Tombstone blues

blogbarking.jpgSome days are just those kind of days….

…Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for booze
I’m in the kitchen
With the tombstone blues

Or you could just watch the poet sing it.

Making connections

mashupmisc.jpgWhether we are saving digital pictures or music playlists we are all building an infrastructure of meaning. Through every post we make connections. These are the main points David Weinberger promotes in a very entertaining video lecture about what is happening to the structure of information. I agree with Tim that it should be required viewing for anyone interested in organizing or classifying anything, which these days is just about everyone who uses the internet. Weinberger closes enthusiastically by saying “…We’ll be doing this for generations, building a rich layer of meaning we can draw upon and the most important thing about it is that…it’s ours…a generational task of tremendous importance.” I found his presentation very inspirational — especially within the context of my own interest in the personal histories we all create (or contribute to) whenever we save or forward an email, tag an article, or download a piece of music. Although I believe there is a downside and an inherent cost beyond the price of storage to “keeping everything,” the lecture was primarily meant to emphasize the evolution of our online information spaces, which could in turn prompt us as a culture to see more of the interconnectedness of all things. And that’s a positive step for mankind in the Information Age.

La petite mort

lilith.jpgThis post has a little something for everyone. It combines science, sex, death and art. If there is a better combination let me know. While mentioning sex in the same sentence as death challenges some taboos it has never been unusual for creative types to link them and I don’t have to regurgitate all kinds of philosophical drivel for you to understand the inherent connections let alone the ones you’d normally not associate. But today I’ve found a few interesting links worth mentioning. You have to love the BBC for this quote, “So sex and death are indeed deeply connected, if not quite in the way the poets thought. The longer life and shorter reproductive span of the human female point, I believe, to the superior biological usefulness of older women.” Now that I have your attention, here is the entire End of Age lecture, either in transcript or podcast form. That’s the science part. These Reith Lectures are fascinating stuff which only proves once again there is never enough time to read everything I want. Nor is there time to listen to or view everything I’d like to either. I found this “beautifully honest” gem on “Facettes de la Petit Mort,” or “Faces of the Little Death,” thanks to another writer, Erin O’Brien. That’s the sex and art part. Coincidentally, I think the viral way the “Beautiful Agony” site is being promoted is very appropriate in a we’ll-scratch-your back-if-you-scratch-ours kind of way. Seems they are not only creative in content and presentation but in experimenting with subscription services too. Good for them. A few days ago Erin also shared some personal observations on the death of her brother worth pointing to as well. There are some very creative people out there working in relative anonymity that should encourage us all. It has been a very interesting morning. (Thanks also to ECRR)

Crying in public

bird-cry.jpgSharing sorrow publicly makes you vulnerable to the rude behavior of spiteful people. Some say the act of blogging simply welcomes the burdens of any celebrity: you open yourself to public scrutiny so your life is no longer private–you provide a pulpit for the opinions of others who feel it their right to comment on you, your lifestyle, your perceived talents or your mental state. Others say netizens should follow a code of conduct that asks us all to be nicer to one another. It’s idealistic of course, but hardly enforceable. There will always be the Iago archetype. Proving that point, this blog post contains only a poem written by someone who has just lost her dog. The comments started out with the usual condolences offered by her shared community that turn hurtful when anonymous commentors chime in. It’s a pity really but then again it’s no wonder people often prefer to keep their sorrows to themselves. Nothing makes her grief any different from Whitman’s

Tears! tears! tears!
In the night, in solitude, tears,
On the white shore dripping, dripping, suck’d in by the sand,
Tears, not a star shining, all dark and desolate,
Moist tears from the eyes of a muffled head;
O who is that ghost? that form in the dark, with tears?
What shapeless lump is that, bent, crouch’d there on the sand?
Streaming tears, sobbing tears, throes, choked with wild cries;
O storm, embodied, rising, careering with swift steps along the beach!
O wild and dismal night storm, with wind-O belching and desperate!
O shade so sedate and decorous by day, with calm countenance and regulated pace,
But away at night as you fly, none looking-O then the unloosen’d ocean,
Of tears! tears! tears!

