Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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December 22, 2006
lost all lost

Bad on me for missing for a couple months Perfect Sound Forever's appreciation, by one Kurt Wildermuth, of the wonderful Pearl Harbour.

I could disagree with a couple minor points in the little piece. For example, her 1st album is OK by me. And I thought I read somewhere that on her second album it's members of the Clash, rather than the musicians Wildermuth lists, who back up Pearl. I believe that I can distinctly hear Joe Strummer's voice doing background vocals on "Do Your Homework." But it was a fun piece to read.

I found the article while thinking about the universal applicability of the sentence that's the title of P.H.'s 2nd album, "Don't follow me, I'm lost too."

Thus I realized how sneakily it has come about that, increasingly, "thinking" about something -- anything -- for me has come to mean "Googling" it. Concepts, artworks, long lost classmates, others, myself: To contemplate all these things and more, I Google them and surf the net as a means of clarifying my thoughts about the object in question.

Am I alone in this? I wonder. I suppose I could Google the question to try to find the answer.

Worse, it's becoming automatic, habitual, instinctive. The internet is becoming an adjunct to my brain. Have I become lazy? Or do I feel that my brain is no longer enough? Am I no longer confident that my brain's inner resources are up to the job of making sense of the changing, confusing, unpredictable world, and to think problems through on its own, without outside help?

Has some aspect of what it means to "think" about something (for some) evolved into something new and different, in these (for some) electronically mediated times? Do some thoughts no longer feel complete, substantial, finished or "real" unless they are vetted through the virtual, to see what the internet has to say?

Or is empirical research and info gathering in the world out there always a moment within contemplation, with the internet merely a new tool for doing what we've always done? Or can I not know what I really think without having something outside myself reflect something back to me, like a mirror would do? Or is the mirror me, when in a mode of contemplation, "reflection"?

Does ubiquitous computing operate not only on the level of the street, room and body but also on the level of the brain, if the brain can even be distinguished from the "body"? Or, conversely, do we want to use the new computing technology, or does the technology "want" us to use it, to extend the boundaries of our brains "out there" into the world, to expand the brain's membrane absolutely, until what we see and what we see with are a single unified machine working together without separation?

Who the hell knows? Not me. Don't follow me.
[Need I remind you of why?]
However, I do know that, as a Machine That Thinks (For Me), Google sucks. It will rarely give me a satisfying readback or reflection of what my own, personally idiosyncratic thought processes hoped to find before I went looking. Content on the internet has too many holes. A websearch will almost always yield a dozen shiny objects that distract me, and cause me further to lose my grasp on the inchoate thoughts I'm trying to master.

Often the only useful strategy is to:
sift through the pathetic search results;
come up short again and again, unsatisfied;
feel like a fool for even trying;
wallow for a little while in the feelings of disappointment and failure;
sit in the middle of the empty space occupied by the the ideal, perfectly encapsulating webpage that I wished for but never found;
then try to trace the outlines of the empty space and work inward to fill it on my own.

The internet search becomes an adjunct to the brain only insofar as it offers a useful, external randomness generator, a new way to "brainstorm," like a deck of tarot or Oblique Strategies cards, reached for to reshuffle my mental storehouse hopefully to spark a novel internal mental connection. Like flipping through Leaves of Grass or listening to the entirety of Blonde on Blonde when wrestling with an inner emotional state that cannot quite be figured out, when the words to explain it to yourself or others are lost, missing. Those two works are sufficiently encyclopedic that one can probably stumble closer to recognizing within their "pages" an approximate representation of the feeling(s).

But hey, that Pearl Harbour was pretty cool.