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.”