An artefact of running a blog that is never apparent to most readers is the phenomenon of visitors commenting on old posts. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it is a common occurrence, and it always brings me up short.
To me, looking at my old posts are an indulgent excavation, too frequently a surprise for me to feel entirely comfortable about the state of my memory, but at least quite commonly a pleasant surprise. For the most part, any sentimental journeys I make into the archives are prompted by someone wandering past and dropping in a comment on some (to me) long-forgotten post. It’s always nice to be reminded that, once written, the words are not dead, even if they seem irretrievably distant from me-now. To whoever reads something you’ve written for the first time, the dialogue is taking place now, this very alive moment.
And so we get the curious encounter of some passing web traveller now with the ghost of me two years ago. Sometimes, as in this exchange on stone-sucking, it’s a Note & Query that can happily take place over the span of years. Sometimes, as in this shared journey back to beginnings, returning to the past feels very appropriate.
On other occasions, as with this ongoing and increasingly Byzantine thread on academic conferences spam, I feel as though it would be rude of me to step back in with my casual opinion when so many people feel so much more strongly about than me.
Best of the lot, the comment that asks or offers no explanation, but quickly sketches a picture of a place where, frankly, I’m very happy not to be.
No, not how to beat spam, Beat spam.
I’ve been noticing, after a large clearout of the old spam comments folder, a marked increase in the quality of the junk coming in. A large amount at the moment seems to be created by throwing together short phrases of random dictionary words, obviously in an attempt to circumvent analysis. What’s nice is that, while there’s an infinitessimal chance of creating real meaning this way, the word patterns produced often take on the cadences of real English, producing a pleasant illusion of literal meaning in the obvious gibberish.
To be honest, it makes me think of a lot of the incandescently incomprehensible poetry I encountered around university arts departments when I was in the USA. Like listening to beat poets ranting from behind a closed door: it sounds as though it probably makes sense, though you’d be hard pushed to say what it is.
I call this one ‘Increase your performance’:
Mint fiat bakery as oaks
Hopefully list interconnecting tremor potting
Scribbled saucepan crutch Catholicism
Weight opened, humiliated wariness.
[goes on for another 12 stanzas]
Athanasius Kircher’s illustration of the Tower of Babel, as posted on the just-found blog of the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society. You may wish to follow up with Kircher’s sketch demonstrating exactly why the tower couldn’t have reached the moon (it would have been so large that it would have tipped the Earth out of balance.
The Kircherblog, in the spirit of the man, covers everything from Kircher’s own notorious cat piano to feral children (a topic of interest to Kircher because of the chance they might spontaneously speak the original Adamic language) to buildings made out of trees and shaped as elephants.
Sometimes I still love the internet as a child loves its favourite bear. This is why.