We’ll soon be hearing more and more about the Civil War. Or, as it is sometimes called, the “Great Rebellion,” the “War of Northern Aggression” — in some places, it is still simply called “the War.” That’s because we’re soon to begin commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities. Some of us remember the centennial of the war. I do.
We’ve entered the time of year when things are different from how they look. As the skies and the woods and the yards turn to gray and brown, the things that stimulate our other senses grow stronger.
That’s especially so out here in the country.
It was five years ago, riding back on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River from Ashland, Kentucky, that I noticed it. We had been at the dedication of a memorial to Jack Kerouac at the Paramount Theatre there. What was stunning about the trip home was the festoonery. Every house, it seemed, had some elaborate Halloween decoration. Even fairly woebegone trailers could be counted on to have out front a 20-foot-high Frankenstein’s monster, well lit and kept inflated by a powerful fan.
Shortly after I moved here I received one of those documents that make the e-mail rounds. It was based on the then-popular “you might be a redneck” comedy act, only each stanza of this one ended with “you might live in Ohio.”
It’s election year, which means that the national media are dusting off their maps and trying once again to figure out exactly where Ohio is. You will note that I said “media are,” not “media is.” That’s because I’m a member of a secret organization dedicated to the preservation of endangered portions of the language. “Media” is plural — the singular is “medium” (as in “The Athens News is an unparalleled advertising medium.”) Likewise the word “data.” If someone says “that data is not available,” he or she may know whether or not those data are available, but he or she is illiterate.
The project finally got far enough along that I could do something with it.
For years I’ve carried around tens of thousands of negatives and transparencies, the result of a career of writing stories and making photographs. But the digital world has so taken over photography that the real, silver-based stuff is all but dead. Soon it will be so far in the margins that any work of chemical photography will be proceeded by the ubiquitous and annoying word “artisan.” So if all those many thousands of images were to have any further life, they would need to be digitized.
Back when Open for Business started some nine years ago, the original purpose of this publication was not to put out original commentary on “the business of life,” but to blog about and link to useful information on Free Software. In 2010, everybody – and pretty much everything – has a blog, but over the years OFB has exited its category of genesis and taken up the mantle of the magazine. Why be a magazine in an age of blogs?
When did I turn into my grandfather? No, I haven’t gotten short and bald-headed, nor do I have a desire to come out of retirement and practice dentistry using a foot-pedal drill on relatives in a dimly lit basement, though this may be due to my never having been a dentist.
As we watch the death throes of Western Civilization, certain symptoms manifest prominently. As the electronic mesh expands and thickens, with fatter pipes and richer content, so does the shallowness of each connection within the mesh. We can surely speed up our ability to process incoming data, but it comes at the necessary expense of meaning. We know more, yet understand less.
When I heard didgeridoos, and people saying “G’day, mate,” I realized I’d dug deep enough but in the wrong place.