Friday, October 25, 2013

the conference

There was this idea of creating or zeroing in on a fabulous meeting place.  It was the season of and for conferences.  People in our industry have developed a handful of time-honored traditions.

Conferences are when people gather their bodies together in a pre-determined geographical location to engage in some sort of structured and hopefully enjoyable form of activity.  Let it be known, here at the outset, that we are the sort of standard everyday people who have always appreciated activity and look to incorporate as much of it into our daily lives as our schedules can possibly bear.  Sometimes we even say the phrase "three cheers for activity" while making breakfast, texting, tending to the old and infirm, looking out the window, and listening to the morning news simultaneously.

There was this place nobody had heard of.  We were suspicious, hesitant, unimpressed, lackadaisical, nervous; not even necessarily wanting or requesting more information at first.

Our industry lacked something.  Hard to say what that thing was.  Either exactly or generally.  Our industry suffered because of it, but nobody knew how to go about diagnosing the problem.

Hence the idea of a conference, and the need to zero in on a fabulous meeting place.  There's a song called 'The Meeting Place' by the pop band XTC and the lyrics go something like this: 

Meet you in the secret place
Scuffling in the dirt I wait
Whistle will blow, whistle will blow,
Share a joke the laugh's on me
But when I get you on your own we'll see
Someone might hear, someone might hear
You're a working girl now
You've got money of your own
Hmmm The meeting place
Hmmm The meeting place
Strolling under grimey skies
Machines that make you kiss in time
Smoke on your breath, smoke on your breath
Chimney never looked so good
Never looked the way it should
From lying in the bracken wood
Coat on the ground, coat on the ground
Take a walk down the lane
We'll be late back again
Hmmm The meeting place
Hmmm The meeting place

Do examples from the world of pop culture like this help you to understand our conundrum?  I wonder.  There was a retreat center in the mountains that nobody had heard of.  Based solely on the photographs, we started to request more information.  But our requests were not respected.  Not respected and not answered, in any way, shape, or form.  We stared down at the ground, stared off into the distance, stared at each other, at each other's computers, confused, and deeply deeply worried about the feasibility of staging this conference somewhere so remote and by all appearances, 100% off-the-grid.  We are an adventurous people, no question, but sometimes even the most adventurous need to know when to say when.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I want to remain up-to-date and I hope you do as well, gentle reader.

Some of you will understand this, some of you will probably not.  Is it guesswork or primarily related to guesswork? Depends.  Some of you own or rent your own computers, and some of you probably don't.  Right?  That's ok.  Will you just calm down for a second?  Sheesh!  Take a few deep breaths or have a cigarette or fix yourself a refreshing but also hopefully nutritious snack or beverage, like trail mix.  This generally means a bunch of different foods mixed together and designed to be consumed while on the trail, in motion, and hopefully filled with enough vitamins, proteins, and minerals to give you sufficient energy for your wilderness adventure.  If it tastes good, all the better!  You can also drink energy water.  Trust me on this one.  Ok?  I am a professional author.  I had a bunch of specialized training and went to a bunch of museums, movies, and libraries.  I enjoy Saturday morning cartoons as much as the next guy or gal!  I have been married 13 times but failed to propagate the species.  I'm sorry.  My career floundered, but I went in for some psychological counseling at the local elementary school, and that got me right back on track.  At present my career is dynamic, full of surprises, and flourishing. 

First, imagine some kind of primordial area.  When you are done with that, move onto some sort of forested area.  Good.  And finally, if you feel ready, move onto a dense and somewhat decayed urban area.  Do you have a desktop computer?  I hope so.  Do you have a laptop computer?  I wonder.  What about a handheld computer?  These come in handy sometimes.  Say for instance you are thinking about venturing out into public.  You've heard a lot about it, it strikes you as a pretty interesting and educational area.  You wanna do yourself a favor, you wanna try and stay up-to-date and relevant for a couple more centuries.  Good.  The public sphere is your obvious starting-point!  Duh!  It is where all of the great and pioneering minds throughout history have commenced their adventures.

