Dodging The Rain Men

Had a long talk with — or rather, I ranted deliriously for about a half hour or more in my (quite literally) malnourished state at — my friend Gary today, about why I’m getting so fucking sick of the Internet.

It was a long and meandering rant, much of which I don’t remember, other than going to a certain hyper-popular group blog and going “How can anybody give this much of a fuck about the minutiae of goddamn Disneyland!”. But I do remember this, and what it is that’s driving me crazy about the Internet in general and the blogosphere in particular:

I’m tired of being bombarded with other peoples’ obsessions, even the ones that feed into my own.

Really. That’s what it comes down to. Just that sentence.

See, imagine that friend of yours who’s into, I dunno, classic cars. He’s actually kinda an authority on the subject. And he knows really interesting stuff about classic cars, the kind of cool facts you actually are interested in hearing, every so often when you hang out at the bar or meet by chance at the coffeeshop. That’s his thing, and it’s cool, and even though sometimes he babbles on about Hearst shifters or whatever fucking Springsteen thing, he’s still interesting and fun to talk to, mostly.

Now imagine if every day, that guy showed up at your door with a detailed list of every interesting thing he found out in the last 24 hours about classic cars. Not just the big stuff, but little stuff — a list of every shape of side mirror that Ford made between 1947-1979, for example. Also tangential stuff — pictures of cars, songs about cars, ashtrays shaped like cars. Hell, one day he shows up with a list of the kind of car driven by every American presidential candidate since Herbert Hoover.

That’s when you start realizing that this guy is a pedantic, creepy obsessive freak who’s not really interested in cars. He’s interested in information about cars. And any interest you might have had in this hobby of his has been completely obliterated by the sheer volume of information he’s flinging at you.

And yes, you can simply tell him to fuck off and go away. But then, after a while, you find yourself missing that random, occasional bit of cool trivia he throws your way. So you let him back into your life, and simply resign yourself to listening to about five percent of anything he has to say.

Now multiply this dude by a factor of a couple of billion, and you’ve got the blogosphere.

Look, I really like the idea that anybody can share their thing — whatever that thing may be — with the world. But what I’ve learned in the decade or so since blogging really began is that a) I don’t really care about 90% of the shit that other people care about, and b) I don’t really care that much about half of the 10% that I do care about.

I dig the steampunk aesthetic. I really do. I think steampunk computer mods are cool. Hell, I was into Thomas Dolby in the mid 1990s, when he was still uncool. But I don’t need to know about every fucking garage machinist’s attempt to retrofit a Turbo Grafix-16 into a goddamned Difference Engine. I don’t want to see your crocheted steampunk-goggle cozy. I don’t need to read steampunk slash fiction where Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla settle their battle over AC vs. DC with a vigorous round of man-on-man love in the snow outside Tesla’s Colorado laboratory.

I just don’t care that much. Nor do I care about papercraft versions of classic synths, even though I love synthesizers. I don’t want to read the Top Ten Humorous Blog Posts About Pixel Fonts, even though I dig pixel fonts a lot. Understand what I’m saying: I like and love these things, and I still really just don’t wanna hear about every possible related thing you can think of to each and every subset and category of these things I like and love.

I think I’m just getting completely fed up with the trainspotting, otaku nature of the blogosphere. Sometimes popping open Google Reader in the morning is like wading into a giant room filled with Rain Men, only they’re babbling about copyfighting and Rickrolling instead of batting averages, and counting casemods instead of toothpicks.

And, of course, linking to each others’ posts about copyfighting and Rickrolling and Halo casemods and The Funniest Single Words That John Hughes Characters Said In His 1980s Movies. (Hint: “Donger” is on the top of the list.)

People like to snicker that the Internet generation has a massive collective case of ADD, but I think the opposite is true in many cases: a lot of the bloggers I know have attention surfeit disorder.

Now, there’s an obvious answer here: gee, Ellis, you misanthropic asshole, if you don’t like what people write, turn off your Internet and go fuck off back to a cabin in Montana or something. And believe me, the temptation often looms. If it wasn’t for iPods, I’d probably be the goddamn Unabomber’s Apprentice.

