Friday, October 23, 2015

MIRACLES AND WONDERS: Happy Internet Day! (It All Began with Leonard Kleinrock)

Howdy, Campers!  Happy Poetry Friday...and Happy Internet Day on October 29th!

The P.F. link and my poem are below (and trust me--today's host posts a tasty Poetry Friday!)

The Internet: it all began 46 years ago with Leonard Kleinrock

With this post, TeachingAuthors launches a short series celebrating the birth of the internet.  And we want to hear from you: has the internet changed you? In what ways? What comes to mind when you think of the internet?

According to, on October 29, 1969, under the supervision of UCLA computer science professor Leonard Kleinrock, the first message was sent over an internet connection.(Click here for the sound of connecting to the internet via dial-up...)

When I think of the internet, I think of moving to a new town, into our new house and connecting to the internet, in 1994. Not long after, my friend Barney Saltzberg (whom we've featured several times on this blog) and I began to email each other. We could read each other's thoughts--instantly! We could complete each other's sentences!  We could talk deep into the night without speaking! We could collaborate on stories through the air! It was A-freakin'-MAZING.

My. Brain. Exploded.   Were our lives ever going to be the same again?


Mine was not. Not long after, I met Courtney Campbell, who regularly tours schools in Europe. She was incredibly generous, sharing the contact information of her host in Germany. If she had simply given me his snail mail address, I may have stuck that note in my desk and never done a thing about it. Instead, she gave me magic: his email address. I emailed him that evening: "Hello! Would you be interested in having an author visit your schools?"

In the morning, his reply arrived: "How soon can you come?"

And so began several years of my touring schools in Europe. Yup. My life had changed forever.

When I think of the internet, I also think of how each freshly-baked email, each amazing link, each post by every dear friend is a pretty shiny thing which grabs my attention...again and again and again...

...wait, what was my point?
My brain on the internet.

...and I see how the very structure of my life has changed since that initial euphoria Barney and I tasted, splashing in the shallow end of the 'net.

When I think of the internet, I also feel weighted down.

Off to chop down a few emails...

Do you?

These days the internet is an unending desire to send a friendly and intelligent reply to every message in my inbox.

It's perpetually polishing my shiny online portrait.

It's forever unfinished homework.

How did we go so quickly from "Oh, WOW--this internet thing is AMAZING!" to "I can't drive with you to the party tonight--I'll meet you there. I need to finish my blog post and I have too many emails to answer" which--and I swear this is true--I just said five minutes ago (paraphrased) to my husband.

Still, when I think of the internet, I also think of Paul Simon's stunning song (co-written by Forere Mothoeloa), The Boy in The Bubble, on Simon's Graceland album, 1986.

Here is the chorus:
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long-distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby don’t cry
Don’t cry
(here are the rest of the lyrics)

(If you'd like to simply listen to the song, then you can stare at a static image of the Graceland album's cover as you listen here.  On the other hand, if you'd like to see Simon's official music video--i.e. pretty shiny stuff--here 'tis.)

In the spirit of that song, here's a poem I wrote in April 2012--which I rewrote last night and again (and again) today--thank you, Bruce and ADR, through the miracle of the internet!

by April Halprin Wayland

"The average farmer’s wife is one of the most patient and overworked women of the time." ~ The American Farmer, 1884

Illinois, spring,
I am descending fifteen flights of stairs
from my lonely hotel room
to a breakfast of buttered toast and eggs.

Each empty floor’s the same:
the same metal stairs,
the same smell of dust and cleanser,
the same beige walls...

so I pull my cell out of a zippered pocket,
dial my sister to say hi, to keep me company,
and as her phone rings in California, 
I am descending in time.

I imagine a prairie wife,
one who helped lace the land with barbed wire,
churned butter, gathered eggs, fed the fire,
birthed and buried babies.

No time for mourning.
As winds scratched the plains,
she murmured to the hens.
She had no other company.

She might have called her sister
if she had had a phone,
might never have wandered off,
head tilted back, mumbling to the wide sky.

Each day was the same,
the same metal horizon,
the same smell of dust and scrub,
the same beige crops...her solitary lot.

If only a phone
instead of a lonely yearning;
with a single cell she might have kept 
her own fire burning.

poem and drawing (c) 2015 by April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

So now,when I think of the internet--when I think of any technology--I may be overwhelmed (a dilemma which the next generation of users will undoubtedly solve) but I'm also singing about Miracles and Wonder.