Say for instance that it's October.  It's not, of course.  It's some other month on the calendar.  Probably April or August.  Nonetheless, we shall pretend.  There is a time and a place to suit all occasions.  Ecclesiastes.  A chill has entered the air.  No big deal.  October is generally like that!  People like us share our ideas.  We print things out on the desktop.  If the poor desktop crashes and you are left with only nondescript bits and scraps, like the primitives, well, cobble those bits and scraps together and you just might end up with a laptop.  Laptops are so much better!  They are lighter, sleeker, more modern, and much easier to lug around in a shoulder bag.  Cycle around in the countryside, under falling leaves and sour breezes.  Be like those philosophers and poets whose books at one time so inspired you.  If your bicycle breaks down somewhere, you'll just have to continue on foot.  This usually means one step follows another, and so forth, as you slowly make your way back to some sort of rejuvenated primordial area.

Ok, then.  Good.  You saw this coming.  In theory, you now have access to a handheld computer.  Some people say this makes all the difference, other people say quite the opposite.  If you're smart, you'll take all these different voices into consideration.  You'll even say the word "consideration" out loud, among the falling leaves and sour breezes.  It was all pointing to this.  People were moving back to the forest in droves.  The primordial no longer interested them.  The decaying urban spaces no longer attracted them.  This is how it sometimes happens.  People want to be in agreement.  And when that agreement fails to materialize, they log onto computers.  Ok?

If that doesn't work, hopefully there are a few bits and scraps still lying around.  The trail mix and energy water will only hold out for so long.  People will learn to hunt and gather again, and crouch down at lakes and rivers to drink from the so-called primordial sources.  This is what anthropologists have been saying for the past 2 or 3 centuries!  They want to keep the public informed, up-to-date, entertained, and equipped with the latest technology.  This might mean a handheld, this might mean a laptop, this might mean a simple desktop, this might mean a cumbersome mainframe, this might mean pencil and paper, this might mean a trumpet or abacus, it might even mean the use of fire, fishing nets, water clocks, or rudimentary digging implements, cobbled together with whatever was closest to hand.  Anthropologists aren't afraid to share their discoveries with the general public.  This is why we, in the public, respect them and subscribe to their newsletters, blogs, listservs, and Twitter accounts.  It helps us to evolve, and adapt to the changing and semi-confusing environment.

I hope this has been of some assistance.  I am a professional author, doing whatever lies in my power to make sense of society, both for myself and for my readers.  Sometimes our interests converge.  Sometimes not.  Sooner or later we all venture out into the public.  Halloween is coming up, right?  This serves as a perfect example!  But please, remember: safety first.  Live to trick-or-treat another day!

In closing, let me just say that my neighbor Karl carves pumpkins for people.  I have no idea what propels him to do this.  He wanders around in the forest all summer, sketching and trying to come up with ideas.  Then usually sometime in September he returns to his cabin, and commences to put his notes, diagrams, sketches, and meditations in order.  He subsists mainly on trail mix.  I don't think he owns or rents a computer.  But as soon as mid October rolls around, he appears out on his front porch, with a very professional looking sign in the front yard, advertising free pumpkin carving for the people.  You provide the pumpkin, and he carves it right there, on the spot.  It creates a sense of community.  The anthropologists like that.  Sometimes I fry up the pumpkin seeds over a campfire and add them to the trail mix.  I enjoy energy water as much as the next guy or gal!  If that hasn't become obvious throughout the course of this lecture, maybe my abilities as a professional author aren't quite as sharp as they used to be.  It happens sometimes, you know!  People become out-of-touch, out-of-date.  They end up like poor Karl, wandering the forests all summer like some sort of Johnny Appleseed figure, hoping for renewal, guidance, insight, education, what have you.  Pumpkin carving has always been considered a valuable skill in this society.