Michael: Can we finish this, please?
(C) That would be nice.
(A) So are you reading now? Are we in metaland?
Melissa: (A) Yes.
(A) (reads “We’ve got so many things to finish, it’s scary.”)
(A) Oh my gosh.
Michael: (A) What, sweetie?
Melissa: (A) I just realized this reminds me of programming, with the curly braces and indents. Maybe that’s how we should format the meta-nesting. Like code.
Michael: (B) What curly braces?
Melissa: (B) This was written before we came up with the parenthetical lettering convention.
Michael: (B) What are you using now?
Melissa: (B) The lettering.
Michael: (B) So you just have this text referring to something that no longer exists? I guess it’s good this meta text is here, because otherwise, that would just be confusing, like it’s coming out of nowhere.
(A) But we’re already tabbing in the continuations, and so, that might become confusing, and code isn’t really made for casual reading, but for expression of algorithms and data structures.
Melissa: (A) Parsing.
Michael: (A) Parsing? Yes. In other words, it’s much more difficult to parse—
Melissa: (A) It’s made for a computer to parse, not for a person. So how do we make these meta-layers parsable by humans?
Michael: (C) Parsable by humans? Who else would parse this, giraffes?
Melissa: (O) I think “giraffes” was still better.
Michael: (O) Then put “giraffes”!
(O) What about “iguanas”?
Melissa: (O) Okay, but what do we do about the text below, where we mention it being changed to “elephants”? We can’t go back and change it because that would be altering the flow of time. It’s okay to change “elephants” to “giraffes,” because that’s what you said in the first place. But if we prefer “iguanas”—help us.
(C) No! We’re making the distinction between text that needs to be parsed by humans versus computers.
Michael: (C) Are we talking right now, or are we saying this then?
Melissa: (C) I’m responding to you in this moment, and you were responding to what we said in Pass (A), which actually happened yesterday.
(D) You know, I was realizing, we could consider doing these as footnotes.
Michael: (D) But then you’d have to break the flow of the text.
Melissa: (D) That’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid by introducing the footnotes!
Michael: (D) No! No, no, no. Because I want what would be in the footnotes to definitely be read, and I believe that proper footnotes shouldn’t be necessary for a true understanding of the work. If we applied that to what we did, they would be almost nothing. They’re mostly these discussions or comments about earlier things we’ve written. And then comments about those comments. And on and on.
Melissa: (D) Once again, you’re being Mr. Ambiguous.
Michael: (D) Really? I thought I was being really careful.
Melissa: (D) Listen to this out of context and see if you can even figure out what you’re saying, “If we applied that to what we did, they would be almost nothing.”
Michael: (D) (laughs)
(A) Wait a minute. Didn’t we already have this conversation? This is like déjà-vu.
Melissa: (A) We still haven’t come up with a satisfactory solution, so we’re continuing the conversation until we do.
Michael: (A) I was satisfied with the nested curly braces, bracketing blocks of text.
Melissa: (A) You were? I thought there was still something stinky about that.
(L) Oh no! I just got through updating all of the letters after “(D)” to make the Mr. Ambiguous tangent “(E)”, but that means I would have to change that “Hey” line below to “(B)” to be consistent with what I just did. Help!
Michael: (N) What “Hey” line?
Melissa: (N) It’s down there.
(N) Should we add that?
Michael: (N) I don’t know. But look what an Escherian puzzle this has become. And not in a good way. These things are becoming labyrinths.
(L) I got it! How about these are just sub-tangents, and instead of making them the next letter, they’re like “(AA)”—
Melissa: (L) Or maybe “(A1)”, “(A2)”, etc.
Michael: (L) What would come after “(A1)”? What would a sub-tangent of “(A1)” be? “(A1)”-little a?
(N) Why didn’t you just add the little ‘a’ there?
Melissa: (N) ’Cuz you said “little a.” And that wouldn’t necessarily come across if I just put “(A1a)”.
(L) God help us if we ever go there.
(L) I’m really scared now, though.
