the archivist June 16, 2012


Remember WinMX? In that period when I switched from an anti-internet holdout to a wannabe webmonkey, WinMX was THE P2P to install. I missed the original Napster by a few months, and then later LimeWire and Kazaa made piracy all spammy and spendy, but for a few brief years, WinMX was a fabulous, clean interface well-suited for dialup. It had a setting where you could have it turn off the computer when the last download finished, so I would start a whole bunch of files downloading, go to bed, and when I woke up there would be new wonderful music waiting for me. And occasionally a message from a file-sharer. More than once it was: “Are you the Evangeline Los Lobos sang about?” Ah, the good old days, before that girl from Lost ruined my favorite nom de internet.

The selection was hit-or-miss, of course, as even then people were collecting singles more than full albums, and much (if not most) of the user base was non-US, so spellings varied widely. I often put in keywords rather than artist names–most frequently “Russian.” WinMX didn’t support Cyrillic, so some folks would throw that one word at the start of a string of question marks. It was so much fun to see what it turned out to be.

One time I downloaded a file called “Stop the World I Want to Get Off – Glorious Russian,” which turned out to be a track from a musical. Not my cup of tea, but the title of the opus stuck with me. I suppose it’s a less-twee way of saying we’re captive on the carousel of time. (I can’t listen to Joni. I respect her abilities as a writer and musician, but in an enjoyment-free kind of way.)

Stop the world, I want to get off. The sense that things are careening out of control… other people have that? And write musicals about it? It’s comforting, if a little embarrassing, to realize that even one’s most disquieting feelings are commonplace and perhaps so melodramatic as to be banal.

But still, fight or flight… flight wins, every time. There is so much going on in the world that there is hardly time to process, and the manner in which it is processed makes one shake one’s head, or just shudder. Election years in particular seem to showcase the meanest side of humankind. Stop the world, indeed.