Monday, June 28, 2010

Informational Hysteria

As a kid I like chaotic streams of information, I liked the vaudeville hams bumping each other out of the spot light, I loved the Dixieland musicians coming in on top it seemed of each other's solo. But the habits of the culture that I came to prefer and that we are now bereft of offered information in single doses, with time to absorb it. When I went into Columbia's stacks or NYU's stacks or Colby College's stacks I was able to look in the nineteenth-century English novelists section without being interfered with by shelves or volumes from seventeenth-century French poets. Melville's Moby Dick minded its own business while I browsed Ben Jonson's plays. Today I was reduced to a nervous wreck as I tried to enjoy TV coverage of the tennis championships at Wimbledon. ESPN2, switching in and out with NBC, put on a match between Federer and Melzer — great — but then the screen would split and two, then four, matches would be shown simultaneously, Patrick McEnroe or Brad Gilbert or Hannah Storm talking the while, switching to cameos from Pam Shriver or from Dennis Cahill. Then a match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova would intervene. The whole time soccer scores occupied a graphic at the bottom of the screen.

When I was a kid I looked forward to the circus, but then three rings proved to be too much. Maybe God can listen to six billion prayers simultaneously but I don't even want to try.

The internet I offered in 1970 was intended to offer us a tool with which we could pry ourselves loose from the strangle hold of managed information. Everyone could have had a cheap ad; no one's ad would have interrupted any one else's ad! On your honeymoon did the hotel's whores come into your bridal suite and flash their pussies under your nose while you tried to embrace your wife? Did you pick up the remote and switch from your bride to Elizabeth Taylor to Marilyn Monroe to Claudia Cardinale?