F I N D E R "Now where did I see that, you know--that, oh, come on--it was somewhere near a graphic--I think . . ."
This search engine is for you, my friend.
A R C H I V E In terms of the Internet, there is no out-of-print. Here are posts that, like so many tattoos, seemed like great ideas at the time (which was often 2:00 AM as I recall). They're archived not because they're worth preserving, but preemptively--because you'd surely run across them elsewhere. As usual, Stewart Brand was right: You do own your words.
S C R A P S These are observations and rants from other times and other places. Neatly packaged as "Essays," they are, in fact, a greatest hits compilation culled from monthly columns, articles and--yes--essays. Inclusion here is driven by two dynamics: Either the piece pleased me greatly or resonated with the readers. (Sometimes both happened at once.)
C O N T E X T This site's theoretical photo collection. Like my extremely casual relationship with social media, I think I'm failing to understand the intense need to show strangers my photos. Dear god, in years past, all one had to do was feign illness to get out of those inevitable after-winter-holiday dinner parties that culminated in 123 mind-numbing slide carousels. Tell you what--If I've got something that absolutely needs exhibiting, it'll be here (although "here" may eventually point to Flickr).
A D D R E S S Click to send me email. While fawning kudos are almost guaranteed to elicit a response from me, well-reasoned differences of opinions are also welcome. I love the smell of debate in the morning--it reminds me of coffee. No, wait: That's because I'm drinking coffee. Anyway, you get the idea. Important: Make sure you replace the "AT" and "DOT" with the real things before you press "Send."
F E E D The subscription link for this site's RSS feed. I'm always reading about whole segments of users who can't seem to get their heads around RSS. And I, in turn, can't get my head around that. Paraphrasing Douglas Adams, RSS is your cyber-pooch who's fun to be with. Every morning he bounds out of the front door and brings you back an edition of The Daily You. What could be clearer?
While this site has been in suspended animation, I certainly haven't.
Over at culturehack.me there's a soft roll-out of a new, unified CultureHack website. And by soft roll-out, I’m suggesting that it’s best to see the next six weeks or so as a kind of beta test.
The question you’re not asking (though my ego insistently clings to the delusion that you are) is Why? To which the shortest possible answer is Twitter (the second-shortest response, however, is the much more pleasing to me: Fucking Twitter.)
Over the years, I’ve distributed content across an array of sites via a number of platforms and hosting services, including most recently the soon-to-be vaporized Posterous. And why is it about to vaporized? Because–wait for it–Twitter bought Posterous for the express purpose of shutting it down. So yes, Twitter is the reason I'm now at culturehack.me. Fucking Twitter. (It really is more pleasing with the adjective.)
The impending demise of Posterous has forced me to migrate a number of my sites elsewhere, and in in doing so, I decided to centralize the stuff I’ve been posting–well, the things worth preserving anyway. This time around, I’ve created one place for the iPhoneography, book excerpts, essays, political punditry, recent entries in my Twitter stream, rants expanded from tweets and, of course, my blog.
So yeah–you're cordially invited to my newest virtual atelier, brought to you by the crack Business Plan Division of Fucking Twitter . . .
Does the new site compile everything I’ve ever tossed online with trademark hubris and insouciance? Of course not–are you insane? Instead, I’m treating this centralization as a kind of reboot. The legacy content there can be thought of as a curation prior to moving forward into new territory. (I’ve given a lot of thought about what this terra nova might be, and there will be screed on that in due time.) But right now, it's me editing myself and blatantly eliminating the boring, the thin and the dated. And also–it goes without saying–anything that’s become embarrassing. Screw the inviolate rules of perpetual posts with retrofitted strike-throughs: I’m talking image management-cum-manipulation here.
A word of warning at the outset is indicated–lots of things there remain to be tweaked. For instance, in many cases, the multimedia links didn’t survive the migration from Posterous and will need to be tended to manually. So yes, there’s still a thin coating of construction dust on almost everything: typefaces, kerning, formatting and, of course, the aforementioned videos and music. (But to balance things out a little, there’s also the delicious New Site smell that we all love so much.)
I’m making April Fool’s Day my deadline for getting this fit-and-finish stuff done–which pretty much gives the game away, don’t you think?
