Stay in school

A topic that will interest some: I just looked through all my Spam comments so I could delete them, and I’m a little impressed by how strangely humanoid they’ve become. Sure, a lot of them are trying to sell me generic prescription drugs, and all of them are either seeking web traffic or trying to scam me out of my identity, but they have each developed their own sense of vernacular, and I kind of love that. Who is writing these things? Who is the one writing “Howdy!” and who prefers “It has come to my attention that your beloved weblog…” stuff? Is one type more effective than the other? Does it depend on the reader? Does anyone ever get fooled?

I have always found the idea of computer intelligence charming (this as distinct from the broader category of “artificial intelligence,” and used here to mean the idea of an object having an identity, or soul), in the same way that I radically empathized, last night, with a person-shaped carrot while cooking dinner. The internet spam I receive, logically speaking, is probably coming from actual people, but I am more entertained and empathically engaged with the idea that some corner of a computer, somewhere, has become devoted to my beloved weblog, and wants to help me improve my traffic. The difference being, when a computer does it (in my imagination), they just don’t understand human norms; when a person does it, they’re trying to defraud me.

A couple of days ago, I got back from AWP, which was sort of muted this year for lack of a communal hotel bar. If you’ve never been to AWP, this is usually an essential part of the experience, running into your favorite people (or, to put it in computer terms, beloved weblogs) in the moment that the bonds of their professional decency begin to slip, in favor of raw enthusiasm. Lacking that, I got a lot more sleep, but I still had a good time, and I think I actually ended up meeting more people, at parties, at readings, on the footpath near the river, than I otherwise might have. Every day, I walked by trees full of cherry blossoms, a heroic image from my own PNW childhood, and ate an obscene amount of good food. I was part of a wonderful panel, a wonderful reading, a lot of excellent conversations. Near those selfsame cherry trees, I asked some women if I could pet their puppy (they were trying to take a picture of it against the background of soft pink petals; the dog was lax and unenthused, but well-groomed; the women diligent but seemingly unaware of the degree of dogflop they were rendering) and when they gave me a reluctant yes I kissed it on the nose and it wagged its tail.

I also saw a man dressed in an Easter Bunny costume, riding a unicycle and playing flames out of a set of bagpipes. That was not a hallucination. Reality, stranger than, etc.

I found that I was good, this year, at not caring so much what I was missing during the parties, the dinners, the long awkward walks through the book fair. All of a sudden, it seemed so unimportant. I hope this is something I can continue to cultivate, though due to ordinary human weakness, it’s probably just a nice season I’m passing through on the way to other weather. But that’s ok. I’ll come back around again, and I’m here right now. The pollen is momentous, but my poppies are about to bloom. There are aphids all over my sunflowers, but the sunflowers are stronger, seemingly unbothered.

My computer is thinking its own private thoughts, which I suppose I’ll read through the tea leaves of internet comments, or never know, ever.