I Woke Up Too Early
6am. And 1000 years too early.
That was a bit of a strange week. Some psycho-drama nonsense going on with friends and relationships, lots of time spent thinking about 21st century life and how Northern Europe can manage to be quite so cold and grey. Also caring for a sick cat.
Other things too, oblique and yet central to current projects: the churning vitality of central London restaurants, the vast silent vaults behind huge buildings in the West End. Archives, institutions, massive preservation set against my usual storm of ephemera. Games and MP3s that dissolve into nothing in the space of afternoon. I fire off another 1000 words on something with a colon’d name “Super War: Battles Of Fire”, writing a quick 6/10 epitaph, as if thatâ€™s my way of forgetting this thing exists. We have to move on.
Itâ€™s been useful to listen to the likes of Bruce Sterling talk (22mb mp3) about their contemporary future perspective out there in Austin. Sterling seems to have created this intellectual techno-future fantasy and made it a reality for himself and thin tier of peers. Iâ€™m there with the borderless human-amongst-the-data-flow stuff, and yet I not comfortable with Sterling’s way of talking about it. No matter how anchored these speeches are intended to be, they still seem to miss something. Sterling is hyper-nerdesque, but also politically driven and observant. Heâ€™s paradoxical to listen to: excitingly aware and yet missing something crucial. What? I donâ€™t know what. I think heâ€™s getting an outsider perspective, but one that delivers its sermons from a tight-knit club of outsiders, all of whom share a certain ideological filter. Their mirror of the world has a certain sheen that worries me.
Echoes of Josh Ellisâ€™ Grim Meathook, I suppose. But itâ€™s not that which really concerns me. Iâ€™m more concerned by the way all this stuff (from the bright shiny geek theory to the starving refugee story) slides off the suburbs and backwaters of the developed world. I canâ€™t help thinking the strongest aphorisms of the 21st century arenâ€™t to be found in Sterlingâ€™s â€˜nation borders are like speedbumpsâ€™ and â€˜Iâ€™m living out of my laptopâ€™, or any of the grim analysis about disease and prejudicial madness in the poorest regions. Instead I find myself catching the occasional observations made about a rather more mundane future faced by millions â€“ the Ballardian future of local boredom and widespread repetition. Itâ€™s The New Quiet Desperation, these masses. Theyâ€™re working in the offices and commuting home to a hillside development near Canterbury. Itâ€™s a small suburban home. Hermitic and yet engulfed. Fish out the mobile phone and order three types of vegetarian pizza (illusion of comparative health value judgement in junkfood) to eat while watching Lost, or Invasion or some other sophisticated entertainment. And these middling classes need to be distracted, so theyâ€™re all getting good at filter feeding: weâ€™re bottom dwellers, down in the cultural silt â€“ rapidly getting sensitive enough to root out the most nutritious, the most interesting sediment, the most worthwhile jetsam that floats down from the higher strata. And it doesnâ€™t have to have a jot of intellectual bulk, we can live on spectacle alone. As long as the flow is steady.
Cutting back to my hack work and I wonder if thatâ€™s why videogames are â€˜a little bit of the futureâ€™. If society is going through disorder and fundamentalist to reach a homogenous bland of a balanced future, then the parts of the world that have the time and technology will need to find ways to sink emotional excess into something exciting and escapist. If weâ€™re going to be calm and quiet while we wait for the rest of the world to finish tearing itself to pieces then weâ€™re going to need profound distractions, re-useable distractions. Themeparks arenâ€™t versatile or lazy enough, books are too much like edification. And we do need to waste time on needless adventure â€“ the crazies are all doing itâ€¦ and donâ€™t we envy their release?