A contagious confluence, metaphorical hydraulics in chronofluidity, multiple rippling effects.

Location: Lawrence, Kansas

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Scan for Origins

Steve had some trouble reading the Gideon Bible map under the dim dome light in the car, but he finally found the trailer park in Cabool and Lenny’s trailer. Apparently Lenny wasn’t back yet, but the door was open so he invited himself in. The front half of the trailer was neat, clean, organized. The back half, behind a curtain was stacked ceiling high with newspapers, bankers boxes with news clippings, each box labeled with presumably the contents: Winrod Letters, White Aryan Seed, Covenant Sword Arm of the Lord, Teutonic Wrath, Sons of God, Lizard Race, Twin Towers Theories, and on and on. Lenny’s bed was at the far end, unmade, barely visible among the papers and boxes, with a goat trail leading to it. The trailer park had a satellite dish, and Steve was surprised to come across Channel Tao while flipping through the available signals. A rare rain-swollen arroyo in northern New Mexico rushed through Lenny’s old black-and-white television as he continued to look around.

He waited an hour, then two, still no Lenny. He got up from his chair and began exploring the trailer again. On the kitchen counter was a stack of mail—credit card offers mostly—and a National Geographic with an article on the Extinction Index. Next to the mail was a crisp five dollar bill. Steve picked it up idly and turned it over to reveal the red tag.

Steve recognized the sticker as a microchip label used on produce. It was big in Japan—you use a scanner to read the information stored on it. Tells you stuff like where the fruit was grown, if chemicals were used, the pH of the soil, the grower’s name. Some growers even included jpegs or mpegs to show the field the vegetables were grown in, pictures of his family, kind of the Japanese version of driving out into the country and buying your vegetables from the farm family at the roadside stand. The field workers slapped them on the produce as they harvested—some chips even date stamped and recorded weather conditions at the time of picking. In the U.S., organic growers were starting to use the chips as a way to certify their produce, though it hadn’t caught on yet. As plugged in as Americans were, they didn’t come close to the Japanese in embracing new digital gimmickry.

But Steve did. Joy had given him a universal scanner for Valentine’s Day. He used it when shopping at the local natural food store, but mainly for reading the barcoded output from his REM monitor. That had been another Valentine’s gift the year before.

Steve went out to his car to fetch his computer bag. He scanned the label and downloaded the results to the laptop. First there was a series of digital pictures: an Indian aiming an arrow at the sky; an outer spacescape, labeled “Ultra Deep Field,” what looked like a child’s drawing of a sailing ship. Then there was a sound file of a faint, rasping voice speaking, almost chanting, what sounded like Greek, but barely perceptible as background noises rose and fell like liquid static against the voice. Next was a video sequence in which a pair of leathery hands set a stack of paper-thin clay bowls on the ground and then removed the bowls one by one from the stack, placing them in an array, equidistant in a straight line, all bowls tipped on their sides in the same direction. Then another sound file, an organ playing a verrrry slow blues before fading to silence, and a hyperlink. He would click on the link, but not yet.