So once again, in case you blew by the new address, you can follow my ongoing adventures at:
And while we're discussing changed addresses, know too that I'm also getting rid of my Internet provider and with it all of those legacy Mindspring email addresses. (Better to fix everything at once, rather than endless serial changes.)
Going forward, my email is being handled by Google (thus detaching it from any ISP) and my new email address is:
And that's it, really. Against all odds, I'm not dead and--at the time of this writing, anyway--still tattoo-free and more-or-less in command of my faculties and what I've always insisted in calling my prose "talent."
I see the shapes,
I remember from maps.
I see the shoreline.
I see the whitecaps.
A baseball diamond, nice weather down there.
I see the school and the houses
where the kids are.
Places to park by the factories and buildings.
Restaurants and bar
for later in the evening.
Then we come to the farmlands,
and the undeveloped areas.
And I have learned how
these things work together.
I see the parkway
that passes through them all.
And I have learned how
to look at these things and I say,
I wouldnt live there if you paid me.
I couldnt live like that, no siree!
--Talking Heads, "The Big Country "
Though Beatrice doesn’t live at the end of the world, this is beginning to seem a technicality. Because so far it feels like you’re driving through an early Springsteen album: leather, denim and baseball caps inside too many tricked-out cars. And the endless succession of skinny kids hanging around on every corner, like that one, with his upended bike, kneeling next to the ratcheting gears. The town exudes a civic pride in being a kind of Wayne’s World simulation, and this guarantees the wink you’ve been waiting for is never going to come: each one of these chop tops is aspirational instead of a John Waters reference, and you’ll need to think hard about that tonight, with scotch and a long journal entry . . . .
Something never thought about; something almost forgotten: The whir of a push mower and the play of sunlight on leaves that will be gone in three years’ time. Which makes you what? Seven years old? Or very close to it.
Your father's mower whirring in the front yard, under the canopy of limbs that will soon be diseased. But all the memories of him have been too-long packed away, and so you have to make do with impressions: He’s conjured up as short, with darkish hair; in a white tee shirt, inappropriate pants and the smudgy suggestion of work shoes. All of this Sears-Catalog neat; it’s almost conceptual clothing. Because you can’t recall if he sweats while working out there--or if he perspires at all. Which, it now becomes clear, is also the reason you’ve parted and combed his hair.
Another season’s whirring, across a less-shaded lawn, as the last elms in the neighborhood begin their rapid decline. The kitchen’s still there; it can still be imagined, complete with its strange dimensions: too narrow and too long and then all at once wide in a way you remember as momentary. It's where the savage intimacies of the family had most often been exchanged; collisions leaving many more scars than that dangerous drawer full of loose German knives. In the kitchen the family had been too distant and at the same time much too close; it had been a place where acceptance widened-out, only to narrow and close ranks again. The dining room, however, has become theoretical--as detail-free as the interchangeable dinners that had marked each holiday and celebration. Reduced to an essence half a lifetime later, this room’s revealed to have been the kitchen in a chandeliered Sunday Best; where weekday dictates and intolerance had been served up on good china. But its mislaid appearance has also faded these uneasy memories: the narcotic blessing of forgetfulness, though late, has at last arrived.
Still later, on a stifling night long before there’s any air-conditioning, a spray truck whirs past your tight-shut window, fogging yellow-lit neighborhood streets. This last-ditch rescue of the trees comes at the songbirds’ expense, because the insecticide kills many more robins than the number of elms it saves. The Midwest, however, is equal parts of momentum and determination--there once something is put into motion, no price seems too high to pay. Which isn’t surprising, because a comfortable rut is the most costly thing of all.
And then your father’s mower, blades glinting in the bright sun, trims around the new birch, avoiding the stakes. But the whirring this time is your childhood receding, leaving you earthbound, stranded and ten.
Being the Author’s ruminations on the myth of mental Handicams and post-post-modernism . . .
Feels like I feel too much
I've seen too much
For a little while
I want to forget
I wanna be numb
--Pet Shop Boys, "Numb"
What you're gonna say in private
You still want my love,
we're in this together
And what you're gonna do in public
Say you were never in love
that you can remember
--Pet Shop Boys, "In Private"
Back in the library
His revenge is his story . . .
