On Forgetting

There’s an article in today’s Globe Ideas section that gets it right enough to be worth reading but wrong enough to be very annoying. Yes, the Internet + cheap storage + better information retrieval tools is changing the way people remember things and the way memory works, but it’s a total exaggeration to say that we now have some kind of perfect permanent record.

Seriously, try using the Internet Archive to find a project you worked on several years ago, and you may or may not find what you’re looking for. Google, too, delete things from the index constantly, and when it’s gone, you get the false feeling that it never existed. In fact, even when it’s working right, look at what Google remembers about you, and you’ll see that there is a whole lot of amnesia, or at best selective memory, without the benefit of any actual conscious selection.

Even personal digital memory management is fraught with peril. Compared to the population of the planet as a whole, I’m a pretty digitally savvy person, but even I have a hard time keeping my own personal files and photos from getting “forgotten” on my own equipment. I have a bunch of digital photos taken from 2003-2005 that are on a computer that died. I have the hard drive, and I have backups, but interia has kept me from actually putting them on my current machine. So I’m functionally no better than someone who doesn’t do backups at all, which I have to assume is a enormous chunk of the consumers who have almost all made the switch to digital from film in the last 5 years (which I’m basing on how hard it is to find film these days!).

Anyway, the point of all these examples is that forgetting is alive and well, it’s just different. But really, is it that different? When have we ever really had much conscious control over our memories? The difference is we used to live under the illusion that our social and technical tools for communal memory– libraries and archives and “newspapers of record” and the like– were an improvement over our faulty biological memories. Anybody who has thought about it or has taken a historiography class will know that that was always a fairly optimistic illusion. But now, that blind faith in the perfection of social machinery of memory gets the aura of technological perfection added to it, further entrenching an already fairly wrong and dangerous idea.

The ways that technology is changing memory is certainly interesting, and the Globe piece deserves to be a far longer meditation, perhaps the length of one of those huge New Yorker articles. As it is, it is a fairly loose assemblage of quotes and even a brief namecheck of the Borges story “Funes, his Memory,” which is mentioned and dropped so quickly that it’s a gratuitious reference, even if you know the story.

What the Fluff? 2007

I thought “What the Fluff?” 2007 was tomorrow, but indeed, it was today; I hadn’t planned on going either way, but then Editrix reminded me that I needed to go because B for Brontosaurus was playing, and I had to represent, because she and the Herr Doktor Villain couldn’t make it because they were going to the Sox game tonight.

Terri worked today (!) so she was still in pajamas when I had to leave to make it in time to catch them play their 5pm set. They played all the favorites, plus a cover of the Jonathan Richman song “I’m a Little Dinosaur”, as well as an early Fluff jingle (video I shot is on YouTube). That’s Ben’s sister Jen playing the piccolo.

There will be more YouTubeage as soon as “Firetruck” and “RUT!” and “I’m a Little Dinosaur” finish uploading.

The whole event was once again packed, packed! with Somervillians of all stripes, though somewhat slanted toward high school hipsters and young yuppie parents and their progeny.

I ran into the indefatigable Shelley of Albertine Press. She was there for moral support for a friend who was MC’ing the event. I had actually come to see her last week in Union Square, because I knew she was doing the Urban Country fair and we were down in the Rainy Planet studio (just a stone’s throw from Union square) anyhow. But it was good to see her and talk shop and hear that she got into not only the Bazaar Bizarre Boston, but also the one in San Fran where she’s sharing the booth with a friend. (And I haven’t mentioned it on the Internets, yet, but Rainy Planet is back in the BB this year. Yay!)

I was too busy talking to Shelley to be able to snap any shots of the Flufferettes doing a baloon-popping routine, so you’ll just have to troll flickr if you want your neo-burlesque fix. But I did get some other ok shots of the event.



Originally uploaded by blue sometimes

The extension of the LOLcats meme to philosophers seems like a logical extension of the tendency of philosophy students to enjoy jokes simply because nobody else gets them. That said, the ones I get are sort of funny. It also sounds like something that Doug and Marco would have thought was funny back in college.

[via Brainiac, who bother to explain LOLcats, in case you’re not in on that joke yet. PS: When will you have comments, like Exhibitionist, Brainiac?]

I’m hiring

One of the perks of the new job is that for multiple reasons, I’m much freer to talk about about work here (though I have little inclination to at this juncture). But, I can use all the help I can get with this, so I thought I’d throw it out there. If you have any interest in working for me, I have a position open. If this sounds like you, kindly apply. If this doesn’t sound like you, but you know someone who this does sound like, kindly forward this to them.

