Greetings from New York City.
My work is very simple. I have come to New York because it is the most forlorn of places, the most abject. The brokenness is everywhere, the disarray is universal. You have only to open your eyes to see it. The broken people, the broken things, the broken thoughts. The whole city is a junk heap. It suits my purposes admirably.
From Paul Auster’s City of Glass, which I was reading this evening at this very nice cafe:
Almost daily I go to Cafe Roma in Eugene; its lack of wi-fi is refreshing, leaving me untempted to be connected, and free to work and think. Cafe Grumpy, above, takes this a step further by asking patrons not to use laptops. About two miles into an excellent several-mile walk this evening, following an enhausting few days at a microscopy conference, I came to the cafe above and spent about 45 minutes reading City of Glass. I started it a few days ago; it’s fantastic. A few weeks ago, I read Invisible, by Auster. I’m amazed that I haven’t read Paul Auster before this year, since the sorts of postmodern contortions he does are the sort of thing I like. But I have a vague feeling that I have, in fact, read something by Auster before and have forgotten about it, which wouldn’t surprise me.
A passage in one of the chapters I’m reading deals with the fluidity of the meanings of words (like I said, it’s a postmodern novel). It reminded me of a discussion at the conference this morning, on whether one should save “raw data” from microscopy experiments, or save the output of processing that translates (and condenses) images into some other form. A speaker, defending not saving the images themselves, claimed that “raw data” should really mean “the data that gets saved to the hard drive.” Discussion ensued. When the term was coined, it was presumed, I suppose, that the meaning of “raw” was obvious. But as data changes and time goes on, it clearly isn’t obvious what meaning “raw” has. Perhaps soon, it will have no meaning at all.
Continuing the quote:
Each day I go out with my bag and collect objects that seem worthy of investigation. My samples now number in the hundreds — from the chipped to the smashed, from the dented to the squashed, from the pulverized to the putrid.
Which reminds me, I should try to find a present for Julie…