"We are all one question, and the best answer seems to be love—a connection between things….That is why I read: I want everything to be okay. That’s why I read when I was a lonely kid and that’s why I read now that I’m a scared adult. It’s a sincere desire, but a sincere desire always complicates things—the universe has a peculiar reaction to our sincere desires. Still, I believe the planet on the table, even when wounded and imperfect, fragmented and deprived, is worthy of being called whole. Our minds and the universe—what else is there?
…In our marginal existence, what else is there but this voice within us, this great weirdness we are always leaning forward to listen to?”
—from “Someone Reading a Book,” Mary Ruefle
As part of what I’m calling the Great Computer Backup Project 2014, I undertook a subproject last night, called, figuring out what the hell is on my desktop. A place that I’ve kept, well, inclusive.
You know, a little of this, a little of that.
There was the normal stuff: double-downloaded pdfs, timesheets, Joe Biden pics, screen captures that prove I applied for an NEA and filed my taxes. But there were also weirder chunks of text and pixel, many unattributed, such as this conversation:
You mean the Maltese Falcon?
It’s an eagle.
Okay, well, I call it a falcon.
It’s an eagle. It’s just like the one Lynn gave us.
And this brief character study, embedded in a text file called “taxday”:
bartender called harmless
worked with him at place called smiling moose
did not steal my computer
Maybe, I thought, this is what pinterest is like, only in reverse.
"Taxday," otherwise undated, also suggests I must have briefly waded into internet dating territory that year, based on a cut-and-paste times new roman note from one Bradley, who goes to great length to describe his reaction to Ira Glass’s reaction at the end of a certain This American Life episode, and then closes by saying he’s "always up for tea."
The file contains no evidence of a reply.
I found some other things I forgot or maybe blocked, including proof I wrote poetry as late as 2011, and, apparently, an Open Letter to Steve Nash.doc.
Also found: Kaiser Family Foundation fact sheet on Medicaid and the uninsured, a draft of a white paper on Heparin I worked on, and a series of haiku I wrote on a choir bus somewhere between the Quad Cities and Minneapolis, fueled by red vines and existential fatigue.
And this screen capture, which I named “JonStewartcrushphoto.”
Because it is poetry month and I’m feeling reckless/optimistic and I miss singing, or the slushy no-man’s-land between winter and spring, or something, I give to you part of that poem, now properly filed away in its “poetry of yore” file, the equivalent of the free/donate box that hangs out in the garage, because you can’t even recycle this stuff, they won’t take it, and which I will doubtless delete delete delete in the coming days, when I remember I don’t know how to break lines.
they put these RIGHT next to the “blood” oranges. jesus christ, whole foods… you want a turf war??!!!
Apologies to Flaubert.
The characters in these stories often build their lives on speculation, on things one read somewhere (that thing about a frog acclimating to boiling water if you raise the temperature slowly enough gets mentioned twice), and sometimes on theories that don’t quite hold up in practice. Moore’s characters are usually lonely, and loneliness can breed a certain sort of unreliability, the associative loopiness of a person who’s gone too long without meeting one of their basic needs, like sleep or food or human interaction. — Shannon Elderon reviews Bark by Lorrie Moore (via therumpus)
'The associative loopiness of a person who's gone too long without meeting one of their basic needs!
Great review; I’m in.
I haven’t been on here in awhile. Honestly, I forget about it. There’s that saying about the three legs of a stool — is it a saying, or just a fact? — so I guess tumblr is like the fourth leg that my brain doesn’t need to balance on the floor of the internet. Or maybe my brain is the floor in this case, on which the feet of the internet rest or wobble…
It’s raining. I can’t tell how much. There’s this deck outside my window, a little space onto which my kitchen faces, too, and the stairwell comes around. It’s narrow, shaped like a paper sack, and not much light gets in. A good place to ripen bananas, probably. In the creases are some drainpipes (I will verify quantity when it’s not raining) so sometimes it’s hardly raining but the drainpipe(s) make it sound like it’s really raining, and when it’s really raining, you feel comforted by the relentlessness of the rain in the pipes and on the old wood deck and all the other surfaces out there. I tried to find a good verb for what rain does on this deck recently and gave up.