For Casanova has the last laugh
Creates the myth and vindication . . .
--Pet Shop Boys, "Casanova In Hell"
A Note Regarding Weblog Reincarnation
If you're curious about what I'm doing back here, these are the tenuous explanations. But be forewarned--I still don't have a clue about the latest purpose of this blog. Not yet, anyway. The only certainty is that what I write here will be thoroughly Not Like My Book--although I suspect it may often be about my struggles with it.
William Gibson famously said that "The street finds a use for things." And similarly, I'll eventually understand what to do with CultureHack (Mark IV). I'm guessing we'll all find out what I'm up to at the same time, when whatever this site is supposed to do reaches critical mass and manifests. But in the meantime, I'm not worrying about it: After all, I always do my best work (and feel most comfortable) in interstitial spaces . . .
Lately, I’ve been spending significant time making sure that the memories depicted in the book are both behaving as they should and as I want them to. And no, this isn’t obsessive attention to a small facet of the story. Formal Absence is chockablock with memories--it could be argued it’s comprised of nothing else. So not getting the memories right--especially the various ways they function--pretty much leaves me screwed.
Earlier and elsewhere I’ve outlined how the novel examines the fluidity of memory and, since--done correctly--this is one of its flashier aspects, you’d be forgiven for assuming this is the book’s defining conceit: Shards of backstory crosscut like a late ‘Sixties art film; the prose equivalent of a Nic Roeg movie (which on one level, I still hope it is). But no--the threadbare exoticism of shattered linearity isn’t the main point (except when it attracts film studios that want to option the book, in which case, yes--it’s totally why I wrote the thing).
Here’s some mind-numbingly obvious news: The workings of memory are much more complex than Hollywood’s classic spinning-room montages or its more recent penchant for nearly subliminal jump-cuts.
(Thinking about it, pretty much anything is more complex than its Hollywood depiction, which suggests why mainstream films avoid genuinely X-rated scenes. It’s not fear of the ratings system or public outcry--it’s the fact that sex is something we’re all aware is complex. Hollywood might fool most of us into believing an atomic bomb can be built from a toaster and the radium from a watch face; it can probably cajole us into assuming that emptying two clips from a Glok into someone’s chest is not necessarily fatal or, if it is, that the zombie-fication process is quick, easy and inevitable; and it may even be able to get us to buy into the presentation of vigilante rubber fetishists as superheroes. But sex? No way--because we’ve all been there and done that. We may not know squat about atomic bombs, gun battles, zombies or deeply disturbed, insomniac millionaires in body armor--but is there anyone out there without first-hand knowledge that with sex there’s always the tug of some sort of backstory? That the context always finds its way into the act--if only as the brutal logistics of performing while holding two cameras and trying not of slide off the plastic sheeting so as not to domino the last-surviving and oiled members of the Munchkinland cast into the frat-boy spectators? Or, uh, so I’m told . . . )
The reason the writing has taken so long is due--in part, at least--to my wrestling with the multifaceted nature of memory. Because if it’s already a slippery business in terms of the neuroscience, well, artistically memory’s like Vasoline-coated ice (and, thankfully, in no way like the corners of Barbara Streisand’s mind). The best way to explain the artistic challenge of memory is with yet another self-indulgent tangent. (Since you had to know this was coming, I’m not even going to pretend to apologize; it is, after all, this blog’s price of admission.)
In my significantly misspent youth, I frequently won bar bets by challenging easy marks to calculate how many ways there were to make change for a dollar. The answer is a startling 293 variations. For our purposes, the take-away is that all those configurations of coinage are equally valid--the “normal” ways are merely those variants popularized by pricing practices and vending machine traditions. In terms of depicting memory, the aforementioned spinning-room montage is the equivalent of a safely obvious four quarters, while the jagged jump cut is the more esoteric five dimes / one quarter/ five nickels. But outside of these Big, Predictable Depictions of Recall, the less-obvious workings of memory are left unexamined pretty much in the same way the other 291 ways of making change are ignored.
