Friday, June 13, 2008

TIME WAS: Part Two: My Head Exults

These [INTERNET Internet pages take their design from magazine pages that take their design from newspaper pages that take their design from early gazettes that take their design from public notices that... We're not really looking at anything new.] pages map my mind: nook & cranny, niche & corner, knob & hollow. All stitched, woven, tied, tangled and compressed. What initially appears to be chaos manifests
, with scrutiny, as interconnected patterns. I am a pattern-maker, more interested in interconnections between M-theory, architectural transparency, primate intercourse, technological advancements, human behavior, visual-textual literary space, etc., than isolated (read: Cartesian (read: parts (read: limited))) existential dilemmas that rarely, and often don’t, rise above a 19th Century knowledge base. Thus, in much contemporary literature people do things to and with and for each other, and they are either good or bad, like kids in a school primer. Nothing is ever always that simple, that black and white.

Recently, a noted literary journal published its Editor's Choices in fiction, nonfiction and poetry, all (1) horrifying in their mediocrity, (2) retreads of older, better literary works (3) offering no significant insights regarding the way we live now.So-and-so-writer says he doesn’t live that way now. He is an idiot. Because he does live that way now: he, with his computer laptop & email & cell phone & students with their laptops & email & cell phones & IM & MySpace & YouTube & iPods growing out of their hea... He is just appallingly, inexcusably unaware that the way he lives now is the way we live now. More importantly, he has grown old and afraid of dying. Clinging to stasis is, ironically, clinging to death. Because life is change and, not coincidentally, so is language. As of June 13, 2008, over 5000 entries exist in NetLingo’s text messaging dictionary, grown from 1174 entries on May 8, 2007, when I first researched this essay. SWIS?

Obviously, I don’t have much sympathy for the willful ignorant, for those who never or no longer question, wish to know, refuse to do their homework, swallow hook-line-&-sinker every goddamn thing that makes them feel comfy-cozy-righteous and let their preferred pundits fill their mouths with shit to spit it back out as if it were/they had an original thought. Intellectual laziness, and the denunciation of the intellect, is the most dangerous evil, and these days we’re drowning in it: If nothing else, the Internet (like talk radio) gives writers a sniff of the shit in the ass crack of humanity: every blog, video, chatroom and forum becomes a dais upon which users publicize their hate and intolerance (which I hate and intolerate [sic]) and epidemic ignorance masquerading as wisdom. I am fascinated. As human I may judge, but as writer I must explore. Gutenberg's press changed the world more dramatically than the Internet; the Internet, in fact, is merely an inevitable outcome of Gutenberg's invention and Homo sapiens' propulsion toward innovation. We do not have a problem with printed matter because mass-produced books are over 500 years old
Actually, the Chinese were printing, with wooden blocks, nearly a thousand years before Gutenberg’s press. and we (the unlanded nongentry, at least) consequently are no longer entirely illiterate. Book banning, fashionable again, is the result of a complexly woven rug of illiteracy based on religious fundamentalism (literalism), reduction of K-12 arts education, the anti-intellectualism movement, and resultant decline of critical thinking.

With a single burst, an electromagnetic bomb (e-bomb) can (and likely will someday) destroy any and all technology using electricity within its range, including all – ALL! – computers and their systems.

PLEASE: Imagine the forms literature will take after another 500 years: Imagine the forms humans will take?
Humanity's ache toward the future leads us ever forward into the realm of "what if...?" For writers like me who are highly visual and aural, and synesthetic, the Internet offers fabulous forests of literary exploration for which I yearned long before the system became available. My composition space now resembles a colossal bucket of fluid whose infinite boundaries infinitely expand, projected outward by if-thens that beget exponentially more what-ifs.

Once free of the strict linearity of the book, other boundaries fall, and my narratives now incorporate video, audio, music, websites, visual art, consumer products and real people interacting with fictive characters. The Internet can teach writers and readers, if willing to learn, to see human, global and literally universal relationships, to understand that
everything is linked to everything else, that meanings arise from a malleable history created from language, that we can no longer shirk our responsibility for behaving responsibly toward all, and that we need not fear the Great Unknown(s) for that is where we live.

Literature will change as it has always changed, more or less – I hope more than less. And, as always, some people will change with it; many others will stagnate: their intellectual death preceding their corporeal death by decades, and time will pass in the pixel of an iPhone.

Because the information deluge is embryonic in the greater scheme of my spacetime, I have not yet had time to balance online time and off-line time. Bu
t I will.

"No one is ahead of his time, it is only that the particular variety of creating his time is the one that his contemporaries who are also creating their own time refuse to accept.... For a very long time everybody refuses and then
almost without a pause almost everybody accepts. In the history of the refused in the arts and literature the rapidity of the change is always startling." –Gertrude Stein

Time, as we know it, is a figment of our collective imagination. Time was, we could lay supine in the grass for hours, watching clouds shifting. Time was, we thought we reached deep enough into language.

Time was before us then. Time is before us now.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Literature & Global Warming

Look, folks: I want you to seriously consider how literature is/will be greatly affected by oil prices, global warming, and resultant economic plummet. I want you to consider that the publishing paradigm we're now using is not optimal, that we should be using & demanding development of new technologies to save both the book and the environment.

Here's an excerpt from the presentation I gave at the &NOW Festival of Innovative Writing & Art in April:

So now as a result of all that’s come before and coming now, of preparing this lecture, of thinking past the easily reachable threads already in place so that the whole realizes a burst of growth, reaches too toward some other available metaphorical space wherein and whereout I ask, metaphorically “What then is sustainable literature, literature that sustains itself, that leaves a small undamaging footprint in the world and yet is indubitably in the world? How important is it that the future / the present / the past know we were here? The multitude of writers and their publishers leaving mediocre pap in the world like mountains of discarded cell phones. Hundreds of thousands of new titles are published each year in the US alone and only a handful will ever be read by as many people. Hundreds of thousands multiplied by an average a print run of five thousand each equals nearly one billion new US books annually. A billion multiplied by an average of two hundred pages of paper, recycled or not. And the energy that goes into manufacturing that paper, that ink. The energy used even to recycle paper. And those timberlands cut down not only for the 200 billion pages a year, and the billion book covers a year, but for the wooden pallets on which those books will be shipped – two-thirds of the world’s cut wood, including rare hardwoods, used for pallets. And the energy used to make the pallets. And the energy used to transport the pallets of paper products and books. And the energy used to process the fuel used to transport the pallets of paper products and books. And the energy used to manufacture the transport vehicles. And the energy used to manufacture the parts used in manufacturing the vehicles. And so on here, there, then and now that thread of web tugged just enough so that I consider and thus point out to you now the tremendous amount of energy used for me to take a jet from Kansas City to California to give this talk that is not what I meant it to be.

More perspectives at Environmental Defense Action Fund.