Michael: (L) Why? Although I have an idea what it might be.
Melissa: (L) You do?
Michael: (L) Yeah. Is it about the earlier posts? Or even this post?
Melissa: (L) Yeah, sort of. If we adopt this sub-tangent convention, which I think we should . . . although, one of the benefits of the progressive lettering is it does indicate which order the comments were added in. For example, this is technically a sub-tangent of the—
Michael: (L) Something just occurred to me.
Melissa: (L) Mm-hmm?
Michael: (L) I think there’s two different kinds of tangents here. There’s the tangents that occur right when you’re talking, and there’s the tangents that occur when you go back through the text. Maybe they could be called inline tangents and after-the-fact tangents. Those are probably bad. Wordy.
Melissa: (L) But you’re right—you’re expressing something that’s been nagging at me this whole time. It’s because we’re actually trying to represent two different dimensions simultaneously with this lettering. One is the chronological order, while the other is the tangential—
Michael: (L) Umm. I’m using tangent in the usual sense, where we’re beginning to talk about something, and we happen to just talk about, well, in our case, we’re noticing something about what we just said, and we’re commenting on that. But the thing is that—
Melissa: (M) What? This doesn’t make any sense.
Michael: (M) Does any of it?
Melissa: (M) Help.
Michael: (M) Okay. Feck it. Let’s just go back through and convert all of these to this new system and see if we like it or not.
Melissa: (M) But we can’t because we still haven’t resolved the chronological issue.
Michael: (M) Would what you’re talking about be resolved by following all of the “1”s through the document and all of the little “a”s through the document? Is that what you’re talking about? That might be doable. As you can see, I’m not totally sure what you mean.
Melissa: (M) No, no. That wouldn’t resolve the conflict in meaning we’re setting up.
Michael: (M) The conflict of meaning?
Melissa: (M) Okay, I think tangents is a tangent. We need to drop that.
Michael: (M) Is it an aside?
(M) And then there’s just present asides and later asides?
(M) And should we distinguish between them?
Melissa: (M) Hold on. Yes, they’re asides, but that’s the same as tangents. In a way, the tangent is self-evident. We don’t need to label it separately. What’s not self-evident is the chronological order in which the asides were added, and that’s what we need to denote with the lettering—or whatever—convention we establish.
Michael: (M) What’s the matter?
Melissa: (M) If we keep this up, it will no longer be Friday, which will eff up our “(F)”s at the bottom—oh no! Is that no longer “(F)”?
Michael: (M) Don’t worry about it right now.
Melissa: (M) I should’ve never messed with the lettering. Maybe I should put it back. That Mr. Ambiguous tangent is just that, a tangent, but it was said immediately after the preceding “(D)”. So, painful as it sounds, I think I need to go back to “(D)”s there. Which would turn this “(N)” into an “(M)”.
Michael: (M) Wait, what? Stop. I agree that it was said right after that and so it was part of that same tangent—
Melissa: (M) All I’m saying is, we have to decide what’s more important to demarcate: the chronology or the tangent. I say it’s the chronology, since that would otherwise be invisible.
Michael: (M) Well, okay, at one point in time, I definitely saw that what was most important, while you were reading it, was knowing whether what was said next happened next chronologically, or next at a later time sometime—
Melissa: (M) Yes. So here I go. Time to re-letter the re-letterings.
Michael: (M) Wait. I don’t like the system as it is. It’s too brittle. . . . The most important thing to me is that you be able to read it and not even care what letter you’re on, but if you read something that surprises you, you can see, “Ah, that was earlier,” or “Ah, that was later.”
Melissa: (M) Right. So let’s just stick with the chronological lettering for now. Which has the fewest repercussions for this post. Especially if you can write a script to automatically re-letter everything after a certain letter, in this case, “(D).”
Michael: (M) Okay, but the thing is, Melissa. The act of writing it will always warrant this, and if every single time this comes up—
Melissa: (M) Oh! I realize we can just use find/replace: all the “(E)”s—
Michael: (M) We’re gonna come up with this. Don’t worry.
