta la llorona de Los Angeles: Rebekah del Rio.

Hey pretty girl time to wake up

Cowboy: There’s sometimes a buggy. How many drivers does a buggy have? One. So let’s just say I’m drivin’ this buggy… and you if fix your attitude you can ride along with me. Okay. I want you to go back to work tomorrow. You were re-casting the lead actress anyway… audition many girls for the part. When you see the girl that was shown to you earlier today, you will say: “This is the girl.” The rest of the cast can stay. That is up to you. But that lead girl is not up to you. Now, you will see me one more time… if you do good. You will see me two more times… if you do bad.

-from David Lynch’s 2001 film, Mulholland Drive (This is the first by Lynch that I’ve seen. I was reading David Foster Wallace’s impression of the director and Lost Highway in “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” and I saw that Mulholland was screening at the Brattle, as the first film in their (Some Of) The Best of the Oughts series. I was blown away! The audience loved it too. After the Blue-Haired Lady whispered, “Silencio,” the crowd erupted in an ovation, and I couldn’t stop smiling.)

Bubby, El Chico Malo

Two of those wonderfully fattening chocolate eclairs please

The Scientist: [plays organ music in church]
Bubby: Jesus can see everything I do… and he’s going to beat me brainless!
The Scientist: Come down.
[Scene change; they are in a factory]
The Scientist: You see, no one’s going to help you Bubby, because there isn’t anybody out there to do it. No one. We’re all just complicated arrangements of atoms and subatomic particles – we don’t live. But our atoms do move about in such a way as to give us identity and consciousness. We don’t die; our atoms just rearrange themselves. There is no God. There can be no God; it’s ridiculous to think in terms of a superior being. An inferior being, maybe, because we, we who don’t even exist, we arrange our lives with more order and harmony than God ever arranged the earth. We measure; we plot; we create wonderful new things. We are the architects of our own existence. What a lunatic concept to bow down before a God who slaughters millions of innocent children, slowly and agonizingly starves them to death, beats them, tortures them, rejects them. What folly to even think that we should not insult such a God, damn him, think him out of existence. It is our duty to think God out of existence. It is our duty to insult him. Fuck you, God! Strike me down if you dare, you tyrant, you non-existent fraud! It is the duty of all human beings to think God out of existence. Then we have a future. Because then – and only then – do we take full responsibility for who we are. And that’s what you must do, Bubby: think God out of existence; take responsibility for who you are.

And if the poison dont get you God will

Nurse: The garden is filled with flowers of all different colors and it smells so beautiful in that garden. It is a very special garden. No one knows about this garden, no one is allowed to come in, only people who love you. Only people who care about you and only people you want to let in. Very high picket fences surround the garden, its hidden in high grass and no one can see it. Imagine yourself being in the garden lying on the grass, feeling very comfortable. Its a beautiful day, the sun is shining, its warm and the wind gently touches your cheek.

-from the 1993 Australian film, Bad Boy Bubby, written and directed by Rolf de Heer

My Brother Jumps/

I went running after midnight, in the dark except for yellow streetlamps, to avoid the heat of day. Eight miles in, I tripped on uneven concrete. Headfirst I dived into the sidewalk and skinned my arm from wrist to elbow.

Anna McGahans brother jumps

-from my Australian friend Anna’s Flickr photostream… The Elephant Fire

I Lost Something. I Lost Me.

Lost in a crevasse

Looking at where I was, it was an awful prospect. You know, you don’t die of a broken leg. Think I did turn my head torch off to save the batteries. It was dark and it began to get to me. There is something about crevasses. They have a dread feel. Not a place for the living. I could hear the ice cracking and wind noises in the ice. I turned the light on again ’cause I didn’t like it in the dark. I felt very alone. And I was very scared. I was also twenty five and fit. Super ambitious, and this was the first trip I had been on. I wanted to climb the world and it just didn’t seem… This hadn’t been part of our game plan.

In the shadow of Siula Grande

I did eventually collapse amidst the rocks and I didn’t sleep very well. My leg was very painful. It was agony. It was the first night it hadn’t stormed. It didn’t snow on me, it didn’t rain, and I could see the stars. I remember lying on my back for what seemed endless periods of time, staring at the stars. At one point was this weird sensation that I’d lain there, conscious, for centuries, for lifetimes, becoming part of the rocks, part of where I was never going to move from.

-Joe Simpson, from the 2003 documentary, Touching the Void

Partly Sunny and Hot

Line drawing in Marcias kitchen

On the way home, my bike tire rolled over a tortilla chip.

Nackt

Lizard kink

Louise: How did you get here?

Johnny: Well, basically, there was this little dot, right? And the dot went bang and the bang expanded. Energy formed into matter, matter cooled, matter lived, the amoeba to fish, to fish to fowl, to fowl to frog, to frog to mammal, the mammal to monkey, to monkey to man, amo amas amat, quid pro quo, memento mori, ad infinitum, sprinkle on a little bit of grated cheese and leave under the grill till Doomsday.

Bored

Johnny: Was I bored? No, I wasn’t fuckin’ bored. I’m never bored. That’s the trouble with everybody – you’re all so bored. You’ve had nature explained to you and you’re bored with it, you’ve had the living body explained to you and you’re bored with it, you’ve had the universe explained to you and you’re bored with it, so now you want cheap thrills and, like, plenty of them, and it doesn’t matter how tawdry or vacuous they are as long as it’s new as long as it’s new as long as it flashes and fuckin’ bleeps in forty fuckin’ different colors. So whatever else you can say about me, I’m not fuckin’ bored.

-from the 1993 film Naked, written and directed by Mike Leigh

There’s no such thing as an ordinary cat

Etta with a feather

LEARN CHINESE – Living room 起居室 (Ke ting)
Lucky Numbers 52, 13, 11, 28, 41, 25

This isn’t Yokohama. This is America.

On the train to Memphis

Jun: You know, Memphis does look like Yokohama. Just more space. If you took away sixty percent of the buildings in Yokohama, it would look like this.
Mitzuko: This doesn’t look anything like Yokohama. This is America. And the city of Elvis. We didn’t have Elvis in Japan. This is nothing like Japan. Tobacco.

In a fun hotel

Night Clerk: Well, what about on Jupiter?
Bellboy: At the time of his death, if he were on Jupiter, Elvis would’ve weighed six-hundred and forty-eight pounds.
Night Clerk: Six-hundred and forty-eight. Damn.

-from Mystery Train, directed by Jim Jarmusch

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