Thursday June 17th, 2010

Jurassic Park, Internet Edition

jurassicIn 1995—which, on the Adjusted Technology Timeline, is roughly the equivalent of 1724—Stefanie Syman and Steven Johnson had the foresight to start Feed, an online magazine that foreshadowed Slate, Salon, and other online-only journalism and literature. Feed closed up shop in 2001, and for a long while, the archives—which featured writing by Geoff Dyer, Sam Lipsyte, Keith Gessen, and good friends of mine like Jon Fasman and James Ryerson—were unavailable. Now they’re back up.

In the coming days, I’ll share some clips from the site’s writing about books, but for now, some excerpts from Lipsyte. In a new note about his memories of the site, he writes:

These were freewheeling days. The rule seemed to be that if you cared about a piece, and could make an argument for its cultural or political or technological importance, or else its downright hilarity, it belonged on FEED. This was editorial heaven. There weren’t even enough of us for feuds or office politics. Writing and editing the FEED dailies was my favorite gig. I look over the ones I wrote with real trembling. Do they hold up? Of course not, idiot! But a lot of the stuff by other people does, and surprisingly well.

Lipsyte’s six-part 1996 feature about being recruited for an infomercial, “Memoirs of an Infowhore,” holds up very well. It includes this great sentence, among others: “He looked like Brian De Palma, but with a sadness around the eyes that said, ‘I am not Brian De Palma.’ ” The story starts when Lipsyte and a friend were approached by a two-person camera crew in Central Park:

We have cameras on us all the time. But this camera was different. It beckoned me, all my efflorescence. This was an audition, I knew, not just for these adwomen, but for the Heavens, for the principles of joy I saw in practice all around me on this sweet and gleaming day.

I was wonderful: clear-eyed and benignly sardonic, self-assured, self-mocking. They asked me questions about my exercise habits, my feelings about fitness, my relationship to my body. “The” body I wanted to interject, but clearly they meant “my” body.

Well, my body sucks. I have always felt estranged from it. When I was a child watching Star Trek re-runs before dinner I did not want to be Kirk or Spock or even Uhura (although she was my first TV crush). I wanted to be one of those free-range brains floating around in a cave on some godforsaken asteroid.

During my audition in the park, of course, I touched on none of this. This was not America’s Most Therapeutic videos, after all. I tried my best to be the vaguely-hipster offbeat regular guy. You know the one, you’ve seen the sitcoms. I intuited my niche and crawled right inside.

“If you could have any movie star’s body, who’s would it be?” They asked.

“Jamie Lee Curtis,” I answered without hesitation.

The woman with the camera guffawed and gave me the thumbs up.

I was kicking ass!