Thursday 10 October 2013

Wrinkled World, Whirling West

This is an update from the front.

Word-slinging is a hard way to turn a profit which is why, as most of you know, I devote a large measure of chi to day job duties as a professionally bonded and licensed pixel-farmer. This isn't as thankless a grind as it used to be because I own the company now, but it's still a grind. I am a hands-on sort of fellow by nature so it's not like I pass my days in a sunny office issuing commands and decrees. There are clods of pixels under my fingernails come quitting time.

It is an odd way to make a living. The golden eggs I shit have highly specific payloads. They are deployed just once before a closed-door audience and then never again. In many cases rigorous non-disclosure agreements bar me from even mentioning my involvement in the supply chain. Secrets within secrets, kept secret.

They fly me around. They book me hotels. I'm charged with shaping their important messaging into visual tangibility and emotive plausibility, which is basically done by pointing and clicking with Macs.

If often feels absurd that anyone should pay me to do this.

If we ever find ourselves in a survival situation together you should probably just go ahead and eat me. Outside of the fantastical annals of commercial mass-delusion I lack applicable skills. I can start a fire without matches and bring a woman to orgasm orally but that's about it. Without a microprocessor to augment my powers I'm basically feckless. I can't even remember where I park cars.

I make jokes. You may want me keep me on for a while just on that account. I even have jokes to offer when life is being awful. I'm a hard worker, and I don't quit until everybody's at least a little bit amused. Dicks, farts, soul-gnawing irony -- it's all game. So if the survival situation needs jokes to cheer us up, maybe hold off eating me until the second wave of lots.

I buy food. The food-farmers who farmed it are paid a pittance. They are paid less than the auxiliary crew of pixel-farmers I use in India. I use the markup on their Indian pixel-farming to buy food-farmed food from local food-farmers for my family. All of us feel poor. It's retarded.

My wife grows vegetables in the yard. Rabbits eat the vegetables. Our dog kills the rabbits and desecrates their corpses. Come nightfall coyotes and vultures tidy up. This, as I understand it, is the circle of life.

Autumn. Smells like school.

My wife calls for class time and the children run inside the schoolhouse and take their desks. The dog follows. She has no desk. She looks around in alarm, suspecting once again that she may be adopted. She settles on the floor with a grunt. The children try to bargain against mathematics but my wife isn't having any of it. It's numeracy or bust, little bastards.

That's when I go upstairs with my cuppa tea. Children gotta learn, Papa gotta earn. I open the studio by pulling aside window sashes and slapping spacebars. Daylight washes in and log files scroll.

I crank open a dormer. Down below in the square in front of the general store a couple of teenagers are discussing the public mural I'm painting. As long as "sick" is still a good thing I think they like it. They sit on a boulder and smoke, like life could last forever.

My pocket rings. I have to rush out to the balcony because I don't get good mobile reception indoors and I don't have any other telephone. The mouldering wooden balcony is terrifyingly derelict and will one day soon fall apart under me. But not today. I pace while I teleconfer, the planks groaning and wheezing. "Shit," I say. "Better call India."

All I can see are trees. Like the Smurfs' village this village disappears from view entirely at certain angles, charmed to exist under the skirts of fat trees and behind veils of weeping willow. A scenic panorama of broccoli. I am the tallest point in town, the shadow of my head merged with that of the belfry. Birds chirp indecently.

Skype makes that bubbly noise. It's India on the line, despite the hour. We talk shop. Everybody's in a bit of a tizzy over the latest round of revisions. "Take a deep breath," I advise the Indians. "In Canada we just say 'Om.'"

Now I'm flying. North America scrolls under me. I always book a window seat. I'm excited to finally spot tracts of urban farming in Detroit, where formerly residential blocks have given over to rectilinear sub-divisions of monoculture. I have Google Earth open on my tablet, pinching and scrolling to keep pace with the real world below. Aerial perspective is a kind of pornography. In a few hours we'll be over the Great Basin, then graze Mt. Ranier, then bump and whine down a runway on the Pacific coast -- all in dazzling cloudless daylight. Beautiful. I won't need to read.

You can tell the flight is Atlanta-based because water costs money but Coca-cola is free. Atlanta loves a Coke.

Hotels are hotels are hotels, fractal and forever. I always start by plugging my shit in. The plug is always on the base of the lamp. Free wifi drips from the air, condensing into gleaming beads of Internet on the sides and tops of metal things. No password, no Web portal. Just the open road. That's a relief. I check the coffee self-service for tea bags, then call down to the desk and ask if tea isn't free.

A jolly gentleman comes to bring me free tea bags. Because this is America I give him $1.