Memory rarely--if ever--behaves like total recall. Filmmakers like to pretend it does because budgets can be much leaner if the more authentic surrealism of the recollections in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind can be avoided. The prospect of standard sets, regular wardrobe and practically no special effects is more than enough to make most directors pretend memory is simply subjective documentary footage of the past. To me, that old lady’s granular recollections in Titanic are deeply disturbing--the hand-beaded gowns of passengers never spoken to can be absolutely remembered, as can the side dishes of dinners on other tables yards from her and the contents of a storage hold for more than 1,000 people. Absolutely recalled after more than 70 years. From this vantage, the film is more a deluxe Twilight Zone episode than a tragic romance. I kept expecting Rod Serling to stroll in after the she tosses the necklace into the sea: “Submitted for your consideration, Ms. Rose DeWitt Bukater, an elderly woman incapable of forgetting the smallest detail . . . ”
Being a five-act meditation on Dark Matter, design, music, memories and broken crockery . . .
I've seen you astride
the wind and the tide
my dark angel, you greet me
with a samurai sword,
close the chapter . . .
This book is ended
and I put it down,
find I'm befriended
in a foreign town,
I'm here, but nearer to the future . . .
But only yesterday night
I stood in the pouring rain,
shouting at the thunder:
I said "Lord, I'm starting to understand
the hidden mystery."
Lord, the compass falls in my hand,
I can sail to the far horizon . . .
Could you conceive a mirror
where you could never see yourself?
--Peter Hammill, "This Book"
Dark Matter 1: I'm starting to understand. Remarkably (and against all odds), my three projects keep lurching forward, each exhibiting something that resembles Progress--at least from a distance and when backlit. In the absence of film-star looks or a saint's patience, this is seeming proof that an industrial-strength focus complements my previously noted relentlessness. And here John Irving has my back, having noted, "You've got to get obsessed and obsessed." (Though on some days, I wish being Cary Grant had been an option . . . )
Recently I unthreaded those strands of the novel collectively called "The Composition of Dark Matter" and rewrote them as a reconstituted whole. And afterwards, they had to be rewoven into the fabric of the book. Spending so much time with this distilled version of Tony's Dark Matter caused me to consider the way writing invisibly takes up most of my time, giving shape to the smaller, observable part of my life.
If someone doesn't know what I'm engaged in, I wonder what it is they assume I'm doing? The only certainties are (1) the solitary nature of the endeavor and (2) the repeating cycle that shifts through apparent day dreaming, sporadic scribbling and then full-bore, speed-lashed keystrokes. And in between these "episodes," well, there's a lot of wandering about, waiting to again lock onto inspiration, increasing the amplitude until it's discernible amidst the ambient noise of more predictable approaches.
The only thing giving away the game is the flying-fingers-on-keys phase. Remove that bit, and there's not a lot of difference between writing and being one of those disturbed souls who wander the streets talking to themselves. Okay--except for the in-tow shopping cart. (Though toting a messenger bag full of Moleskines comes uncomfortably close.) And yeah, maybe the imaginary friend part. (But thinking about it, that pretty much describes having an agent.)
Writing is the 95 percent of my personal universe not visible to anyone else. And the only way to know it's there is by studying the impact on my public life--how it invisibly frames my daily actions. So, yes: Dark Matter.
I've been thinking about this as I continue to grapple with why I persist in blogging. Let's face it--it's not like I need to bang down even more words after my daily dance with the novel's neurotic characters. And yet from the outset, I understood this site was a necessary adjunct to the current set of interlocking projects. I couldn't have articulated why I knew this, but the certainty was there. Now, after rewriting the book's embedded novella, I finally realize this blog has been a similar, serialized analysis of my own Dark Matter--reportage as gravity lens.
CultureHack, Tumbled Cultural core sampling and sidelong glances at pop debris. An improvised miscellanea for those with more oblique and idiosyncratic tastes; a digital cabinet of curiosities.
CultureHack, Tracked See this as yet more context, albeit sonic: A slowly growing list of annotated songs added to online rather than in a Moleskine. I make no assurance about the absolute quality of these tunes, only their ability to resonate with me--often in unintended ways.
Formal Absences is a theater-piece companion to the forthcoming CD release, The Formal Absences of Precious Things, and Formal Absence, a novel. This sidebar section will feature the most recent versions of the song demos as they become available.