Burning Memory

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Sorry I’m late! Actually had time-sensitive tasks to take care of between ten and two. Like junkies, you guys. “Where’s my hit!”

A couple things, first:

* Got e-mails from both Ben Brown and James Stegall of So New Media about my last post about indy publishing (which will be available again soon). The power of the web at work — awesome. More on that next week, hopefully, once I get the book I ordered from them (like, a week ago).

* I might make an archive this afternoon. Later. So you can look at past stuff. Until then, scroll to the bottom of the screen and go to one of my other pages.


It’s been an exciting week for my laptop. The hard drive decided to break on Sunday, leaving me in the lurch as far as completing my thesis and doing other computer-related projects are concerned. Ugh. I regularly back stuff up on my web server, so I knew I hadn’t lost the world — though some newer works (including the most recently written twenty pages of my thesis!) had not yet been saved anywhere else.

Fortunately, it turns out that the data on the drive will be recoverable (I can boot off of a CD-ROM and see all my files), and I spent some time at CompuZone this afternoon with a couple floppy disks backing stuff up once I’d booted the machine using a CD-ROM of theirs.

As an aside, these guys at CompuZone have been awesome. Charged me five bucks to hang out and use their equipment to back-up — and only that because I offered it. CompuZone’s an old-school Apple dealer up on Shoal Creek near Steck. Good people.

Anyway, the fear of loosing some of my work and the last six week’s worth of e-mail jostled loose some older ideas I had about memory, events, and recording devices. Most of these ideas owe their existance to the Burning Man festival I attended with Cote’ and Mason a couple summers ago (August 2000, I believe).

You read stuff on the web. So I know you know about Burning Man. Chances are, you’ve been there (if you’re reading this and consider yourself any sort of web-enabled hipster). And you know what it’s all about: women wearing nothing but body-paint, large scultpures of genitalia, and fire. Lots of fire. And laser-lights. And, you know, just, like, being part of this big things that’s really, like, beyond description and, like, a whole new way of living free and shit. Dude. I saw this chick this afternoon…

So, yeah, tens of thousands of colorful people. Beyond that, though, were two concepts I loved (not that I didn’t have a great time experiencing the result, though I make fun):

* the dictum that you come not to watch but to participate, and

* the request that attendants please check all recording devices at the front gate (Burning Man Corporation, or whatever, like to keep tabs on all footage of the event, prefering that MTV not show up and ruin the whole thing by introducing it to throngs of vidiots).

These two items are obviously connected.

As far as life philosophies go, I think the first (participate, don’t just watch) is great. (Ignore the rest of this paragraph if you’d rather not hear me bitch.) I don’t understand people who get completely absorbed by music but don’t ever experiment with creating their own. I don’t understand people who read all the time, who love Stephen King or looking at Evhead.com every day without (seriously) trying their hand at a short story or some web writing. I don’t understand how people can become all firey over the Israeli / Palestinian conflict without trying to include some formulation of “what can I do to help?” It’s okay if you’re just getting started, just learning about something — but once you’ve got a grasp on what’s going on, I feel it’s a person’s responsibility to either figure out where they fit in, or leave it alone. Okay, I’ll stop now. I’m shouting at the wind. I’ll tie this back to writing by saying: you vote with your eyes and dollars, when it comes to the world of literature. If you think and act like you’re just a spectator, off the grid, you’re wrong — so don’t act like a spectator. Act like someone who has some power and the ability to choose how that power affects other people, because that’s what you are. That’s how society and community work. Shut up, Josh. Okay. End rant.

Now my mind’s tangled up in the last paragraph. Rarr. Okay.

The second concept: please check your recording devices. I don’t know if they officially expressed this, or if I surmised it from the general mood of the event, but here’s what I thought this meant: Don’t record this. Don’t show recordings of this to people who were not here.

I’m sitting here staring at the screen because I have a difficult time deciding how to explain myself, here. Maybe I haven’t had enough caffeine this afternoon. Anyway, I don’t think I need to get into great detail by just saying that I feel not worrying about the recording allows the present moment to be better. And present moments being all we have, we should take time to improve those. Oftentimes, survival doesn’t allow this: you have to go to work, which is okay but not that great, because you need to buy food and pay for an apartment — the basics. The Burning Man festival is a giant toy — that’s actaully a fine way to describe it, I think — something to be experienced in the moment, without any sort of concerns for the past or future.

Another feature of the festival aids this point: with the exception of one small coffee stand, vendors are not allowed at Burning Man. You bring your food in your car, and for one whole week, you can forget you even have a wallet or bank account. Trading for stuff’s okay, but you are not how much money you have. You are not the star of a t.v. show on MTV.

There’s a certain amount of ego-stripping that occurs as a result of this. A certain ecstatic shock that occurs when the rules suddenly change, with happy results. (Like being a college freshman.)

So, I’ll tie this back to the threatened destruction of the data on my hard drive. Not knowing for a couple days what I might have lost, but thinking I’d lost at least six week’s worth of e-mail, a couple nascent audio tracks, and a few pages of journal- and thesis-writing gave me a strange sense of freedom. Like, not only did I not have the option of, say, checking my e-mail every ten minutes from home or browsing the web for long periods of time, but I found that when I thought about the ideas I had put into the computer and the memories recorded in e-mail (or how ever), I realized I still had them. And, strangely, I think having them in liquid storage upstairs in Cafe’ Josh rather that in concrete form on the machine allows them to be more useful, more dynamic.

Makes me think I might just delete a bunch of old stuff if I decide to recover the old drive. (There is some work I would rather not have to redo, given the option.) I’m normally such a pack-rat. I have e-mails dating back to 1999 that are about nothing in particular.

Sorry. I think this post just turned into long-winded babble that probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone but me. Doesn’t make that much sense to me, either.

But there you have it, anyway.

Man, this post sucks.