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Tony Grist

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Ghost Ships [Feb. 17th, 2005|08:38 am]
Tony Grist
I wonder what the average life span of an lj is. A few months I suspect. Many expire after a handfull of entries, some are never used at all. Already the lj universe is full of husks, space junk, ghost ships. To happen upon one is an eerie, Marie Celeste-type experience. Here's an info page, full of vim and pep and silly jokes and then you move to the journal proper and find that the last entry was written a year and a half ago.

The creak of the rigging, the cry of the gulls.

Sometimes the last entry contains a farewell, but that's rare, more often there's no hint of impending demise. The story just ends, the monologue cut off in mid flow.

Mostly one supposes, the writer just lost interest in their new toy, grew up, got a life, but on a simple law of averages some of these hulks must have been abandoned because disaster struck. So there's always the question, did something terrible happen here?

There are one or two ghost ships on my friends list. I should let them go, but superstition or sentiment prevents me. What if the owner returned to find herself friendless? How sad that would be.

There's going to come a time, I suppose, when the lj dead will outnumber the living. That'll be weird. An ocean full of drifting hulks and only here and there a ship under sail. At present lj is new enough for the dead to blend with the living- ignore the date in the header and you may not spot anything strange in the text- but give it a few more years and the ghost ships will be antiques, full of dated slang and gossip about forgotten celebs. Paris Hilton- who she? I find the future of lj- and indeed of the Net as a whole- almost impossible to imagine.

[User Picture]From: sorenr
2005-02-17 02:11 am (UTC)
Our journals and blogs are like the tales in Dubliners; no real beginning, no climactic end. Just a fragment, spanning a certain period of an immensely greater story. Imagine, some people believe to know me from this, and yet they have only had the chance to be privvy to my life since May last year. Such a short fragment. A shard of glass, reflecting the light of some distant candle.

I have a dead blog hidden away somewhere in the morass of the internet. Every now and then somebody stumbles upon it and make a comment. It is strange to hear how people respond to things that happened so very, very long ago. An entire year ago. A year, and an eon.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 02:20 am (UTC)
Will social historians of the future love the Net or will they be intimidated and frustrated by its vastness?
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From: geodesus_christ
2005-02-17 02:23 am (UTC)
So there's always the question, did something terrible happen here?

most likely some kind of e-drama! I think a lot of people move to new blogs when they realize they can't really say anything they honestly feel or want to write about in their journals because of who might be reading.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 03:02 am (UTC)
There's a voice at my shoulder that keeps whispering "you can't say that." Sometimes I give in to it and sometimes I don't.
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[User Picture]From: thewayupward
2005-02-17 05:02 am (UTC)
I like the way you see things. That said, this entry is going to give me nightmares for weeks! What a morbid notion. How sad and how frightening - who'd have thought? I've never seen it like this and now I'll never be able to see it any other way. I would be sad if your livejournal became a ghost ship 'cause I would miss you and your interestingthoughts.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 05:28 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'd miss you too.

The Net is such a new phenomenon. Who knows what it will look like in 20 years time...or 50....or 100.
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[User Picture]From: jenny_evergreen
2005-02-17 05:31 am (UTC)
I found once, when going over my list, that I was the only person who still had a certain person listed as a friend. Talk about an inability to remove someone!
I love this entry; thanks for taking something so easily seen as mundane and making it poetic. :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 05:45 am (UTC)
I think there's at least one person on my list with the same status. She opened an lj, angsted a few times, was a little freaked that anyone had friended her, then departed. I don't have the heart to drop her.

And who knows, she may still be out there reading...
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From: sunfell
2005-02-17 06:10 am (UTC)
I joined LJ back in '01 to join a certian community (which I am no longer part of). My LJ drifted without posts for about a year, then I started to write, and found that it scratched that itch more than anything else. So, I post when the whim (or a good article) catches me. I share things I think might be interesting. If something is private, I keep it private, or don't post it at all.

I don't have an internal censor. I write what I want to, and if it offends anyone, they can go away. Or we can discuss it, until or unless the commentary in turn becomes offensive or they attack me. That hasn't happened yet- but I have the tools to take care of any trolls who might want to mess things up.

The 'ghost ships' that really sadden me belong to people who have been killed in the Iraq war.

But for me, writing is a calming thing, a stimulating thing- and something I would do one way or another. I kept journals in spiral notebooks and wrote letters by hand for years. Now, I have an electronic means to do so. If the lights go out and the dark ages return to the US, I'll return to my old standbys. I'll miss the keyboard, though...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 08:40 am (UTC)
I used to walk around amusing myself by composing little articles in my head- and most of the time they never got written down, let alone published. It was as if I were marking time, waiting for the invention of the blog.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2005-02-17 06:24 am (UTC)
The creak of the rigging, the cry of the gulls.
An ocean full of drifting hulks and only here and there a ship under sail.

Wonderfully put. You have a gift for finding romance in the mundane.

One of my LJ friends had friended someone who died of cancer last year. After hearing of her death I went to her LJ. The last post was written by her husband, who thanked everyone who had supported her in her fight. It does have the eerieness of walking through a dark graveyard or forest, in a sense.

