“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

“There were 4,254,784 live births in 1957, a number not reached again for 50 years.(…)The so called baby boom began (informally) in July 1946, 11 months after the Japanese surrender, when live births jumped to 286,000, and ended in December 1964, when 331,000 babies were born. That’s approximately 76 million people. Generalizations about this demographic are obviously meaningless. Birth rates for non-white people were significantly higher than for white people, but the baby boom narrative is almost entirely a middle-class white person’s narrative.” Louis Menand from The Free World:Art and Though in the Cold War

“Nostalgia is a dumb drug. Its major effects include melancholia, self-pity, inertia, selective remembering, and a willingness to spend money to see Iron Butterfly.” R.U. Sirius

“One artist often featured on the hyperpop playlist is a gangly, mop-headed sixteen-year-old named Ash Gutierrez, who performs as glaive, a name taken from the video game Dark Souls III. (It is technically inaccurate to say that he performs—Gutierrez has never performed live, nor has he ever even seen live music performed, as he said in a recent interview.) Gutierrez spent the early days of the pandemic in his bedroom, in a small rural town in North Carolina, acquainting himself with music-production software. Energized by artists like 100 gecs and a suite of emotional Internet rappers, Gutierrez began making beats and singing over them. Remote schooling had freed him from a fear of judgment by his classmates, and he gathered the courage to post some of his songs on SoundCloud. One of the first, called ‘sick,’ was clearly part of the hyperpop lineage. The one-minute-and-thirty-second track begins with a set of bleeps and bloops that recall a video-game soundtrack, and Gutierrez’s voice is distorted, to sound high-pitched and alien. In a rapid patter, he describes the state of his brain: ‘I’m sick and I’m overstimulated / Neurons in my brain filled with information.'” Carrie Battan

“I’m here to promote my album. It’s a hyperpop, EDM, disco fantasia. It’s called ‘Music.’ Yeah, it’s called ‘Music.’ Can we talk about my album? It’s 12 tracks, swear to God!” The Iceberg struck by the Titanic

“The Republican pollster Glen Bolger told me that he didn’t think the G.O.P.’s about-face stemmed from a sudden fear of electoral debacle so much as a reflection of the alarming trend lines in red America. Until now, ‘Republicans felt like we don’t necessarily need to push on vaccines and tick off a significant portion of our base, so we won’t talk about it,’ Bolger said. But, with cases increasing, that calculus changed. ‘It’s more of ‘Hey, guess who’s getting sick? Republicans,’ ‘ he said. Red America is facing a deadly fourth wave of the pandemic, and Republican politicians, or at least some, appear to have decided that they don’t want to take the blame for killing off their own voters.” Susan B. Glasser

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” Dr. Johnson

Nostalgia includes, but is not limited to Bachman-Turner Overdrive

This was the week that brought three close scrapes with the past. First, the mail brought LL Bean’s Snoopy and Woodstock Collection catalog. That means that somewhere out there someone is flipping through all that only to have a grandchild come up and say, “Who’s that Grammy?”

At that point Grammy becomes apoplectic, how could this precious and innocent child not know Snoopy, the Walter Mitty of the funny papers?

Try explaining that last sentence to anybody under 50.

I dare you.

That lets us conclude that Grammy is a good example of Roach Motel Epistemology – ideas go in, but they don’t come out. It’s similar to Abe Simpson’s old line where he said he used to be with “it” until they change “it” and he was never with “it” again. Life moves on and our assumptions stay put until such time that you’re rendered thunderstruck.

Second was a lengthy phone call that I marginally participated in. A guy called and told me how he’d gone to great lengths to track me down, he’d been looking for a couple of years, and he just had to call and tell me about the amazing thing that I said when I was on the student council. It took me some time to let part of about his efforts sink in as I was completely overcome at the fact that I was on the student council.

I had no idea.

Either it was so traumatic I blanked it our or I wasn’t on the student council. Either way I had no idea what he was enthusiastically talking about. Over the years I’ve developed a Count Basie approach to such calls. The Count used to let the others do their thing and he’d pop in now and then with a note or two on the piano. Fans have long observed that it was always the right note or two at just the right time. In my case – instead of the piano I drop an “…ok” or “uh…huh” here and there to let whomever get whatever it is out of their system.

