Image: cityscape from Wong Kar Wai's beautiful 2046 (2004).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Incomplete Age

Clearly, "completion" as a concept has been a challenge for me lately, as I have tried to make great strides with my dissertation while on a leave of absence from work. Every moment I am not typing great and meaningful things is laden with guilt. Even when I have been writing away at chapters, I've allowed a drought of posts here on my poor, infant blog to cause me no end of remorse and bad feeling.

So, wrapping these emotions up with the novel that I have recently begun to read, The Book of Dave, by Will Self, I found myself puzzling over a web-era phenomenon this morning: that is, all the languished, obsolete blogs that have been started then abandoned by well-intentioned folks across the past decade. The picture below is a screen-grab of the first blog I ever started, which was born - and died - in May of 2005. It only ever had one post, in which I referenced all the things I'd write about: film, travel, politics on either side of the border, life between Toronto and Los Angeles, etc. Poor Exorbitant City might have met a similar fate were it not for today's flurry of inspiration. (Of course, it likely will yet.)

The descriptor given atop the page on my first blog informed my non-existent readership that this blog was to be "the only solution to a peripatetic, transnational, time-sapped existence in which i am never everywhere at once." The chosen design was garishly pink. Somehow, I recall sorting out the code to give the website a custom icon to appear in the navigation bar... that's still the way it appears in my Mozilla bookmarks list, though I guess the uploaded image has died a natural death, since it does not seem to load that way any more. The few scraps of writing to be found on the page are over-wrought, if sincere and, well, well intended.

I cannot make this blog disappear from the web. The email account to which it was tied is dead, so I cannot find the way to access "the dashboard" for the corresponding user and delete it. So out there it stays, floating on the net waiting for nothing in particular except my periodic checks to see if it is still there.

Or, perhaps, waiting for some future researcher to come along and sweep it into a net with thousands of other samples from The Incomplete Age. This is where The Book of Dave is no doubt taking over my thinking. The novel is, in part, about the radical attempts at interpretation (and the resulting misinterpretation) of a London cabbie's notebooks -- written during our epoch -- by a post-apocalyptic English society centuries after. His histrionic rantings are taken as nothing short of scripture and tremendous social consequences follow from that.

But think about it for a moment: all the detritus out on the web now... those very personal, well-intended blogs started to commemorate a group or a university seminar, to help keep people in touch over long distances, to document a love of experimenting with different recipes involving stout ale, and what-have-you, that got off the ground and then fell into neglect. Are these the cave drawings that anthropologists of some future era will sift through trying to understand that cryptic period in which the web exploded into life? What will they deduce? That we were a society with great promise and a tremendous affinity for beginnings, but with very , very poor follow-through? That we didn't clean up the virtual mess we made any better than the environmental one? That some of us misunderstood the word peripatetic? Will we be labeled "The Incomplete Age," laughed at beside the Stone, Industrial or even early Electronic ages for our megalomania and lassitude? All because I can't delete that old blog or may, one day, let this one die?

Reasons I Wish I Was Teaching...

... an undergraduate class on Ideological Hollywood:

(It's only one reason, actually...)

Drillbit Taylor.

It amazes me that this film was released. (Why did I go see it, you ask? I was both desperate for something fluffily non-dissertation-related and wrongly sympathetic to the plight of poor, charming Owen Wilson. I figured that if his movie tanks, he might try to do himself injury again. Little did I realize that this movie has to have been why he tried to do himself injury in the first place.)

Drillbit Taylor...
... glorifies high-school violence and resolution of said violence through front-yard ultimate-fighting showdowns in which the morally just will no doubt prevail.
... makes a mockery of a very really problem of security in America's schools.
... allegorizes (in the least subtle way imaginable) a lovely, humble, nature-loving and fundamentally sweet American soldiery that is unwilling to commit or witness any violence whatsoever... until someone it loves gets hurt. Then it (Drillbit, natch) will destroy you with lethal force and the commendations of all, all while blithely laughing off the loss of a little finger. (In non-allegorical terms here, we are no doubt reckoning with the equation that reasonable losses are to be expected if peace and security are to be ensured.)

Have you seen this movie? Probably not. It's a disaster. Badly made, ideologically Frankensteinian and offensive to: teenagers, adults, twins, rappers, the homeless, Canadians, Americans, Asians (I could go on at length about the sub-plot regarding how the homicidal high-school bully is portrayed as a grossly affluent "emancipated minor" whose indifferent parents have shipped him to LA from Hong Kong), Owen Wilson, you, me and Dupree.