Alphabetically Searched & Engineered Optimization

googling alphabet

H. bared herself for all she had been, the way a vampire bares his fangs before an open throat thrust back, the eyes horrified, the day she signed off with just a capital letter at the end of her tweet over the young man’s untimely death. This public little capital left at the end of the string of characters, like an initial scribbled on a napkin on a kitchen table, or at the end of a little note left behind for a colleague missed who’s already gone out to lunch, that sort of thing, where the truly genuine is present, the daily forgettables of intimacy, this little calculated gesture of authenticity at digital inauthenticity’s most uncalculated worst, now this shall have been the moment when all the chickens came home to roost.

The idea of using backdoor analytics is anathema if not altogether repugnant. It is to devise digital corridors, sluices, to fill the seats of a stadium that has not been built to be filled with fans who are not there to watch a game that has not existed. It is the difference between even those magnificent ones who begin by almost drowning, who become our precious Dutch uncles, and then sadly they lose us altogether—and complete despair. In the first, picture a writer who is seeking his voice, who in the next picture he altogether has it; and in the third one he pretends for the so-called sake of his listeners, to have had one. This is similar to the breakdown in the famous triad of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. We could also call this the private, the public, and the political (or poof!).

Imagine a snout rooting in your backyard. Picture the animal turning up grass, dandelions, and violets. See for yourself how everything now that you think has been carefully optimized. You want to catch this. You want to catch that. You put things you never thought of before in quotation marks before you put them down in what becomes print (of one kind or another). You are already quoting yourself before you have begun. And you force yourself to avoid the plus-que parfait, even though everything is basically jettisoned there anyway. Time is staked behind you. You know that. But you smile ahead, pretending that you are walking naturally, wondering to yourself how a friend is getting on. In fact you will use anything: ‘literature’, ‘Kafka’, words to get what you want. You became the Little Engine That Could, not in the sense of the conditional, which you had always understood that to be until now, but in the past tense conjugation, as in the past tense of what: I can, You can, She can do, or, did.

Empty Morning Pilgrimage

daybreak over trees and umbrella

She never came to the page unless she had a thought or an idea or had had a note. In that way, she never faced a blank page. In other words, it was a page already written upon, if only a little bit. And that little bit became when she did more to the page a little bit more. That’s it. So she never had to face it: the page. But “page,” anyway, is such a funny little thing. Here, in the United States of America, it is measured 8 ½ inches wide by 11 inches long, or tall. Not so in France. Not so in Hungary. The measurements of this page were different. And a pad of paper elsewhere won’t fit into your usual notebook, won’t fit into your usual binder. You’ll have to buy a new one to fit the new page’s new measurements. Anyway, the whole idea of “a page” was sort of silly. For almost no one in his or her right mind uses them anymore: paper pages. Paper pages of any kind of any measurement, long or short, wide or narrow aren’t used much for writing today. So, the idea of having to “face” one is a little bit amusing. The page itself is a sort of skeuomorphic reminder, the way little blue pixilated images of fake blue manila folders on my computer’s “desktop” are other sorts of reminders, too, of that other world, lost and bygone. Most of that world doesn’t feel forlorn to me at all, not anymore than my listening to a gramophone repeating the sounds of a human voice would be shocking.

I rather in my own life had sought a way, a methodology to be able to get exactly what it was I was hearing in my head down. Dante was apparently lucky to have had a scribe before him (I had once heard) before whom he could pronounce his golden words and they were taken down. In a similar fashion there is the lore of blind Milton having had his obedient daughters do the same. But I could never do that, could never face the rough circumstances of having to hear my own human voice making those sounds. The sounds themselves would barge in and push me off. There never had been anything to face at all. The blackness of dawn begins to change a little bit to light, just a little bit barely gray and the crickets of the night continue their wailful singing for a while. Soon enough the birds will come and cry among the limbs from tree to tree. An occasional car or trudging school bus or labored garbage truck will truck up the hill. This is just how it goes. Just as it is the nature of the black morning sky to soon enough open to become blue or gray or filled with thunderous clouds, that has been my own for as long as I recall. The truth is I had never had a thing in mind before my two hands were magically at work, like the shoemaker’s elves making a pair of boots, doing what they do out of joy and their own holy duty to serve for as long as they remained undiscovered by the poor & honest shoemaker and his poor & honest wife.

