An interesting thing happened to me at work today. A colleague asked me to search for some information about an event we held around the year 2000 and, knowing that our current website didn’t got back any further than 2002, I searched for the answer on the remnants of our old website. Unfortunately, the information wasn’t there either. In fact, there was no information dated before 2002.
This got me thinking about the time before “online”, and I found it really hard to think back to a time when I didn’t just grab the nearest device with Internet access to find the answers to my questions. These days, without even thinking of alternative methods, we just ask Google all of our questions.
I thought back to the late 90s and early “noughties”, and tried to remember what I was doing back then. I remember emailing people and having a certain amount of Internet access, but I also remember going to the library and looking things up in books.
What a different world we live in today! I honestly can’t remember the last time I went to a library to research something, and that makes me a little bit sad. The thing is though, the information held in libraries becomes outdated so quickly now, whereas the information online can be kept up-to-date, amended and corrected, in mere moments. Just look at Wikipedia.
The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) protests have been in the news this week, and many of us witnessed the Wikipedia blackout in which content was blocked for 24 hours in protest at proposed anti-piracy legislation in the US. Wikipedia asked, “Could you imagine a world without free knowledge“, but haven’t we always had access to free information through public and institutional libraries?
As much as I wholeheartedly support the protest, I do also wonder if people have forgotten the “good old days”. I realised that I almost had, and that was quite a scary realisation.
As for the information I was searching for at work, we may never find the answer. I don’t know if the organisation I work for even had a website before 2002 but, if they did, there doesn’t seem to be any record of it. There may be printed papers somewhere, but they will most likely be lost in the sands of time by now.
I have a confession to make. Recently, and not for the first time, I have got into a book, even though it’s meant for kids or teenagers. Yes, me, a fully grown woman, reading books about teenage vampires. I’m talking about Twilight, of course.
As I said, this is not the first time. Before Twilight came along, I read Harry Potter. In both cases, I resisted reading the books for a long time. Even when they became hugely popular and movies were made of them, I still tried to resist. I thought I should be reading grown-up books. But, both times, a friend eventually recommended the book to me, and I do like to trust a friend’s recommendation. So, I gave in.
As for Harry Potter, I enjoyed reading the books, although I grew a bit tired by the time I read the last one. I felt it had gone on a bit too long. I also watched the movies, but gave up on them somewhere along the way. The movies were good, but much more for kids than the books, I felt. The books, despite being written for kids, included a lot of adult themes and jokes; things which would perhaps go unnoticed by the younger kids.
Twilight also seems very adult, despite being written for teenagers. Actually, when I first started reading it I was still resisting, and still thinking “this book’s for kids!”. But, about half-way through, when it started getting really romantic, I found myself getting drawn in further. As a teenager, I had been really into vampire stories – I liked Anne Rice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and reading Twilight just brought it all back for me. I guess it makes me feel like a teenager again, and that’s why I like it (god I sound old!).
I do have one final guilty pleasure to confess: The Carrie Diaries. This is a prequel to Sex and the City, about Carrie as a teenager and, actually, I didn’t realise it was meant for teenagers when I bought it! It wasn’t until I started reading that I cottoned on. But, despite that, I really enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next book. It was painfully funny at times and, again, reminded me of being a teenager.
So, this all leaves me wondering: should I be writing books for teenagers? I had feared that perhaps teens would soon be quitting reading in favour of computer games and movies, but it seems that maybe that isn’t the case – yet. Anyway, if I write a book for teenagers and no teens want to read it, I’m sure some adults will! 😉
Recently, I’ve been teaching a bit of poetry to one of my private students at work. She’s quite enthralled with it all, and it’s been making me miss my poetry collection back home. Until I’m reunited with my books, I will have to make do with the Internet. Yesterday was National Poetry Day. I used to try to write something on National Poetry Day, but this year I settled for reading. This morning, I discovered a Chilean poet called Pablo Neruda. He wrote this wonderful poem, translated by Alastair Reid, called “Return to a City”. Here it is:
Return to a City
What have I come to? I ask them.
Who am I in this dead city?
I can’t find either the street or the roof
of the crazy girl who once loved me.
There’s no doubting the crows in the branches,
the monsoon green and boiling,
the scarlet spittle
in the eroded streets,
the air heavy–but where,
where was I, who was I?
I understand only the ashes.
The betel-seller looks at me,
recognizing neither my shoes
nor my recently resurrected face.
Perhaps his grandfather would grant me
a salaam, but it so happens
that he succumbed while I was travelling,
dropped deep into the well of death.
I slept in such a building
fourteen months and the corresponding years;
I wrote out my misery.
innocently into bitterness.
I pass now and the door is not there.
The rain has been working overtime.
Now it dawns on me that I have been
not just one man but several,
and that I have died so many times
with no notion of how I was reborn,
as if the act of changing clothes
were to force me to live another life,
and here I am without the least idea
of why I cannot recognize a soul,
of why no one recognizes me,
as if everyone here were dead
and I alive in the midst of such forgetting,
a bird that still survives–
or, the reverse, the city watching me,
and realizing I am the one who is dead.
I walk through the silk bazaars,
and the markets of misery.
It is hard to believe the streets
are the selfsame streets; the black eyes,
hard as nailpoints,
glare back against my glances,
and the pale Gold Pagoda
with all its frozen idolatry
has no eyes now, no hands,
no longer any fire.
Goodbye, streets soiled by time,
goodbye, goodbye, lost love.
I return to the wine of my house,
I return to the love of my loved one,
to what I was and to what I am,
water and sun, earth ripe with apples,
months with lips and with names.
I come back not to return;
no more do I wish to mislead myself.
It is dangerous to wander
backward, for all of a sudden
the past turns into a prison.