“On the Net”
1 March 2005
And Jeff asked me how it felt to have my “stuff” out “there” on the Internet for all to see?
When I was a kid, there was no Internet or personal computers but there was territory to explore and at the time it was radio waves for me and I did. First I acquired a shortwave radio and with headphones tight over my ears so as to pull out every last word or sound, I would tune the radio signals of the world and snag a distance station at 3 in the morning and be so happy, I would want to wake up my parents. From China or Moscow, I could hear their news or music, in real time. Seemed like such a mystery to me then. Signals sent through the air, unseen, from some piece of metal or wire stuck up into the air in some foreign country, all the way across the globe to be snagged by the antenna strung across my backyard and then funneled into my ears. Just pain magic to me.
Later, shortwave listening gave way amateur radio where I built a transmitter from a kit and after getting a license from the Federal government, strapped on my headphones and tapped away at my Morse code key hoping my request for a Morse code “conversation” or contact would be snagged by some antenna in the world and someone, unseen and unknown “out there” would respond to my signal and we would start an exchange. And I had many such conversations and many, many times, the signal was faint due to limitations of my receiver or antenna or atmospheric conditions and so the Morse code I could just barely hear in my headphones always put me on submarine in World War II, listening, trying to make out the message, the instructions, the enemies plans. Magic, excitement, fantasy.
Later, with upgraded licenses and equipment, I began to throw my voice around the world and would have conversations with folks on all continents and all time zones and I always thought it so strange to be talking to some one who was already into tomorrow or at least tomorrow for me. Seemed like such power and magic to be able to do that. Project my voice clear around the world. Still seems like magic to me.
And then, there is the arrival of the internet and email and in a way, it email seems like a throw back to the days of Morse code because one does not speak using email but instead of Morse code, hammers out characters on a keyboard and dispatches them down some unseen wire route to a person on the other end of the network.
Strange, how both activities, sending Morse code and listening for return signals and send and receiving email are vocally silent activities.
And then came speeches made in front of crowds or being brave enough to play my guitar in front of others and opening myself up to criticism and never really comfortable doing either. Like I knew I was not very good at either was concerned that “those guys” would laugh about me after the speech or guitar work was done for only sigh and say “Gee, what a mess. What a waste of time.” And did not want to contribute to the wasting of anyone’s time but also have some inner belief that now and again, I did have something special to say or an usual guitar jam, which could touch or maybe teach others. Oh for sure, 99 percent junk for 1 % good stuff but I guess willing to try it anyway.
And so now the Internet and its capacity to allow anyone to create a web site and post there anything and everything they might want. I am sure many who create web sites never give it much thought but I do wonder what a visitor thinks about the “stuff” I have “out there”. Is it all junk and a waste of a visitor’s time?
How does one pick a book to read at the library? By examining the dust jacket or does one always use the New York Times Best Seller list or a recommendation of a friend or newspaper columnist? And what sort of stuff are folks interested in? Does anyone care about some probing I may have done on time or mind or memory? And even if my “stuff” on a web site was perfect in design and delivery, would it make any difference to anyone anyway?
Had a job once where I had to write a 3 or 4 page article on some aspect of technology once a month and then publish it for a very select Federal government readership. At first, difficult to define a topic and then bound it into 3 or 4 pages providing any real insight into the technology at all. Easy for the 3 or 4 pages to be either too light or too heavy and a struggle to find a balance. Anyway, old fellow I worked with at the time, would review every monthly piece I wrote and he would always say, that if the piece did cause the reader to take some action or provide him enough information to take some action, if he wished, then the writing effort was a failure and I have come to accept that to be true. In any conversation or writing effort, if the reader is not changed or can change or looks into changing because of the writing, then the writing has failed.
Have never been a stage musician. One of those guys who walks into a stage, picks up the guitar or drumsticks and proceeds to play a concert or show alone or with a band. Must be a real high to do that in front of so many but it does have the risk that one’s efforts will not be received or received as one would like.
Have never done poetry reading in front of others and again, that would be scary as what if the crowd decided your works absolutely sucked and started throwing tomatoes or rotten cabbages at you?
At least a web site is far enough removed from my body to prevent such attacks on my physical and yet, I do have concern that what I have posted will taint, shift, otherwise change what some visitors have thought or perhaps thing of me. If anything, I have learned over the years, it is easy to step on toes and put one’s foot in one’s mouth and I am sure I have done that on the web site I have created and now maintain.
Yes, I am out there in virtual space now, stored on some computer somewhere and then dispatched when called, over wires and waves to some unknown, unseen receiver somewhere and it all reminds me so much of radio in its early days. I suspect that the Internet will look nothing like it does today in 10 years or so. Perhaps then, I can send my whole body by way of a holograph and read my poetry for you and have you curse me or throw virtual tomatoes at me and every would feel better.
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