But I can’t help feeling like I’m not the only one who feels this way, and I can’t just write this off to me being a prick, as I can so many other things.

I had an interesting idea during my rant to Gary: write an RSS reader that only pulls random posts from your list of regular blogs. It never shows you two consecutive posts from the same blog twice. It never shows you links from all your blogs simultaneously. It scans through posts for identical links, measures the length of each post with that link, and only shows you the longest one. It can filter out certain words. (In my case, it would begin with a list that was something like [“American Idol” “copyfight” “lolcatz” “halo” “lohan” “papercraft” “knitted” “casemod” “Ruby on Rails” “anything about how hard it is to find good Vietnamese food in goddamn Manhattan”] and was added to constantly.)

I like that idea. Ambiguity. Because ambiguity is far more interesting than the alternative, which seems to be what we’re all so desperately shooting for here on the Web.

And now I’m going to sleep.

Life On Mars?

I checked out the first episode of the 2006 BBC series Life On Mars, which I missed on BBC America and had heard good things about. And indeed, I wasn’t disappointed: judging by the first episode, this looks pretty interesting.

The short version: a Manchester cop named Sam Tyler is tracking a serial killer. Unfortunately, his girlfriend (and fellow police officer) is captured by the killer, who strangles his victims a day after kidnapping them. Driving away from the scene, Sam begins to cry. He pulls over to the side of the road and gets out of his car…and is promptly hit at high speed by another passing vehicle.

He wakes up…only the freeway overpass he was under is gone. The road he was on is gone. He’s wearing a tight leather jacket and a shirt with a butterfly collar, tight bell-bottoms and some sort of ridiculous boots.

Oh, and it’s 1973.

He’s still a cop, and when he turns up at his station — only to discover it full of chain-smoking men with terrible haircuts who look like Monty Python extras — he also finds that his serial killer — the one he’s pursuing in 2006 — has killed a woman in 1973. So can he stop this guy, using the relatively primitive criminology of the time…and keep the killer from murdering his girlfriend, thirty years later?

Good stuff. Sam Tyler is played by John Simm, who did an absolutely kick-ass turn as the Master in last season’s finale of Doctor Who. All in all, this looks pretty promising.

Apparently this is being made into an American series as well, though I’d rather see this version out before checking out the American one. And there’s also a sequel series, called Ashes To Ashes, that’s running now on the BBC.

In The Hanging Garden, No One Sleeps

My lovely lady friend Andie took off to California for the summer, and very kindly agreed to let me use her apartment as a sort of retreat from my own house. She also has a walk-in closet full of clothes, which doubles nicely as a vocal recording booth.

Unfortunately, this has coincided with one of my rare stomach bugs. Not pleasant. You don’t want the details.

So I’m sitting in this darkened, empty apartment listening to The Cure’s Pornography and trying to steel myself to go get some sort of foodstuffs to complement Andie’s extensive collection of pastas and grains. It was 100º today, and I ventured out early in the afternoon to get Gatorade (to replace my electrolytes. Electrolytes are what plants crave.) and I thought I was gonna pass out on the broiling pavement and die.

I feel weak and generally shitty (no pun intended) and my brain seems to be running on impulse power and it’s finally cool enough that I’m maybe willing to venture outside. It’s only about 75º now.

But I like sitting here, with this gloomy, spacy music playing. It’s weird to forget what it’s like to be alone.

Once I’ve got the couple of actual work projects I’m doing right now completed, I’m gonna finish the album here.

Anyway, I don’t even know why I’m posting this, except that I’m bored and my head is spinning.

So. Yeah.

Dead Wasps

Last night at the Beauty Bar, I got a chance to check out Manchester electro band Dead Wasps — and I wasn’t disappointed. They’re a really excellent dance band, and lead singer Hayley is totally rocking the Goldfrapp thing. (I talked to ’em about doing a remix, too…hopefully that will pan out!)

They’re touring the US — mostly West Coast gigs left, I think — and playing the MTV Movie Awards June 1st. Check out their dates and if they’re coming to your town, go see ’em. They have my stamp of approval.