The Macquarie Dictionary defines linear as that ‘involving measurement in one dimension only; relating to length’. One theory is that ‘books are linear and foster concentration, while the web, with all its hyperlinks, is kinetic, scattered, all over the place.’

You know, my brain sometimes feels like the web would look if it could ever be mapped visually – scattered, fragmented, incomplete but seemingly connected. Conversations with colleagues stop, start, stop and then fizzle out. As I issue instructions to the kids, words that aren’t connected to the moment fall from my mouth. They relate to tomorrow’s thought and have arrived too early: brush your homework, can you pick up that dog ? Put her on the cupboard!

Conversations take tangents. They don’t always resemble a straight thread and can start at one point and end at the frayed edges of a thousand others. For example, every Saturday morning I have coffee with Margot. The conversation usually starts with her apologising for something. She’s that sort of person – very apologetic – even though it was I who was late because I had to return some books to the library.

I’m reading ‘Middlemarch’ by George Eliot (I love a good frock drama). Margot is reading ‘Just Kids’, by Patti Smith. She doesn’t really listen to the music anymore, but we both agree that ‘Horses’ was her finest album.


Cover of Patti Smith's 'Horses' album. Photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe.

Anyway, Patti Smith’s boyfriend at one time was Robert Mapplethorpe , the photographer of some renown. They both listened to Tim Buckley, who coincidentally Margot is wearing to death on her kitchen CD player, and Tim Hardin. Not knowing who Tim Hardin is, Margot did a Google and discovered that he wrote ‘If I were a carpenter’, which has been covered by just about everyone from Bobby Darin (my favourite) to Robert Plant (yuck).

I told Margot about Sam Cooke’s ‘A change is gonna come’, also sung by everyone from Billy Preston to Seal, and used by Barak Obama in his presidential campaign.

I didn’t know Margot used Google. She’s in her fifties and only recently learned how to use email. She is a big fan of blogs, having discovered craft blogs when she started a textile diploma last year, and told me her favourites.  She visits sosewpoppy (created by a colleague in her class), wrenhandmade and the brooklyn flea (which can take you to a myriad of places).

So we talked music and craft and latest finds at op shops. Margot is going to set up her own blog soon (I can teach her now!) and call it “What have you got, Margot?” (as McGarrett said to Danno, in Hawaii Five-O.)

Anyway, my point is that conversations can be like reading on the web. They are networked, like spaghetti.

They can end abruptly, like this.


6 thoughts on “Spaghetti”

  1. I loved the spaghetti analogy.

    Prince Buster also did a great version of A Change is Gonna Come.

    I like reading your blogs because it gives me such a fascinating insight into a completely different lifestyle from mine.

    I think you would love using an online journal that I’ve just discovered, you send yourself emails everyday about how your day has been and it collates it into an online journal! So good! It’s called Oh Life!

    See you in class!

    1. Thanks Lieu. I just signed up to that online journal. I used to keep a journal when I had my first baby. It was mainly about how tired I was and how many hours Louis (and then Joey) didn’t sleep etcetera, and makes really boring reading now. Over the years I’ve tried to keep it short and simple – record the hilarious things they said and did, but it’s hard. I’ve set the timezone on the Oh Life! journal to Hong Kong, so it emails me when I am work AND online.
      And thanks for the Prince Buster rendition – you have great taste in music!

  2. Haha I love this- that’s exactly what conversations are like, and it’s interesting/funny sometimes to try to trace them backwards to see how you got on to a certain topic from somewhere completely different. I’d never thought to compare it to the web- but you’re completely right! It is just like following links and going off on a little trail.

    So I guess it’s interesting then that the scattered, kinetic way of thinking that the web promotes is often used as a criticism. Maybe it’s not a new thing, and it’s not that we’re all dumbing down. Maybe instead it’s just tapping in to a more natural way of thinking that we’ve been doing forever.

    Hmm… thanks for sharing! x

  3. Hi Devinegirl (and Lieu and missbec),

    That’s a very funny and perceptive post. Following on from missbec’s comments, I agree that we are tapping into a more natural way of thinking when we use the net. I guess the conflict comes from when we try to equate our information gathering on the net with the type of data collection we’d do off it. Personally, I think many people could benefit from the lateral thought that the internet seems to enforce on us – the challenge is that when we need to write something or just develop our thoughts into something more substantial, there is a need to collapse all of these tangents into one cogent, linear thread. And this means we need to sort through the tangents, discarding those that are ultimately irrelevant.

    Despite the fact that we enjoy our diversions, most people still appreciate a solid, linear narrative, and feel lost without one.

    What do you guys think?

    1. Hey Jen, good point. Wouldn’t it be great if our brains had the “expand all’ or “collapse all” facility? I can see it now. When reading a book, press the “collapse all” button, lie back and absorb. When surfing the web, press the “expand all” button and away we go!

      1. Google will come up with something that does that can “collapse all” or “expand all” … I hope.

        It would be interesting to see some research that finds a pattern to how we jump from topic to topic in convos or how we read and click links of the web. That way, the bowl of spaghetti can turn into a map of sorts.

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