My follies will live again - Columbia-Greene Media: Dave Lee

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My follies will live again

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Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 1:41 pm

'The best is always yet to come

That's what they explain to me

Just do your thing and you'll be king

If dogs run free.'


I love a good science fiction movie. I especially like the ones where the guy finds the fossilized ruin of an old space ship and attaches some atomic batteries to it and by god it powers up. The lights of ancient control panels blink on and lo! a screen displays the last video communication of the long lost crew. It reaches out from the past millennium and oh they'd had an awful time. It's such a great melancholy. But it is also interesting to contemplate the notion that computer data; the ones and zeros of micro-switches — isn't that after all the physical component of computation — would just need a spark of electricity to breathe life into it. You know that all of the data that exists on the internet is stored in giant servers housed in giant buildings like cities out in the desert. It doesn't float around like clouds in the air waiting to be inhaled. It needs a physical premises — a street address. The essential existence of web information, at its core, is physical. Oh, my stuff which I access from time to time lives at such and such a street out there in the Nevada desert. I have this fantasy that these computer server buildings could be like the pyramids for future millennia. The archeologists will attach batteries, decipher passwords and tease out pieces of information.

I started with this blog back some years ago and I well, I ran short on time, dropped the ball and never picked it up again until recently when people told me they had read something. And I thought well that's interesting — haven't written for a looooong time. Then I thought am I satisfied with that being my last word? Now I'm torn between my vanity and my fear that I will be forever condemned to creating juvenilia for which I will suffer no end of embarrassment. And these things we contribute to the web are personal publications — they will never go away.These things I write could ride me like demons to the end of my days and then haunt my future generations like malignant dusty ghosts and then they will be these silly flaws — voids in the mortar in the great pyramids of the 21st century.

Imagine if you will, a time long before history: no cities on the planet earth… no cities, no cars, no roads, no computers, no televisions, no movies, no newspapers, no matches no cigarettes, no nothing! No money — nothing that you rely on every day in order to get to the next. I believe there was such a time. Imagine such a time — just take a moment. What would you think about? What is left after you take away all of the things on which we order existence today, what is left for contemplation? I don't know, but I think it's neither Eden nor Hell. Here's the setting: It's an overcast day, soon it will rain, but there is something much more ominous on the horizon; a mountain, the top of which has been smoldering for weeks. It suddenly blows and smoke rises, filling and darkening the afternoon sky like you've never seen. It blows and rumbles and soon a rain of fine dry ash descends. Nothing in your experience has prepared you for this. As you walk away from this scene, your child's hand in yours you trudge. Wet drizzle and black ash descend encasing your tracks in the muck. Years go by. How could you have any concept that 3.6 million years in the future, an archeologist (Mary Leakey, Laetoli Tanzania, 1978) chipping away the stone, would uncover your tracks?

I think that there are many people who would love to know that their impressions would be preserved for the duration of the life of this planet like the Hollywood Walk of Fame or names and handprints pressed into wet cement. (Or the Voyager, installed with random cultural detritis now leaving the solar system— a technological tombstone for the globe itself). These petrosomatoglyphs are as interesting for what they don't tell as what they do. The fossil footprints without beginning or end are parts of what was undoubtedly a much longer journey. Do you wonder if those hominids turned around and looked back at their footprints and thought, "Look how far we've come!" Or maybe they looked down and thought, "I just love the feeling of mud squishing up between my toes." Or maybe they just looked ahead and thought. "Arrgh! Look how far we have to go — we'll never get out of this mess."

And when, in some future, the surface of this world looks like that of Mars, what of this era will be left to tell about it? Oh, they will probably find the tops of the great pyramids or some stone tablets from the First Century, BCE, but a bunch of hard-drives? In some future world, archeologists will be digging up the preserved remains of the gold and platinum microswitches of computer chips in the middens of crumbled computers and tease out the pictures and stories therein, much like our contemporaries identify prehistoric DNA in amber-trapped mosquitoes. And then my follies will live again!

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