Lost Memory Devices

seaside horizon (diana)

Time has no memory. The fact that one image is made today, and another was made a year ago, or two, or ten doesn’t matter to ‘time’ at all. They are all the same. So, if the onlooker returns to the same spot and creates another image there, only the looker really knows the spirit of return and having returned to it. To all else, who might ever view these ‘memories’ of the onlooker, even these words are nothing but a footnote, and really, when you get down to it, not a very important one. The onlooker can of course play a little bit. The equipment can be changed up, and the result will be a distortion—or an adaptation—of the vision of wherever the looker had once stood. These themselves will easily give the impression of history—time’s immodest patina that paints the world in the palettes of Diana, Holga, Nikon, and Leica, and so forth.

chauvet cave

In the prehistoric images first drawn upon the walls 32,000 years ago of the Chauvet Cave, identically drawn animals painted near and atop other images of identically drawn animals, one, two, or five thousand years apart, were drawn upon the curved inner stone walls almost exactly as they had been one, two, or five thousand years the last time they had been drawn there before. In other words, nobody erased them. And thousands of years later, somebody else came, and sometimes drew the same images again beside them. And then this happened again. The enormity of this can only really start to make sense when one considers that all the ages that have passed since the time of Ancient Greece and now are like a blip between one painter’s hand in a cave and another’s thousands of years later.

The Unseen Photograph

large format camera

Take away the old-fashioned camera on its tripod and this picture is a different picture altogether. But, with its equipment and vista, this picture announces itself to be to us, as viewers of it, a self-conscious work of art which aestheticizes its own being the making of a beautiful work of art. But something else strange is going on here. This is a work of art that is yet to be made! So, we then viewing this picture, we become the artists who are going to make it, standing directly behind the wooden-legged tripod of the large format camera. We ourselves, looking at it, imagine it! We look and see what it could be. We survey what we see in this photograph and imagine ourselves timing the moment to make that actual yet-to-be photograph—which this photograph is not! Not only is this field of creative yearning opened up, not only is the finite infinitude of the beautiful misty horizon opened to us here, but the exact position of where our exact footing will be—is—is in it. We know exactly where we will step, where we will stand, where we are going to imagine the picture that will be that we are going to make will be. But we do not know when we will make it! That is left, as we gaze at this photograph, to our imaginations.

Diana ‘Toy’ Film Camera

diana

The poet Marianne Moore defined poetry as an imaginary garden with real toads in it. I’d like to propose something similar here. That if we have a technical garden, there can be real things growing in it. It is not only possible, it was inevitable. The horizon was scanned and there was stuff in it. Moreover, it was possible to put our own stuff in it, stuff that belonged indeed to the technical age right before our own. And that can be very new and fun to do.

So, imagine Perseus without the help of a mirror to ‘not-see’ Medusa. Had he looked at this snake-ridden monster directly, rather than a reflection of her on the back of his shiny shield, then death was instant. Like others before him without the helping hand of technology (not to mention sandals that helped him fly about nimbly, as well as a cap that made him invisible!), another stone statue.

Picture not what we will imagine—regardless of any efforts to squelch or suffocate it or mute it—to be a snake-headed monster, something to fear and loathe and conquer, but something else. Picture it to be not baneful, but perhaps beneficial. I cannot myself yet imagine it. But I do know that it is inescapable because we humans are both biological and technical animals. And at times, if we welcome them, though it is rumored they have fled, we may receive the helping hand of the gods. The news is very old.

