This is a small internet place. There are many like it, but this is mine.
The wake, memorial church service and interrment were all fairly upbeat. As warm as one could hope, considering the circumstances. 92 years is a long time to live, and we knew this was coming.
Modern digital life has brought with it some odd modern digital habits. I started writing online 15 years ago. I've been active on Flickr for 10 years. And in moments of Real Experience, I find myself processing life as if looking backwards at media I haven't yet created. Is this a moment worth Instagramming? Is this? Is this? Should THIS be the one moment of the funeral process that I write about? Then I make a joke to someone standing nearby.
I took a few photos of my dead grandmother, laying in an open casket in the Cartmel Funeral home. I struggled, but I had to. She looked beautiful, in a box of natural wood, an unreal version of herself. Nearby my mother had hung up the plain, pink uniform that Grace had worn as a hospital volunteer. We placed framed photos everywhere throughout the two rooms. I touched her hands, cold and plastic. My mother and sister had planned everything. They're strong and organized, like Grace.
I've noticed that I take fewer photos when I'm my extroverted self, surrounded by people and conversation. This tends to fill my feeds with more sidewalks and airplane wings than photos of family and friends.
Both days had perfect weather, the autumn sunny days I miss the most when I think of my old life wandering in downtown Plymouth, of high school in downtown Falmouth. Her death brought us back to those places, like the plot of some indie movie with an ensemble cast. But it was upbeat at the wake, the church, the cemetary, the reception. Optimism runs in the maternal side of my family. My sister noted that once someone dies, you can focus on celebrating their best self.
In Massachusetts National Cemetary, adjacent to Otis Airforce Base, the honor guards folded an American flag with sharp, angular precision. Taps had faded, leaving the shelter in autumn silence. When the folded flag was handed to grandpa Grumpy, seated beside his walker, he was overcome with emotion. No portrait of a 98 year old man can capture what it must feel like to be twice a widower.
Ceremony creates a before and an after.
I’ve just booked a red-eye flight, leaving PDX tonight. Thanks to Delta for being one of the last airlines to offer discounted bereavement fares, and to the woman on the phone for being so helpful and patient.
I had planned to offer another ranting, passionate defense of individual creativity, and try to point at some of the great things happening around tilde.club lately. And maybe to link some ironic tweets.
But then yesterday, three things happened simultaneously.
So I’m going to dispense with the talk radio host tone, mixed-metaphors and deliberate spelling error jokes of my earlier truther updates, and speak from the heart. Tilde.club is a good place to do that.
First, yesterday we celebrated my son Devo’s 6th birthday. He’s a warm, clever, confident kid, and we flew down here to Santa Barbara to throw a party at my in-laws’ house. Everyone worked to put together a lovely spread of meatballs, chips and cheese, and it was great to catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a few months, to watch kids assembling Lego Millennium Falcons, laughing and bouncing around the rocketship-themed bouncy castle. I may have consumed several cans of hard cider.
This is the stuff of real life.
Second, my grandmother Grace passed away yesterday, after battling years of Alzheimer’s, dementia and minor strokes, at the full age of 92. Her obituary lists the events of her life, but most importantly: she had moxie. She was a strong woman. A nurse. An air force wife, who lived in many places and on many bases. In her letters to me over the years, she joked more than once about how much she always hated cleaning the oven. “But whenever I finally needed to clean the stove, it was time to move!”
Grace had a sense of humor that couched the darker challenges of life in a kind of warm sarcasm. She used to end her letters with a buoyant, “Well, that’s all from Ma in ENDSVILLE, U.SA.,” a slight at the neighborhood full of older people in East Falmouth where she lived with grandpa Grumpy (now 98) for the last few decades of her life. They loved watching Seinfeld, in matching recliners.
Even when the dementia had hit her hard, she joked in the dining room of their assisted-living home that she was lost in the Twilight Zone, waiting for Rod Serling to arrive. It took me a long time to understand how much I owe my wit and personality to her. My mother is devastated. I will miss Ma very much.
This is the stuff of real life.
Third, shortly after I learned of my gradnmother's passing, I read the sponsored post that ~Maria published over the weekend oon ~Choire’s tilde. She deftly slices through all the crap of my earlier rants, in a direct appeal for us to create beautiful online spaces the way we want them to be. This was honestly the best possible outcome for that nonsense—countering my satirical rants against sponsorship with a sincere sponsored post—and I thank Maria for taking the time (and spending the $3) to put herself out there.