I agree with the above post, that these journals provide a wonderful opportunity for social research, not only anthropology but nearly every academic field. It'll be interesting to see what it's capable of revealing.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 08:22 am (UTC)
That is eerie. But I suppose no eerier than walking though a library full of books by dead authors. I'm in the process of reading Pride and Prejudice- and I don't find myself spooked by the thought that I'm attending to a voice from beyond the grave-
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[User Picture]From: tamnonlinear
2005-02-17 06:24 am (UTC)
A lovely post.

This one struck me particularly as I'm often caught by the idea of the past still existing; if I drove to an old apartment, an earlier version of me would still be living there, a childhood me still plays at the playground that no longer exists.

If you read through old posts, does it matter if they were written that morning or five years ago? I can hunt down previous iterations of myself online, find the conversations and debates I had then, and ignore the datestamp. I find it strange to thinkt hat someone can read them and see that part of myself I left there, and maybe not know I'm not really there anymore.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 09:01 am (UTC)
I sometimes think of posting things I wrote a while ago, but usually desist. And if I give way I create a frame that declares the post's true age. It would seem inauthentic- even shabby- to pass off something old as the creation of my present self. I'm not sure why.
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[User Picture]From: hepo
2005-02-17 06:37 am (UTC)

Ghost ships

Loved the read. I would seriously consider stretching it further prior to forwarding it to a magazine. Who knows, in a few months time we could be reading the article in Net monthly, Surf-N-Go, or even Bloggs R Us.

This is the way I see it: we live in a disposable world where LJ is like a plastic watch worn for literary effect. But for some it doesn't quite match their day to day lives, and again, there are others who can't be bothered to wind it up. So what we have in some remote corners of a server is timelessness.


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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-02-17 07:05 am (UTC)

Re: Ghost ships

So what we have in some remote corners of a server is timelessness.

How well put. (shiver)
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[User Picture]From: kaysho
2005-02-17 09:48 am (UTC)
You can also pilot your own ghost ship ... go back and read whatever you wrote in your journal one year ago today. It can be almost spooky re-reading it, yet only one little year has passed since then.

Imagine re-reading it 25 years from now ... how very strange it will probably seem.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 12:45 pm (UTC)
I sometimes re-read my paper diaries and find it quite hard to identify with my earlier self. Did I really think that? Lawks-a-mercy!
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[User Picture]From: greybeta
2005-02-17 12:32 pm (UTC)
I wonder though, we lose so many plays from ancient times because libraries were burned in wars. We're likely to lose these stories in some future war when the servers get knocked out.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 12:43 pm (UTC)
Yes, quite possibly. Nothing is forever.

Only I understand that there's a buried villa in Herculaneum that possesses a library which may just possibly contain scrolls of the work of all the great Greek dramatists. They're planning to excavate it. Just imagine- The complete works of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides- o boy, o boy, o boy!

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[User Picture]From: strange_complex
2005-02-18 02:04 pm (UTC)
I stumbled across a community today which addresses the issue you raise here in a way only LJ could: deceased_ljers

Their userinfo page contains a list of what looks at a glance like a couple of hundred former LJers whom the community exists to commemorate.

It is like a kind of LJ-graveyard I suppose. But I am somehow heartened to see that this community exists, and that they are approaching the issue in what is in fact a very human and respectful manner.

Shame the creation of the community seems to have been prompted by quite the opposite behaviour in a different forum, though.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-19 01:28 am (UTC)
Thank you for telling me about this. I have added the community to my f-list
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-02-18 03:47 pm (UTC)
I need to make all my LJ stuff into a book--there's a way to make everything into a PDF.

Imagine a scenario in which one morning the only thing available on LJ was a simple page with an apology: we've lost everything.

I've got piles of journals around the house--most unfilled--but beats me what to do with them. I find re-reading them depressing, oddly. I'm caught up in my old angst--in the moment.

Halfmoon Molly asked you if you were real--that's a good question--I would never write as freely on LJ as in my paper journals, nor ponder as deeply--

For example, when I was twenty, I wrote a very long discussion about how our brains appeared to be programmed---that sort of thing.

Or those endless college entries about loneliness and my awful roommate.

Here's a truth I have certainly noticed on LJ--it shapes me slightly, in that I get more replies and have more fun when I'm being silly. If I'm feeling sad, it's lonelier on LJ. And, really, I feel a bit uncomfortable talking about it.

As in real life.

(And it's amazing how LJ has actually given me new confidence in my writing! Who would have thought?)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-19 01:39 am (UTC)
I noticed yesterday that some of the pictures I'd posted were missing. It was fixable. But it demonstrated just how vulnerable these journals are.

What do they consist of- a small blizzard of electrical impulses? Something like that?

But then life itself is just a blizzard of electrical impulses. Am I right or am I right?

Whenever I write in LJ I'm aware of an audience and a "duty to entertain". Poliphilo is a smartened up version of Tony Grist. Tony Grist is a grumpy old sod. Poliphilo much less so.

I've got lots of old diaries too. And, boy, are they depressing!
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