Tips for Tourists in New York City

If you and your typically lardassed Caucasian family make it up to New York City from Georgia and you're on the subway at rush hour, squished into a comparatively small space with seventy-five New Yorkers trying to get somewhere, for the love of all things holy, don't start talking loudly about how misguided we northerners are about the Civil War.

And after you didn't do that, don't proudly proclaim yourself as a high school history teacher.

Lemme tell ya something: we (as New Yorkers) are okay with ignorance and stupidity and diversity, even among smug and supercilious white people - in a town this large and this diverse, we have to be. You know what we're not okay with? People who fuck with the minds of children.

I've never read a novel about the internet. I've read novels that involve aspects of the internet, but none about the internet itself1. This is of particular interest to me, because I judge art and society through the lens of the novel. I believe the novel is the highest artistic expression - you may disagree. In the January issue of Esquire Tom Junod writes an article about an interview he did with Norman Mailer. Describing Mailer, Junod writes:

"He's always stood for the novel as the main event, the test of courage, the test of manliness... Partly it was an existential thing, because the novel is a heroic go at the void..."

That struck me at the time as being utterly, utterly true.

The novel is our attempt at putting a period at the end of existence. This is how big a life is; here is its shape, its depth, and its size. Some novels discuss one life with excruciating depth; others tout a cast of characters that numbers into the dozens. The worst thing a novel can be is about plot. The best thing it can be is a faithful record of people.

I once tried to write a novel without any characters2, just descriptions of empty fields and the history of streams and mountains. Deadly boring stuff, and a cautionary tale. There is no novel without life. Hence, no novels about the internet.

Last month, I suggested something be done to record the history of everything2. The editors debated, took it into consideration, and decided that nothing official would be done, but if something was done by a volunteer, it would not be looked down upon. I can understand their trepidation. Some of us are more vocal than others; the writing of a history is volatile stuff.

Other equally good arguments were made. One was that this project would make newer users feel marginalized. I disagree. I believe that it is important for collaborative efforts to have a history. Having a sense of our place in the larger scheme of things is comforting. When you get here, it is a bit like entering a smoky men’s club, a second after someone has told a fantastic knee-slapper. The whole room roars with laughter; the laughter dies down as you walk in, hat in hand. Everyone stares at you.

“I hear you fellas do a little writin’ here.”

They stare at you, cigars clenched between middle and index finger, ready to toss you out.

“I know a little bit about guns, and sloppin’ hogs; I got a degree in forest science and a right funny story about the time I woke up naked in a cornfield.”

They go right back to their fun, and you stand there, waiting. It’s intimidating, and what’s more, it has to be like that. Too many noders leave forever the same day that they join, and the ones that continue with the site do so for a reason. It might help if they had a place to go to read about the legacy of those before them, and why they should stay, even though no one talks to them except momomom or Wiccanpiper, and their first writeup is nuked. With penalty.

What’s more, it has to be oral histories. In The E2 Backstory clampe writes: “this is not a virtual community. It's simply a community.” And that is true. But communities record the past, and call it history, instead of being honest and calling it factual mythology.

If you left E2 today, how would you measure the time you spent here? By nodes, by words, by time spent at your computer? Does any of this mean anything? Could we make a novel out of E2?

Here is what I suggest: Everyone and their mother e-mail me3, msg me, IM me, what have you. Give me a list of turning points, important events in E2’s history. Because I enjoy symmetry, we will do this like the stations of the cross. Each station will be a melding of oral histories, to be collected after the stations have been set. The histories will contradict themselves. They will not be conclusive. They will reflect the prejudices of their authors.

Nevertheless, they will be true.

It probably goes without saying that some of you will think of better ways to collect this information. You will have opinions, and you may refuse to participate in what I’m trying to do. That is fine. But don’t msg me with aimless bitching unless you have a better idea.

My second point is about poetry.

My favorite poet is Anna Akhmatova and my favorite poem of hers is as follows:

He Did Love

He did love three things in this world:
Choir chants at vespers, albino peacocks,
And worn, weathered maps of America.
And he did not love children crying,
Or tea served with raspberries,
Or woman's hysteria.
...And I was his wife.

Akhmatova, besides being a beautiful wordsmith and perpetrator of samizdat literature (She memorized many of Osip Mandelshtam’s poems to prevent them from being wiped out; the surviving portion of his work is in no small part due to her efforts), was an acmeist. She stood with Flaubert; she was looking for the mot juste.

I found a collection of her poems in a bookstore a few months ago, and my body sang with the discovery. Inside, like an overturned ash tray, was a translation of my favorite poem that is nowhere near as lyrical or vivid as the one above.

