Pre-2010 web writing

Reading through websites that died before the 2010’s is like reading an old newspaper.

There’s this brevity with everything that was possible only when you had your pages clutter free to accomodate slow internet speeds. It makes sense why they’d appropriate the style of writing you’d expect in a newspaper. But the writing knew it’s audience would already be looking elsewhere for the news so had to report with a difference.

There’s this earnest and unfamiliar sensibility you keep noticing. Clearly they’ve take a few cues but nothing is passé yet, no aggregators eating up all the views and the viewers are explorers stumbling and moving with no direction in place. You aren’t a subscriber, readers, customer, and statistic just yet. The webmasters were trying to sell you on what you liked, not what you wanted. Nothing is polished and the webpages are all bling and gaudy wallpaper.

There’s an erratic, broken and unfinished feel about all of it. Everything you read isn’t all from the internet so there’s a real person’s voice someone’s experience, because what else can you put up there? It went on and off, and the scale for a lot of people wasn’t that crazy. It let you kinda make it your own, you weren’t looking for those numbers if you were just someone else trying things out.

More than that, the blogs just start and stop, everything’s on a whim and there wasn’t much to be invested in. I mean I’m reading through an old guide to Bangalore buried and nearly invisible under all the new content from about 9 identical apps wondering what it is that makes the words feel so different and honest while the authors as they were in those pieces are probably long gone and their writing lost as well. You go with the tide or it drowns you out.

It was still a soapbox where they didn’t seem to know there were rules, that there was some algorithm to chase-nor did they fear those algorithmic ups and downs. It’s a clear voice talking from a place that’s clearly offline, closer to the real world.

Maybe I’m cooking up a rosy past but the authors have no name, no pictures, no profiles, no bios but a few paragraphs about the restaurants they like around town has told me far more than those could ever have.

Dreaming up the past

A few days ago I decided to make an entry in my dream journal, a habit I’d long given up on. Remembering dreams and then getting around to actually logging what you remember isn’t the easiest thing.

It seems like some lost passion from idyllic days when the mornings were even easier on me, still an insufferably efficient morning person. Of course I couldn’t help but glance a the last two entries which had the real surprise. It’s one thing to see the world around you as a different place but reading about yourself as a different person too?

Now and then I think we all see our pasts as nostalgic breezy passages that we dreamt up or as some long lost paradise you pine after- depending on how your day went. It’s weird then, that the last logs a year ago were about people I hadn’t spoken to or thought of in three. It’s weirder still that your dreams weren’t really about anything, just some people, and how far you’d grown. Was the past that different or was the person who wrote all of that down a little less grim, a little more hopeful?

The least realistic part was how easy it was to move past the silence, the awkward combination of familiarity, distance and old breaks that you don’t even remember. The unreliability of dreams seemed to concentrate on the narrator. The person writing those entries seemed to have slipped away just like those dream I never bothered writing down.

Sleep’s a discipline

I love the feeling of the cold, creased and sun dried bed that carries me. When I sleep I stay still.

Maybe I take sleep too seriously; I’ve already diagnosed its origins. I once had a bout of sleeplessness after a very do nothing day at my grandparents home- which was nearly all summer vacations there. What killed me was how boring it was to just toss and turn, how mindless and agitating it was to just wait for the sunrise. Desperate to scratch that increasingly unbearable itch I asked for help. They told me that there was no need to trouble their sleep with my insomnia, which in hindsight seems like a fair point. Yet this was a death sentence for a young and suddenly energetic mind in a house in those strange and long past days where you had to ask to use the TV and had to ration those precious 30 minutes of screen time you were allowed.

Those 30 minutes were enough though, most of what was on the screen was crap (maybe something’s never change). In those days however you’d suffer from erratic and only occasional coverage in the village and a distinct lack of interesting options. The doors stayed strictly locked, every light was thoroughly investigated and everyone slept lightly ready to bemoan anything that got in the way of their sleep.

In that single instance I made a decision that I’ve stuck to for the rest of my life. I turned sleep into a discipline I mastered that very night. I went through all the motions, all the rhythms and breathing that I could remember about sleep. I made up my mind and every night since I proved myself by staying still, magnifying every itch only to fight the urge to get rid of it, claiming my mind till there wasn’t anything on it. The skill has taken me far and while I can’t say it’s gotten me into a lot of beds, its certainly got me reaching those 8 necessary hours in strange places.

You get a lot of incredulous looks when you make it cross legged and twisted through sofas, mats, floors, roofs, benches, bathtubs and tables to emerge well rested at 6 am and restless by 6:05. There’s a point that I’ve been hinting at through all this. It’s just that I’m not sure I really want to say it. I guess this is the kind of person I am. Don’t sleep and you get to thinking, drooping and complaining.

I wonder why I’m cutting into my sleeping hours today to post this. In some ways writing seems like those cool spreads that bound me, the nightfall asking me to be still.

A lost language

Spotting a section of republished Victorian era books and reports I decided to settle in and take a read at Blossoms while I waited.

I imagine the authors might be offended to learn that their serious inquiries came across as hilarious a few centuries after their publication. When you come across title such as “A Phrenologist amongst the Todas”, “Through Russian Central Asia” and “The Happy valley: Cashmere” you know that within is a misguided and thoughtlessly benevolent white man trying to carry his burden while describing his mission to civilize the orientals. You find, unfortunately, that the same condescension persists and parallels the world today.

