In this new installment of our BOOKMARKED column, poet and critic Paul Maziar (a regular contributor to artcritical) winds his way through his browsing habits. Here, Maziar ruminates on the rabbit-hole nature of the Web and the way that significance can be found and lost online, connecting disparate ideas through juxtaposition and non sequitur. Maziar is the author of several books and collaborations, including WHAT IT IS: WHAT IT IS (Write Bloody Publishing, 2008) with Matt Maust, Last Light of Day (Amigo/Amiga, 2010), Little Advantages (Couch Press, 2013), and the forthcoming Pneumatics from Breather Editions.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
-Imagination imagined by Kafka before the Internet.
I wonder about the Internet. Does it in fact exist? Or does it prove an alternate universe? If you sit there surfing long enough it starts to pour right into your head. I’m in the middle of writing or editing something, and for some inexplicable or at least forgettable reason, I’m lead elsewhere and halfway down a rabbit hole to read a joke about some cartoon bears. So, like anyone, I bookmark it as distraction for later. I bring a plum out of my bag, but Allison Cobb won’t let me eat it:
“I know, like Subway low, like bread puffed up
with yoga mat chemicals. Yes I did
steal everyone’s detournement”
Am I now looking at a desert mountain range, a gorge, a rattler’s skin, sand designs left by a Mojave sidewinder, a natural Mandala, the mouth of a deep sea creature, or a series of close-ups of a person’s eye? I can rarely stay on one of these pages long enough to reach its end. All the subsequent descriptions and associations lead in 100,000 directions; exploring the Internet is more divergent than a Raymond Roussel stanza, more plentiful than The Garden of Earthly Delights.
Appealing to my at best curious intentions, as much as distraction and forgetfulness, artcritical’s Bookmarked feature seems a fun idea for anyone willing to share their abandoned to-dos and tabs for inspiration, or for any readily charmable reader. (I’m pressed in this moment to express just why this is. Voyeurism, compulsion, affinity, or just plain curiosity?) Sometimes I fear I won’t find my way back to the new thing I’ve discovered, as if associations won’t work without some kind of guide. Years ago, taking notes while receiving instructions from someone of my grandparents’ generation, I was admonished that excessive notation beguiles memory, which in turn can cause its loss. I think this is true.
My fits and starts on the Internet are, like anyone, a daily occurrence. Everything’s in here, and its access is seemingly ubiquitous. It’s no surprise that the saved tabs the folder of URL shortcuts are ones that I can scarcely remember any reason for having saved. As I continuing to flip through read-later tabs, I’m at a sudden rapt to the ticking of a bedside clock, followed by a soothing French voice that nevertheless sounds as if it’s awoken from a long night beside an ashtray. A sideburned fop pours hot water into a bowl in black and white. It’s Un Homme Qui Dort (1974) Full movie with subs! What is it? Why is it there? I have no recollection, but I love it.
It’s a dream. Wonderful, terrifying, stupid, very ordinary. Researching wildlife online (again, why? because we can), I half-expect a gazelle to leap out of the liquid crystal screen, still baffled by the endless deluge that is the Internet — in the way an early motion-picture crowd feared the train arriving at its station in L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1895) might burst right through the screen and into the cinema to overtake them. They ran to the back of the room, then returned to their seats for more.
Here I’m totally distracted by a singularly interesting, eccentric guy. I was a bellhop and John was in town from NYC, needing respite from some unpleasant associations, situations he’d describe to me at the front door on successive nights and mornings. He was cool and a great conversationalist. Told me his brain is swelling and that I ought to get the rich guests to buy all his paintings. He also once commanded, upon my delivery of the Wall Street Journal, that I return to the front desk to have it burned at once. In his underwear, no less. More on this in another essay, but I will add that John is generous, no-bullshit, very funny, and every bit of the creative spirit evinced by his many musical, on-screen, and visual-art works. In his After Dark Episode 1, you’ll catch the above-mentioned attributes straightaway.
Now I remember what I was supposed to do: read an essay by Raphael Rubinstein.
Have you heard of Sue Tompkins? This remains in my read-later tab, and though I’ve heard it many times I don’t think I ever reached the end. Being “heat-faint,” in ecstasy, longing for islands or “24 hours on my favorite planet alone” (my favorite of her hypnotic refrains here), irritation for standing by, wondering “if you feel like I feel.” How about Carla Harryman’s Memory Play? Mile’s Champion’s How to Laugh? Every different emotional state represented outside avatars to distract you. Avert your eyes awhile, you’ll come back soon. Fog everywhere. Sun whenever. Festooned in little pics of food, or all the cute pets your landlord won’t let you house. Years ago, they even foreshortened your audible laughing. What a rotten, wondrous place.print