The picture above is what my eyes were seeing when my brain registered what it had just read, which was the sentence: Sadie Stein on the emotional process of changing your phone number. Scrolling, we call it, like it’s this simple thing, one agreed-on verb, but I think whatever it is that we’re doing on here is more complicated and that word is a bit casual for it. I should point out that I didn’t read the article about changing the phone number because it seems sweet but obvious, like that sentence is really all there is to say about that — enough — and should be merely a caption on something like a picture of a rotary phone or a dog in a fleece-lined mackintosh. More and more, this is how our brains are dealing with the internet - scrolling. Wheel-of-fortuning the rest of the story for snippets or teasers we go past like highway lines, catching at them with our teeth.
My brain, anyway. I will only speak for my brain.
To speak for a brain! To note a bear (which is the handle of the original poster, I think, of the photos of small dogs in capes.)
I know it’s not really a mackintosh. Probably not an anorak, either, all those good words for the relatives of coats. Most of my knowledge of outerwear is still imaginary, gleaned from chapter books checked out from the Phoenix Public Library in summer, wearing my year-round uniform of t-shirts and shorts.
I was popping corn in my air-popper tonight and I remembered tumblr and wanted to write something but it was floaty then and it’s too floaty now, to pin down exactly what I wanted to say. Something about putting tupperware away at 5:30 on a Monday, tupperware my father sent back with me on the plane, carrying exactly one cup of rendered bacon fat for pie crusts I’d told him I wanted to make. Reading Mavis Gallant stories at your square kitchen table and laughing at lines to yourself, the office in Montreal she describes setting up in your head as an amalgam of offices you’ve known and not known, the one you visited your mother in when you were a kid plus the mailroom from the one in Boston plus that iconic Mad Men floorplan. The slipping a first person does into the second person sometimes, a slippage I’m coming more and more to believe has to do with certain species of solitude, and also with listening to public radio during pledge week, when the voices address you head on: Act now. This is your chance to be a part of something that matters. You’ve got just ten minutes to get in on this special offer.
I recently took my first ride in a float plane, drove to the Grand Canyon on a day so windy it was two hands for over 100 miles, wished I could remember someone’s exact words, regretted other things I said. Went to the AWP conference, where scrolling seems to be a primary activity, the right verb for the new flaneur. Read books and parts of books and essays and poems and stories I am thinking about, and maybe will start to think about here again, if I remember.
The thing is, I have these books I write in longhand and if given a choice I tend to go there, the writing getting smaller and smaller as I near the bottom of a page. Sometimes I wonder what kind of vanity it is, to write in those books, and how closely such vanity is related to the kind that makes me write things here, and not just keep going past the bundled-up dogs and the excerpts and the series of beautiful strange images that someone has made and tagged and pressed onto this machine, which is still how I think of the internet—as a machine—which is wrong, I know, though I’m not sure how wrong. And that question seems important to me right now, pressing—How wrong?—one of the points, the legs, over which so many of my thoughts these days are distributing their weight.
The Phoenix Labs — Part Five « Five Chapters -
My story “The Phoenix Labs” has been going up at FiveChapters this week. Today you can read the whole thing. Thanks to FiveChapters, for serializing a public health story. And thanks to all those who worked at the original Phoenix Laboratories, where the work on parathion that inspired this story was done, and changed the game.
Also, I’ve been reading Robert Boswell’s craft book THE HALF-KNOWN WORLD, Jenny Offill’s DEPT. OF SPECULATION, Jim Gavin’s MIDDLE MEN, Mavis Gallant’s THE COST OF LIVING and VARIETIES OF EXILE and her collected, and Mary Ruefle’s MADNESS, RACK and HONEY again, which I always have the urge to copy down word for word into my notebook but end up compromising and only copying some.
OH, and Jack Pendarvis’ “blog,” which I will not be bossy and tell you to read, because bossiness is my Number One Complaint about the internet right now, or maybe Number Two, after the group decision to stop fact-checking and just keep linking to stuff that may or may not be true, because fact-checking doesn’t show up in metrics.
Also, this is a thing I saw on twitter yesterday which made me really really sad, via the transitive property: K = L = P, where Kindness = Lifelong customer = Profit.