Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 18

Ominous telephones
Text: China Mieville, Looking for Jake and other stories
Text: Fortean Times Forums: Isis177, danny_cogdon, Nitsuj, forteanflight, smoothvirus, Urvogel, brumben, lucydru, escargot1
Illustrations: Exhibits of Boijmans Museum Rotterdam, photographs by me

Post-apocalyptic technology cannot be trusted. Is all technology post-apocalyptic?
The last time I picked up the receiver something whispered to me down the wires, asked me a question in a reverential tone, in a language I did not understand, all sibilants and dentals. I put the phone down carefully and have not lifted it since.
Salvador Dali, White aphrodisiac telephone, 1936
Boijmans Museum - Rotterdam - Photographed in 2009
Just like sewing machines, classical telephones are eerie appliances. In the days of analog telephones real weirdness was still possible. Like getting a connection to nowhere and later losing the evidence:
I remember finding some number that would patch me through to odd "error" recordings. These were not the standard (for USA) three tones, followed by the female voice telling you your call could not be completed, but were lower quality recordings without the tones. Also, the voices were of different people. ... Around that time my mother noticed long-distance calls to tiny hamlets way up in the mountains showing up on the bill. She didn't get too upset about it because they only cost 1 or 2 cents. ... I started "collecting" the recordings to tape ... no idea whatever happened to that tape though.
Salvador Dali, Beach with telephone, 1938
Boijmans Museum - Rotterdam - Photographed in 2009
Or calling ghosts and being connected to unknown persons. And then that door closes gradually:
Back in 1982 when I would have been 12 years old, there was a song called 867-5309/Jenny that was a big hit on the radio. The rumor at school was that if you called this number "Jenny" would answer. So, of course we called it! ... But what happened was strange, it would never ring, usually you would hear a hiss or some kind of series of clicks or pops. What was even stranger was that every once in a while you would get patched into other people's conversations. ... Calling that phone number became my favorite pastime for a few months. ... However, as the weeks went by it became more and more difficult. I would have to call dozens of times to hear anything. Before long all you would get was the clicking and popping noises and nothing else. ... Much later, I tried it again but whatever was going on had been fixed and if you called the number you got a recording that the call could not be completed as dialed.
Salvador Dali, Lobster telephone or Aphrodisiac telephone, 1938
Boijmans Museum - Rotterdam - Photographed in 2017
Or calling unknown places and being connected to unknown persons:
This was about 15 years ago when mobiles were unheard of. ... I used to have a dodgy telephone extension, most amusing, because if you lifted the handset, tapped the "cradle" 2-3 times and listened, you could hear people talking in a phone box. Of course it depended on whether anyone was on that phone at the time, and often I'd only hear one side of the conversation, but it was highly interesting. I assumed it was the box round the corner but never found out.
Salvador Dali, White aphrodisiac telephone, 1936
Boijmans Museum - Rotterdam - Photographed in 2017
Even today strange events are reported, even in the era of mobiles:
Had a call a few weeks ago and when I said "Hello?" it paused then said "That is not an appropriate answer".
I had a strange phone call that I found quite scary at the time. It was probably 1 AM and the phone rang. Thinking some disaster had occurred for the phone to ring so late, I rushed to answer it. The voice at the other end sounded like a robotic Anne Robinson and said simply : "Goodbye". The voice was right weird. You had to hear it really ... 
Yesterday afternoon my telephone rang and when I answered it and said 'Hello!' a couple of times I heard my voice played back to me saying the exact few words that I had just spoken. Then the line went dead.

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness,  15:Suggestive vagueness, 16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology.

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