Monday, 26 October 2009

THIS PAGE WILL ALWAYS BE UNDER CONSTRUCTION Tomorrow's deletion of GeoCities from the Internet means that future generations of digital historians will lose unmediated access to another grossly coded, crudely animated, and provocatively pointless early online environ. Back in 1990s, the internet was not yet the Internet, i.e. a land of constantly updated sites dominated by an online encyclopedia: it was a slapdash city populated by websites that were perpetually "under construction," the implication being that they would one day be completed. The idea behind GeoCities in particular, with all its imagery that came straight from the mind of a square city planner, was that everyone who crapped out viable HTML was erecting something permanent, an edifice of human knowledge that ranged from Star Wars trivia to guitar tabs for 2112. But people quickly saw the potential of a page that could be updated (if not always accessed) at will and started affixing to the bottom of their pages one or another of the aforelinked animations, thereby informing the world that although it might seem as if the comprehensive Shadowrun fan site would never (on account of its comprehensiveness) need an update, it was still "under construction." As I learned this morning, GeoCities still hosts a site I built—a site that, until it goes dark tomorrow, I'm ostensibly still building. I'm not. But now the world will never know the real truth behind the plot of The Crying of Lot 49 because that intensive bit of textual exegesis (and many others like it) will soon be wiped from the annals of what would become the Internet. In forsaking both what it was and the metaphors that once governed how its users thought about it, the Internet furthers its ascent into the place of perpetual presentness it now is by denying it was ever anything else. Which is fine. But there is something stolid and quaint about the thought of being done with something, which I reckon is what those scholars and authors who think in books think about people like us.
Laedit te quaedam mala fabula, qua tibi fertur valle sub alarum trux habitare caper.* Because the world needs more parodies of Victor Davis Hanson: Morituri te salutant The Victory Column and vero possumus megalomania of 2008 have now led to the deification of Obama as our new Caesar, man of letters (who, in the ancient tradition, enslaved a million in Gaul), and to his communications czar’s praising the embattled Mao (her favorite “political philosopher”) for leading China’s Communist legions to glorious victory over those running-dog Nationalists. Add in the classical-column props at the convention and the Moses-like talk about the seas’ receding and the planet’s cooling, and I think this administration assumes we have a Holy Man in the White House. And when you consider the depiction of Fox News as heresy, Rush as the anti-Christ, and the NEA as the medieval church, it all gets, well, sort of creepy.The above, of course, is renowned military historian and classical scholar Victor Davis Hanson obliging the world. He leads with a Latin quotation so esoteric only people who have studied classical Latin oratory for decades seen Gladiator can recognize the import of its implied "Ave Obama." Or not. Trotting out some of the only Latin his readers know means he needs a shoehorn to make his metaphor relevant: who are the "saluting" folks "about to die"? They are saluting Obama and are about to die for his entertainment, so they can't be Joe Lieberman and the rest of the Democratic Party, as that wouldn't entertain the President. They could be Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich, but Victor Davis Hanson doesn't belong to the group of people currently enjoying that particular spectacle (that would be us). See, this is the problem with trotting out random bits of Latin in the service of a hopelessly muddled metaphor: you think you're impressing people who know more than you, when in truth you're only impressing people who don't know Latin. *cf lines 5 and 6

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