One thousand is an interesting number. It’s the smallest big number, with the first inkling of unassailability peeking behind its comma, just look at it: 1,000.
At least that’s what senior anthropology major James Curry IV has led me to think, and if there is one thing a conversation with Curry is, it’s thought provoking. Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Curry and discuss one particularly intriguing project that is underway. He is currently in the process of writing a book titled On Blogging, which is to be comprised of 1,000 posts, uploaded daily to his blog. All of the posts will be focused on the subject of blogging. As of today, he is on post 328, and is set to finish by the time he is 23. While scrolling through what currently constitutes the work, the presence of that numerical comma, that bigness, can be found everywhere. From a reader’s standpoint, it is not so much the experience of getting lost in the text, as the sensation that you were never really found in the first place. Each and every post is a jumping point, a catalyst for a collision of ideas, arguments, and intellectual evolutions. While reading On Blogging, it is impossible to keep the idea of the blogger out of mind for long. At times, it seems like the project belongs to 1,000 individual entities rather than one singular narrator.
However, there is one, and only one, James Curry IV, and if anyone is grappling to understand this overwhelming, multi-faceted impenetrability, it’s him. “I had no idea where to start,” he says, “So I wrote a sentence.”
More specifically, the origin of Curry’s inspiration can be traced back to a class here at Reed. “I guess like anything, it goes back a lot of different steps; there are a lot of different things that got me to start writing this. I’d say the original point is a class I took sophomore year, called Time and Space, which was taught by LaShandra Sullivan. It was very hard to understand; a lot of it was on dialectics. I wanted to write my final paper in the class about blogging, I was really interested in the weird temporalities that play into it. You make a post, it’s in the past, and then it gets recalled into the present. A blogger says a lot — they just type, and then post, and it’s there forever. At first, I was interested in what it means to have something that accumulates so easily. I began to have so many different thoughts, that I couldn’t even organize them for a final paper. I had all these ideas, and I didn’t know where to put them.”
It wasn’t until the following year, while studying abroad in Argentina, that he began to compile the writing that would later become On Blogging. “I remembered that I had all these ideas about blogging that I wanted to express, but I had no idea where to start. I wrote a sentence, and then I had another idea and wrote the next one. When I started, it felt really good, and it kept on giving me new ideas. I thought I might end at 100, maybe 200. And through the process of actually writing it I realized I could set the limit at 1,000.”
But why blogging? Or perhaps more consequentially, why 1,000 separate pieces on blogging? There are well over 1,000 different paths one could venture down in the inquisition of the colossal and at times perturbing land that is the blogosphere. On tumblr alone, there are currently around 250 million blogs floating in a mass of creativity and conformity, ranging from revelatory think pieces to a collection of Ryan Gosling cereal memes. For the sake of this piece, and in the name of maintaining the integrity of our conversation, a more apt perspective may be On the Various Subjects, Themes, and Questions that Arise While Attempting to Understand On Blogging.
“I repeat myself a lot within On Blogging, I read a book recently about diaries, and while I was reading that book, in the midst of writing On Blogging, it hit me that this is what I’ve been talking about. It’s interesting, because diaries, and blogs too, always have this sort of dialectical relationship between the self that writes and the self that lives. They’re kind of separate, but never entirely. They’ll inform each other; they’re caught in a feedback loop. That’s one of the interesting things about blogging specifically, as distinct from diary keeping. It’s a more public thing, and it’s networked to other blogs. They link to each other, especially on something like tumblr. Older blogs, maybe, are more self-contained, but newer blogging platforms are all networked with each other.
It’s something that makes me insecure about on blogging, but it’s also a possible strength — a lot of it’s very circular, most of the entries have the form of a circle. I’ll start with an idea, and explore it, and then come back. And a lot of the times I haven’t really gone anywhere. It’s just recursive. That’s part of the whole idea of the project. I’m doing some light research here and there, but mostly I’m just doing it via practice, by doing and thinking about it. A lot of it is really just thinking about things unproductively. Just being really stupid about a thing for a very long time.”
I feel like to be a blogger, you kind of have to be something of a narcissist. To be a writer, you kind of have to be a narcissist, but especially to be a blogger. I get these arguments some people have about millennials — that they’re all narcissistic and self absorbed. I get where people are coming from, especially when they see that so many of us keep blogs. It’s such a narcissistic gesture to keep a massive database of yourself in public. As if anyone would care about you, specifically. I wonder if it has to do with there just being different kinds of people, if it’s just that some people want to be seen, and others prefer to be private. At the same time, it seems like a cultural shift as well, where fame becomes a bigger concern for more people than it was in the past. I see it in that spectrum of how much you want to be seen by other people.
I’m obsessed with becoming famous. I wrote a zine in February about fame, and what it means to want to be famous. It’s very important to me, but I also worry about that being an important thing. I try not to suppress it, but to sort of manage it. It gives me ambition and drive; I wouldn’t be writing 1,000 things if I thought that no one would read it. I pretend I would, but I wouldn’t. I struggle a lot to try and make it something good within itself. But then I fall apart when I say that because I don’t know if there could be any piece of writing that just exists for itself. A piece of writing is made for someone to read it. Or for someone to write it, which is, perhaps what a lot of this has been.
