Sunday, October 18, 2009

Watching the kitten spasmodically attack things.  I had the most fun last night, it was three Halloween parties in succession.  I wore the Ashley costume to the first one only, then switched to something a little more demure.

The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our NeighborsI finished Hal Niedzviecki's The Peep Diaries, and it really opened my eyes.  I spend a lot of time as it is with reality TV, blogging, facebook, and paranoia....spent some of last year thinking I was being watched by surveillance cameras and subject to near-constant verbal commentary.  By linking these elements together into a larger cultural zeitgeist, Niedzviecki both validated some of my suspicions about what was going on the the larger digital wonderland, and confirmed that the internet is watching us as much as we are watching it.

However, what I walked away with was a sense of empowerment.  My dear girlfriend had worried that I would become more paranoid after reading it, however I actually felt less.  The key factor here was clarification of surveillance.

After finishing the book somewhere near 6 am, and a restless sleep, Katie and I went to run errands.  Driving through Glendale, I realized that I could finally see the cameras.  This sounds more psychotic coming from an admitted mental patient, but bear with me.  We were driving through a series of car dealerships, and there would be a camera pointed at the goods.  I began to make a hobby out of looking for the camera.  The bland black dome cameras, ubiquitous and subtle.  Once I began looking, they jumped out.  In the makeup aisle at CVS, in the low-income pharmacy, next to a "smile, you're on camera" sign clumsily taped outside a jewelry store.

The recognition of what was being watched clarified to me what wasn't.  It was seeing the eye.  "The eye of god," as K's tattoo artist put it.  Previously I didn't know what the camera's looked like, so they could be everywhere and nowhere.  An old boyfriend used to talk about "spycameras" looking into our bedroom windows through the blinds, and old women selling the tapes by the Powell Station Bart, along with feather earrings and bootleg DVDs.  I suspected and well knew that was psychosis.

The blurry space of psychosis and paranoia, the disconnect of what is perceived and what is believed.  I've had many conversations where I posited that "the ads on the internet change according to what I post in my blog/status update/search for on google" or "the neighbors are watching me and talking about me".  I now know the former is true. The latter, who cares.

Once I knew where I was being observed and where I was not.  I felt a lot more comfortable.  I felt validated, but also safer.  Because I can control what I put into the internet datastream, and then step back and do whatever I want in my home, safe in the knowledge that I know what commercial surveillance cameras look like, and they are not in here.

Jet Set DesolateThis also relates to what I put into my writing.  Jet Set Desolate just came out, and my dear family is reading it.  As are housemates, friends, and strangers.  This is both the culmination of a dream and eerily disconcerting.  Once information, stories, secrets become public domain, once the book is on Amazon tagged with mental illness, homosexuality, drugs, etc..., I am outed.  This reveal is both more and less calculated than whatever I overshare elsewhere.

By cloaking the story in fiction, and indeed, some of it is...the novel becomes a separate object.  It is not my diary. However, it is a lurid glimpse into a world now past.  It is a camera into so many secrets.  It is both real and unreal.  It is not the truth.

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