There’s no reason to think he’ll call again as I didn’t seem to eager to burn rubber down Memory Lane. The steady Basie based approach comes off as polite yet disinterested. The call represents Cobbled Together Epistemology – contents may have settled during shipping. He’s still playing with a full deck, but it probably got shuffled a couple of times. No point in correcting him as he seems to be as fully functioning and as happy as anyone can be right now.

Lastly, there was last Sunday’s notice from Family Search that I had 162 read messages which is 161 more than I received in the past two years. A kerfuffle broke out over whether or not my maternal grandfather was related to Sir Francis Drake. Two sides had formed – one said the linage could be traced back to Sir Francis and the other said we go back to a guy named Francis Duke who was born in the mid-1700s and was some sort of yeoman prole. Given how all the people in the conversation have traced our collective lineage back to one flunky and/or middle manager or another the Francis Duke scenario seemed more likely.

I gave some thought to breaking it up by sending an email saying I am proud to be related to Frank Duke as Sir Francis Drake was a pioneer in the slave trade and thanks to the valiant efforts of The New York Times we now have The 1619 Project which sets the record straight about America’s sinful past. While it would have been amusing to send that note it would undoubted get me 162 responses, half of which would include that lynch pin of modern rhetoric – the death threat. In Ancient Greece the question, “Who is the virtuous man?” lead to a whole book. Ask that question today and the immediate response is, “ONE MORE WORD OUTTA YOU AND I’M COMIN’ OVER THERE TO FUCK YOU UP!”

The Duke/Drake thing is a sort of Ornamental Nostalgia – dressing up the past in the same way you’d bring the big box of Xmas stuff out of the basement.

There was at least one omen that said the past would come back to haunt me as this turned up on th’ Tweety a couple of weeks ago.

Bob, Mondo 2000 and cyberpunk – I had to find a kleenex to dab away the tear that formed at the far corner of my eye. Those were the things some of us embraced 30 or so years ago only to find out that, like the jet pack and the flying car, none of it came to be. Mondo 2000 could blow your zeitgeist’s skull open with each issue, but years on the cyber portion proved to be a dead end while the rest was an incredible introduction to people like the Krokers, Deleuze, and Kathy Acker.

So can you be nostalgic for a past that never worked out?

The guy who thought I was on the student council and the various may-times-removed relations dithering over Duke and Drake have one thing in common – something tangible. Those of us who wanted a digital space to wallow in junk culture and odd ideas got something tangible too, but it’s not what we wanted. Put another way – unlike student council guy and the second cousins we have nothing to show for the time we put into it.

Kyle Chayka writes:


In a Facebook earnings call last week, Mark Zuckerberg outlined the future of his company. The vision he put forth wasn’t based on advertising, which provides the bulk of Facebook’s current profits, or on an increase in the over-all size of the social network, which already has nearly three billion monthly active users. Instead, Zuckerberg said that his goal is for Facebook to help build the “metaverse,” a Silicon Valley buzzword that has become an obsession for anyone trying to predict, and thus profit from, the next decade of technology. “I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social-media company to seeing us as a metaverse company,” Zuckerberg said. It was a remarkable pivot in messaging for the social-media giant, especially given the fact that the exact meaning of the metaverse, and what it portends for digital life, is far from clear. In the earnings call, Zuckerberg offered his own definition. The metaverse is “a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces,” he said. It’s “an embodied Internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at. We believe that this is going to be the successor to the mobile Internet.”

Like the term “cyberspace,” a coinage of the fiction writer William Gibson, the term “metaverse” has literary origins. In Neal Stephenson’s novel “Snow Crash,” from 1992, the protagonist, Hiro, a sometime programmer and pizza-delivery driver in a dystopian Los Angeles, immerses himself in the metaverse, “a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones.” It’s an established part of the book’s fictional world, a familiar aspect of the characters’ lives, which move fluidly between physical and virtual realms. On a black ground, below a black sky, like eternal night in Las Vegas, Stephenson’s metaverse is made up of “the Street,” a sprawling avenue where the buildings and signs represent “different pieces of software that have been engineered by major corporations.” The corporations all pay an entity called the Global Multimedia Protocol Group for their slice of digital real estate. Users also pay for access; those who can only afford cheaper public terminals appear in the metaverse in grainy black-and-white.

