Yer Blues: Alienation, Lonely Hearts, Ignorance on the Internet.com

What I noticed most about Floppy, Miriam and Journal of Dreams was how horribly lonesome each piece is. While Journal gives us a rather understandable case of a sorrowful old man recording the status of his mind in his last days, both Floppy and Miriam‘s male protagonists come off as the young, albeit nerdy, professional sort: lustful with active minds and busy days. But my are the two of them a lonely bunch.

Miriam, actually, says it first in one of her chats to Luther, writing, “You enact enough of your life inside this 30cm rectangle, you become a spectator at the performance of yourself.”

In a sense that really becomes the theme of Miriam, especially since Luther shrugs it off so casually, “Yeh n e ways, curry or pizza tonight?” Thus we are given a taste of the narrator’s blissful ignorance, only embellished by his admittance that, despite his theatrical yearning for Miriam, he still has an urge to play a computer game (a little lost on precisely what/what kind of game he is talking about here).

Chuck Klosterman wrote a great piece in Esquire a year or so ago entitled, “Myspace.com/Doppelganger” (http://www.esquire.com/features/chuck-klostermans-america/hannah-montana-0508).  The basic premise was that Hannah Montana was so appealing to teenagers because she personified the web’s ability to give any average teenager an alternate identity. His comical example is that if you wished to be a stoner kite enthusiast, all you need to do is create a profile called something like kiteenthusiast420 and bam, you can be taken as a kite-flyin’, reefer tokin’ cat. His actual example was about a 14-year-old high school student who created an alternate gothic-sexpot identity via Myspace.

I see the same dichotomy of the self taking place here, especially in Miriam. Luther, and Miriam, too, are obvious and admitted technophiles. (For the record, Miriam’s over-indulgence of screen time making her RSI-positive?? RSI=Relative Strength Index, which indicates the relative strength or weakness of a financial market.) And when Miriam comes up missing one morning, Luther’s hypnotic cyber-adventure seems to become a montage of him not being himself, but watching another version of himself. Identities are easily shifted and alienate throughout Miriam, as she herself can easily disguise her face through hooded sweatshirt and fake beard, which Luther does not initially notice in Sam’s basement.

We must ask ourselves, why did Luther disparage so much when Miriam first turned up missing? Why did he assume immediately that she was either dead or sleeping with someone else. There must be some kind of sign there that signals that something must be very wrong on this particular “day,” when Luther awakens and turns over to find that the space where Miriam slept was “just a space.” Alas, can a 30×2 cm box possibly contain more than just a space? As Luther cries desperately, “I need to see you!” (key word there is “see”), it would seem that it is just a space, but his daytrip to find his lost lady yields that it might not necessarily be a vacuum but an alternate state and identity altogether.

The alienation felt in Floppy is much more violent and mysterious from our unknown friend. While he seems awfully humanistic in his urge to aid the battered woman, what’s really hindering him from doing so? In the end he goes returns to the computer time after time…but, still, he is typing down these feelings and pleas, but who is the one talking? The physical man who takes up space or the computer doppelganger?

-Steven Whisler

Our mysterious friend in Floppy expresses a similar apathy regarding the battered woman in the apartment next door. Though he claims he desperately wants to help her, we are left wondering why he simply doesn’t do so, despite her painful pleas. Instead he prefers to fall into a catatonic state, distancing himself from any human interaction.
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~ by PDG on April 12, 2010.

