The question concerning textology

Cell phones, blogging and the ongoing decline of Western civilization

Be sure to checkout Bottom Feeder, the blog for Race to the Bottom.

Believe it or not, the late, great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche predicted the advent of Twitter more than a century ago. Nietzsche was the master of the epigram, a concise, clever and often paradoxical statement. Here’s one of my favorites from Beyond Good and Evil:

“The thought of suicide is a powerful comfort; it helps one through many a dreadful night.”

Nietzsche’s abbreviated style was a response to the onset of decadence, the age in which we still find ourselves mired, perhaps even more so. As Nietzsche biographer and scholar Walter Kaufmann put it, “Nietzsche’s style can be taken to represent a brutally frank admission that today hardly anyone can offer more than scattered, profound insights.”

That sounds an awful lot like Twitter to me, minus the profound insights. Which brings me to my cell phone, or lack thereof.

This past summer, in a fit of rage directed at AT&T Wireless, I smashed my cell phone to bits on my concrete patio. I’d been out of town and expecting an important call when my service was suddenly dropped. I thought maybe it was because I was in the mountains, but when Zarathustra-like I returned to the lowlands, I discovered they’d cut me off because, for the first time ever, I was late paying my bill.

I immediately regretted shattering the phone into a million tiny pieces, since it contained all of my important phone numbers on its memory card. But by the next morning, feeling amazingly empowered, I called AT&T and canceled my contract.

No more dropped calls, no more people tracking me down and, best of all, no more typing text messages on keys designed for infant fingers.

The text message was of course Twitter’s precursor; it’s difficult to imagine Twitter’s ubiquitous adherents staying within the 140-word limit without resorting to the tortured acronyms texting has wrought.

Friedrich Nietzsche.

The preceding rant is my own tortured way of introducing Bottom Feeder, the blog I’ll be starting sometime this week. Everybody at SN&R wants their own blog. Everybody but me. It’s safe to say no one at this company has been more resistant to this despicable trend than yours truly. Needless to say, the kids think I’m a Luddite, an anachronism, old-school. Yes, I am.

Nevertheless, a-blogging I shall go. Here’s what you can expect.

You’ll find no photographs or videos on Bottom Feeder. Years ago, a very drunk Timothy Leary enthusiastically informed me computers will one day allow us all to communicate through the universal language of images instead of words. Damned if the iPhone hasn’t gone and proved him right. We’ve gone from not having much to say to saying nothing at all.

I’ve always said that a picture may be worth 1,000 words, but not the right 1,000 words. Whether you’re talking newspapers or novels, there’s an art to stringing words, sentences and paragraphs together into a story that transcends the sum of its parts. I’m not saying I’ve ever achieved this, but that’s the goal.

Not that I’ll be challenging you, dear reader, with such lengthy posts. I figure I’ll be throwing up 333-word chunks, three paragraphs, with three links so that those who wish to expand their knowledge may do so. Seriously, that’s all I have time for. I’m too busy chasing the real goal.

Children, please don’t give up on me. This week I’m getting a new cell phone, hopefully one with adult-sized keys and no goddamned camera. My girlfriend can’t stand not knowing where I am. Who knows? I could be in a ditch somewhere. I don’t want her to worry. Love conquers all.