Saturday, May 17, 2008


My head gets crowded; I feel I am continually trying to clear my head. These days, it's a matter of competing goals, projects, desires of my own vs. the demands of others. There's my dayjob, my schoolwork, my writing life, and my publishing life, to name a few. My weekends prove too short to finish any given to-do list.

When I was a photographer, I used to complain that my head was too full of images. Modern critical theorists spend a lot of time telling us that we live in an image-driven, image-crowded world, and I believe them. The first time I moved to New York City, I found myself feeling worn out by the proliferation of billboards, magazines, and the population that imitated them: I used to say that living in New York was like living in a magazine. When I left New York that first time, I moved to Texas, saying good riddance to density, billboards, and other visual littering: I wanted a blank sky and darkness at night. I had grown up, after all, in a county that made billboards illegal.

All this was still years before the internet was a factor in my world, let alone a daily one. At the time, the only computer I owned was a Brother typewriter/word processor with a 5-line screen. It was unevenly heavy, and it had a flip-out handle on one side for carrying. I carried it, in fact, all the way to Texas (via Amtrak), wrapped in a blanket and thrown into a large black trash bag.

Today's computer is my desktop at my work office; its weight is irrelevant since it's a fixed object. It has an 18-inch screen but the size, too, is irrelevant: it manages to fit my whole life into it, 40 hours a week. The lit-up computer screen with its hypertexts, its icons, its graphics, and other illusions of coding--this space may as well BE my office. As long as I'm there, navigating among the emails and the spreadsheets, the directory lists and the downloadable forms, the websites and the Ads by Google, there is no blank blue sky, there is no gentle night darkness. The computer IS my city inhabited, crowded with visual demands and competing requests, competing desires, repeating values, and billboards at every turn.

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