2006, year of living fatuously

Alexander Pope's Dunciad is a satirical mock epic decrying cultural decay in 18th century England. The lines at right (which I may remove at some point, they are pretty obscure) foreshadow the coming of a new age of venality and 'dullness' -- not so much as merely 'boring', but more in the sense of 'decayed, depraved, faddish, etc.' The poem is a funny, satirical -- and exaggerated -- portrayal of cultural collapse and concludes:

Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
And Universal Darkness buries All.

The image is the frontpiece to the poem, an ass burdened with a load of 'dull' books (18th century bookselling being the rough equivalent of today's tabloids), and with an owl symbolizing pedantry.

And, in a rather lurching transition, I see that Time Magazine has named "You" ("I?") as "person of the year", and has gone so far as to attach a mylar mirror to the cover so that readers can study their own reflection. This choice is meant to celebrate all the millions of bloggers, youtubers, myspace page maintainers, flickrs, etc. who are busily engaged in 'content creation' and ushering in the age of Web 2.0.

I am far from convinced, however. I once told someone that I saw this blog as one man's one page send up of myspace and that I was tempted to write "I have no friends" (no friends in the myspace sense of the word) across the top of page. I don't really believe in online community (see my somewhat prescient post Solipsism). I think that we live in a bored culture where people want more and more 'content' blasted at them from all directions. I am somewhat prone to this but I still don't own an Ipod or a cellphone and am quite happily living without exposure to television. I also don't spend too much time reading other people's blogs though there are a few that I do check out regularly, (Freyneland at Seven Days, for example).

In addition to boredom, there is a large measure of narcissism (excellent post on this subject here, a reference from Rough Type, another blog I do read) in all of this. I am all in favor of homemade creative endeavors, especially when compared to what is pumped out by movie studios, television networks, publishing houses, etc., but this new environment does create, I think, a situation where strange (and sometimes unpleasant) group dynamics flourish and where people's online personas overshadow the mundane reality of 'real' life.

I don't know. I'll keep posting photos to flickr but I doubt that I have the energy to fully participate, I am still debating if I want to sign up for a 'pro' (truly a misnomer -- more flattering narcissism) account. At least on flickr the cream does seem to rise to the top, the popular users usually take interesting pictures that have some merit. This isn't true in my limited youtube experience, the times I have looked at what is popular on that site... I have been thoroughly confused. (I tried to watch a 'lonelygirl' video recently: I failed, lacking the patience to sit through it).

I guess I will keep this blog going at least until its one year anniversary at the end of May and then I will reconsider it. It doesn't get much traffic but I do like seeing how readers come to discover the site (there have been searches for terms like "Eva Deadbeat" and "Josh Dillon" -- from Belgium, where he made a quick trip to race in the fall) and site visitors from China, South America, and several varied points in between. One afternoon someone at a law office in Bennington VT read pretty much the whole thing in one sitting which is a pretty scary thought (hopefully this wasn't on billable time!).

So, Time Magazine, thanks for the honor but I really don't feel that special or particularly momentous, and who knows what the new year will bring?


Eva the Deadbeat said...


Happy New Year! i hope you keep on blogged past your one year anniversary but I understand your mixed feelings about the ME ME ME culture of late.

i have to say that this internet world which i am pretty new to, has afforded me a great deal of fun. also, since most of my friends are far away, it is a nice way to stay in touch and see pics of my pal's babies (on their baby blogs of course!) and for that, i am glad.

looks like your clustrmap is hopping! got lots of international action there! good on ya!

how do you track it so specifically? i am not that savvy!

ok, back to my unemployment!


PS i finally linked to you blog, did not realize i had to done that yet...silly me!

Jeff said...

Thanks (belatedly) Eva, Happy New Year to you as well... this post is just me being gloomy and contrarian as usual. And I'm guilty of some of the behaviors I describe. But mostly I thought the Time article was pretty silly and I also wanted to get an image of an ass onto my blog...