Melissa: (M) “Don’d gworry.”
Michael: (M) I’m gonna figure it out. . . . So maybe color is the best—
Melissa: (M) No, it’s not fecking—
Michael: (M) At least it helps me see that it’s a record of the path through the text. But it’s not many paths, it’s just one path. From beginning to end. It’s just when you’re going back and rewriting, it doesn’t feel like one path. It feels like you’re gonna form a new path through it. But the overall path, from the moment we begin writing, is one path. . . . The path to completion.
(M) Okay, so yes, we do keep the “(A)” “(B)” “(C)” “(D)”, but I definitely have a new appreciation for what that means now.
Melissa: (M) Hooray!
Michael: (M) Which makes me think then, we’ve just simply been doing it correctly, because that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing.
Melissa: (M) Double hooray. Time to fix what wasn’t broken but what I broke when trying to fix it.
Michael: (M) It represents the flow of writing. That’s what we’ll call it. The flow of writing.
Melissa: (M) Yeah! It represents the order in which we wrote them.
Michael: (M) So we do have it! “(A)” “(B)” “(C)” “(D)” “(E)” “(F)” “(G)”.
Melissa: (A) Hey! I know we were gonna save that piece for the Tinkerbell post, but I think we should use it here. You know.
Michael: (A) I do?
Melissa: (A) Yeah! The title of the piece: “Something stinks.” Or is it “Someone”? No, definitely “Something.” Right?
(A) Oh, I know!
Michael: (A) What stinks?
Melissa: (A) Don’t you remember? The title of the piece? I just realized what it was: “Who Stinks?” The kitty!
We’ve got so many things to finish, it’s scary.
“Everything that flows out,” you were saying.
Michael: (raising hand)
“You have to acknowledge me. So you have to say, “Yes, Michael.”
Melissa: “Yes, Michael.”
Michael: (A) When did this occur?
I have an objection.
Melissa wrote down something she wasn’t supposed to write down. Something I said that was private. That was not-metaness. Oh, now I know how to say this! This is not-meta. When we’re writing in metaness, that’s meta. That’s the mode. We’re in meta mode.
Man, if we could both type, this would be a lot easier.
Melissa: Okay, but the problem is metaness bleeds into real life, and vice versa. So it’s not always clear when we’re switching modes.
Michael: That’s why, to clarify, you just need to say, “Is this meta, or not-meta?”
(D) How fecking long is this?!
Melissa: (D) It’s almost done!
But by the time I’m clarifying, there’s already been a misunderstanding about which mode we’re working in. I might respond to you as if we were in meta mode, when you’re actually in non-meta mode, and you to me. You know.
Michael: No, I don’t know.
Michael: I do know that you laughed at what you just typed, so it’s probably staying in.
Melissa: (laughs again)
Michael: But I’ve got to admit, my mind was wandering.
Melissa: Okay, we’re getting this heavy—well, no—
Michael: Is this the same post that got so heavy?
Melissa: No, that was another one. What I mean is actually not “heavy,” but it feels heavy because the list of things to do is becoming longer and longer, and the more we work on new stuff, the more other stuff piles up that we need to address.
Michael: You mean, real-life stuff, or metaness stuff?
Melissa: Metaness stuff, of course.
Michael: Oh, okay. I was confused. Which is obvious. So don’t put that.
When I say, “of course,” I say that because we don’t have time for real life, now that we’ve entered metaness.
Michael: Well, isn’t it actually—it’s more than metaness. It’s OSness.
Michael: Because now that we’ve had more time to read and comment on fellow OSers’ posts—
Where am I going with this?
Melissa: You’re just talking about the experience of joining a community of creatives—it’s like a playground with all these specially self-selected—
Michael: Wait a minute. What if instead of a playground, it was more like a little festival with little booths where everyone is either showing or selling their wares. And tips are welcome. And everyone at the fair is invited to join in, and sometimes, even outsiders wander in and join.
