I’m sitting in a Houma furniture shop’s office and a band a lot of my friends are in, Blackwater Burial, is practicing across the hall. Because we’re all friends, we’ve heard each others’ songs a hundred times before. The official beer of Blackwater Burial, a lukewarm Natural Light, is in front of me, daring me to put more of it in my stomach. I already know it’s going to win this dare because it’s raining cold and hard outside and I’ll be here for at least another few hours. Because it’s the 21st century, I pull out my iPhone before I have a chance to start thinking about things. I halfheartedly check my feeds and whatever I’d been browsing on Safari a couple weeks back which turns out to be yet another strange winding journey through Wikipedia.
“The internet is boring tonight,” I say, out loud to myself because I feel like it’s okay to do that in situations where even I can’t hear it. I shut the phone off and drink my disgusting beer and my mind starts to wander like it used to before I got this phone. I realize I just said ‘The internet is boring tonight’, as though every single aspect of the internet has nothing going on. “Now, there’s a concept,” I say — when was the last time there was an absence of internet activity for even a microsecond, a complete lack of any upload, download, email, messaging or any other conceivable kind of data transfer-in-progress happening worldwide? A finite point has to exist where–then my sister interrupts this thought by texting me.
“Hi”, the text says.
When we were growing up in the 90’s, she used email and browsers while I was still dialing onto BBS’s and Telix messaging with my friends so I learned most of the fundamentals of using the modern internet from her. And here in the future, I’m sitting there, bored with the entirety of the internet that’s instantly accessible in my 2013 hand, forgetting again that signing on to the internet used to be a whole *thing*, a commitment of time and preventing people from using the phone or calling the house. Switches had to flipped, things had to be typed, boxes had to be clicked, noisy digital handshakes had to be sat through just to be able to see who put something in your Juno box. If you were going to go online, it was going to be for something that was worth the effort — or maybe it was going to be worth the effort by default because of the effort. Hmm. With no warning the words “email@example.com” pop into my head, a string I haven’t thought about for more than a decade.
“No way,” I say, out loud of course, “there’s no way.” I go to Juno.com and at the top it says “Juno Email Sign In”. I’m kind of shocked that it’s still around. I enter “wiracocha1” into the username blank and then type in the password I used to use in the 90’s because I have a great memory for completely useless data like that. I’m waiting for the inevitable “No Such User” or whatever to show up, when my inbox pops up for the first time in eons.
“No fuckin’ way!” I shout.
“What?” comes a voice across the hall. The band was taking a break from playing and I hadn’t even noticed.
“Nothing, I just signed into an email account that’s old enough to vote,” I call back.
“Oh, wow,” comes the reply. He sounds genuinely impressed and, yeah, he should be. I certainly am. All my emails from back then were long gone of course. I had met a girl from Texas when I was in Hammond at some “Here’s why you should go to Southeastern University” thing that failed to convince me I should go there. I wonder if she ended up going there. Anyway, we had traded email addresses and we’d casually flirt with each other once a week for a few months before we just sort of found better things to do. All that was gone now. A shame, I wanted to see what sort of game I had as a teenager. You know what, maybe it’s better that I can’t.
Once again, that email address is firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to email 90’s Jak, who will reply to you if you do with 90’s teenage Jak flavored advice because I don’t have enough aimless projects already. If it’s fun enough, maybe I’ll put them on a blog page or something like that.
“Hello”, I text my sister back.
She lets me know she just made a Twitter account. “Welcome aboard,” I text back. “Enjoy spambots.”
“Enjoy what?” she asks.
I read that a few times to make sure I’m parsing it correctly. “You’ve been on the internet longer than me and you don’t know what a spambot is?” I wait an extra few seconds before I send it, trying to simulate a disbelieving stare. That’s a tough thing to pull off over text.
“No, I know what a spambot is. How does that affect my Twitter unless I follow one?” I try to explain. I’m not very good at it. She understands it enough to move on though. “I expect I’ll be a pretty boring Twit.”
“Angelle says it’s kind of like a giant chat room or something.” I try to explain. I’m not very good at it.
“Tell me what you think of what I have and maybe you can help me make it better,” she says. I look at her page and there’s all of one tweet. It’s about bread.
“Oh wow,” I say out loud, not just because the band has started playing again. “Oh wow”, I text, “bread, huh”.
“How can I make it better?”
“Twitter posts or bread?”
I try to explain that I’m not very good at it. “When I’m not talking to people on it, I just post whatever stupid things I temporarily think are clever or entertaining. Half the time I think ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have posted that’, and in all cases I’ve forgotten about it a half hour later. I’m probably not using it right either.”
“Ah.” And the conversation ends there. So many text and chat conversations end with “Ah” that when I see it, it’s a reflex for me now to close the window or lock the phone. I lock the phone and listen to the music and drink more awful beer. It tastes like morning mouth and old keys. Seriously, I hate this stuff. It’s this or water from the sink though.
A few hours later it’s two in the morning and I’m driving back to New Orleans from Houma in outrageous rain. I’ve been up all day and I’m starting to get dangerously tired so when I get to a red light I start scrolling through my phone contacts for people who would still be awake. I call Amanda because her name starts with A so it’s the first one I come to. I bet people with names that start with A get these kind of calls a lot more than anyone else. Good thing to keep in mind for your kids, future parents.
“Hey Jak,” she answers.
“You at work?”
“No, I’m at home.”
“Congratulations, you’ve been chosen in the Exhaustion Lottery. You get to keep me from falling asleep at the wheel for the next half hour.”
“I’m so honored.”
“I’m so tired.”
We talk for a while, mostly about shitty beer. Then out of nowhere she asks me “Do you have Netflix?”
“Half my friends do so I have access to it enough to say yes.”
“You need to watch an episode of the A-Team called ‘Cowboy George’.”
“‘Cowboy George’.” I chuckle and decide to go for the obvious joke. “Where Boy George guest stars on the A-Team.”
“Oh, so you’ve seen it. Wasn’t that crazy?!” Wait, she isn’t joking.
“Hold up,” I say, “Boy George guest stars on the A-Team? This is a thing?” Over the next minute she details the entire setup of the plot for the episode to me and it’s even sillier than the one I had in my head. See for yourself. The next day I watched the episode with Angelle and the execution is even sillier than the setup. I recommend you watch it too if you can.
Because obsolesence should never get in the way of execution, and because I just really like tapes and miss working with them, I’m putting out “Jak Is A Four Letter Word” as a double cassette release with a brand new extra EP included, “Side D”. The last cassette release I did was in early 2003 — wow, almost exactly ten years ago, I just realized that — and it’s been really neat recalling all these things about the whole process. I’d gotten so used to 74 minute CDs and unmetered internet releases that I forgot how strict the time limitations can be per tape and per side, enough that it can influence track order and necessitate shaving parts off of songs to make them fit. The dubbing is time consuming, the equipment is old and loud and clunky, the j-cards and labels are a mess of cutting and folding and sticking, and I’ve loved every single inefficient outmoded minute of all of it. By its nature, I have to put a lot more into each copy than I ever could just uploading a batch of MP3s and a PNG file to Bandcamp, and there’s something I like about that. If you want one, I’ll bring a copy to every show I do until they’re all sold out. Give me a bit though, I’m still finishing them up.
Oh and hey, pictures from live shows are back again for like the seventh time or so! Instead of having thousands of badly composed dark pictures like I had the last time live pictures were up on this site (2009 I think?), I’ve only put up a few of the best shots from each year. Maybe I’ll put some more up. Or maybe it’ll disappear yet again. It’s just one thrilling mystery after another here isn’t it?