PM Pick

Low voltage

Having been on "low voltage" power for much of the week, I've been having a difficult time updating this blog, but it seems as though ConEdison, the local power company, has straightened things out after apparent bungling of preposterous proportions by management and utility workers working day and night opening, allegedly, every manhole cover in northwest Queens to try to determine what caused the grid to fail there. (No one in any of New York's other boroughs seemed to have any idea of the misery of more than 100,000 Queens residents, of course. Queens may as well be Mumbai or Area 51 as far as Manhattanites are concerned. They actually had to set up Red Cross aid stations throughout the neighborhood, but no one outside of Astoria seemed to have any idea what I was talking about when I would mention it.) Low voltage was something I had never experienced before, and something, in my naivete, I didn't think was possible. I had always thought that there no intermediate degrees between on and off. But for the past week I had semi-operable appliances: the lights were dim, the stove wouldn't light, the coffee grinder labored to crush the beans, the fan would rotate but only at a painfully slow rate. And my computer would turn on, but the cable modem wouldn't function. (Of course this probably makes me sound like a prissy primadonna. I had it pretty good compared to neighbors who had no power at all for nearly a week. All the stores and restaurants were closed in the neighborhood from lack of power, and frankly, I'll be afraid to eat out for a while, until all that now rotten food has a chance to be replaced.)

Without the Internet my computer seemed pretty worthless, a fancy gadget to play Minesweeper with. And the whole time the modem was down I felt a low-grade anxiety that was unlike anything I had ever experienced before -- it reminded me of dreams I used to have where I would be in high school but I wouldn't be able to remember my locker combination, and I would have to go through the day explaining why I had no books, no papers, no pencils, no understanding of what the hell was going on in all of my classes. Without reliable Internet access, I felt as though some part of myself had become inaccessible, or that I was stuck with some lesser version of myself. Suddenly the process of building identity and social life on the Internet seemed precarious to me in a way I hadn't really dwelled on before. I don't think the trend will reverse and people will become less reliant on technology for social life and self-recognition; most likely connection to the Web will become more ubiquitous and reliable as all devices (I almost typed desires) become wireless and a Wi-Fi network with multiple redundancies covers the globe. Access will likely be a matter of money, and those who are able to afford it will live in a socially enhanced world and those who don't will seem to disappear. I felt myself, in some small way, disappearing as I couldn't access my e-mail and so forth.

When I first had Internet access, when I would connect at 56K through my phone line, I felt as though getting online was diminishing me, removing me from the world of friends I spent most days with and depriving the world of the main way to access me, my land line. I reduced myself to whatever small little question drove me to the Web for that moment, for there was always a reason why I would bother (usually it would be to check baseball box scores). Then I would disconnect and resurface, feel fully present again. But in the past few years the dynamic has irreovcably shifted and I feel less than fully present if I can't access the Internet to see if anybody wants something from me, and to record little notions such as this on this blog or somewhere else where it might be seen. I find myself thinking through the notion of the network, the access being a kind of prerequisite for the habitual ways I thnk about what I'm going to do. Without it, I felt like I was having a hard time simply thinking. The Internet is now a requirement for me to immediately deploy my thinking about whatever I'm doing in a way that feels useful (an illusion, I know); the old uses for my thoughts (whatever they were) don't seem as satisfactory. There I was reading my New York Times Magazine but having trouble concentrating. What's the point, I thought. It's not like I can even blog about it. I'm probably on the lunatic fringe of this, but maybe eventually we'll all be in this predicament, thinking of the entire Internet itself as the thing we need to tell our bright ideas to.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image