tuesday, july 16

the world is complex, complicated,
complicating - a maelstrom of ineradicable
contradictions and corrupted motions
an infinite hall of broken mirrors

the world is simple and may be modeled
the machinery reduces to basic motions and
particular instances of the universal
all yields to seeing eyes and steady hands
given time and hands to the task

within the static, no pattern
within the patterns, no purpose
between all shapes and boundaries,
only the murderous illusion of harmony

within all things a unity,
between all systems a coherence,
through all specifics
the golden thread of the general

abstraction now tears at the edges of all
that moves or breathes, automation
overwhelms the bounds of a system drowning
in its own heat; the powers you have built
consume without regard to natural limit,
lend force to the will of tyrants, unspool
into madness: an apocalypse unfolds in
an epoch you could understand only just enough
to end

there's no way out but through
no hope against what we have unleashed
but in what we have unleashed
no freedom but in knowledge
no hope without freedom
no way to put the genie back
no way we could have kept it in the bottle

Monday, July 15

Sometimes you think you’re doing one kind of a thing with your life, and you hold this idea more or less intact, maybe for years, until well after there’s every indication that you’re doing not just something different, but something very much like the opposite thing.

Sunday, July 14

About midmorning I go into work, for whatever reason. Not really whatever reason. A specific one: The internet is there, full of things that I usually think about. Which is to say I hope that I might find some missing pieces of my brain if I have a little time alone with the network.

It’s quiet at the office on weekends. Like most times when I find myself there without anyone to hassle me about things I’ve promised them, I do a little work. Dab at the code here and there. Think about half a dozen real projects before settling back into busywork and desultory surfing. Let my mind skirt the edges of some tangled skeins of dependency and conflicting necessity while I have the luxury of letting them alone.

Every time I look up, the network is angry: They let that guy in Florida off the hook. History repeats itself at such a clip that the tragedy and farce parts of the cycle blur into a single image.

Back at my place in the evening, I scribble cramped and uselessly looping thoughts on paper for hours. Finally set the notebook down and bring the laptop out to sit at the door and write this as lightning works its way around the horizon and thunder mutters along just at the level where you’re not even sure if it’s thunder or passing air traffic. I remember now, not really knowing when I forgot it, that the atmosphere here is balanced right on an edge case, just after the plains and not quite yet the mountains.

A family unit of raccoons drifts past the door, explaining at once most of the skittering across rooftops I’ve heard since moving in. Flashlighting them across the neighbor’s backyard to confirm my suspicions, I realize I’ve interrupted traffic: Scratching from the nearby weeds, a querulous noise something like a foreshortened meow, and a pair of half-sized vermin are looking at me from under the patio table. I step back inside. They proceed.

friday, july 12

then what is it you lose,
when you lose a place?
you lose who you were
in that place.

Wednesday, July 10

4pm: ambient Twitter radiation prompts me to look out the office windows in Gunbarrel. Sure enough, in the hills towards the northwest, a small white plume, too low and distinct to be a cloud. We confer. Definitely smoke. The Internet says it's north and a little west of Lyons. Through binoculars it looks bigger, oddly less distinct. It's hot out, windy enough. Fire season seems to have re-emerged.

8pm: drinking mid-grade whiskey, neat, from a bottle that was small enough to carry back from the store in my pocket. Have given up on the radio — staticky local Celtic music show was more of two kinds of noise than I could handle.

Elsewhere: people with a great deal more practical seriousness of purpose than I have ever exhibited in life are probably cutting down trees and digging trenches and coordinating the actions of helicopters and slurry bombers.

Really elsewhere: foment, unrest, revolution, counterrevolution, civil war, etc.

Tuesday, July 9

The little lifestyle commandments on the wrappers of Dove chocolates are usually terrible advice.

Monday, July 8

the past isn't that evenly distributed either

The other night, staying with a cousin in Tennessee on my way to another cousin's wedding, I woke up in the guest room in a comfortable bed in a nice house in a nice part of Nashville and didn't know where I was. Or for that matter exactly who. For a couple of those strange, slippery seconds while my memory tried to get a lock on the surroundings, nothing would resolve into a coherent frame.