Unfortunately, for other reasons (which I am happy to explain in person, but not here), I can’t hire you if you work for my former employer, as much as I would totally love to just pilfer my whole former team.

Anniversary 6

I extended my work trip to NYC last week a couple of days and we spent our 6th anniversary in New York City.

EmpireFriday night I worked late-ish and went out with some work people, since Terri had swung guest list tickets to see Interpol at Madison Square Garden (which were nosebleedy and she swears it was not as cool as it might sound; actually, any MSG show sounds sort of inherently uncool, but the guest list part sounds cool). It was actually good, since I haven’t done much socializing with the new work peeps, but once that wrapped up, I was a bit lonesome without the honey, especially on anniversary eve. That morning, I had switched us from the kind-of-great-for-a-very-business-oriented-hotel-but-not-so-romantic Club Quarters to the quirky and not-in-an-interesting-neighborhood-but-kind-of-fabulous Hotel Metro. With the huge pictures of Greta Garbo in the lobby and the Man Ray photos and iconic pictures of Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock in our room, could it have been a better T&E Show hotel? Anyway, without Terri, I spent some time pining in the rooftop bar and trying to take pictures of the Empire State building. When I got hungry, I went down the street and got the 2 hot dog special at a Papaya Dog. By the time Terri was out of the show, I was actually kind of beat and pretty much just went straight to sleep.

T&E at the Galaxy Global CaféSaturday, we walked around town. In earnest. A lot. All day. We started out at the Galaxy Global Café for brunch; it was kind of this space age diner with an almost exclusively vegetarian menu heavy on the hemp-flavored items (yeah, yeah, I know). And if to underscore the hemp-y nature of the place, who should walk in halfway through breakfast but Woody Harrelson and his posse. He was wearing some sort of earthy-orange hemp jumpsuit, sort of a hippie/Guantanamo kind of thing. Terri and I had been sort of taking each other’s pictures in our booth, because That Is What We Do, but on Woody’s entrance, it became awkward to continue this since it would have looked like we were celebrity stalking. Alas.

After that, we walked around the Union Square area and then walked around Central Park starting up on the northern side and working our way down until we ended up around the mid 80′s and needed a drink, so naturally, we went to Café Sabarsky, which along with the Neue Gallery which it is connected to, feeds into our shared love of all things turn-of-the-last-century-Vienna. Einspänner! We didn’t go into the Neue Gallery, but we did stop in the book shop. I picked up a copy of the Wiener Werkstätte book that I have been eyeing since our actual trip to Vienna for our 3rd anniversary. There was another really great book that feeds into my own love for all things Weimar Republic, which I totally can’t link to, but which Terri will know what I mean, and which would make a good Christmas present, hint hint.

Roofdeck of Hotel MetroWe went back to the hotel. My folks called to wish us a happy anniversary. By the time we were done talking to them, it was 8 and we were pretty beat, so we just went to the best Italian place we could find in reasonable proximity to our hotel. After dinner, we had intended to have a nightcap on the rooftop bar, but when we got up there, it was totally abandoned. We went back down to the lobby to ask what the deal was, and apparently someone had decided it was too cold to keep the bar open. Terri takes over the Hotel Metro rooftop bar So we went up to our room (did I mention that we lucked out and were upgraded to a king room? We had good travel karma on this trip), took what we wanted from the minibar (a luxorious first for both of us), and went back to the rooftop patio with our own drinks. Terri played bartender.

More narcissistic memery

So I’ve been tagged with one of these here blog meme things, where you take each of the first letters of your middle name and pick one fact that is relevant about your life. This being my own narcissistic blog, I’m always looking for new ways of talking about myself, so let’s jump right in.

E is for Ezra, my name, which is fairly unique, and which has always been sort of a relevant part of me. None of the other kids in elementary school had it, so writing “Ezra B.” on my homework was always overkill. Substitute teachers always needed prompted on pronunciation when they got to it during roll call. In adult life, I’m still the only non-Jewish Ezra I know. It’s short, memorable, has a “z” in it, and it’s served me well. Marco once expressed — I don’t know if it was admiration or scorn– about how I would turn writing my name into an art project every time I had a blank piece of paper and a pen in my hand.

L is for Love, which is probably a good thing. It’s not uniquely mine, but it’s important.

I is for the song which has haunted me all my life:
We all live in a capital I
in the middle of the desert
in the center of the sky.

