Tuesday, June 29, 2010

a diet of sorts. but with whose body? and to whose health? (4)

After 72 hours off, I just reactivated Facebook. And I have to say, my response as I went to the Facebook page, auto-filled the login and password fields, and press the "connexion" button was visceral. I felt it in my stomach. Revulsion. A slight urge to barf.

I'm not kidding. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was just running up in the stadium, and my body was sort of there already. But even looking over all the familiar icons, shapes, colors, and boxed-in faces and statements, it looked slightly foreign. A place where I may belong in some sense, but whose constraints on relationships and utterances and appearances and manners of being seemed lined up in cells, standing out in clear relief. We put ourselves in those little boxes, fit ourselves and our forms into its blue-and-white reverse-chronological ad-lined incessantly-connectifying matrix. Encased. Kind of like Han Solo in deep freeze.

I'm sure *I* am the same way on this blog, on Twitter, and wherever else I am, where you are, where we are. Simultaneously enabled and incredibly constrained, shaped and formed by the medium.

I suppose that's the precondition for all of our utterances, in this body and that--to be constrained and enabled by the same mechanisms of being and articulation.

Yet never have I felt so strongly that one reason Facebook is so comfortable on the inside, and is (at the present moment anyway!) seeming so gross from the outside, is that being there is like all sharing the same body--our body, where we live discursive and cyber-embodied lives something akin to parasites (feeding on ourselves, each other?), creative at the local level and utterly dependent on the greater system for the life, the flesh, the blood, the circulation it affords us.

Yes, I know I'm being overly dramatic. But that sinking feeling is still sitting heavy in my gut. Maybe the "diet" metaphor's not too far off the mark after all. Bleeccchh.

yup, this is #4 in the series...I'm hoping to get back to two other half-baked posts from the last few days.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

a diet of sorts. but with whose body? and to whose health? (1)

I sit in the midst of any number of familiar environments as I start this post.

Where to start? How about the one that begins with my ass planted on this hard wooden bench: at Caffe Strada on a warm fogless Sunday morning in Berkeley, shortly after walking up from the packed England-Germany World Cup soccer match at Henry's, a sea of jerseys and cheers...The sun shines down on the tables, filtered through the trees over the patio, with people here and there in pairs talking, reading the paper or a magazine, and a few like me, looking busy and involved in their screens. I think of (usually cooler and greyer) mornings of cappuccinos and morning buns with Charles here, of the sea of students that usually populate and circulate throughout the place, of the vibrancy of this cafe on the corner of the street, on the edge of campus, sitting on the verge of the Berkeley hills.

But the material environment of human bodies, panting dogs, concrete patios and leafy trees is only one of the worlds I can see and feel opening up in front of me. On the table, along with the computer, red folder, water glass, and uneaten banana sits my cellphone, a new vessel for an older set of functions, bringing familiar people, friends and family, into my pocket, hand, ear and mind through voice calls and text messages. The weight of the phone in my pocket, and the ambient sense of connectivity it brings when sitting on the table, bring to mind scenes and passages from The Lord of the Rings. The phone-ring is a node of power, mediating our connection to the world, transporting us to other places and bringing others here. And it is simultaneously a lead weight, sucking our minds into its web, pulling our hands toward it, feeling comfortable in our fingers--its soothing buttons, its smooth curves, the calming expanse of its glassy screen... my precious, our preciousssssss....

If the phone, powered on, reaches around me, enfolds me within its virtual reach, then what of the domains that open up when I lift the lid of this computer? "The computer", and "the Internet" even, have long ceased to be thought of in the singular. Icons for no fewer than 28 separate applications line the bottom of the screen, and any number of applications are available at the click of a button. I've got only five tabs open now in this Firefox browser, while the dropbox icon at top lures me to my files online, the wireless signal monitor reassures me that I'm online, the U.S. flag tells me I'm typing in U.S. English, and, oh yes, icons for a dozen documents and folders lie arranged across the top of my desk, which just happens to be a window to a sweeping vista of tree-lined fields leading to dark hills, themselves dwarfed by a range of craggy white mountains in the distance.

Here I sit, I remind myself. Here I sit.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

update: u.s. v. algeria

Fantastic finish for the U.S...but could you make it a little easier on us next time?? I'm half bald now... Great job by Algeria! Congrats Mexico, England, S Korea, & all the rest. And thanks to all the good folks at @GUERILLACAFE. Onward, to the Round of 16!!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

here's looking (back) at you -- again

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of a unique but slightly unsettling cappuccino experience at the French Hotel. A few days ago, I had another chance to meet another face in the froth, and comparing them both seems to say something about two different people, two different days, or perhaps this one just had a bit of a rough day on the way to work.

Again, here's looking back at you: