Swans Commentary » swans.com May 18, 2009  



What Are You Doing?


by Gilles d'Aymery





(Swans - May 18, 2009) 

Simulated tweets generated on Monday, May 11, 2009

5:30 - Wake up. Priam (my older dog) is snoring heavily. Jan's still asleep (not snoring).

5:35 - Put on clean socks, underwear, jeans, long-sleeve T-shirt, and old shoes. Jan's still asleep.

5:37 - Walk up the stairs to the kitchen. Turn the coffee machine on. Open new pack of no-filter Camels. Go out and pee in nature. Sky's clear.

5:40 - Pour milk in Thermos® cup. Coffee's ready. 1/3, 2/3. Go out on the deck with cup. Light first cigi. Take a gulp of the caffeine elixir.

5:44 - Back in, to the office. Turn laptop on. Launch Firefox. Open second tab. Click on antiwar.com -- they are fundraising again!

5:49 - Click on first tab and click on Earthlink Mail. Go back to next tab and click on Greenwald link. Move to nytimes.com. Not much there... [Oops, 143 characters, three too many. Let me try again.]

5:49 - Click on first tab and on Earthlink Mail. Go back to next tab and click on Greenwald link. Move to nytimes.com. Not much there... [Good, I made it!]

5:53 - Visit lemonde.fr. Nothing there either, but bloviating frenchitudes. Time to move on to juancole.com in the blogosphere.

5:59 - Ah yes, AfPak and Co. The world's coming to an end. Priam's coming up, bladder calling. Open door. Let him go do his thing.

6:00:01 (and one half) - Jan shows up. Gets into shower upstairs. Mestor (2nd dog) follows suit. Still smells of his skunk encounter two days ago.

6:04 - Back to my office in front of 15" monitor laptop. Think of Charles Marowitz's observations on Twittering.

6:04:23 - Poor Charles, so old fashioned. Even Mo. Sen. Claire McCaskill twits. Have to embrace modernity, Charles! The "new world," you know...

6:04:29 - The future, Charles, the f-u-t-u-r-e! (Bowels begin talking...)

6:05:01 - Coffee's doing its magic. Move to the loo; sit on the royal solitary chair; open Dictionary of Difficult Words.

6:05:10 - Boondoggle: "v. to deceive or try to fool someone." . . . . bowels begin emptying themselves through sphincter.

6:05:23 - Clean my august asshole with front page of The New York Times -- sorry, can't afford toilet paper anymore.

6:05:28 - Could people send money so that I can afford toilet paper again? Primal scream from a desperate twit (check Charles for definition of "twit")...

6:05:37 - Grab a can of Diet Coke from the pantry and get back to the laptop station. (Only two cans of poison a day.)

6:05:41:30 - 1999 Laptop cost me $50 in 2005... Totally obsolete... Another story to be told of great significance. Is Charles obsolete, I wonder? Are we all dinosaurs?

6:05:41:30 to 6:09:00009 - Engaged in deep thinking about the meaning of life.

6:10: Meaning of life being opaque, I decide to look for answers from Barack Obama.

6:11: Go on C-Span and begin watching video of the 2009 White House Correspondents' Dinner. It's 50 minutes long.

6:11:00000000123456 - So sorry, the video is not 50 minutes long. It's 49:34. I deeply apologize for the error.

6:12 - Jan gets out of the shower, clean as a swallow.

6:12:30 - A swallow shit on the deck. This is important news to report. Swallows are destroying the world (my deck).

6:15 - Jan is walking naked through the house...a live Botticelli...lewd thought...can't expand due to family-friendly audience.

6:16 - Jan is still naked.

6:18 - Jan's dressed, preparing to depart for San Francisco. Obama's fun remarks at W.H. Correspondents' Dinner not funny.

6:30 - Check e-mails; delete spam; get two contribs to be formatted/edited -- one from Guido, the other from Graham.

6:45 - Jan ready to leave; help load the new Chevy; exchange kiss; hold her hand; "love ya' Jan"; "love you too, Gilles;" "drive safely"; "I will."