Abandoned Iron Horse Found

train

He had had an old Nikkormat that was his dad’s. It’d been kicking around. There was another camera, a Leica, with a parallax view-finder he’d used as kid when he was nine and ten but that was gone with the snows of yesteryear. And this old brick, the Nikkormat, he’d just been going around the neighborhood shooting this and that, whatever had caught his eye, nothing fancy. Just the garbage and debris and what lay about it. He’d no idea how good the thing was, with its 50 mm/1.4 prime. It’d just been this old camera that he took when he left, or maybe his sister had gotten to him for some reason now that’s completely lost. This was ages before things got cool, before things got hip. This is when rent was cheap and rats pushed their way through the kitchen cabinet under the sink and you saw that rat when it did that and screamed and hid the baby and then called up the landlord about it who’d come over and spackle the hole and set a trap, or so he said, in the basement for it. Nobody’d had a thought about any of this lasting or being something, least of all him. None of it was about becoming something. It was all just garbage and decay.

The Myth Of Neither Hansel Nor Gretel

vienna 2

It isn’t Mesopotamia. And it wasn’t quite Berlin. Nobody could claim Los Angeles or Dubai. But as the shift went from their being a slow cartwheel sort of animal keeping somewhat apace with technological progress—having begun with fire, flint, and the club—it was a long time a-comin’ before the wheel itself ‘outstripped’, ‘outran’, outdid human biology. But even back then in the latter part of the twentieth century of their Common Era, it was hard to say who were the people the proprietor had had in mind. Nobody could have imagined. Nobody could have foreseen it. The idea of suspending Prometheus’ stolen flame a-high in a store window for all to see like this as though held up magically, supernaturally (balanced on a clear, plastic stand one stood there believing one did not ‘see’) was radical, and shocking if not comic. But like the Ghosts of Christmas, pieces of the manikins of tomorrow had come many decades back, a good two hundred years more behind when the limbs & eyes of the window-shoppers’ curiosity, need, desire and wonder along with the shopkeepers themselves had later been replaced by the gears & shafts of the future’s perfectly machined selves now viewing perhaps through another ‘window’ of some kind their own evolutionary updates, or reverse-engineered replacements.

The American Landscape

slide

There is something to say about a photograph that can be lost. For if it can be lost, it can also be found. And those who know about negatives, know, too, that these negatives are generally scattered here and there. These are about as good as gone, though, as a last resort—a very last resort, they were sometimes resorted to. One would hope, shifting packets, sifting through the pile of debris, to find reddish-tinted strips of plastic, or the gray-and-black and clear-to-clearish ones, to find the missing picture—or, rather, the negative from which the picture was special ordered-up, or just peered at in its tiny rectangle and, through the light it was held up to, remembered. But today, with today’s “cameras,” which are really not cameras at all (they are merely scanning machines), there is never any real sense of finding and losing anything. Yes, there can be locating (and re-locating), as well as mis-filing a ‘picture’, but without anything to be held in the hands, there is really nothing to behold. And so, too, does it go with the passing loves of our lives that have passed by the “lens” of our DSLR-cameras. At best they reside in some skeuomorphic folder on our skeuomorphic desktop; at worst, they are deleted. Nothing. But a picture, a paper picture! One that was taken with a 35mm camera! One does not have to have the face or the body or the smile or the smell or the garnet necklace given to our loves in these real pictures to feel them body & soul, to feel a lifetime later the loves that we have all forsaken and blown and destroyed. All of them. In piles and stacks in shoeboxes in cartons in plastic bins we keep them. We keep them all. And some, though they are there (they must be!) we can never find again. In the multitudinous past, they elude us all of our lives. Still: there is something gorgeous about these post-card romances even if immediately afterwards, in the break-up, one had had an unaffected scorn for them all.

Written On Water

boy

His friend had once declared that he had had the fantasy to remove by his death any evidence that he had ever existed. Imagine, the friend had once said, how in the past people strove for immortality. Now, he insisted, everybody—from the day people are born—they are followed by and create strings of numbers, identifications, and identities by which they will be known down through the ages. Poets, politicians, philosophers, the people who live next door, everybody who’s moved away! The whole world! Everybody’s immortal! What everybody used to strive for today is unavoidable. And the friend’s laughing friend would say to whomever he had managed to collar when the two friends bumped into each other in public: My friend here wants to erase every trace of his existence! Then, he would kiss his embarrassed friend on the cheek, and wander off, still laughing.