from "Station Eleven"

August 13, 2019
Some small passages I liked from Emily St. John Mandel's "Station Eleven", a novel bouncing its point of view from right around the time a horrific flu virus spares less than 1 in a 1000 and ends civilization, and a few decades later where a small pack of survivors (taking their motto from an old Star Trek Voyager episode saying "Survival is Insufficient") make some kind of living as a travelling Symphony and Shakespeare show.
There are tears in her eyes now. Miranda is a person with very few certainties, but one of them is that only the dishonorable leave when things get difficult.
The brief flare of a meteor, or perhaps a falling satellite. Is this what airplanes would have looked like at night, just streaks of light across the sky? Kirsten knew they'd flown at hundreds of miles per hour, inconceivable speeds, but she wasn't sure what hundreds of miles per hour would have looked like.
I've been thinking lately about immortality. What it means to be remembered, what I want to be remembered for, certain questions concerning memory and fame. I love watching old movies. I watch the faces of long-dead actors on the screen, and I think about how they'll never truly die. I know that's a cliché but it happens to be true. Not just the famous ones who everyone knows, the Clark Gables, the Ava Gardners, but the bit players, the maid carrying the tray, the butler, the cowboys in the bar, the third girl from the left in the nightclub. They're all immortal to me. First we only want to be seen, but once we're seen, that's not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.
"A sea of electric lights. It gives me chills to think of it. I don't really remember my parents. Actually just impressions. I remember hot air coming out of vents in the winter, and machines that played music. I remember what computers looked like with the screen lit up. I remember how you could open a fridge, and cold air and light would spill out. Or freezers, even colder, with those little squares of ice in trays. Do you remember fridges?"
"Of course. It's been a while since I've seen one used for anything other than shelving space."
"And they had light inside as well as cold, right? I'm not just imagining this?"
"They had light inside."
None of the older Symphony members knew much about science, which was frankly maddening given how much time these people had had to look things up on the Internet before the world ended.
Crowds had gathered beneath the television monitors. Clark decided that whatever they were looking at, he couldn't face it without a cup of tea. He assumed it was a terrorist attack. He bought a cup of Earl Grey at a kiosk, and took his time adding the milk. This is the last time I'll stir milk into my tea without knowing what happened, he thought, wistful in advance for the present moment, and went to stand with the crowd beneath a television that was tuned to CNN.
"Why did we always say we were going to shoot emails?"
"I don't know. I've wondered that too."
"Why couldn't we just say we were going to send them? We were just pressing a button, were we not?"
"Not even a real button. A picture of a button on a screen."
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about."
"There was not, in fact, an email gun. Although that would've been nice. I would've preferred that."
He found he was a man who repented almost everything, regrets crowding in around him like moths to a light. This was actually the main difference between twenty-one and fifty-one, he decided, the sheer volume of regret.
A few passages were reminders of the cornucopia of small technological miracles we are surrounded by daily... it reminds me of Nicholson Baker's "The Mezzanine", and its meditation on the design of mundane objects. (Or the old essay I, Pencil - a bit of libertarian propaganda but a reminder of the crazy complexity in even something as mundane as that...) But it also has some of the most gripping scenes of normal people bearing witness at the inflexion point of collapse since Cory Doctorow's When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth.
Coding for Fun and the Culture of Learning - made an entry for my company's engineering blog, about the fun of old 8-bit computers, the comapany's Peer-led classes, and the fun of programming stuff in Processing and p5.js
Fun history of Apple Easter Eggs:

(mentioned on The Daring Fireball's Talk Show podcast...)