All day long we polish up the I
to make it clean and shiny
so it brightens up the sky.
Rubbing it here
and scrubbing it there.
Polishing the I
so high in the air.

And as we work we sing a lively tune
“It is great to be so happy on a busy afternoon.”
And when we’re through with the day’s only chore,
we go into the I
and we close the door.

Capital I, capital I, capital I, capital I.

Of course, YouTube has the video of it.

Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show in 1976

[via Lauging Squid]

You know, the celebrity judges Buddy Hackett, Sheri Lewis, and Bill Bixby act like Oingo Boingo were so weird, but then, when they win, a midget comes out and sprinkles confetti on them all, and this is the same midget who came out and sprinkled confetti on EVERY GONG SHOW WINNER on every show.

America, what the hell happened to you?

(For the kids out there, Oingo Boingo were the band that became popular in the 80′s and whose eventual frontman Danny Elfman went on to compose film and TV theme songs, such as those for The Simpsons and the 1989 Batman movie).

UPDATE: ok, thinking about it a little, I know what happened, all the weird became somewhat normal. Danny Elfman got rich, and there’s nothing inherently weird about little people, and it’s all basically for the best. I shouldn’t bemoan the lack of weird, because 70′s weird was weird in comparison to the old conformist center, and the thing that really changed is that that sort of disappeared. So why does everything still feel blander?

Haunted by shellfish

I’ve mentioned in passing the dream I had that put me off shrimp and lobster. When we were in California and my cousins took me and Terri to Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific, there were these insane ugly giant lobster in the section devoted to the sealife of the northern pacific that really reminded me of the weird shrimpy millipede creatures of my dreams. And then a few days later, after Matt and Patsy’s wedding, when we brought back a pile of beer to their apartment in Koreatown in LA, before our flight, they took us to dinner at the nearest 24-hour House of Tofu. I ordered one of the “tofu soup” combos, and when my dinner came, sure enough, there was a creepy shrimp looking up at me out of the bubbling red tofu soup. I plowed through my oneiric-rooted revulsion and had some. It was totally delicious. Still, I’m not going to be seeking out shrimp or lobster any time soon.

Daily Dispatch: 03 Sep 2007

  • woke up at 6am to see our labor day weekend house guests off. I miss ‘em!
  • after they left, I went back up to bed and read another chunk of Amnesia Moon, which I’m re-reading. Given the vast number of things on my to-read list, and my seemingly dramatically decreasing time to read them, re-reading anything is an increasingly rare honor.
  • I fell back to sleep and woke up at 11. 11!!!!! How crazy is that? I was sleeping 5 hours a night on a good night during August, which was one of the most insanely busy and stressful months of my life. This means I slept like 10 or so hours last night (albeit non-consecutive hours)? Crazy!
  • After I woke up, I finished Amnesia Moon. It was as fantastic as I remembered.
  • I made a sandwich with some of the bagels I brought back from NYC and also with the fantastic grilled chicken I made last night for me and the Flemings.
  • Terri and I went for a walk at about 3pm and ended up at the Diesel Café in Davis Square. I was barely awake and it felt like about 8am to me. I had a large mocha. We worked on editing a friend’s thesis proposal which we promised to have finished a couple of weeks ago. And then I had a double espresso (a very chincy one, if you ask me: I’m still not a Diesel fan). And then I almost felt awake and human.
  • We stopped by Johnny D’s and were the only people there besides the bartender. We watched the Blake match at the U.S. Open. I sort of hate tennis (Terri loves watching it), but that was a pretty exciting match.
  • We came home and had some leftovers. I went to Johnnie’s Foodmaster to get a 9v battery to stop the smoke alarm from squeaking every minute.
  • I have decided that I hate the Treo 750 I got my first day at the new gig. I’m going to take it back and just try to transfer my existing wireless account and phone to my company’s account. The Treo 750′s Microsoft SmartPhone UI sucks, and the phone does far less than my good ol’ RAZR does (main need: if my RAZR were on an unlimited data plan, I could use its data connection over bluetooth to have an internet connection for my laptop while on the train; the Treo 750 talks bluetooth but only can be used as a dialup modem, for reasons that make no sense to me; otherwise, my RAZR has everything that the Treo has (email, a browser, IM) except a keyboard).
  • we are watching the Sox slaughter the Blue Jays
  • Weezie and I have been all love-birdy-y today
  • I am totally excited about getting back to work tomorrow. Which is a weird but great feeling