In order to compete with the distant future, my brother and I determined that it would be necessary—absolutely necessary— to upgrade consciousness itself. That’s right: our brains, like their silicon cousins, would need some form of an operating system to sort and digest the ever-doubling database of the modern day; some method or manner for making sense of the hyper-hyper-complexity of digital America.
We figured the neurological hardware was already in place, but, with a little persistence and overstimulation, we could revamp our memory and perception with a few well-chosen computer metaphors and some “synaesthetic mnemonics” (devices that anchor your memories in the totality of your senses). And for lack of anything better, we installed Windows…
We, qualified technocrats, humanistic futurists, incorrigible instrumentalists, were working the fuzzy side of the convergence of man and machine, applying a new gloss to Skinner’s insistence that our metaphors for man are too anthropomorphic. As a test sample, we jotted long lists of breakfast cereals and beverages, then fed them back into our brains as databases, making sure that every item was tagged, categorized in several directions, and locked away in our hard-drives…
“Trix, Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, Honey Nut Cheerios, Chex, Golden Grahams, Apple Jacks, King Vitamin, Rice Krispies, Cocoa Puffs, Pops, Kix, CapÃn Crunch, Count Chocula, Frankenberry, Boo-berry, Yummy Mummy…”
Save As—— breakfast_cereals.doc——
If we were going to do this right, if we really wanted to get a handle on modern America, it would be necessary to catalogue the enormous shadow-vocabulary of American pop-culture; that vast panorama of Coke versus Pepsi, Keyser Soze and the search for Animal Chin, Mr. Drummond and Mr. Stephanopoulos, R2-units and protocol droids, Fruit of the Loom and Andre the Giant, Zsa-Zsa and Shadow Stevens, Mr. and Mrs and Junior Pac-man, Laser Tag and Bubbles the Chimp, Wonderbra and Spiderman, clappers and Mr. Coffees, Technicolor and Transylvannia, and every other denizen of the cluttered and colorful American mythos.
This demands a new language. No, scratch that— a whole new mode of thinking. The breakfast cereal file alone tallied seventy distinct varieties, each with its own associations, mythology, and respective cartoon spokesthing. We recalled the cruel fate of the Trix rabbit, the underhanded Cookie Crook, and the prized rarity of Yummy Mummy; we remembered that piss can smell like Cheerios, that Cocoa Pebbles leaves a delicious bowl of chocolate milk, and that an all-marshmallow breakfast is really too much of a good thing. My estimate on the number of brandnames and subcategories in our active vocabulary peaks around fifteen thousand, the vocabulary of a small language. However, the manner in which we usually handle this language and the wider lexicon of American pop-culture is, for the most part, horizontal. That is, we pass on their candidacy for high myth and metaphor. But why?
The Trix rabbit usurps Sisyphus in the collective consciousness of the United States, point of fact; he is unavoidable figure in the American socialization process. Like it or not, these are our humble beginnings, the primordial alphabet soup of American cultural life. A few encouraging instances spring to mind: I remember watching Will Smith, hosting a dance-party program, sitting atop the soundboard: “Hey whazzup yall, they got me workin’ the sound, the camera, hostin’, freestylin’. I’m working everything here, first base— bugs bunny, second base— bugs bunny”
Under most circumstances, media-dolls like Will Smith should be gagged on their own pursestrings, but with this utterance, he came through; crowning an American pop-cultural moment with the dreamwork of metaphor. Despite my misgivings, I never hesitate to exploit the dynamics of advertising, mass production, overstimulation, cultural iteration, robots, the Cartoon Universe, the media circus, the misinformation superhighway, technological bricolage, sloganeering, infomercials, pyramid schemes, childhood fascinations, the Public Square, and, most significantly, the nexus of the booming American Marketplace. These are the realities behind that wonderful and volcanic sensibility I like to call “American Baroque.”
Of course, I cannot identify with the countless TV-casualties and fashion victims that have been lost to the vortex of American pop-culture—- the souls that take daytime television seriously and People Magazine at face value. But blame the idiot, not the idiot box. I, myself, mold and maneuver, I sink or swim; I synthesize and use their slick mechanisms for Good rather than Evil. I capitalize off the dissonances between, as Dewey put it, “commerce and commericialism,” prancing through the aisles of infinite variety, without any sense of attachment. Call me crazy, but I am in love with the Great Satan, the strip-mall confederacy, the Planet of Neon Death. America the beautiful!
Anyway, the computer metaphor took hold and held fast. Sleep was interrupted by some internal process that was transferring breakfast_cereal.doc and italian_vocab.doc to the vaults of my harddrive. I could almost feel the click-and-drag. I closed the program and used my stream of consciousness as a screensaver, setting myself adrift toward dreamland, while visions of Pac-Man danced in my head.
Tyree believes that our Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is, in truth, an adaptive characteristic for a new human era, deeming us fittest for a McLuhanistic shift in the collective consciousness. We are children of the New Media- the simultaneity, non-linear structure, information overload, and rapid-fire processing of the computer age. This may be a rationalization, but I like the sound of it. The mania was most likely recessive, since my mother and father can feign some semblance of order, calm, and normal breathing patterns. But, with the genes compounded, we were doomed to minds like a jackrabbit— spazzy, frenetic, but ultimately very productive. We intend, as Tyree once put it, “to leave the world a jewel.”