The public’s fascination with zombie sites

daddysgirl.jpgYes, I’ve seen this site (“Your global resource for MySpace.com member obituaries”) that, most recently anyway, capitalizes on the deaths of the Virginia Tech students. But don’t do what I did and avoid clicking the associated creepy advertisement for “dead kidspace.” I certainly wonder how such web businesses maintain credibility when ads for myspace knockoffs that feature profiles of sex offenders or sophomoric animated banners occupy the same screen real estate as what should be serious content. And I suppose there have been some thoughtful observations on the phenomenon (well, reflective until the last line anyway) from people who seem a little surprised that someone’s writing or image might survive their physical existence, or that people might think of a friend or family member long after their death. Perhaps the public needs a type of internet séance fantasy for the same reason they are entranced by those popular/ist “ghost shows” on tv?

Yet what really puzzles me, as someone who is also interested in history, is that sites like these (and there are many) are built to provide only a temporary limbo for such memories. None of these services have the committed attitude to long-term thinking that most cemeteries must consider, and the fact that most are subject to server glitches implies to me that little deep commitment goes into them beyond the sensationalism of the moment or the desire to capitalize on grief. Which is unfortunate because it reduces such efforts to a fad rather than a truly meaningful archive of memories. The whole “pay to remember” scheme reminds me a little of those old fashioned fortune telling machines where you drop in a quarter and the puppet behind the glass exchanges you a fortune. Sure it’s a quaint bus stop but certainly not a place that encourages contemplative thinking beyond a narcissistic donation of opinion. And besides, it’s only a matter of time before someone removes the machine and carts it off to the next state fair. There is a reason graves and physical memorial sites are lovingly tended by future generations. There is a numinous response inherent in touching something outside your normal experience that doesn’t mimic the robotic exercise of routine existence. I look forward to the day technology can capture a small sense of that mystery, honor it without advertising, and promise your family’s “page” will be there for at least your grandchildren to read. That would be a service worth creating an endowment for. (Thanks Paulina/Dennis)

Calling in an emergency

star_of_life.jpgI live in a neighborhood where there are a higher than what would be considered normal number of ambulance visits because this area has a very high density number of retired seniors. I jokingly call it Seizure City which I guess isn’t a very nice thing to say, but after hearing the fifth siren in as many nights you have to find some sort of way to deal with it, and a sense of humor helps. I really admire emergency response workers though. Their patience and calm under duress matched with their people skills make the best ones seem almost super human. And here is one, a guy named Tom with a blog called Random Acts of Reality. He is a writer and an EMT in London and the stories he tells are simply amazing and often touching. People like him restore my hope in the future of humanity even though the curmudgeon in me suspects he’s one in a zillion. I’ve put his book on my list of things to read as it might come in handy the next time I need to call an ambulance. (Thanks once again to Cynical-C for the link.)

Story time

deadpeople.jpg from http://www.pantherhouse.com/newshelton/I found out today one of my favorite celebrity librarians (who has never met me nor I her, but I really admire her writing style and energy and occasionally wish we could swap lives), curates an incredibly thorough resource (okay it might have a few dodgey links but still, major points for making it in the first place) on one of my favorite authors, Donald Barthelme. His writing is marvelous. He was quoting lines like this years before they were fashionable, “We have moved from the Age of Anxiety to the Age of Fear. This is of course progress, psychologically speaking. I intend no irony.” So I reread The Great Hug. Man that’s such a wonderful short story full of color and emotion. Another, called The Death of Edward Lear, compelled me to post this excerpt:

………………..

The death of Edward Lear took place on a Sunday morning in May 1888. Invitations were sent out well in advance. The invitations read:

Mr. Edward LEAR
Nonsense Writer and Landscape Painter
Requests the Honor of Your Presence
On the Occasion of his DEMISE.
San Remo 2:20 a.m.
The 29th of May Please reply

One can imagine the feelings of the recipients. Our dear friend! is preparing to depart! and such-like. Mr. Lear! who has given us so much pleasure! and such-like. On the other hand, his years were considered. Mr. Lear! who must be, now let me see… And there was a good deal of, I remember the first time I (dipped into) (was seized by)… But on the whole, Mr. Lear’s acquaintances approached the occasion with a mixture of solemnity and practicalness, perhaps remembering the words of Lear’s great friend, Tennyson:

Old men must die,
Or the world would grow mouldy

and:

For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.

……………….

In a quirky way it echoes the performance aspect we wish for our funerals, and how memories of those events are retold. When we record events in pictures or video these memories don’t evolve and I find that an interesting drawback when considering the digital preservation of a person’s legacy.

Which gives me pause. Maybe I don’t want anyone recording anything about me, my past, or my funeral. Maybe I just want them to tell one another stories. At a picnic. With invitations well in advance, of course.