On the Reader
When I imagine what it would be like for someone to read the whole thing, I get a little bit stressed out for them. I know how a lot of people read academic seeming texts thinking that each word is meaningful, and that it’s deliberately moving towards a conclusion. I say this at the beginning of the work; I’m not really disciplined. I’m just messing around here and figuring things out for myself. I know on the one hand, a feeling I want people to feel when they read it is a sense of being overwhelmed. That’s definitely a feeling I get when I work on it and when I think about it as a totality. I would also hope that people could encounter it and then start having their own ideas about it. Talk back to it, throw it away, and write new things about it. Every time I talk to someone new about it and they respond with an idea, I think that’s a success.
It’s sort of a meta-theme about the miracle of being able to meditate on something, to have 1,000 random, stupid thoughts about something, and have them coagulate into something meaningful. Also, the metaphor of a flood has become very important. I began with the metaphor of a stream. It goes back to the idea of Heraclitus, and the idea of becoming. The weird thing about blogging, is that the streams are always accumulating, and when you get a lot of water in one place, it becomes a flood, and then you fucking die. You drown in it. That’s become one theme, feeling what it means to get flooded by information, by ideas.
The weird thing about on blogging, it gives me this sensation, where every time I make a new entry, I’m like a completely different person. I feel like it’s almost like I’m dreaming. Where you fall asleep, you have a dream, and you are yourself, so that there’s a continuity between all your different selves, but you’re also this dream self, that only exists in that moment, and when you wake up, and it’s gone forever. This has to do with the structure of On Blogging, and also how I imagine the structure of the self. There is continuity between all points, but it’s sort of a miasmic, ethereal continuity. It’s defined by essential discontinuity between the elements. This is a project where I’ve wanted to feel when I wake up every single day like it’s a new thing. Like every single time I’m starting over. The only thing that determines when I move on to a new idea is exhaustion. I write an entry as long as I can, or until I feel satisfied, and then I finish.
I think it’s gotten better, but at first it only helped me be present to the project itself. It alienated me from a lot of people, because it became the only thing I could talk about. People do say that blogging alienates you from the world. And this is part of the project, I’ve been trying to create a vision of blogging that brings people more present within things. I used the metaphor of immersion in one of my posts. Where you’re not so much in the presence of things as you’re just living. You’re in things by paying a lot of attention to it, and letting it surround you, and overwhelm you. That’s sometimes how I get, especially during emotionally intense moments. It does help keep me engaged in my life.
On Mark Zuckerburg
Mark Zuckerburg once said that having multiple personalities for yourself demonstrates a lack of integrity. It fascinated me because he has a very strong and weird ideology. He is fully in the extreme that you should share everything that you have, and everything should be public. He talks about it in this utopian sort of way, like if we all shared everything with each other, it wouldn’t be a problem anymore. Like if everyone shared their crazy party photos, no one’s boss would get angry at them, because this is just the way people are, which is just a fucking fantasy. It’s one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard. Extending surveillance everywhere is not going to eradicate the interests of the state or the interests of power. And it’s very easy for him to say something like that when he is a rich, white billionaire who lives in Silicon Valley.
“Around entry 300 something, the entries became a lot more personal, which I struggle with. I talk about breakups, about certain fights I’ve had in relationships. I talk about trying to find a house. It’s been therapeutic to get my thoughts together, to try and figure out just what the fuck is going on in my life right now. But it’s also been therapeutic in the sense that I have that same feeling that I have towards my life towards the phenomenon of blogging and towards just everything — towards the world as a whole, towards politics and metaphysics. I’m just confused and stressed out by all these things. It is sort of that egotistical grasp at a little bit of control of things, like articulating things so you feel like you have some agency within this flow of confusion. The more I’ve done it, the more I’ve gotten to the point where I write new entries with the sense that I have a foundation. It’s a very comforting feeling to have gotten there, and to be able to keep going from there.”
On Chasing, But Never Quite Catching Up
“I’ve thought of this as an eternally futile struggle. But I think it’s a lot more true to the medium and more joyful to think of it as chasing 1,000 things all the same time, and every moment you could be chasing another thing, and all those things come back and intersect. That’s the joy, that’s the fun of being a blogger. Unlike someone who’s writing a real-deal book, you never have to stay on the same path. You can change your mind whenever you want. You can stay on one thing forever, or you can stop in the middle of a sentence. That’s definitely one of the virtues of it. I had wanted to develop a method for writing that I could maintain, conceivably forever. My biggest fear was writer’s block, I was scared I only had a certain amount of ideas and that was it. I was scared of running out of things to say. And I think it has come about as something having to do with the meaning of blogging that when you engage with it in a certain way, it could conceivably generate infinite avenues for thought. Which is definitely a happy thing for me.”
“To say that someone is imbalanced isn’t to say that they’re undisciplined. On blogging has made me very disciplined, I write a lot, and I’m working on it all the time. I think someone who is extremely disciplined is perhaps more unbalanced than someone who isn’t. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be unbalanced. I think it’s possible to imagine that being a good life. “
“In order to manifest a potential, you have to use up resources. In order to manifest our resources we have to generate a lot of garbage. It’s the anxiety of contributing to a gigantic trash dump. I’m sometimes really into it, and sometimes deeply afraid of it. But the only way I know how to deal with it is to keep doing it.”
Ultimately, according to Curry, there is one goal that has driven the totality of the work thus far — “I’m doing it because I want to be fucking rich and famous. I want to make a million dollars”.
A million, I point out, is a much bigger number than 1,000.
However, it is only 1,000 one thousands, and as Curry is posed to prove, 1,000 may not be so unattainable of a number after all.
You can access On Blogging at detrituscollective.tumblr.com/onblogging