Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Had My Damn Wheaties Today

“There is no escape. We are drowning in words. The blogs are fogging up the world. They are everywhere, in text, sound and video, a whirling dervish of yak yak, an endless buffet of opinions, hawking concepts, beliefs, convictions, perceptions, speculations. Nothing goes unsaid or unwritten. Silence has been defeated by technology. Reflection has given way to immediacy. Say or write everything on your mind. Edit nothing. We have become a world of monologists.” – Warren Adler, author of The War of The Roses, from the author’s website.

Blogs. Been noted the word sounds like something hawked up during a cold or dropped from some animal’s digestive tract. I thought they were relatively new, but then I remembered reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, a science fiction novel written in the early eighties when kids had to physically walk to the neighborhood video store for porn. The internet was more a novelty than a given for most then, most of us being rather poor. (History repeats!) Dial-up for us was exclusively for phone calls. Ender’s Game featured two young geniuses who pretty much changed the course of world politics via the anonymity of the internet; as in blogs. Card didn’t call it that, because they weren’t as popularly established then, but looking back—like all good fiction, science or otherwise—prescience is the novel’s gift to us: the Valentine children, using computer identities, were effectively discoursing blogs to influence public opinion and, in turn, world policy. There was a rakishness to their blogs: who were they; where were they? Secrecy infused their words with power. Their blogs were a chess game, a conversation with the world, dangerously flirtatious and intoxicating. And analytical.

We should strive for this in the real world.

“We have become a world of monologists.” Talking loud or talking fast. Blowing a good smoke. But saying nothing. And I specifically say talking, not writing, when it comes to blogs, because they are meant to be intimate conversations. They are the words we wish we’d said to a captive audience. “Reflection,” Mr. Adler again, “has given way to immediacy.” A well-written letter, anachronistically, transports the mind of both writer and reader to a far more intimate space than twenty breathlessly blithe, spurious toss-offs about absolutely nothing. Seinfeld made “nothing” funny for a while. Mass production makes it annoying.

But here’s the argument that proliferation is merely the democratization of technology, and technology is—at its core—the utilization and dissemination of information. We’re throwing the doors wide and letting loose the dogs of blog. Of opinion. Not of discourse, because it’s all one-sided; there are no questions asked. Not really. It is a ‘look what I can do’ world, because anything you can do I can do too. Even if I can’t. Writing, for example. Anybody can do it. But they can’t. Not as extreme as parenting, nowhere near as important, but significant as an example. The art of writing is dead. The act of writing thrives. One letter off throws the world into a tizzy (meaning the ‘r’ instead of the ‘c’—I’ll let folks catch up). Some blogs toss out meaningless facts. Some blogs toss out meaningless opinions. The politically bent will drone statistics that one pitiable reader out of ten thousand will ever care to verify. Statistics are meaningless unless humanity is attached to them. Statistics have not prevented our species from generating a universe of woe. I’ll make up a statistic now, and it’s as valid as any: ninety percent of what you and I see and read is trash. How does that feel in your heart of hearts? About right, ninety percent? In one eye, out the other? The act of writing is merely to fill up space and divert the reader’s attention. The art of writing, though, requires complete, full attention. It requires editing. It can be done on the fly but most often it’s an old man wandering streets remembering things, not a yuppie with a water bottle strapped into a tiny papoose on his back and the knowledge of precisely how to measure his heart rate. The act of writing is calculation. The art is more organically planned. I need you to analyze and synthesize, hypothethize and correct. Germinate. Take pen to paper, write down an idea, then think it through. I want to look you in the eye, and you me, and we see one another. With both eyes. Yes? In two eyes, through two lobes of brain (it’s a wonder we’re not falling over, our species working off one lopsided lobe or other), multiplied into four. This ceases to be a monologue, because, in effect, I am not alone. You are in my mind. Pop culture references have their value when used judiciously and lucidly. My mind to your mind. Vulcan mind meld.

I am not here alone and have no interest in hearing the constant sound of my own voice.

Put another way, the sound of one hand clapping is a blog performed with one hand typing. You don’t want to know what the other hand is doing.

Sex and blogs? Same meld analogy. I’m about to say something deserving of another pop culture reference. Blogs are furiously masturbatory. Search your feelings; you know this to be true. Much like the Valentine children, the internet allows free run to any avatar we care to be. We can lotion up one hand while fantasizing that our words, once read, will excite and titillate the most closed minds to transports of greatness. I can be the Amazing Kreskin, Dr. Cornell West, James Bond and Santa Claus all in one, pleasuring mental g-spots like the fingers on Wilt Chamberlain’s hand. Fantasy and masturbation are fun in small doses, but to truly get the freak requires an able partner, and by able is meant a ready willingness to smak it up, flip it and rub thoughts down. Communication is sex. Anyone who’s brought a woman to orgasm knows that sex requires an attention span sensitive to detail and nuance. Blogs, generally speaking, aren’t intended for deep penetration. But they can be. Slow, hopeful strokes from subtly changing directions. Sex is about keeping hope alive. Blogs, then, should be about keeping the lines of communication open.

Blogs…are parted thighs. My (imaginary) pen…

But you say, is it necessarily a bad thing that we are awash in a rising tide of populist words? The elite have masturbated while we stood as valets to hand them cleansing cloths long enough? I’m not sure here. My gut says we should all strive to be elite (potentially making us all elite and thus right back where we started). I would rather everyone see themselves elite on merit than willfully stupid on indulgence, which is just a few letters away from indolence.

Cows, my friends, chew cud.

Technology has indeed killed silence. Bludgeoned it, to be precise, and the examples are too obvious to go into, except I will mention the internet and its gatekeepers. AOL used to be somewhat neutral in its stupidity. News was where it needed to be and entertainment was where it needed to be, neither in any actual depth and often not entirely accurate, but easily ignorable. Not so anymore. AOL now revels in its stupidity. News and entertainment are now composed of little more than juvenile blogs within blogs, gushing about this or outraging about that. A more vapid accumulation of electricity would be hard to find.

And I have no plans to look.

Like all candy, vapidity has its place, separate and after the meal, not mixed in so thoroughly that it becomes an integral part of dinner. Ignorance is not bliss and noise is not conversation. I agree with Mr. Adler, but the genie’s out of the bottle. Words and life stories and memoirs and daily accounts and update postings and fraternalia, genitalia, errata and suspicion. There are too many cell phones. There are too many televisions. There are too many cars. There are too many ill-used computers. There are way too many useless things being foisted on us, consuming the most valuable resource available, time, and returning absolutely nothing. (I’m reminded of recently watching the movie 300.) Recall your own instance realizing that you’d just lost time you will never get back allowing someone to sell you snake oil.

But that’s what we get when we have too many people with too many opportunities to hold us hostage with the mundane. Not that the mundane can’t be fascinating, because, unless you’re God, everything is mundane. But that’s where the art comes in. Art takes the foot you’ve looked at and washed every day of your life and turns it into a step that could just determine the direction of the rest of your life. Nothing mundane about that. That’s called universal.

Here I am. Blogging. Irony is the new cereal of the Ages.

What does that mean?

You tell me.

It’s quiet enough in my mind that I’ll hear. But only talk if you’ve got something to say. Dress in your best avatar.

Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

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