Sometime around 2001, in my early 20s, I added a meta description tag to my personal site that read, "Follow the life of Ryan, a slow transformation from the creative wide-eyed vivacity of youth into the disinterested monotony of adulthood." That description remains in the HEAD tag, fallen fallow like everything else on that domain. And in some ways, that prediction wasn’t too far off. My sometimes thoughtful and sometimes self-indulgent efforts to share myself with personal web of those days have given way to the responsibility of fatherhood and a full-time job in publishing for profit, where I design and build tools so other people can tell their stories.
I spend a lot of time consuming streams of short updates from people I find interesting, using a platform that’s both amazing for improv and really efficient at amplifying negativity. It’s helped me feel connected to friends, and has expanded my understand of and empathy for the challenges other people have in their lives, online and off. But it’s also exhausting.
I don’t make much time for hobbies. I’m tired of my own FOMO. Maybe tilde.club is a temporary expression of nostalgia, or a new chance to create simple little rooms. I don’t know. But it feels nice to have a room of one’s own, a place where lack of favs doesn’t feel like failure. I'm glad ~ford made this. And I think it’s telling that other people seem to feel the same way, even if only as a playful throwback.
I’m crying now. I’m underslept, and I’ve made some mistakes recently. It’s been a long summer for me and my family.
It’s hard to overcome a cacophony of noisy streams with the simplicity of quiet. But we should figure out how to try. It can still be sarcastic and buoyant, even snarky, like my grandmother in her better days.
In a few hours I board a red-eye to fly east, to be with my family.
This is the stuff of real life. Thanks for reading, friends.
Once again we see no lack of Establishment Creatives who can't help but be destructive of something pure and good. Are we surprised?? Of course not.
As we discussed yesterday, one way to destroy a community of creators is to dilute its intrinsic value from the inside out, watering down any bright burning of light by colonizing its culture or selling it's very soul. No doubt right now there are awlful people plotting and engineering Endemic Tilde Ad Platforms, offering profitsharing and corporate oppurtunity for just the tiniest slice of integrity. Your integrity. Mine. Even now, Print Publishers like Mat Honan are hungry for their "brand to be associated with a cool community of makers". Shocking.
But tilde club doesn't cowtow to any merchant on the street, like some greenhorn trading hard-earned silver dollars for a chance to toll the Brookly bridge. We know better, and brands would do well to heed this warning.
A perhaps more insidious way to work for the downfall of a culture is to dismiss it with a wave of the highbrow hand, to encourage others to do the same, to inhibit its spread. And already we see these lobster thermidore literary types doing just that:
"Tilde Club: Then as farce," quips Mr. Rusty Foster, his nose surely upturned. If we can call it a 'quip'. A quip is funny.
But there's nothing funny about mocking something you don't understand. What may seem to an establishment Outsider like Mr. Foster, sitting high atop a pile of novellas and perl scripts, to be a game of make believe, may, IN FACT, be a rich oragnism of artistry that you simply have yet to comprehend. A rebellion against the neverending streams and socials that have for too long consumed the corporate web. Exploration of the expression and subtlety that makes us human. That last stand of Quality, yelling against the dying of the light.
Tilde club is simplicity. The pure act of creating, controlling the means of production.
Tilde club is scarcity. The freedom of finding an end, a respite from refresh.
Tilde club is serendipity. The pleasure of stumbling onto hand-made beauty in an ugly world.
And those things are not dead, despite what corporate schills, with their book deals and email blasts, may want you do believe. Those things are pure, Mr. Foster. Those things are real. And we will not sit idley bye while you effort to undermine that value, in a culture you don't even understand.
And I'm not going anywhere. I'm standing up and shouting.
I'm not alone.
We see that despite the noble and nostalgaspirational intentions of the tilde club founders that already some among what I'll now call the "third wave" of users have total disregard for existing tilde.club culture and values of existing users therein.
Are any of us shocked at this? Of course not. It's another in a long line of communities both online and off colonized by cultural tourists and late-comers, blindyly gentrifying away everything pure in an community of artists and communicators.
Leading in this trend is ~Choire, whose efforts to monetize his own tilde show a blantant disregard for the (granted, largely unspoken) code of conduct that has governed the action of tilders since the early days. Choire uses a sort of insidery hiplit lingo to offer the impression of ironic performance art, but make no mistakes: these Endemic Content Brandings targeted at "Digital "Natives"" are spades that should be called spades: colonial capitalism masking as clever writing, "paradigm satire exploration" or whatever literary constructs this bastion has appropriated from the latest Vice video or re-read DFW essay. And so is Quality undone, ssure as froyo shops and Chipotle take over our neighborhoods, pushing out the true dive bars and mom n bop ice cream shops. Are we surprised??
Snicker in your dumbo gardens apartment, smoking on your jaunty cigarettes, as the real Influencers, those unsung who put blood and sweat into the work they love, are passed over by your mainstream corporate channels.
Maybe I'll continue writing here and maybe I won't.