Monday, May 19, 2008

Time's Conveyor

Today, driving through Concord, I passed a funny-looking house with a sign: Octagon Farm. It reminded me of the huge octagonal barn at Linvilla Orchards, where we used to get corn and other rustic produce in the summers when we were teenagers. I thought I might like to drive back through that area with my siblings and see the place again.

That brought back a vague memory of being prisoners in the back seat as my father and one of his siblings dragged us kids through some old familiar stomping ground of theirs, droning on about this and that detail, absent landmark, or memory. How ridiculous they seemed, concerned with things so far in the past.

I guess I didn't understand time then. The life of an old person is the same length as that of a young person; it's just made of shorter years. Time is a conveyor belt that comes out of your chest and proceeds down a track that is only maybe a hundred feet long. The far end is a little harder to see but still well in sight. As things happen they emerge onto the belt and roll away. But as they roll they get more and more flattened till they're something like a stack of cardboard cutouts and stage backdrops.

As an example, I'm sure that, when I was a teenager, my father's and uncle's memories were as close to them as Linvilla Orchards is to me now. See? Not at all receded into irrelevance and ridiculousness the way I had imagined from the back seat. My umpteen years of memory were stretched out to an extent that would place their memories out of reach.

My father's reminiscences in turn reminded me of another backseat torture as my father drove his father through long country roads to enjoy the farmland scenery and autumn foliage. How indescribably boring. I didn't understand how the new stuff, like the shopping mall my childhood self would have preferred, can become so tiresome, and that sometimes only old places have freshness.

Linville's barn (which when I knew it was already a retail store, a Country Living Experience) has burnt down, but they intend to build a replica on the spot. I'm sorry you can't see it, it was something to behold, right in that area there.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kevin Kelly's Technium

From Kevin Kelly's introduction to the book in progress he's blogging on his site The Technium:
For the past year and a half I have been studying the history of technology, the arguments of technology's critics, projections of its future, and the tiny bit of technic philosophy that has been written, all with the aim to answer a simple question: How should I think about new technology when it comes along?

Kelly was editor of The Whole Earth Review and then Wired, and wrote the Bible-chapter-level Out of Control. He reviews Cool Tools at his site.