This is the nature of poetry. Jorge Luis Borges, in his lecture “Poetry”, said:

“The aesthetic event is something as evident, as immediate, as indefinable as love, the taste of fruit, or water.”4 Else where he asserts: “…and even for the same reader the same book changes, for we change; we are the river of Heraclitus, who said that the man of yesterday is not the man of today, who will not be the man of tomorrow. We change incessantly, and each reading of a book, each rereading, each memory of that rereading, reinvents the text. The text too is the changing river of Heraclitus.”
This seems to echo Jacques Derrida, who likens a text to a web:
“a web that envelops a web, undoing the web for centuries; reconstituting it too as an organism… there is always a surprise in store for the anatomy or physiology of any criticism that might think it has mastered the game…”5

In summary: poetry is a big wriggly fish that forever threatens to flop out of the boat. In terms of interpretation, of course. The reading of the poem depends on the person, that person at that moment. And because of this, the poem as the author’s intention begins to die the instant it is finished. Translation invariably eviscerates this original organism, and sets a dummy in it’s place.

Because the defining character of poetry is not in form, but in import. Poetry is about the relationship of words. Their sound, the interplay between their connotation and their denotation, and the rhythm of speech. As soon as the words start to change, are translated, begin to fall to the wayside or increase in circulation, that initial snapshot of linguistic relativity is changed, stretched, and modified.

The best poetry dashes its brains out in a short amount of time, and is constantly revived to play a part it wasn’t born into.

The point I am laboring to make is, poetry is meringue, it is Francium, it is vastly unstable and we cannot expect it to last forever. Some of it falls out of the author already dead, already irrelevant, already boring as hell. That is why poetry is and should always be held to a higher standard than anything else in the database. It just expires too fast.

Each piece will live and die on its own terms. Every writer has things that will last years in the database; other pieces won’t last the season. That is the pact you enter into when you join, that you are riding on a self-correcting machine, and not all of your contributions will survive. I put all of my poetry in daylogs; partly because I don’t have the courage of my convictions. But mostly because that is where I think it belongs.

If there is something worth fighting for, it is the writing. But there is no one here worth fighting with or over, capisce?

1. Criterion: Takes place entirely within the sphere of the internet, and is not Tron.
2. In my defense, the prose was gorgeous. It just didn't go anywhere.
3. My E-mail
4. Seven Nights "Poetry". New Directions, 1984.
5. Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism "Dissemination" Norton and Co. 2001

Tips for Tourists in Orlando, Florida

If you and your typically lardassed Caucasian family make it down to Orlando, Florida from Indiana and you are driving on I-4, headed to Disney World like most typically lardassed Caucasian families, and you are stuck in heavy traffic, for the love of all things holy, don't assume everyone is heading to The Evil Empire (which is generally how the locals refer to Disney World and its independent government). And whatever you do, don't back up on the highway when you miss the first Disney exit, there are more exits for it down the road.

Disney World is not in Orlando. Disney controls several towns to the southwest of the city, and contrary to the beliefs of most tourists, our lives don't revolve around satiating The Evil Empire. Just because tourist dollars float the entire economy doesn't mean we approve of you pulling off into the breakdown lane and then backing up at high speeds, or making a sudden five lane change in the middle of heavy, high speed traffic because you just noticed the Disney exit. Some people actually use I-4 to go to Plant City. Or Tampa.

And for the love of God don't stop at a gas station with your typically lardassed Caucasian family to ask for directions and tell us how misguided we are about the Boer War. Florida is constantly confused with the Orange Free State, and while this is may be an honest mistake, it annoys the shit out of us because it happens so damned often. We're sick of it.

And after you didn't do that, don't proudly proclaim yourself as a high school history teacher. Especially if you aren't. We have high schools and high school teachers in Orlando and we are familiar with their antics.

In a town this large and this diverse, we have learned to deal with tourists. We have to, you see. We are familiar with the Canadians who walk along International Drive in really tight, shiny bathing suit-looking shorts. We are familiar with the midwesterners who can't seem to stop eating massive amounts of chicken wings and getting most of the sauce on their faces, hands and shirts. We're familiar with those who come down from Atlanta, Georgia with their superior, "We're the real South" attitudes and talk nonstop about the Atlanta Braves. We know about all of you people and we're okay with it because we have to be. You know what we're not okay with? People who fuck with the minds of children. Especially with supercilious propaganda about the Atlanta Braves, who haven't won shit in a very long time, despite your claims. Enough with the influx of jerseys and hats for fuck's sake. We've had it. Think of the children.

Tips for Tourists in Chicago, Illinois

If you and your typically lardassed Caucasian family make it back to Chicago, welcome home!

Would you like some sausage?

Tips for Tourists in Melbourne, Australia

If you or your family should visit Melbourne for any reason, try to plan ahead, create an itinerary node or superdoc and the locals will probably organise some kind of a nodermeet, quite possibly at some sea-side vegetarian restaurant with drinks waiters that come by a dozen times during your eating and socialising to enquire if you would care to part with a little more cash.

It is not unlikely that noders such as SwimmingMonkey, tWD, Heppigirl, Teos, Bexxta and your author might venture out to meet you.

It's probable that accommodation and a few lifts can be arranged, someone might show you around the town and drinks will be had here and there. We can make you feel welcome and node about it while you're asleep in the lounge-room.