6:46 - Wave her goodbye as car slowly rides along driveway and disappears behind the foliage and the curve.

6:47 - Back to browsing and yawping. Jump from one Web site to the other. Do a search on planet-would-be-savior Daniel Quinn (Ishmael).

7:55 - Got my fill of non-news news & searches. Take the dogs out and give each two Milk-Bone cookies. Light a cigi.

8:00 - Watch Democracy Now! Andrew Bacevich is being interviewed by Amy Goodman -- wrong, unwinnable wars, too much consumption and debt...

8:45 - Turn on main computer, launch Pegasus Mail (e-mail) and Homesite (HTML, CSS development tool).

8:48 - Connect to the Net through landline and modem; connection, 26.4 kbps; download e-mails.

8:52 - Open Guido's; save his pic to disk; open pic in Paint Shop Pro, resize pic, add borders and drop shadow; save as gmonte68.jpg.

9:10 - Ain't you bored to death, readers? Not yet? Okay, I carry on... Want a cigi? I do.

9:11 - Phone rings; Jan is on 19th Ave. in SF. Traffic was moderate except in Petaluma. Everything's fine. "Don't forget Atlantis at 11:01," she says.

9:13 - Back to computer and formatting.

9:50 - Prepare breakfast for dogs and cats. Take a bite of sandwich; second poisonous Coke.

10:00 - Get to the NASA channel on TV to watch countdown and launch of Atlantis shuttle en route to Hubble Space Telescope. Riveting!

11:01 - Picture-perfect liftoff! Exploring the Universe, destroying Planet Earth... Yet these launches never cease to amaze this kid at heart.

12:00 -- Still mesmerized...

12:30 - Time to exercise. Take the weed whacker and go cut tall grass around the house.

13:30 - Quick look at the NASA channel. Everything's under control. Pop in the shower.

13:45 - Back to the laptop. Check e-mail and browse a few posts on Marxmail.

13:59 - Go read Louis Proyect's "Jared Diamond, the New Yorker Magazine, and blood feuds in PNG: part 3," on his Unrepentant Marxist Blog.

14:15 - Back to work. Finish Guido's and do Graham's. Begin Raju's. Update front page. Add Charles Pearson's letter, plus ed. comment.

15:40 - Cigi break.

15:43 - Back to work. E-mail copies of formatted and edited pieces to Jan. Answer a few e-mails.

16:11 - Review notes taken during the day. Feed dinner to dogs and cats.

16:19 - Jan calls to check in -- a twice-daily exercise Monday to Thursday.

16:27 - Back to work. Only seven articles ready, but not yet fully edited. Have to wait for meta-words, descriptions, and final edits from Jan.

16:35 - More E-mails, more spams, more responses (when a response is needed).

16:49 - Getting tired of these boring notes, fully intended to demonstrate the absurdity of tweeting.

17:03 - Signing off. Sayonara.


* * * * *


Evidently, I've left quite a few details out, and the day did not end at 17:03. For instance, among various willing omissions, I forgot to tell you that the half-sandwich I ate in the morning was a salami and cornichons on French bread bought by Jan at The Boulangerie in San Francisco for $5.00 on May 9. I also touched my balls a couple of times -- at the very least -- and kept laughing at the entire experiment all day long. Later, I ate pasta for dinner, poured myself a glass of Famous Grouse scotch on ice (bought at Trader Joe's in Colma for $19.99 a bottle), and began transcribing those notes in digital form. The more I typed the more I felt what a waste of time this exercise was. Yet millions are going through the same process on a daily basis, sharing what is at best silly and boring trivia, at worst navel-centered empty blathering.

US Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), in a May 10, 2009, letter responding to an article by Matt Bai, "The Chatty Classes" (The New York Times Magazine, April 26, 2009), made four points to justify her use of Twitter.

"First," she wrote, "through Twitter, I am able to post information daily on a public board about serious policy issues."

"Second, tweeting is a discipline that keeps me connected."

"Third, I use twitter because no one can edit me."

"Finally, it's fun."