Melissa: (D) Here’s your “little” “little” thing again.
Michael: (D) There’s only so many words for “little.” We haven’t used “microscopic” yet. We haven’t used “infinitesimal.” We haven’t used “at the atomic level.” Or the phrase “so small it’s invisible.”
(E) Oh, great. Now that you’ve recorded all those, we can’t use them like I was hoping.
Melissa: (E) You were really going to use “at the atomic level”?
Michael: (E) Well, no, by that time, I’m running out of things to say, but it still feels like the list needs to go on. What is that called, I wonder. Inertia, I guess?
Melissa: (E) Aha, but look! You were making a list! “Can you believe it?”
Michael: (E) What?! No, I can’t. But wait a minute. Okay. Go ahead.
Melissa: A growers’ market!
Michael: Yeah, exactly. But I also think that for it to really work, everyone here has to believe in it, too. I find now that whereas I would normally spend my time reading something at Common Dreams or Salon proper, I wanna spend my time reading the posts here at Open Salon instead.
Melissa: I know, and there are so many to explore! I’ve got like uh—forty or fifty, maybe—tabs of posts open to read? Help! And comments to respond to, which is wonderful, really, so I’m not complaining. But there’s always that balance you need to keep between the creating and the communicating about that creation—not to mention the perhaps even more important reading, rating, and commenting on other people’s creations.
Michael: And don’t forget real life. The fact that you have to go to a full-time job.
Melissa: I know. But that’s tomorrow. That’s years away.
(F) Darn it!
Michael: (F) What’s the matter?
Melissa: (G) Well, when we first wrote this, it was actually Sunday, so that last line made some sort of sense. But now, it’s Friday, so it’s no longer true.
Michael: (H) What do you mean it made “some sort of sense”? Didn’t it just simply make sense?
Melissa: (H) (typing)
Michael: (H) Are you writing that? Help me. But that’s meta! But does this feel like a tangent to you? I don’t know if it’s a tangent, but it’s . . . something.
(F) Would it be true if we waited till Sunday again?
Melissa: (F) No, because now this “(F)” tangent exists, and waiting till Sunday would render this part untrue.
Michael: (F) I see. Why did we make this “(F)” tangent?
Melissa: (F) It just happened. “Darn it!” is what popped out after I read the last line. The old last line, that is.
Michael: (F) Oh no. Now we’re gonna have to find a new last line.
Melissa: (F) Do you think this’ll work?
Michael: (F) The one you just said?
Melissa: (F) Darn it!
Michael: (F) That wasn’t a good ending, anyway.
(G) I don’t wanna end there.
Melissa: (I) You know what’s cool, though? When we first wrote this post, we had the dread of Monday hanging over us. But tonight, we have the hope of Saturday to look forward to.
Michael: (N) Should we point out that it’s now Saturday?
(I) Yeah, good point. But that still doesn’t give us an ending.
(I) It’s funny, sometimes the endings just come quite naturally, as this post’s original ending did. It just flowed. But this one, this one is like searching through overstuffed boxes of junk, looking for that one thing you know you saw somewhere around there but can never just seem to find.
Melissa: (I) I found it!
Michael: (I) What box was it in?
Melissa: (I) It wasn’t in any box. It was in the fridge.
Michael: (I) That is a box. An icebox.
(I) Although the word itself is antiquated—as you know.
(J) Would dolphins be better than elephants?
Melissa: (J) No.
Michael: (J) If we had included our banter about the elephants, that’s how I would end this. It’s kind of like the part that pops up at the end of a movie, after the orchestra plays. It’s the literal punchline.
Melissa: (J) (typing)
Michael: (J) Where are you at now? You’ve been typing away.
Melissa: (J) (typing)
Michael: (J) Come on, love!
(K) Okay. Then what’s after that?
(K) That’s the end?
(K) This is neverending!
(K) The neverending post.
- Oregon, USA
- We are procrastinating perfectionists with too many projects. We rarely finish anything we start, but hopefully . . .
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