CategoryMetablogging

Sense Memory

In the spring of last year I was very ill. It got bad enough for long enough that I actually made and went to a doctor’s appointment, which found nothing wrong in any actionable way. Keep resting, drink fluids. As I lay wrung out on my couch, too sapped even to watch television, I stared at the tall ceiling above me and listened to the whining in my ears surge and fade, amplified by fever. For the first time, and at last, it occurred to me: I have had tinnitus my entire conscious life.

The next time I went to my doctor I asked about it, and she nodded. “Did you have a lot of ear infections as a kid?” she asked. I had. One of my earliest memories is of resting my head on the kitchen counter and feeling hot fluid drip out of my ear as my parents discussed what to do in low, worried tones. I ended up having surgery to implant temporary tubes in my eardrums. The infections stopped, but the damage lingered.

Tinnitus is usually called a “ringing” in one’s ears, but that makes me think of a bell or a telephone, which is why I never thought it described me. (Are you one of the people who can hear a persistent, faint eeeee when a CRT monitor or television turns on on? It’s like that, all the time.) The diagnosis explains a lot, actually—my preference for bass-heavy music, the way white noise helps me sleep, the staticky rush and roar I sometimes get in noisy crowds. My hearing is pretty good, considering, but the sound will be with me for the rest of my life, long after age takes that hearing from me. I’m listening to it right now, writing this. I will be as you read it. I will probably never experience silence. Yet I spent decades unaware, unable to distinguish this aspect of my life from that of everyone around me.

I am ashamed of much of what I’ve written here.

The consequence of publishing the things you think when you are twenty is that, later, people can read the things you thought when you were twenty. Most of these things were stupid. Some are toxic. Some are harmful. All were willfully deaf and blind to my own privilege. Several dear friends have turned up here in the last few years and started reading from the beginning, only to be embarrassed or repulsed by what they found. Despite the unbearable kindness of Sumana’s retrospective about this blog, I flinch to think of what it says about me.

All of this is a strong argument for the most obvious action, which is to delete nfd, or at least lock it: for the right to forget my previous self. I think I’m a better self than I used to be, and better at being human. But part of being better is honesty about everyone I’ve been. Ten years on, I still believe in transparency. To wipe this all away would be to brush out the trail marks I’ve left behind me, the stumbling footprint path from ignorance to… well, partial awareness of ignorance.

So I am letting the record stand. Maybe someone will read it and pick up a few of the things that cost me so much time and so much of others’ patience. Maybe you will read it, and grant me your own patience; or maybe you won’t. I wouldn’t blame you. I am flawed in every sense, but I will keep trying to learn to listen.

Peer to Peer

I worked for the Centre College IT department during my senior year. It was 2002. BitTorrent hadn’t reached critical mass yet, and the filescape was fragmented: finding music or software cracks meant risking your boot sector on Kazaa or Limewire or eMule, and I spent weeks cleaning malware off the computers of those who tried. Even so, I knew I had it easy. Just a couple years beforehand, IT had been dealing with Napster.

I had been part of the problem myself, then. Music is so ubiquitous now, from so many services, that it’s hard to remember when it only came in physical form. I only brought a couple dozen CDs with me to college; they, and what my friends would loan me, were all the music I could listen to. Then I downloaded this piece of software, and—while the network creaked and shuddered—my Dell became a boundless playground.

There was so much weird stuff out there, and so many obscene delights: old TV themes, rap skits, Prince B-sides, that wildly misattributed cover of “Gin and Juice.” Oh, also every song I’d ever wanted. Before the advent of decent portable MP3 players, we burned teetering stacks of sharpied CDs, or stuffed them into fat binders; we blew out car stereos and hijacked theater sound boards. Most people go through some kind of music epiphany in college, but I’ll never be able to separate my own from the opening floodgates of P2P distribution. It couldn’t last.

The courts didn’t really kill Napster: money did. I’m afraid for Twitter.

Twitter has to start making money. They’ve decided to make money via advertising. Faruk Ateş can explain why that’s a bad idea, both in selling one’s users and in stifling innovation. I wish I could just pay Twitter to let me keep posting from my third-party client and stop serving ads.

Yet I regret intensely paying to join app.net. Everything I love about Twitter comes from the fact that it’s free, anonymous, open and inclusive: my broke friends won’t be on app.net, nor will the horse books or identity thieves or psychotropic stumble-spelling genius joke poets. But will they be on Twitter? Or will Twitter fuck this up and commit suicide by cash?

It’s mindlessly easy to get music now: free if you want it, fast if you pay. But there’s no playground. The weird is dead. I have no doubt that we will retain the ability to type out 140-character sentences in any number of places for some time to come, and I know that the (vast, vast) bulk of those sentences are throwaways. But some of them are the best sentences we have yet made in English, and they can only exist in the atmosphere of Twitter, the alacrity and transience and irony and fierce, fleeting joy.

Right now, I can carry 281 people I love in my pocket, and pull them up whenever I need to learn something new. Twitter is how I talk to the world. I know this isn’t entirely healthy, but intoxication rarely is. For the second time in my life, I’m high on sharing, and I don’t want it to end.

The thematic similarities worry me

Longtime ommatidiadvocate Tikitu de Jager wrote a great signoff story that you should go read right now! And then there’s this metatextual gem, from Rachel Spitler:

I once had a dream about catching up on Anacrusis.

In the first story, some curiously dorky heroes went on safari. In the second, they all got captured by the black-skinned “King of the Amazon.”

The third was from the viewpoint of someone’s stripped and bare bones, watching the king lounge in his giant throne and gnaw thoughtfully on a comrade’s femur.

It was awesome, but I also remember going, geez, isn’t this a little racist? Random tribal cannibalism? You really went there?

Then I woke up and realized it was me all along, and thought these words: WHOA, TWIST ENDING.

Thus concludes… DEFUNCT OCCUPATIONS WEEK on ANACRUSIS

Thus begins… DEFUNCT OCCUPATIONS WEEK on ANACRUSIS

Thus begins… VOCABULARY WEEK on ANACRUSIS

After seeing it on LJ a couple times, I put some stuff from my blogs into the I Write Like tool. Different NFD entries came back as Stephen King, Douglas Adams and (oh God) Dan Brown. Anacrusis consistently gets tagged as Margaret Atwood.

I was prepared to disclaim this whole post, but I cannot argue with that at all. “The world’s longest-running Atwood microhomage” is a painfully accurate description of Anacrusis. You win, Mémoires.

I am posting this entry from my iPhone.

That is all.

90% of the links I send to the team mailing list at work are sourced from Daring Fireball, though

Standard boilerplate about not necessarily buying everything in the article I’m about to link, but:

“Comments, at least on popular websites, aren’t conversations. They’re cacophonous shouting matches.”

Yes, yes, infinite yes. It’s an iron rule. I know they drive pageviews, but if your business model relies on sacrificing the level of discourse to achieve pageviews, you’re in a bad business.

I, of course, have cleverly routed around this problem by never becoming popular, but this is the reason I’ll never turn on the comments on this blog or Ommatidia. (I honestly can’t remember why they’re on at the CHK, but that website is not a sole proprietorship.) The technology of blog comments is a net negative for the human race. If you want to talk publicly about a blog article, do it in your goddamn blog.

One of my favorite things of the many, many I’ve stolen from Sumana is the notion that blogs get a “house style.” This, for the record, is the reason long works (novels, movies, etc) get capitalized but not italicized on NFD.

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