5 Responses to “Yer Blues: Alienation, Lonely Hearts, Ignorance on the Internet.com”

  1. Spreading one’s self too thin–something’s happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you…Mr. Jones? Your rephrasing of the problem in conjunction with the Hannah Montana piece (God–it would be tiring to be her…) makes me think of black holes. The even horizon where you can’t go back and suddenly now you’re sucked into the hole, your body stretching out into molecular lines along with stretched time and light so that you are not only looking at yourself from what you can see, but there’s you still falling into the hole and you down deeper, still going into the hole and the forces of this shifting and destruction of space/time/matter would a) blow your mind b)be like not enough butter spread over too much bread (what movie is that from?) and c)kill you (if you weren’t dead already).
    But! Even though this is true, where if you’re not careful the internet’s avatarism can swallow you up and leave you as a stretched person not able to find the core individual (if there is one (and I think that Miriam is saying that there is)), I still think the internet’s anonymity–if used correctly–is a powerful tool that allows one to create these avatars and get away with it like Lennon like Dylan like Waits. They are all avatars of themselves… but now we can do it too. The question then is how are (were) they smart enough not to let it destroy them like so many others?

    BTW: RSI= Repetitive Strain Injury (like from typing on the comp all day)

  2. I offer you a dreadfully personal anecdote:

    There was a time a few years ago when I was dating someone, and both of us played a certain MMORPG that involved leveling up, team progression in dungeons, etc. We thought it would be cute to make characters together with matching names, level them up together, make mutual friends in the game, so on and so forth. Nerd-o-rama, I know.

    Thus begins the “alternate reality” that became supplemental to our relationship. During the day, ordinary dating-type things. But at night, we’d log into our characters. Thing is, only one or two people knew that we even knew each other in real life. For one reason or another, neither of us really wanted to mention it, it seemed weird. So there was this strange space where we “became” other people, with the power of technology, and maintained an entirely different relationship from a relationship that was HAPPENING SIMULTANEOUSLY.

    Anyway, we broke up. And so we stopped hanging out, and obviously, stopped playing video games together. And everyone we knew completely lost it. I logged in a few months later and instantly received about 20 messages asking where we had gone, since most people had no idea we even knew each other off the internet.

    This kind of creation of a “fake identity” is fun to play around with, but until afterward I never really thought about what an exhausting thing it was to maintain. Not to mention that we’d definitely intentionally prank people together (pranking and trolling are much more fun with partners). Anyway, since I’m getting tangential, your post just reminded me of a really weird time in my life. Even worse was when I was 13 and pretending to be a 19-year-old dude so people would listen to what I had to say, but that’s a whole different ball game.

  3. Isolation, and the loneliness felt from hyperconnectivity, is such an important topic in contemporary art and literature. While we’ve grown close to each other’s thoughts, the computer screen creates a space of literal physical separation from others. You’re right to point out Miriam’s protagonist’s sexual appetites, that he needs to see Miriam, to break the glass, not to merely chat. And the idea of the doppelganger is so relevent to this text in particular, as we are not entirely sure to what extent either Luther or Miriam are ‘real’ in the conclusion. Where does the video game end and either character’s human lives begin? Loneliness as an emotional response dominates Miriam’s text, but the author/narrator in Floppy is in the latter stages of isolation, a kind of ego-death and apathy towards the people around him. I wouldn’t call his response to his neighbor humanistic; it is more as if he wants to fully ignore her more than he wishes to help her. There are vestiges of humanity left in him, but in turning to the computer screen to escape from his own problems and identity, he loses the ability to act on his twinges of empathy. Whereas Miriam is a battle against loneliness that may be lost, Floppy doesn’t even have much of a struggle, just a painful state of solitude.

  4. 19 year old dudes still aren’t that smart

  5. I agree that the loneliness in these pieces really ends up characterizing them as a whole–it’s definitely the strongest feeling that I came away with after reading them. In general, I found “Miriam” to be a much more interesting piece because Luther’s loneliness was so well-illustrated and developed. As you point out, we don’t only see him as a “technophile, but get to see him interact in the “cyber adventure” that he creates. That said, I also think you’re right in observing that the sense of alienation in “Floppy” is much more violent and myserious. In many ways, I wish that the ideas in this text had been explored more deeply, and that more information about what actually prevents him from helping the woman next door was revealed. In the same sense, maybe this would rob the text of the overall unknown, creepy feeling that makes it work?

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