Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ontology Recapitulates Philogony

When Richard Dawkins blew his breath into a paper bag, twisted the top, then clapped it between his hands to create the big bang of the meme, was he thinking, perhaps of how the Internet culture of blogging was predictable and emblematic of what humans will do under any circumstances with any given technology?

Or to put it another way, what rising young anthropologist is even now filling out grant forms, notably Guggenheim, to get money with which to study ways in which the blogosphere recapitulates the social class conditions of any given society at any given time.

The essential nature of us since we began standing upright is to hunt and gather sustenance. In doing so, we need social and political ties in addition to skills. We probably learned to talk in order to communicate communication skills, although some say we learned to talk in order to give Chomsky enough work to keep him busy and to give Studs Terkell something to listen to.

Anthropologists look at clans, moieties, family construction, taboos, obligations, status. We of blog-land define ourselves by what we blog about, who, if anyone, looks at our blogs, who we link to, to whom we link. Just as the early folk in what we like to think of now as North America managed to trade with people who had obsidian, which was a dandy cutting edge for skinning, for projectile points, and for slicing salami, we connect with persons on various continents, trading the projectile points of ideas and opinions.

In one brief session of checking in on blog buddies I can be guided by Lee down the narrow streets of a small town in France, warned off one butcher for a better-looking one, hearing women of Arabic descent arguing, and experiencing bureaucracy in the French manner as opposed to the kinds I am offered right here in 93108. Within moments, I am in rural Georgia (the American Georgia as opposed to the formerly USSR Georgia), where John unerringly points me to the best barbecue and a cutting-edge of heart and wisdom that out cuts obsidian; whereupon I am transported to Canada where Ilana's quest for the grace of understanding and knowledge is so refreshingly unself-conscious that it fails to note the grace that propels it. Then a quick hop to visit Lori in Austin, which to my reckoning is the place to be in Texas, all the other places in Texas being what the late lamented Molly Ivens said were places to wonder how you got there. Not to forget mischievous Pod in beautiful downtown Sydney, NSW, a click of the touch pad to a London suburb where she who is known as Lettuce feels comfortable enough with us to let us know her real middle name. What newspaper or health care provider can offer such splendid inter-connectedness? Depending on the color (or lack thereof) of my mood, I play off my reading order, looking for something I occasionally find in reliable coffee. Then, back home as it were, I check in at Liz's photography blog (to which John has also linked) to see what splendid image has caught her eye, and, time permitting, who among Liz's blog buddies has some stunning visual, say a portrait by Shawn (or the haunting shot he got of a man skinning an elk in his garage. [I hope it was an elk and not some pesky neighbor]) and if I'm really wanting a jolt, I check in to see what Zoe Strauss has found in Philadelphia to resonate through the rest of my day. And what's going on in Alaska as Ben essays the shift to a medium format camera?

Okay, okay; I gotta read student papers, make intelligible commentary, prepare a lecture, and hit the road to what we in 93108 call Down Below when we speak of L.A., but the point stands as one of those cybernotes one writes to one's self for additional commentary. The blog world is the terrain of the twenty-first century hunter and gatherer. Lee in France, coping with the bureaucracy of getting her own Internet hook-up, is driven to the local library and a small room where a single on-line computer serves the needs of the community and without much physical description, I can see the social dynamic between Lee, wanting to connect with blogs, and a teen aged girl, wanting, wanting--ah, what lovely things do teen-aged girls want?

Yes, young fellow, you may borrow one of my large kayaks to go whale hunting, but of course I am your twenty-five-percent partner on your kill, right.

Yes, I know it is only volcanic glass, as you call it, but it is also pretty freaking sharp, much better for preparing osso bucco than that crude stone you're using, and therefore I must stand firm on my offer of this relatively large chunk of obsidian for both those reed baskets of yours.

And the beat goes on.

Lah de dah de dah.


x said...

I am tagging you with the guilty pleasures meme you started, on Smiler's orders. Description on my site today. Have fun.

Lori Witzel said...

You are a pip, a pistolero of connection, and it's a delight to virtually follow the Southern California pastrami and wry trail with you.

(And Molly was right about so many things.)

R.L. Bourges said...

oops. can't escape now, shelly. i just tagged you too!

lowenkopf said...

tiv: answers on your site

Lori: Molly was right about everything. It was my great pride that my book reviews in the Star-Telegram seemed always to land on the back of her column.

Lee: This emphasizes my point about Dawkins' concept of the meme and hints at--not to be outdone by Dawkins, here's a new term I invented--blog incest. I begin innocently enough by suggesting this meme to Ilana and wham! here it comes to bite me.