Dream of Gigabytes

Woodall Rogers Freeway, Dallas, Texas, thirty second exposure, taken from the west end of Klyde Warren Park

Jung said that science is nested in a dream. The dream is that if we investigated the structures of material reality with sufficient attention and truth, that we could then learn enough about material reality to then alleviate suffering: To produce the philosopher’s stone – to make everybody wealthy, to make everybody healthy, to make everyone live as long as they wanted to live or perhaps forever. That’s the goal – to alleviate the catastrophe of existence. The idea that the solutions to the mysteries of life that enable us to develop such a substance, or multitude of substances, provided the motive force for the development of science. Jung traced that development of the motive force to over the period of 1,000 years. Jung went back into alchemical texts and interpreted them as if they were the dream upon which science was founded.

—-Jordan Peterson

I don’t usually remember my dreams. I know I have had them, I can feel them silvering away, sliding into forgetfulness. I’m left with vague feelings of fear and dread – so maybe it’s best that I don’t remember.

But sometimes I do. The other night I clearly remember one – or at least a good part of it. I go on these photowalks when I can manage it, and one was scheduled for Friday night down in the arts district. I’ve been thinking about this walk – working on a way to carry a tripod (it will fit in a gym bag I have – barely) and planning on doing some long exposures in the dark – working with blur and such.

In my dream I was doing my photowalk and taking a lot of pictures. Suddenly, a scene opened up in front of me, something of indescribably beauty and interest. It must have been indescribable because I don’t remember what it was. But it was something that I absolutely had to take a photo of.

When I pushed the shutter nothing happened. I discovered that my memory card was full.

Frantically, I lowered my camera and began deleting photos I had taken, trying to free up space for this amazing something right in front of my eyes. But I was too slow, and missed the photo of a lifetime.

I wondered what this dream meant and resolved to take a lot of photos – maybe even fill the card up.

When Friday arrived I carefully packed my bag with my camera, full battery, extra lens, tripod, and cable release. At the appropriate time after work I lugged the pack down to the LBJ/Central DART train station to ride downtown for the photowalk. Once the train began to move I decided to check everything one more time. It was all in the bag… then I pulled out my camera. Checking the battery once more, I saw the dreaded warning, “NO SD CARD INSERTED.”

My card was, of course, still on my desk at home stuck in my laptop where I had transferred the data from my last photoshoot. I didn’t panic – but was pretty upset at my idiocy. I began to think, “This is a huge city, where can I buy an SD card?” I didn’t have much time,

I don’t like to be late to group things.

I knew there was a 7/11 convenience store downtown, right at my last train stop. It’s major purpose is to sell cheap wine to the homeless, but it might have digital cards – for tourists and stuff. I pulled out my phone, did a search and found a page that listed items that 7/11 stores carried. I typed in “Dallas” and was presented with odd results – then I realized it was a dot.au site and I was searching Australian convenience stores – not much help.

Time was slipping away – the train was hurtling toward a digital-less downtown. So I pulled up Google Maps on my phone, watching the blue dot of my train going down the tracks. Looking ahead – I noticed that there was an office supply store right next to the Lover’s Lane train stop.

I was able to find a 16 gig card in the clearance rack. The whole store had a sad feel to it, Amazon is grinding office supply stores to dust.

Walked back to the train stop, caught the next train, and made it right on time. The day was too hot and I had trouble getting enthused – though I heard a really good Texas ambient band, This Will Destroy You, at the Nasher and am now a bit of a fan. I did figure out how to handle the tripod, camera, and cable release – will work on my technique for the future.

And pay more attention to my dreams.

Valuable Things Are Never Easy To Understand

“I am the twentieth century. I am the ragtime and the tango; sans-serif, clean geometry. I am the virgin’s-hair whip and the cunningly detailed shackles of decadent passion. I am every lonely railway station in every capital of Europe. I am the Street, the fanciless buildings of government. the cafe-dansant, the clockwork figure, the jazz saxophone, the tourist-lady’s hairpiece, the fairy’s rubber breasts, the travelling clock which always tells the wrong time and chimes in different keys. I am the dead palm tree, the Negro’s dancing pumps, the dried fountain after tourist season. I am all the appurtenances of night.”
― Thomas Pynchon, V.

I was waiting with my bicycle at the Galatyn Park DART train station for some friends to arrive when I noticed patterns, codes obviously, cut into the steel of the railing by the station artist, Jim Cinquemani.

Galatyn Park DART Station, Richardson, Texas

Galatyn Park DART Station, Richardson, Texas

The first one was easy. That’s Morse Code. I don’t know it by heart, but I know how it works. It spells out the name of the place, Galatyn Park.

Galatyn Station, DART, Richardson Texas

Galatyn Station, DART, Richardson Texas

So I confidently dove in to the puzzle of the second missive. It’s obviously some sort of Teletype Code. Since I already knew what it probably said, I thought it would be easy. A seven bit code (ASCII is usually seven bits) – but what is that one bit that is always on? And the message is twenty-six characters long… There are so many different codes, with strange encoding patterns and a lot of mysterious control codes.