Stephenson’s fictional metaverse may not be that far off from what today’s tech companies are now developing. Imagine, like Hiro, donning goggles (perhaps those produced by Oculus, which Facebook owns), controlling a three-dimensional virtual avatar, and browsing a series of virtual storefronts, the metaverse equivalents of different platforms like Instagram (which Facebook also owns), Netflix, or the video game Minecraft. You might gather with friends in the virtual landscape and all watch a movie in the same virtual theatre. “You’re basically going to be able to do everything that you can on the Internet today as well as some things that don’t make sense on the Internet today, like dancing,” Zuckerberg said. In the future we might walk through Facebook, wear clothes on Facebook, host virtual parties on Facebook, or own property in the digital territory of Facebook. Each activity in what we once thought of as the real world will develop a metaverse equivalent, with attendant opportunities to spend money doing that activity online. “Digital goods and creators are just going to be huge,” Zuckerberg said.

In an earnings call?

The future some of us hoped for went away in an earnings call?

Take me now Jesus.

Take me now.

The illustration for all this looks like those flash animations from 10 or so years ago where you could make little bears talk in a very synthetic voice.

If we take into consideration that FB has its own culture that means the metaverse will bring certain touchstones with it. Each day you’d be confronted by the AI Gladae Kravitz who will pepper you with with questions like, “Where was the first place you made out?” or “Name the first band you saw in concert and weren’t too stoned to forget?” Now and then you’ll see an AI small child. The image will haunt you. The Child will be a fixture in each and every one of your nightmares. In the old folks home The Child will replace the Boogie Man. You call for the nurse because The Child is under your bed.

And what does The Child do?

With a lilting playground lisp the child recites funny things children said in Sunday school.

Why?

Because your family will reside in the metaverse as well. FB has conditioned them and they will act accordingly.

Hard to say which way this is going. If we work forward from Fredric Jameson’s observation that we’re all now playing out the last scene in The Man Who Fell to Earth where David Bowie’s alien is watching dozens of tv sets simultaneously then the new metaverse is unlikely to make sense of it all so much as it will make people more annoying.

Don’t forget there will be those who will want to manufacture context in the metaverse in the same way that Q has provided a single thread to stitch through each and very part of the text we encounter each day. Never mind that IRL Apple is going to make sure that you’re guilty. until proven innocent each and every time you pick up the phone.

Some future this turned out to be.

Those damn DMT elves lied to us.


Quality Assurance Time

Prior to having my nostalgia stepped on like it was some kind of icky bug, I was poised to consider the question, “How fucking stupid do you have to be to rig the voting machines when the electorate was going to give you the outcome you wanted in the first place?

And where was The Stay Puft Pillow Man when there was real proof the machines had been tampered?

Oh …. never mind … shoulda known … makes perfect sense.

Not that I could have published that piece much of anywhere. It won’t fit on Medium as it really doesn’t let me blame my parents for this, that, and the other. It won’t get me on Bulletin nor would it bring in even loose change on Substack. So not only am I letting that one sink into the sunset I’m not going to ask you to pay the freight.

Which is not to say that there isn’t writing worth paying for.

As Constance Grady writes:

“The Mitfords were a family of very minor English aristocrats who nonetheless became the center of the so-called Mitford industry in England from the 1930s on. There are Mitford documentaries, Mitford biographies, even a Mitford musical. Their scandalous escapades seemed to function as the reality TV drama of their era, even as they made real political and artistic contributions to the world.When we talk about the Mitfords, we are principally interested in the six sisters who came of age on their parents’ country estate between the two world wars: Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica, and Deborah. (There was a brother, too, Thomas, but we need not concern ourselves with him. He was the Robert Kardashian of the family.)Of these six Mitford sisters, three became Nazis, one became a socialist journalist, one a liberal satirical novelist who informed on her Nazi sisters, and one a duchess. Considering the Mitfords now feels like one of those “tag yourself” memes: As global chaos rises and politics become polarized, which one are you?”

That’s a story that’s not only worth paying for, that’s a story that would make a Medium editor say, “Dial it back!”

The only upshot I could come up with is speculation that Tina Peters’ will be working towards a Twinkie defense claiming she was coming off a Chloroquine and Ivermectin binge.

That’s why this one’s on me.

The $4.86 I owe AWS each month?

My pleasure.

Let’s dance.