Tip for visitors to the Interwebs

If you are a typical e2 author, it is very likely that you like to twiddle your scratchpad html until your writeup looks just perfect on your screen. This, in the case of several authors, includes putting <blockquote> and <ol> tags in until the gutter is just the right width.

Lemme tell ya something. You, as an author of an html document on a public website, have almost no control over what the end user will see. Maybe your reader is blind, maybe your reader is using a palmtop or a mobile phone. Maybe your reader isn't using their browser in full screen mode because it's easier to read text that isn't too wide. Maybe your reader likes to have a larger font.

Maybe your reader is me.

I have a user stylesheet in my notelet, which puts a margin around paragraphs and puts a huge margin around blockquotes - because I like blockquotes that stand out. The advantage of this is that dichotomyboi's writeup above looks absolutely gorgeous. The disadvantage is that, because of one or two people (I haven't bothered to look for the culprit), this year's Prosenoder's cup is rather too wide for my window. Half the writeups, I can't read properly, because they take up more than my screen width. Those that I can read are those with extra blockquotes, but because of the fuckupage, they don't actually have a gutter to the right. So thank you for ruining the whole page for me.

I have noded on this topic before. I have also noded on the similar topic of semantic markup. I also seem to remember writing an entry for the E2 FAQ on the subject, but I can't find the bloody thing. Most people have told me that, quite frankly, they don't care. The large inconvenience to the few is apparently outweighed by the small improvement in legibility to the many.

On this occasion, I'm not trying to be pedantic. You people can and will do as you like. The take home message is this: if you want to control the layout of your work perfectly, create your own website or write a book; otherwise, just mark it up nicely and let me read it how I have e2 set up.

Once I have access to the machine where I host my css file, I may or may not take the time to counteract these annoyances. But the large-scale problem will still remain.

Tips for Tourists in daylogs with running jokes

Milk it until it's dry then milk it some more. People love this stuff! That goes double for lard arsed Caucasians.

You see what I did there? I know you did.

Tips for Tourists in Albuquerque, New Mexico

If you and your typically lardassed Caucasian family make it to Albuquerque, New Mexico, be prepared to answer the New Mexico State Question: "Red or green?"

If you have to ask "which is hotter?" then maybe you should order a nice grilled cheese sandwich instead.

Tips for tourists in New Orleans, Louisiana

If you and your typically lardassed Caucasian family make it down to New Orleans from your typically lardassed Caucasian tract house or double-wide trailer in Dubuque, Iowa, don't call it The Big Easy or Nawlins. It's pronounced Noo Or'lynns. Many locals get pissed off when it's called anything other than that, kind of like how native San Franciscans can't stand hearing the word "Frisco."

Since you and your family are tourists, chances are you'll be spending your entire trip within the cramped confines of the French Quarter. Keep in mind that despite the party atmosphere, the Quarter is still a residential neighborhood. That means people live there. Generally, they don't appreciate drunken yelling after dark, vomit on their front stoops, or urine in their driveways. The broken glass embedded in the tops of street-side courtyard walls is there for a reason: to keep people like you out.

Since you and your family are tourists, chances are the first thing you'll do is string half your body weight in Mardi Gras beads around your neck the moment you arrive, thus identifying you to fellow tourists and to locals so they can avoid you: Mardi Gras beads are worn only by tourists unless it's actually, you know, Mardi Gras. You should visit St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square immediately afterwards to pray that an enterprising local doesn't throw you into the Mississippi River.

The next thing you'll probably do is attempt to find Bourbon Street. Don't ask for directions, because chances are the people you ask will either be tourists themselves and know no better than you where it is, or will be locals that either laugh at you or mislead you out of pure spite. Bourbon Street can be easily found by following the obnoxious zydeco music and the trash-strewn gutters. When you finally find it, I expect you'll get obnoxiously drunk and then end up taking a cab the four blocks back to your hotel.

Lemme tell ya something: we (as New Orleaneans) are okay with ignorance and stupidity and diversity, even among smug and supercilious white people. In a town this small and this diverse, we have to be. You know what we're not okay with? People who treat others like doormats and assume that everyone walking by is there to assist you, and that the service industry people in the restaurants you patronize don't work hard and could do without a nice tip.

Tips for Tourists in the First City

If you and your typically lardassed Cardassian family make it up to the First City of Qo'noS from the Alpha Quadrant and you're on the subway at rush hour, squished into a comparatively small space with seventy-five Klingons trying to get somewhere, there's going to be bloodshed. And it's going to be yours. For the love of Kahless, don't start talking loudly about how misguided the Klingons were about the Klingon-Cardassian War.

And after you didn't do that, don't proudly proclaim yourself as a high school history teacher unles you can recite Gav'ot toh'va. Singing the Gav'ot toh'va is a basic requirement of any respected educational academy.

We (as descendants of the immortal Kahless) have cornered the market on warrior values such as ignorance and stupidity. We're intolerant of diversity, and prone to torture and kill smug and supercilious aliens - in a galaxy this large and this diverse, we have to be.

I'm sorry. I tried to resist. But it was ... difficult.

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