On Being Myself
As of now, September first, 2008, I’m the first me in Google. This is a great honor.
I’m also the second, third, fourth and fifth. All the first five Jonathan Silbers, Google says they’re me. It feels great. If you ask Google, there is no denying who, in this entire world, is Jonathan Silber. (It’s me.)
The Google results are as follows: the first is my Linkedin page, in which you can read my entire resume, and also find out where I work, so you could come over late in the afternoon with a shotgun under your coat. The second result is my other blog, a digitalist, where you can find reasons you’d want use this shotgun on me. On the third link you get my Facebook page, where you can make sure you know what I look like, and so avoid the embarrassment of shooting strangers.
My resume, my blog, my Facebook page: indeed, these all prove that I am here, that je suis, that j’existe, that I posses life and history and friends — I can’t fade away, I will never disappear from memory, not entirely. As long as there is Google there is proof, firm, solid, that I was here. On those interminable nights where I feel myself fading away into nothing, all I have to do to remain alive is Google myself.
Memories Of 38-Iron
Does what you’re writing on change the things you’re writing? If I’ll transfer this first sentence from WordPress to my MS-Word, will the second sentence be different? What if I change the size of the window? Will a story written in a tiny space be smaller, will it feel claustrophobic to read? What if I write on paper? How much can you fine-tune it? Can we discern in the text, like the very of finest wine tasters, the version of Word the author used?
A lot of writers seem to think like that. It’s the central theme in book about typewriters, which I’ll buy as soon as I remember its title. The century or so of typewriters has certainly changed literature, but was it the typewriter or the pulp magazine that changed it? The descent of the pen or the rise of the short story? Many writers felt that the machine is dragging the story out of them, that the clicking and chiming of their typewriters lulls them into a daze from which their stories emerge. The clicking keys, the breaks from the story you have to make to put a new page in — they set a rhythm and a pattern. Does it color in some way the music of your sentences?
And computers: now most of us write prose in a desktop publishing software such as Word, and that means that every once in a while we can stop writing to play with typefaces and colors and the margin size. That has certainly changed writing for bad writers: like that god-awful fantasy novel where the bad guys and the demigods all have their own font. Does the fact our writing platform also plays songs and surfs the Internet and every once in a while interrupts to ask if it can start the anti-virus search, and starts it even when we click no, changes our writing? It must; there’s so much it does to the rhythm around you when you do. If you are the very finest of writing-tasters, you may have noticed in this last paragraph I changed applications again.
And copying and pasting and deleting sentences: for the first time in hundreds of years, we have complete control of the page. I can take this sentence and put it in another paragraph and change around some words so it would fit there, and you will never know. Or will you? Is great writing the product of having to conform to limitations? Is my new power over the page ruining my poetry?
I thought about it for a long while and then J. J. Abahrms solved it for me. In a talk about his movies and that Lost thing he pointed at his Apple iMac and said, “every time I sit to write at this thing I think, what can I write that’s worthy of a Mac?”
He got it. Writing is so hypothetical and lonely — you’re not telling jokes to an audience that can laugh or not laugh, you’re not feeling the canvas with your brush. So your something tangible is the page and the quill in your hand, the new 1954 Remington you just bought, your shining new Mac. It changes the way you write because writing is relating, and your pen pal in this case is your pen.
Covered In Layers and Layers of Droppings
I want to write in this blog, but more than that I’d like it to be old and huge and forsaken. Imagine it: Quotendquote, a tome of ancient net lore, shut forever in 1998 like the best of the internet. Or like the Mundaneum, a proto-internet one hundred years old , slowly rotting in a freezing Brussels building and covered in geological eons of bird droppings. You’d have to climb in through the eighth floor windows to get in. You’d have to use a candle to light the long, dark corridors. The root directory will be shut, the navigation too old to work. You’d inch yourself though the posts by hacking the URLs, by guessing page names, by hunting obscure hyperlinks. There’ll be hundreds to read if you wanted them bad enough, but you’ll never get the full picture, never find who I was, or why I wrote Quotendquote, or why, suddenly, one day in April 1998, I stopped writing.
Your Brain Might Get Huge
Won’t you please
observe this photo, taken at the turn of the century. It depicts an unknown early American football team, and I found it at Wikipedia. Look how lean these tiny guys look.
Next, peak at defensive lineman Michael Strahan from the the aptly-named New York Giants. (Link fixed. Thanks, Yoni!)
I swear to god, this is a post about brain power, not football, and let me be the first to draw a line from one to the other. Via Boing Boing we learn that Sharpbrains, who manufacture those brain-training software, report that 2007 was a phenomenal year for what they call Brain Fitness software. These programs grossed over 225 million dollars in the US. Real dollars. Not Canadian.
Now, I don’t mind people working hard to get ahead of others. That’s how it’s supposed to be. And as the internet turns knowledge useless and learning abilities crucial, we all expected that sooner or later people will want to do whatever they can to sharpen their minds. It’s the euphemisms I can’t stand. Brain Fitness. Brain Fitness. Fitness is what you do when you want to get leaner or prevent heart disease: you don’t get on the NFL for being lean. No. You get puffed up. You get engineered from early age to be huge. Huge! We’re saying brain fitness here, but what we mean is Giant Heads.
Not everybody wants to play defense for the New York Giants, but everybody wants a big mind. Pretty soon it’ll be a race we will all have to run in. Giant craniums all around. Let me say this: I wouldn’t be opposed to having my brain be a little leaner. Those slopes of abstract thought are getting steeper, and I for one wouldn’t mind scaling them with a little less huffing and puffing. But soon enough, I swear to god, all around you, in the street, on the line to the bank, sitting next to you when you’re waiting for a job interview, all these guys with bulbous craniums. People with portly heads testifying, just as muscular men do today, that they took no brain enhancing drugs. Giant heads, perhaps with USB 3.0 ports right behind the left ear. And I, for one, I don’t think that’s fair. I want to retain the right to be lazy and unexercised and still be considered smart. After all, that’s what being a geek is all about.
Saturday January 26th 2008, 2:03 pm
Filed under: Digitality
When I was sixteen and fascinated by defining my world by arranging the files on my computer, I made a small purgatory directory just beneath my writer’s work desk (C:\>Mine\Files\Creating\Writing\Workdesk\Purgatory). I thought I’d throw in everything I started to write but never finished; everything that needed revision and never got revised. I imagined that in ten year’s time, no matter how many full works of fiction I had produced, in the very least I’ll have a directory chuck-full of wonderful things: ideas brilliant but never really explored, terrains too bizarre to venture in, bad fiction, poetry that stinks, all these gems, overlooked in their time but ready to be discovered. A purgatory.
It’s kind of disheartening to see how empty it really is.