Are you?

These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby don’t cry
Don’t cry

And now click on over to Jama's Alphabet Soup for a delectable array of poems!

posted in waves of wonder by April Halprin Wayland


jan godown annino said...

You made me laugh, April!
Also this background on the Internet history & your increasing use of it
makes me think of the adage of being careful of what we wish for.
We wished for more connectivity & by golly, we found it.

Most of the time it's easy for me to go down the rabbit hole online in
delicious research into museums of the world + archives.
But with my actual, real old-fashioned window open most of the year,
it's also easy to walk away from devices +
go out into the sunshine.

I do wonder how I would shut it off, if I lived in an extreme cold climate.

Lots to think about here, especially with your clever drawing & wonderful poem.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Jan! It sounds like you actually have a handle on the Internet. A healthy approach and an open get away from it. Congratulations! May I take lessons?

April Halprin Wayland said...

Jan! It sounds like you actually have a handle on the Internet. A healthy approach and an open get away from it. Congratulations! May I take lessons?

jama said...

Wonderful post and love your poem and musings and bit of internet history (didn't know that stuff!).

Miracles and wonder indeed, the world is smaller and people are connecting -- good things. But, as with everything else -- there are downsides. Too MUCH information, overwhelming our every waking moment. I yearn to be that farmer's wife sometimes, quiet in her own thoughts and routine, with time and space to listen to the beatings of her own heart. Technology (esp. cell phones) makes us falsely believe that everything is urgent and must be dealt with immediately.

I think it is in the nature of man to abuse a good thing. There are many days I mourn the loss of face to face interaction, wishing for less dependence on electronic screen gazing.

Carmela Martino said...

April, I can so relate to being distracted by every "pretty shiny thing ...again and again and again." Just this morning, I was thinking I must have adult onset ADD because I'm constantly switching from one thing to another. The problem has been compounded by "smart" cell phones. {I kid you not: I don't get many texts, but I received one in the middle of typing this!}
I hope you're right that this is a dilemma the next generation of users will solve.
Love your poem, especially the line:
>>one who helped lace the land with barbed wire,<<
I hope you made it to that party!

Kelly Polark said...

The internet really has opened up a whole new world. I can communicate with friends and family so much better! I message my best friend in spain several times a week and see pics of her kids growing.

But also, I spend too much time in front of the computer instead of doing other things...

But still, I would not want to give this technology uP!

Great poem!

Margaret Simon said...

I remember distinctly a conversation with a friend in 1995 when she told me the World Wide web was coming and it would change the world. I had no idea! Here I am reading this great blog post and thinking and connecting to someone I've never met, but I know. If the prairie women had an online support group, imagine! Love the Paul Simon reference. No need to go to the video, I am singing the song in my head. These are the days...

Keri said...

I remember when I first got a computer that could connect to the internet instead of a word processor, and I could email my friends (several of whom were in grad school and already connected). I also appreciate the need to disconnect, to get away to the important and away from the "urgent." Your poem is poignant. Poor pioneer women!

Carol said...

I love the beige walls, smell, etc. of your hotel world and the pioneer world. I love my technology- blogs, Facebook, etc. I love the connectivity to people all over the world. At the same time, sometimes I really miss face to face time. Sometimes I feel like I am living my whole life vicariously…

Bobbi Miller said...

What a great discussion, and I so love Your Brain on the Internet!! How so very true is that!! And a lovely, lovely poem. Thank you for this wisdom!

Caroline McAlister said...

And here I am reading your blog instead of doing my writing!!!!! But I am glad I read it. It made me laugh.

mary ann rodman said...

Wow, this post brought back so many memories of the pre-Internet world. One is when I was hired by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1993, I was told "and of course you will have an electronic mail account with this job." I remember thinking, "Now when I am EVER going to use electronic mail outside of work? Who would have such a thing?" (My husband had it at his job, but he could only communicate within the company.) The second was of me, living in Bangkok in 1998, alone with my husband and three-year-old on the other side of the world. I lived for that little ping on my computer that announced a new arrival for the inbox. Since the US work day was 12 hours behind me, I often stayed up all night "communicating" with my relatives and writer friends. The worst day ever was Aug 12, 1998 when the Internet crashed in Bangkok...and there was no one to fix it, because it was a national holiday--the Queen's Birthday. I went into a full blown panic attack, feeling totally removed from the "real" world that came through my computer. Such craziness.