Now I'm on set at a video shoot. We've all been in a very big rush to get here in time to wait and now we're waiting. I'm blogging. When the talent arrives we can all rush to brief them and then wait while they're dressing and then rush to capture their performances before we have to wait for everything to be cleaned up and touched up and reset again.

Some sit but I'm a pacer. I pace away from and back to my tablet. You can't tell because I only type things when I'm back to. When I'm away from it's nothing but the smell of studio lights and the live, liquid moment. I spend it thinking up my next sentence (this one).

I make a few jokes with the talent so I won't come off cold and abrupt when I start ordering them around in a few minutes. People are very sensitive. If you don't show them your teeth enough up front they see everything through a distorting lens whose index of refraction is predicated on how much you probably hate them. This is especially true on set where the lion's share of my communications will be to tell them they're doing things wrong.

Sitting on apple boxes, eating what lunch production assistance has wrought. West coast sandwiches. Overly complicated, in my opinion. Too many competing flavours, as if overcompensating for being so faithfully vegan. There's no meat or cheese but there's at least a dozen vegetable ideas all jockeying for simultaneous access to the tongue. This damn sandwich has jazz hands.

Over parts of Idaho the world is wrinkled like it's spent too long in the bath.

I'm on my balcony again. On hold. The conference moderator has not yet joined the conference. Some of the trees in the yard are turning yellow and orange. The vines are ruby red. The dogs are running around down there, barking their fool heads off. The conference moderator has not yet joined the conference. Why do people ask me when I'm available to teleconfer and then fail to show up on the line? The conference moderator has not yet joined –

A lot of people have trouble staying on topic. The problem comes when it's time to link one sub-section of the conversation to the next logical sub-section within a given theme; at that little intra-topical hop people are liable to start talking about anything at all, from unrelated sub-sections to altogether different topics. This is particularly so when teleconferring audio only because there is no PowerPoint deck with which to ground attention. People don't know what part of the topic they're on if there isn't a picture.

I feel like I spend most of my teleconferring time teleprompting people back on teletopic. Written agendas don't help much because most people nowadays are a poor read. They know their letters but they have trouble putting things in context. And the opportunity for clarity is too quickly gone, because many of today's most promising business thinkers have the working memory of stoned goldfish.

They never miss an email. They are genetically engineered to reply without comprehension. Timeliness trumps all. That's why their eyes are always on their laps.

Foggy morning. The village is mist. Sound sounds louder through my open window. All I can see is wooly grey. The air is damp and still. I twiddle my cursor, idly spinning geometry out into broken whorls of free-flying facets, winking as they catch the light. Feats of simplified physics scrub back and forth, time an illusion of keyframes and tendency.

In taxicabs the news bleats. It sounds like satire to me.

Come evening I kiss my people and pour a glass of rye. In a glass-half-full way insomnia is a wonderful way to catch up on your reading. I like Michael Chabon. I picked up his newest in the Minnesota airport. There's nothing like paper. Especially in the night.

I haven't been able to draw lately. I put apparatus to surface and nothing happens. Whence slinketh my mojo?

I get an email saying we're going to make payroll again. This is good news. Better than warm milk for making burning eyes close. I'm dumping Chabon and I'm not blogging. I'm going to go upstairs to sleep and have that dream where Minecraft is real and all goals are comfortably granular.


SaintPeter said...

SaintPeter hangs a virtual ten off his browser as he immerses himself in another of Cheeseburger Brown's stream of consciousness submissions. He feels the board grab the wave and then he is in the tube. Surrounded on all sides by a swiftly moving textual walls the real world dims in his peripheral vision. The ride is fairly smooth, perturbed at times by brief switches of temporal context. Behind him the text narrows and collapses, forming a frothy meta-narrative foam as SaintPeter shoots out of the end. He eases himself back down to straddle the board and paddles himself towards the comment link. As usual, the transcendent nature of the narrative leaves him calm, contemplative, and perhaps a little inspired. Time for some fan art. . .

The "Preview" mode for the comments does not wrap the text at all. I am using Firefox 24. If the presentation code is something under your control, it could use some attention.

Tolomea said...

I hope you're going to post a picture of that mural sometime.

And if minecraft ever gets boring you can get tekkit which adds all sorts of new granular goals, like visiting the moon.

gl. said...

"People are very sensitive. If you don't show them your teeth enough up front they see everything through a distorting lens whose index of refraction is predicated on how much you probably hate them."


Tolomea said...


That line also resonated with me. Interpersonal skills were never one of my strong points. I've recently come into a position of both leadership and relative seniority within the company I work for. So for me it served as a timely reminder of details I need to pay more attention to.