But despair and laughs aside these books have their own charm like some antique curiosity made greater by age. There’s something about the language you see, it’s so smooth, functional and easy to drink that it flows by unnoticed. Writing was but a mechanical and very familiar process- I’m tempted to say unspoiled by making too much of it- for these men that you never notice it. It is merely a empty and foreign tool that stays unnoticed while you imagine those plains, the valleys, the mountain flowers and the men who wear sheepskin hats.

Somehow after an overdose of Murakami, King, Nabakov and today’s masters, I felt something I hadn’t in a while. I felt envious of these smooth and confident writers who had no style or thought about form, they merely reported a world that seemed larger, greater and stranger. It’s a fantastic fantasy, that’s terribly intriguing. Its lulls one into an easy concentration I hadn’t been able to muster for a lot of books for a lot of time. I was transfixed while a world unlike mine was reported into existence.

Really I wish I could write that easy, with so much to convey about what I’d seen in that strange and free flowing language, one I’m unsure I learn.

Dizzy

I wake up and my legs are like reflections of legs in moving water. I haven’t left sleep yet and the world still feels like a dream. Sleepovers don’t afford you much sleep and the deficit pushed back like a steady tide.

The world was still uncanny, weird and sickening. Felt a kind of empty, maybe unease- part of it cause I was hungry. Yesterdays food was good but today my mouth was dry. No one else was up and its impolite to leave early. My friends cat bothered me for a bit of food and then she wasn’t bothered. Something was off so the best thing to do was to go with the tide. The waters wash over you, you’ll flow and float all the way up eventually. I dripped backed to sleep.

Rain in Mangalore

When it rains I dream of Mangalore. On nights in quiet rooms, with the power out and my eyes closed an old feeling comes to visit.

Intangible and, sadly it would seem, incomprehensible to others is my old sense of longing. As I would look out, as I spied the grey houses, the lights inside, the signs of life that the houses breathed I wished I could be inside them. I remember the rare lights, the deserted roads and sometimes a stream in the village revived by the rain.

The houses weren’t too impressive, a 2000’s Indian aesthetic that’s quickly pulled down by an out of breath middle class. Still on those glances outside, through the rains and sheltered by black clouds I felt there was something missing. I got the same feeing when Animax would offer slices of moody, sepia, angst. Stories I’d never complete or find again. The channel is gone now, a tangent that means too much for no good at all.

In my longing, I wish I could see the life inside, but I am formless in the rains outside. I can’t have what I’ve never known.

Grey

I write when something inspires, the second I read something nice I’ve gotta write.

The problem with tethering your creative instincts to the world around you is that you’re caught in the tide. The colours you bring to story come from outside. When the world’s just the same, uninspired plastic happiness why write? The time you had isn’t enough any more, the drive isn’t worth dishonoring. You’ve gotta find a muse or wither way in some complacent routine in some complacent life.

My work as a counselor inspires, sure, but you leave that in session and honestly I’ll leave work at work. The most important step I think is to do some reading, its been a while and the world’s all the greyer for it.

Fat Dog

Sunday, Cubbon Park, a dog came up to us and sat down. He was disturbingly round. His face grew wider into his neck, which lead to a trunk that seemed like it had two extra layers of fat wrapped around it to keep him warm.

He was a rusty brown, with bald spots all over- skin disease- and faint black strips. When I first came to Bangalore I was awed by these rusty stripped dogs that seemed to slink by street corners, like little tigers all over the city. I haven’t noticed them in years, I guess they never seemed to play at anything else. Now and then you see a few mutts, strays with distinct features of more becoming breeds, of course you don’t wan to think of much them . Their ribs, their earnest eyes with ears slicked back, a paw missing and yes unhealthy, annoying when they turn wild on the streets treating human indifference in kind.

When they hung around bakeries and street vendors that severed oily snacks, they seemed to get a weird kind of fat, that’s my theory at least. So it stood to reason this stray had gotten fat the same way- of the indifference, litter and kindness of visitors. He looked at our bench and went right to sleep in front of us. My companion pointed out that he seemed to find it difficult to move.

What I really noticed though was the contrast, walking in we saw dogs brought in, sitting in cars, collared and well fed. There were Huskies panting in the heat, large dogs, tiny dogs,dogs shaved and pampered sitting in circle while their masters watched them closely. A lot of them must have come at a high price, somewhat inbreed and incapable of surviving the wild or even the streets.

It reminded me, so much, of an article on Jacobin (https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/10/victorian-values-fitness-organic-wealth-parenthood/) , which looked at how the rich and poor saw their bodies. When the poor labored in the heat, being tan and lean weren’t fashionable, now that they are desk bound the rich tan themselves and take care of their bodies. How funny that this was paralleled in our dogs, the strays fat on a diet of junk food, and the pampered breeds lean and about.

Coming season

Tradition holds the monsoon is near, certainly I could use some clouds to drown out all the noise. I can’t write and it’s not cause I can’t share; call it speech fright.

You’re floating on cotton under a starless night, above veins of yellow amber, can’t ask for a better place in the city. Think of honey over a black backdrop, that’s what I think the city must be like if you fly away.

Say something and it’s not a dream anymore. Write happy and you’re obliged to commit, be what’s been written. Hopelessly, inevitably and I can’t do with mirrors right now, I just want it to be quiet. I can’t breath at all.