SFLISTW7.dat by Theo Thimo
To err is human. Humanity is full of errors, mistakes, regrets. We choose to define ourselves by accomplishments. Yet those errors make up part of who we are. If we let them they can define us. Of course the digital world knows errors well. Glitches are nearly art-like. One can watch the breakdown of a computer and say ‘That’s beautiful’. Wonder if our computers see our breakdowns and feel the same way. We pour so much of ourselves into technology it is almost impossible to divorce ourselves from our online errors.
SFLISTW7.dat addresses this concern. Visually stunning and oddly heart-breaking it shows the hardship we face as we try to make ourselves heard amongst so much noise. The style reminds me of early website error fun, Farmers Manual’s site in particular. Error comes up over and over again in the chapbook. It slowly takes over the conversation and in many cases is the conversation. All the error spews and hides the actual humans held within the meaningless symbols, letters, and digital debris.
Weirdly the debris becomes a bit sad. In Uci32103.dll it states not enough space for environment, not enough space for arguments following an abnormal termination. Months and days cycle around until they end. Is this what a relationship looks like to a computer? The sheer space and magnitude of time is thusly displayed. It reads like the remembrance of a relationship long since gone. From that the computer realizes in the body there’s a human. It acknowledges another person, as if it is spying.
‘Poemsubmission.doc’ becomes normal. A boy and a girl love each other. This makes sense. Yet the computer cannot figure out why they like each other. Simplicity of ‘simply because’ cannot compute. As it repeats it reads like code. Eventually the code breaks as the reason for their being together makes no sense.
2006 texts appear out of this morass. The affection is clear. It apologizes for missing. Even the misspellings gain sweetness, a text-based sweetness. ‘Answer me’ it cries out into the silence. Demands begin between the boy and the girl. Life is getting more complicated.
Vulnerability touches down. Small children cry a lot. That’s part of their experience. Most things are new and scary as a child. Cities hover over nightmares. Nightmares need geography in order to get their point across. Party pictures show they are together. 2006 shows up once more, as a starting point to this relationship.
We get more: we get names. Screen names appear. Cristina asks why she should stop calling him that. He answers. Arguments may be valid or invalid in this case. Errors appear as the two are not quite synched up. As he states her words are so beautiful his longing becomes too much for the computer to support and it crashes out of drama. ‘I have trouble feeling’ is morphed into a more and more worried phrase as the computer eats it up and spits it out. Texts come out of nowhere.
‘brpinfo.dll’ is angry. This is the person asking why they are alive. Like the other texts this one is particularly destroyed through various pieces of digital excrement. Yet the anger and disappointment remains so strong it manages to defeat the ugliness around it, replacing it with a harsher, more human disappointment. It ends with the confusing ‘poetrydraft3.doc’ which is either a resolution or a bitterly sarcastic end, though I tend to think the latter.
This offers a good mix between the drama of humanity mixed with the hopelessness of technology, or vice versa. Really no matter how much we want to hide ourselves behind jargon, behind technology and distance, our true selves show themselves through our online interactions, for better and worse.