Boring Now

I could write. I could wind bag about how the dinosaur apocalypse is the sublime. I could haul in some food metaphors. I could recount my dreams. I could laugh at the "Vegan" label on a package of sugar. I could, but it would be boring. Directly opposite me is a poster everyone who lives here has probably forgotten about. Its eyes look at me (and everyone else). Hong Kong is Watching. Why? I'm boring.

James Franco thinks selfies are expressions of the self. He's not diabolical, like Beyonce saying how hard she's worked to break down the mediation between her and us, or Britney and her "most personal album ever :)" Selfies carry this current of boredom with the titilation of intimacy. At a near enough distance, the magical becomes mundane, which is kind of magical. It's a transition that somehow never gets old.

Car trips are one of those times boredom sidles up and gets cozy. I sat in the back seat from Ashland to Oakland (300 miles, but maybe just a swapping of trees). Another passenger, who wisely slept through most of the trip, asked me if I slept. I didn't know. I gazed out the window, I closed my eyes, and somehow five hours went by. There is a kind of spacing out, contemplative yet almost a waking dream, that can only happen on a fast moving vehicle. It feels thick enough that it seems impossible that time is passing at all; it seems we'll never get there. Arrival is a ripoff and a relief.

All of that syurpy consciousness can be bypassed by conversation, or more easily with recorded voices. We listened to Radio Lab. Well, two listened, one slept, and I drifted in and out of listening while it drifted in and out of audibility. If spacing has an enemy, it's irritability, and Radio Lab refused to allow the mundane to enter. That irritated me. For Radio Lab, mundanity is the bogeyman--to be feared when present, but especially when it's not. It has to be cast out preemptively by coloring anything remotely unentertaining with attempts at humor. And when any fact seemed too esoteric, the host faked surprise. The garlic worked, in a way--I was thrown from the mundane to the aggressive fidelity of irritation, that little insect.

Radio Lab's antidote to the mundane isn't irritation, but, like TED talks, wonder. The host has a bumpkin persona, carries "wow" on the tip of his tongue. The show is threaded together by his flights of thematic fancy, which are calculatedly far-fetched. A recent court case involving international treaty leads back to the founding fathers and their "visionary document." He's always asking the audience to bear with him.

Why the success of this feeling of benign wonder? My Facebook news feed is cluttered with Upworthy, the purveyor of a more particular form of wowing, the feel good news story. It's not so much that the their stories are worthy of upping, but that they're to make us feel up.

Up is the story of a jaded, stagnating old man opening himself up to wonder again. Literally being uplifted from the ground to the sky. It's not a new thing for him; he's nostalgic about his childhood lust for adventure. It was--improbably--the shared dream of he and who became his wife, which, once married, they kept putting off. It was only once his wife was dead, once it became impossible, that he became amenable to trying again. The flakey historical analogue that comes to mind is that the fordist dream of a better life has proved bankrupt, but we're still grieving. So the Internet will save us. 3D printers will "democratize physical space," because anything connected to the Internet democratizes. We will believe in infinite potential, as we were once "brave" enough to in our youth. (This sense that we've given up on Great Things is what the Interstellar trailer runs on. (It also sounds like Matthew McConaughey longing for an erection.)

Utopianism now comes in the form of "hacking," crowning the individual of privilege with transformative power. I asked a guy whose computer desk has a collection of buzz-word sticky notes--"Open Source," "Activism," "Sustainability," "Cloud"--what a "hacker space" is. A place where people go to code? "No," he said, "clothes, food, philosophy, everything, man." I didn't know what to say to this, and my gaze drifted to the paisley pillows on the couch. Had I traveled not to Oakland, but to the 1960s?

I suppose we all have a bauble to deal with boredom, and that's what this is.

2 January 2014