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<nettime> Water-shedding
Alan Sondheim on 24 Sep 2000 23:59:22 -0000

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<nettime> Water-shedding



Shedding water / holding it back / in abeyance / closing the loopholes. 

For the past two weeks I have been burning cdroms of my work of the past
six years; I began with the version I did for a group in Atlanta (that I
abandoned) - con/text/sub 1.0. This has led to sub/con/text - the current
and final title - versions 2.01, 2.02, 2.03, 2.04, 2.05, 2.06, 2.2, and
2.3. The earlier ones were organizations and reorganizations; the later -
2.2 and 2.3 are the result of opening up other, older, computers I have
here, and re-editing a number of texts and files. The directory structure
- for such it is - is a tree structure, which has remained pretty coherent
through most of the history of computing; the root leads to /cdrom/ - at
which point, the directory tree and file trees are reproduced; the various
directories are given; there is a readme first text; and there is an
index.html opening file if one is entering through a browser.

Most of the time, all of this has had to be tuned and retuned; in other
words, I have been tuning and retuning six years' worth of work - as well
as another 20 or so essays from the 1980s and early 90s. There are some
parts of the Internet Text as well (found within the /cdrom/network direc-
tory) that go back to the late sixties.

I worry that all of this is a tomb, in a way; it contains most of my work
I've considered valuable over the past few decades. Odd things such as my
Structure of Reality - with its numerous diagrams and ruminations on
threshold logics - aren't reproduced, but there are descriptions of them
in the Internet Text as well. The three older records (two of which were
reissued as cds) aren't included; the films aren't included; and only very
recent video segments are found on it. None of the work from my post-
industrial group Damaged Life is on it. 

But the writing is there, in all fullness, and in the /cdrom/program di-
rectory are numerous programs exploring some of the fractal measure-geom-
etries I discovered (I'm sure not originally), for anyone with qbasic.exe
installed to play with. And there is _some_ music, including electric gui-
tar, which has been a major interest for years, and shakuhachi, which I
have been working intensely with, for the past few. Meanwhile, there are
all those graphics - the /cdrom/image directory alone has close to 380 -
which form a universe by themselves, resonating with the texts, wrapping
themselves around each other and the viewer as well.

All of which is to say, the watershed. I've been relieved that my work
stands a chance of surviving - the disks holds a great deal of work that
is not on line for example - in one or another form, that it might be
rediscovered sometime in the future. It's oddly supported now - I haven't
done a "real" book since Station Hill took me on in 1984 (Disorders of the
Real, 1988) - only magazine and book anthologies, e-venues, etc. So I hope
that the electronic venue of the cdrom will hold for at least twenty years
or so, at least on antique computers, and that I will, or someone will, be
able to update the materials, reconfigure them, in the latest incarnation
of mass storage devices.

There are issues for me of the phenomenology of the disk; the latest
copies have a colored label on the disk itself, instead of bleak black and
white - and somehow the whole seems more permanent. And a fair number of
them, in one or another version, have been distributed. Nonetheless, a lot
of people I would want to have them just haven't been interested - and I
ascribe this to - no matter how much the opposite is claimed - an intrans-
igent attachment to the _book_ - something I also feel. It's as if the
cdrom can only be a _project,_ or _resource_ - but nothing that carries
the weight or intimacy of the book - nothing, in short, that is _desirab-
le,_ in terms of personal ownership. The relationships and gaps between
computer and language are still labeled as "experimental," in spite of
years of development (my own first computer works were from 1971 for ex-

I know the value of my work; I hold onto it like a hungry ghost that's
forbidden sleep or recompense, that wanders, devours everywhere. I get
nourishment back-channel which keeps me going, and I'm happy that those
people who do want the disks are world-wide (in spite of the postage). But
there are times I'm overwhelmed by the massivity, by a theory-thicket so
large that it literally borders on substance. I've noted with relief that
people tend to find the disks easy to navigate and explore (which is what
I intended), and I've thought that this might lead further to the idea
that there are language/image worlds opening up through this - that a kind
of intimacy may result after all. But the activity is very different; like
hypertext, it asks a lot of a reader, a kind of mobility he or she might
not be comfortable with.

It's odd to roam across the six years. They cover periods of intense dep-
ression, of my mother's death, of my successes and failures as list moder-
ator, as a writer inspired by such disparate sources as Donald Knuth, old
Akkadian, linux, contemporary Japan, and Jabes. Nikuko, Jennifer, Doctor
Leopold Konninger, Travis, Clara, Honey, Alan, and Julu come and go; there
are explorations of MOOs, netsex, protocols, and the very early history of
the Net. Different venues (editing an issue of New Observations on Cul-
tures of Internet, and the Lusitania Book, Being on Line; putting together
the chapbooks for the parables and The Case of the Real; etc.) produce
warps into the fabric, texts tending towards momentary completions (36 new
parables for example), images carried to extremes and exhaustion (work
with Blender for example). I tried all through the work to keep up both
intensity and resonance, as if each piece were my last (which is something
always haunting me, dreams of death without recompense or memory). I think
for the most part I succeeded, sometimes too well; there are sections of
the diary and the Internet Text that I can read only with difficulty at
this point. I wonder if this comes through, hoping that resonance will
carry through (each text, as if within Indra's net, resonating with, and
signaling, every other).

And all this fits on a single, distributable disk, finally reaching a pla-
teau of organization that _makes sense_ to me, carries a certain weight.

I find myself less able to sleep, feeling more physically ill, but as if
something were taken care of, taken account of - as if something unaccoun-
table and unaccounted for, were, nonetheless, subject to a form of tally.
So that my writings now, in a sense, are "beyond the disk," oddly cooled,
in a period of hiatus, as I wonder if the disk will be understood, if that
even matters, and as I work on distribution. (There are copies still
available, of the newer 2.2 and 2.3, through Alan Sondheim, 432 Dean St.,
Brooklyn, NY, 11217, $14 in any form. End of advertisement.) I find myself
spending more time within the languorous temporality of the burner, nap-
ping between finished disks popping out on this slow machine. I've burned
three copies of music cds as well - The Blue Humans, and the two old LPs
that were reissued a few years ago as cds - for backup. I've backed up all
my usual miscellaneous files and programs and teaching materials. It's as
if I could close up shop. It's as if a kind of work is completed.

It's a watershed and water shed - somewhere I'm beneath or elsewhere than
all of this, protocols splashing from my body; I'm down deep, inviolate;
I'm vulnerable, always in league with death.

Internet Text at http://www.anu.edu.au/english/internet_txt 
Partial at http://lists.village.virginia.edu/~spoons/internet_txt.html
Trace Projects at http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/writers/sondheim/index.htm
cdrom of collected work 1994-2000/1 available: write sondheim {AT} panix.com


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