Every now and then I get just a little outside of time. A decade slides out of focus, bending like an analog TV picture under interference, and the last thing I'm sure of is the shape of some summer day in Kansas or Missouri or Nebraska, when everything was still more or less as it had been, when the total realization of impermanence hadn't yet broken me.

I moved here with a dozen boxes of paper books. Enough that I don't know where I'm going to put half of them without building shelves. They're collectively the heaviest thing in the building — the seeds of a real library, a start at realizing this daydream of a life surrounded by volumes. And they're suddenly, in one of those everyone-everywhere reorderings of civilization itself, an affectation.

Most of yesterday I read a novel on a Kindle Paperwhite, an anonymous little slab of electronics with a battery life you could probably measure in weeks. The boxes of books are stacked in a loose wall down the middle of the room, brooding, biding their time, breathing out a fine mist of stubborn obsolescence, entire lives of the mind rendered on a surface we're about to cede to digital absolutism. Like everything else, the medium that birthed and sustained nearly every subsequent abstraction has blurred at the edges, the textures and possibilities all subtly transmuted, as it washes into the computational.

The radio's on again: Tech not much changed in its fundamentals since well before I was born, even as most of the systems that feed its noise have been swept into the network.

Elsewhere on the spectrum the cell signal is nearly absent. The lack of an internet connection is a constant irritant. I begin to wonder in sincerity how much of my mind actually lives in the machinery — where the system of me leaves off and the system of the world begins.

Sunday, July 7

Main Street in Lyons is busy all day long, thick with tourist traffic, National Park daytrippers, and people on Harleys. I feel invisible - walking for groceries, reading over food and a beer, watching mid-afternoon rain from the doors outside my rooms. A lot of people pass through a place like this, but you're so much background noise to most of them.

In the years since I last lived nearby, money seems to have flowed, if unevenly, into the town. Money and the cultural currents of 2000s Boulder. The coffeeshops are physically bigger, somehow less ragged in their presentation. One of them has a liquor license and serves Bloody Marys to hungover festival crowds. Somebody turned the grocery store from the kind of depressing shithole you find in a lot of small towns - freezer pizza, rotting produce - into a clean, well-lit room full of fresh bread and such. The video rental store with the angry proprietor shut down ages ago. There's a dispensary and a distillery and a decent pizza place. Rent is higher, the volume of big new houses greater, the doomed antique-and-book-and-junk stores I used to wonder through replaced by new doomed antique-etc. stores.

Long about 9:30 I realize the silence is getting to me and hook up my old stereo. I can't find antenna wire anywhere in the boxes I've opened so far. Without it, exactly two FM stations come in. One is running some kind of evangelical Christian media awards show from Nashville. For some reason, I listen this for the duration of a conversation with a hockey player who I gather is married to Carrie Underwood. Eventually I switch. This time it's an interview with a rapper of somewhat diminished celebrity whose name I never catch, followed by hours of the kind of thing that only volunteer DJs at nonprofit local radio stations ever get away with playing in the aggregate: reggae-inflected electronic miscellany, jazz covers of Radiohead, aggressively abstract sound collages.

Monday, July 1

9th floor of an 18-story airport hotel, Nashville, TN

It’s 10:30am. I have a flight at 5 in the afternoon. The cleaning crew is working their way down the hall: Taptaptap. “Good morning, Guest Services.” Taptaptap. “Good morning, Guest Services.” I put the little Do Not Disturb card (actual copy: “Brain Storm / It’s really coming down in here. / Better wait until it lets up.”) in the key slot, but I still have the usual low-grade anxiety that they’re going to knock on my door sooner or later, so I’ve given up on sleep.

There’s nothing you can say about the experience of hotel rooms that hasn’t already been said by some hack trying halfheartedly to wring wordcount out of exactly this kind of dead air moment. A hundred million people must be living more or less this moment right now: Flipping TV channels at chain motels before the wedding or the funeral. Sitting on vinyl chairs in quick-oil-change shops and shuffling through backissues of Sports Illustrated while they wait on the guy to come out and try to scam an extra 40 or 50 bucks to swap out something that doesn’t need swapped. Reading bad fiction in the airport while a half dozen gate agents mumble unintelligible formalities over the PA.