Tag Archives: technology

Schwartzman’s Simulacrum

6 Feb

Schwartzman/On Evil/Bubbleness

At Intelligentsia, the DJ looks like a shaggy version of Jason Schwartzman — who, come to think of it, is a fairly shaggy human creature himself. I order a red ale. Nine dollars. It’s good though, so why complain. I read. Terry Eagleton’s On Evil. I’m in love with this book. It fills my brain with ideas. The marginalia multiplies.

Then beside me the bubbleness. A young guy on his iPhone, texting. He works there, apparently, though maybe it’s his day off. It seems like his day off. He goes behind the bar to order himself a meal from the touchscreen ordering machine or whatever you call it that the bartenders and baristas use. It’s the only time he looks up from his iPhone and then it’s merely to shift to a bigger touchscreen. Then he talks to the bartender and they’re friends and I like them both because they’re comfortable in their own skins and because there’s that aura of things are definitely/probably/ maybe happening for them.

“We have a show in Palm Springs,” the bartender says and somehow just from the tone I know that he’s not talking about a band, as one might expect. More like some kind of film event. Or maybe I haven’t gleaned this insight just from his tone. Maybe my ears heard something but it didn’t register in my conscious mind. But it feels like I’ve picked up this fact just from the tone — and this, in turn, makes me feel minutely proud of my ability to decode social clues. But maybe it actually means the opposite: that we’re all sponges and everything washes through us but precious little is processed with any meaning.

Anyways, bubbleness. A friend recently bought a car that enables him to sync up his iPhone in a way that the car’s stereo will continue playing whatever song he was just listening to on his mobile device. All he has to do is plug in and turn on the car. Bubble house, bubble car, effortless transfer. No chaos or germs.

There’s an inverse proportion between this kind of thing and the romance we attach to, say, ham radio operators. Aren’t ham radio operators now the exclusive domain of movies in which they pick up the sounds of ghosts or past lives or alien lifeforms? That’s not a well-crafted thought but I’m convinced there’s a profound connection in there somewhere. The old technologies: once we have no use for them in the real world they tend to live on in our popular culture as clunky links to ephemeral, supernatural worlds. Although I guess at an opposite end, we see the same thing: techno-anxiety monsters its share of monsters too. The TV in Poltergeist, etc., etc.

These gentlemen can put you in touch with alien lifeforms. Extra charges apply.


Later, I try to get my favorite lamb roast wrap at Pita Pita but it’s closed and so I end up at Rubio’s, ordering a chicken quesadilla. This is the serendipity part. “I Shot the Sheriff” is playing in the restaurant and an actual sheriff is waiting for his burrito. I see his actual badge. I mean this guy is truly a sheriff and Bob Marley is truly singing his song of violence and freedom. I want to ask him if he hates the song, but of course I don’t. Instead I read a few more On Evil paragraphs.

And then — and really, it happens in the moment when I think: “I should write about this” — because that thought makes me check again, look closer and of course he’s not a sheriff at all. CHP instead. Which I take to mean that serendipities, examined, usually turn out to be works of the imagination — a thought that seems both depressing and comforting. Serendipity as a simulacrum of God? Well, that’s a pretty phrase. Wonder if it has any sense to it.

Better to stick to my wheelhouse and end with this: I think there’s a comfort in knowing that our minds construct such connections as serendipity. The busy narrative-machines of our brains (another kind of old technology in its way, often romanticized). You could say that my story of the doubled sheriff was a kind of company or companionship that I constructed for myself using my imagination. As too, I guess, this little written rambling here.

Ramble date: Friday, February 4th, 2011

Number of miles rambled: 4

Places visited during ramble: Intelligentsia, Vroman’s, Rubio’s