Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not here the darkness, in this twittering world

140 characters is goddamned few, and the worst thing is that it tempts you (me) into "cleverness."  How many times have I tried to tweet some thought or other, and then swerved aside into whatever formulation seemed witty at the moment?  When I first was learning to speak German, I went through an interesting period when I was limited to the truth: I didn't yet know enough of the language to think I could try to defend myself with subtexts and shades of meaning.  I had my handful of substantives and a few rudimentary ideas about verb tenses, and from this I had to construct my social world.  It was bracing, and though I would like to say I learned a lot from this time in my life, and now I'm a new person, more in touch with my authentic self, PLUS I also speak German, it's probably not the case.   It was just a thing that happened, and this is now -- back to the intolerable wrestle / With words and meanings.  Back to Angelus Novus, watching the warped meanings and inauthenticity, wreckage upon wreckage piling up as one struggles to express oneself, to say even one moderately true thing.

But this is my own fault for not having paid enough attention in deconstruction class.  Or maybe I paid too much attention.  "Don't overthink it, now!" the marvelous Julie Snow used to say to me.  I didn't, or maybe I did, but now I use words as machines to build mechanical clocks where the cuckoos pop out and show you your friends, your pornography, or what you think you think of yourself.  It's a living!

[And in my spare hours I construct subtexts and double meanings, machines that live below the surface, and that rushing you hear might be the steam and the pistons and the fire underfoot, or only the wind through the grass.  I shoot cannonballs disguised as clouds, or maybe the other way around.]

In conclusion, let me conclude that I like to tweet, love to tweet, that I was born to tweet, etc. -- but, dear reader, may I confess?  The only reason I'm saying this is because it's a nice little twist on a quote from the end of Philosophy in the Bedroom  -- did you recognize it?  Aren't we clever?  Because actually, I don't feel that strongly about tweeting, nor that I was born to tweet.  Perhaps I should have left the original quote unaltered.  I don't have the French version memorized.


mrc said...

"Hovering in a twittery state of doubt may be part of the modern condition, but overlooking or abandoning even the most fleeting beauty is an especially pernicious modern crime."

von Wenk said...

My lacuna: I can't imagine paying too much attention in deconstruction class (will this, too, be on the midterm?)...

But of course you're right: cleverness defines our discourse, especially now that we're old enough to do as we please. Puns, posts, tweets, snarks, and ripostes are just the result of an inevitable democratization of the soundbite. Maybe it's time to resurrect Marshall, that fossil of the cool medium, who might still have a thing or two to say about low-level intensity and ambient (dis-)engagement.

That's why I like numbers stations, radar beacons, sonar pings, squelches, 140 characters, QSL cards, white noise -- anything that resists direct referentiality. The "voice" that emerges from these over time is what matters right now, I think.

There used to be a practice in East Germany among people deprived of the party privilege of a personal phone line: you'd keep a note pad at your front door where anyone could leave you a message -- for all to read and the state to see. What if this will be our mode of communication again? Not clever, but gracefully inarticulate in the face of overwhelming constraints.

mrc said...

Generally I like to wait a bit and mull things over before writing little things in my blog, but I'm too excited about anybody else knowing what a QSL card is to hold back. ;-) When I was a child, I loved to find distant stations on the radio -- I had a whole procedure for doing it. I would find the static between the stations, turn the volume all the way up, and sit with my ear to the radio, turning the dial as slowly as humanly possible, straining my ears to see if I could get any signal at all through the noise -- and when I did, I would write down the name and position in a little spiral notebook. Once I got an AM station from Boston -- quite a coup for a crappy radio on the western edge of Illinois. And after I badgered my parents into getting me a shortwave, I remember the day I first heard Radio Moscow -- it was some propaganda broadcast of some sort, and I was absolutely thrilled -- couldn't stop listening to the party line about some sort of agricultural goals that were sure to be met in the next Five Year Plan. I still do this -- I have hundreds of CDs, but I vastly prefer to find distant voices on the radio... sometimes I pick up French Canadian stations, driving through the night, or religious stations out of Texas... something about sifting through the distance and the fading in and out I find compelling.

The emergent voice from the staticky ether is the key, indeed.

And the image of the East German note pad -- of graceful inarticulation in the face
of overwhelming constraints -- volltreffer.