She concluded her letter thus: "As I tweet about work and even the mundane parts of my life, I'm staying connected [with the folks at home] and grounded, and I have a smile on my face."

"Serious policy issues" in 140 characters or less? Come again? A discipline to remain connected with the folks at home (at taxpayers' expense)? One needs discipline to be connected? Excuse me? Home folks, certainly, were thrilled to learn that "[she got] old style crunchy taco, and a chicken burrito supreme & Diet Coke at Taco Bell," or, "Ok, ok, brain freeze, I know you can only get Diet Pepsi at Taco Bell." (Two recent tweets by the senator, as cited by Matt Bai.) Note, if you please, that her second tweet must have been a response to one of those folks tweeting that Taco Bell only serves Pepsi. Very deep connection and "serious policy issue," indeed! Unneeded editors appear to be a sign of our dumbing-down era. For hell's sake, why would you want to have someone to keep you in check when you can have it all thanks to little tweeties? What counts, after all, for that senator and her ilk is that Taco Bell, McDonald's, Wal*Mart, and other patrons fill her future campaign coffers and that her constituents and future voters become devotees of her down-to-earth folksiness. Vacuousness, indeed, has taken a leading role in the charade that our social and political spectacle promotes.

Early social networks included the Well -- a community of intellectually thoughtful people that engaged into meaningful discussions back in 1985 as a dial-up bulletin board system (a mere generation ago). They were early adaptors and a thorough bunch of professionals who shunned advertising and commercialism. Internet users also took advantage of mailing lists (listservs) to communicate. With the technological explosion and the increased opportunity to bring the dumbed-down crowd online, sites like LiveJournal (1999) and Friendster (2002) came into existence to gather the Internet newbies with the goal of making money from advertising. Business-minded people could hop on the trend thanks to LinkedIn (2002). Then, among many such "social networks," came MySpace (2003) and Facebook (2004). Twitter entered the fray in 2006. Each of them is cannibalizing on its predecessors' following, or calling upon the hip-hop, latest know-it-all dude crowd (that which is increasingly inattentive and heedless) to join the latest "cool" social network, in addition to the one(s) they already have joined -- and not one of these heavily venture-capital-funded undertakings has made money. Not one, which suggests that all the venture capital will end up being for naught. Mindless people will move on to the next cool tool, especially one that allows them not to think for themselves.

Is it not what our consumerist culture is all about? You may want to tweet Senator McCaskill and ask for her response.

Did I tell you about my reading of a chapter of Albert Cohen's 1938 Mangeclous earlier today, sitting comfortably on the deck and listening to Verdi's Aida? Would a Twittering practitioner know about Albert Cohen and would the famous author have used Twitter?

I'll leave you with John Davy (PDF), who "lives on the outer reaches of the Western Highlands in the community of Scoraig, Scotland. He and his partner, Debbie, raise Exmoor ponies, cats and kids, and go to the spring for their water and go to a windmill for their electricity":

There is not a flower or a bird in sight, only a small screen on which lines are moving, while the child sits almost motionless, pushing at the keyboard with one finger. As a learning environment, it may be mentally rich, but it is perceptually extremely impoverished. No smells or tastes, no wind or bird song (unless the computer is programmed to produce electronic tweets), no connection with soil, water, sunlight, warmth, the actual learning environment is almost autistic in quality, impoverished sensually, emotionally, and socially.

Happy twittering all, and thank you, senator, for deepening the cultural entropy of the USA.


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Gilles d'Aymery on Swans (with bio). He is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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This Edition's Internal Links

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Polarizing Global Warming Politics - Cartoon by Jan Baughman

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General Electric: War Corporation, Liberal Hangout, Or Both? - Michael Barker

La Vie d'autrefois - Graham Lea

Ghana: The Audacity Of Looting - Update - Femi Akomolafe

Turkey On Trial - Book Review by Peter Byrne

Selva Oscura - Multilingual Poetry by Guido Monte

How To Build Up A Paradise - Poem by Marie Rennard

What Does It Mean To Be Sexy? - Raju Peddada

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art15/ga269.html
Published May 18, 2009