Monday, November 28, 2011

Paris, Midlands

I have two essays to write in the next two weeks for this degree I've managed to get myself jammed into sideways, and the computers at the university today are refusing to open any file that might help me research them. Fine. Just another one of the cute little frustrations of electronically-dominated twenty-first century academic life. (I don't have a computer at home, you see, so I can't go there and do the work instead.)

But who gives a crap. I have a few days yet. And I have so much reading to do, that should keep me busy (ie: away from anything important) until whatever's wrong with these computers is made right.

I was watching Paris, Texas last night. It's one of my favourite films. I first saw it in '84 or '85, the first time it was shown on tv; and as I watched it - does anybody remember the beautiful haunted loneliness of Harry Dean Stanton's Travis? - I thought how nice it would be, if only for a while, to go back to the way things were then. No internet. No mobile phones. If you wanted to talk to somebody you drove a hundred miles to the next phone booth or you waited until you saw them. In those days it was possible to be alone with yourself. The only way you can do that now is by expressing a dissenting opinion, which will lose you more friends than foot odour; but you'll still have to engage with the electronic public brain at some point.

The wags among you will no doubt say that I am fantasising on a computer about a life without computers. You're right. People don't publish much writing or poetry on paper anymore - particularly not mine - so what choice do I have? I'm a writer. But I do think we've lost something by plugging everybody into everybody else as we have in this cyber age (if we still call it that). The revolutionary potential of technological developments is huge, but the spirit needs the anonymity of the desert or the mountain sometimes. It's where all the best people have their visions.

2 comments:

peter marra said...

I have recently become nostalgic for the pre-internet age. I was reminiscing about he time i moved to the east village in 1980. I wnet to pick up my phone from the bell telephone store on 2nd ave. It was a shiny black rotary dial phone (I couldn't afford touch-tone). Best of all I had no answering machine. If I didn't pick up the phone I had no idea who was trying to reach me. Pure heaven.

Bruce Hodder said...

It makes me laugh to see stuff that was new when I already felt old being sold in the shops as "retro".