I’m old enough to have worked with paper tape – back when kilobytes of information were all we had to work with. This looks like computer paper tape – but it might be an even older technology.

I never was able to figure it out. I’ll work on it awhile – and then maybe email the sculptor and see if he will tell me.

Finally, the last two codes:

Fence at Galatyn Park Sation.

Fence at Galatyn Park Sation.

Galatyn Park DART Station - with car passing behind.

Galatyn Park DART Station – with car passing behind.

These are obviously analog output. Maybe voice recordings? No way to decode – but they do look cool.

“It’s been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home — only the millions of last moments . . . nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow


Since the advent of digital photography, the whole rhythm of taking pictures has changed. You shoot, then tilt the camera down to look at what you have.

Sometimes you don’t even think. Shoot, tilt, look, delete, shoot, tilt, look, delete. Repeat until you get what you want.

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

I miss the days when you had to wait. These were the days when every statement about a photograph was prefaced with, “If it comes out…”.

There was the excitement of picking up the thick paper envelope of prints at the photography store. Standing on the sidewalk outside, tearing open the packet, and going through the pictures. Usually, there would be one that you knew was the shot you really wanted and you would quickly shuffle until you came to that one. Then you would pause and stare. You would, “If it came out…”.

Or, even more exciting, was the sweet smell of bitter chemicals, the dim yellow/green safelight, and the ghostly image appearing out of nothing on the waving paper drifting in the developing bath. There was a sensual excitement of the whole ritual – from loading film on a reel in the pitch dark – working completely by feel. Then the mixing of chemicals followed by waving your hands in the rays of the enlarger, dodging and burning and trying to get everything just right. Finally the developing, the fixing, the washing and then drying. Only after all that could you turn on the light and see what you had… art, or crap. Or both. Or neither.

Digital Nostalgia

I was talking to Nick and Lee about digital technology, history, and advancement, trying not to be so much of an old fart – “When I was a kid we had to walk fifty miles to school through twenty feet of blowing snow….”.

They were messing with their IPhones and imagining what the state of digital electronics would be in ten, twenty years from now; when the IPhone will be as clunky and obsolete as a hand-cranked telephone. I talked a bit about when I was young – back then you were not allowed to own your own phone – you rented it from the phone company. They were usually hard-wired into the wall (when I was in college, our city of Lawrence, Kansas, was a pilot program for the now-ubiquitous cube taps – it seemed revolutionary [which it was, more than we imagined at the time]) and very, very few folks had more than one phone in the house.

The kids said that the smartphone was the most important digital invention in their lifetime (so far) and that it had changed the way they lived. They are right – the fact that you are now able to tap into the far-flung digital word from any spot (pretty much) on the planet at any time. They were especially adamant about being able to access the web at a moment’s notice is revolutionary – not only communications, but information, maps, social networks…. it really is amazing… here in this, the best of all possible worlds.

I think of going to high school in Central America…. I felt so isolated and out of touch. If the Internet existed then (forget about smart phones) I would have been able to stay up with things…. A few years later – single, back in the US, it was so easy to lose contact. Social Media, a smart phone – what a difference that would have made. I think of all the time I spent searching for pay phones, trying to keep up.

I started thinking of the moments of digital history that affected me. Not so much the technology itself, but the split seconds, the flashes of epiphany, when I realized that things were changing irrevocably – that new worlds of possibility were opening up.

Nick and Lee really didn’t understand what I was getting at, but I still thought about it-

I remember when I first understood the power of using a computer with a graphical interface. I’d been using the early Windows programs and the mouse and all was cool – but I didn’t see what the big deal was. Until one day, sort of at random, I realized I could cut from one program and paste the data, pretty much intact, into a completely different application…. I could do complex calculations in a spreadsheet, for example, and simply cut the whole mess out and paste them into a word processing document without any extra typing. And do that again and again and again until the report was done in a tenth of the time it would have taken me before.

That was a moment when I knew things had changed.

I remember, long before that, before the Internet, even when I discovered digital bulletin boards. I’d stay up late and use my computer to dial in (remember the sounds of dialup and modem negotiation, the tones, the hissing – like Pavlov’s dogs my fingers would itch whenever I heard that sound) and trade ideas and information with total strangers over the phone lines. Once the Internet arrived a couple years later, I was ready for it – it seemed like a single world-wide bulletin board (which it was).

There are hundreds of such moments… all clear as a bell with the perverse lucidity of nostalgia.

One moment stands out for me, however. In and of itself, it wasn’t a big deal, but something about it…. It was the first time I saw a laser printer spit out a document. I had been working for years with Daisy Wheel Printers and then with the Dot Matrix ones. The loud buzzing of the print heads, whopping of the paper, and the crash of the carriage return were ingrained in my ears, brain, and soul.

Of course, I had heard of Laser Printers, but they were somehow an exotic vision of expense and extravagance, something that worthless peons like myself would never have access to. I was visiting another company, one significantly more advanced than mine, and working on some joint reports. When we finished, the little box started spitting out documents with nothing more than an insignificant little whir. That is what amazed me, the silence. You want it? Here it is. No big deal.

My jaw dropped.

Things had changed; things would never be the same again.